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By Dan O'Shea
I've always been a fan of the promising young outfielder Lastings Milledge, and not just because of his name - though I was accused during one of my fantasy baseball drafts in March of picking him up for just that reason. (Someone said the name suggested someone who wears a top hat with regularity). Go ahead and laugh, I thought, and I'll be laughing when he hits .300, pounds 20 homers and steals 40 bases leading off for the Washington Nationals.
Well, the dream lasted for 24 at-bats, in which Milledge had a total of four hits, one stolen base, zero home runs and 10 strikeouts (in less than 25 at-bats!). He was sent down to the minors and may be there for a while, having already been passed up once when the Nats recently needed to bring up an outfielder.
The league in which I own him is a hardcore rotisserie-style points league with waiver wire moves limited to 15 for the season, so I haven't dropped him yet. I'm looking for an excuse - someone to exchange him for on the wire - to do so. I'm also wondering if the Nats, who are as bad as baseball gets these days, might eventually bring Milledge back up to the show and let him work through his problems there. Tough call, though I think I will end up dropping him. But for now, every time I look at my team now I have to stare at that bright red "NA" (not active) next to his name.
That got me thinking about some other players, famous and otherwise very promising, who currently are in the minors or inactive. Will they make a difference this season?
* David Price, P - Definitely will be active, possibly within weeks. Picked in many leagues already. Worth adding if you have a free roster spot now.
* Andrew McCutcheon, OF - Great speed, but he's in the Pirates organization and, amazingly, the Pirates are doing very well right now with a fairly productive trio of OFs. I'll guess late second half.
* Matt Wieters, C - Grab him the minute his name goes live on your waiver wire, which likely will be early next month. Could be this year's stats leader among rookies even with a late arrival.
* Gordon Beckham, IF - Was great for the White Sox this spring. Could have SS/2B eligibility if called up, and Sox SS Alexei Ramirez is batting a buck and change right now. Second half impact.
* Pedro Martinez, P - Unsigned free agent. He could still make a difference, though someone needs to sign him and get him to work soon. Possible second half impact and worth a pick-up.
* Jeff Samarzdija, P - Cubs may start making bullpen changes soon and he's burning up the minors. Possible May arrival. Could be first-half reliever, second-half starter.
* Derek Holland, P - Rangers can always use more fresh arms in their park, and this lefty supposedly is a lights-out hard thrower in the upper 90s. May/June call-up seems possible.
* Neftali Perez, P - Another Rangers prospect, but a righty. Supposedly throws harder than Holland and has zoomed through the minors, but I'll guess September unless the Rangers really need him.
* Paul Byrd, P - The great junkballer with post-season experience. Unsigned. Can produce if he signs with a winner, though only worth consideration in a very deep fantasy league.
* Ray Durham, 2B - Unsigned. I wanted the Cubs to get him instead of Aaron Miles. A professional hitter who can still deliver decent RBIs, occasional HRs and even an SB or two. A good reserve pick-up.
* Mark Grudzielanek, 2B - Unsigned. Another at this position who can pile up hits and score often as part of the right line-up. A decent deep-league reserve if he signs somewhere.
* Jim Edmonds, OF - Unsigned. Showed last year he still has home run pop, but that's about it and he needs to land in the right park (Boston, Milwaukee, Colorado). Probably only worth watching.
* Frank Thomas, DH - Unsigned. Another who can string together stats in the right lineup, and could add a few homers, too. Still, a late season addition if at all.
And now a look at the experts wire. Do they have any advice on anyone who is active?
* Andy Behren's Closing Thoughts column at Yahoo! takes a look at, yes, closers. It notes that Trevor Hoffman will be off the DL soon, meaning saves will be coming soon if the sagging Brewers could play well enough to hand him a game. Nationals closer Joel Hanrahan is the least of that team's worries, but the mildly hyped RP has been awful thus far. Will Joel Zumaya be a factor in the saves department when he returns from the DL?
* Rob Neyer has a SweetSpot for SP Jordan Zimmerman, who is one of the few positives the Nationals can celebrate this year. He's been fairly hyped, and could deliver wins and relatively few earned runs and walks if he continues to pitch as well as advertised.
* Bleacher Report trolls the waiver wire and comes up with Chris Duncan, 1B/OF for the Cardinals, again a factor after missing most of last year. Duncan has legitimate HR power and gets a lot of doubles (six already this year through last weekend). He also walks frequently, and with the Cards leading the league in runs scored early on, he should have at least four categories of decent contribution (HR, 2B, BB, R).
* Brad Evans says in Bringin' the Noise that it might be time to consider Travis Hafner again. The one-time super-slugger is off to a pretty good start this year, though his position classification was limited to UTIL last time I checked, which is kind of limiting unless a guy is really, really good. I don't know if Hafner is there yet. But, BTN does have some other strong buys listed including Toronto rookie OF Travis Snider, who hasn't gotten many starts, but already has three home runs and has a little bit of speed, too. He should get more starts.
* MLB FanHouse lists Ricky Romero and Glen Perkins, two pitchers who have had some ups and down the last few years, as great pick-ups if you need starting pitcher help. Who would have though those two names would rank higher in fantasy points thus far than CC Sabathia or Cole Hamels? Certainly not the guy who thought Lastings Milledge and his top hat were set to take over the fantasy baseball world.
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