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By Dan O'Shea
There's a lot to get to this week, so let's start with a Fantasy Baseball Round-Up and our awards for best performances during July:
MVP of the Month for July: Matt Holliday, OF. His performance was improving when he started the month as an Oakland A, but after being traded to the St Louis Cardinals, things really took off. He had a .477 batting average for the month with 4 hrs, 22 RBIs. He's now rewarding owners who drafted him early and stuck with him through a sleepy first 75 games.
Cy Young of the Month for July: I'm going to throw a curve ball here, a Cliff Lee curve ball. Wandy Rodiguez was almost unhittable, Mark Buehrle actually was unhittable and both John Lackey and Jorge De La Rosa had 5-win months, but Lee was 4-2 in July with a 2.11 ERA and 3 CG, all of his outings but the last one coming for the second worst team in the majors. He is looking more like the Cy Young winner he actually was in 2008.
Rookie of the Month for July: The Cubs' Randy Wells pitched great during July and Pittsburgh OF Garrett Jones had 10 hrs and 17 RBIs, but I've got to go with Gordon Beckham, the White Sox' upstart 3B. He hit .330 for the month with 3 HRs, 18 RBIs, 3 SBs and 12 runs scored.
Sleeper of the Month for July: Nyjer Morgan, OF. Yes, the same Nyjer Morgan that I advised waiver wire feeders to skip back in mid-July because I felt he was one-dimensional. But, he only continued to hit . . . and hit . . . and hit . . . to the tune of a .388 average for the month with 14 SB. He averaged almost 2 hits per game during the month, and scored 16 runs for a last place team. Please forgive me, Nyjer.
Fantasy Fix Action Ratings:
Player: Geovany Soto, C
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: He's due to come off the disabled list Friday, and may have been waived by some owners last month who felt the injury was just another sign it's not meant to be for Geo this year. However, he was heating up just before he got hurt. Don't expect too many homers, but you should see hits and walks galore as he'll be well protected in the power-packed Cubs lineup.
Player: Jose Lopez, 1B/2B
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: Only 57% owned in Yahoo! leagues. Maybe doesn't get noticed because his power is second-tier for a first baseman, but his 15 HRs this year so far are only two away from his total last year. Overall, he had a great year last year and was slow to start this year, but is really heating up now. He hit .545 last week, with 3 HRs and 8 RBIs, and his somewhat unique position eligibility gives some additional flexibility.
Player: Jon Garland, SP
Comment: A complete game win over the Mets within the last week shows Garland still has just about completely overcome a very poor start to the season. There's also reason to believe Arizona will keep riding him deep into game, but he strikes guys out as if he'll need to file paperwork afterward. Trade him now for spare parts, whatever you can get.
Player: Manny Ramirez, OF
Comment: He's in the worst slump anyone can remember, hitting well under .200 the last two weeks and, more significantly, going about 50 at-bats without an RBI. Don't count on it to continue much longer, but you also have to wonder if he's feeling the heat of the spotlight from allegations that both he and David Ortiz tested positive for steroids during the 2003. I'm still betting on a September push.
Player: Roy Halladay, SP
Comment: He should have been traded in the real world, and the fact that he wasn't shouldn't stop you from trading him from your fantasy team. He'll go right ahead and pitch a few more complete games the next couple months, but he won't be winning much in Toronto.
Fantasy Football Round-Up
Here's my first two rounds for this year's fantasy football draft. I've got a couple changes in the first round in particular from what I was thinking a month ago.
1. Adrian Peterson, RB: Still No. 1, always No. 1.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB: I gave in to the pressure to move him up, figuring he will be Jacksonville's main source of happiness.
3. Michael Turner, RB: He's a machine, but the sports scribes have me thinking Atlanta's offense will be giving TE Tony Gonzalez a lot of chances.
4. DeAngelo Williams, RB: I wouldn't argue anyone taking him No. 2. I'll bet he has the biggest single game of total yards this season.
5. Steve Slaton, RB: Was strong during the second half last year, and should have a nice full season ahead of him.
6. Frank Gore, RB: Coach Singletary supposedly is killing his guys in early practices, but I think if he survives the pre-season, he'll excel.
7. Matt Forte, RB: Moved him up a slot because Jay Cutler is really connecting with him early on.
8. Larry Fitzgerald, WR: All systems go for a huge season, assuming Kurt Warner comes back in good form.
9. Steven Jackson, RB: I moved him up, too. I don't know why. He has more random disappointing games than other first rounders, but when he's on, he's really on.
10. Drew Brees, QB: I like one QB going in the first round, and this year it's Brees instead of Brady or Peyton Manning.
11. LaDanian Tomlinson, RB At the end of last year, I didn't see him as a first rounder this year, but San Diego is looking sharp.
12. Andre Johnson, WR: He'll get the ball early, late and often.
13. Brandon Jacobs, RB: A young group of receivers for the Giants could mean more chance for him to run.
14. Brian Westbrook, RBThe injury threat, a good rookie running back (LeSean McCoy) in the house and improving receivers suggest a slight drop off, but not much.
15. Randy Moss, WR: His man (Tom Brady) is back, and you know what that means.
16. Tom Brady, QB: This is a little crazy, but I like Brady's hunger and the likelihood he will throw TDs like someone who has been waiting to do it since last year.
17. Chris Johnson, RB: A mighty fall for a guy that some experts have as a first rounder, but LenDale White reported in great shape and may earn a split of the carries.
18. Calvin Johnson, WR: He doesn't know who will be throwing, but he'll definitely be catching. Probably the center of the Lions game plan as they look to win . . . anything.
19. Peyton Manning, QB: Still has at least two great receivers to throw to with Marvin Harrison gone.
20. Pierre Thomas, RB: Showed great stuff last year, and could seriously push aside Reggie Bush for running opportunities.
21. Aaron Rodgers, QB: My early dark horse pick for league MVP. I'm tempted to pick him higher, but no one has him even this high.
22. Marion Barber, RB: He got his first round shot last year, and didn't live up to it.
23. Greg Jennings, WR: Will be the main beneficiary of Rodgers' big year.
24. Philip Rivers, QB: 4000+ yards and 34 TDs last year were just a start, and he has a broad array of targets.
Players who you won't see drafted in the first two rounds or any round:
Brett Favre: I'm not convinced we've seen the last of Favre. Someone will want him by Week 8 and grant his wish to not be bothered with practicing.
Michael Vick: Teams are very cautious, but the NFL is now crazy about wildcat offensive strategy, and he's a nice fit.
Plaxico Burress: Looks like he'll be doing some time. Incompetence with firearms in inexcusable.
Draft sleepers you don't want in the first two rounds, but should keep an eye on:
Darren Sproles: Remember Sproles? I think he will be a favorite short pass target for Rivers.
Greg Olsen: Was named Bears' starting TE, and Jay Cutler likes him, which is all you need to know.
We skipped the expert wire this week, but it will be back in force next week as we continue to look for fantasy baseball diamonds, and the jewels among this year's crop of fantasy football QBs and RBs.
Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. He welcomes your comments. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.
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