D.J. Short

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Hughes Opportunity

Thursday, July 21, 2011




AL ONLY

Danny Duffy SP, Royals (Yahoo: 1 percent owned, ESPN: 0.2 percent)

Duffy returned from the minor leagues Tuesday night against the White Sox and turned in perhaps his most impressive start in the big leagues. The 22-year-old left-hander allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings while fanning six and walking a pair. While his ERA stands at 4.58 for the season, he has an impressive 3.89 ERA and 31/10 K/BB ratio in 34 2/3 innings over his last six starts. The Royals' six-man rotation both hurts and helps Duffy because while it will delay his potential shutdown, it will also limit the possibility of two-start weeks. Still, I see him as a no-brainer pickup in AL-only leagues as long as he's pitching like this.

Ezequiel Carrera OF, Indians (Yahoo: 0 percent owned, ESPN: 0.4 percent)

With Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo both sidelined due to injury, the recently-recalled Carrera is expected to see regular playing time in the outfield for the time being. The main reason he warrants your attention? Speed. While not considered a top prospect, the 24-year-old had 35 stolen bases over 81 games with Triple-A Columbus this season. A nice little bonus, he was also drawing walks 10.4 percent of the time. Circumstances could quickly change if the Indians land an outfielder before the deadline, but Carrera is a solid buy in AL-only leagues right now.

Kevin Slowey SP/RP, Twins (Yahoo: 1 percent owned, ESPN: 0.1 percent)

Slowey was knocked around for five runs over seven innings Wednesday in his latest minor league rehab start with Triple-A Rochester, but scouts from multiple major-league clubs were in attendance. With his 30-day rehab clock close to expiring, the Twins are expected to trade the 27-year-old right-hander to a team that will use him as a starting pitcher. Slowey's extreme fly ball tendencies could hurt him depending upon where he lands, but remember that he has averaged 6.79 K/9 and 1.48 BB/9 in the majors. There's value here if he can stay healthy.

Lorenzo Cain OF, Royals (Yahoo: 1 percent owned, ESPN: 0 percent)

It looks like Melky Cabrera is a pretty good bet to be traded before the deadline, so it's time to check in on his likely replacement in center field. Cain, who was acquired from the Brewers in the Zack Greinke deal over the winter, is batting .318/.385/.522 with 39 extra-base hits (including 11 homers) and 10 stolen bases over 365 plate appearances with Triple-A Omaha this season. The 25-year-old was useful in NL-only leagues during the second half of the 2010 season due to his speed, so he should already be on your radar.

NL ONLY

Jose Altuve 2B, Astros (Yahoo: 0 percent owned, ESPN: 0 percent)

The Astros traded Jeff Keppinger to the Giants this week, leading to the surprising promotion of one of the more intriguing prospects in baseball. Altuve, 21, has consistently defied the odds in the minor leagues, despite being "listed" at 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds. The diminutive second baseman was batting .389/.426/.591 with 10 homers and 14 steals over 391 plate appearances between High-A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi this season. He had just 153 at-bats at the Double-A level before his promotion, so chances are he'll struggle in his first taste of the big leagues, but Brad Mills had him in the No. 2 spot for his major league debut Wednesday. He's an obvious pickup in NL-only leagues just in case he continues to surprise.

Edward Mujica RP, Marlins (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 1.2 percent)

Many have speculated that left-hander Mike Dunn would take over the ninth inning in the event that Leo Nunez is traded before the deadline, but Marlins manager Jack McKeon said Wednesday that Mujica would actually be his choice because he likes the way he goes after hitters. Mujica, who was acquired from the Padres in the Cameron Maybin trade over the winter, has a healthy 2.98 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 34/5 K/BB ratio over 45 1/3 innings this season. Stash him if you're in the mood to speculate. Let's just hope he isn't caught napping if and/or when he gets the opportunity.

Chien-Ming Wang SP, Nationals (Yahoo: 1 percent owned, ESPN: 0 percent)

What can I say, I'm a sucker for a good comeback story. Wang, now 31 years old, has a 1.90 ERA and 12/3 K/BB ratio over his first five minor league rehab starts and is expected to join the Nationals' starting rotation before the end of the month. He hasn't pitched in the big leagues since undergoing shoulder surgery in July of 2009, so be sure to temper any expectations, but he could be a nice find if his sinker is working again.

Yonder Alonso 1B, Reds (Yahoo: 0 percent owned, ESPN: 0 percent)

Here's another option with an eye toward the July 31 trade deadline. It's hard to tell if the Reds are buyers or sellers these days, but if they make a push for a major addition, Alonso figures to be one of the most prominent names on the table. Entering play Wednesday, the 24-year-old had a .299/.367/.483 batting line over 825 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. Alonso has unfortunately been buried behind defending NL MVP Joey Votto on the depth chart, but he's essentially major-league ready. He's worth monitoring just in case he's set free.


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D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
Email :D.J. Short



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