Lots of reaction to last week's "Worst of the Worst" column about the worst fantasy players of all time. Let's dive right in with this week's hot pickups, and then I'll do a short mailbag with the best of the "worst players" nominees.
Working the wire
Here are some players who have recently seen an increase in value and might be available in your league. Ownership percentages in ESPN.com standard leagues in parentheses.
Paul Byrd, SP, Red Sox (25 percent): The Byrd is the word, my friends! I've mentioned my appreciation for him before, and the trade to Boston only helps. He makes his Boston debut tonight, and even if he loses -- the Red Sox are 0-10 on Ben Affleck's birthday since the movie "Good Will Hunting" came out, and today is Affleck's birthday -- I like him a lot. Over his past five games, Byrd is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA. He won't get a ton of strikeouts, but he will get good run support and will be backed by a strong bullpen.
Jensen Lewis, RP, Indians (22 percent): He's the new closer in Cleveland. Do I really need to write anything more here? Oh, maybe that he has two saves and no earned runs in his past seven appearances.
Ian Stewart, 3B, Rockies (30 percent): He's no Kinsler, but he's on the short list of "My favorite Ians." Since getting recalled from Triple-A on July 19, Stewart has played very well. He has four home runs and 22 RBIs in 22 games started and has hit .333 over that time frame.
Jesse Litsch, SP, Blue Jays (9 percent): He's back, and he pitched well in his first start back, firing seven scoreless innings against Detroit. He also posted a 1.10 WHIP and an 18-to-4 strikeout to walk rate in 20 innings in the minors, so he seems to have corrected whatever was screwing him up.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox (32 percent): His value might not be dead yet. Hitting .333 with three home runs and six RBIs in his past 10 games, Konerko is worth stashing on your bench in hopes he can keep this up.
Chris Dickerson, OF, Reds (0 percent): Called up when Adam Dunn got traded to Arizona, Dickerson has been leading off for Cincy the past few days. He was hitting .287 with 26 steals in Triple-A when he got the call.
Jody Gerut, OF, Padres (12 percent): Sure, he has a girl's first name, but he hits like a man. At least recently he has, with eight home runs and 17 RBIs in his past 20 games started. He's also hitting .311 over the past month.
Jim Edmonds, OF, Cubs (16 percent): Yes, he is old. But as a Cub, he's actually good, with 15 home runs and 42 RBIs in 60 games. He's hitting .292 since the All-Star break.
From the Obvious Name Department
Here are some players who have recently seen an increase in value and might be available in shallow leagues or leagues in which you play with morons.
Casey Blake, 3B, Dodgers (84 percent): He's loving the National League. He has three home runs and 10 RBIs in 19 games with LA, and the Dodgers' offense appears to actually have some life.
Brett Myers, SP, Phillies (63 percent): Since being recalled from Triple-A on July 21, he's 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA. He also has 14 strikeouts in his past 14.2 innings.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Rangers (75 percent): The Byrd is the word, my friends! Wait, I already used that one. Hmm. Nevertheless, Marlon has been ridiculous lately, with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 24 games since the All-Star break. Check out the status of the elbow injury he sustained Friday before investing, though.
Just below the Mendoza Line:
Here are some players who have recently seen an increase in value and whom you should keep an eye on, or pick up in deeper leagues.
Willy Aybar has been starting at third base for the Rays with Evan Longoria out and has two home runs and six RBIs in his past five games. Is he good? No, but he's not terrible either. … The Cardinals' Cesar Izturis is hitting .395 with five steals in the month of August. … Outfielder Mitch Maier is playing everyday for Kansas City these days, and he was hitting .316 with nine home runs and 41 RBIs before being recalled from Triple-A. … Brett Gardner had 37 steals with the Yankees' Triple-A team and has been recalled to try and help spark a struggling offense…
Bob (Braintree, Mass.): How can a list of worst players of the decade not include Greg Vaughn's 2002 season with Tampa Bay? Similar to David Bell, he was never much of an average hitter. An All-Star in 2001, he was coming off seasons of 50, 45, 28 and 24 homers, respectively. In 2002, he managed to hit for a deplorable .163 average (including an unheard-of .107 mark before May 17) with eight home runs and 29 RBIs in 251 at-bats while starting basically every game until he was released in late June.
Dave (Jersey Shore): I liked that "worst player" article. One guy who burned me was Jorge Cantu. Coming off a great power year in 2005, and an even more impressive World Baseball Classic with Team Mexico, he was our first-round pick (12-team league, five keepers per team, so really he was equivalent to a sixth-rounder) since we thought he would be an easy 30-homer second baseman. He killed us. Despite that, and even being a Mets fan, I am glad to see he has come back from the dead in Florida, and I still root for him. I'm sure you did your due diligence with the five guys you listed, but I figured Cantu should at least get some love as an honorable mention.
TMR: Yeah, thanks to his resurgence this year, people have forgotten just how terrible he was the year after his "breakthrough."
Josh (Mankato, Minn.): I enjoyed your article about the "worst of the worst," but you forgot one. What about Nick Punto in 2007? He batted .210 in 472 at-bats! He did have 16 stolen bases but only 25 RBIs and one home run. Somehow Nick Punto has to make the list.
TMR: I disagree. The 16 steals still gave him value, and he wasn't that highly rated coming into the season.
Chris (Saratoga, NY): Hey TMR, a few weeks ago on the podcast, you said you might do an article on the "closers of the future" who became "nobodies of the past." I loved the "worst seasons ever" article, and I'd figured the closer busts would be a good follow-up. By the way, in my six years of playing fantasy baseball, nobody was hyped more than Ryan Wagner of the Reds. I think he shags fly balls for the Nats now.
Joe (Upland, Calif.): In the latest TMR column, you have Steve Finley listed as sucking for the Dodgers in 2005. He actually sucked for the Angels in 2005.
TMR: I know. But as a longtime Angels fan, I like to picture him on the Dodgers and forget that ever happened.
noreenry21 (ESPN Conversation -- Beta!): I don't see why you didn't even mention Jeff Francoeur. He had a good season last year (.293 average, 19 homers and 105 RBIs), and this year he's hitting .227 with 10 homers and 52 RBIs in 450 at-bats. How does that not even warrant a mention?
TMR: It absolutely should, especially since I hyped the hell out of him during the preseason. Ugh, was I wrong about him. Absolutely loved him this year. My apologies for that. He's trying to kill a team or two. Considering how much I loved him, he absolutely needs to be on the list.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a Sports Emmy award winner for his work on Fantasy Football Now and a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off.