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By Dan O'Shea
Feeling a little Manny-less lately?
We all get that sometimes. Just don't turn to performance enhancers to make it all better, or you may find yourself on the sidelines for 50 games. We will continue to live in a world without Manny for another month-and-a-half, and for the second time this year, we must try to figure out if a star player will be something less when he returns from a layoff that came just after a drug revelation.
A-Rod's return thus far is going pretty well: Only seven hits in 36 at-bats through Tuesday night, but five of those hits are home runs, and he already has 10 walks, perhaps a sign that he doesn't feel in such a hurry to prove himself that he'll swing at bad balls.
Manny's game, one of contact, suggests that he will return in early July with similar results as long as he spends some quality time in the batting cage.
Manny's special talent has always been contact. His home runs - 533 of them in his career - have almost been by-products of highly-skilled contact hitting, so he shouldn't return with any need to show off brute power, something which might be driving A-Rod at least a little right now.
Manny's Dodgers are a good young team that is still much better with him than without him. I think he'll still get plenty of RBI opportunities, and a long break might actually have this 38-year-old (his birthday is in a few days) hitting his mid-season stride just when everyone else is battling late-season fatigue.
I would still rank Manny fairly close to his pre-season fantasy rank (No. 25 in Yahoo!), and I think he's worth trading for now if you have a player ranked in the 30 to 40 range that you can spare as an investment in a potential late-season surge. You can get him now at a much better price than you will at the trade deadline later this season - unless, of course, the suspension causes him such utter sadness that he retires. Then, well, forget everything I just said.
Not surprisingly, the expert wire has been buzzing lately with advice for the Manny-less:
* Bleacher Report takes a closer look at what Manny owners may stand to lose in the coming weeks.
* Bleacher Report also has a fresh list of possible pick-ups for Manny-less teams. I do like Shin-Soo Choo, who is sort of streaky, the way Alfonso Soriano can be, but Choo can bring Manny owners something they won't get with the dread-locked one - stolen bases.
* Newsday likes real-world replacement Juan Pierre, who also is a speed freak, though I would prefer a wire pick-up that gives at least a few homers and RBIs. Maybe Brad Hawpe or Ben Zobrist?
* ESPN's Christopher Harris has some views on struggling starters that you may be able to buy low for better returns as the season wears on. Chief among them is Cole Hamels, though Hamels now has three solid starts in a row after a string of freakish injuries, so he might demand a bit more on the trade market. Harris also has ranked his top 80 starters based on future performance the rest of this year - note that Zack Greinke, All-World to this point, is only eighth on the list.
And a couple of breaking news bits:
* SP Dontrelle Willis came back this week from an anxiety-related layoff to start the season. ESPN's Out of the Box has the report on his terrific return: 6.1 IP, 0 ER, 5 Ks.
How much can you base on one game? Well, not much, usually, so if you want to rush to the waiver wire to get Willis, don't part with anyone too valuable.
But, he did shut down the stacked Texas line-up.
It will be interesting to see how Detroit will handle him. The Tigers soon will have an embarrassment of riches among their starting pitchers, with Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson doing very well, youngster Rick Porcello rebounding from a slow start and Jeremy Bonderman due back soon from the DL. Armando Galarraga has been inconsistent, but is probably still worthy of a rotation spot on most teams.
Could first-place Detroit trade Willis or another starter to beef up its bullpen or lineup? Stay tuned.
* Meanwhile, Rickie Weeks owners can't seem to catch a break. Weeks is now out for the season with a wrist injury after a recent power surge pushed him up to 9 homers on the year. Yahoo!'s Closing Time has more on this tragedy.
Weeks had fielding woes and inconsistency at the plate during the last two years that marred his promising talents, including a bat that seems capable of 20-plus homers and legs that could steal 30-plus bases and score 120 runs if given a full season of opportunity. This year, his fielding improved and in the potent Milwaukee lineup, Weeks had been starting to look like a top 5 second baseman. I'll guess right now that he'll end up around No. 5 in my pre-ranks at that position next year, though check back with me later to see if I remember/still acknowledge saying this.
Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday, except when it appears on Thursday. 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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