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Sunday 29th May 2016

Over the past month, I have been working around the diamond. Today, let's finish up with some backstops who are ideally a little below the antennae of your league.

In the end, unless you anticipate going Buster Posey high-end, or even mid range with Jonathan Lucroy or Brian McCann, the other path is the crapshoot catchers. Let's take a look at some of these potential bargains.

Let's start in Miami with J.T. Realmuto, perhaps the most obscure of the guys I like simply because he plays for the Fish and registered just a .290 OBP his first full season starting. Never mind that catchers are almost always slower than their position counterparts when it comes to developing as hitters, for Realmuto had a decent .335 OBP in the Minors, and as a backstop, he should have some improved zone judgement. But, a .259-10-47 line with eight swipes looks like a bargain catcher and I think Realmuto will improve accordingly.

Travis d'Arnaud is sort of the opposite of Realmuto, a guy we all know from the postseason who registered a .268-12-41 line over 202 fewer at-bats. d'Arnaud will cost you as a rising prospect, but his .290-76-332 minor league marks screams for attention. He has the brightest future of the bunch, in my opinion.

Tyler Flowers is probably on everyone's radar thanks to his two-year free agent deal with the Braves. But again, on-base numbers might well keep the backstop, who will be 30 on Opening Day, in the background. Flowers has 46 career homers, largely pulled over the last three seasons, but just a .289 (93 walks to 464 whiffs) OBP, something of concern. This number, however, is 100 points below the .391 OBP that Flowers posted in the Minors (324 BB to 519 K), and as an everyday free agent catcher, I expect Flowers to settle in as a vet and kick his totals up.

The Bucs' Francisco Cervelli has hardly been a secret, as his hitting line was always pretty good (.278-9-72 over 255 games) with the Yankees, but the catcher stepped nicely into a full-time role in Pittsburgh last year, hitting .295-7-43. Cervelli almost defines cheap catcher who will not really hurt you. The thing is, he could get better.

Back to the guys with an upward curve ahead, the Tigers will give James McCann a shot at starting in 2016, and he is yet another on this list with decent 2015 production (.264-7-41) but an anemic on-base line of .296 (16 walks to 90 strikeouts). McCann is a free swinger, but on the heavy hitting Detroit team, there is a good chance he gets better pitches to look at, and that points to improvement all around. Cheap, he will likely be, but likely effective.

Finally, the path is similarly clear for Cameron Rupp, who filled in behind Carlos Ruiz last year to the tune of .233-9-28 over 81 games. The Phils are indeed a work in progress which kind of diminishes Rupp's value along with his lack of experience. But, someone has to play, and actually Cameron's on-base total of .301 last year beats just about everyone on this list.

Happy Monday, as we push towards the holiday season with a very active Hot Stove.

There have been a lot of Major League machinations thus far, but since we have been looking at some under-the-radar players at various key spots, this week we will focus on corner infielders, finishing with backstops next week.

Corner infield is theoretically a low-rent version of your corner players, where in general looking for a .265-14-55 line in a deeper league, for $8 or so at auction time, or near round 18 or so in your draft is a pretty good baseline. But, corner is not so much a slot for the up-and-comers it seems, like outfield, or pitcher, or even middle infield. 

So, who are some of the guys I am thinking of as some cheaper sources of runs and power? Well, let's start with 32-year-old journeyman Chris Colabello, acquired by the Jays off waivers when the Twins let the first baseman/outfielder go. Colabello responded to his new environment with a .321-15-54 line, hitting a couple of my baselines pretty much on the nose, but exceeding the average line by 56 points. With 22 walks to 93 whiffs (.367 OBP), I would expect a correction in average, but with 375 or so at-bats (360 last year), Colabello should give you what you need. Be careful, though, not to overbid or be blinded by the .321 number.

Justin Bour, 27, was drafted by the Cubs in 2009, then plucked as a Rule 5 pick by the Fish in 2014 where he sat on the roster for the year with a somewhat ignominious .284-1-11 mark over 39 games. But, the chunky (6'4", 250 pounds) left-handed hitter is sort of the prototype big league slugger. And, if you have questions about this, his .263-23-73 numbers from last year sort of prove this point. Bour is good enough to make a roster, but probably not good enough to own the first base slot unless your league is deep beyond all belief. Like Colabello, the Achilles heel is 34 walks to 101 strikeouts.

I have written about the Yankees' Greg Bird already this off-season. The 23-year-old is clearly the baby here, and he has similarly the brightest future following his call-up and fine .261-11-31 numbers over 46 games last year. The issue for Bird, however, is where does he play with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez on board? I will confess I am not sure, but I do think barring a spring meltdown that Bird winds up with at least as many at-bats as one of the seniors he is trying to displace. Take advantage of the lower slot because I think Bird will be really good once he is a full-timer.

The Rangers' Mitch Moreland has hit the Saberhagen-metric path, going .232-23-60 in 2013, .246-2-23 in 2014 (though injury-filled), and then rebounding last year with a solid .278-23-85 line. Actually, Moreland's ups and downs predate 2013, but he clearly has 20-homer pop, and the 30-year-old, because his numbers and seasons can be erratic, tends to be dismissed. Don't let that make you afraid. Moreland is generally the kind of guy who won't hurt you too much.

I have been a big fan of the Tigers' Nick Castellanos, Detroit's first-rounder in 2010 who turns 24 just prior to Opening Day. Though the third sacker did improve his totals slightly (.255-15-73), Castellanos' second half line of .269-9-35 was a nice improvement over his 2015 first half. This is Castellanos' third full season, so though I am as always cautious of his strike zone judgment (his OBP at .302 is a little disconcerting), I am willing to take a chance as Nick goes into his third full season. That is usually make or break time.

Jake Lamb was drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2012, and then hit .321-37-195 over 247 minor league games befor being called up. Lamb is a little rough around the edges still, but his .263-6-34 mark over 107 games makes the third sacker a prime candidate to pick it up with the re-tooled Arizonans. With 131 minor league walks to 230 strikeouts (36 to 97 at Chase last year), Lamb might boast the best eye, and thus possibilities among this crowd.

Alas, we are in the throes of the industry mock season. That means those of us who write about baseball hither and yon in real and virtual print are multi-drafting; that is drafting in several mocks at the same time.

That tells me some players the insiders are looking to now in those mocks when the real bullet hits the draft bone in March. So, since we have already reviewed some starting pitchers, and outfielders, let's continue the trend and take a peek at the middle-infielders who have mock props (or in some instances, those who were overlooked).

Rob Refsnyder: I have been carrying the Yankees prospect on a couple of teams since 2013, when he posted a .293-6-57 mark with 23 swipes and a .413 OBP (84 walks to 82 strikeouts). As a minor leaguer Refsnyder logged a .290-33-198 line over 433 games, with 55 steals, 245 runs, and a .380 OBP. The second sacker then put together a .302-2-5 mark after a call-up, and looks to be the man at second in the Bronx.

Eduardo Escobar: I got Escobar as a trade throw-in in Strat-O-Matic three years ago, and I got a .275-6-37 line with the infielder playing all over the diamond. With Danny Santana, et al, Escobar was reduced to a utility role in 2015, but Santana's failure spelled opportunity, and Escobar came through with a .262-12-58 contribution over 127 games, playing 71 at short, 36 in the outfield, and five at third. For a 12-team mixed format, Escobar is at best a reserve pick at this point, but in an AL only format or deeper contest he is more than worth the minor anticipated investment.

Corey Seager: Last year the Dodgers had Joc Pederson, this year they have Seager, who went in the seventh round of the MLB.com mock curated by our mate Zach Steinhorn. Seager was the Dodgers #1 pick (18 overall) in 2012, and basically quieted any doubters with a .337-4-17 line after his call-up. He should be good, but, Seager will not be devalued like some others on this list.

Ketel Marte: Probable middle guy for the Mariners, Marte put in 51 games at short (plus a handful in the outfield and at second) debuting at Safeco as a 21-year old. Marte went a solid .283-2-17 with eight steals and a solid .351 OBP (24 walks to 43 whiffs) over 247 plate appearances. In the minors, Marte scored 284 runs and ran a .293 average with 100 swipes in the minors.

Rougned Odor: Who out there thought two years ago that Odor would shoot past Jurickson Profar? Well, the Venezuelian who turns 22 in February, certainly did, posting a .261-16-61 record for the Rangers last year. It would be nice if Odor showed an improved eye (40 walks to 150 strikeouts as a Major Leaguer) but, with 79 whiffs last year, he does make good enough contact. Either way, the best is likely ahead.

Dustin Pedroia: Taken in the ninth round of one mock, after Devon Travis and Odor, at 32, with diminishing totals and health issues the past couple of seasons, Dped seems to have lost a bit of luster as compared to the new new thing. Pedroia still hit .291-12-42 over 93 games, so he can clearly still hit his lasers, but, with the newer shiny players, the Red Sox keystone man could be undervalued. And, if the Sox give him 140 starts to keep him healthy, well, the numbers should be just fine.

 

 

Last week, we looked at some hurlers who have been receiving high mock marks as a result of the first exhibition drafts of the year. This time, we will not just look at hitters, but outfielders since there is such a complement of good young flychasers who raised eyebrows in 2015.

Stephen Piscotty (Cardinals): Drafted out of Stanford in 2012 in the first round, Piscotty was a crusher at Memphis last year (.272-11-41) before moving to the new Busch and hammering out a .305-7-31 line over 63 games. Primarily a right fielder, Piscotty could see time at first against lefties if Matt Adams cannot get the hang.

Randal Grichuk (Cardinals): Drafted #1 by the Angels in 2009, Grichuk was then swapped as part of the David Freese deal. He is probably destined to stay in the outfield, as he did last year over 103 games where he posted a .276-17-47 mark. It is true the Cubs set the line for hot young players, but their long-time rivals are not far behind.

Michael Conforto (Mets): The Mets #1 pick in 2014 shot through the Minors (.308-15-73) for 133 games and then fell into the lap of the charmed 2015 Metropolitans. Conforto supplied .270-9-26 numbers over 56 games, posting an .841 OPS. 

Kevin Pillar (Blue Jays): At 26, longer in the tooth and experience than the rest of his mates on today's list, Pillar stepped into a full-time role with Toronto last year, playing 159 games and hitting .278-12-56 with 31 doubles and 25 swipes. Pillar should settle in atop the Jays lineup and enjoy being knocked in by Josh Donaldson and company.

Ender Inciarte (D-backs): Maybe lost a bit under the emergence of A.J. Pollock, Inciarte stole 19 and hit .278 as a rookie in 2014. He then stepped it up last year as a full-timer, hitting .303-6-45 with 21 swipes over 132 games, banging out 159 hits. Project him to 162 games with that line and he is close to 200 hits, and that is good.

Michael Taylor (Nationals): A sixth-round high school pick of the Nats in 2009, it took Taylor awhile to work up the system, and strikeouts (178 to 35 walks over 155 MLB games) are his bane. But, he has speed (16 steals) and pop (14 homers) and in these days of whiff/homer feast and famine in the Majors, Taylor makes as good a power gamble as there is. The worst is he becomes Chris Carter, which doesn't seem so bad in context.

Over the next few weeks, Mastersball will be making some changes. We are indeed giving the site an upgrade/re-design, and we are indeed pushing out towards a lot more daily support for a number of sports and games in addition to the stalwart columns that have been supporting your season-long play for 20-plus years.

That means the Hotpage will be grabbing the Monday slot back, looking at some players and movement with short pieces leading up to Spring Training. Of course, we will have our Top 250 Prospect List coming out before year's end, along with looks at the Rule 5 picks and the winter meetings, but this time, let's look at some pitchers to keep on your radar as our minds gear towards 2016 and our teams. 

Daniel Norris (22, Tigers): The Jays #2 selection in 2011, Norris spent time with Toronto (1-1, 3.86 over 23.3 frames) last year along with 90.3 frames at Buffalo (3-10, 4.27) before being swapped to Detroit as part of the trade deadline deal that brought David Price to Rogers Centre. Norris then tossed 36.6 innings for the Tigers, going 2-1, 3.68. However, his strikeout-to-walk rate improved nicely, going from 1.50 to 3.68 with Detroit. 

Aaron Nola (22, Phillies): The 7th overall selection in 2014 shot through the minors afte being drafted from LSU, going 14-7, 3.58 over 164.6 minor league innings before a call-up and 77.6 innings which produced a fine 6-2, 3.59 record with a 1.197 WHIP. Nola is not so overpowering (205 strikeouts over 242.6 professional innings), but he does appear to understand how to pitch at an advanced level relative to his age.

Carlos Carrasco (28, Indians): Older, and clearly the best known--and probably most frustratingly tried--among this list, Carrasco seemed to have turned a corner the second half of last year. After a decent first half of 10-7, 4.08 over 108.3 innings, Carrasco turned it up, going 4-5, 2.99 over 75.3 innings, and posting an 0.903 WHIP. He has arrived. Finally! We hope?

Raisel Iglesias (26, Reds): The Cuban import adjusted to American life in the midwest with a 3-7, 4.15 record over 95.3 innings, with 104 strikeouts to 28 walks (1.143 WHIP). The Reds are 2016's Mets, with a cluster of fine pitchers ready to emerge on the scene, and Iglesias will be at the core.

Tyler Glasnow (22, Pirates): The Bucs #5 selection in 2011, Glasnow blasted through three levels of minor league ball in 2015, going from Low-A to Triple-A while logging a 7-5, 2.39 record over 109.3 innings and 22 starts, striking out 136 while allowing just three homers. Glasnow might not make the big club out of camp, but he is definitely among the next generation of arms to watch.

Jerad Eickhoff (25, Phillies): A more obscure selection by the Rangers, in round 15 of the 2011 draft out of Olney Central College, Eickhoff was part of the Philadelphia bounty as a result of the Cole Hamels deal. Eickhoff went right into the rotation and logged 3-3, 2.65 totals over 51 innings with 49 punchouts. Eickhoff whiffed 475 over 578.3 minor league innings, posting a 1.221 WHIP in the process.

(Note that Extra Points will appear tomorrow.)

One of the things I like about the Arizona Fall League is that though I might track the stats of players, I don't really want to know that much about who is playing or their skill set until I see the prospects play.

The reason is at this point I have been watching baseball long enough to be able to tell what kind of jump an outfielder gets, or how the ball sounds and looks when it jumps off the bat, or whether a player stretching a base looks like an athlete. I do remember seeing Andrew McCutchen and Andre Ethier and thinking they looked like their physical skills were just a little better than most of the other players in the AFL, just like I remember thinking that John Mayberry Jr. looked like a ballplayer, but his swing was much too big for him to be really successful at the Show. (I am guessing that if you are reading this, you too really can see the same stuff, whether you realize it or not.)

The problem with the Fall League for me over the past few years is that not that many players have caught my eye as such. Still, here I am, so I will write about the players I did see who at least caught my eye for one reason or another. The numbers in parenthesis are the player's AFL stats.

Hunter Wood (LHP, Rays): Wood had a nice compact delivery and delivered what looked like a pretty good fastball over the one and two-thirds frames he hurled, allowing a run, but whiffing three. Wood did have an 11.37 ERA in the fall, but I liked how he delivered the ball, and that is the first thing I was looking at. Wood saved four and whiffed 113 over 106.3 frames at two levels in 2015. (0-1, 11.37, 6.1 IP)

Chad Pinder (SS, Athletics): A big (6'2", 190 lbs.) middle infielder who was the A's second-round pick in 2013, Pinder showed a good glove and banged a couple of hits and walked during the Rising Stars game. Pinder hit .317-15-86 at Midland this year. (.314-4-9, 35 AB)

Sean Manaea (LHP, Athletics): Part of the spoils Oakland received from the Royals in the Ben Zobrist swap, Manaea is tall (6'5", 235 lbs.) and was Kansas City's first-round pick in 2013. He has 236 whiffs over 196 minor league frames and started the Rising Stars game, allowing a walk while whiffing four over two innings of work. (0-2, 5.63, 16 IP)

Gary Sanchez (C, Yankees): Probably my favorite player that I saw, Sanchez is a 230-pound backstop who actually stole a base while Nick Travieso was simply not watching, and then scored from second base when Dustin Fowler doubled and there was no cut-off man. The reality is Sanchez was a very slow runner, and he had no right to really complete either of these feats, but there he was chugging along. Sanchez also popped a homer in the Rising Stars game. He hit .274-18-62 over two minor league levels this season and is probably not a starter over the long haul but I still liked his game. (.328-6-17, 64 AB)

Adam Walker (OF, Twins): Another big (6'5", 230 lbs.) guy, Walker has a big swing, as witnessed by the .239-31-106 line he produced at Chattanooga. But, the third-round pick in 2012 whiffed 195 times and produced just a .309 OBP. Walker whiffed twice during the Rising Stars game. (.306-4-14, 49 AB)

Austin Meadows (OF, Pirates): Pittsburgh's first-round pick (#9 overall) in 2013, Meadows clobbered a pinch-hit two-run bomb during the Rising Stars game. He hit .321-7-55 with 21 swipes at a couple of levels in the Bucs system this season, and he looked like a player, so track the flychaser. (.158-1-9, 57 AB)

Jurickson Profar (2B, Rangers): I am finishing with a couple of guys who were top prospects and then got hurt, waylaying our whetted appetites. Profar looked unconvincing over a half-dozen at-bats after hitting .256-1-6 over 12 games when returning to play. A lot could be a product of the almost two-year layoff, but for now, Profar needs to do something to prove himself worthy of a reserve slot in an ultra league. (.238-1-11, 42 AB)

Dylan Bundy (RHP, Orioles): Another promising yet injured youngster, Bundy looked fine over the two innings he twirled, but like Profar, he had limited work this season, going 0-3, 3.68 over eight starts and 22 frames (25 whiffs) at Bowie. I want to believe, but I want Bundy to be healthy for at least a year, first. (1-1, 4.50, 2 IP)

Here we are at the end of another season of fantasy and roto and simulated baseball games, and while last week I noted a few players that I think are worthy of shying away from, this week I want to discuss some guys I am already targeting going into 2016.

I have to say that in a way, it was as tough this week as last. While I was truly having trouble identifying players who made me nervous after their 2015 performance, there are so many players who debuted and established themselves this year that it is tough to isolate whether I really think Kris Bryant or Miguel Sano or Maikel Franco is the best future third base option.

I do think it is important to remember that baseball is a tough grind, and chances are half the prospects who delighted us this season will struggle and many will drop from sight a la Jeremy Hermida; however, that means half will give solid productive careers, and some will indeed emerge as stars.

So, this time, I will look at the guys I think might have either emerged with some staying power, as well as some vets who we tend to dismiss but put up great solid quiet numbers that make them potential cheap bargains next spring.

I am going to start with perhaps my favorite of this cluster with the Mets shortstop, Venezuelan Wilmer Flores, who is just completing his first season as a starter, posting a .264-16-59 line over 469 at-bats. Flores, who just turned 24 in early August, has no speed and his OBP (.298 this year) is low, but he makes contact, with just 61 strikeouts (19 walks) and did have a .334 minor league on-base total. Along with some of his young Mets mates, Flores looks good to me!

I guess I have to mention at least one Cubs hitter, and if I do, Kyle Schwarber is the man. I liked him from the moment I saw his first at-bat last spring (he hit a grand slam off the Giants), Theo Epstein's #1 choice in 2014 hit .344-18-53 over 72 minor league games last year, blasting through all the A-ball levels. 75 games this year split between Double-A and Triple-A resulted in a .323-16-49 line, meaning a .333-34-102 minor league total over 147 games. So he comes to Wrigley and hits .242-16-42 as a 22-year-old with an .872 OPS. In a lot of leagues, Schwarber goes into next year as a catcher, and if there was one hitter I would target to grab for next season, he would be the man.

I still kick myself that I did not pay more spring attention to the Giants' Matt Duffy. I clearly remember at least two games and at-bats where he looked good, but since the Giants had signed Casey McGehee (though I did wonder why they did that), I just figured Duffy was not worth putting on a "this year's watch list."  Oops. Just an 18th round pick in 2012, he hit .304-13-135 over 248 minor league games, but after making the big team out of spring, he siezed the opportunity granted to him by a McGehee slump, posting a .301-10-71 line. Like Flores, Duffy does not walk a lot (just 28) but similarly he makes good contact (just 85 whiffs), sporting a .342 OBP and .772 slugging line. I like the guy. He is a gamer.

Wanna get how fast time flies, and how we get old really fast without realizing it? Well, do you realize this is Eric Hosmer's fifth season as the Royals' starting first sacker? Hosmer has pretty much duplicated his fine 2013 line this year, hitting .302-15-85 with a career high .365 OBP. Hosmer is still just 25, his team is not just great, but young and improving (like Hosmer himself) and going into his peak years, I suspect the first sacker will up his game to .290-25-90 or so next year. And, because we had high expectations, his price tag probably won't be that high.

Would you rather have Billy Burns and his .297-4-36 line with 36 steals and 66 runs over 114 games, or Billy Hamilton and his .228-4-26 line with 57 steals and 56 runs, also over 114 games this year? I know who I want, and I will also want him next year, and he lives on my side of the Continenal Divide.

I got Eduardo Escobar for a buck in Tout Wars and as a throw-in in my Strat-O-Matic league a couple of years back, and, well, if you play in a deep league, he is the perfect cheap guy. Over 111 games this year, Escobar has a .263-11-51 line, upping last year's .275-6-37 production, while qualifying at outfield, shortstop and even second and third in some leagues. Escobar will be 27 next Opening Day, and I am thinking at Tout 2016 I still won't have to spend more than a couple of bucks.

Nick Markakis is sort of a National League hybrid of what I wrote about for Escobar and also Hosmer. When Markakis came up ten years ago and posted a .300-23-112 line in 2007, the sky was the limit. Markakis was consistent since with the Orioles, but his power and luster wore off such that in 2015 the outfielder signed as a free agent with Atlanta following a .276-14-50 mark in 2014. Markakis is still looking for some power, but he likes hitting in Atlanta, going .298-2-49 with a .376 OBP and 67 runs scored. Markakis will be 32 going into next season, and while his power might not return, give me a team with half-a-dozen hitters like him for $6 or so, and I will use the rest of my money to kick anyone's butt in just about any league. 

If you are wondering just what the Reds are doing, they will be really good in a year or so and that will be much like the Mets rise this year, with some killer starting pitching that will include newly acquired John Lamb and Brandon Finnegan and two kids I love, Anthony DeSclafani and in particular, Raisel Iglesias. The 25-year-old Cuban is just 3-7, 4.15 over the course of this season, but over the second half, he has acclimated well, going 2-5, 3.39 with 77 whiffs over 66.6 frames, posting a 0.988 WHIP. These guys will be good, and I am not even thinking about Michael Lorenzen or Tony Cingrani or Keyvius Sampson.

DFS Watch: OK, Mastersball is dedicated to covering the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest (you play against all the Touts every Tuesday at the Tout Wars Challenge), so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitching to Watch: Anyone notice Tyler Duffey, the Twins' newest potentilly big time pitcher? Well, Duffey went 2-0 last week with a 0.67 ERA and an 0.988 WHIP along with 14 whiffs over 13.3 innings. He will likely get a start against the Tigers later this week and with the season winding down, he makes for a great cheap play.

Hitting to Watch: Billy Butler's 2015 with Oakland has been a disappointment (.252-13-62) but over the last month, "Country Breakfast" (as he is known in the bay area) has hit .338-4-14, pushing his numbers back up where we would expect. Again, a veteran hitter facing some young pitchers going into the last push makes me want to favor hitters like Butler.

Starting next week, Extra Points will be moved up to Mondays while the Hotpage goes on the winter schedule, which is the second Monday of each month until mid-February, when we go back to weekly.

Don't forget you can follow me @lawrmichaels.

As we wind down the 2015 season, I always like to finish off with two lists (because we all love lists, don't we?).

The first is players whom I am shying away from in the coming season, and this week I will touch on them. But, as I reviewed my lists and stats and players, I was surprised to see how few players there were who made me nervous. A good example is Yunel Escobar, the Nationals third sacker who is hitting .321-9-46, surprisingly hot for a hitter who has been a steady, but hardly overambitious fantasy player over the past decade. However, Escobar has had some fine years (.299-14-76 in 2009) but was never really a double-digit cost factor. In fact, this year, in NL LABR, Eric Karabell paid a reasonable $9 for Escobar, so it isn't like any owners had unreasonable expectations, and I would suspect Escobar's 2016 price tag will be right around the same. 

So, who do I think might have a gap next year between dollar value and actual production? Well, I hate to feel like I am ragging on a player but I just don't see the success of Taylor Jungmann continuing.

Jungmann has comported himself beyond belief since his call-up, going 9-6, 3.05 over 116.3 innings with a 1.193 WHIP, light years beyond his minor league 4.05 ERA and 1.358 WHIP across 505.3 frames. Over his last two starts for the Brewers, Jungmann is 0-1, 9.31 in 9.6 innings, so I believe the correction has already begun. I would trade him before the season began if I owned Jungmann in a keeper league, and let another owner take the risk next season. And I promise to either admit I was wrong if Jungmann wins 12 games next year, or not say "I told you so" if there is a meltdown.

At 28, Gerardo Parra is going into his prime years and he certainly has had a prime season, going .295-14-45 with 11 steals and 76 runs scored. Parra has flirted with such a line before, going .292-8-46 over a similar complement of games in 2011 for Arizona, but that is the apex of his skill set and I would both not expect Parra to ever top that and then figure he will settle back next year to the .273-7-36 he hit in 2012. He is .196-0-4 over the past couple of weeks, by the way.

This is a hard one to wrirte, but Jeff Samardzija has regressed. The wildness that plagued the Shark early in his career has returned such that over his last four starts, he is 1-3, 6.66 (now there is the anti-ERA, no?) with a 1.684 WHIP and his season totals are now 9-12, 4.89, with a 1.303 WHIP. If he goes for $12 in an auction next year, I would consider that a gamble, not a bargain at this point.

No one loved the ascent of the Giants' Chris Heston more than me. I actually picked Heston up as a reserve player in NL LABR and he was obviously a free boost to my team and his 11-10, 3.55 season with a 1.265 WHIP has been great. But, Heston is not overpowering, with 120 whiffs over 159.6 innings and his recent ineffectiveness prompted a demotion to Triple-A Fresno. Heston is back, but over his last three starts, he is 0-3, 5.79 with a 1.786 WHIP and like Jungmann, I fear the league has caught up with the San Franciscan. I do like him better than Jungmann, however, as a gamble next year, but sadly, that is not a ringing endorsement.

So, let's change our focus to some of the DFS picks who might be fun in the coming week. The Cubs are so full of great prospects, we all know, but how about journeyman Chris Coghlan, who has been smoking hot the past week, going .400-1-4, playing all six games, and hitting safely in eight of his last ten games with 13 hits (.342), 11 runs, and five knocks. Coghlan qualifies at first, second, third, and the outfield (left and right), depending upon rules, and could be a fun and cheap DFS play.

Anthony DeSclafani has been a trooper, logging 169 innings. DeSclafani was originally drafted by the Jays, then traded to the Fish, and hit the Reds by virtue of the Mat Latos swap last year. He was knocked around at first--kind of the opposite of Jungmann--but has really got it together the last months, dropping his ERA to 3.67 and his WHIP to 1.314 for the season, and over his last four starts, the righty is 2-1, 2.08, with an 0.962 WHIP and 29 strikeouts over 26 innings. 

DeSclafani's AL counterpart might be Roenis Elias, who has a 5-8, 4.07 mark for the year over 101.6 innings, but the Mariner has been hot over his last three starts, going 1-1, 3.38, with a 1.250 WHIP and 18 whiffs over 16 innings. Elias pitches in a nice environment for hurlers and is also a potential cheap DFS play, depending upon the match-up.

DFS Watch: OK, Mastersball is dedicated to covering the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest (you play against all the Touts every Tuesday at the Tout Wars Challenge), so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitching to Watch: We are talking about tonight but I have to take Clayton Kershaw at home against the Rockies and Jon Gray. Kershaw by himself can deliver enough points (in the 20-25 range) on a regular basis that you can live with the likes of Jordy Mercer filling up the cheap gaps. Kershaw takes on the tougher Pirates over the weekend but again it is at Dodger Stadium, and Kershaw is so good this time of year, it is hard to ignore him.

Hitting to Watch: Boston and Toronto get it on at Rogers this coming weekend, and that could be a fun series to stack some hitters, especially this coming Saturday when Rick Porcello (5.06 ERA) faces Marcus Stroman (5.40 ERA). True, Porcello pitched well his last start, and Stroman is just getting back into a post-surgical groove, but next Saturday, I am not sure the hitters on either side of the bench will care.

Well, a very happy Labor Day Weekend to you all as we again wind into the stretch run of the 2015 baseball season.

I hope your teams are hot and pushing towards the title, and if they are, there is a good chance you had Ryan Zimmerman active last week. In case you had not noticed, the Nationals first sacker has a ten-game stretch where he has hit .400-7-22 (that is correct, not a typo) and raised his line to .246-16-73. It is reasonable to expect more as Zimmerman has a career line of .293-40-145 over 261 September games. Zim is only better in August (.305-43-163) but is clearly a stretch hitter.

In the American League, Logan Forsythe of the Rays has not been quite as hot, but he is still banging the ball to a .300-4-13 clip over the past three weeks, with .375-3-10 going over just the past week. Forsythe has never really excelled like we hoped he would after his big 2011 (.243-23-72 with the Fish) but things have largely been a disappointment since. Forsythe, who qualifies at first and the outfield, is up to his second-best campaign at .228-16-50, and at 28 years old, with his plate discipline improving, Forsythe is certainly a guy to keep an eye on as a bargain going into next year. He also makes a nice potentially cheap DFS play right now.

Looking at the Marlins, Christian Yelich is again back (his knee and ankle are nettlesome) after his last stint on the DL, but he is hitting a hearty .500-0-2 with four doubles and six runs scored over the past week. Yelich won't turn 24 until December, and while it is not infrequent that a promising young hitter fails and loses favor (think Forsythe), similarly, it is easy to dismiss a youngster who excelled in the Minors but then struggled when he reached the Show.

Another hot stick belongs to Brandon Moss, of course now of the Cardinals, who had a nine-game hitting streak going into yesterday (it was stopped) and has hit .478-3-5 over the past week, bringing his St. Louis totals to .274-4-8 (a far cry from the .217 he hit in Cleveland, although with 15 homers and 50 RBI). Moss is streaky, and a good left-handed play in daily formats.

Looking at some streaky pitchers, Jorge De La Rosa is a lefty, and he pitches at Coors to boot. But, he is 2-1, 2.08 over the last three weeks, and 2-0, 0.69, with an 0.850 WHIP over 13 innings last week when he earned 14 whiffs as well. Again, if the Rockies are on the road, and facing a team that is vulnerable to southpaws, don't painstakingly dismiss De La Rosa.

Looking at a few more September call-ups, of course we all know the exploits of Corey Seager, the most anticipated of the next future superstars, who was advanced by the Dodgers and is hitting .400-0-3 over his first three games in the Majors. Seager was in Double-A for only three weeks, hitting .375-5-15 before moving to Oklahoma City for 105 games, where he hit .278-13-61 prior to the promotion this week. If Seager is not owned in your keeper league, grab him, at least for now. If you can hold him through the winter, and have the option of keeping or even trading Seager, that is a smart planning move this time of season.

Christian Colon, who was a hot commodity just a year ago, is back up with the Royals following a pretty good 2015 where he hit .281-0-17 at Omaha when not at Kauffman. Colon is exactly one of those guys who was hot, and then was not an immediate superstar, and thus we all dismissed him. He too makes a potentially interesting play as the Royals, who have a lot of parts and can make some trades, let us know their path for 2016.

DFS Watch: OK, Mastersball is dedicated to covering the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest (you play against all the Touts every Tuesday at the Tout Wars Challenge), so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: How can you not like Lance Lynn facing the Reds and Michael Lorenzen this coming Saturday? I mean, a contending team with arguably their strongest starter facing a struggling team with a 3-8, 5.66 mark. Good day for the hitter means it should be a good day for the pitcher in this case.

Hitters to Watch: I don't think we have much of a wait for a slugfest with the Toronto hitters lining up to face Rick Porcello on Monday. In fact, Boston has been struggling with their arms all season, meaning I would favor the Toronto hitters at least until the weekend series begin. I also have to think the Rays facing Matt Boyd (1-5, 8.36) seems like a good bet.

The joy of September call-ups is upon us, and that is indeed a fun time for fantasy owners to whet their appetites in anticipation of future stars and numbers. And, I will indeed look at some names this week, and for the remaining few weeks we have left this season. But let's start with the usual unsung guys who may be floating around in your shallow reserve list, or better, might make a nice and cheap DFS play.

I have always sort of been a fan of the Marlins' Martin Prado, and even grabbed him for my NL LABR squad. Prado has struggled with injuries this year, but up until yesterday was running an eight-game hitting streak, good for a .351-2-4 with five runs, bringing his season totals to .272-7-42 over 408 at-bats. Prado does indeed make a nice pick-up in your shallow mixed league and is a fairly cheap daily play ($3700 at FantasyScore), meaning he is a nice under-the-radar and cheap play in most formats.

The American League counterpart to Prado is the Twins' Eduardo Escobar, who is hitting .304-3-5 this past week, upping his season line to .254-8-40, not bad for a guy I nabbed for a buck in AL Tout Wars and who was a throw-in as part of a Strat-O-Matic swap a couple of years back. Escobar also qualifies at second, third, short, and the outfield, making him mega-useful, and still pretty cheap for a regular, so plug him in where you can.

On the pitching side, since Mike Fiers was swapped to the Astros, he has responded with three quality starts (in four tries), posting a 2-0, 2.25 mark with a 1.00 WHIP and 36 strikeouts over 32.6 innings. Fiers had a killer second half last year hurling for the Brewers, but he may well have a serious new home and his numbers might well kick up all over with his new environment.

OK, on to some rookies not named Corey Seager, starting with the Dodgers' Jose Peraza. Peraza, 22, was signed by the Braves out of his native Venezuela and swapped to the Dodgers this trade deadline as part of the mega-deal that also brought Alex Wood to Southern California. Peraza hit .293-4-42 over 118 games at Triple-A, with 33 swipes before recently being called up. Over his first three games in the Majors, he is .300-0-1, and though Chase Utley may get the starting nod as the Dodgers try to nudge into the post-season, Peraza is a name to watch.

The White Sox drafted 6'3" Erik Johnson out of UC Berkeley (so you know I have a soft spot for him) in the second round of the 2011 draft. No longer a rookie (Johnson has 51.3 innings posted in the Majors with a 4-3, 4.73 mark), the right-hander had a fine 2015 at Charlotte, going 11-8, 2.37 over 132.6 innings, with 136 whiffs and a fine 1.123 WHIP. Now 25, Johnson should get a start or two down the stretch, and then get a chance to vie for a rotation job in the spring.

I have been a big Alen Hanson fan since the then 19-year-old broke out with a .309-16-62 line at West Virginia. Hanson spent 2015 at Triple-A Indianapolis, producing a .268-6-42 line with 33 swipes over 109 games, and should finally get a chance to show what he can do in the Majors. But much like Peraza, with the Bucs pushing for post-season play, his real chance to shine will be in 2016. Still, if we track him now, we are ahead of the curve.

The rebuilding Tigers advanced shortstop Dixon Machado (.143-0-0 over his first three games), a 23-year-old, also from Venezuela, after his solid .260-4-47 season with 15 steals and 22 doubles at Toledo. Machado makes decent enough contact with just 83 whiffs over 547 plate appearances (35 walks) and he too should get a fall chance to show what he is made of. He should also improve with age and experience, if the infielder can keep his bat in the lineup.

Yet another Venezuelan to catch my eye is the Brewers' Luis Sardinas, signed by the Rangers in 2009, and swapped to the Brewers last January for Yovani Gallardo. That gives the 22-year-old six seasons of pro ball under his belt and a .288-6-160 line over 437 games, with 74 doubles and 99 steals. This year at Colorado Springs, Sardinas hit .283-1-32 with 15 steals over 94 games, and though he only logged 18 walks, similarly he only struck out 48 times. Another middle infielder, Sardinas has passed his rookie status baseline with 196 big league at-bats (.246-0-9) but the middle infielder is still both very young (22) and though he is 6'1", still weighs just 150 pounds. Give him some weight, power, and experience, and who knows what he might turn into.

DFS Watch: OK, Mastersball is dedicated to covering the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest (you play against all the Touts every Tuesday at the Tout Wars Challenge), so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: If you are looking for a cheap starter to build some hitters around, Chris Bassitt has pitched a lot better than his 1-6 mark shows, giving a strong 2.82 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 73.3 innings. Bassitt is facing the Angels, who have some big sticks, but some holes as well, and he faces them at home.

Hitters to Watch: It is very hard for me not to like the Mets batters facing Aaron Harang on Monday, and I suspect the Tribe could have big fun with Buck Farmer and his 8.30 ERA come this Friday. And, though Robbie Ray's ERA is 3.86, he has been totally tortured over the past month, going 0-5, 7.83 with a 1.86 WHIP. He pitches in Colorado on Monday and against the Cubs on Saturday. Lick your chops, play those hitters against him.

 

Amazing how quickly this season has been screaming past us, for Labor Day is just around the corner and before we can blink, the postseason will be begging our attention.

For now, many of us are trying to make the postseason in our own leagues, or just hanging playing daily games (which is easier on the emotions), or god forbid, prepping for football season. (OK, I am too, in fact check around the site for our coverage of the #MockDraftArmy's weekly forays coordinated by @rotobuzzguy, Howard Bender.)

In the meantime, it is the stretch run and maybe it is time to take a serious look at Carlos Beltran as an add in shallow leagues (should he still be out there) and even as a play in DFS. Over the past three weeks, the Yankees outfielder is hitting .322-5-10, bringing his season totals to .272-13-44. The Yanks are in it, Beltran will get some rest, but he is hot, and again, for daily game purposes, he is a switch-hitter.

Similarly, Marlon Byrd, now of the Giants, is really a perfect fit for that team, helping keep the outfield producing on a team that has indeed been productive at the dish. Byrd has a career line of .277-17-105 over the month of September, and as often happens when a player is sent to a new team--especially a contender--the flychaser has come out of the blocks hot with his new team, hitting .333-1-2 over his first two games with San Francisco. Again, in shallow leagues, Byrd's .239-20-44 totals thus far might have meant a trip to the free agent pool.

The Metropolitans have been doing well with acquiring pitchers, and left-hander Dario Alvarez, a 26-year-old Dominican who has whiffed 404 batters over 343.3 innings, is a good example. Although he was roughed up his first appearance, Alvarez could be just the kind of quiet stabilizer in a league where you need to fill a slot, but risk very little. Before his call-up, Alvarez, originally signed by the Phils, had whiffed 36% of the hitters he faced between Double-A and Triple-A this season, and though he will probably just work in situations right now, keep an eye on this kid.

Across town, an American League version of Alvarez is the Yankees' Branden Pinder, drafted in the 16th round in 2011 out of Cal State Long Beach, who has saved 35 and whiffed 250 over 248 innings and 158 games. Like Alvarez, if your league is tight and you need to fill a spot and pick up some frames and whiffs and maybe even stumble into a win or save, Pinder is a nice quiet gamble.

The Rangers drafted hurler Jerad Eickhoff in the 15th round of the 2011 draft and for Texas he twirled until this past July when the big (6'4", 240 pounds) right-hander was swapped to the Phillies as part of the Cole Hamels deal. Eickhoff improved as he climbed the minor league chain, posting his best overall strikeout-per-innings rate this year at 4.67, putting together a 12-5, 3.85 season over 133.3 minor league innings (126 strikeouts, 1.1185 WHIP). Eickhoff then hurled a fine first Major League start, going six innings, whiffing five while walking just one for his first win. He makes a nice crapshoot in a deep National League format down the stretch.

Yet another member of the 2011 draft to watch is Travis Shaw of the Red Sox, a corner infielder whose minor league totals (.261-69-280 over 581 games) seem to belie the amazing .351-6-13 start over his first 26 games at Fenway. Shaw is big (also 6'4", 225) and he hits left-handed, but I would be surprised if he can keep it up.

Before we leave, a couple of hot hitters this past week have been Nick Castellanos and Wilmer Flores. Castellanos hit .474-2-9 this past week and has raised his season totals to .246-13-60. Over the past month, he has hit .299-2-10 with an .886 OPS. As the season winds down, his numbers could get a bit of a surge as September call-ups loom and the third sacker gets to face some weaker pitchers.

Similarly, Flores has had a hot month, hitting .324-2-9 while raising his season line to .262-12-49. Flores was .429-1-5 last week, and he is getting the hang of everyday play in the Majors too, and just like Castellanos, could feed on late-season new and tired arms.

I like both going into 2016.

DFS Watch: OK, Mastersball is dedicated to covering the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest (you play against all the Touts every Tuesday at the Tout Wars Challenge), so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: I am thinking Chris Archer could have a fun time against the Twins this week, facing a team with just a .249 average against right-handers, with just a .304 +OBA and 92 +RC.

Hitters to Watch: On the other hand, the Cubs might strike out more than any other team, but facing Matt Cain won't be as daunting. Cain has just 6.6 whiffs per nine, the lowest number of his career, and he has allowed nine homers over 47.3 innings. I have a feeling some of Chicago's young sluggers are going to have fun with that. Take your pick!

 

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