D.J. Short

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Hope for Holland?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The trade deadline has come and gone, leaving plenty of opportunities for fantasy owners to pounce. Whether we're talking about players switching leagues, top prospects being called up from the minors or deserving backups finally getting their chance in the sun, there's a little bit of everything going on right now. I hope you're enjoying the scramble.

I have touched on a few of these situations in the past couple of weeks, but one of the most significant beneficiaries is Astros outfielder Jason Bourgeois, who will get regular playing time following the trades of Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. I included him in my mixed-league recommendations last week, so I thought it was rather silly to do it again, but he makes for an obvious add in most formats due to his stolen base potential.

Jason Kipnis was included in my AL-only recommendations last week and has since hit home runs in four consecutive games. That's just great and he's worth a flier while he's hot, but I have a feeling his ownership level is about to get really out of whack. While he has the potential to be very good, he's not the no-brainer add Dustin Ackley was at second base.

Let's move on to the good stuff.


Omar Infante 2B/3B/SS/OF, Marlins (Yahoo: 35 percent owned, ESPN: 30 percent)

I'm not recommending Infante solely because he hit two home runs on Tuesday night against the Mets. While it was certainly nice to see from a fantasy perspective, it was obviously a rare event. No, instead I'm looking at the bigger picture. The veteran infielder is batting .319 since July 1, raising his batting average from .257 to .274 in the process. Also promising is that new skipper Jack McKeon is using him exclusively out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Again, it's unlikely he'll give you much in the way of power or speed, but he can certainly provide value in mixed leagues due to his ever-handy multi-position eligibility.

Derek Holland SP, Rangers (Yahoo: 46 percent owned, ESPN: 37.6 percent)

Is it possible that Holland has finally arrived as a reliable option in mixed leagues? I wouldn't wait much longer for confirmation. The 24-year-old southpaw notched three shutouts last month, giving him four for the season and tying him with Cliff Lee for the major-league lead. Holland has been prone to blowups at times this season, giving up five runs or more in 22 of his starts, but overall he has made encouraging strides with his command and ground ball rate. Snag him in hopes that we're witnessing a legitimate breakout in progress.

Koji Uehara RP, Rangers (Yahoo: 24 percent owned, ESPN: 6 percent)

While the Rangers' bullpen is now much stronger, Neftali Feliz's leash isn't nearly as long. Uehara and Mike Adams are widely regarded as two of the best set-up men in the game, while the former has closing experience. I'm not saying Uehara is going to take the job outright, but he has been the better pitcher this season and Rangers manager Ron Washington and team president Nolan Ryan recently questioned Feliz's competitive fire. Even if Uehara doesn't end up getting any saves, his strikeouts (12.1 K/9) and WHIP (0.69) should be welcome additions to any fantasy team.

Josh Willingham OF, Athletics (Yahoo: 21 percent owned, ESPN: 33.7 percent)

It isn't a huge shock that Willingham survived the trade deadline in an Athletics' uniform, as Billy Beane was asking a lot in return for a player who currently qualifies as a Type A free agent. Still, maybe we shouldn't be too disappointed from a fantasy perspective. While logic would dictate that "The Hammer" would benefit from leaving Oakland, you might be surprised to learn that he actually has nine homers and an .862 OPS at home this season and opposed to seven homers and .721 OPS on the road. Who knew? Willingham is batting .296 with six homers and 19 RBI since returning from a strained left Achilles tendon on July 7, so he's worth using in most formats until he slows down.

Jon Rauch RP, Blue Jays (Yahoo: 31 percent owned, ESPN: 42.7 percent)

I can't endorse Rauch with much enthusiasm, but here we are. After blowing back-to-back save chances, the big right-hander has secured three in a row. Meanwhile, Frank Francisco hasn't had a save opportunity in exactly one month. What else do you need to know? This is like picking between brussels sprouts and broccoli for me (and hint, I don't like either of them), but Rauch is the one to own in mixed leagues as long as he's John Farrell's go-to guy.

Chris Narveson SP/RP, Brewers (Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 10.1 percent)

It's no coincidence that I'm including Narveson this week because he is scheduled to face the Astros on Saturday night. He makes for an ideal streaming option against a lineup that is seriously lacking in the way of impact players. Still, Narveson should be on your fantasy radar, anyway. The 29-year-old southpaw has a 2.93 ERA and 21/9 K/BB ratio over his last five starts and an xFIP of 3.66 for the entire season. Pitchers with a higher xFIP than Narveson include Chad Billingsley, Jhoulys Chacin Alexi Ogando and Jair Jurrjens, just to name a few.

Dexter Fowler OF, Rockies (Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 37.2 percent)

I know, I know. How many more chances can one guy possibly get? Well, Fowler has made the most of his opportunity since being called up from the minors following the All-Star break, batting .343 (24-for-70) with five doubles, five triples, eight RBI, five stolen bases and 12 walks. Primarily batting either first or second in Jim Tracy's batting order, the speedy center fielder has scored 19 runs in the span of 19 games. There's likely some luck involved with his ridiculous batting average on balls in play, but he should be owned in most leagues while he's hot.

Jed Lowrie 2B/3B/SS, Red Sox (Yahoo: 18 percent owned, ESPN: 11.9 percent)

It wasn't too long ago that Lowrie was the flavor of the week in fantasy leagues, but his production took a major hit after he injured his left shoulder in a collision with teammate Carl Crawford on May 29. He batted just .128 (5-for-39) and was hitless over his last 15 at-bats before going on the disabled list in mid-June. It's been a lengthy layoff for the 27-year-old, but he finally began a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket this week. If all goes well, it's possible he could return this weekend against the Yankees. Lowrie is the superior option to Marco Scutaro if healthy, so now is the appropriate time to stash him.

Shopping at the five-and-dime:

(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)

Paul Goldschmidt 1B, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 0 percent owned, ESPN: 7 percent)

When the Diamondbacks included Brandon Allen in the trade for Brad Ziegler on Sunday, it opened the door for Goldschmidt to take over the starting first base job with the big club. The 23-year-old has always shown a ton of power in the minor leagues, slamming 83 homers over 1,178 plate appearances, but perhaps the most encouraging part of his success with Double-A Mobile this season was that he was able to cut down on his strikeouts while more than doubling his walk rate from 2010. I doubt he'll hit more than .250 or so, but that's just fine as long as he continues to hit bombs like he did against Tim Lincecum on Tuesday night. The Delaware native makes for a fine target for those in deeper leagues looking to fill a CI (corner infielder) spot.

Jesus Montero C, Yankees (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 0.2 percent)

Well, it looks like we're about to see what all the fuss is about. We have heard multiple reports this week that Montero may get promoted to the majors in the coming days. While the 21-year-old has regressed in his second year at the Triple-A level, he is batting .296 with five home runs and 24 RBI since the start of July. It's unlikely he'll see much time behind the plate, but I could still see him providing value in deeper mixed leagues even if he shares at-bats at designated hitter with Jorge Posada. He is worth stashing if you're hurting at catcher.

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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.
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