In Julio Lugo we trust. My fantasy team, once in last place, has begun to make its move. Ryan Howard's return to elite status has helped, as has Carlos Zambrano's. A shrewd trade or two - including getting Howard when he was hitting under .200 and picking up Raul Ibanez for Vladimir Guerrero - has given me hope.
To take that final step, however, I'll need an additional boost. That's where Lugo comes in.
The Red Sox infielder is one of a handful of players who have been tossed onto the waiver wire by frustrated owners tired of waiting for them to produce. Lugo has been languishing there, along with Pat Burrell in many leagues, and Stephen Drew.
It's hard to blame owners for dumping these underperforming players, but I'll blame them anyway.
Unless one thinks Burrell and Lugo are done, and Drew was all hype, these are exactly the kinds of players you don't want to drop. The law of averages tell us that what goes down, must come up, and vice versa. So a .200-hitting Lugo, so long as he keeps is job, is likely to hit much higher than that the rest of the way.
Do players' skills erode? Sure. But in most cases, guys who can hit will find their stroke eventually if given the chance to continue playing. Both Burrell and Lugo seem to be getting that opportunity.
Can Burrell produce better than Casey Blake the rest of the way in my outfield? I think he can.
Can a resurgent Lugo do more than Kaz Matsui in the final two months? I'm guessing yes.
Waiver wire gems
Lugo, SS, Red Sox
I've never been a huge fan of Lugo because I think of him as one of those guys who puts up numbers beyond his talent level. That said, when I see a guy with 20-plus steals available for the taking, I jump at the opportunity. He was hitting under .200 through June, and owners decided to try players like Troy Tulowitzki or Jason Bartlett in his place. Benching him was understandable, but dumping Lugo was a big mistake. Lugo is hitting nearly .400 in July with five steals and 13 RBIs and is likely to keep producing in the final two months. It may be too late to grab him up, but check your waiver wire to see if he's available.
Burrell, OF, Phillies
Are there holes in Burrell's swing? Absolutely. Can he be pitched to? Sure. But is he better than a .200 hitter with a handful of home runs? You better believe it. Owners got spooked when Burrell was benched for a handful of games in late June, back when he was hitting about .210 with seven homers. You don't drop a guy like this unless you're sure he's finished. It turns out he isn't; he's hitting a cool .395 with four homers and 13 RBIs in July, and he looks like a sure bet to surpass 20 homers for the seventh straight season. Enjoy the power surge, faithful owners and wise folks who swiped him in early July.
Waiver wire lemons
Austin Kearns, OF, Nationals
When a guy goes more than 50 games without a home run, you have to wonder whether he'll ever regain his stroke. He finally hit one on July 22 against the Rockies, but Kearns hasn't exactly set the world on fire after a promising rookie season in 2002, when he hit .315 with 13 homers. The fact is, he's never driven in 90 runs, or hit more than 24 homers. That makes him a below-average slugger on a team with little protection in the lineup, should he suddenly start hitting. Pick up promising young slugger Matt Kemp of the Dodgers instead and let some other owner wait for Kearns to start hitting.
Marcus Giles, 2B, Padres
The younger of the Giles brothers has had a disappointing season, but let's be real for a moment: What were owners expecting? Giles really made a name for himself with one strong fantasy season in 2003 (.316-21-69 with 14 steals) and since then has been an average middle infielder in terms of fantasy production. He was far off my radar in drafts this year, because he was moving to San Diego, a tough park for hitters. He's hitting .240 with four homers and eight steals and even if he straightens it out, we're talking about a .260-10-60 guy. Don't you have better things to do? As a fantasy owner, you sure do.
Quick hits: Forget the lackluster home run total; Yankees OF Bobby Abreu has absolutely won back the trust of fantasy owners with 22 RBIs in the first 19 games of July. That's as many RBIs as he had in May and June combined. ... No one has been better in the last month than Giants RHP Tim Lincecum. In his last five starts, the rookie is 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 34 1-3 innings. He has allowed just 19 hits in that span. Yes, he's that good. ... It's unclear when Rockies closer Brian Fuentes will return from the disabled list, but Manny Corpas is clearly a better-than-average replacement. Since he was put in the closer role, Corpas has allowed just two hits in eight innings and has twice struck out the side in the ninth. He is 5-for-5 in save opportunities and is worth a flyer for your fantasy team.