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September 3, 2012 (Week 22) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 03 September 2012 00:00

Here we go into the final month of the season, the traditional end of summer with Labor Day, and of course, roster expansion. So, first off, I have to wish you all the best of holidays, be you tending to food on the bbq, hanging with friends or family away, or just sitting at home watching baseball or movies or whatever makes you happy.

With both the Giants and the Athletics in town the first of this week, I will get some time at the yard as the Angels and Diamondbacks start the week in the bay area, but I have to start this week with the promotion--and debut--of the Rangers Jurickson Profar. What can we say about the kid who debuted yesterday, cracking a homer his first major league swing, then notching a double his second at-bat. Profar, just 19 (and almost one-half) scored #1 in this year's Top 250 Prospect List and though the word was the young middle infielder's advancement was to augment the bench, if he hits like he did in his first game, the Rangers will simply have to find regular playing time for him. If nothing else, you want him on your reserve list for the future.

Before we jump to a cluster of call-ups, one arm you might want to review is that of the Rockies Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin, coming off two pretty good seasons as a key cog in the Colorado rotation, was beyond terrible over five starts (0-3, 7.30) and 24.2 innings this year, but after a demotion, and more important time on the DL with a bad arm, Chacin has come back strong, going 2-1, 1.50 over three starts and 18 innings. If you need a stretch starter Chacin could be on the waiver wire, or might even be available from another team on the cheap based upon his awful first half numbers and disposition.

Back to the prospect, the Astros called up Jimmy Paredes, a 23-year old who looked like first the next third sacker (Paredes played 44 games there at Minute Maid last year). Going into 2012 it was suggested Paredes could become the shortstop, and then the second sacker, but instead the Stros sent him down to play the outfield. The Dominican did log 102 games at second, but another 21 in the outfield, and for now has been installed in right field for Houston. As a minor leaguer Paredes logged .289-36-239 numbers, with 115 doubles and 150 swipes. The down side is Paredes can be a free swinger (86 walks to 386 whiffs) but he will get a chance and does have the contact/speed game on his side. And, well, Houston has nothing to lose by giving Paredes a shot.

The Phils brought forth pitcher Tyler Cloyd, a 18th round selection of the team in 2008, who slowly moved up the ranks of the minors culminating with a year started at AA Reading (3-0, 1.80) and then finished up at Lehigh Valley (12-1, 2.35) putting together a fine year of 15-1, 2.26, with career totals of 46-22, 3.27 over 632.2 innings (92 starts, 135 total appearances). Cloyd did pretty well striking out 509, and allowed 603 hits, but also had two interesting totals of just 144 walks, and just 51 homers. It is hard to tell if Cloyd has what it takes to keep it going in the Phillies starting rotation, but he certainly can pitch. And, as with all the names on today's list if you need an end of season boost and gamble, well, there you go.

The Cards promoted their 21st round pick of 2009--plucked from obscure Cowley Community College in Arkansas City--Trevor Rosenthal. With two years of minor league service, primarily as a starter, Rosenthal is 22-14, 3.57 over 285.1 innings, with just 237 hits allowed. Further, Rosenthal has 293 strikeouts to 98 walks (1.174 WHIP) and just 15 big flies allowed. Pushing for the post season, Rosenthal is probably not going to get a start (his five appearances so far are all in relief), and more to the point with names like Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller as the hot young arms, Rosenthal is sort of overshadowed. That makes him the best kind of quiet acquisition. Further, I really like his potential as a set up guy of the best order.

Another middle relief arm worth a look belongs to the Cardinals chief NL rivals, the Cubs, in Jeff Beliveau. Picked in the 18th round in 2008 by the North Siders, Beliveau has 165 minor league appearances in relief (14 as a starter) over which he has posted 21-14, 2.86 numbers, with 407 strikeouts over 314.2 innings. The lefty allowed 244 hits and 140 walks (1.220 WHIP) over that span, all solid numbers, and posted ten saves over 49 finished games. The 25-year old is probably not a closer in waiting, but he has pretty good control and like Rosenthal could be a good under-the-radar pick who can eat some innings and get some whiffs and even bag a win or two.

The Twins Chris Parmelee was the team's first round pick in 2006, having since produced .273-91-419 with a solid .365 OBP and .820 SLG over 715 games. Last year, while Justin Morneau was down, Parmelee hit a solid .335-4-14 over 21 games, but struggled this season during his big league time (.218-3-9 over 44 games). Still, at New Britain this season, Parmelee hit .338-17-49 over 64 games with a terrific 51 walks to 52 strikeouts. Morneau is signed through next season, but the Twins, as with so many other squads, need to figure out a healthy path to the future. Parmelee, 24, has to figure in those plans, and could get some regular at-bats the last month of the season and give some pop.

The Tigers have 21-year old Venezuelan Avisail Garcia who seems like a potential big time slugger with a 6'4", 240 pound frame. Garcia has minor league numbers of .281-37-242, with 73 doubles, and an amazing 72 swipes: a lot for a big guy. Unfortunately Garcia is also a strikeout machine, having whiffed 451 times, or one of every four at-bats, while obtaining just 79 free passes. I fear he is one of those Carlos Peguero guys, though, who simply won't show enough power at the big league level to merit a roster spot.

The Pirates have some interesting things going, and though Chase d'Arnaud does not look like any kind of shortstop of the future, Brock Holt, a 9th round pick of the Bucs in 2009 out of Rice, could well be. Holt is .317-11-150 over 371 minor league games, with 87 doubles, 49 swipes, and a good 144 walks to 206 whiffs (.381 OBP). Holt has played 107 games at short this year (98 at Altoona, and nine at Indianapolis) and at 24-years old, looks to be a good part of the Pittsburgh future.

Last Updated on Monday, 03 September 2012 08:10
 
August 27, 2012 (Week 21) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 27 August 2012 00:00

What an odd week, with the strange housecleaning by the Red Sox front office.  Which is where we will start with a few thoughts on the crazy swap.

First, trades are clearly best viewed in hindsight: this we all know. And, at the time Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson did not seem outrageous. For Pappas, then 26, had been 110-74, 3.24 over nine seasons, only pitching less than 200 innings once between 1959-65 (177.2 in 1961).

Still, salary dump or not I just don't get it. First, I am not a fan of Bobby Valentine (see my Bed Goes Up of last Saturday) but just looking at the two main chips--Adrian Gonzalez and James Loney--it is hard to imagine what Boston was thinking. Over seven years, Loney--at a power spot--has averages .282-13-82 with a .342 OBP over a 162-game average.

Agone, who is 30 to Loney's 28, has nine years under his belt with .294-30-104 with a .371 OBP, and 38 doubles to Loney's 30 two-baggers a year. This year Gonzalez is .299-16-89 with 37 doubles, while Loney is .254-4-33 with 18 doubles.

Advantage Los Angeles.

Next, let's look at a couple of pitchers: Rubby De La Rosa, and Josh Beckett. Beckett is 32, and struggling to be sure. He is 32, 5-11, 5.23 over 127.1 innings. He was 13-7, 2.89 over 193 innings last year, and since 2004 has twice stumbled as he has this year, always to rebound. Not that Beckett will, but going to a contending team, in a pretty good pitcher's park, where he does not have to be the #1 guy has to be a boon. And, the guy has been a National League pitcher already, so, ideally he makes the transition and helps his team this year. And, maybe 2013 and even 2014, when he is 34, and his contract is done.

Now, I love Rubby De La Rosa, but if there are question marks concerning Beckett and the future, de la Rosa is coming off TJ surgery. He was 4-5, 3.71 over ten starts in 2011, though with a 1.40 WHIP.

And well, I have to give a slight edge to LA for this one, too, mostly because Beckett is established, though the 22-year old de la Rosa is tantalizing, though I would not be surprised if the young pitcher has a decent career, I am mostly thinking it will not really kick into gear for a couple of years, so again I give the edge to LA.

Oh yeah, that Carl Crawford guy got traded as well, giving the Dodgers a potential outfield of Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp.

On the other hand Boston got Ivan De Jesus and Allen Webster, and Jerry Sands (a serious prospect), while everyone's favorite utility player, Nick Punto, went to L.A.

Now, Boston did chop some salary for sure, and Sands and de la Rosa could be pieces of some kind of different Boston team, but for now the Dodgers have become a potential power house.

However, there is also that fantasy perspective, and if I can get my hands on any or all of the troika of Loney, Beckett, or Agone for the bulk of this season, I certainly would. As Steve Moyer of BIS points out "...any major league quality player can do anything for a month. Hell, how far-fetched would it be if Loney was the best player of all of them from here on out? Not likely, but certainly possible."

And, Steve is dead on right. If you are in an AL or NL only format, do what you can to get the new members of each respective league. Use them or trade them, but you must go after them. Especially at this time of year.

Another guy I would take a look at is the Athletics new shortstop, Stephen Drew. Coming off a solid 2010 (.278-15-61) where the most important stat was the then 27-year old logged a career high .352 OBP--19 points better than his previous full season best. And then the Drew family curse of injuries nailed him in 2011, and again this year. But, with Drew at short, moving Pennington and Rosales to try and pick up the slack for disappointing Jemile Weeks. If nothing else, like LA, Oakland is doing what they can to pull the contention strings, and I like this move. Again, in an AL format that is deep, I would not think twice about taking a shot on Drew at this point of the season.

While we are in Oakland, if Brett Anderson is available, I would similarly jump all over him to fill out my pitching staff.

 And, back to Arizona, who let go of Drew, take a hard look at Tyler Skaggs, the first round pick of the Angels in 2009, traded to the Dbacks as part of the Dan Haren deal of 2010. Skaggs big number was tossing 439 strikeouts over 389 minor league innings, with 113 walks to 338 hits (1.15 WHIP). At 9-6, 2.87 this year, split between Mobile (AA) and Reno (AAA). Skaggs had a good first start holding Miami to three hits and two runs, with four whiffs to five walks earlier in the week. In what I guess is a recurring theme, it is gamble time so Skaggs is certainly interesting. And, his role for this season is still unclear. Still, worth the gamble.

In the same vein, the Mets Collin McHugh makes an interesting end of season selection. An 18th round pick in 2008, McHugh has a 31-23, 3.32 mark over 105 starts and 521 innings, with 520 whiffs with 165 walks and 492 hits allowed (1.26 WHIP). McHugh has moved up pretty much a level a year, with a short stumble at St. Lucie last year (1-2, 6.31), the 25-year old rebounded at AA Binghamton to go 8-2, 2.89 over 16 starts and 93.1 innings. This year split between Binghamton and AAA Buffalo the righty was 7-9, 2.88 over 24 starts and 143 innings, with 132 strikeouts to 44 walks and 120 hits (1.142). Those are good numbers (and they are minor league ones).

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 02 September 2012 09:00
 
August 20, 2012 (Week 20) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 20 August 2012 00:00

Just six weeks to close out the season, and we are in sort of advancement never-neverland: that is, the trade deadline and most of the related moves have transpired, but the September call-ups are still on the horizon.

Meaning things can be tight for fantasy teams in deeper formats, especially with late-season trade restrictions and freeze lists. But, that does not mean we might not be able to pluck a couple of plums from the depths of the reserve list. Starting with the Jays' J.A. Happ, who has put together a pair of pretty good starts, first over the Yankees (5.2 innings, six hits, four runs, and four whiffs) and topped it off with a very good win over the Rangers (six innings, two hits, one walk and eight strikeouts), and while that brings his overall record to an unremarkable 9-10, 4.88 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP over 127.1 innings. Happ has a start against the Tigers ahead, but especially with roster expansion and the slower bat speeds that generally accompany this time of year, Happ could be a quiet--and effective--late season surprise.

If you are back scouting saves, Grant Balfour is back on board in Oakland after having the gig, and losing it to Ryan Cook. Just following the small melodrama between Cook and Balfour, for Balfour was installed as the Opening Day closer, and was then ineffective and after seven conversions lost the job to Brian Fuentes, who then lost it to Cook. Cook, as we know, became an All Star, then became ineffective, so now Balfour is back in charge with four perfect innings since August 11 to put him back on track. Obviously there are no sure saves, but today, here, and now, Balfour is the Oakland closer.

Still with Oakland, Josh Donaldson is back to spell third base and Bradon Inge who is nursing a separated shoulder. Donaldson was almost the Athletics Opening Day third sacker, but flopped in the field and the dish, Inge was acquired (well, after other options like Luke Hughes) and Donaldson dispatched to Sacramento. Donaldson was hitting .153-1-7 over 100 at-bats, hence the demotion, although at Triple-A, he hit a robust .335-13-45 over just 209 at-bats, with a solid .403 OBP (23 walks to 34 whiffs). Since being called back, however, Donaldson is 10-for-24, good for .416-1-4, and while he won't take anyone's job away, long as the guy hits, he will play. He does have some pop, and the versatility of being stashed at catcher.

Back to Toronto and third base, while Brett Lawrie is convalescing, youngster Adeiny Hechavarria will likely get a look at the hot corner. The 23-year old has a good enough eye with .312-6-63 totals at Las Vegas over 443 at-bats this season, including a decent .363 OBP (38 walks to 86 strikeouts) but I have to confess that Hechavarria strikes me more like a Danny Valencia clone, and though I thought the former Twin would be a winner in the show, he wasn't. Pass on Adeiny.

However, another AL infielder worth a look is the Royals second sacker Johnny Giavotella, who probably should have been given the starting job in Kansas City to begin 2012, but instead was supplanted by the now injured Chris Getz. Giavotella, 25, was hitting very well at Omaha this year after the demotion, going .323-10-71 with 20 doubles, seven swipes, and an excellent 46 walks to 40 strikeouts. The keystone guy had just a .272 OBP for the Royals last year (.247-2-21) over 178 at-bats last year, and Giavotella has to figure as the starting second sacker at Kaufman when 2013 begins. I am guessing to he has learned from being in the majors, then minors, then back. 

I don't feel as good about the Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon, who was brought up to fill the Brian Dozier hole. Claimed from the Orioles, the 25-year old hit .267-8-60 at AA Bowie last year, a level at which he should succeed at that age. In fact this year Florimon hit .283-2-8 over 113 at-bats at New Britain, also in the Eastern League but stumbled at AAA Rochester (.251-3-27). With 256 lifetime minor league walks to 695 strikeouts (.312 OBP) it is hard to believe that will improve with a promotion.

Looking to the National League, I have good feelings about Kelly Shoppach, now with the Mets. Shopppach, still only 32, posted .250-5-17 numbers over 48 games for Boston this year before going to Flushing on a waiver move. Shoppach responded with a homer and a couple of RBI so far, and I think he can push hit .476 Slugging Average higher and give a little extra pop in that NL only format.

Next, I want to look at two Baltimore hurlers in Chris Tillman and Zach Britton. Starting with Tillman, who has born many a burden since being a second round pick of the Mariners, then part of the swap that sent Erik Bedard to the Mariners. Now 24, Tillman is quietly 5-2, 3.65 for the O's, over 44.1 innings. He has 35 strikeouts, and though 44 hits surrendered, he has just 14 walks allowed, good for a 1.286 WHIP. Tillman is more than worth tracking and especially worth a cheap flier in 2013.

As for Britton, who rose quickly, was 11-11, 4.61 over 154.1 innings for the Orioles last year, and though he was 6-7, 4.05 the first half, Britton struggled second half with 5-4, 5.76 totals over 50.1 innings, once again proving wins can be a deceiving statistic. Britton started 2012 in the minors, and just recently returned to the Show, and really only has one good start (seven shutout innings versus the Tigers last week) but I would similarly keep an eye on the big lefty. He will be pitching--like Tillman--agains the tough AL East to close out the last month of the season and a good trend can carryover. Who knows, this pair might even help turn the Orioles rotation into real contenders in that dogfight of a division that is the AL East.

Finally, as long as we are hanging with the Orioles, I have been an Omar Quintanilla fan long enough to anticipate his "prospects," become frustrated, completely give up, and now notice he is hitting pretty well with the Baltimores in a full time role right now. Oakland's first round pick in 2003 has stumbled from bay area ownership to Colorado, Texas, the Mets, and now Orioles. But, despite the .306-40-291 line with a good .368 OBP in the minors, nothing translated in the majors (.226-6-49 over 672 at-bats). Well, half Quintanilla's pop has come this season as the infielder has posted .288-3-11 numbers over 80 of those at-bats, playing some second and some short. In an AL format that could be a nice boost.

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 20 August 2012 11:14
 
August 13, 2012 (Week 19) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 13 August 2012 00:00

Greetings all. I am just back from a somewhat isolated week near California's Russian River, playing rock'n roll but largely without any internet access. Although truth be told, during this vacation week each year, I kind of enjoy being isolated from the world--which even means baseball--for a few days.

So, all I can offer is an abbreviated Hotpage as it is indeed Sunday night and I am just home. And, a lot of goofy stuff happened while I was gone, like Johnny Damon, Yorvit Torrealba, and Derek Lee were all released. On the other hand the Orioles brought forth their top prospect, Manny Machado, for a look.

A first round pick in 2010, the now 20-year old Machado has pretty much held his own this year at AA Bowie, hitting .266-11-59, with 26 doubles and a pretty good 48 walks to 70 strikeouts over 402 at-bats this year. As a minor leaguer, Machado has .263-24-114 totals over 219 games, with 47 two-base hits and 24 steals. Machado has adjusted well with his first foray in the majors, hitting .417-1-2 over his first three games, and, well, he is as serious a prospect to grab and if nothing else stash for next year as there is. He should be a good one.

I think this might be the third time I have written about Danny Valencia this year, first early in the season before he failed miserably, then a few weeks ago when he was recalled by the Twins following Trevor Plouffe's injury. Well, now Valencia is in Boston, with a full time chance as Will Middlebrooks is now out for the season. With a .293-61-304 totals as a minor leaguer, Valencia has always been able to hit at the minor league level, although it appears this year is a mulligan (.255-7-39 i8n the minors; .198-2-17 in the majors) but I would keep an eye on him in Boston, where despite the team struggles, Valencia will have some actual bats around him. I know it is a man-love thing, but I am just saying, you know?

The Brewers are obviously checking out the options for 2013, and with aging and injured incumbent shortstop Alex Gonzalez out of the way for the year, and Cody Ransom likely not a future choice, watch Jean Segura, signed as a free agent by the Angels in 2007, then swapped ten days ago to the Brew-crew as part of the Zack Greinke swap. With .313-26-207 totals and 139 stolen bases to go with a pretty good .349 OBP (126 walks to 210 strikeouts) and kind of like Machado, the 22-year old is a pretty good gamble for the bulk of this year, and for sure down the line.

Houston, who grabbed high hope/hype-low delivery Fernando Martinez, formerly of the Mets, has advanced the potential power source to the Show. Still just 23, Martinez hit the majors first as a 20-year old after going .271-4-21 at Double-A Binghamton over 260 at-bats. At Oklahoma City this year Martinez has hit a pretty good .314-13-62 with 23 doubles this year, although the 24 walks to 85 strikeouts suggest Martinez will simply prove to be a lot closer to Steve Pearce than Yoenis Cespedes. Pass. Forever, I fear.

Maybe the most interesting call-up this week was Cleveland, who brought for pitcher Frank Herrmann, a free agent signing by the Tribe in 2005. The thing that makes Herrmann special to me is that he went to Harvard, and without trying to be snobby, what that tells me is the player is at least smart, and that is something that is generally a good thing in ballplayers.

And, while Herrmann does not have overwhelming numbers in the minors (430 strikeouts over 612.2 innings) in some ways, he can sniff out a win as his 35-25, 3.79 numbers suggest. Herrmann does have pretty good control with 161 walks and a 1.299 WHIP in the minors, along with 4-1, 4.62 totals over 101.1 minor league innings. Herrmann is a reliever, and 28-years old, but something tells me to keep an eye on him. Could be one of those late bloomers.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 August 2012 07:54
 
August 6, 2012 (Week 18) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 06 August 2012 00:00

We are skedaddling into the final third of the season, now with the trade deadline in the rear-view, and suddenly a bunch of prospects that should be of interest to fantasy owners has been summoned forth. Among the most interesting is Oakland pitcher Daniel Straily, a 23-year old 24th round pick of the Athletics in 2009. Straily has been very consistent, moving up a level-plus a year, culminating with 14 starts at Double-A Midland, going 3-4, 3.38 with a fine WHIP of 1.090. Straily then advanced to Sacramento and the PCL, going 5-2, 1.36 over eight more starts with an even better ratio of 0.774. Now, it is important to note both the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues are hitter friendly, and that Straily assembled 8-6, 2.60 numbers over 138.1 innings, allowing 97 hits and 37 walks (0.969 ratio) while whiffing 175. Straily was solid enough his major league debut Friday, clocking at around 93 with his fastball, and moving the ball around pretty well over six innings and one run of work. Straily is a nice acquisition for the stretch run.

Corey Kluber was a fourth round pick of the Padres in 2007 who was subsequently swapped to the Tribe in a three-way deal that sent Nick Greenwood and Jake Westbrook to the Cards, Ryan Ludwick to San Diego, and Kluber to Cleveland. Kluber has had a couple of chances in the Show(0-0, 10.38 over 8.1 innings) that were clearly underwhelming. Kluber has pretty good minor league totals of 43-49, 4.39 over 764.2 innings with 775 strikeouts. Kluber does have control issues (768 hits and 307 walks) so depending upon what your team needs are at this point gamble accordingly.

One other arm to watch this week is the Royals hard throwing Jeremy Jeffress, drafted in the first round by the Brew crew in 2006. Swapped as part of the Zack Greinke deal, Jeffress has operated pretty much out of the pen since 2010, and though he has 465 strikeouts over 420.1 innings, like Kluber he has control issues with 253 walks. Jeffress does keep the hits down (345, with just 29 long balls), and in the pen he probably cannot do much damage to your numbers this year. However, Jeffress is more potential closing material for the future, however. Still he is an arm worth tracking.

Looking to a bunch of hitters, Anthony Gose now how a clear path ahead to start in Toronto. A second round pick of the Phillies in 2008, Gose was traded to Houston in 2010 (for Roy Oswalt), then turned over the same day to Toronto for Brett Wallace. Gose has impressive minor league numbers including a line of .265-30-182 with 84 doubles and 40 triples augmented by a speedy 223 swipes. At 21, Gose has developing power, but not a lot of strike zone judgment (501 strikeouts to 190 walks). Still, Gose is one of those kids who pose enormous raw talent, and though I would not expect much between now and the end of the year, keep an eye on him for 2013 as he gets his sea legs through the rest of this year. Meaning, in a keeper format, he makes a nice future gamble.

The Cubbies advanced a couple more of their prized prospects, starting with Josh Vitters over the past transaction period. Chicago's first round selection in 2007, Vitters is a third sacker with .283-64-297 totals over 529 minor league games. At 22, Vitters assembled fine totals at Iowa this season, hitting .304-17-68 numbers with a .356 OBP (30 walks to 77 whiffs): the best of his young career. Vitters, like his counterparts on today's list, also has developing power, with 32 doubles this year and projects to be part of a pretty good infield with Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, and Starlin Castro.

Chicago also brought up Brett Jackson, their number one pick in 2009 this week. The 24-year old, drafted locally out of U.C. Berkeley (gotta love the local talent), Jackson has a .282-55-207 line over 402 games with 83 doubles, 34 triples, and 91 swipes. In general Jackson has shown a good eye (.379 OBP) although this season at Iowa he did develop into more of a free swinger with 47 walks and 158 strikeouts. Jackson is an outfielder, however, and like his young teammates will get a chance to show just what he can do. Again, Jackson makes a nice gamble towards the future.

Going back to the hot corner, Texas brought up Mike Olt, their first round selection in 2010 out of UConn. Olt, who has actually played first and the outfield this year, has .282-51-171 totals in the minors over just 237 games, including .288-28-82 numbers this year at Class-AA Frisco. Olt has shown a good eye (150 walks to 253 strikeouts) however, the big issue for him is where he will play on a team full of sluggers. Still, as with his colleagues on today's list, Olt is a real comer.

Now back to U.C. Berkeley. David Cooper was the Jays first round selection in 2008, and he too matriculated in the good old bay area. The 24-year old also has fine totals of .301-54-343 with 169 doubles over 517 games. Cooper actually has the best eye among today's prospects, with 245 walks to 289 strikeouts (.376 OBP). Cooper performed well enough during a 2011 debut (.211-2-12 over 27 games), and after .314-10-52 totals at Las Vegas this year, moved to Toronto with much better success this season (.282-3-7). Broken record. Take a hard look.

Finishing with a couple of players familiar to most fantasy players, Ryan Lavarnway was Boston's sixth round selection in the sixth round of 2008 out of Yale. The 24-year old has .286-85-334 numbers over 453 games, and at Pawtucket this year was .295-8-43 with 22 doubles. Lavarnway, who is probably gone in most deeper leagues, does project to be the Boston backstop within a couple of years, though with both Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach in tow, playing time this year could be an issue (and, watch Shoppach, who could wind up a waiver wire acquisition somewhere).

Finally, Philadelphia opened a slot for Domonic Brown, who was actually a 20th round pick of the Phils in 2006. Brown has had a couple of shots at earning a major league role, with just .233-7-34 totals over 296 at-bats. Brown was hitting .286-5-28 this season at Lehigh Valley and 239 at-bats. Brown did spend DL time with knee issues, however, with both Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence gone, he will get a chance to show what he can do the balance of 2012. Which means if you need everyday at-bats, he is as good a prospect gamble as you will get.

Last Updated on Monday, 06 August 2012 12:07
 
July 30, 2012 (Week 17) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 30 July 2012 00:00

Trade deadline time is such a blast, and as usual, the universe tricked me.

While I thought the possibility of more teams potentially having playoff chances with the expanded playoff Wild Card format would mean less trades, it seems like the opposite has occurred. Lots of trades, and though only a few really inovled impact players, and similarly just a couple with interleague implications, there were some players dealt who could indeed make a difference this season.

Of course names like Omar Infante and Marco Scutaro are not of the same stature as Zack Greinke or Hanley Ramirez among the recent chattel swapped, but that does not mean they will not have a fantasy impact in deeper NL/AL only formats. But, ultimately, as everyday players, almost anyone can help in such a format.

If you are in an NL format, you also might want to take a look at Stephen Fife, the newest member of the Dodgers rotation. I actually was at ATT last Friday for the right hander's second start against the Giants. Fife was hardly dominant, skating through a rugged first two innings where he allowed four hits and two walks, but just one run. Though Fife did hit the gun at just 90, he was not overpowering although he did hang with one of those performances that are often deemed "gritty." Basically, it boiled more down to the Giants inability to put Fife away when they had the chance. The Dodgers are suddenly hot with the return of Matt Kemp and addition of Ramirez--who banged the game winning homer of Sergio Romo that night--but I would be cautious of Fife's overall ability. I like Nathan Eovaldi, whom the team swapped for Ramirez, a lot better.

Perhaps the most exciting advancement of the week belongs to those tenacious Pirates who advanced sterling prospect Starling Marte, who belted the first pitch he saw as a major leaguer for a homer last Thursday. Signed as a free agent in 2007 out of the Domincan Republic, Marte has performed well moving up the Buccos chain, going .332-12-50 last year at Double-Altoona, then performing well this year at Indianapolis (286-12-62 over 99 games). With overall minor league totals of .304-39-240, with 101 doubles, 31 triples, and 131 swipes over 463 games, Marte is clearly a potential offensive force. There were questions about his durability prior to last year, with hamate and groin injuries affecting Marte's playing time, but the youngster has been an everyday presence the last two seasons. He is more than worth a gamble--and future ownership--in any format, especially that of NL only.

Looking at a couple of interesting middle infielders, the Rockies seem to have handed the keys to Josh Rutledge while Troy Tulowitzki is recovering. Promoted after a fine year at Tulsa (.304-13-50 with 14 swipes), the 22-year old middle infielder has adjusted nicely to his jump to the Show from Class-AA by hitting .370-1-6 with three swipes since his call-up. Picked in the third round of the 2010 draft out of the Univeristy of Alabama, Rutledge hit .348-9-71 at Modesto in the California League last year, with a fine .931 OPS (.414 OBP/.517 SLG). With Scutaro now off at ATT, Rutledge will likely shift to second when Tulo returns. He is another guy more than worth a crap shoot grab this year, and as a fine future investment in keeper leagues.

Another place holding shortstop is the Dodgers Luis Cruz, now playing with Dee Gordon on the DL. Playing sice he was 17-years old in 2007, after signing with the Red Sox, Cruz is really just a journeyman bench player pressed into a starting role. He did hit a fine .318-8-46 at Albuquerque this year before moving to Dodger Stadium, and has responded well to his promotion hitting .256-2-14 over 21 games this year in the Bigs, Cruz has shown a decent eye with just one whiff to no walks over his first 78 at-bats, in fact his totals at Triple-A this year were 13 walks to just 34 strikeouts over 304 plate appearances, all good. But, Cruz also has a career minor league OBP of .296, so I would be wary. Cruz does seem to have learned to get the bat on the ball to his credit, but he is only worth a flier in an NL only situation where you have a gaping hole.

Oakland is hanging so tough, and it is truly fun being at the O.co Coliseum these days. In fact, it is almost as much fun as working across the bay at ATT (come on Athletics ownership: get behind a new stadium near City Hall in Oakland. Close to BART, such a stadium would rejuvinate downtown much like the South of Market locale is the hot spot in San Francisco. Anyway, Oakland has been playing good ball with struggling Kurt Suzuki, augmented now by Derek Norris, behind the dish. Norris broke in with a bang, and is a little hotter of late, but the swap to the Brewers for  George Kottaras was a good one.

Owner of a killer .409 OBP despite a poor .209 average (.209-3-12 over 116 plate appearances), Kottaras possesses a career line of .221-18-65 over 222 games and 507 at-bats. Kottaras also bats left-handed which gives them some flexibility behind the dish should the team decide to keep Norris and "Zuk" with a three-catcher option. Kottaras is a #2 catching option in an AL only format.

By the way, the essentially awful Brewers bullpen likely has John Axford insurance with their acquisition of Fautino De Los Santos as the reciprocation of the Kottaras deal. With 46 strikeouts over 34.1 minor league innings, de los Santos can deal at close to 100 MPH. Look to a couple of other ex-patriot Oakland flame throwers, like Santiago Casilla and Henry Rodriguez, to chart the future path of the 26-year old. Closer in waiting, somewhere, de los Santos is.

With Justin Smoak demoted, and Ichiro swapped, both Trayvon Robinson and Carlos Peguero get a chance to establish themselves and earn an everyday slot. I have written about both a few times, in fact I have--or do--own each in a couple of leagues this year. Peguero has enormous power, but also strikes out an incredible amount As a major leaguer, Peguero has 73 strikeouts, and seven homers over 181 at-bats, but just nine walks.

Robinson does have less power, but is a more complete package with .281-73-344 numbers over 754 minor league games. Robinson also has 169 steals, and though he too is prone to the whiff (304 strikeouts to 784 walks), he also makes better contact. The Mariners actually acquired Robinson--a tenth round selection by the Dodgers in 2005--Robinson went to Seattle last year at the deadline deal that sent Erik Bedard to Boston, and the aforementioned Stephen Fife to L.A.  I think he is a better long term bet.

My mate Perry Van Hook will accuse me of having a mancrush on the Twins Danny Valencia, and the truth is I may be enamored, but that was largely based upon the third sacker's good hitting and on-base numbers as a minor leaguer (well, up until this year). Valencia had never hit below .285-14-70 line Valencia accumulated in 2009 split between Double-and Triple-A. And, based upon his pretty good .246-15-72 last year with the Twins last year, I looked to Valencia to step into the role of being a major leaguer this year. I was clearly wrong, with the third sacker struggling in the majors (.192-1-12) he went to the minors and did not fare that well either (.250-7-37). Playing for the injured Trevor Plouffe, I do think Valencia is better than his numbers this year by a long shot, and has what it takes to be a .270 hitter in the majors as a starter. That said, I have a hard time endorsing him until he begins to really fulfill my prophecy.

Last Updated on Monday, 30 July 2012 09:56
 
July 23, 2012 (Week 16) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 23 July 2012 00:00

This second week back from the break has been a wild one. With the expanded playoff format, the trade deadline has taken on a different sheen. Locally, it cannot have been more fun or exciting with the Athletics grabbing four straight from the first place Yankees, at least temporarily tying the Angels for the second playoff spot (as I wrote, that Angels and Rangers are just getting started, and an Angel loss would give the Athletics possession of the spot at least till end of play Monday).

It is truly amazing as the A's had never before swept the Yankees four straight at home, let alone with three of the games in walkoff fashion. Anyway, with Cliff Pennington on the shelf with elbow tendinitis, Oakland recalled infielder Eric Sogard. I actually had pretty high hopes for Sogard after his .302-3-9 spring, thinking he could grab the bulk of third base time vacated by the injured Scott Sizemore. So much for that, but Sogard has a chance to show his stuff for a couple of weeks. Clearly he is only of value in an AL only format, and value is contextual. Personally, I like Brandon Hicks better, but even that is not saying much.

With some trades and moves, the bulk of focus this week is more on veterans with new digs, so let us go next to Jeremy Guthrie, formerly of the Rockies, now with the Royals. I have always been a fan of Guthrie: I always have a soft spot for those Stanford alum. And, I think if nothing else Guthrie will prove to be an acceptable starter in American League formats. Truth is he has managed 32 or more starts and 175 innings since 2007, so Guthrie is dependable. He is also, probably just a place holder, but should you need AL rotation help for the rest of this year, gamble away. And track in mixed formats for Guthrie can ride a streak.

OTOH, it is hard to imagine Jonathan Sanchez having a bigger fall from grace. When with the Giants, I always thought he had the best stuff on the team. Unfortunately, coupled with that electric arm was a general lack of control, making it so that the lefty was never really steady. If that was not bad enough, Sanchez is injury prone to boot, and adding to the KC frustration, they swapped Melky Cabrera--now an All Star hero--for the pitcher they designated and traded away after a 1-6, 7.76 record over 12 starts and 53.1 innings. That includes 65 hits, and 44 walks to 36 whiffs. Truth is I am now in LABR NL, and I could use a starting arm, with Tim Stauffer and Shaun Marcum on the DL. But, at this point, I am not that desperate for wins or innings, and somehow I don't think Sanchez will help my WHIP or ERA in Colorado.

Former--as in as of two days ago--Oriole Brad Bergesen is now a member of the arm damaged Diamondbacks. Bergesen had his moments like when he went 7-5, 3.43 with a 1.28 WHIP over 123.1 innings as a 23-year old, but since those moments have been few and far in between. However, with Arizona struggling for starting arms, all it will take is a stumble in the rotation for the likes of Josh Collmenter, something that is more likely than not. I actually think in the new environment Bergesen is worth a nab and stash for now.

J.A. Happ is a little older at 29 than most of the reclamation pitchers listed today, but his success has been a lot more recent, and up until this year, even more consistent. Injuries did plague Happ after his solid 12-4, 2.93 2009 with the Phils, fostering a swap to Houston, where he was 6-4, 3.40, albeit with an inflated WHIP (1.38) over half a season's work. But last year the bottom fell off as it were, with 6-15, 5.35 totals that also "boasted" a 1.54 ratio. Those numbers are 7-9, 4.80, with a 1.44 ratio over 105 innings, and considering Houston is not a very good team to begin with, that is a pretty remarkable improvement. Add to that Happ is going to a better--somewhat contending even--team in Toronto, and things seem to bode well for the righty. The problem, though, as I see it, is that Happ cannot keep his hits below his innings pitched, or at least he has not over the past couple of years. He makes an ok gamble for now as the tall (as in 6'6") hurler goes into the pen, but expect starts. You could get a nice Travis Blackley payoff, although I am more inclined to think of it as closer to a Jonathan Sanchez meltdown.

Brandon Lyon, however, has 53 saves since 2008, and since he is setting up for the more dubious Casey Janssen, Lyon makes a potential nice back end gamble for some conversions. Lyon has a nice 37 IP:37H:36 K mark, with a 1.30 ratio., and the down side right now suggests maybe 3-5 saves if Lyon owns largely the eighth inning. But, in this crazy closer of the month mode, I am guessing it will be better than that. Like between 5-10.

Just another sentence on closers. Now is the time for Sergio Romo, the best set-up man in baseball, with the best slider in baseball. With Santiago Casilla struggling, look for Romo to get the big nod first. Although truth be told, I like Romo setting up better, especially behind Brian Wilson. But, that ain't happening, and Romo has 246 whiffs over 206 major league innings, allowing 133 hits and an Eckersly-like 46 walks with an 0.869 WHIP (and that was more than a sentence, but you get the point).

Finally, with all the trade movement, Ben Francisco, now on Houston, is the one hitter we might look at for potential NL only help. Though really just a journeyman, Francisco did go to the Phils along with Cliff Lee a few years back, and then was swapped during the off-season to Toronto (for Frank Gailey). Toronto, who have burned through Travis Snider and Mike McCoy and now promoted Anthony Gose clearly felt that was a better direction than a 30-year old with a career .259-45-176 line over 1398 at-bats. I placed a gamble bid on him in LABR, but I am desperate for offense in that league (emphasis on desperate).

The thing with a lot of this week's offerings is they virtually all represent that gamble. Will they produce is one part of that equation. The second is what will the trade deadline actually deliver inter-league with more teams still being in the hunt? Your guess is as good as mine, so I suggest bidding on the gambles that are there while you can, rather than waiting for either less in the way of pickings, but slimmer ones with likely more bidding.

Last Updated on Monday, 23 July 2012 05:37
 
July 16, 2012 (Week 15) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 16 July 2012 00:00

Back into the saddle we go. Actually, I spent the bulk of the break in the Sierra, playing guitar and kayaking with a bunch of friends, woefully/gleefully out of Wi Fi, DSL, and cell phone range.

So, returning Sunday was a lot of fun. Kind of an adventure. And, though this week might be a tad abbreviated, partially due to the short week, and partially due to my being away, let's get started, looking just at a bunch of arms this time through.

So, I cannot say I was surprised that the Braves promoted in my absence Ben Sheets, but I would not say I am enamored of Sheet's possibilities. Full of injuries, Sheets has not tossed 200 innings since 2004, although he did manage 198.1 in 2008. producing a fine 13-9, 3.09 mark. Unfortunately Sheets needed Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2009, signing with Oakland in 2010. I saw a bit of Sheets that year, and he started out well enough, only to finish 4-9, 4.53, over 119.1 frames. And, while it is true the righty did not have a very good team behind him, It also too Sheets till just before he went out for the season, going 1-2, 2.25 over three starts and 20 innings. Of course then Sheets was down for the rest of that year, and all of 2011. It is that time of year when taking a gamble might be what you need. Just don't count upon much. You know?

The Astros are going through as many first bats changes as the Dodgers (or so it seems) and with the departure of Carlos Lee, it looks like Scott Moore is going to get some shots at the spot. A first round pick of the Tigers in 2008, Moore has career totals of .232-10-31 over 244 at-bats. Moore is .274-3-4 this year over 40 at-bats, but I would not hold a lot of hope he can pick up his .274 OBP (13 walks to 63 strikeouts). Even in an NL only format, I would probably pass.

The White Sox brought up Dylan Axelrod to cover a start for Gavin Floyd. A 30th round pick in 2007 by the Padres, Axelrod signed with Chicago as a free agent in 2009. Axelrod had a pretty good 1-0, 2.89 over three starts and 18.2 innings last year at Comiskey, but was less successful in the majors this year,  going 1-2, 6.16 over 30.2 innings. With 41 strikeouts over 49.2 major league innings, Axelrod's problem is control. He has 52 hits allowed and 20 walks, good for a 1.46 WHIP. Axelrod does have pretty good minor league numbers with 32-18, 2.85 over 543 innings, including a 1.139 WHIP but I would not be sure about the 26-year old. Only in an American League format is he worthy of any consideration.

But, I do like a gamble on Zach Britton, of the Orioles better. The 24-year old lefty was 11-11, 4.61 over 154.1 innings, succumbing to what started as ineffectiveness, and winding up on the shelf with shoulder issues. That was also after 0-3, 4.32 totals over 16.2 innings. Britton began this year with the same shoulder problems, but after mastering Double-A (1-0, 0.75 at Bowie) and then Triple-A Norfolk (4-1, 4.15 over eight starts) and is poised to join the Baltimore rotation. As long as the lefty can stay healthy, I think he has a good chance to improve upon his overall pretty good totals of last year.

The Cards have been pleased--as so should you should you have him--with the pitching of rookie Joe Kelly, a third-round pick in 2009.  After 21-22, 3.89 totals over 338 innings, Kelly has helped out St. Louis with 1-1, 2.70 numbers, although he also has a troublesome WHIP of 1.44. The consideration there, however, the Cardinals are good at supporting pitchers that allow baserunners, as witnessed for example Jaime Garcia (whom Kelly replaced).

Joba Chamberlain alert! The big guy is on a rehab assignment. He has pitched three innings at Rookie ball, and is moving up.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 July 2012 08:47
 
July 9, 2012 (Week 14/The Break) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 09 July 2012 00:00

It's break time, which means time to take a deep breath. It also means it is time to think about who can help--or hurt--over the second half. So, this week, while we take that big inhalation, let's take a look at some players who could have a big second half impact. Or not.

I will keep it short and sweet for Troy Tulowitzki. The shortstop was .344-16-55 second half of 2009, .323-18-61 the second half of 2010, and .356-13-56 the second half last year, arguably making him one of the best second half picks in the game. And, while Tulo did play in 151 games in 2009, he was limited to 122 in 2010, and 143 last year, which really emphasizes that the guy can indeed produce over those Dog Days. And, just in case you are not convinced, over his career Tulo is .267-62-209, but after the break, he is .321-68-269 over 52 fewer games.

How long have we been waiting for Chris Carter guy to arrive? After he went .329-28-115 in 2009, or .258-31-94 at Triple-A Sacramento a year later? Even .278-21-79 last year? Well, in 2010, after being handed the first base gig, Carter was .186-3-7 over 24 games, and last year, same thing, only with .136-0-0 totals over 14 games. Well, somehow it all seems to have fallen away, as Carter is .500-3-6 over just four games since his call-up ten days ago, and I am willing to bet that he not only platoons with Brandon Moss, getting increasing at-bats at first, but also spends some time in the DH slot largely at the expense of Coco Crisp, who will sit while Seth Smith gets the bulk of left field starts against right handers.

I never doubted Mike Trout's skill set, but I have to admit that this guy looks not just like a monster, but he might have as much claim on the AL MVP at this point as anyone in the league. "Why?" you ask? Well, when Trout returned to the majors April 28, his Angels team was 7-14, since they are 39-24, giving them an overall 46-38 record, good for second place in the divison. He is .347-11-39 with 26 swipes over 62 games with a .962 OPS. Killer. And, well, I am guessing he will get better. Scary.

Let me start with how much I love Matt Cain. He was my NL pick for the Cy Young this year. And, no one is happier than I that he tossed his perfect game. However, since that June 13 game, Cain has been a somewhat disturbing 1-1, 4.31, with a 1.35 WHIP, allowing five long flies (note that he only allowed nine for all of 2011) over 25.1 innings. But, Cain tossed 125 pitches over his perfect performance, which is a lot (in contrast Dallas Braden threw 109 pitches, and Madison Bumgarner 107 over his recent one-hitter, where he also walked two batters). And, over the two games before the perfecto, he tossed 116, and then 117, easily the three highest pitch totals of the year for him. In fairness, I am not saying he will tank, but I am a little concerned that Cain may indeed be a bit tired. Just be cautious.

Pedro Alvarez is really the perfect example of players I like to both track, and invest in. At just 25, Alvarez is in essentially his third year. There are so many examples of players like him: players who were touted, and then advanced, and even enjoyed early success (.356-16-64 over 95 games), followed by miserable failure the next (.191-4-19 over 74 games last year). But, at 25, on a team that actually is improving, Alvarez has adjusted, regained his confidence, and is establishing himself as a real big league player with his .235-16-50 line over 75 2012 games. Alvarez is a free swinger, so average is probably never going to be the third sacker's best friend, but, as he ages, all Alvarez' numbers should improve. I always like to use guys like Paul Konerko as examples of this. And Alex Gordon makes a more recent comparison. The question is will Jose Tabata be able to step up? Or, is it too late for Gordon Beckham?

Put Chris Heisey in the same boat with Alvarez. Heisey improved from .254-8-21 over 97 2010 games, to .254-18-50 over 120 games last year. Though Heisey is only hitting .269-3-19 this year over 229 at-bats (68 games), over the last month he is rocking to the tune of .349-2-7 and that tells me like Alvarez, he has arrived. And, at this point he is likely hanging out in the free agent pool.

President Obama publicly thanked the Red Sox Nation for the Pale Hose acquisition of Kevin Youkilis. If you have written him off, well, I hope you have a chance to get Youk back. Freed from the insanity of Bobby Valentine, the third sacker has already nearly exceeded his Red Sox totals for the first part of the year. That is, .233-4-14 over 42 at-bats for Boston, and now .311-3-13 over just 12 Chicago games. A new locale, on a contending pair of Sox means a big second half. I mean, Youk is actually appreciated in his new environ. The Pres was right.

Brian McCann, at just 28 and moving into his peak years, has been among the top backstops in the majors for eight years now. McCann shot out of the blocks in July with .353-3-9 totals, raising his average nine points, his slugging by 33 points, and his OPS by 38 (to .719). Watch him pick it up and run with it second half. 

Ryan Raburn might be one of the worst first half players in the majors this year with .171-1-10 over 175 at-bats. Well, just keep the context that over his career Raburn has played in exactly 277 games first half, and 277 after the break. And, his first half totals are .215-21-92 over 762 at-bats, while the second sacker/outfielder is .300-33-122 over 781 second half at-bats. Raburn's OBP is 79 points higher the second half, his slugging 130 points higher, meaning his first half career OPS is .641 while his second half total is .847, over 200 points higher.

There you have it. Enjoy the break. In fact, though the Hotpage will be back next Monday, Bed Goes Up will be on break this Saturday as I am off on vacation, playing guitar in the Sierra where there is no Wi Fi, so, as my mate Lord Z would say, I will be off the grid.

Last Updated on Monday, 09 July 2012 08:23
 
July 2, 2012 (Week 13) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 02 July 2012 00:00

Towards the break we steam, and this cycle a handful of prospects worthy of a look, a bid, and even a potential long-term slot come to light, starting with the Cubs who finally made space for first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Drafted by the Red Sox in the sixth round in 2007, Rizzo then went to the Padres as part of the Adrian Gonzalez swap in 2010, then off to the Cubs for Andrew Cashner last year. The Cubs were playing the patience game with Rizzo this year, after the then 21-year old was promoted and over his head (.191-1-9 over 49 games) by the Padres. 70 games, and .342-23-62 numbers later Rizzo was called to claim first base (pushing Bryan LaHair to the outfield, and possibly even making him expendable). Rizzo is  .267-1-3 with a pair of doubles over his first four games and is a definite claim if still available in any format.

While we are on the subject, the Padres recalled the hard throwing--as in a fastball around 100 MPH--Cashner who has 12-8, 2.75 totals over 196 minor league innings. Cashner has 183 whiffs and a fine 1.197 ratio in the minors, including 2-0, 1.88 total at San Antonio this year, with 22 strikeouts over 14.1 innings. Cashner has had his control issues in the majors with 53 walks over his 99.2 major league innings, though he also has 101 whiffs. Cashner did well his return to Petco with 6.1 solid innings over Houston over his second major league start. Cashner had been working out of the pen the bulk of the year for San Diego, but their damaged corps needed the help, so now Cashner is in the rotation. Again, this is a guy you want to own (43 strikeouts over 34.2 innings so far this year in the majors).

Another arm to watch is the Diamondbacks Trevor Bauer, the teams first rounder last year (#3 overall) out of UCLA. Bauer's 11-1, 2.23 totals over 16 starts and 93 innings split between Mobile (AA) and Reno (AAA) this year pretty much tell the story. Well, ok, 159 minor league strikeouts over 118.2 innings, although like Cashner the walks (60) are an issue. Bauer was acceptable his first start last week (4.1 innings, five hits, a pair of runs, and three each of walks and whiffs) against the Braves in a no decision. Bauer is a little iffier statistically this year than Cashner, but still, if available, you want him for the future. And, if your NL team is destroyed by the likes of Daniel Hudson, Roy Halladay, and Shaun Marcum, Bauer is as good a crap shoot as you will find for the bulk of this season.

While we are at it, Texas (Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, and Colby Lewis down) needed to call up 21-year old Venezuelan Martin Perez for his first major league start. Perez did struggle with four hits allowed over two-thirds of an innings against the Tigers Wednesday, but his start against Oakland was a lot better (5.1 innings, six hits, a pair of runs, five strikeouts and a walk) Saturday. In the minors Perez was good for 25-29, 4.29 totals over 497.2 innings. Perez struck out an acceptable 442 strikeouts, but the 525 hits and 210 walks allowed (1.475 WHIP) is of concern.  Again, I like Cashner better not just because of experience, but due to, as my friend Jeff Erickson would say, his "ability to miss bats."

However, one other arm I do like as an alternative to all the above is the Athletics A.J. Griffin. I actually worked Griffin's first start against the Giants last Saturday (June 23) and he pitched with a lot of poise, throwing first pitch strikes though he pretty much used a fastball, change, and slider all between 81-89 MPH. That means he was actually pitching, always a good sign. Over 42 minor league starts (along with 24 relief appearances) in the Athletics system, Griffin was 18-11, 3.10 (281.2 innings) with 273 strikeouts and a terrific 1.012 WHIP. Griffin backed up the first start with a fine second start (six shutout innings over the Rangers last Friday) and I like his stuff, and place in a rotation with the likes of Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker (and maybe even the resurrected Travis Blackley).

While we are in Oakland, Chris Carter was brought back to ideally add some right handed punch to the first base slot, where Brandon Moss has indeed filled in well as the left-handed side of the equation. It is difficult to document how many times (four promotions and three demotions) Carter has tantalized us with potential. As in .283-182-639 numbers over 826 games that translated into .174-3-7 numbers over 39 major league games and 114 at-bats. Well, perhaps Carter has figured it out as hit .439-2-2 totals over seven at-bats since being recalled Friday. I am just saying (as in if you are in an AL only format, Carter is worth a flier).

.395-1-7 over his last 43 at-bats and 20 games this past month. Along with eight doubles, a triple, a pair of swipes, seven runs, and a .481 OBP? How about Justin Ruggiano of the Fish? Like I always say, ride the hot hand, especially as necessary, so if you are in an NL only format, well, I will say no more.

I wrote a few weeks back about Padres catching prospect Yasmani Grandal who was brought forth for a game as bench support. Well, as a minor leaguer the 23-year old Cuban has .314-20-104 totals with 50 doubles over 169 games. Add in 100 walks to 136 strikeouts (.415 OBP), the fact that Nick Hundley was sent down, and that Grandal set a major league record by homering from each side of the plate during his first major league start, and, well, if you don't jump on this kid there is no hope for any of us. We are lucky to see Grandal and Salvador Perez--the next generation of potentially dominant catchers--debut in their respective leagues as starters the past cycle. Even luckier if you have one on your squad.

Finally, if you are in an AL only set up, you have to take a shot on Jim Thome. With five dingers over just 30 at-bats this year, and 15 over 277 at-bats last year, the guy clearly still has his eye and pop. He may only log another 175 at-bats the rest of this year, but at the rate of his past two seasons, that should be good for another 12 or so big flies. That is huge in such a setup. Get him.

Last Updated on Monday, 02 July 2012 09:26
 
June 25, 2012 (Week 12) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 25 June 2012 00:00

It has been pretty illuminating, pointing out slumping players of whom we expected more, but got less this year, at least so far. So, as with a few names over the past weeks, like first sackers Eric Hosmer and Brandon Belt--both of whom we recommended, and both of whom have heated up--this time we have a litany of veterans to review.

But, let's start with those ever-lovable prospects, beginning in my own back yard with Oakland's new back-up catcher, Derek Norris. Happily, Oakland has dispensed with the likes of Josh Donaldson and Andrew Reddick--both of whom were never more than Quad-A players despites the Athletics best hopes or dreams. But Norris, acquired niftily along with Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock from the Nationals for Gio Gonzalez, is the real backstop deal.

Blessed with both solid power (77 minor league homers over 486 games) and a solid OBP 0f .395 (364 walks to 460 whiffs), Norris can not only handle the load in supporting present catching incumbent Kurt Suzuki, but he could make the popular Oakland start expendable. Catching the final two games of the Bay Bridge series, Norris got his first hit Saturday giving "Zuk" a day off, and Sunday because he had caught rookie starter A.J. Griffin in Sacramento. Norris responded with a game winning three-run walk off jack with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Expect more, and while he might only be a back up for now, he should be a good one. As in Landon Powell, realized. Grab him in your ultra format.

Salvador Perez, signed by the Royals as a free agent out of Venezuela, the 22-year old catcher was on the road last year with K.C. hitting .331-3-21 over 148 at-bats, when a torn meniscus got in the way. Now back in the majors, with his knee intact, coming off .340-0-7, Perez is possibly even a more interesting prospect than Norris, for all that stands in his way is veteran Humberto Quintero. Add him in AL only leagues, and keep an eye in mixed formats.

Tampa, struggling now with injuries to Jeff Niemann and now Jeremy Hellickson, brought up Chris Archer, a fifth-round selection of the Tribe in 2006, Archer went to the Cubs in 2008 as part of the deal for Mark DeRosa, and then was packaged last year along with Sam Fuld and a bevy of prospects for Matt Garza. The owner of a 39-40, 3.89 mark as a minor league starter, Archer can post the whiffs with 669 over 668.1 innings, but is vulnerable to the walk (338). Archer had a nice first major league start (six innings, seven whiffs, three hits, but a loss) against the Nationals for his debut last Wednesday, and though he is a rookie pitcher, Archer has some chops and is on a good team. Worth a risk in an AL only format.

 Ok, let's move along to some (un)seasoned vets, starting with a couple of guys I drafted myself. I took Francisco Liriano for my Scoresheet team thinking largely of his good 2010 (14-10, 3.62) anticipating a nice bounceback from last year (9-10, 5.09) especially following Liriano's hot spring (2-1, 2.33 over 27 innings, with 33 whiffs and five walks). Bad initial choice, as Liriano was 0-3, 11.02 in April, though he improved to 1-2, 4.56 over 23 May innings. In June, though, the "old" Liriano seems to have come back in June with an 0-2 mark, but the 3.33 ERA over 24.1 innings with 27 strikeouts and a terrific 0.95 WHIP. Though Liriano is not on a team that will win a lot of games, he may give some good totals, especially with the pressure off. At least I have put him back in my Scoresheet rotation, but a lot of that has to do with injuries to Roy Halladay and Shaun Marcum.

I also own Justin Masterson in the XFL, and had owned him in Tout Wars till a couple of weeks ago when I swapped the Indians starter to my bud Andy Behrens for Carlos Pena. Masterson struggled a lot in April, going 0-2, 5.40 (1.467 WHIP), then 2-2, 4.93 (1.51 WHIP) and as a result, as much as I like Masterson, he became expendable for a hitting gamble. Well, though I have a pair of homers so far from Pena, Masterson has rewarded Andy's trust in June, going 2-2, 1.24 over four starts and 29 innings, with 27 whiffs, just one homer, and a 0.862 WHIP. He's back!

I have always had a sort of up-and-down relationship with the Brave Jair Jurrjens: probably not too different from the rest of you. After the 14-10, 2.60 2009, Jurrjens struggled at 7-6, 4.64 and injuries contributed to disappointment in 2010, but Jurrjens bounced back well with 13-6, 2.96 2011 numbers. However, completely out the window was everything this year with 1-2, 6.75 numbers. We know Jurrjens is a control guy, with 492 strikeouts over his 792.1 innings, meaning he has to be be fine to be successful. Jurrjens can do that, as witnessed by his 2009 and 2011 totals. Looking again at those 1-2, 6.75 totals, remember that Jurrjens picked up his win earlier in the week, with 7.2 good innings, reducing his ERA from 9.37. Forget his ever confusing 3-4, 5.18 minor league numbers at Gwinnett this year, and figure that for now, Jurrjens has his mojo back. Just remember that unlike Masterson and Liriano, dominance is not part of his game, so be prepared to let go, and quickly, as necessary.

Last year Adam Lind hit .251-26-87, though with a crappy .296 OBP. The year before he was .237-23-72, with an even worse .285 OBP, but inexplicably, in 2009 Lind was .305-35-114 with a terrific .385 OBP (58 walks to 110 whiffs). Of course, this year he was as bad as bad could be with Toronto hitting .186-3-11, so off to Las Vegas it was, and there Lind could more than hold his own, hitting .395-8-29 over 124 at-bats, with a .451 OBP (15 walks to 26 strikeouts). Lind should hit well at AAA, though, but those bad on-base numbers at the Show of the last two seasons cause concern. Lind was recalled, but I am thinking a change of scene might be what he needs. In other words, if you are in an AL only or other deep format, you have to give him a shot. Otherwise, pass for now, leaving Lind on your bench till he gives you a reason to do otherwise.

Kevin Youkilis has literally changed Sox--from Blue to White--and this is a great chance for him. Injured largely with Boston this year, Youk not only never got on-track, but with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford down, the table was not set as expected. With the Pale Hose and Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn helping out, playing a position that has been a deep dark hole for the White Sox, expect Youkilis to bounce back.

Meanwhile, if Boston had to swap Youk, Brent Lillibridge--who can play all over the place, offer some speed, and some pop--is a perfect antidote. Lillibridge is not a full-timer, meaning his only value is in an AL only or deep mixed format, but despite the .175-0-2 numbers this year, he does have seven swipes, and last year, the outfielder/first baseman/second sacker hit .258-13-29 over 186 at-bats. Like Youk, expect Lillibridge to enjoy the new scene, but again, he won't be a starter, especially with Crawford and Ellsbury on the way back.

Finally, I have Erick Aybar in a couple of leagues: that same Scoresheet League, and also Tout Wars. As he was an expensive ($25 in Tout, and one of eight freezes in the Murphy Scoresheet format) so I was wed to the Angels shortstop. Aybar hit .222-0-5 in April, and not much better at .223-0-6 in May, however, this June, the shortstop has settled back in with .329-1-8 totals, raising his season numbers to an almost respectable .254-1-19. If Aybar keeps it up, and I think he will, expect the average back up around the .280 range, and even figure he can hit double digits in homers, and 15-20 swipes.

Last Updated on Monday, 25 June 2012 10:40
 
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