Hotpage Week 12 (June 17, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 17 June 2013 00:00

In a week peppered with some top flight prospects, just about every serious roto owner had his or her eyes focused on Pittsburgh's #1 pick of 2011, Gerrit Cole.

Cole's primary stats actually do look pretty good, with a 14-10, 2.84 ERA, although his strikeout rate (183 K over 200 innings) of 8.2 is not really that good for a first-rounder with a mid-90's fastball.

The UCLA alum did pull a minor league WHIP of 1.150, with 154 hits and 73 walks allowed, and Cole did fare well his first start in the Bigs, beating the Giants, but I am haunted by the Rising Stars All Star game, where I saw Cole get completely shredded, overpowering no one (Billy Hamilton killed him), throwing fast, and unfortunately straight.

In the end, I think Cole could be a decent #3 or #4 starter, but I also have to think his strikeout-to-innings number will not improve in the Majors, and that tells me the right-hander is not really a #1 overall pick. He could have an adequate Major League career, but I would expect some lumps, and would not anticipate Cole ever wearing the mantle of "ace."

The Mets anticipate advancing another first-rounder this coming week in Zack Wheeler, although it was the Giants who selected the pitcher sixth overall in 2009 out of East Paulding High School, in East Paulding, Ga. 

Wheeler pitched well enough for San Francisco over 29 starts, going 10-8, 3.99 split between the Sally League and the California League before the Giants tried to shoot the moon in 2011, swapping their pitcher for Carlos Beltran. Overall, Wheeler is 28-20, 3.56 over 73 starts and 391.1 innings in the Minors, with 420 punch-outs to 176 walks and 323 hits (1.275 WHIP), and that totals to a 9.7 strikeout rate, more promising than Cole, but Wheeler also walked 176 batters, good for a 4.0 per nine innings walk rate.

Like Cole, Wheeler should have his struggles as a rookie, but his totals do point to more potential dominance than Cole (they also point to more fits of wildness), but I think the thing Wheeler has going for him over Cole is that Matt Harvey is the #1 guy at Citi Field, and just those lower expectations should prove to be helpful with respect to Wheeler's development.

Then, Seattle decided to summon their #1 selection--and third overall--of last year, Mike Zunino. The catcher was actually selected first by the Athletics in 2009 in the 29th round from Cape Coral, Florida, but the now 22-year-old chose time at the University of Florida instead.

After being drafted, Zunino hit very well, going .360-13-43 over 44 games, with 23 walks to 33 strikeouts between Class-A Everett, and Double-A Jackson, thus Seattle moved him to Tacoma for 2013. There he hit .238-11-43 over 44 games, although with just 14 walks to 59 strikeouts, good for a troubling .303 OBP. Not that I would expect that to continue, for if given a chance to play regularly, Zunino should be a pretty good everyday catcher. 

What this boils down to--that is three first round selections all debuting over a week--is that the players are promising, but don't be surprised if it takes them awhile to get the hang. Sure, it does happen, but temper your expectations so that success makes you pleasantly surprised rather than woefully disappointed. In other words, be realistic.

And, if this marks the end of Kelly Shoppach's career, thanks dude. Among the best $1 catchers ever.

I saw the Cubs' Travis Wood start against the team that drafted him #2 in 2005, but then swapped him to the Cubs in late 2011 as part of a deal for Sean Marshall.

Advancing as a full-time starter from the Minors, from the get-go, Wood has really blossomed this year, going 5-5, 2.65 over 85 innings, with 60 whiffs to 28 walks, to 57 hits, good for a WHIP of 1.00 on the nose. Wood looked very good at Wrigley on Wednesday, tossing seven innings (four hits, two walks, and a Zack Cozart dinger) and 102 pitches, though he was saddled with the loss. With all the struggles on Chicago's North Side the last couple of years, the emergence of Wood, along with Jeff Smardzija, are the center of a promising rotation.

Colorado's Jordan Brown has that ubiquitous traveling salesman resume of the journeyman hitter, being drafted by the Indians in 2005, purchased by the Brewers in 2011, then granted free agency and signed by the Astros, then released by the Astros, then signed again by the Brewers, then released again, and finally signed by the Marlins. 

With a .303-81-478 line over 855 games, Brown has a pretty good .819 OPS in the Minors, and the outfielder/first baseman, who bats left, might deliver a little pop, and is hitting .333-0-5 over nine at-bats. Of course we are talking filling a hole in a deep league here.

Ben Revere is one of those guys who seems to start slow, then pick up steam. Revere hit .464-0-2 last week with 13 hits, a pair each of RBI and steals, and four runs, raising his season line to .272-0-8, with 16 steals and 24 runs scored. If you have been sitting on Revere--a .277 career hitter, albeit with 90 steals--activate or even grab him. True, he is much like having a closer, being able to deliver steals and some runs for the most part, but his average certainly will not hurt.

With Pablo Sandoval on the DL, look for Joaquin Arias (he hit .407-0-2 last week) to get the bulk of playing time at the hot corner in San Francisco. Arias has a .274-5-65 Major League line and some position flexibility. Of course, the Panda's return is unclear, and the Giants really want him to work and drop some poundage. 




Last Updated on Monday, 17 June 2013 06:41
Hotpage Week 11 (June 10, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 10 June 2013 00:00

It is pretty obvious to me that the ups-and-downs of the baseball season is pretty well modified by the craziness of the transaction list, and the relative gambles and desperation therein.

This cycle, the high end of the spectrum features the newest, hottest Cuban import in Yasiel Puig. I am not sure where you may have been hiding to not know about the new Dodger right fielder, but on the outside chance that Puig is available in your league, grab him, and don't let go.

"Why," you may ask? 

OK, I will give you a few reasons that despite the initial premise that Puig's promotion would only be till Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford returned from the DL.

To start, the guy seems to be able to hit. Period. Over his 63 games in the Minors, there is the .328-13-52 line he produced along with 27 walks to 44 strikeouts, and a 1.016 OPS. Oh yes, and 21 steals. Over his six Major League games, he is .435-4-10, an arguably small sample. The Dodgers are 4-3 since his promotion, and a mere 7.5 games behind the division-leading Diamondbacks (the Athletics were 13 games behind the Rangers last year going into July, as a means of comparison), not to mention Puig can also play defense.

So, he has somewhat energized his team, and certainly the Los Angeles fans, at least in the short term. Finally, for the most part, Cuban-born players seem to be the most Major League ready after signing. That is, using Dayan Viciedo, Alexi Ramirez, Yoenis Cespedes, and Leonys Martin as recent examples.

All this means I would try to obtain Puig at least for a boost this season, without too much concern that he will get sent back down, at least in the near future. Of course this means a gamble. But, it is the kind of good and fun, and a little edgy gamble that pays off big time when it works.

If you cannot land Puig, a less marquee--at least this week--alternative is the Nationals' #1 pick in 2011 (#6 overall), Anthony Rendon, was also promoted with Danny Espinosa now injured. The 23-year-old out of Rice has posted a .269-12-36 line in the Minors over 76 games this season, and has also displayed fine plate discipline, with 55 walks to 57 strikeouts (.939 OPS). Because the Nationals are in general not having the problems the Dodgers are, there is a greater chance that Rendon would go back to Syracuse (he had only been there for three games), but for now--qualifying at second and third in some leagues--Rendon is a pretty good pickup.

Maybe, with Rickie Weeks still struggling, the Brewers will consider advancing second sacker Scooter Gennett. A high school draftee in 2009, Gennett actually has a .300-24-163 line over 435 games. Gennet also has 44 steals in the Minors, although he is prone to the strikeout (100 walks to 263 whiffs). Still, with Weeks playing so poorly, if Gennett can show a spark, that could mean changes. He is worth a buck or two of FAAB, should you have a hole.

Two pitchers started back from the dead this week in Daniel Hudson and Dustin McGowan, both of whom have had arm surgery. In fact McGowan, who a few years back was the next big thing for Toronto, has only pitched in five games since 2008. At least until Sunday, when he did a bit of everything, getting one out, striking out one, walking one, and hitting one hitter. I can see him having some jitters. Not a bad crap shoot in an AL-only.

However, poor Hudson, off Tommy John surgery, re-injured his wing, and that is probably it for him this year it seems, with looming talk of a second surgery.

The Angels, struggling as much as their cross-town Los Angeles NL counterparts, purchased the contract of Brad Hawpe, and though the Halos seemingly have a lot of sticks, Hawpe could get some platoon time a la Seth Smith, or Jonny Gomes, and give some nice production. Again, we are talking AL-only here, but again, for a buck, a couple of homers means pushing profit. (And, note, that Hawpe is the 26th man right now on the Angels rosters, so his time could be fleeting.)

In the National League, an interesting counterpart to Hawpe could be the Padres' Kyle Blanks, who is now hitting .300-6-21 over 38 games (due to injuries, Blanks has never topped 55 games or 190 plate appearances in a season as of yet). With 11 walks to 25 strikeouts (.383 OBP), Blanks may finally be healthy enough to realize all that potential. BTW, with Yonder Alonso injured, Blanks, who has logged ten games so far at first this year, becomes and extra-important cog in the Padres universe.



Last Updated on Monday, 10 June 2013 09:28
Hotpage Week 10 (June 3, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 03 June 2013 00:00

It's funny how the Hotpage themes emerge. For sure, this week it is pitchers making their debuts this week, many of whom we are more than interested in.

So, let's start at the top, with St. Louis hurler Michael Wacha. Drafted just a year ago out of Texas A&M, Wacha tossed 21 innings over three levels, going 0-0, 0.86, with 40 punch outs and a ridiculous 0.571 WHIP. At Springfield this year, Wacha simply added on, going 4-0, 2.05 over 52.2 innings, with an 0.949 WHIP. What more can I say than one start into his Major League career, Wacha is 1-0, 1.29, with an 0.286 WHIP. He is a rookie hurler, but on a team that should support his development. If available, you want him.

Tampa advanced Chris Archer, a fifth-round pick in 2006 out of Clayton High School in North Carolina. Archer is 47-44, 3.96 over 769.2 innings, with 5-3, 3.96 totals at Durham this year over ten starts. The Rays started Archer Saturday and he allowed seven runs and five hits over four innings, not adding much to the 1-3, 4.60 totals he posted last year over 29.1 innings. I would go for Alex Torres (of whom I wrote last week) who came in to finish off the Tampa game yesterday after Archer was pulled.

Arizona recalled Tyler Skaggs, drafted by the Angels in 2009, but spoils of the Dan Haren swap that also brought Patrick Corbin to Phoenix. As a minor leaguer, Skaggs is 31-22, 3.25 over 440.2 innings, with 483 strikeouts. He has a good ratio with 392 hits and 130 walks, good for a 1.185 WHIP. Last year, Skaggs was 1-3, 5.83 over 29.1 innings with the D-Backs, but was pretty good in his start vs. Texas last week, going six innings and allowing just three hits, earning a win with no runs surrendered. Again, not a bad gamble at this juncture of the season.

Then there are the Nationals, who started right-hander Nate Karns, picked first in 2006 in the 10th round by the Astros, then after spending time at Texas Tech, in 2009 by Washington in round 12. Karns has three seasons and 40 starts, along with 216.1 innings under his belt, with an 18-8, 2.70 mark and 262 strikeouts, just 140 hits with 98 walks, good for a 1.100 WHIP. At Harrisburg this year, Karns is 4-2, 4.60, over nine starts and 45 innings (55 whiffs, 41 hits, 18 walks, and a 1.31 WHIP).  Karns is probably a short-timer in Washington for now, and might be good in the future, but probably not now.

The same can probably be said of Mike Kickham, the Giants plug-in starter of the week. Kickham was 3-4, 4.33 at Fresno with 54 strikeouts over 54 innings; however, the 22 walks he has allowed suggest the control issues that have been Kickham's bane so far. At Richmond last season, Kickham surrendered 75 walks over 150.2 innings, and has allowed 3.8 walks per nine innings. Chad Gaudin, especially on the heels of his strong start Sunday, will probably be the better option.

Miami recalled Jacob Turner, the Tigers' first round pick in 2009 (#9 overall) whom the Fish acquired for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante near the trade deadline last year. Turner logged three starts with the Tigers last year (he actually debuted in 2011 for Detroit), going 1-1, 8.03 before the trade, then 1-4, 3.38 over seven starts and 42.2 innings for the Marlins. Turner did not make the cut when the team broke last April, and was 3-4, 4.47 over ten starts and 56.1 innings at New Orleans this year. As with Jose Fernandez, Miami has very little to lose by giving Turner the ball at the Major League level, but he will not deliver like Fernandez now. Or maybe ever. Just not as dominant.

Let's close with a few hitters, starting with the new second sacker in Seattle, Nick Franklin. A first round pick by Seattle in 2009, Franklin has .287-46-172 over 394 games, posting a strong .324-4-20 at Tacoma over 39 games, knocking a pair of dingers his first game as a Major Leaguer. Franklin is a great gamble in a deep AL-only format, especially if you are a Dustin Ackley owner.

OK, for all of you on the steroid watch, Yasmani Grandal is now back on the Padres roster. I won't wax on about Grandal: you know who he is. The dude can hit. And, he is a catcher. If, for any reason Grandal is available in your league, grab him.

Finally, there was a Sunday buzz with the news the Dodgers were advancing their Cuban property,Yasiel Puig. The 22-year-old hit .355-5-15 last year with eight swipes over 23 games, also chipping in 12 walks to 15 whiffs (.442 OBP). Puig played 40 games at Double-A Chattanooga this year, going .313-8-37, with 12 steals over 40 games and 47 at-bats. Puig kept his on-base totals fairly strong with 15 walks to 29 whiffs (.383 OBP) and though his time in the Majors is projected to be short (till Matt Kemp returns), if Puig is available, grab him. Especially if you can stash him.



Last Updated on Monday, 03 June 2013 07:41
Hotpage Week 9 (May 27, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 27 May 2013 00:00

First and foremost, a happy Memorial Day to one and all, and of course, to our courageous comrades keeping our wonderful country and citizenry protected, double thanks!

Memorial Day, as we all know, is the first real bench mark of the baseball, and more specifically fantasy season, and this year is no different. So, whether you are grilling burgers in the back yard, queing salmon at the beach, or gobbling dogs at the Yard, have a great and safe day. 

We can start this week with the name that made a big buzz over the previous week rookie-wise, Kevin Gausman. Baltimore's first round pick in last year's draft, out of LSU, Gausman is 22 years old. He signed in time to put up a negligible stat base, going 0-1, 3.60 over 15 innings split between Aberdeen and Frederick. Gausman began this season at Double-A Bowie, going 2-4, 3.11 over eight starts and 46.1 innings, punching out 49 while walking just five and allowing 44 hits (1.058 WHIP). He threw pretty much as expected for a first Major League start: five innings, seven hits, four whiffs and a pair of walks. Expect him to mostly keep on that path, but figure his trajectory is not unlike say Justin Grimm as opposed to Matt Harvey. Which does not mean he is a bad acquisition, but it does suggest he might not help as much as he hurts this year.

Seattle advanced a prospect I have always liked a lot in infielder Carlos Triunfel. Signed out of the Dominican Republic, Triunfel has a .276-35-276 minor league line with 53 swipes. The 118 walks to 377 strikeouts are obiously his bane, and even this year, although he is hitting .300-4-19 over Tacoma's first 44 games, the shortstop (there) has just seven walks to 35 whiffs. Rated as a top 100 prospect by "Baseball America" twice (#62 in 2008, #82 in 2009), I always thought he would crack the lineup and be a solid player, and at 23 years old, he still could. However, this either shows you how fleeting the fame of being a top prospect can be, or that making it in the Majors is really hard. Or both. Still, I do like this kid, especially with Dustin Ackley continuing to show so little improvement (and again showing how hard it is to make it). 

Staying in Seattle, with the demotion of Jesus Montero, Kelly Shoppach looks to be the guy that will get the bulk of playing time. I am a long-time Shoppach fan as a $1 buy guy in a deep format. Shoppach does not hit for too much average (.225 career hitter) and strikes out about as often as Triunfel, but, he has some good pop, and averages 20 homers over his 162-game mean. A great #2 catcher in AL-only formats.

Toronto brought back speedster Anthony Gose, the 22-year-old who plucked 15 bases for the Jays last year over 56 games and 166 at-bats. Gose, originally drafted by the Phils in 2008, then swapped to the Astros with J.A. Happ for Roy Oswalt in 2010, was then turned over the same day to Toronto for Brett Wallace. With a .261-32-196 minor league line, Gose can hit some, but it is the 233 stolen bases over 566 games that jump out. Toronto is starting to get it together, and Gose can help the team and you with swipes for a spell, at least until Jose Reyes returns, but don't expect too much more from him.

For some reason, a lot of this season--and especially this week--is loaded with re-treads. Now, I don't mean this in a pejorative sense, for all these guys are in the Majors, a nut that is tough enough to crack in the first place. Such a guy is now Oriole outfielder Chris Dickerson, drafted first in the 32nd round of the 2000 June fete by the Yankees, and then again by the Reds in 2003 in the 16th round after doing time at UNLV-Las Vegas. Dickerson worked his way to the Bronx, via a trade to the Brewers and then Bombers in 2011. As a minor leaguer, Dickerson posted a .267-7-236 line with 178 steals and 421 walks to 847 strikeouts. He has actually been decent as a major league fifth outfielder, going .271-14-55 over 561 at-bats with 29 steals. It is playing time opportunities that have held him back. Now 31, signed as a free agent during the off-season, Dickerson is getting some play with the Orioles and to date has made the most of it (.326-3-8). So, in a deep format, he is more than worth a gamble.

Speaking of outfielders with C.D. initials, the Padres' Chris Denorfia is finally getting a chance to play, and regularly, and I will probably jinx him with this, but staying healthy to boot. Now an eight-year veteran, Denorfia has logged just 483 games over that span, mostly getting killed due to body breakdowns. He has a career major league mark of .283-27-126 over that span, and this year Denorfia has played in 43 games with a .300-2-16 line that includes five steals. He has a .350 OBP (12 BB:27 K) and is a pretty good play in most formats. Meaning as a fifth outfielder in an NFBC format, he will do you no harm, and in a deep NL format he will be a help.

I was really a supporter of White Sox uber-utility guy Jeff Keppinger going into this season, especially coming off his .325-9-40 season last year with Tampa. Keppinger has unfortunately started this year woefully slow, but he is .389-1-4 this week, pushing his season numbers to .218-1-14. He also has 20% of his hits this past week, and a line drive hitter, Keppinger is exactly the type of player I would try to grab from an unsatisfied owner.

Closing with a couple of arms, I have always been a Vin Mazzaro fan, though like Triunfel, Mazarro has been short to deliver, though he has at least shown some flashes. Still, a 15-21, 5.22 record over 286 American League innings, Mazzaro, now 26, has hit it with the Pirates, going 3-0, 2.50 over his first 18 innings this season. Yes, he is a middle reliever, and yes, his opportunities will be thusly affected, but it is good to ride the hot hand. 

This week's winner of the Willy Loman Journeyman award in the Majors is Angels' pitcher Jerome Williams. Drafted in the first round of the 1999 draft (#39 overall) by the Giants, Williams was then traded to the Cubs (for Latroy Hawkins), then went on to the Nationals, Twins, Athletics, and Dodgers before settling in Anaheim. Williams is 4-1, 2.58 over 52.1 innings so far with the Halos, with 33 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP. It is kind of funny that of all the high priced players the Angels have, the relatively cheap $2 million investment this year in Williams is a winner. Either way, he is probably worth a flier at this juncture.






Last Updated on Monday, 27 May 2013 08:18
Hotpage Week 8 (May 20, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 20 May 2013 00:00

I have to say that though my team, currently in fourth place in the American League Tout Wars, is faring well, if we do not win a crown this season, it could well trace back to this past week. 

That is because in the last cycle Justin Verlander completely imploded while David Phelps, whom I impatiently dumped a month ago to much remorse, established himself as a member of Rick Wolf and Glenn Colton's rotation. And, it is a week in which Raul Ibanez, sitting on my bench, went .364-5-11.

So, let's start out with the now 40-year-old Ibanez, who is helping the Mariners push to the next level with a hot bat and his veteran experience. The Mariners moved into second place in the AL West in part fueled by Ibanez's hot stick, putting his season stats to .240-8-21, now over 85 at-bats and 25 games. In a deep format like Tout, Ibanez is a solid pick-up as a fifth outfielder/DH, and is pretty much on pace to duplicate the .240-19-62 totals he contributed to the Yankees last season. 

So, by starting with one of the elders of the game at present, we can move to the next big thing. That would be Jurickson Profar, recalled by the Rangers Sunday to replace the injured Ian Kinsler. At half the age of Ibanez, the Rangers did not yet have room for Profar when camp broke, so to Round Rock he went, where .278-4-19 totals with six swipes and 21 walks to 24 whiffs bode well. Meaning Profar will get some playing time now but still is probably not here to stay, barring a long-term injury or a trade. However, if you are in a keeper format where Profar is available, grab him and don't look back.

Not quite as young--at 23--but likely just as anticipated, New York brought up/back huge (as in 6'8", 255 lbs.) Dellin Betances. Though there has been a buzz about Betances, I think he is one of those Daniel Cabrera Frankensteins that is sympathetic and not so physically hideous if you read Mary Shelley's novel, or, creepy looking Boris Karloff, depending upon his control on any given day. The right-hander does have 644 punchouts over his 585.2 minor league innings, but he also has 321 walks. Betances will likely pitch out of the pen for the Bombers for now, meaning he will probably have negligible value. In a keeper format, he is worth owning as a potential future investment, but he could just as easily turn out to be a Delorean as anything else.

Detroit has Avisail Garcia is back with the Tigers, and overall it is hard to not like him. At 22, with six professional seasons under his belt and .285-39-250 totals assembled, it is hard not to. Add in that Garcia is hitting .432-1-4 at Toledo over a limited sample (his season start stalled due to injury) and hit .319-0-4 over 23 games last season at Comerica, and stayed on for postseason play. The issues facing him are playing time and lots of whiffs (13 in the Bigs) to not so many walks (3, relatively, over 55 at-bats). With Torii Hunter producing, Matt Tuiasosopo impressing, Andy Dirks competing and Austin Jackson healing, something will have to give. For now, as much as I like him, it probably will not go Garcia's way, especially when Jackson comes off the DL.

OK, if you are in a deep league and you need a little pop, consider the amazing Rick Ankiel. So what if Ankiel has never been as good a hitter as we hoped he would be a pitcher. But, for a guy who made the top ten of my very first Top 100 prospects in 1999 after striking out 119 over 81 innings, the guy picked up the bat and hit as many as 25 homers in a season (2008 over 120 games, even). Now with the Mets, Ankiel is more than worthy of a fifth outifielder spot, where he will give you Cody Ransom numbers (130 at-bats, but seven homers, and the counting stats that come with it).

Now with David Price, apparently the elder statesman of the Rays rotation, on the shelf, Jake Odorizzi seems to have the inside track on the rotation gig, but I really like another kid the team has in Alex Torres. A 25-year-old Venezuelan southpaw, Torres was 3-7, 7.30 at Durham last year, but his 2-2, 2.39 over seven starts back with the Bulls this year over 37.2 innings (49 strikeouts, 26 hits, 14 walks) forced the Rays hand and Torres was brought up. Torres was up for eight innings (1-1, 3.38) in 2011 and so far is 1-0, 0.00 over 4.1 innings this time around with three whiffs, two walks and no hits.

Wow, Francisco Rodriguez is back with the Brewers. Believe it or not, K-Rod is only 31 years old, with 294 career saves. It is a long shot, and Rodriguez was 2-7, 4.38 last year with Milwaukee over 71 innings, earning three saves. And, as we have seen with Heath Bell and Jose Valverde, once a closer, never an ex-closer. The Brewers' Jim Henderson is the incumbant, but anything can happen.

Tim Stauffer is back with the Padres, and while I have long liked the right-hander, who sat out parts of the last two seasons with arm troubles (he was 9-12, 3.73 over 185.2 good innings in 2011), I think the biggest issue the now 31-year-old Stauffer will have is the bevy of good young arms infiltrating the San Diego staff. But, there is always the question of how long Jason Marquis can stay effective, and that could portend an opening for Stauffer. He is fine to keep on the taxi squad, but not much else right now.

Ugh. I am trying hard to resist a Sunday night FAAB bid on Danny Valencia. He hit .311 as a rookie, .246 as a sophomore jinxed and nothing over the Mendoza line since. Still, he hit .306-11-35 at Norfolk this year before the Orioles recall (ostenstibly as a utility guy, but mostly at second base) but I think he is one of those players, as Hall and Oates would say, "better left unsaid."


Last Updated on Monday, 20 May 2013 06:50
Hotpage Week 7 (May 13, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 13 May 2013 00:00

There is usually some kind of theme or common thread among the gaggle of players I select to look at each week. And, sometimes, I will write a name down with my thoughts on the theme, and then when it comes to writing and looking more specifically at the stats, the player gets tossed out.

Not so this week, although I know virtually every player on today's list has been written about before (well, ok, most of them). That is because this week, we have a bunch of reclamation projects to discuss, and there is probably no better place to start than with now Indian, Scott Kazmir

Still just 29, Kazmir was a first round pick of the Mets in 2002 who seemed to be the next big thing when the Mets somewhat inexplicably swapped him to Tampa for Victor Zambrano in a stretch drive swap in 2004, and Kazmir pitched pretty well for the Rays over the next few years, going 55-44, 3.92 over 834 innings. Perhaps nothing shows Kazmir's ups and downs more than the fact that he led the league in walks with 100 (2005) and strikeouts with 239 (2007). Overall mediocre totals of 68-62, 4.19, with a 1.41 WHIP are what Kazmir has produced, and he missed all of last year after Tommy John surgery, returning to the Show and Tribe this year. Kazmir has won his last pair of starts, going 12 innings, striking out 17, allowing just 11 hits and a walk. Cleveland has some interesting possibilities, and for sure Kazmir has been floating among the jetsom in shallower leagues, and he might well be worth a grab.

I am not sure if I have been burned by Luke Hochevar as many times as it feels like he has been killing me forever. Another first round pick (Royals, 2006), Hochevar has been tantalizing for almost as long as Kazmir, and at age 29, pretty much disappointing for just as long. Hochevar has a 38-59, 5.32 mark over 783 innings, although his WHIP, at 1.39, is oddly better than Kazmir's. This year, the Royals have moved him to the pen, and he is 0-0, 0.73 over his first nine appearances and 12.1 innings, along with 13 strikeouts to three walks and seven hits (0.811 WHIP). Go figure.

How about Francisco Liriano making his return this weekend to the Pirates? Yet another 29-year-old, Liriano was signed by the Giants in 2000, then swapped to the Twins along with Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser, again somewhat inexplicably for A.J. Pierzynski. After dominating with a 12-3, 2.16 mark in 2006 over 121 innings, Liriano blew his arm out, missing 2007 also as a result of surgery. And, since then, ugly, yet tempting results. He's 54-54, 4.39 with a 1.354 over 845.1 innings with 855 strikeouts. Liriano worked his way back into the Buccos rotation, and went 5.1 innings, allowing a pair of walks and six hits, while whiffing nine. 

Looking at a couple of local guys, I have always been a fan of Adam Rosales' energy and enthusiasm on the field, but not so much with the schizy results. Yet another 29-year-old (Rosales turns 30 later this month), Rosales has a career line of .231-16-71 over 266 games and 719 at-bats. Rosales only has a .300 OBP (65 BB:163 K). But, with Scott Sizemore gone, second base is up for grabs, and Rosales is putting it together over an extended period with .311-1-3 over 15 games, with 14 hits over 45 at-bats. Rosales will get the majority of playing time as long as he is producing (he also plays short) and could be a nice add, at least in AL-only formats.

I almost wrote about Cody Ransom last week, simply because he was getting his requisite month of playing time with the Cubbies. Now 37, Ransom has 11 years of play under his belt, but only 643 at-bats over that span. His high point was 2012 split between Milwaukee and Arizona, with .220-11-42. Over 11 seasons, he is .223-24-90. In a deep league, his 2-5 homers between now and the end of the season could make a difference if you have an infield hole to plug (who doesn't?). 

Moving back to the Athletics, Daric Barton, he of the most unfulfilling, is back in Oakland with so many injuries to the Athletics. Hitting from the left side is something Oakland needed, and Barton has a .248-28-166 line over 498 games and 1594 at-bats. The one thing Barton does have to show is a .360 OBP (273 walks to 320 whiffs) and he has a ,182-1-3 mark over his first 11 at-bats. I would not really want to bet much on Barton, and he does get on base, and Oakland does have a lineup with some hitting shoes. So, like Rosales, anyone who gets some playing time in Oakland could get some good pitches to hit.

It is almost painful to write about Jason Bay. In fact, Bay and Francisco Liriano were the source of dump trades I made in the XFL. As in I received them in hopes of building a decent and competitive team. (As you can guess, it has not worked out so well for me.) Bay actually was not that bad through 2009, but, he was not as good as we anticipated for sure. His last gasp was .267-36-119 for Boston in 2009, and since then, Bay has been injured and ineffective. As in .240-26-124 with an ugly .686 OPS over 986 Mets at-bats that will have cost New York $75 million by 2014 when his contract dies. That means he only costs the Mariners $1 milllion this year, and his bat is about as good as a $2-$3 play in a deep league. Bay is hitting .239-3-9 with the M's this year, but over the last month those totals are .269-2-7 with eight walks to 13 whiffs (.364 OBP). I probably would not gamble on the guy, but in an AL-only format the 34-year-old might be enjoying a bit of a Renaissance.

OK, let's move on to some younger bodies to close out this week. My bud from STATS, Jeff Smith, turned me onto the Padres' Burch Smith a few weeks back. In fact, I wrote about him for my USA Today prospect piece right after. I never expected Smith, as in Burch, to make it to the Show as fast as he did, however. Drafted in 2011 in the 14th round out of the University of Oklahoma, Smith went 9-6, 3.85 over 128.2 innings at High-A Lake Elsinore last year, whiffing 137 while walking just 27 and allowing 127 hits (1.19 WHIP). At 22, Smith was 1-2, 1.15 at San Antonio this year with 37 punchouts over 31 innings (17 hits, six walks, and a 0.74 WHIP) and while he might not be totally Major League ready (one inning, five hits, six runs his first start) yet, Smith is surely worth a grab and stash.

Finally, big (6'6", 240 lbs.) Zach McAllister was acquired by the Indians from the Yankees in 2010 in a swap for Austin Kearns (the Yanks drafted McAllister in the third round of the 2006 draft) and he logged 125.1 innings at Progressive last year, going 6-8, 4.24, with 110 strikeouts (1.364 WHIP). He seems like he has come into his own, however, this season, having gone 3-3, 2.63 over his first six starts and 37.2 innings, along with 27 whiffs, ten walks and 32 hits (1.15 WHIP). In a shallow league, McAllister might well be available and is surely worth grabbing for the balance of this year. 

Last Updated on Monday, 13 May 2013 07:45
Hotpage Week 6 (May 6, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 06 May 2013 00:00

In an interesting week of player movement, the primo promotion has to be the Rockies' new third sacker, Nolan Arenado. Drafted in the second round of the 2009 June fete, Arenado has a minor league line of .299-49-286 over 1675 at-bats. I saw him a couple of times over the spring and he certainly looked more than ready. Arenado put together a .364-3-21 line at Colorado Springs this year to go along with a 1.059 OPS. At 22 years old, the Rockies have handed the keys to the hot corner to Arenado, and he is simply the latest in the line of great young third sackers, like Brett Lawrie and Evan Longoria. If Arenado is available in your league, grab him.

San Francisco was dealing with roster changes, and they promoted their fine outfield prospect Francisco Peguero. Signed as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic at age 16 in 2005, Peguero has a solid .307-34-327 line over 630 minor league games, along with 108 doubles, 50 triples, and 128 swipes indicating excellent speed. If Peguero has a flaw, it would be the 97 walks to 443 strikeouts, so holding his own against major league pitching will be the challenge. And, Peguero will likely not be a starter just yet, but along with Gary Brown in a couple of years, he will be a mainstay. Chances are he will be better to stash on your reserve list for now, though.

Wilkin Ramirez, another Dominican, was also signed as an amatuer free agent, this time in 2003 by the Tigers, when the outfielder was just 13 years old. That gives the now 23-year-old nine years of professional play under his belt, with .262-130-469 numbers over 3455 minor league at-bats, with 45 triples and 42 stolen bases. With 251 walks to 1027 strikeouts, Ramirez has the same plate discipline issue as Peguero, but as a member of the rebuilding Twins, Ramirez will get a lot more rope, meaning he is probably up for the year. He has .364-0-1 numbers over 11 games at Target this year and is a nice fifth outfielder gamble in an AL-only format.

Remember how awful the Yankees were going to be, and how great the Angels and Blue Jays were expected to be? Well, somehow despite losing the core of their infield, and now their catcher, the Bombers are experiencing a pretty good start. With Chris Stewart as the likely starting catcher for the foreseeable future, he makes a good play in the same AL-only leagues as at-bats are everything. I did see Stewart a bit during his time in San Francisco, and I will admit that Yankee Stadium seems better suited to his stick than did ATT. Stewart is really known for his defense, but his .275-2-4 totals over his first 11 games suggest maybe the stick is coming around some. At-bats are everything, and if you need to fill a catching hole, think about Stewart.

Another Chris--as in Chris Nelson--went from the Rockies (opening up that space for Arenado) to the Yankees this week and he will probably see the bulk of hot corner time until Alex Rodriguez returns (if he returns). Nelson was hitting .242-0-4 over 66 at-bats, but as a major leaguer was .277-13-73 over 213 games and 620 at-bats. A former first round pick by Colorado in 2004, Nelson is likely another decent source of everyday at-bats and in a deep league is more than worthy of consideration.

I saw Dee Gordon's return to the show against the Giants on Saturday night. In fact, I saw Hanley Ramirez pull his left hamstring Friday night in a bad week for hamstrings and legs in the bay area, with Peter Bourjos, Coco Crisp and Chris Young all being placed on the DL along with Ramirez over the past seven days due to injuries incurred in San Francisco or Oakland. The 25-year-old bagged a triple, and more important, a pair of swipes, and the truth is he is just a better offensive weapon than Justin Sellers, and probably points to Hanley moving back to third when he returns. Gordon is a must play in NL-only leagues and really in mixed formats as well simply because of the swipes.

In covering for their injured outfielders, Oakland advanced catcher/first baseman Luke Montz to add some power and flexibility to their roster as they wait for their speedy flychasers to heal. Originally drafted by the Expos in 2003, Montz managed 21 at-bats with Washington in 2008 (.143-1-3) and otherwise toiled in the Minors with .237-144-535 totals over 11 seasons and 3117 at-bats. Last year at New Orleans, Montz hit .232-29-74 over 370 at-bats, and was hitting .283-5-12 at Sacramento this year when called back. Montz did homer Sunday against the Yankees, and does have some pop for sure, but he's probably not worth much consideration at this point being the third catcher and first baseman behind John Jaso, Derek Norris, Nate Freiman and Brandon Moss.

I am not sure about Patrick Corbin, who is 4-0, 1.80 over his six starts and 40 innings. The former second round pick of the Angels in 2009, Corbin was part of the Dan Haren deal of 2010. As a minor leaguer, he did strike out 404 over 430.2 innings, with a 31-16, 3.78 line. At 6-8, 4.54 over 107 innings and 17 starts last year along with 86 whiffs to 117 hits and 25 walks (1.372 WHIP), none of those numbers really spoke to me. However, Corbin, off to that great start, should be playing in all formats at this point and should he be sitting on your reserve list in a shallow league, pick him up.

Finally, 36-year-old Freddy Garcia is back, in fact back in the AL East, with the Orioles. Garcia did go 12-8, 3.62 in 2011 over 146.2 innings, but aside from that has been less than successful in the Majors since pitching with the White Sox, a relationship that ended in 2005. Garcia did get off to a good "start" with three hits and a pair of runs allowed in his Saturday start, but I would steer clear from Garcia. He might have a few good starts, but Garcia has not had a ratio under 1.34 since 2009. That just sounds like trouble.




Last Updated on Monday, 06 May 2013 06:43
Hotpage Week 5 (April 29, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 29 April 2013 00:00

Greetings, and welcome back for another week of trying to make rational sense out of the seemingly irrational numbers baseball players produce.

A quartet of young arms were advanced over this past cycle who merit a look, starting with a couple of personal favorites. We'll begin with the Padres' Robbie Erlin. Selected in the third round of the 2009 draft out of Scotts Valley High School, Erlin put in parts of two seasons with the Rangers before being shipped to San Diego along with Joe Wieland for reliever Mike Adams as the Rangers tried for a Series push. With 278 punchouts over 340 innings (296 hits, 57 walks, and a 1.038 WHIP) Erlin, now 22-years old, was 2-0, 4.72 at Triple-A Tucson so far this year (10 whiffs, 13.1 IP, 18 hits) and will likely go into the Friars rotation. If available, the lefty is a good addition to your roster, although as a rookie pitcher expect some lumps (also expect with guys like Wieland, Andrew Cashner, and Cory Luebke for the Pads to have a pretty solid rotation before long). 

I also really like the Dodgers' Matt Magill. In fact, I highlighted Magill on our Top  250 (he logged in at #220) Prospect list this year because I liked the 11-8, 3.75 mark at Double-A Chattanooga last year, with 168 strikeouts over 146 innings, allowing 61 walks and 127 hits, good for a 1.285 ratio. Drafted out of Simi Valley High School in the 31st round in 2008, Magill has 532 strikeouts over a like number of minor league innings and was 0-0, 2.84 this year over four starts and 19 innings at Albuquerque before being summoned by the Dodgers for at least one start while L.A. sorts out its rotation injury issues. Magill turned in 6.2 solid innings, allowing four hits and a pair each of walks and runs in his first major league start. I really like the future of this kid.

Phillies' right hander Jonathan Pettibone is yet another draftee selected out of a California high school (like Erlin and Magill), having been selected in the third round of the 2008 draft out of Esperanza High School (in Anaheim). More of a control arm, Pettibone struck out 356 over 497.2 innings with 464 hits allowed and 164 walks. Pettibone registered #37 on our Top 250, and has a 1-0, 4.35 mark over two big league starts. Of these three starters, I have the least faith in the 22-year-old, however. 

Bruce Rondon was signed as a free agent by the Tigers in 2007 out of Valencia, Carabolo, Vemezuela. A very hard thrower, Rondon has 68 saves over 147 games and 203.2 innings, with 222 strikeouts to go with a 6-10, 2.43 record. Rondon was summoned last week and I saw his first performance, where the right-hander certainly threw hard, clocking near 100 MPH, but also showing control issues (113 walks). To be successful in the Show, however, Rondon is going to have to throw something aside from his fastball, meaning he is likely a closer of the future (Rondon was #45 on our Top 250).

A better bet for saves in Detroit is ex-closer Jose Valverde, who did convert 35 saves for the Tigers last year, posting a 3-4, 3.78 record, finishing 67 games (to lead the league for the second straight year). Valverde was hittable during the stretch, and thus the 35-year-old Dominican signed in a hurry to help the leaky Tigers' pen. And, he does have a pair of saves so far, meaning he is the best bet right now for conversions. Bid accordinly.

While we are looking at resurrected veterans, Brandon Inge was brought back up by the so far surprising Pirates (15-10), filling in at first, second and third. Inge has some definite pop and also can be streaky, like most power hitters, so if you have a hole in your NL-only roster, Inge is a reasonable gamble, and he could even give 10 homers over a couple of hundred at-bats. Just expect an average around .220 (his career mark is .234) in the bargain. But, also note that Inge has played first, second and third, making him potentially a versatile addition, something that does not hurt.

Brandon Belt has picked up his average over the past ten days but Joaquin Arias has been logging time at first in San Francisco, as well as playing all the other infield positions, hitting just .200-0-2 over 25 at-bats. In a deep format, Arias could have some value, but were I to choose between Inge and Arias, I have to say Inge would be the choice.

Looking at two young hitters who are first-time major leaguers, the Yankees promoted catcher Austin Romine to fill the Francisco Cervelli void. Another high school draftee out of California (2nd round in 2007, out of El Toro High in Lake Forrest), Romine posted a .280-44-258 line over seven minor league seasons with a .334 OBP (142 walks to 320 strikeouts) to go along with a 2011 major league mark of 0-0-.150 over 19 games, Romine might be a stop-gap to help in a deep AL format, but like it or not, the 20-year-old Gary Sanchez (.287-47-197 over 989 at-bats) is probably the Pinstripe prospect to chase.

Finally, I am a big fan of Robbie Grossman, another high school draftee, although out of Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas in 2008. An outfielder, Grossman was selected in the sixth round by the Buccos but then swapped to Houston as part of the Wandy Rodriguez deal last trading deadline. Grossman is a hustling player who does a lot of things well, having posted a .269-32-201 record in the Minors to go along with 90 steals and a solid .381 OBP (342 walks to 541 whiffs). Grossman is getting a chance to start every day in Houston, and I think manager Bo Porter is going to be rewarded giving this guy a chance. For sure, pick him up if you have the need (he is also worth stashing in your Minors).




Last Updated on Monday, 29 April 2013 07:31
Hotpage Week 4 (April 22, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 22 April 2013 00:00

Amazingly, we are almost a month into the 2013 season, and I have to say I am feeling ok about my teams and prospects for the season. I am also feeling pretty good about our Top 250 Prospect List (which you can indeed get by signing up for our Platinum Plan) because this year, in addition to producing the list, I also made a comment about each player, and then highlighted a dozen or so players I really liked as "prospect sleepers," if you will.

One of those guys was Jose Fernandez, of whom I wrote (and caused a lot of buzz) a couple of weeks back. Fernandez scored #19 on the Top 250. Well, another guy I targeted was Reds hurler Tony Cingrani, who has pretty much generated as much hype as Fernandez this past week.

A southpaw, Cingrani was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft out of Rice, and trucked right off Billings and the Pioneer League, logging 51.3 innings, a 3-2, 1.75 mark, and whiffing 80. In 2012, Cingrani started at Bakersfield (5-1, 1.11), then moved to up to Pensacola (5-3, 2.12), then to the Great American Ball Park (0-0, 1.80) to finish the year. He almost made the big club out of spring training, but went to Louisville (1-0, 0.00 over three starts) and was then summoned back to the Show this week. Cingrani had his first Major League start Thursday, allowing a run over five innings, and I really think highly of this kid, mostly because it seems his work ethic is quite strong. 

Cingrani placed #248 on my Top 250, but a lot of his rating is rooted in his age (23 years old). For example, Fernandez is just 19 years old, and he ranked 230 spots higher. Either way, I really like this kid and think he will stick now and become one of the best rookies this season.

Another guy I featured--and took some grief for--is the Rangers diminuitive reliever, Joe Ortiz, who landed #6 on the Top 250, right between Dylan Bundy and Taijuan Walker. Why, you ask? Well, as I wrote last December when the list came out, Ortiz tossed 62.2 innings last year, whiffing 52, and though he surrendered 57 hits, how about nine walks (1.053 WHIP), As a minor leaguer, Ortiz tossed 276.1 innings, whiffed 278, walked 62 and allowed 232 hits (1.064 WHIP) and saved 28. He also pitched 31 innings at Triple-A Round Rock last year at age 21 (two years younger than Cingrani, again showing the age factor in my algorithm). Ortiz has done 11.1 innings with the Rangers, going 2-0 with a 0.77 ERA, eight hits allowed and ten strikeouts to just one walk. He is just 5'7" (175 lbs.) but don't forget, Billy Wagner was a shorter player, as is the Royals' Tim Collins.

25-year-old Hiram Burgos made his debut for the Brewers this week as well (1-0, 1.80, five innings, five hits, and a punchout), and the right-hander has a pretty decent minor league resume of 27-23, 3.58 over 477.1 innings (74 of them as a starter) striking out 411 and walking 130 while allowing 464 hits (1.246 WHIP). I cannot say I feel as good about Burgos as I do Ortiz and Cingrani, but he makes a reasonable gamble in an NL format.

However, I really like another Rangers hurler, Justin Grimm, whom I liked a lot last year, and who promptly melted down as soon as I endorsed him. The Rangers selected Grimm in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, out of the University of Georgia (Athens). Grimm had one good start (six innings, three runs) and one really scary one (one inning, six runs) and then went back to the Minors where he split between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock (11-6, 2.81 over 134.2 innings). A year older and after a Sunday win (six innings, one run, nine whiffs, a walk and six hits), I am still willing to go out on the same limb and recommend him again.

Looking at some hitters, I think Didi Gregorius might have my favorite name of any player these days. He is also a decent enough hitter, with a .267-23-177 line that includes 76 doubles, 23 triples, and 45 swipes over 486 games (1893 at-bats). Hailing from Holland, Gregorius does have 130 walks to 258 strikeouts, good for a .319 OBP which is of a little concern, but he did homer for the second time Sunday (.545-2-2). Part of the complex three-team deal that sent Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds and Drew Stubbs to the Tribe, Gregorius could get some playing time this year and is an interesting option for the Diamondbacks' future. He makes for a pretty good pickup in an NL-only format.

The Pirates recalled outfielder Alex Presley, who has a pretty good minor league line of .292-50-308 over 651 games. An eighth-round pick of the Buccos out of the University of Mississippi in 2006, Presley has had a few chances in the Bigs, including some nice power last year (.237-10-25) but a lot of missed swings (18 walks to 72 strikeouts) over 104 games and 306 at-bats. I think I would pass on Presley at this point.

With Ryan Zimmerman hurt, the Nationals advanced Anthony Rendon, their first-round pick in 2011 out of the same Rice University as Cingrani. Last year, the then 22-year-old debuted and climbed four levels of the Minors from Rookie up through Double-A, putting together a .233-6-12 year over 133 at-bats. Rendon also had a very encouraging 23 walks to 29 strikeouts and was hitting .292-2-7 over 48 at-bats along with 14 walks to nine strikeouts. Rendon is an acceptable replacement for the present and a really nice gamble for the future.

Oswaldo Arcia is a 22-year-old Venezuelan flychaser, promoted by the Twins this past week when Darin Mastroianni went on the DL. With a very nice .316-56-268 line over 384 games, Arcia has a .912 minor league OPS (.539 SLG; .373 OBP). He does have just 123 walks to 298 whiffs, suggesting Arcia is a free swinger, but he clearly can hit when in his element. So far this year at Triple-A Rochester (.394-3-8 over ten games), he was indeed that, and like Rendon, if Arcia is not a full fledged pick now, he probably will be shortly. Meaning grab him now and stash, if nothing else.

Finally, I like Blake Tekotte, a third-round pick of the Padres in 2008, who was swapped during the hot stove last year for Brandon Kloess, thus making the outfielder a member of the White Sox. Tekotte has stuggled over 49 Major League at-bats (.163-0-1) but he did have a solid 2011 (.285-19-87) at San Antonio. He had lesser numbers last season while shuttling betwen the Majors and Minors (.243-9-26 at Tucson when not struggling in the big leagues). Still, I think the former University of Miami alum could be ok, and while Dayan Viciedo is down, Tekotte will get some chances to show he has arrived. We are all probably better off waiting though before jumping on the Tekotte bandwagon.


Last Updated on Monday, 22 April 2013 08:13
Hotpage Week 3 (April 15, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 15 April 2013 00:00

This past cycle of games has been brutal for middle infielders, with Jose Reyes, Gordon Beckham, Erick Aybar, and Scott Sizemore all falling to the DL for some period between a few weeks and the end of the season.

This time, let's start by looking at those spots, and who is likely to get playing time, and where we can look to fill their void, especially in deeper formats, starting with the Jays and Reyes. Toronto has covered their bases pretty well in the event of such an injury, as they have both Macier Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio on their roster, not to mention Mark DeRosa. Izturis is the likely candidate to get time at shortstop while Reyes is out for 1-3 months. Bonifacio will continue to play mostly second with a little outfield and short, but, if DeRosa, of whom we recently wrote, is still floating around in the free agent pool, he is the guy I would look to get the at-bats, and even productive ones. For now, DeRosa, who can play second, third, short, and the outfield as well, is covering third pending the return of Brett Lawrie, but I like the veteran to get some everyday playing time till both Reyes and Lawrie are back in the starting lineups. I would ignore Munenori Kawasaki, who had a short but unsuccessful stint with Seattle last year. Something to monitor is Brett Lawrie is playing second on rehab (Joey Bats actually played the hot corner over the weekend). The Blue Jays outfield depth with Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose on the farm is better than their infield depth so if Lawrie shows the Toronto brass he can handle the keystone, they may leave Bautista at third and use Bonifacio and Davis in the outfield. DeRosa will still see some playing time thus would continue to be viable in AL-only formats.

The Angels situation is both better and bleaker as Aybar, down with a badly bruised heel, will only be out for a few weeks. On the other hand, they would probably love to still have Izturis, who left for the greener fields of Toronto as a free agent last off-season. The Angels have Andrew Romine and Brendan Harris to cover for Aybar, who is likely to be down just a couple of weeks (a similar injury hit him last season) and while Romine has some glove, his major league line is .196-0-1 over 32 at-bats, and a slightly more promising .277-19-213 minor league mark over 611 games. Harris has had better success in the Majors, with.260-29-149 big league totals over 492 games (.282-87-481 over 912 minor league games) and is probably the better bet.

I was really big on Scott Sizemore going into the season as being the second sacker in Oakland until he fell victim to the same ACL injury that ended his 2012 season. The Athletics did call up Andy Parrino, who has a terrific glove, but no stick at all (.193-1-10 major league line over 83 games). In fact, Parrino made several great defensive plays at short Saturday versus Justin Verlander and the Tigers, but was caught looking with runners on base twice, making the final out of the inning and killing rallies twice. I would simply bite it and stick with Eric Sogard, who has been performing adequately, at second, maybe looking at Adam Rosales when he returns from the DL. The truth is I don't see either player as an everyday guy, nor do I see Jemile Weeks as a solution Oakland trusts (if they did, he would have been recalled before Parrino), so Billy Beane might look to trade to fill the void with some offense. Irrespective, were I stuck, Sogard is where I would go.

The White Sox lost Gordon Beckham to a broken hamate bone (something that did not exist when I was a kid watching baseball, along with a rotator cuff) for roughly six weeks, but like the Jays, they have their bases pretty well covered with vet Jeff Keppinger, a player I really liked going into the 2013 drafts and season. So, while I see Keppinger getting time at second, I would take a look at Conor Gillaspie, who has been getting at-bats at third (where Keppinger can play when Beckham returns). A first-round pick of the Giants in 2008, I have seen Gillaspie at the AFL, at spring training, and even during his short stints at ATT, and he can indeed hit. So far, the third sacker is hitting .435-0-0 over 23 at-bats, but as with Sogard, if you need the at-bats in a deeper format, go with Gillaspie. 

On the south side of Chicago, Darwin Barney is similarly down, and the Cubbies have been rotating Luis Valbuena and Brent Lillibridge around, and just recalled Alberto Gonzalez. I would give the versatile Lillibridge, who enjoyed his best major league season at US Cellular in 2011 when he hit .258-13-29 over 183 at-bats. That season his slugging was .505, and OPS .845 suggesting he has pop and some versatility (can play second, third, short, and the outfield). In fact, I like Gonzalez and his major league slash of .242-3-85 over 411 major league games, over Valbuena and his .224-18-87 over 329 contests. Valbuena does have the pop, but I just think that Gonzalez is a better bet. Either way, I like Lillibridge best among the troika.

One other infield to watch is Houston's ever evolving cluster, where the only set thing is Jose Altuve. Matt Dominguez could move to to first where Brett Wallace (.043-0-0 over seven games) is not delivering. That is because Marwin Gonzalez (.333-2-5 over nine games) should get the time at third, or even short depending upon Ronny Cedeno who is hitting adequately, but who is similarly not a long term solution to much of anything (if the Astros are smart, they can swap Cedeno to one of the above teams for some future considerations). Either way, Gonzalez is a guy to look at and add if you can in a deeper format. 

With Freddie Freeman out, the Braves advanced Evan Gattis who has made quite a splash with a .333-4-8 line over eight major league games. A 23rd-round pick of Atlanta in 2010, Gattis has a pretty good minor league resume of .308-44-167 over 222 games, with 62 walks to 147 whiffs (.373/.546/.920). The 26-year old is indeed hot, so ride the hot hand while you can.

Looking to a couple of pitchers, Nick Tepesch has had a couple of nice starts for the Rangers. Drafted out of high school in 2008 by the Red Sox Tepesch chose the college (University of Missouri, Columbia) path instead, then signing with the Rangers after being drafted in the 14th round of 2010. As a minor leaguer, Tepesch assembled a 19-7, 3.77 mark over 305.1 innings (58 games, 50 starts) with 250 strikeouts to 77 walks and 317 hits (1.298 WHIP). 

It is hard to ignore those two strong starts, but if you rememer back to last year, the Rangers also gave Justin Grimm (1-1, 9.00 over five games, two starts, and 14 innings) a shot and after his first strong start, Grimm stumbled. He wound up with an 11-6, 2.81 season over 134.1 innings split between Round Rock and Frisco. With a 19-9, 3.07 mark over 281 minor league innings with 234 whiffs to 80 walks and 256 hits (1.196 WHIP). Truth is, I like Grimm better than Tepesch as a gamble.

Finally, one of my regrets this pre-season was that I could not protect Jhoulys Chacin on my Strat-O-Matic team simply because I did not have enough spots (Carlos Marmol also went back to the pool). I had a strong feeling, based upon his 3-2, 2.80 second half and not his 0-3, 7.30 first half starts, Reality is that Chacin was only able to make 14 starts all season, spending time on the DL with a dead wing, but he is clearly back in force with 2-0, 1.96 numbers over three 2013 starts. Oh how I wish I had been able to protect Chacin. Such is life. Pick him up if you can.

Last Updated on Monday, 15 April 2013 11:11
April 8, 2013 (Week 2) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 08 April 2013 00:00

It is so funny, that like riding a bike, or anything else familiar, once the season starts we get right into the groove of watching games and tracking stats and speculating endlessly. And, this week, we not only got to get back into games--and Opening Week is wondrous with so many day games scattered among within the schedule--but we got some veteran faces who are not exactly strangers this time, so let's take a look.

And what better place is there to start than with the king of erratic, Jonathan Sanchez, now toiling with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I used to be such a Sanchez fan, for he clearly had the most wicked stuff of any of the San Francisco pitchers at the time. And, that included both Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. Well, so much for that, though Sanchez did pitch a no-hitter while wearing the orange and black. 

Sanchez, now 30, is coming off a 4-7, 4.26 ERA, 1.44 WHIP season in 2011, and then a complete meltdown in 2012 split between the Royals and the Rockies (1-9, 8.07 ERA, 2.09 WHIP over 64 innings). Over that span, Sanchez allowed 11 dingers, and though he looked effective enough against the Dodgers on Friday (five innings, six hits, three runs, one walk), I would not touch him any more than I would draft Steve Trachsel or Steve Trout (who was never drafted in my AL-only Coco's Fala League despite being in the starting rotation during several years of our play).

As I was drafting this piece Saturday night--while tracking the Athletics and Orioles, along with Lawrence of Arabia on TCM--I also flipped on the Trevor Bauer/Alex Cobb matchup between the Rays and the Indians. Through three innings, Bauer had walked seven (as many as Lincecum over five innings last Wednesday). Like so many, I am high on Cobb, in fact I have him on three teams this year, and like so many, curious as can be about Bauer. I am not sure how this Indians lineup will shake out, but I do think the pitching will be the determiner. If Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez can rebound, that is the start, but Bauer makes the equation curious. I do see control issues, but I also see he is able to bail himself out, at least so far. Unlike Jonathan Sanchez, for example. Of course, just one start, so track Bauer carefully, but he is a guy I would add in a deep format.

Sometimes, the best-laid plans. I was watching John Lackey strike out eight over four innings, looking like his former self, and jotted down his name to cover this week right here at the Hotpage. And then Lackey strains his biceps. So, I added former Athletic, now Astro, Travis Blackley to the list. Blackley, you may remember, was pretty effective as part of the Athletics August run last year, and I thought Houston did well taking a chance with him. The results? Poof. While warming up, Blackley reports a sore shoulder, so now he is on the DL. I do like both of them, but healthy they must be.

The Metropolitans recalled left-hander Aaron Laffey to start on Sunday, and ideally grab the spot vacated by the injured Johan Santana. Laffey is another wunderkind who has yet to live up to our often misplaced expectations. In 2007, as a 22-year-old, Laffey made nine starts (4-2, 4.56) and for the most part that has been his line ever since, with 25-29, 4.38 numbers over 65 major league starts and 148 games. Just shy of his 28th birthday, I want to think Laffey has transcended his early struggles and really learned to pitch, but unfortunately, that is not the case (maybe it is because I have had him on my Strat-O-Matic team for years, always with better results than reality?). I like some of the things the Mets have done, but I cannot endorse picking up Laffey in any format other than Strat at this point.

Speaking of which, who among you gambled on Brian Roberts? I wanted to, even though he had played in just 115 games between 2010 and Opening Day 2013. And, he managed three games this year before getting hurt pulling a hamstring. Now out for 2-4 weeks, the Orioles will look to Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla to fill the second base void. Though I prefer Casilla at this juncture, it seems Baltimore prefers Flaherty, a 2008 first-round pick of the Cubs who in 2011 went .280-19-88 split between Double-A and Triple-A. But, his 177 minor league walks to 343 whiffs still makes me nervous. Still, he probably has more pop and production potential than Casilla, and Flaherty plays all over the diamond. So, in a deep format, he is the guy.

I have been a Chris Heisey fan since seeing him at the Arizona Fall League around four years ago. Heisey is one of those Collin Cowgill/Mark Kotsay guys who does nothing in a spectacular fashion but does everything pretty well. As in he can run, he can hit for average with occasional pop, and rarely hurts himself. I had thought after Heisey's .254-18-50 2010 as a part-timer, he would earn full-time status, but the outfielder struggled the bulk of the 2011 season, rotating good months with sub-par ones, and that led to a diminished role in 2012. But, the shoulder injury to Ryan Ludwick has opened some playing time for Heisey, and that makes him a great pickup. I think he will excel having the spot come this way though his average is still a little quirky at .143, Heisey has one dinger to his 2013 credit. Of course, Heisey might think about Billy Hamilton in his rear view as motivation.

It took utility player Mark De Rosa nine years to earn a starting chance and from then, in 2006, until 2009, he produced pretty well. That all ended in 2010 when he signed a pretty nice free agent contract with the Giants, and he has since managed only 121 games over three seasons, two with the Giants and one with the Nationals. But, he is with the Jays now and kind of like Heisey, though De Rosa is only hitting .125, he does have one big fly. Toronto has a pretty competitive team, so I see De Rosa getting lots of chances to spell his mates, including playing a lot of third while Brett Lawrie recuperates. A nice guy to have due to flexibility, in a deep AL league, he is more than worth a roster spot at this point.

It is hard to tell if the Brewers are more banged up than the Yankees, but with Aramis Ramirez gone for awhile, it looks like Yuniesky Betancourt gets the first shot at production. Always a lousy on-base guy (.290 career mark), Betancourt does have some power, as his .266-11-65 162-game mean indicates. Again, in a deeper league, at-bats are everything (well, they are in all formats), so if you are sitting on the hurt Ramirez, Betancourt is a pretty good gamble.

Last Updated on Monday, 08 April 2013 06:44
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