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May 16, 2005

Fantasy Focus

FAAB Factor

by Jeff Erickson and Jan Levine

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FAAB Factor, a weekly feature at RotoWire.com, analyzes players whose roles have changed or who have recently been promoted to the majors to determine how you should spend your Free Agent Acquisition Budget. Our presumption will be that the player is available in either a 12-team mixed league or a 10-team AL- or NL-only league, and that each team has a $100 free-agent budget. We further assume that your league allows $0 bids.

American League

Anaheim: Depending on the source, Ervin Santana either has already been called up by the Angels to start on Tuesday against the Indians, or will officially be called up by then. In some leagues this is an important distinction as to a player's eligibility for free-agent bidding. Check your league's Constitution for the official ruling.

At age 22, Santana is both the Angels' best pitching prospect and another data point in the TNSTAAPP argument. Santana ascended to Double-A Arkansas as a 20-year-old in 2003, only to see his 2004 season mostly scuttled by elbow and shoulder tendinitis. Santana isn't ready for major-league hitters, but he's up nonetheless after a 5-1 start for the Travelers this spring. Angels GM Bill Stoneman even acknowledged that he'd rather have Santana progress through each level of the minors before a call-up, but Kelvim Escobar's injury, a reluctance to use Kevin Gregg as a starter, and a feeling that Dustin Moseley isn't stretched out enough led to Santana's call-up. Santana will probably only get two starts, but if he pitches well and if Escobar needs to go under the knife, that trial could be extended. Mixed: $0; AL: $5.

Baltimore: David Newhan, the feel-good story of the first half of the 2004 season, cooled significantly in the second half of the year and began 2005 as a bench player. Luis Matos' broken finger has opened the door for him to see regular time in center field and at DH for the next six to eight weeks. Don't expect him to put up numbers like he did last year, but the fact that he will see fairly significant playing time makes him valuable. Mixed: $5; AL: $12.

Jeff Fiorentino was called up from high-A Frederick to replace Matos on the active roster. He is athletic enough to play nearly everywhere in the field, possesses a line-drive stroke at the plate and can turn on the inside pitch and drive it to all fields. Fiorentino needs to cut down on his strikeouts, and may be overwhelmed once the pitchers get a book on him. His stint will end once Matos or Sammy Sosa returns to the active roster and probably won't return for good for at least another year. That the O's called him up and started his service time so early speaks volumes on how they feel about Tim Raines Jr. Mixed: No; AL: $2.

Keith Reed's star burned out a while ago. He was selected by the O's in the first round of the 1999 draft, but has mostly hung around at the Triple-A level for years. The injuries to Sosa and Matos opened the door for a right-handed hitting outfielder. Reed's playing time will be limited to hitting against lefties and serving as a defensive replacement. Speed is his only plus attribute offensively, but even that has suffered in the last 13 months at Triple-A Ottawa. Mixed: No; AL: $0.

Detroit: Ugueth Urbina has become the closer in the wake of Troy Percival's injury. Percival will miss four to six weeks with muscle tears in his forearm, so Urbina should have solid save numbers in that stretch. Urbina converted his first three chances in the role. A bid here should keep in mind not just his current value, but his potential value in a trade to a contender seeking an "established" closer. Mixed: $15; AL: $28.

Kansas City: Mike Wood got his second consecutive one-out save on Sunday, but not before allowing two of the runners he inherited from Ambiorix Burgos to score on a single. His save on Saturday was also of the ugly variety, as he gave up a line shot only to be bailed out by a good catch by Terrence Long. Interim manager Bob Schaefer admitted that the Royals are using a committee of sorts, so don't bid aggressively on the basis of these two saves. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.

D.J. Carrasco was called up from Triple-A Omaha on Thursday to start in place of the injured Brian Anderson. He pitched fairly well out of the bullpen last year for the Royals, and was off to an excellent start in the minors prior to his recall. Carrasco is still getting the hang of being a starter, so he won't go more than five or six innings in any of his games, and may not have the repertoire to succeed in that role at the major-league level. Mixed: No; AL: $0.

Minnesota: Nick Punto officially took over the Twins' second-base job from Luis Rivas this week. He won't give you a good batting average or power, but could be a source of steals if he can keep the job. Unlike Rivas, he has demonstrated in the past that he can take a walk, giving him at least a chance of posting an acceptable on-base percentage. Mixed: $0; AL: $5.

Oakland: Keiichi Yabu will get at least the first start in place of Rich Harden, who heads to the DL with a strained oblique muscle. While Yabu has pitched well in relief, his longest outing this year is four innings, and he has a tough draw against the Red Sox on Wednesday. Furthermore, the A's recalled Seth Etherton on Sunday, so it's conceivable that Etherton and Yabu could flip-flop roles after this first start. Don't expect much from Yabu in a starting role. Mixed: No; AL: $2.

Matt Watson replaced Jermaine Clark on the roster on Saturday, but he might be given a more substantial role in the corner outfield spots than Clark was. Watson isn't especially young (26) and has been around the Triple-A level for the bulk of the last two seasons. He has some gap power and was off to a great start at Sacramento before his call-up. If Bobby Kielty's rib injury is significant, Watson will have at least a platoon job. Compared to an alternative like Keith Reed, Watson makes for a better pickup. Mixed: $1; AL: $6.

Tampa Bay: Jon Switzer was a decent prospect prior to having Tommy John surgery in May 2004. He wasn't expected to compete for a rotation spot in 2005, but was called up when Dewon Brazelton was optioned to the minors. He will work in middle and long relief and could see the occasional spot start. He's a better consideration based on future value than the present. Mixed: No; AL: $0.

National League

Arizona: Brian Bruney picked up his second save of the year on Sunday in place of the resting Brandon Lyon. Lyon's job isn't in jeopardy; it's just that he had shouldered a heavy workload recently. Still, that Bruney got the save (his second) secures the notion that he, rather than Jose Valverde, is the first option behind Lyon. Bruney's command, his Achilles heel last year, hasn't improved that much. He's walked 13 batters in 20 innings this season. Mixed: $1; NL: $4.

Chicago Cubs: Todd Wellemeyer picked up a vulture save on Friday night after Mike Remlinger gave up a run in the ninth to create a save situation. Ryan Dempster was available to pitch if needed on Sunday, and Joe Borowski is due off the DL soon, so Wellemeyer doesn't have much of a window of opportunity. When Wellemeyer first saw major-league action in 2003 he did reasonably well before hitting a patch where he lost his command. He hadn't regained his command since then, but so far in a short trial with the Cubs this year he's struck out nine while walking only one. We'll need to see control numbers like that over an extended trial before we believe in him, but file his name away. With LaTroy Hawkins seemingly exiled to St. Helena and Dempster walking nearly six batters per nine innings, the Cubs could still be looking for a closer in the event that Borowski struggles upon his return. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Cincinnati: Felipe Lopez lost out to Rich Aurilia in the battle to be the Reds' Opening Day shortstop, but had been seeing consistent time at both second base and shortstop the past few weeks. Aurilia's hamstring injury has given him the job on a full-time basis, and his power numbers from a middle-infield spot make him extremely attractive in all formats. Consider the Reds being forced to do the right thing here. Mixed: $5 and NL: $12.

William Bergolla was called up from Triple-A when Wily Mo Pena went down. His basestealing ability is why fantasy owners need to remember his name. He stole 52 and 36 bases respectively the past two seasons, improving his plate discipline as he advanced to Double-A Chattanooga last year. So far that improvement hadn't carried over at Triple-A Louisville. His plate discipline is important because he's highly unlikely to hit with any measure of power at the major-league level. He won't get much playing time in this trial with the Reds, so any pickup would be with the future in mind. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Colorado: Brian Fuentes will close while Chin-Hui Tsao is out with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. The team does not produce a lot of save opportunities, batters hit .326 off of Fuentes at Coors Field--where the Rockies are for the next week--and he failed in his previous chances at filling this role, so temper your bids on him. Mixed: $1 and NL: $4.

Cory Sullivan appeared to be on the fast track to the majors before doctors discovered a tear in his left labrum that sidelined him for all of the 2004 season. He made his return in the Arizona Fall League, and his strong play in spring training earned him the fifth outfield spot. Matt Holliday's recent struggles opened the door for Sullivan to see some starts this past week in left field and he's also subbed in center field, as the Rockies' only other true center fielder behind Preston Wilson. Holliday's benching is probably just a short-term move, but Sullivan has two potential avenues to playing time. Either he supplants or moves into a timeshare with Holliday in left, or he steps in as the starter if Wilson gets traded. Mixed: $2; NL: $5.

Houston: Mike Lamb is the primary playing-time beneficiary of Jeff Bagwell's shoulder injury. With the news that Bagwell will undergo surgery and be out at least three months, Lamb should play four to five times a week, starting against right-handers. Factoring in the likelihood that the Astros won't be within a standard deviation of the wild-card spot by the All-Star break, the Astros should focus on playing Lamb as a longer-term trial rather than frittering away the playing time on Jose Vizcaino in the wanton attempt to win by exuding proven veteranness. Lamb at least has the possibility of hitting for power. Mixed: $5; NL: $11.

Todd Self was brought up to fill Bagwell's spot on the roster. So far he has been limited to pinch-hit duty, with Lamb and Vizcaino getting the starts at first base. Self's main talent is getting on base--he was rated at having the best plate discipline in the Texas League--but he does not possess the power one looks for in a corner infielder. Self broke in as an outfielder but he lacked the speed, range and route-running skill to stay on the pasture, which prompted his move to first base. It will be interesting to see how his .300 batting average and level swing play at the major-league level, and if he will gain the lift to his swing he needs to be a big-time hitter. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Los Angeles: The Dodgers purchased the contract of Oscar Robles from the Mexico City Red Devils when they replaced Norihiro Nakamura. Robles is capable of playing third base, shortstop and second base, giving the Dodgers the flexibility across the infield that they lost when Jose Valentin and Antonio Perez went down with injuries. Robles was off to a big start in Mexican League play, but keep in mind that Mexico City's stadium has park effects that positively belittle those of Coors Field. Robles could get sent back down when Perez is ready to come off the DL. Mixed: No; NL: $0.

Pittsburgh: Mike Restovich's latest stop is Pittsburgh, where he will start against left-handed starters with Craig Wilson out for the next six to eight weeks. His acquisition from the Rockies signals the Pirates' intent to let Brad Eldred develop (and avoiding starting the major league service clock) at Triple-A Indianapolis. Mixed: $0 and NL: $4.

San Diego: Tim Stauffer, the fourth overall selection in the 2003 draft, was called up to replace the injured Tim Redding in the Padres' rotation. He got a late jump on his professional career because of an undetected shoulder weakness that kept him out until the 2004 season. He quickly made up for lost time by using his 89-92 mph fastball, cutter, curveball and change-up--the latter his out pitch--to quickly advance. While Stauffer projects as the Padres' #2 starter in the future, and should be a consistent winner at this level, the Padres will be happy if he can just stem the bleeding that's come from their fifth starter's slot for the last year. Even after Redding and Woody Williams are both back from the DL, Stauffer could force his way into the rotation for good. Mixed: $8; NL: $18.

San Francisco: Brad Hennessey, who started seven games for the Giants last season, was recalled to take the injured Jason Schmidt's spot in the rotation. He filled in well earlier in the season while making a spot start, and should remain in the rotation as long as Schmidt is out with his shoulder woes; perhaps longer, given that Jeff Fassero is the fifth starter. Hennessey missed all of 2002 and most of 2003 after having two operations to remove benign tumors from his back. He is still regaining his strength from the layoff and surgeries but has his fastball back in the 91-93 range and has regained the bite on his slider. Mixed: $2; NL: $6.

Tyler Walker has now converted two save chances in a row, and has three saves in the month of May. It's hard to read into such a small pattern, but given the instability of the Giants bullpen, we expect Walker to remain the closer of the moment. A quick look at his strikeout-to-walk ratio (10 of the good things, 11 of the bad) indicates that he might not be long for the job. Mixed: $4; NL: $6.

St. Louis: John Mabry figures to be the main beneficiary of Scott Rolen's shoulder injury, which will sideline the All-Star for four to six weeks. In the past, Mabry has played first, third and the outfield, and will play at least against right-handed pitching while Rolen is out. Abraham Nunez and the guy below will also factor in the mix at third base; if you are targeting one player, Mabry is the one to go after. Mixed: $4; NL: $11.

Career minor-leaguer Scott Seabol earned a call-up by virtue of his .325-8-26 line at Triple-A and Scott Rolen's shoulder injury. He hit 31 home runs and drove in 78 runs to put himself in the Cardinals' sights and will split time with Nunez and Mabry at the hot corner. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.

Jeff Erickson is the senior editor at Rotowire, and the host of XM Radio's "Fantasy Baseball Hour," heard every weekday at 2 p.m. ET on XM Channel 175. He can be reached here.

Jan Levine is a contributor to Rotowire.

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Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: S... (05/13)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: May Tra... (05/13)
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