Play Like the Pros: Quiet Week


With the All-Star break cutting a nice hole in the beginning of this week in fantasy, there was very little movement in any league, except to fill spots left open by retroactive DL moves (Josh Hamilton), or to speculate on players called up for the start of the second half (Geovany Soto). In fact, ESPNX didn't have a single free-agent bid (thus, the Jennie Finch Bid Watch lives on!). Therefore, in order to fill the space left in this column, and, I must assume, in your heart, I give you a special chance to feel warm and fuzzy inside by helping a good cause, but still not feeling too cheesy about doing it. For those of you wanting to go straight to the FAAB bidding, just skip down a couple paragraphs. But for those interested in a totally different brand of bidding…

Long-time readers of Matt Berry (and even those just tuning in) know about his wholly-justified obsession with "Big Brother." As it happens, my college roommate, who will only be known as Rob Mosesian, took the sister of "Big Brother 6"' cast member Howie Gordon to the prom about 10 years ago. So, through a happy set of circumstances, the MySpace page for Fantasyland the book, which I have been helping to run, is friends with Howie.

Lately Howie has been involved in helping raise funds for his girlfriend's goddaughter, Rabekah, a four year-old girl who has been diagnosed with Pontine Brain Stem Glioma -- a rare type of brain tumor. In a strange confluence of reality TV, charity and a cute little kid, Howie has decided to auction off a wide-range of items, including a 15-minute phone call (currently -- and this is serious -- $85 on eBay) to T-shirts signed by the cast of "Survivor," to help raise funds for Rabekah's treatment. The more interesting items up for bid can be found here:


And eBay features new listings of autographed photos and other Howie-related goodness. Including the phone call.

Since this column is, intrinsically, about bidding, hot girls (and no, this is not just a clever ploy to get former houseguests Sarah or Rachel to write a "thank you" e-mail to me) (at nando@talentedmrroto.com) (I check it several times a day), and 12 people playing a game against one another, this seemed like a nice fit to kick off the second half of the year. And to fill the empty "ESPNX FAAB" spot, with the chance for readers to help out a sick little girl, while also getting a phone call from a guy who refers to himself as "Jedi Howie"…

On to the fantasy bids!


Jeff Mathis: $1 Sam Walker, author of "Fantasyland"
My Injured Valentine: With Mike Napoli out for an unknown amount of time, the Angels called up former hot-shot prospect Jeff Mathis to battle with Jose Molina for playing time. With gaudy minor league power stats -- the 24 year-old Mathis slugged 41 home runs in Class A five years ago -- Mathis has the ability to produce big numbers, but most likely will not in this limited role.

Jason Ellison: $1 Matt Berry, ESPN.com

And I wish you jooooyyy … and happineeesss: Ellison made clip reels across the country right before the break, serving as bodyguard for Ichiro Suzuki and taking on an imposing Joe Blanton. But it is his ability to hit for average when he's actually playing in the game that got him this $1 bid. After a monster spring with San Francisco, Ellison was traded to Seattle, where he now finds himself in a reserve outfield role. Under Mike Hargrove it would have been as fruitful as playing in Tacoma; but new skipper John McLaren has vowed to involve the bench more in games, so expect Ellison to see some semblance of utility at-bats.

Brandon Fahey: $1 Dean Peterson, STATS, Inc.
Dennys Reyes: $1 Lawr Michaels, CREATiVESPORTS.com

The "Grand Slam" joke is just too easy to make here: With Al Reyes being shelved in Tampa Bay, and the fantasy world struggling to find a former journeyman pitcher named Reyes to put on their roster, many eyes now turn to Dennys, who once was packaged in a trade with Paul Konerko for the enigmatic Jeff Shaw. The 30-year old Mexican, who signed a two-year, $2 million contract last year, making him the highest-paid player on the Twins' roster -- oh wait, they've actually spent money on other players, hmm -- is following up a brilliant 2006 campaign (.89 ERA; .99 WHIP) with a rocky 2007 (3.74; 1.71). After battling shoulder problems for a good portion of this season, he has been showing flashes of his 2006 performance lately. Before his career year with Minnesota, absolutely nothing in his past would have pointed to a sub-1.00 ERA (or WHIP), but he is capable of striking out around a batter per inning. If he can recapture the form that produced the numbers from last season, he could be popping up as a decent middle reliever prospect in mixed leagues soon.

Garrett Jones: $1 Rick Wolf/Glenn Colton, Rotoworld.com
Kason Gabbard: $1 Wolf/Colton
Dice-Kason: Apparently, "Jon Lester" was too normal a name to add to the rotation, so the Sox decided to give a shot to the 25-year-old lefty from Ohio. Gabbard isn't overpowering, nor is he a super-prospect, but he does have the ability to keep the ball on the ground (he had a 1.71 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio in 2006, and has a 1.2 GB-FB ratio this year). So far, he is doing what the Red Sox want from him, which is win baseball games (Gabbard is 2-0). Don't expect a lot of strikeouts, but he could post a 4.00-ish ERA and get a number of wins just by pitching for the Red Sox.


• Geovany Soto: $24 Jason Collette, RotoJunkie.com ($23, $8, $2)

Han Soto: All Soto has to get the job behind the plate in Chicago is beat out the light-hitting Koyie Hill and the newly-acquired Rob Bowen. Seeing as he received four bids, this, apparently, doesn't seem too hard a task.

Soto's 12 home runs for Iowa this season blow away any other total he's had in his professional career, as do his .341 batting average and 55 RBIs, so view Soto is one of two ways:

1. His raw skills are finally blossoming, or
2. This won't last, and he will become the next Chris Iannetta.

Either way, it looks like the job is basically his if he can, at the bare minimum, hit .230 and maybe drive in 10 runs by the end of the month.

Joe Borchard: $0 Pete Becker, ESPN.com

Sub!: Pete Becker did such a fine job subbing last week, and the readers (like Andrew Silvia of Plymouth, Mass.,) were clamoring for more, so we figured we'd give Becker a shot at explaining just what attracted him to Joe Borchard (besides the obvious fact that Becker is a Canadian, and "Borchard" just sounds better pronounced with a stuffy French-Canadian accent):

"No I don't recommend Borchard as a pickup. He's terrible. Just terrible. But I'm gambling that he won't play enough to hurt my average, while maybe lucking into a couple of runs or RBIs or -- hope of all hope -- a home run while I wait for Josh Hamilton to come back off the DL. Basically, he's better than nothing.

But just barely."

Josh Fogg: $1 Jason Pliml



• Todd "Lord" Zola (FantasyBaseball.com) trades Lance Berkman, Shane Victorino, Dave Bush, and $6 FAAB to Alex Cushing (MLB.com) for Adam Dunn, Mike Cameron, and Jeremy Accardo.

ZOLA, the world's No. 1 Mike's Hard Lemonade fan: "This trade was a matter of looking at categories I could lose or gain minimal points in (batting average, steals) and at categories I could make a significant jump (home runs, RBIs, runs, and saves). By dealing Victorino and Berkman for Dunn and Cameron, I am giving up steals and batting average for more home runs and RBIs. Adding a fourth closer could push me to the next level in the saves standings, where there are points to be had. I'll have to rework my reserves to get some more starting pitchers so I can stream two-start guys into my remaining five spots, in an effort to maintain my high placement in wins and strikeouts. The FAAB was insignificant as it is not like I can save it for the superstar crossing over from the Japan leagues. I sensed Alex may have other things brewing and the addition of FAAB might sway him my way."

Alex Cushing, who can tell you of a bar in New York where you get free pizza with every beer you order: "Getting rid of some saves, which I have a healthy lead in, while shedding the suspect averages of Dunn and Cameron, made this appealing. A first-half player of late, Dunn clearly has no plans to stop swinging like it's 1999. True, I might be the last Bush apologist left. But buying low on cheap midlevel pitchers is much more preferable than investing in first-half aces. Here's to better days ahead for Bush."


Wes Helms: $1 Irwin Zwilling/Lenny Melnick, LennyMelnickFantasyBaseball.com

The Dread Phillie Roberts: Helms has come alive as of late, doing his best to drive Greg Dobbs back to the bench in Philadelphia. Keep in mind that he hasn't had more than 300 at-bats since 2003, when he clubbed 23 home runs for the Brewers, so this may be Helms finally easing himself back into a full-time role. His average now is .266 (up from .240 on June 29th), which is right in line with his career average of .268, and he has four doubles, one home run and five RBIs in the last five games he has played -- suggesting that the flashes of power we saw from him last year could be coming out of hibernation.

Craig Biggio: $0 Nando Di Fino
Buddy Carlyle: $0 Alex Cushing, MLB.com

Melon, buuudyy…whaddya say?: The former Hanshin Tiger has mixed in some stellar starts with maddeningly abbreviated outings this year, but his last three outings show some promise. Four earned runs in 18 innings, with 15 strikeouts, two walks and two wins. There's no telling if this is the start of something beautiful, or simply an aberration in a season of up-and-down performances, but Carlyle appears to be hot right now as the second half of the season begins, and at least one expert is willing to ride him on a charge up through the standings.

Nando Di Fino is a fantasy analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com. You can e-mail him at Nando@TalentedMrRoto.com