mlb 07/24/07 12:44 PM ET Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com.]]> We're getting close to the trading deadline, and you can be sure that the Exchange will break down any prospects who are dealt leading up to the end of July. So far, there really hasn't been anyone you have to worry about (with all due respect to Jeff Kennard) fantasy-wise. But stay tuned.

In the bigs

Talk about a feel-good story. Shelley Duncan is 27 years old and was in his seventh season in the Yankees' organization. He spent two seasons in Tampa and two in Double-A Trenton before getting to Triple-A full-time for the first time this year. He responded by setting a Scranton record for homers in a season -- 25 -- in just 91 games before getting a somewhat surprising callup. All he did was hit three homers in his first five games to make him a fan favorite. The power is definitely legitimate. So is the ability to swing and miss. He struck out 140 times in 2005, for instance. He's DH-ing right now and has never been that good of a first baseman. AL-only players should take a chance on him now, especially if you need some home runs. But if/when Jason Giambi comes back, it will be interesting to see if they give Duncan a long look at first or they play the trade market instead. Don't overbid on him, but he's worth a flier.

Anyone who's read this column over the past couple of years knows I love talking about catching. So hard to find, so it's important to note when new possible sources come up. Case in point this time around: Curtis Thigpen. The Blue Jays called him up recently, and he's managed to play 18 games. Oddly, most of them have come at first base as the Jays want to get him consistent at-bats. He's held his own with a .263 average and he has managed to get into four games behind the plate -- a number that's important for those with five-game minimums. For now, Thigpen's not going to give you a huge second-half lift, but those in AL-only keeper leagues may want to stash him if they have room because he's likely to be the team's No. 1 catcher in 2008.

A phone call away

We'll start on the mound because there are plenty of interesting developments there. Homer Bailey got sent down, presumably to stay on schedule over the All-Star break. He promptly got knocked around in two starts, and it seemed that something wasn't quite right. Turned out it was the same groin problem that plagued him earlier this season. It's a "moderate" strain, and he's on the disabled list. He's going to miss at least two weeks, and you can be sure the Reds will be extremely cautious in bringing him back. It's looking less likely he'll have any huge fantasy impact this season, but hold onto him for 2008 as his taste of the bigs this year will only help him mature as a pitcher.

Remember Edinson Volquez? He was part of the vaunted DVD trio in the Rangers system. John Danks is with the White Sox and Thomas Diamond had Tommy John surgery this spring. Volquez has been pitching, but he had to go all the way back down to A ball to get his command issues sorted out. Well, it looks like he's starting to do that and he's all the way back up to Triple-A after going 8-1 in Double-A with a 3.55 ERA and .212 batting average against, while striking out 62 in 58 1/3 innings. Though he walked four in his first Triple-A start, he allowed just one hit and one run over seven innings, striking out six. Considering the Rangers are next to last in team ERA, you'd have to think they'll give Volquez another shot at some point, assuming he keeps the walk rate somewhat in check. When that happens, don't go nuts trying to get him. Take a wait-and-see approach, but he's still only 24 and has a ton of upside.

Reliever alert: Jonathan Meloan has always had nasty stuff. In 2006, at three levels, he held hitters to a combined .151 batting average against while striking out 91 and walking just 16 in 52 innings. He opened this year as the closer in Double-A Jacksonville and held hitters to a .155 batting average against, striking out 70 in 45 1/3 IP. His 19 saves still lead the Southern League even though he was promoted to Triple-A recently. Obviously, the Dodgers don't really need a closer right now since they have two viable options in the bigs, but keep an eye on Meloan. He could be the type of unknown reliever who gets dealt and gets to close someplace else. At the very least, he could be the kind of setup guy who racks up the K's and WHIP that can be very helpful in NL-only leagues.

Speaking of Vegas (where Meloan is now), we talked about Chin-Lung Hu last week, but he's not the only hitter on that team who's been hot. 3B Andy LaRoche has been out of his head as well, showing why he's still one of the most exciting prospects at the hot corner in baseball. LaRoche has hit .397 in July and slugged a ridiculous .952 thanks to nine homers and eight doubles in 17 games. It doesn't look like he'll get another real opportunity this year, unless there's an injury, but they're going to have to give him a legitimate shot in 2008.

Finally, there's Braves outfield prospect Brandon Jones. He just got bumped up to Triple-A and while he's only gone 2-for-11, those two hits have been for extra bases. He's a legitimate five-tool guy, and he's still figuring out how to use those tools. He really put it together in Double-A, hitting .293 with 15 homers, 74 RBIs and 12 steals in 94 games. It may have seemed like he was farther away when this season began, but he's closed the gap quite a bit and it will be interesting to see when the Braves decide to let him give left field a try in Atlanta.

A year away

It doesn't seem fair that the Twins keep producing pitching talent, does it? while much of the recent influx has been courtesy of the draft, there are a couple of up-and-comers from international scouting efforts you should know about. The first is Yohan Pino, who's been used as both a reliever and starter and has been nasty in both roles. He began the year coming out of the 'pen before making nine starts in Class A Advanced ball, the next-to-last one being a seven-inning no-hitter. Before getting a recent promotion to Double-A, Pino had a 1.73 ERA, 64 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings pitched and a .192 batting average against. His first Double-A start wasn't pretty, but don't let that dissuade you from adding him to your watch list.

Joining him in the climb to Double-A was Oswaldo Sosa, also from Venezuela. Sosa doesn't have the same K rate as Pino, but he's still very effective, with a 2.23 ERA over 19 Florida State League starts. I have no idea where the Twins will put all this pitching, but know the names in case any of them find homes in more pitching-poor organizations.

Reid Brignac had a monster 2006 season in the Devil Rays' system, but since much of it came in the hitting-friendly California League, there were some skeptics who needed convincing, even though he fared well in a late promotion to Double-A last year. He began this year well, hitting .302 in the season's first month, but those skeptics were about to say "I told you so" when he hit .216 in May and .219 in June. Not so fast. He's bounced back with a .329 July and slugged .570. If he can stay at shortstop, he may get an opportunity, with all due respect to the job Brendan Harris has done this year. If he can't, then there's a huge logjam of talent in the system that could get in the way.

Down the Road

There was good news and bad news for the Phillies' system this past week. The good news is that they signed first-round pick Joe Savery. The Rice standout will start in the NY-Penn League, and there's a lot to like about the lefty. First, unlike the other Rice pitchers of late, he's already had his arm trouble and seems to be coming out of it fine. The other is that he was a two-way player in college and being able to focus only on pitching now should mean a good leap forward on the mound. He's the kind of guy who could move pretty quickly, starting in 2008.

The bad news comes from 2006 first-round pick Kyle Drabek. Doug's son is having Tommy John surgery and is likely to miss most of the 2008 season. The one positive is that he's just 19 and still has plenty of time to come back from the elbow troubles. For now, it means you don't have to worry about him in any kind of fantasy league and he's likely got some work ahead of him in terms of re-making his mechanics so he's not putting so much force on his elbow in the future.

One more draftee to mention before we close up shop for the week. The Pirates recently signed their No. 1 pick, Daniel Moskos. Fans in Pittsburgh weren't thrilled with the pick, wanting the organization to open the checkbook and take catcher Matt Wieters instead. Well, this is who they got and they got a pretty talented pitcher. More importantly for you, the fantasy player, is that the Pirates will use him as a reliever, a role he excelled at pitching for Clemson. While taking a college closer with the No. 4 overall pick may seem a bit odd, that shouldn't bother you in this context. Pitching out of the 'pen, Moskos should move very quickly through the system and barring any injuy could be up in the bigs by next year. That might mean you may want to include him on your 2009 closer candidate list.

]]> http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/fantasy/index.jsp http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/fantasy/bts/index.jsp