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Man in a box: Risky players who could save a fantasy season


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This is where I'm supposed to review all the deals that went down last weekend and tell you all about the fantasy ramifications. The problem is that these deals really didn't change fantasy values all that much. Sure, Octavio Dotel's new address takes away all his value, while Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan will battle it out for closing duties in Pittsburgh. Brett Wallace should have decent value in NL-only leagues and veterans such as Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman each could see a boost. But for all the action we saw this weekend, the impact on typical mixed leagues was minimal. Of course, monoleague owners who lost a player to the other league may disagree with that assertion.

So instead of following the masses and rehashing all of the deadline deals, Man in a Box is going to help the needy, those of you who have fallen to fifth or sixth place, but still have a shot at a money finish. It's late enough in the season where hope is dwindling, but early enough that a desperation play or two may just work. Let's take a look at some struggling players that just might have one big hot streak left in them. There is definitely risk involved, but these players offer the kind of upside that could change the standings, even at this late date.

Jay Bruce (OF, CIN): Early this season it looked like Bruce was sacrificing power in order to bring his average up. Lately it just looks like he's sacrificing for the good of MLB pitchers in general. His .258 BA is starting to remind us of last year, but the 10 long balls is what's really got fantasy owners down. Let's not forget the way Bruce can go on a tear, though. Think back to 2008, when he hit 15 HRs in 250 second-half at-bats. Just last year, Bruce slammed 18 bombs in 299 pre-All-Star at-bats. Bruce is the rare player who can carry a fantasy team when he gets hot. That hot streak hasn't come yet this year. He can be had for cheap and is just what a borderline fantasy team needs in order to make a serious run at the money.

Carlos Pena (1B, TB): Sure, the .212 average is a little scary, but remember, we don't care what has happened; we care what will happen. Pena has lifted his average to the more acceptable .240 range in each of the last two months, with eight HRs in June and seven in July. When Pena gets hot, it can last for a month at a time. Pena's low average means he doesn't get the respect of many fantasy owners. But this is a player that has hit 116 HRs over the last three years. Enjoy the ride as he launches another 15 over the next two months.

Coco Crisp (OF, OAK): Maybe it's speed where your fantasy team needs a quick fix. You probably can't afford to deal power or starting pitching without sacrificing points elsewhere in the standings. In steps Mr. Crisp. His bat has been quiet lately, but his legs have been busy. Only one player has more than Crisp's nine stolen bases over the last month. The A's are pretty much out of the playoff race, and Crisp is running at every opportunity. It may not be as flashy as picking up Carl Crawford, but scraping Crisp out of the free agent pool could have the same result on your standings. SBs count, even when they come from injury prone slap hitters like Crisp. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Rick Ankiel (OF, ATL): OK, we're digging deep here, but you monoleaguers are near and dear to my heart. Ankiel has twice been a relatively hot fantasy commodity, but his general craptacity over the last two seasons has erased him from most owners' minds. Keep in mind, though, that just two years ago he hit 25 HRs in 413 at-bats. He joins the Atlanta outfield, where he'll be battling Matt Diaz, Melky Cabrera and Eric Hinske. Ankiel hasn't received the attention that Lance Berkman moving to the AL has garnered, but it wouldn't be too surprising if Ankiel actually out-homered Berkman the rest of the way. In an NL-only league that would be huge.

Brett Myers (SP, HOU): Myers has finally gained attention for being a reliable fantasy option, but lately he's been much more than that. Over the last month, he's posted a 1.42 ERA and 0.73 WHIP. That's not reliable; that's studly. The Astros offense is not great, but it hasn't stopped Myers from winning five of his last seven starts. Myers still isn't getting the respect he deserves and can be had cheap in most leagues. Deal your best starting pitcher for an offensive upgrade and then roll with Myers. You just might get something for nothing.

Mike Gonzalez (RP, BAL): Gonzalez hasn't been much fun to own this season. Between the injuries and just plain bad pitching, most fantasy owners have erased him from their memories. If you can make a move in saves, though, you might want to give him a shot. Other than Meek and Hanrahan in Pittsburgh, most of the closer jobs seem pretty secure right now. Baltimore may be the one place to look for turnover. Alfredo Simon's ERA is up to 4.18 and his WHIP is an equally ugly 1.52. Compare that to Gonzalez's 1.42 ERA and 0.79 WHIP since his return from the DL. Gonzalez is the better pitcher and has the big contract. Baltimore will turn to Gonzalez very soon and the save category is one place where a single player can make a huge difference.

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As promised, here are a few more situations to monitor as NFL training camps start to get in gear.

• Knowshon Moreno has been touted as a major breakout candidate this offseason. Now he has "minor fraying" in his right hamstring. No matter how minor, hamstring injuries have to be taken serious. Keep an ear to the ground for news on his hammy when he starts partaking of drills.

• How does the addition of Terrell Owens affect the Cincinnati offense? Antonio Bryant was looking like a sneaky WR3. The TO addition definitely helps Carson Palmer, but WR value in Cincy could be all over the map.

• Sidney Rice was a huge surprise last year after being invisible for two years. As high as his ceiling is, Rice also comes with huge risk. If Brett Favre doesn't return for some reason, Rice returns to the Michael Clayton class of receivers.

• Is Anquan Boldin still a WR1? Joe Flacco is young and improving, but the address change still makes Boldin a bit of a risk. Listen for news on how the chemistry goes as camp moves along.

Perhaps the most important thing to realize as training camps open is that you can't believe most of what you hear. Sorting through the hyperbole and finding useful information is the key to finding value in the draft. In the upcoming weeks, Man in a Box will help you find those nuggets.

* All statistics current as of Aug. 1.

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Doug Anderson is the Executive Editor at Look for Man in a Box every Tuesday and catch him on The Fantasy War Room, Thursdays at 8 ET. Wanna climb in the box and talk baseball? E-mail Doug at