The Orioles shocked the baseball world late last night by announcing that they were calling up top prospect Manny Machado from Double-A Bowie. My colleague Patrick Daugherty gave his take on the situation in this morning's Daily Dose, so be sure to check that out. I have only seen Machado play a couple of times and I'm certainly not a scout, so I don't want to pretend that I'm an expert on his development, but it sure feels like the Orioles are calling him up too soon. Still, it's pretty cool to see them going for it.
J.J. Hardy is firmly entrenched at shortstop, so Machado is expected to get most of the playing time at third base. While the 20-year-old has only played two pro games at the position, it probably won't take much for him to be an improvement defensively over Wilson Betemit and Mark Reynolds. But with a .263/.344/.432 batting line in the minors and zero at-bats above Double-A, I wouldn't call him a must-add in all fantasy formats. AL-only? Sure, that's a no-brainer. In fact, he's probably already gone. With his shortstop eligibility, he could even be worth a flier in deeper mixed leagues if you're relying on the likes of Darwin Barney for a MI (middle infielder) spot. But he's likely a couple of years away from being a fantasy stud. The Orioles just got a lot more interesting, though.
Jeremy Affeldt RP, Giants (Yahoo: 13 percent owned, ESPN: 3.3 percent)
Sergio Romo RP, Giants (Yahoo: 39 percent owned, ESPN: 21.6 percent)
Santiago Casilla has really struggled since the start of June and continues to be bothered by a blister issue, so Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced on Tuesday that he'll use a closer-by-committee moving forward. Affeldt and Romo figure to get most of the save chances while Javier Lopez could get mixed in if either needs a rest. Normally I'd say Affeldt would be at the disadvantage here since he's left-handed, but the Giants have been reluctant to lean on Romo too heavily in the past due to concerns over his throwing elbow, so this could be closer to a 50-50 split.
Grant Balfour RP, Athletics (Yahoo: 40 percent owned, ESPN: 39.2 percent)
Ryan Cook managed to notch his 12th save of the season Wednesday against the Angels despite giving up two runs on three hits. The 25-year-old right-hander has allowed nine runs over his last eight appearances after giving up just six runs over his first 40 appearances this season. The A's are currently in the thick of the playoff race, so it might be best to give him a bit of a break from the closer role. Balfour is the likely alternative if Bob Melvin decides to make a change and while he gave up a solo homer in Wednesday's game, he was unscored upon his in previous 13 appearances. Stash if you need saves.
Bartolo Colon SP, Athletics (Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 18 percent)
Colon rejuvenated his career last season with the Yankees, but he's been even better this year with Oakland. On the strength of a career-best 22 1/3 inning scoreless streak, the 39-year-old right-hander owns a 3.38 ERA through 22 starts. He isn't striking out as many batters as last year, but he's averaging a career-best 1.4 BB/9 while his 4.10 K/BB ratio is the best in the American League. He's worth using for starts against the Royals and Indians next week at the very least.
David Murphy OF, Rangers (Yahoo: 10 percent owned, ESPN: 10.7 percent)
Murphy has seen most of his playing time against right-handed pitchers this season, but Rangers manager Ron Washington said Wednesday that he plans to use him as an everyday player for now. The 30-year-old is hitting .379 (22-for-58) over his last 17 games, so it's pretty easy to see why. Murphy has nine homers and eight stolen bases in just 95 games this year and has produced pretty consistently dating back to 2008, so he's hardly new to most fantasy owners. However, knowing that he'll be playing every day makes it easier to start him in a weekly league.
Erick Aybar SS, Angels (Yahoo: 33 percent owned, ESPN: 30.2 percent)
I mentioned Aybar in this space just before the All-Star break, but he dropped off the radar in many mixed leagues after he broke his big right toe on July 21. The switch-hitting shortstop is 7-for-13 with a homer, two RBI and three runs scored in three games since returning from the disabled list this week, so fantasy owners are running out of time to take advantage of the situation. Aybar's season still looks disappointing on the whole, but he's hitting .315 with all five of his homers since the start of June. It would be nice if he ran a little more, but he should be able to help in all formats.
Joe Blanton SP, Dodgers (Yahoo: 22 percent owned, ESPN: 15.5 percent)
The Dodgers didn't end up getting Ryan Dempster before last week's trade deadline, but Blanton is a pretty decent fallback option for fill out their starting rotation. The 31-year-old right-hander has a 4.59 ERA this season to go along with a career-best 1.4 BB/9 and a major-league best 5.71 K/BB ratio. Of course, he also leads the National League with 23 home runs allowed, but at least Chavez Ravine is a more forgiving home environment than Citizens Bank Park. Blanton's upcoming projected starts include matchups against the Marlins, Pirates, Giants and Padres, none of which would scare me off in deeper mixed leagues.
Shopping at the five-and-dime:
(Players owned in less than 10 percent of Y! and ESPN.com leagues)
Marco Estrada RP/SP, Brewers (Yahoo: 8 percent owned, ESPN: 2.7 percent)
Estrada has yet to win a game this season, but he continues to be a pretty useful arm in fantasy leagues. The 29-year-old right-hander has allowed three earned runs or less in six out of his last seven starts and holds an excellent 83/16 K/BB ratio over 80 2/3 innings. The home run ball has been his biggest problem and his fly ball rate suggests that it may be something we have to live with, but he's a pretty safe streaming option this weekend against the lowly Astros.
Eric Chavez 3B/1B, Yankees (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 0.9 percent)
I never thought we would see this guy be relevant in mixed leagues again, but he has filled in quite admirably for Alex Rodriguez, who is currently nursing a broken bone in his left hand. Chavez is hitting .462 (12-for-26) with three homers, two doubles and eight RBI over his last eight games and has 11 homers and an .855 OPS in 76 games overall this year. Injuries have limited the 34-year-old to 198 games since the start of the 2008 season, so the party could be over at any minute, but he's a worth a look if you need a temporary fill-in at third base or a CI (corner infielder) spot.
Brett Jackson OF, Cubs (Yahoo: 3 percent owned, ESPN: 2.3 percent)
The Cubs have sold off Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Geovany Soto, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker in recent days, so they are now looking toward the future. Jackson was called up from Triple-A Iowa over the weekend and should play nearly every day in center field over the final two months of the season. The 24-year-old struck out in 33.8 percent of his at-bats in the minors this season and is 2-for-11 with eight strikeouts over his first three games in the majors, so don't look for him to hit for a high batting average, but his speed-power combo makes him flier-worthy in deeper leagues and five-outfielder formats.
Jean Segura 2B/SS, Brewers (Yahoo: 2 percent owned, ESPN: 0.6 percent)
Acquired from the Angels late last month in the Zack Greinke deal, Segura was called up from the minors this week after the Brewers let Cesar Izturis go on waivers to the Nationals. While the 22-year-old was blocked by Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick with the Angels, he'll get the next two months to prove that he can be the everyday shortstop in Milwaukee. It may take a couple of years for his power to fully develop, but Segura was a .313/.367/.439 hitter in the minors and swiped 139 bases in 399 games. He's a decent MI (middle infielder) target at the moment.
Derek Norris C, Athletics (Yahoo: 1 percent owned, ESPN: 0.3 percent)
It's not often that you see a contending team trade a veteran catcher in order to make room for a rookie, but that's exactly what the A's did last week. Norris has seized the opportunity by hitting safely in each of his last five games, including a homer and three RBI on Tuesday night. The 23-year-old strikes out a lot, so he'll probably never hit for a high batting average, but he has plenty of power and patience. Heck, he can even swipe a base on occasion. Give him a shot in two-catcher formats.
Jim Henderson RP, Brewers (Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 0.9 percent)
Could we have a new closer in Milwaukee? There's nothing official yet, but Henderson is certainly making his case. Originally drafted by the Expos back in 2003, the 29-year-old right-hander spent 10 seasons in the minors before finally making his major league debut last week. He has a solid 10/1 K/BB ratio over his first seven innings in the big leagues and notched saves in back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Control has been an issue at times for him in the minors, but Henderson sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and was serving as the closer this season with Triple-A Nashville. I still think John Axford is the best bet for the long haul, but Henderson should continue to get looks in the ninth inning until he stumbles.
Eric Young, Jr. 2B/OF, Rockies (Yahoo: 1 percent owned, ESPN: 1 percent)
Getting a chance at regular playing time in the corner outfield spots due to injuries to Michael Cuddyer and Todd Helton, Young went 8-for-14 with an inside-the-park home run and five runs scored during a three-game series against the Dodgers this week. The 27-year-old speedster batted leadoff in all three games, so Rockies manager Jim Tracy could be tempted to keep him there in the short-term. Young has excellent wheels and eligibility at second base in many leagues, so he's a sneaky pickup in deeper formats.