This week in fantasy baseball


Unless you belong to a league with a stricter steroids policy than Major League Baseball's - something to consider for those who think the 10-day suspension is a weak slap on a chemically-enhanced wrist - then Monday's bombshell was a mere blip on your roto radar.

Rafael Palmeiro will miss 10 days. Big deal. Might as well be a stiff lower back.

The real news last week was the Orioles acquisition of outfielder Eric Byrnes. Bye, bye Bigbie. Hello, Mr. Byrnes. Excellent.

Byrnes is a career .269 hitter who hits lefties well and put up career highs of 20 home runs and 17 stolen bases last season. After a short and ill-fated stint as the Rockies clean-up hitter, he's back in familiar territory in the American League (he's played 442 of his 462 career games to date with Oakland) and hitting .400 with a homer and a couple of RBIs in his first three games with the Orioles.

Byrnes will bat in the No. 2 hole for the O's, where he'll have the chance to score plenty of runs - provided the heart of Baltimore's order ever gets back to hitting with runners in scoring position. His numbers are lagging a little compared to a year ago, but he's a low-risk fourth or fifth outfielder who can provide some speed, some pop and won't hurt you in any category.

At the very least, Byrnes is a better all-around player than Bigbie, a former first-round pick who had his moments in parts of three seasons with the Orioles but to date hasn't lived up to his promise. His .185 batting average in July and lack of power made him expendable in Baltimore, and his value won't improve much, even with a move to Colorado's thin air. Bigbie is blocked in a crowded outfield by Matt Holliday, Cory Sullivan and Brad Hawpe (currently on the DL). He'll be a platoon player until further notice.

And now a look around the rest of the majors:

Who's hot

Felix Hernandez, Mariners: With Aaron Sele gone, Seattle's 19-year-old super-prospect - who Baseball America likened to Doc Gooden - should get his shot. He's recovering from a shoulder injury, but don't let that scare you off. Keeper leaguers want to add this flame-throwing phenom ASAP.

Jeff Francoeur, Braves: Part of Atlanta's Generation Next, 21-year-old outfielder is playing every day and batting .418 with six home runs since his callup in early July.

Fernando Rodney, Tigers: Trade of Kyle Farnsworth freed up Detroit's closer's job for this late-bloomer, who has 25 Ks in 20 1/3 innings and an active scoreless innings streak of 13 1/3.

Zach Duke, Pirates: Outrageous numbers (4-0, 0.92 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) are only half of the story. Rookie has outpitched Greg Maddux, Tim Hudson and Brett Myers for three of his four wins.

Matt Holliday, Rockies: From a rocky start to real Rockie numbers. In 13 games since returning from a broken finger, he's batting .380 with a 1.136 OPS and four HRs - half of his season total.

Who's not

Bobby Abreu, Phillies: Hit one home run in July - his Derby display notwithstanding - and has batted .194 with no homers and 4 RBIs since the break.

Dontrelle Willis, Marlins: The D-Train is way off track, posting a 9.36 ERA in his past five starts. His history of sub-par second halves makes him a risky play going forward.

Bret Boone, Twins: Minnesota needed about two weeks to figure out what the Mariners already knew - that Boone's best days are far behind him. Next stop: Tampa Bay?

Johnny Estrada, Braves: Nursing a bad lower back and coming off a horrible month of July in which he batted .194 with no homers and two RBIs.

Chris Young, Rangers: The bloom is off this rookie, who fell back to earth in a big way in a July with a 10.18 ERA, 1.87 WHIP. Don't bank on much of a recovery.

This weekend's matchups

American League

Baltimore at Texas

Boston at Minnesota

New York Yankees at Toronto

Tampa Bay at Los Angeles Angels

Seattle at Chicago White Sox

Cleveland at Detroit

Oakland at Kansas City

National League

San Diego at Washington

Atlanta at St. Louis

Chicago Cubs at New York Mets

Florida at Cincinnati Milwaukee at Philadelphia

Houston at San Francisco

Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh

Colorado at Arizona

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