I'm catching up from a crazy week spent at the All-Star festivities and then in Los Angeles at the ESPYs, and let's just say I was in no position to react to the Joe Blanton trade to make a fantasy move. I wasn't online when it happened, nor the day after, so I didn't get Blanton in my NL-only league. I'll live, trust me.
I was home, however, when the big Ray Durham trade went down with Milwaukee. Minor trade, on the surface, but as one of the biggest Eugenio Velez fans out there, it made me pretty happy. You see, I was touting Velez back in February, and when I discuss players I like in fantasy in any forum, I want them on my teams as well. Velez is everywhere on my squads because he's a middle infield eligible player who runs -- fast. And when he couldn't hit with the big club, I waited for him. Now he's back. I'd like to be correct on him, not because I want to prove I was right, but because he'll help my fantasy teams!
Velez had one of those minor league seasons in 2006 that makes the fantasy owner desperate to see him in the majors. It was only low Class A in the Sally League, but still, 14 home runs, 90 RBIs, 20 triples, 29 doubles, 64 stolen bases and a .315 batting average is a monster campaign. Velez doesn't have much power, but even in 42 games in the Pacific Coast League this season, he slugged .509. We know he can run. I'll take the next Delino DeShields, won't you? This could be a 30-steal guy this season, easily.
Another reason the Durham trade made me smile, other than the fact we should get to see Velez play regularly -- maybe this time he won't fail, by the way -- is that in one of my important leagues a team I'm contending with just dealt for Rickie Weeks. Maybe it's nothing, but with Weeks hitting .216 and Durham sporting a .385 on-base percentage (60 points higher than Weeks), I don't think it's a coincidence. I own Weeks nowhere, at least as far as I am aware, and his batting average and lack of durability have always made me avoid him. The Brewers can win the division, maybe even the World Series, I don't think they care about hurting Weeks's feelings. That said, I wouldn't call Durham a must add in fantasy. The power is gone, and he doesn't run. He's no Velez!
There will be more trades like this in the next 10 days until the deadline, and while you might look at these deals as minor, they almost always have repercussions for both teams. Jon Rauch is likely to be traded by the Nationals at some point, and those who own Rauch are not going to be too pleased. The Yankees -- or whichever team sends the Double-A prospect to acquire him -- aren't going to let him close. Rauch becomes Blaine Boyer. Wonderful. Meanwhile, someone like Luis Ayala or Joel Hanrahan starts picking up saves. Minor deal on the surface, but they rarely are in fantasy. Be ready for the next 10 days because in every deal there is something to think about that you probably didn't even realize.
More random thoughts
I can't wait to hear the whining from fantasy owners about how the All-Star game is messing up the pitching on their teams. Ben Sheets, Edinson Volquez and Roy Halladay did not pitch well in their first outings, Billy Wagner has an MRI scheduled for Monday and Scott Kazmir had his start pushed back and will probably be lit Monday. Yes, the game went 15 innings, but pitchers get hurt all the time. If Kazmir wasn't supposed to pitch, then the AL should've done a Kerry Wood with him and replaced him on the roster. I really don't think anything that happened in the All-Star game affected fantasy baseball one bit. Well, except Dan Uggla will probably pay more attention to defense now, which is nice for those in fielding percentage leagues.
There was a lot of weekend news concerning closers, and most of it wasn't good. Yes, J.J. Putz, Bobby Jenks and Troy Percival came off the DL, and the latter two will close right away and Putz shouldn't be far off. But Kerry Wood is headed to the DL with a blister problem, and Wagner has an MRI scheduled despite striking out the side Sunday without allowing a baserunner. There's news about Huston Street, Brandon Lyon and Takashi Saito. I think Street is getting dealt, and soon. One would think he'd close for his new team, but not all contenders need a closer. And even if a team like the Brewers did acquire Street, it angers all the Salomon Torres owners. Arizona's Lyon has had bad outings, but what happened Sunday is the kind of awful performance that does change a role. Saito is done, I think. I think it's 50-50 we ever see him again. He's a 38-year-old pitcher possibly headed for Tommy John surgery. Jonathan Broxton will be fine in the role. More on the closers later in the week in Relief Efforts. As you know, things tend to change every night.
Want a bold prediction? I think the Colorado Rockies will win the NL West. I know, it sounds crazy, but this team is not far from first place as it is, and the Diamondbacks and Dodgers have problems, not only in the bullpen. They can't score runs. The Rockies can. I don't think last September proves Clint Hurdle's squad is a second-half team, but they will hit, and even after Brian Fuentes gets dealt, the pitching isn't that bad. I think the offense is better now that Todd Helton isn't clogging it up. He was clearly injured but couldn't be benched. Now the Rox are using Garrett Atkins at first and Ian Stewart at third, and they're crazy if they don't play Jeff Baker every day. Clint Barmes heads to the bench when Troy Tulowitzki returns soon. Tulo is going to have a big second half. It's a cut on his hand, you know, not a torn knee, quad or oblique. Pick him up now if you still can. Chris Iannetta could be a top-10 catcher the rest of the way, Brad Hawpe could still end up with 30 homers and Matt Holliday will not be traded. Fantasy owners should always watch what's going on in real life, and when the Rockies get hot, you'll want their players.
I write this not as a Dave Bush enthusiast, but as a baseball fan and fantasy player: It's ridiculous what Brewers manager Ned Yost is doing. Bush should be a two-start pitcher this week. Instead, it appears Yost is going to have Bush start when it's his turn in home games, with Seth McClung on the road. All this so Jeff Suppan can have his rotation spot back? People, it's not just me touting Bush, he is No. 11 in all of baseball in WHIP. It's 1.15. It's better than Brandon Webb, Josh Beckett, Johan Santana; name the pitcher except for 10 guys. Maybe real-life managers don't care about WHIP, but it's a strong indicator of performance and it gives a team a chance to win. In Bush's past two outings he allowed one earned run in 16 innings, gave up seven hits, no walks, and fanned 20 hitters. While it's true he has some of the most extreme home/road splits around (4-2, 2.50 ERA at home; 1-6, 6.95 on the road), I don't think he's Ervin Santana or Wandy Rodriguez. It's coincidence. Bush is better than McClung and Suppan. This affects fantasy, for if you own Bush, you keep him around but he's risky in weekly leagues. What if he's Chad Gaudin this week, throwing twice in relief and not starting? Anyway, Bush should be in the rotation, not waiting for an injury.
I got three minutes or so all by myself to speak to Ervin Santana in New York, and he had no answer to why he has been so awful in past seasons away from Anaheim but so solid at home. This year his splits are more even. He basically just smiled when I kept prying for answers to that line of questioning. I always thought there had to be more than coincidence in Santana's case. Maybe, maybe not, but let's just say I don't put much credence into home/road splits for pitchers. Josh Beckett has a 3.31 ERA on the road, 4.82 at Fenway. Are you going to sit him in home games?