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Art of the Deal
Tommy Hanson :: AP
The Braves were busy on Wednesday, dealing three prospects (Charlie Morgan, Gorkys Hernandez, and Jeff Locke) to the Pirates for All-Star center fielder Nate McLouth after releasing 305-game winner Tom Glavine, thus opening up a permanent rotation spot for minor-league phenom Tommy Hanson. The Pirates did what most small-market teams do, trade a very good player with a higher contract for youngsters who they hope will pan out, while the Braves -- just 5.5 games behind the Phillies in the NL East -- not only helped themselves for this season, but now have a center fielder who'll call Atlanta home for years to come. The fantasy wild cards of the day however are Pittsburgh's new center fielder Andrew McCutcheon, the franchise's perennial top prospect who was batting .303, 4 HR, 20 RBIs, 10 SB at Triple A Indianapolis, and Hanson, who has struck out 90 in 66 1/3 with a 1.49 ERA and 0.86 WHIP for Triple A Gwinnett. Perhaps the biggest losers in this whole transaction are Jordan Schafer owners who went from having a promising center field prospect with a starting job to a Triple A player blocked by an All-Star for the foreseeable future. Here's the order I'd prioritize the rookies involved in those transactions.
Two of the hottest and least heralded waiver wire pickups of the season showed off last night in Tampa Bay's 9-0 drubbing of the Royals.
Starter Jeff Niemann, expected at the start of the year to simply be a rotation placeholder for David Price has recently pitched like an ace on what is a great fantasy staff. Reportedly on the trading block all spring, Niemann's two-hit, 100-pitch, nine-strikeout masterpiece gave him a 3-1 record with a 2.03 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over his last five starts. And he's available in four-fifths of all leagues.
The other big Ray pickup has been jack-of-all-trades Ben Zobrist, who began the year platooning in center field for an injured B.J. Upton. His versatility (he's played 2B, SS, 3B, and all three outfield positions this year) plus a productive bat (10 home runs, 32 RBIs) makes him a perfect fit for nearly any fantasy team. His grand slam in last night's contest was already the fourth of his career and gives him a career slugging percentage with the bases jammed of 1.118, second to Detroit's Marcus Thames (1.280) among all active players with at least three such trips to the plate. He's still not owned in 90 percent of leagues so, if you can, find a place for him.
Powerless but productive
Dodgers first baseman James Loney is tied for 13th in the major leagues in RBIs but has hit just two home runs putting him on pace for a rare season of single-digit home runs but triple-digit RBI totals. How rare? Although it's occurred 103 times since 1900, in the expansion era (since 1961) only two players have done it: Paul Molitor had 9-113 for the 1996 Twins and Tommy Herr who went 8-110 for the 1985 Cardinals. At this pace Loney's numbers would finish with six home runs and 123 RBIs. The only four players with comparable numbers in the last 110 years were Honus Wagner (6-126, 1901 Pirates), Sherry Magee (6-123, '10 Phillies), Pie Traynor (3-124, '28 Pirates) and Luke Appling (6-128, '36 White Sox).
Poor defense doesn't always hurt
In most fantasy leagues it's not a bad thing to have pitchers on a bad fielding team. Not only does your guy get a chance for more strikeouts, but he also doesn't get charged with as many unearned runs. Here are Current leaders in unerarned runs allowed with ERA and runs allowed average (RAA).
Daniel Cabrera, Nationals
Bartolo Colon, White Sox
Brett Anderson, A's
Hayden Penn, Marlins
Jason Hammel, Rockies
Mark Hendrickson, Orioles
Jamey Wright, Royals
Johan Santana, Mets
Wandy Rodriguez, Astros
Josh Beckett, Red Sox
Follow me for tips throughout the year on Twitter at @SI_DavidSabino.
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