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Fantasy baseball mailbag


Carlos Pena or Michael Bourn Who's more valuable?-- @F_Naud

People have a hard time placing a value on a player who does nothing but steal bases (i.e. Bourn). Here's some knowledge that should help.

(1) From 2008 to '10 there were 14,533 home runs and 8,728 steals (for every homer hit there were 0.6 stolen bags the past three years). Obviously, steals are the scarcer commodity and therefore, the more valuable in a straight up comparison.

(2) Not only are steals more difficult to come by, they are more tightly grouped among a smaller number of players. From '08-10 there were 256 individual seasons of 20 homers. In that same time frame there were 118 individual seasons of 20 steals. That's better than a 2-to-1 margin in favor of the 20-homer hitter.

Given these facts, steals are more valuable than homers in the fantasy game because of their scarcity. Of course, there are five offensive categories, so you can't just compare A to B and get the picture in HD, but you get the point.

Bourn is an elite base stealer. He's swiped at least 52 bases while scoring at least 84 runs the past two years, totals that make him a boon to fantasy clubs even if he averaged a mere three homers and 37 RBI over the two years. Let's take a look at how Bourn ranked, in terms of his fantasy value, at two of the biggest providers in fantasy baseball the past two years.

Bourn 2009: No. 26 overall at CBS, No. 76 overall at YahooBourn 2010: No. 68 overall at CBS, No. 126 overall at Yahoo

Let's compare that to Pena, a slugging, sloth-like, average killer.

Pena 2009: No. 147 overall at CBS, No. 99 overall at YahooPena 2010: No. 370 overall at CBS, No. 287 overall at Yahoo

Both sites use player raters that evaluate players a bit differently, but it should be clear an elite speed option such as Bourn is more valuable than a slugging first baseman such as Pena, who kills your batting average.

You can find homers all over the place at first base, so a guy like Pena has no business being in a discussion for a 1-for-1 deal for an elite base stealer like Bourn.

I traded Hanley Ramirez for Michael Morse and Martin Prado. I have JJ Hardy to replace. Good trade in a 12-team head-to-head? -- @brianrkiel

Oddly, some have forgotten that Ramirez is an elite talent because of injury and poor production this year. He has no shot at matching the numbers that were expected from him, the numbers that made him a top-5 selection in all drafts this year, but that doesn't mean that he won't be an elite level performer in the second half of the season.

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Morse has been an absolute beast this year, hitting .303 with 15 homers and 46 RBI in just 231 at-bats. Since he qualifies at first and outfield he is even more valuable than if he was rooted at one position. He's also had success no matter the venue, with a .303/.345/.545 line at home and a .303/.361/.576 slash line on the road. Prado is an established .300 hitter who qualifies at multiple positions on the diamond. His staph infection also appears to be under control, and he's just about ready to start ramping up his physical work. He should be back before the All-Star break.

As for your replacement at shortstop, Hardy has been great this year -- when on the field. He's clearly brittle, so you should be wary of depending too heavily on him. A solid power bat, there's little chance he will maintain a pace that would net 30 homers in a full season. And since he's never hit higher than .283 and owns a career .265 average you also should be concerned about his ability to hit .304 all year long.

If Prado was healthy and hitting .300, I don't think anyone would accept just Ramirez for that duo. But at this point of the year you have to be pragmatic. I'd accept the deal under the proviso that it's a risk since the health of Prado is uncertain at the moment.

I am mulling a deal in which I would give up Matt Joyce and Neil Walker for Brandon Phillips. Thoughts? -- @Lukdabeast

Joyce has fallen on hard times, hitting .176 with one homer in June, but let's not overlook the fact that he's on pace to hit .300 with 20 homers and 80 RBI (he's at .313-10-38 through 71 games). Everyone would have taken that at the draft table. Walker has been a disappointment to some as he's hitting .252 with a .711 OPS a year after hitting .296 with a .811 OPS, but it's hard to be too down a second sacker who is on pace to go deep 15 times with 100 RBI and 80 runs scored isn't it?

Phillips has gone bonkers of late, hitting .500 over his last 32 at-bats to bring his season mark up to .299. His power is down with only six homers this year, but he is still on pace for 85 RBI and 100 runs scored. It is odd that a guy who has stolen 23 or more bags in four of five years isn't even on pace for double-digit thefts.

There is no disputing that Phillips is the elite level performer of these three. Still, it's tough to give up all the counting stats that you lose if you deal Joyce and Walker, but I'd give the thumbs up for this deal provided you had an option you could easily slide into the vacant outfield spot.

Who closes for the Phillies with Ryan Madson on DL?-- @WestheUmpire

First it was Brad Lidge, then Jose Contreras, then Ryan Madson as the arm the Phillies were going to count on in the ninth inning.

Lidge is on the DL with an elbow issue, and after a cortisone shot last week he's finally back at it and ready to go. The club hopes he will be able to return before the All-Star break. Contreras just went on the DL, again, this time for a strained forearm that will likely keep him out for about 4-6 weeks. Madson was placed on the DL Tuesday with a bruised hand that is causing him some numbness. At this point, it's not clear when he will be back, so a return in 15 days isn't guaranteed.

So who do the Phillies turn to? I think it has to be Antonio Bastardo, the lefty who has all of two saves in his career. Bastardo has been nails this year with a 0.96 ERA and 0.86 WHIP over 28 innings while using his fastball-slider combo to great effect. With a 10.61 K/9 mark he certainly has the ability to generate outs, but there are a couple of major concerns. (1) His BB/9 mark is 4.18, and that is far from ideal. (2) He allows 57 percent of batted balls to go in the air. Given that number it's a shock that his HR/9 mark is only 0.64. It could easily rise, substantially. (3) As good as his stuff is, there's no way Bastardo is going to be able to hold batters to a .120 average all year, especially when you notice that his BABIP is .153.

Given the uncertainty with the Phillies' bullpen it makes all the sense in the world to add Bastardo in any situation if you need help in the saves category, even if there is no certainty whatsoever about how long he will be asked to close, or how he will handle the pressure of the ninth inning.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at