It is indeed the All-Star break, and that means a little time to chill, some time with your ostensibly neglected family, and a respite from daily box scores.
However, like being a student, fantasy ownership never really goes away, irrespective of the time of year. So, since we are all likely thinking about our rosters and how to tweak all the time anyway, let's look at some names I think might be worth looking at during the second half.
I am going to start with some wishful thinking, and that goes with David Price. I do indeed have Price on my Tout Wars team and was looking to the lefty to anchor my pitching staff, and was surely looking for better than a 4.34 ERA and starts where he gives up six runs and just one whiff. Within all that, though, Price has pitched pretty well, and ideally his fantastic start against the Rays Sunday (eight shutout innings with ten whiffs) means he has settled in with a new team and big contract, looking to a bright second half.
While we are at it, I am not sure how long James Shields even stays with the White Sox, and a deadline swap might indeed mean bouncing stats, but after four awful starts that yielded 27 runs, Shields was summarily dumped across the board in shallower leagues. But, his last four starts have resulted in just eight total runs over 25.3 innings, including quality starts the last three, suggesting that Shields has settled into the South Side of Chicago. Shields is probably available everywhere thanks to his 4-10, 5.42, 1.599 line over 101.3 frames, but over the past three weeks the numbers are 2-1, 2.84, 1.303 and that is closer to what I would expect from here on out.
Yeah, we all ran from him like he has the plague, but maybe we dismissed Jose Reyes a bit early as far as building stats go. Reyes, now with the very competitive Mets who have trouble keeping players healthy, banged a couple of homers Sunday, reminding us that he still has some pop. But, aside from his body being rested for almost a year, Reyes likely has something to prove to those of us who had indeed decided the infielder was worthless.
It is hard to imagine why a guy with a .302-10-47 line would improve, but Brandon Belt not only has that line, but the first sacker and his .928 OPS have finally settled in where we thought his numbers should be when the Baby Giraffe became the everyday first sacker in San Francisco in 2012. Hitting lefties has always been Belt's Achilles Heel, but this year the first sacker has hit .284 with 20 walks to 28 whiffs, good for a .395 OBP. I think as the Giants try for their 2016 run, Belt will step it up and be the driving force of the team.
I always thought that Belt was to the NL what Eric Hosmer was to the American League, with Hosmer developing much more readily to the Majors, settling in as a star which culminated in last year's .297-18-83 mark that was part of the Royals championship season. At the break, Hosmer is hitting .299-13-49, which projects to potential .300-30-100 possibilities. The AL Central has just seven games separating first and fourth, but the Royals are the best team of the group, on paper anyway. I look to Hosmer to step it up and lead his team to the postseason, as I do Belt with the Giants.
A former first-round pick of the Astros (in 2010), Mike Foltynewicz has taken awhile to realize his skills, especially when we look at the right-hander's erratic entry into the rotation last year, when he posted 4-6, 5.79, 1.627 totals over 86 innings. But, Foltynewicz seems to have figured it out, returning from a month on the DL and notching a pair of quality starts. On Sunday, he shut out the White Sox over seven innings with ten whiffs, bringing his 2016 totals to 3-3, 3.67, with a 1.244 WHIP and 45 whiffs over 49 innings. Note that I wrote up Foltynewicz before he hit the DL at the end of May, but I like him even better now.
Mastersballer Perry Van Hook really shone the spotlight on the Cardinals' Seung-hwan Oh last week. With Trevor Rosenthal struggling with a 5.40 ERA and 2.00 WHIP over 30 innings, Oh, who amassed 357 saves over 11 seasons in Korea and Japan, seems to be the closer in St. Louis from here on out. The Cards always manage to squeeze into the postseason, making Oh a great second half grab.
Back to the Royals, Danny Duffy worked in 16 games as a reliever before working his way back into the rotation, but now there he is, and thriving. Over his 11 starts, Duffy is 4-1, 3.09 with a 1.06 WHIP and deadly 94 whiffs over 81.6 frames. I think the 27-year-old lefty is just coming into his prime and is worth grabbing everywhere, accordingly.
OK, so the one name on this list that makes me nervous is Aaron Nola, who rocketed to the top of the Phils rotation last year, going 6-2, 3.57 after his promotion. Nola started solidly, going 1-2, 3.55 in April, improved to 3-2, 2.31 in May, but in June the wheels fell off with a 1-3, 10.42 month. I will steer clear of Nola for the duration of this year as he settles in with hitters having a book on the former first rounder. It isn't that I don't think Nola has a bright future, but I would not think the rest of this season will produce the best totals for Nola or his Phillies mates.
Andrew McCutchen is sitting at .247-14-38 at the break, but Cutch has never hit below .286 over a full season, and I think he will take off in the second half and finish with a more normal Cutch line, around .295-25-90, as the Bucs try to make the second half iffy for the Cubs and Cards.
That is it for this time. Enjoy the break and All-Star Game, and make sure to hit me up @lawrmichaels and comment below.
Happy Fourth of July all around, and I wish you the best and safest of holidays. As for me, some golf is in order, followed by some kind of wonderful BBQ at home, and I wish you an equal amount of fun and deliciousness.
As for baseball, what can I say after Ryan Goins was called upon to pitch the 18th inning of the Jays marathon game, and Thursday went on the DL with forearm tightness? Baseball is indeed so goofy, unpredictable, and yes, wonderful.
But, what about some guys who are actually pitchers, like the uber hot Lucas Giolito, just promoted by the Nats? The #1 selection of Washington in 2012, Giolito is hardly a secret to those who follow fantasy and the minors closely, but at 6'6", 255, the almost 22-year-old has put up some convincing numbers since being drafted. With a 24-13, 2.79 record, Giolito has whiffed 353 batters over 324.6 innings while allowing just 280 hits (13 homers) and 113 walks (1.210 WHIP).
A Top 100 prospect the last four years--and Top 10 the past two--Giolito twirled four scoreless frames last week for his Major League debut and should be on the hitlist of every owner. Period.
On the other hand, what of Jorge de la Rosa? "What?", you are asking? Has Michaels again gone looney? Well, not totally, for though Jorge has season numbers of 5-5, 5.98, with a 1.599 WHIP, over his last five starts, the lefty is 3-1, 2.25 with a 1.33 WHIP. Yes, he is a Colorado hurler, and yes, de la Rosa can get hammered. However, we are halfway through the season and free agent pools may not be brimming with the likes of Giolito, let alone lesser recent commodities like Daniel Mengden, so take your risks where you can. Just don't get too attached, right?
If you are looking elsewhere to plug a gap, perhaps journeyman Bud Norris, now a Dodger might also be a good gamble. A former sixth-round selection of the Astros in 2006, Norris has had a roller coaster career since hitting the Majors in 2009. A 60-75, 4.40 record with a 1.393 WHIP over 1065 innings speaks largely for itself, although the 978 whiffs (8.3 per nine innings) point to something promising. Unfortunately, Norris was another of those promising guys who never really seemed to put it together. But, now at age 31, on the Dodgers--whom I repeatedly remind know how to work with pitchers--Norris had a very good start last week, going six innings and allowing just a couple of hits and a free pass while striking out eight. Norris could indeed make a good second half play on a contending team.
Iffier, but interesting none-the-less is the Reds' Keyvius Sampson, drafted by the Padres in 2009, then released last year, and nabbed by the Reds as they seek to fix their own pitching. Sampson, 25, has a pedestrian minor league mark of 42-38, 3.99, with a 1.309 WHIP over 663.6 innings, but the righty also has 692 punchouts. Sampson has been knocked around during 62 big league innings, going 2-7, 6.53, with a 1.855 WHIP as part of a line that also included an alarming ten homers allowed. Sampson probably profiles as a bullpen product, at least for now, but I would keep an eye on him. He could be one of those guys who suddenly finds command and then becomes unhittable.
If you are looking for a middle man to just quietly stabilize a pitching slot, take a peek at the Yankees' Conor Mullee, who has appeared as a reliever over 101 minor league games (never starting), posting 13-6, 1.91 numbers with 14 saves and 164 strikeouts over 160 innings. Mulee has a solid 1.025 WHIP, allowing just 118 hits and 46 walks in the minors, and is easily an expendable $1 (or less) pick-up in a tight AL format.
Iffier, but no less tempting could be the Rays' Danny Farquhar, a hard thrower who tempted us all in 2014 when he was 3-1 with a save over 71 innings over which he whiffed 81 and posted a 1.127 WHIP. Aside from that flash, the righty has been awful, going 1-8, 5.12 in 2015, and over ten innings in Tampa this year is not much better at 0-0, 5.79. Still, tempting, and like Sampson, Farquhar could regain that 2014 magic. Do tread carefully, though.
While I am at it, Seattle recalled Mike Zunino, who promptly clobbered a pair of homers his first game back, reigniting manlove. Zunino hit .282-15-51 over 69 games at Tacoma this year, but he still walked 28 times to 62 strikeouts. That is a lot better, but I have been burned too many Zunino times to gamble at this juncture.
For some reason, 26-year-old Alex Dickerson carries the nickname "grandpa," but the newly promoted Padre has a pretty good hitting resume that is more than worthy of checking out, and Dickerson is similarly worthy of grabbing or at least tracking. Selected in the third round in 2011, out of the University of Indiana-Bloomington, Dickerson has a solid minor league line of .309-58-325 over 524 games, with 309 runs, a .367 OBP (153 walks to 366 strikeouts) and solid .867 OPS. He qualifies primarily in the outfield (36 games this year) but could make it at first in some leagues with nine games played.
Please feel free to comment below, and don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.
While John Travolta did name his son Jett, the person I really associate with that name is James Dean, who played the role of Jett Rink in the film adaptation of Edna Ferber's novel, Giant. Rink is a moody, solitary character as you would imagine with Dean playing the part, and his striking it rich with an oil strike only adds to the irritation the now rich Rink's part adds to the lives of those around him.
Not so for Jett Bandy, the Angels catcher who seems to have at least established himself over the weekend playing the Athletics, hitting some, and throwing out runners as well. Bandy, a Southern California native, was drafted in the 31st round by the Halos in 2011 after spending time at the University of Arizona. Now 26, Bandy posted a .265-42-227 line in the minors and is hitting .300-1-9 with the Angels thus far. Further, over just 13 games there have been 12 steal attempts against the rookie, who has nailed five, good for a fine 42% (his minor league average was 36%) and I have a good feeling about this kid.
While watching the Angels and Athletics duke it out this weekend, I also noticed the team had moved Max Muncy up in the batting order. Granted, the A's have had some rugged injuries which precipitated Muncy's playing time, which has indeed boosted his totals to .257-0-2 with a .366 OBP. Obviously, Muncy is of value only in the deepest of formats, but he has hit .269-0-2 the past two weeks. But, Muncy also has a game in each at first and third, adding a little extra value depending upon league format.
How do the Red Sox manage to keep coming up with these outfielders? As in the newest "these," Bryce Brentz, a former first rounder (2010) who has hit .262-95-373 over 580 games. Brentz hit .264-17-56 over 82 games at Pawtucket in 2013, largely laboring at that level since. Brentz has hit .364-1-1 having blasted his first big league homer on Sunday. He does have some trouble with the zone (196 minor league walks to 603 whiffs) but he seems to have favor over Rusney Castillo and seems to sort of fall in line with Brock Holt and Travis Shaw as this year's out of nowhere BoSox bench guy.
Looking at the NL, Angel Pagan has hit .414-1-9 with a pair of swipes and four runs this past week, and is likely available in your deeper NFBC-type mixed format. But I would also take a look at the Giants' Jarrett Parker, who hit .500-0-1 over ten at-bats this week, raising his totals to .269-3-8 with a solid 10 walks to 23 strikeouts (.380 OBP). Parker had similar numbers last year (.347-6-14 over 49 at-bats with a .407 OBP) and at age 27, he is screaming for someone to play him every day.
Wade LeBlanc, who played for Seibu (2-5, 4.23 over eight starts and 44.6 innings) last year, signed in December with the Jays and went 7-2, 1.71 over 89.6 innings and 14 starts at Buffalo. He was then swapped to the Mariners and shut down the Cardinals in his first start. Still, considering his struggles in Japan and LeBlanc's career mark of 21-33, 4.41 over 452.6 innings with a 1.406 WHIP, make sure the lefty has a few good starts before you even think about rostering him.
The Buccos advanced outfielder/infielder Adam Frazier, who got a hit in his debut game Friday. Frazier was a sixth-round selection of the Pirates in 2013 out of Mississippi State. The 24-year-old has hit .299-3-121 over 350 minor league games with 189 runs scored, 47 steals (though 38 caught) and a terrific 125 walks to 161 strikeouts, good for a .363 OBP. He surely looks like a guy to grab not just due to his talent, but he is on a team that moves players around (think Josh Harrison and Jung Ho Kang). Frazier played 224 minor league games at short and 94 more in the outfield, adding just that dimension.
The Yankees moved up Mexican import Luis Cessa, a 26-year-old starting pitcher who has posted a 34-31, 3.68 mark with 447 strikeouts over 533.3 innings. The righty--who also played some infield in the minors--had a solid 1.243 WHIP, allowing 562 hits with 126 walks and 36 homers allowed. Meaning Cessa indeed can control the zone in the minors, and as witnessed by his first start (seven innings, two runs, five hits) could be a decent pickup in AL-only formats, for now. He kind of reminds me of Junior Guerra, as a matter of fact, which is not bad as a free agent hurler this year.
Much the same could be said about Chad Kuhl, who made his Major League debut Sunday night, facing Clayton Kershaw. A ninth-round pick in 2013, Kuhl was 33-16, 2.79 over 438 innings, with 293 whiffs. Kuhl, like Cessa, has good control having allowed 105 walks and 28 homers over those innings, and he picked up the win during the ESPN game, twirling five frames and allowing three runs in a matchup against the best pitcher in the solar system. More impressive was the seven-pitch bases loaded first big league at-bat Kuhl logged. The 23-year-old hung tough throughout the plate appearance.
Please feel free to comment and don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.
It was another one of those odd weeks on the transaction wire where the eye-grabbing transactions involved either veterans relegated to teamlessness or veterans clinging to another shot at redemption.
For over the week, Jose Reyes, Carl Crawford and Jimmy Rollins were all rather unceremoniously released into the ether of the waiver wire. I have to think some desperate team might grant Reyes a chance, but I suspect Carl and Jimmy will hang em' up. All three were fine players at their peak.
But, this was also the week that Tim Lincecum made his first start for the Halos, and Timmy comported himself rather well.
Lincecum has to lead the marquee names of the week, having made it into the Angels rotation, and then tossing six strong innings, allowing four hits, and a pair of walks to go with a pair of whiffs. It should be noted that Lincecum won facing the Athletics, who have been among the weaker hitting teams over the past weeks. In short, I saw Lincecum at his peak and he was indeed wonderful. I would love it if Tim could have a big comeback here, but I am not holding my breath at this point. Still, it is a start.
Speaking of ex-Giants, the Tigers brought Casey McGehee up to fill gaps and though the third sacker was hitting well at Toledo (.323-4-27 over 66 games), his big league numbers have been pretty much nonexistent save 2014 (.287-4-76) going back to 2010. Add in there is a question of playing time, and McGehee makes a poor risk.
Oakland hasn't just had issues hitting, but their pitching has been pretty much a disaster between injuries and ineffectiveness. One guy the Athletics were thinking would be an innings eater when the season began was Liam Hendriks, who went out with a biceps injury in May. Hendriks had some pretty awful numbers over 16.3 frames (0-0, 8.27) but he was very good in a relief role with Toronto last year, going 5-0, 2.92 with 71 strikeouts over 64.6 innings with a 1.082 WHIP. Oakland might be struggling, but Hendriks is the kind of filler guy who can gain command and give some under-the-radar strong innings.
Keeping the "X degrees of player separation" going, former Oakland starter Tommy Milone was recalled by the Twins. A starter, Milone has reasonably good control (463 whiffs to 159 walks) with a 1.302 WHIP over 642.3 innings but has allowed 677 hits, 87 of which have been homers. If you are innings desperate in an AL format, maybe take a chance, but I like the Lincecum gamble better.
OK, let's look at a troika of prospects to close the week out, starting with Blake Snell, who is in the Rays starting rotation. Snell had a solid start against the Yankees in a spot start, allowing just a run and a couple of hits over five innings. Not so much in his second start, as the Mariners pounded him for eight hits over 3.3 innings, including five runs, though just one was earned. If Snell is not on a reserve list in your league, he makes a fun pick-up. If you can grab him and freeze him in another format, do so.
Similarly, the Reds brought second sacker Jose Peraza back to fill the Billy Hamilton (concussion) gap, and Peraza was hitting well (.274 with nine swipes) and is bench strength for now. But Peraza is a serious prospect, and again one to at least grab and stash. The 22-year-old Peraza, whom I mentioned when he debuted for the Reds awhile back, is a former Braves prospect who spent time with the Dodgers before becoming part of the three-team Todd Frazier swap. The consensus top-100 prospect has a .299-10-195 line with 312 runs and 219 swipes in the Minors, and he has a solid future.
Finally, 24-year-old Michael Ynoa was recalled by the White Sox. With 11 saves and 232 strikeouts over 226.6 innings, Ynoa has had a decent minor league line, and he could find some good work with the Pale Hose as the team struggles to re-invent itself.
Well, here we are, starting year 21, and Z and I are in Manhattan getting ready to draft our Fantasy Sports Trade Association Football Team for the coming season.
Hah. We still have over three months of baseball to go, and last week I kind of took a bye, so, let's get started with a question.
Who were the best two starting pitchers last week? Clayton Kershaw? Chris Sale? John Lackey? Jordan Zimmermann?
Well, Jon Lester did have a monster cycle with two wins and a 0.00 ERA over 15 frames, but how about Trevor Bauer (1-0, 1.72, with a 1.02 WHIP over 15.6 innings), Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 2.30, with a 0.77 WHIP over 15.6 innings) and Tyler Chatwood (2-0, 2.45 with a 0.95 WHIP over 14.6 innings)?
Probably no troika of hurlers can better exemplify the ups-and-downs and insanity that goes with managing a baseball squad, for if you think the schizo careers of these guys make us crazy, imagine trying to work through it as Theo Epstein. Still, the lesson is in most leagues it is impossible to win with a set lineup you selected on draft day. If you want to stay among the big dogs in your league, it means being on top of who is hot, who is not, and ideally trying to figure this out a little ahead of the curve, adjusting your lineup accordingly.
One name who might indeed intrigue--as well as drive us whacky as he develops--is Jameson Taillon, a high school first-round selection of the Bucs in 2010. A top 100 prospect every year since his draft, the 24-year-old has a 20-23 mark with a 3.49 ERA over 442.6 innings with 417 whiffs with 2014-15 lost to injury. Taillon did get his first start against the Mets on Wednesday, going six innings, allowing six hits and three runs. Though he was sent back to Triple-A, expect the 6'5", 240-pound righty back getting every opportunity to realize his potential. Just be mindful of the lumpy road the previous paragraph implies and stash him on your reserve list if you can.
Oakland has been having huge mound issues, so they sought help from Daniel Mengden, a fourth-round pick of the Astros in 2014 whom the Athletics copped along with Jacob Nottingham for Scott Kazmir. The A's swapped Nottingham to the Brewers (for Khris Davis), but after going 15-5, 2.78 over 210 minor league innings which includes a 3-1, 1.39 spread at Nashville this year over seven starts, Oakland gave Mengden a shot. The righty responded with 5.2 solid innings, making a mistake only to Jay Bruce. Oakland, in a pitcher's park, will give Mengden the ball until he gives the team a reason not to. Ride accordingly.
Got Smoke? That likely means you discovered the Astros' Michael Feliz, a 22-year-old Dominican reliever who whiffed 419 over 419.2 minor league innings, but this year has put down 42 hitters on strikes over 29.1 innings, with a 4-0, 3.38 record that includes a 0.85 WHIP. Feliz might be a future closer but for now, in a deep league, he is a perfect stabilizer who can get whiffs. Grab him if you can/need to.
Arizona brought back outfielder Peter O'Brien, a former second-round selection of the Yankees in 2012, swapped for Martin Prado in 2014. O'Brien hit .280-109-363 as a minor leaguer over 1760 at-bats, and though he has hit 59.7% of his hits for extra bases, 112 walks to 492 strikeouts (.327 OBP) looks problematic to me.
Probably the most promising hitter promoted this week has to be the 2014 #1 pick of the Pale Hose, Tim Anderson. A speed burning shortstop, Anderson has hit .301 as a minor leaguer with 220 runs scored over 1374 at-bats with 94 steals, 26 triples, and 62 doubles, Anderson has been called upon to fill the void left with the release of Jimmy Rollins. Anderson does have it all, save he too suffers from lack of zone command with 64 walks to 332 whiffs and a not too stellar .327 OBP for a guy with a .301 average. Still, Anderson looks exciting and should not be dismissed.
In case you did not notice, I have long been a fan of Wilmer Flores, who has just returned to the Mets lineup. Over the past three weeks, Flores has hit .368-0-3 over 13 games and 38 at-bats. The 23-year-old clobbered 16 big flies last year over 483 at-bats and though he does have on-base issues (46 walks to 133 whiffs and a .297 OBP), give him time and I think the utility infielder establishes himself.
Please do feel free to comment, and don't forget you can tweet me @lawrmichaels
It was indeed 20 years ago today that the very first HotPage appeared under my original site, CREATiVESPORTS, which has since merged with Todd Zola and Mastersball.
Though I had been playing sim games since the mid-70's--largely APBA and Strat-O-Matic--in the late 80's Rotisserie ball hit my ilk and I started playing, and a fluke in 1993 brought me to the stable of then fantasy staple, John Benson.
I wrote for Benson for three years, while playing in local AL- and NL-only leagues, also working for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan as an analyst, but grabbed a buyout option in 1996 and was suddenly looking for a job.
Because of my family's and my pretty well documented health issues, I had to look for a more traditional job whereby I could get health care for us all but while I looked for a job, I took a class in HTML thinking since I already wrote for Benson, and had a rep, maybe a website on fantasy baseball would be fun.
My thought was simply presenting a weekly list of players each Monday worthy of roster acquisition--in most cases--trying to simply present 750 words on eight-to-ten such guys in a manner useful to fantasy baseball players.
In 1996, there were roughly five million humans playing fantasy sports worldwide, with three million of them playing baseball and the balance going after fantasy football. At the time, I hoped to simply contract with ATT to earn a living (which proved to be a great company to complete my work life in the real world), and write about fantasy, grabbing 1% of those players as readers and see how things went from there.
Things did not work out exactly as I imagined. They more than worked out, though. That is because though my site was free, suddenly a cluster of other burgeoning web locales--CBS Sportsline, Sandbox Sports, Wall Street Sports, MSNBC online, Fox Sports to name a few--all liked my writing and thoughts, and they all hired me to write for them on a regular basis.
In fact, this is where I met Rick Wolf, the driving force behind Sportsline (the first of many big sites Wolf would develop), along with Scott Engel, who turned out be my first boss in the industry when Wolf hired me. Of course, this was just before the dot-com explosion, and a lot of my mates--Jeff Erickson was then at RotoNews, Ron Shandler's BaseballHQ, Steve Moyer at STATS, Greg Ambrosius with the NFBC/NFFC in their infancy days--were all just getting started and gaining followings on the Web as well, and it was a very exciting time.
It was tough and competitive too, especially when the bottom fell out a few years later, forcing RotoNews to morph into RotoWire and Mastersball, eaten up by Fanball, to go back to the roots Jason Grey, Rob Leibowitz, and Todd Zola established. But others, like Wall Street and Sandbox, were chewed up never to return.
At the time, it was tough for me, when all my mates' sites were bought up and growing, and while CREATiVESPORTS seemed to have a good critical reputation, no one wanted to merge or buy me out, something that turned out to be a blessing, for though I was not a temporary millionaire, I did get to maintain control of my site over those strange times within the industry, not to mention our economy.
But, make it through we did, bigger and badder and better than ever, as fantasy took hold, fostering just about every variation imaginable (check here for Fantasy Fashion Leagues), pushing Daily games almost to the point of irritation (and legislation), the NFBC to a standard mixed-league draft format, and driving the industry such that at the end of 2015, there were 56.8 million fantasy players just in North America (that includes Canada).
Of course, there were a myriad of changes more. Health issues did indeed take my family--Cathy in 2005, and Joey in 2006--there was Sam Walker's Fantasyland book followed by Stephen Palgon's movie of the same name. Matthew Berry moved from movies to Rotoworld to The Talented Mr. Roto and Rotopass to ESPN, becoming a household name, and I got involved with a new and wonderful partner, Diane Walsh. Oh yes, and Jason Grey moved to Tampa to become a MLB scout, and Todd Zola and I merged our companies.
There is so much more, and I could write and additonal 1000 words on those changes, but I think you get the point. But, just as you become friends with the guys in your local league, I was lucky enough to be thrust into the core of an industry where I not only got to play with the guys I noted, but where they became my dear friends, and where leagues like LABR and Tout Wars became my local leagues.
It is difficult for me to explain just how lucky and crazy and wonderful this all seems and has been, for that seems to speak for itself. I mean, whoever imagined a game based upon a game would spur a crazy new industry that reinvented games as we know them?
But, it did, and as lucky I feel to be part of that industry, I feel even luckier to have industry mates that I can indeed call friends. So, in closing, I want to mention as many as I can. Because, you know, "I get by with a little help from my friends."
Oh yeah, I will do my best to get another 20 years behind us, though in all honesty, I cannot begin to imagine what that might be like.
Thank you all for reading, for sharing your time and lives, and for your support.
Ron Shandler. Marc Meltzer. Rick Wolf. Glenn Colton. Stacie Stern. Jeff Erickson. Peter Schoenke. Tim Schuller. Chris Liss. Todd Zola. Brian Walton. Rob Leibowitz. Zach Steinhorn. Cory Schwartz. Mike Siano. Dean Peterson. Greg Ambrosius. Steve Moyer. Tony Blengino. Doug Dennis. Scott Engel. Howard Bender. Ray Flowers. Peter Kreutzer. Alex Patton. Perry Van Hook. Don Drooker. Derek Van Riper. Andy Behrens. Brandon Funston. Nando DiFino. Matthew Berry. Tristan Cockcroft. Eric Karabell. Stephania Bell. Nate Ravitz. Lenny Melnick. Kyle Elfrink. Eno Sarris. Ray Murphy. Brent Hershey. Gene McCaffrey. Justin Mason. Lori Rubinson. Corey Parson. Jason Collette. Mike Gianella. Paul Sporer. Rick Wilton. Ryan Bonini. Scott Pianowski. Jason Grey. Seth Trachtman. Louis Maillone. Mike Cardano. Patrick Davitt. Steve Gardner. John Hunt. Tim Heaney. Nick Minnix. John Benson. Al Melchior. Charlie Wiegert. Dave Gonos. Vlad Sedler. Patrick Mayo. Geoff Stein. Tom Kessenich. Mike Hall. Oh yes, and Diane, Jeep, and Pavlov!
Here we are at another Memorial Day, and aside from being a great holiday, loaded with baseball, family, food, and ideally great weather, this issue of the Hotpage completes my 19th year of writing the same column under the same title at the same URL. So I will try to conjure something special next week for our 20th anniversary edition (which is kind of exciting).
Memorial Day is indeed considered that first big milepost of the baseball season, and the one where fantasy owners have to decide whether their team has the parts to contend, or to rebuild for 2017. Memorial Day also leads into arguably the toughest stretch for managing a team, for the run from June 1 to essentially August--when the stretch run starts--is long and slow and often seems tedious. And, that can breed complacency, and that is the worst thing that can happen to an owner with a team on the hunt. But, the weather, busy schedules, vacations, and just everyday tasks can easily distract (sometimes appropriately). So, do stay on top of the transaction line and try to be vigilant making roster moves that keep the at-bats and innings coming as the season rolls on.
As for today, as has been our place for so long, here is our weekly list of players maybe worth a look, and sometimes not, that struck my eye over the past week.
Sometimes it is tough to see a ballplayer who is so good seem to fall off the face of the earth, but in a way that is what has happened to the Twins' Joe Mauer. A three-time batting leader and former MVP, Mauer has not led the league in much of anything save OBP in 2012 (.416) since 2009, almost seven years ago. Since then, injuries and age have slowed the former catcher with his OPS dropping to a career low .718 last year, making Mauer a sort of afterthought to a lot of owners and within a lot of formats. At age 33, it is not realistic to think Mauer would ever regain the prowess that produced the .365-28-96 MVP season, but despite the falling numbers, no question Mauer can still hit and get on base.
Now mostly a first baseman (and DH when not), Mauer has shown some signs that there is indeed life still in his bat, hitting .417-3-6 last week, raising his season numbers to .287-5-17 with a .394 OBP. In an AL-only league, those totals are beyond wonderful. Even in a mixed format, they are pretty good. But, Mauer, showing he still has the eye, makes a good mid-priced DFS gamble on a regular basis not so much for the power, but the default that he stands a good chance of getting on base (much like Ben Zobrist). And, of course, every once in a while, like last week, the stick goes wild. Anyway, if you had dismissed thoughts about Mauer as useful, reconsider, depending upon the situation.
Among the best part of baseball is how each season brings us surprises, and one of the best of 2016 thus far is the Phillies. Projected for the dumpster, the Phils are retooling with some really good youngsters like Tyler Goeddel. A first-round selection of the Rays in 2011, Goeddel assembled a .262-31-244 line over five season in the Tampa organization, moving as high as Double-A where he hit .279-12-72 for Montgomery last year. But, unprotected, Goeddel, still just 23, became what seems to be a slick Rule 5 selection of the Phils, for whom he has hit .270-1-7 over 32 games thus far. In an NL-only league, those are fine contributions for a fifth outfielder, especially spelling Aaron Altherr (wrist injury), who is due back to the team maybe by the break. In the mean time, Goeddel is playing every day and as a Rule 5 guy, he will likely stay with the big club the remainder of the season.
The Dodgers promoted their top pitching prospect, Julio Urias, for what turned out to be a disappointing debut (2.6 innings, five hits, four walks, three runs), but we must remember Urias is still just 19 and was 4-1, 1.10 at Oklahoma City this year over 41 innings, with 44 whiffs and a stellar 0.780 WHIP before the call-up. Give him a little time, and if your league rules allow to grab and stash a player once he has appeared in a big league game, do this with Urias right now.
Toronto got some Bowie-esque "chchchcanges" this week with the return of Devon Travis, and then the loss of Troy Tulowitzki. Toronto stocked up well with subs, and right now, Darwin Barney is hitting .316-2-6, logging a solid .350 OBP. Barney does have just three walks to 15 strikeouts, which suggests a correction. But for now, he should get to play every day, and qualifies at third (six games), second (20 games), and now short (two games), depending upon your league and rules.
Similarly, Cliff Pennington (.217-1-5) is back from the DL and will probably get the starting time at short in the absence of Andrelton Simmons. Again, as we plod into the hot months, keeping as many players as you can active is the only path to victory, and Pennington offers at-bats and some speed potential (80 career swipes). Plus, playing daily often fuels a player's numbers for a spell. Pennington is of use only in the deepest of leagues, but those are indeed the ones where the at-bats are toughest to scrounge, so don't write the Angel off.
Don't look now, but former hottest prospect on earth Jurickson Profar is back! Profar, still just 23, has had the ups-and-downs to make owners--fantasy and those in Texas--crazy with promise and injuries and struggles. But with a solid .277-40-201 minor league line with 57 swipes and 198 walks to 249 whiffs (.364 OBP), maybe the infielder has been down and away just long enough to have become a sleeper? Watch out!
Let's finish with another middle infielder in the Giants' Kelby Tomlinson, a 12th round pick of the Giants in 2011. Tomlinson made his mark with the team last year, supplying a .303-2-20 line spelling the injured Joe Panik. So, Tomlinson made the club this year as a utility player, and that he has been, hitting .339 with four steals over 28 games. But, with the injury to Angel Pagan, Tomlinson has played some outfield--and even earned an assist the other night--meaning he has spent time at second, third, short, and the outfield this season. He makes a great addition, again in a deep format.
Feel free to comment below and don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.
Second chances are indeed a great thing (not to mention third opportunities) and a cluster of players moved into some kind of limelight this past week, trying to recapture previous skill.
Let's start with the two guys--one local, one formerly--I probably know the best with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
The Angels, whose pitching staff looks like a bedraggled collective of refugees from the Battle of Austerlitz, took the big bite and signed former Giant Tim Lincecum to a one-year $2.5 million deal. I have written a lot of times of how much I have seen of Lincecum at a micro level, tracking his pitches over a good 50 games over the years.
No question about how good Lincecum was, but similarly, there is no question that some combination of velocity loss, inability to adjust to hitters not biting on his slider, coupled with what looked like a loss of confidence led to a 4.68 ERA over 614.6 innings since 2011. In 2010, Timmy led the league in strikes, but 2012, he led the league in earned runs and has not scored a WHIP under 1.315 over these past four seasons. I wish I could recommend Lincecum, who was as fun and exciting a pitcher in baseball from 2007-11, but has been among the worst since. Sorry all, just cannot go there.
Similarly, I have thought Cain, still a Giant, had also succumbed to the toil of innings and adjustments and confidence. But it looks like he might have regained some stuff, posting a 1-1, 1.71 record over his last three starts with a 1.095 WHIP and 17 punchouts over 21 innings. Cain's fastball was ringing in at around 92 against the Cubs last Saturday. I still have some concerns with Cain, but he is more than worth a gamble, and is likely available in most leagues and formats thanks to a few mediocre and injury-plagued seasons.
If you ever wondered how ephemeral pitching skills can be, let's look at another Angel, Matt Shoemaker, who was solid for a couple of starts (1-0, 1.38) after his first game this year, then was as bad as can be over his next three starts (0-2, 17.41), prompting a demotion. But Shoemaker has returned in his last pair of outings, going 1-0, 2.19 over his next 12.3 innings. Again, Shoemaker comes with the potential to be clobbered, but he also had a solid 2014-15 with a 24-13, 3.74 over 271.3 frames with 240 whiffs and a 1.146 WHIP, meaning the skills appear to be there.
Another hot arm belongs to Alex Wood of the Dodgers. I have always been a fan of Wood, who really established himself with the Braves in 2014, going 11-11, 2.71, with a 1.141 WHIP over 24 starts and 171.6 innings. Wood struggled a little in 2015, and was then part of the crazy giant Braves/Dodgers/Marlins swap and his 1-3, 4.06 record might look iffy to a lot of owners. However, over his past three starts, the southpaw is 0-0, 1.96 over 18.3 frames, with 27 punchouts and an 0.818 WHIP. The Dodgers are indeed the best team at developing and working with hurlers in my view, and ideally the team might well have unlocked Wood's skills to the next level. Do track the lefty, who makes for a solid fourth or fifth starter on any roto squad and could look good as a cheap DFS gambit before the world notices.
One more under-the-radar hurler has to be the Brewers' Junior Guerra, a 31-year-old Venezuelan signed by the Braves in 2001 who has posted a minor league line of 5-12, 3.72 with the Braves and then Mets until 2008, and then fled to the Mexican and Carribean Leagues along with the American Association until 2015, when the White Sox took a shot and signed the righty. The Brewers claimed Guerra off waivers during the off-season, and over his last two starts, he is 2-0, 2.08 with an 0.923 WHIP and 15 whiffs over 13.3 innings. Guerra is now 3-0, 3.96 and could be another quiet replacement on your roster.
Turning to a few hitters, Jimmy Paredes, who hit .275-10-42 for the Orioles as a utility player last year, began 2016 on the DL with a wrist injury, came off the DL and was promptly released. Paredes signed with the Jays and whacked a homer his first game back, suggesting maybe his wrist is stronger than Baltimore realized. The issue for Paredes is second base will belong to Devon Travis when Travis returns from the DL in the next couple of weeks, and Darwin Barney is hitting .338-2-6 as bench support. Still, Paredes can play all over and in a deep format is worth a look.
The Reds' Adam Duvall just banged his eighth homer over the weekend, pushing his line to .264-8-17, which is pretty good, albeit with a .297 OBP. Duvall strikes out a lot (39 times over 39 games) and does not walk much (just six this year) but the former Giant is showing good pop with a .543 slugging percentage. The right-handed hitter could make a good choice in an NL-only format, and might be a good low end DFS selection depending upon the matchup.
Another guy I had hopes for is Robbie Grossman, still just 26, but now on his fourth team. Drafted by the Bucs in 2008, Grossman has posted a solid .379 OBP as a minor leaguer and a .329 MLB mark to go with .243-12-66 totals over 193 games played for those four squads. Grossman is a switch-hitter, has decent speed (131 minor league swipes) and has to have some good seasons in him once he has a chance to play every day. I am not sure this will happen with the Twins, but do track the outfielder and his playing time.
Please feel free to comment to your heart's content below, and don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.
Well, to start, no, you are not hallucinating, or stuck in one of Stewie Griffin's time machines, but last week I did call "Week 5," and now we are at "Week 7." Since I start the season cycle essentially after the completion of the first week of play, I have always numbered as such, but the reality--per serious discussions between Lord Z and me--is that this is indeed the beginning of the seventh week of play. So, in an effort to mitigate as much confusion as permits, let it be "Week 7," and from there we move forward, henceforth and forever. Or, till the end of the season if I forget.
Last week, I started with the odd paths of Drew Stubbs and Colby Rasmus, noting the hitting anemic Braves must have felt pretty sure of themselves to drop Stubbs on May 2. Texas then signed the flychaser five days later, and five days after that, Stubbs hit a walk-off for the Rangers. Karma. It is a strange and scary thing, especially as related to baseball.
Which is not unlike Michael Bourn, released Monday by the Jays, then signed a couple of days later by Arizona, and now back in the Majors due to the injury to David Peralta. Not that I recommend either of these journeymen, save playing in the deepest of leagues to fill a space with something.
Which brings me to Matt Bush, where I linked to the Wikipedia bio on the former shortstop, felon, and Ranger (does Texas not care who plays for them?). I am not sure if the story merits saying much more than Bush doesn't seem like a stand-up guy--or wasn't in the past--but as a converted pitcher, the 5'9" right-hander has some serious gas. Over 88.6 innings, Bush has 131 strikeouts with just 71 hits allowed (1.174 WHIP). He won't start, and might be a closer some day, given Bush keeps a clean nose, but for now a story--though not sure if "feel good"--about a middle guy who can fill a gap with some whiffs should your team need it. By the way, Bush is already party to controversy, having hit Jose Bautista, which became the prelude to a scrum between Bautista and Rougned Odor.
There is an odd Bush connection in Brandon Guyer, a player I targeted for the week before Bush appeared on my radar. The Rays outfielder has been assembling a fine year, banging a pair of homers off Sonny Gray on Sunday, raising his season totals to .338-4-11 over 71 at-bats. A fifth-round pick of the Cubs in 2007, Guyer has a minor league line of .298-55-297 over 588 games, and .266-16-64 over 265 big league contests. Guyer is 30, so if you grab the outfielder, the relationship might be quick. And, when Guyer played at Durham in 2012, teammate Bush borrowed Guyer's SUV and was involved in an accident that led to 30 months in state prison.
A couple of top prospect hitters were promoted over the past week, starting with the Reds' Jose Peraza. Peraza, a 22-year-old Venezuelan, was originally signed by the Braves in 2010, and then was involved in not one, but two three-team swaps, starting with the complex Mat Latos and Alex Wood deadline deal of last year, then the Todd Frazier swap in December. Peraza was hitting .295-1-8 with six swipes at Louisville when called up, although the infielder/outfielder's tenure might be linked to Billy Hamilton's time on the bereavement list. The reality is the Reds would probably be better off letting Peraza play and develop at the Major League level as he has a much better set of skills than Hamilton, but don't really expect a full-time role for another year.
Similarly, the Yankees promoted catcher Gary Sanchez, another 22-year-old, signed in 2009 by the Pinstripes. A power-hitting backstop, Sanchez has minor league totals of .275-99-394 over 592 games with an .801 OPS. Sanchez had a great Fall League last year, hitting .295-7-21 over 22 games, and the catcher is the future behind the dish in the Bronx, meaning something needs to be done with respect to Brian McCann, signed through 2018 (with a 2019 option). If there is a way to grab either Peraza or Sanchez and hide them on your minor league roster, do so.
Atlanta hurler Mike Foltynewicz has been up and down between the Braves and Gwinnett this year, with his most memorable start being May 2, against the Mets, when the New Yorkers clubbed three second inning homers off the 24-year-old right-hander. Foltynewicz was a first-round selection of the Astros in 2010, and went to the Braves as part of the Evan Gattis swap. If you are desperate for an arm in a deep format, Foltynewicz might make a good sleeper. Since the abuse at the hands of the Metropolitans, the 19th overall pick has gone 1-0, 1.20 over 15 innings with 12 whiffs and a miniscule 0.890 WHIP, holding the Royals and Diamondbacks in check over the past week. Based upon Foltynewicz' rugged 5-8, 5.23 line thus far in the bigs, most owners will be scared off. But, track a player who could even make a great cheap flier in DFS contests.
Back to Tampa, Matt Andriese twirled a two-hit shutout against the Athletics on Saturday, has made two starts thus far, and is 2-0, 0.56, with an 0.562 WHIP and eight strikeouts over 16 innings. The right-hander was a third-round selection of the Padres in 2011, and was then swapped to Tampa Bay as part of the 2014 Jesse Hahn deal, and he has a decent minor league mark of 41-29, 3.27, with 520 strikeouts over 584 innings. Andriese could be helpful in an AL-only format right now, and maybe more, meaning he is worth tracking.
Finally, the Giants are having issues with the bottom part of their rotation, and one of the team's top young arms, Clayton Blackburn, got the call to ATT. A 16th round pick of San Francisco in 2011, Blackburn is 34-24, 3.11 over 550.3 minor league frames, with 527 strikeouts and a 1.145 WHIP. The righty is 11-7, 3.43 over 154.6 minor league innings and has very little left to prove at Triple-A. However, I am not certain Blackburn is the tonic to the struggles of Matt Cain and Jake Peavy. Add him accordingly.
Please feel free to comment below with epiphanies, as you see fit, and don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.
On Monday, the Braves--a team who could surely use some hitting--bagged their investment in Drew Stubbs, and designated him, essentially making the former up-and-comer a free agent. Stubbs signed with the Rangers five days later but the moves reminded me once again about what a tough game--and business--baseball is.
For some reason, I always associated the seemingly talented Stubbs with another talent from the same basic generation in Colby Rasmus. Stubbs, 31, was a first-round pick of the Reds in 2006 (#8 overall) while Rasmus, 29, was a first-rounder taken by the Cardinals in 2006 (#28 overall). Perhaps because both had relative breakout seasons in 2010 is why I linked the pair, for that year Rasmus went .276-23-66-12 while Stubbs was .255-22-77-30.
Now both toil for the Texas teams, and though Rasmus was off to a hot start, his streaky stick has slowed, making him almost as vulnerable on the struggling Astros as is Stubbs, now a minor leaguer with the Rangers. Meaning it is just as tough for the Rangers and Reds and Cards and Astros to get it right as it is for us as fantasy GM's.
It is a tough game, but a little planning can often help, and one player who is interesting to plan around right now would be Evan Gattis. A DH only last year, Gattis hit ,246-27-88 with 20 doubles, but as we well know, he missed the last of spring and early weeks of the season due to hernia surgery.
Gattis has been back for 20 games, hitting a rugged .207-1-7, but, in a move that could prove beyond interesting this past week, the Astros sent their investment to Corpus Christi partially to get into a groove, but mostly so the DH could work on his catching skills. Gattis caught 135 games for the Braves from 2013-14, prior to his swap to Houston, and now the plan is for Gattis to back up Jason Castro. That means if you have Gattis filling your DH slot, you will suddenly have a lot of flexibility, and perhaps three catchers with which to contend. That means a possible trade for what you need, so monitor Gattis' progress, and who in your league needs a catcher, with whom you can deal, and project some possibilities to strengthen your roster.
Looking at one other backstop, the Rockies' Dustin Garneau was a 19th round selection of the Coloradans in 2009, and over parts of eight minor league seasons has a line of .248-64-296 after 529 games. Garneau played a limited role of 22 games (.157-2-8) last year but has returned with a .333-0-2 mark over his first week of play since returning to Coors. Catchers come into their own later than other position players as a rule, and Garneau might make an interesting cheap FAAB pick in a deep NL format.
Turning to a couple of more hot new arms, I have to say I hate to endorse another Rockie, Jon Gray, Colorado's #1 selection in 2013, mostly because of his home park. Gray has pretty good minor league totals of 20-12, 3.76, with 285 whiffs over 284.6 frames, but until last week, his life at Coors was beyond miserable. However, over two starts last week, Gray is 0-1, with 16 strikeouts over 13 innings to go with a 1.38 ERA and 0.651 WHIP. Both starts were outside hitting friendly Coors, but those are some deadly numbers, making Gray a streaming possibility, as well as a potential DFS gamble when he throws in a pitcher's park.
Another intriguing arm, that which belongs to John Lamb, might also be coming into its own. A fifth-rounder of the Royals in 2008, Lamb was part of the Johnny Cueto spoils the Reds culled last year at the deadline. The southpaw struggled over 10 starts after the trade, notching a 1-5, 5.80 mark over 49.6 innings, albeit with 58 strikeouts. Lamb started this season in the Minors but made his debut last week, holding the Giants to six hits and a run. Before nabbing the pitcher, do check out his injury status, for Lamb was lifted in the fifth inning of his start against the Brewers on Mother's Day. Otherwise, in most formats, Lamb is worthy of a roster spot depending upon your league format.
Boston is close to inserting Eduardo Rodriguez back into the rotation. Rodriguez, who went 10-6, 3.85 last year over 121 frames at Fenway, has been sidelined by a knee injury incurred over the spring. The lefty tossed 93 pitches for Pawtucket last week and might make one more start there before returning to Boston, although management could decide the hurler is ready now. Either way, if available, keep an eye on the Red Sox pitcher.
With Mike Moustakas injured, the Royals advanced Cheslor Cuthbert, a 23-year-old Nicaraguan signed in 2009. Cuthbert came up last year under similar circumstances but was overmatched, posting a .217-1-8 line over 19 games. This year, however, he has posted a .333-7-28 mark at Omaha with 12 walks to 14 strikeouts, Cuthbert could be ready for the Majors. Certainly, stash him in your AL-only league and do watch his progress in every other format.
Finally, the Dodgers seem as deep in outfielders as they do pitchers, but just as the team's hurlers get hurt, so do the flychasers seem brittle. Enter Trayce Thompson, acquired as part of the three-way White Sox-Reds-Dodgers deal of last season, who hit .260-13-39 over 106 games at Charlotte last year before the swap. Thompson has been with the big club all year, hitting .268-2-9 over 56 at-bats although with just three walks to 19 strikeouts. Meaning it is hard to endorse Thompson, but if your league is deep, sometimes the hand of an owner is forced.
Make sure you comment below as moved, and remember, you can indeed find me @lawrmichaels.
Hot on the heels of some top prospect pitchers being promoted to the Show last week, this past week was no different with another cluster of potentially awesome young arms arriving to ideally take a spot in baseball stats and lore.
Of course the local buzz was that of Sean Manaea, the Royals' first-round selection in 2013 out of Indiana State, whom the Royals swapped at the trade deadline last July to Oakland as part of the Ben Zobrist deal. With a 16-9, 2.82 minor league record (257 K over 214 IP), Oakland was clear that Eric Surkamp and Chris Bassitt (now injured) were not the answer to the bottom of their rotation, so the Athletics gave their top pitching prospect the ball Friday. The results were iffy: four runs, four hits, four walks, three whiffs, but not unlike Manaea. I say this in that I saw him pitch both at the Fall League, and then again this spring, where the big right-hander (6'5", 245 lbs.) would take a hitter or two to lock into a zone, and then be fine. As in during the spring, Manaea walked a batter, then whiffed the next four in a row and got six out more than efficiently. Obviously, Oakland is a good pitcher's park and for sure, times have changed with respect to grabbing rookie twirlers. Manaea does have a pedigree, if nothing else.
Detroit nabbed 23-year-old hurler Michael Fulmer in much the same way that Oakland copped Manaea: The Mets drafted Fulmer in the first round in 2011, and then swapped him to the Tigers as part of the Yoenis Cespedes trade, again at the trade deadline last season.
Fulmer has started 78 games over his six years as a minor league professional, accumulating a mark of 27-25, 3.21, with 385 strikeouts over 398 innings to accompany a 1.261 WHIP. Fulmer had a better debut than Manaea, earning a win with five innings (seven hits, two runs, four whiffs). Fulmer might have an easier initial adjustment to the Majors, but Manaea looks to be a better prospect.
Another arm that garnered looks this past week belongs to Adam Conley, who went 7 2/3 frames against the Brewers on Friday. Conley did not allow a hit, but he did walk four, and finally succumbed to a pitch count of 116. A second-round selection of the Marlins in 2011, the Southpaw turned in 81 starts over 439.6 innings, with 397 strikeouts and a 1.251 ratio. Conley debuted last year for the Fish, posting a more than respectable 4-1, 3.76 mark over 11 starts and 67 innings, with a good 59 strikeouts, acceptable 1.281 WHIP, and worth considering seven dingers. Conley, now 26, has seemingly stepped up his game this year with a 1-1, 3.67 record over five starts and 27 innings with 29 punchouts. He makes a decent gamble in an NL-only format and is worth tracking in anything mixed.
OK, there is even one more starting arm out there in 22-year-old Jose Berrios, the Twins flame thrower who fanned 484 over 457.3 minor league innings after being a first-round selection in 2012 out of Papa Juan High School in Puerto Rico. The slender (6', 185 lbs.) righty chalked up 38 wins to 20 losses, with a 2.91 ERA prior to his promotion before taking some lumps with his first start Wednesday when the Tribe roughed him up for five runs, six hits, and a pair of walks, and it could be that Berrios is up before his time. However, the Twins, who are scrambling right now, could well choose to keep Berrios, who was 8-3 over 16 starts and 97 innings at Triple-A, meaning the next level is The Show. Berrios could well be the most talented of all these arms, so the issue is whether he has the skills and personality to grow at the highest level. But, if I were to pick one of the four, Berrios would be the guy.
With Huston Street broken, Joe Smith appears to be the heir apparent to saves for the Angels, at least until Street is back on the street, or gives a reason to turn to Cam Bedrosian. Smith earned 15 saves with the Halos in 2014, and five more last year, making him as safe a bet as there is. Do watch out for Bedrock II, who bagged 29 saves in the Minors.
Turning to some hitters, I like Mallex Smith, the fifth-round selection of the Padres in 2012 who went to the Braves as part of the 2014 Justin Upton swap. Over five minor league seasons, Smith assembled a .295-12-108 line, although with 226 steals and 296 runs over 337 games. Smith managed a decent 190 walks to 300 whiffs (.380 OBP) in the Minors, and surely, at .188-0-7, on a sorry Braves team, things might be bleak for a spell. But, do keep an eye on the speedy centerfielder, for learning with a team like this is a lot different than say the pressure on Fulmer, who is trying to find a niche on a team that is contending.
I am not sure if it is worth the mention, but I have long been a fan of Brett Wallace, who has stumbled around the Orioles, Jays, Athletics, and Astros organizations before landing with the Padres. To be sure, Wallace was a first-round pick of the Cardinals out of Arizona State in 2008 with a minor league line of .304-99-373 with an .858 OPS and .377 OBP over 650 minor league games. However, the talent just never seemed to move to the big leagues with a .246-34-121 line over 390 contests at the highest level. Wallace will be 30 in August, and I have no idea why the third sacker has caught my eye, other than I always imagined him performing better, and he is starting at third for the Pads (hitting .174-0-3 over 15 games). Call me a patron saint of lost causes (actually that would be St. Jude), but keep an eye on Wallace in an NL-only format, at least till the break (if he can manage to stay in the Majors that much longer). There has to either be a hot streak or his stepping up to his skill set at some point.
Toronto will likely not miss the suspension of Chris Colabello nearly as much as the Marlins will miss Dee Gordon, but Derek Dietrich, with his .278-2-8 line, looks like the man. Dietrich, who qualifies at all the infield spots and played 26 games in the outfield last year, sports a .237-26-72 line over 214 games. Dietrich is getting playing time, but if his stick cannot deliver, Martin Prado can indeed play second. The Fish also have Chris Johnson, who hit .286-3-18 over 83 games split between the Braves and Indians last year. Johnson could sneak into the hot corner and move Prado, so check out the playing time there, as well.
If you are playing DFS anywhere, make sure you check out Lord Zola's daily projections.
And, don't forget, you can always hit me up @lawrmichaels.