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Friday 22nd Sep 2017

As 2017 winds down, the baseball junky within each of us begins thinking about next year and the draft and our keepers and just who we covet, or on the other side of the fence, the players we are looking to drop at worst and avoid at best.

Bearing in mind we have five months till some Spring games, who are the players I am looking to avoid come Draft Day 2018?

Ryan Zimmerman (1B, Nationals): What a great story was the resurgence of Zimmerman this year, a player largely dismissed and undrafted in shallower mixed formats. Zimmerman, who will be 33 next season, had a smoking hot first half of .330-19-63, but his--and a bunch of his colleagues on this list--ran out of steam in the second half. For Zimmerman, that meant a .175-point drop in OPS, and a .051-point drop in OBP, giving a second half line of .246-12-32. Zim does deserve draft consideration next year, but hardly at the inflated price his first half suggested.

Greg Holland (RP, Rockies): Holland's first half was so ridiculously good at 1-1, 1.62 with 28 saves, and while the 31-year-old does have 12 second half saves, so does he hold a 7.08 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. Holding a closing job seems to be more and more ephemeral in the Majors as holding a lead these days. Holland will likely have a gig going into 2018, but his recent numbers and injury history are enough for me to run away.

Matt Holliday (DH, Yankees): He's 37 (will be 38 in January) and is having as miserable a second half (.174-3-11) as was his attitude playing in Oakland. I make it a point to try not to wish ill on a human, but it is about time the hits ran out of Holliday's bat. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Mike Napoli (DH, Rangers): Maybe it is just me, but it seems like the 2017 baseball season could be called "The Search for Chris Carter," and Napoli sort of defines the phrase. Yeah, he's hit 29 homers thus far, but with a .193 batting average, a .258 OBP, and just 66 RBI. Seriously, how different would the season have been for the Rangers had another guy taking Napoli's roster spot hit .275-11-60 with a .345 OBP? I suspect a lot. 

Curtis Granderson (OF, Dodgers): As long as we are visiting the elder players, Granderson is having a .207-23-60 year, albeit with a much better .321 OBP, but he's hitting just .164-10-23 this second half and will be 37 next season. I would like to say this is getting old, but there are more players to come.

Jose Bautista (OF, Jays): Remember all those questions about why it took so long for Joey Bats to sign? Well, the Jays must have known something as witnessed by the disappointing .208-22-59 season that Bautista has produced. Bautista, who has "enjoyed" a 50-point drop in OBP, has hit .170-8-20 this second half as a 36-year-old.

Eric Thames (1B, Brewers): Thames is a bit different than the rest of this list in that he is a decade younger than the bulk, and with his hot April (.345-11-19) was almost considered Cecil Fielder redux following a successful stint in Japan coupled with the strong start. Since, the numbers are pretty anemic as Thames did hit .284 in July, but not over .221 in any of the other three months of the season leading into September. What plagues him, in my view, and all his hitting buddies noted, is though Thames banged 31 homers, he has only driven in 59, for 60 seems to be the peak of a skill set where 50 walks balance against 150 strikeouts.

Matt Moore (SP, Giants): Remember everyone in your league just being willing to do anything to get Moore, whom we thought would be another Clayton Kershaw when Moore made his 2012 debut as a 22-year-old? I certainly know I traded for him in a couple of keeper leagues, regrettably, I must add. Even with a pitcher-friendly place like ATT as home, Moore is leading the league in losses at 5-14, with a 5.30 ERA and a 1.505 WHIP. Moore has allowed a gaudy 26 homers over 167 innings in a park where the short porch is in right. Good luck with that.

R.A. Dickey (SP, Braves): Dickey, who will be 43 next Opening Day, can toss 175 innings every year, function as an "innings eater" as they say, but giving very little else in return. Dickey is 9-10, 4.41 over 175.3 frames handcuffed to just 128 strikeouts with a 1.432 WHIP. Because Dickey can indeed produce those garbage innings, he will find a job, but no way should you consider him for your team in even the worst of circumstances.

Remember to go to the Tout Wars site for our Friday picks. And, tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

There are some exciting things--like pennant races and streaks--grabbing the MLB news despite the start of football season. This week, there were a lot of interesting promotions made by the big league teams, shining some light on a cluster of new--and a few old--faces. Let's take a look. Note that next week I will post my annual list of players who make me nervous going into 2018, and the final week those names I really like as the post-season arrives. 

Perhaps the most anticipated call-up over the 2017 second half was JP Crawford, the Phillies #1 pick in 2013. Crawford split 2016 between Reading (.265-3-13) and Lehigh Valley (.244-3-30), showing a little speed (12 swipes) and very good zone judgement with 72 walks to 80 whiffs, good for a .349 OBP in lieu of a .250 batting average. Crawford spent the total of 2017 at Lehigh again, batting .243 with 15 homers and 63 RBI, continuing with the solid eye, logging another .350 OBP. He is surely the shortstop of the Phillies future, at least at this moment in time and space, and is worth stashing in any kind of keeper format.

Another anticipated player--though a return this time--is the Pirates' 6'8" hurler Tyler Glasnow. A high school pick from the fifth round in 2011, Glasnow has indeed been dominant in the minor leagues, logging a 45-21, 2.02 mark over 117 starts and 593.3 innings, with 785 strikeouts and a terrific 1.07 WHIP. As of yet, those skills have not translated to the big league level with a 2-8, 6.49 mark over 73.3 innings. Glasnow, at 9-2, 1.93, was great at Indianapolis this season, but not so much with Pittsburgh (2-6, 7.45), and at 24, it is time for the lanky right-hander to show us what he can do. Expect Glasnow to make or break for the Bucs rotation next year. Make means success, break a likely life in the pen.

The Mets have been trying to figure out what to do at the hot corner since David Wright began his injury dance a handful of years back. Perhaps Phil Evans, a 15th round high school pick in 2011, is the answer. Evans ran a .260-30-266 line over 609 minor league at-bats, with 193 walks to 359 strikeouts, good for a weakish .323 OBP. The 25-year-old might make a decent utility player, but he probably is not the "right" answer at third in Citi Field.

Raimel Tapia has been up and down with the Rockies this season, filling in at Coors while posting a ridiculous .369-2-30 mark with 45 runs scored over 58 games at Albuquerque. The 23-year-old Dominican native hit .279 with a couple of dingers and five swipes over 136 Rockies at-bats, all of which point to a fun potential future. Tapia does seem to make decent contact, but he will need to improve his zone skills with just 160 walks to 405 whiffs. Still, there is some serious promise, with the bottom being a #4 outfielder at this point. 

As if the Dodgers were not just good, but deep enough in arms, their #1 selection from 2015, out of Vanderbilt, Walker Buehler, was promoted for the fall roster push. The right-hander signed at the end of 2015, then spent the bulk of 2016 on the DL. But in 2017, Buehler has whipped through the team's system, moving from Rancho Cucamonga (0-0, 1.10) to Tulsa (2-2, 3.49), and then on to Oklahoma City (1-1, 4.63), putting together a season of 4-3, 3.25 over 88.6 frames with 125 strikeouts and a 1.11 WHIP, allowing opposing batters just a .208 average. Buehler is more than worth tracking during the off-season and into the spring.

While we are looking at the Dodgers, if you were wondering just how Joc Pederson has fared since his demotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City, the results are dismal, as 20 games and 72 at-bats gave way to a .167-3-9 line with a .552 OPS. Not good, and maybe trade time for the Bums?

A couple of more quick shots on those promising but underachieving prospects, Deolis Guerra, who has always scored high on my Top 250 Prospect List, might have found a home in the pen. Guerra, now 28, turned in 41 innings for the Angels' minor league affiliate at Salt Lake City, going 4-1, 1.98 with a pair of saves, 41 whiffs, and a solid 0.83 WHIP. Guerra could challenge for ninth inning time in 2018. 

The Mariners swapped for Daniel Vogelbach last year during the trade deadline, acquiring the former second-rounder in 2011 from the Cubs. Vogelbach surely has power, as witnessed by his .287-100-438 line with an .866 OPS over 669 minor league games. Vogelbach has a decent eye with 412 minor league walks to 491 strikeouts (.390 OBP), though that skill still has not translated to the Majors, as exhibited by his .138-0-1 line over 15 games. The first sacker should be ready to take over a starting gig next spring after hitting .290-17-83 this season at Tacoma over 125 games that included 76 walks to 98 strikeouts. He looks to be good once he adjusts, kind of like how Joey Gallo has got the hang.

Austin Hays, a third-round selection of the Orioles in 2016, has also produced a solid season, hitting .329-32-95 while scoring 85 runs to go with 32 doubles spending his time split between Frederick and Bowie. The 22-year-old outfielder will likely start his 2018 season at Triple-A, but Hays has a .330-36-113 line over 166 minor league games with 42 two-base hits. Hays does need zone work with 36 walks to 113 strikeouts, but he is close and again worth tracking.

Remember to go to the Tout Wars site for our Friday picks. And, tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

Ah, Labor Day Weekend and the theoretical beginning of fall, the football season, and the time of roster expansion in the Majors, meaning a lot of wannabes or hope-to-bes will be gracing the Major League lineups, looking for playing time as we try to juggle our rosters and scrounge as many at-bats or innings as permits.

Of course there are a lot of names and players involved, so let's take a peek at a few of them, looking both for playing time this year, and maybe even beyond depending upon your league and set up.

The Dodgers, who are playing like the Cubs last year, have a ton of outfielders in general and Alex Verdugo, a second-rounder from the 2014 draft, is the latest advancement. Verdugo has had a solid line over his three-plus seasons as a pro, notching a .305-31-277 line over 421 games with a good .362 OBP accentuated by 137 walks to 200 strikeouts. However, this season Verdugo has shown great zone strides, walking 52 times to just 50 whiffs while posting a .315 average with six homers and 62 RBI. The outfielder, who is just 21, should gain some gap power, especially the way the balls fly these days, and could be a solid contributor come 2018, even getting some chances as the Bums steam towards the post-season.

Another flychaser, Greg Allen, a sixth-round selection of the Indians in 2014, is coming off a decent season displaying his speed, featuring 24 swipes (caught just twice) to go with a .267 average and 40 runs scored over 76 games. Allen is a speedstar with 145 minor league swipes over 388 games with a solid .379 OBP with 181 walks to 220 strikeouts. Allen, a switch-hitter, could develop a little power but he does seem to have the resume of a leadoff hitter. The question is if he is up to the challenge?

Another newbie outfielder would be the BoSox Tzu-Wei Lin, a diminutive (5'9", 155 lbs.) outfielder from Taiwan signed in 2012. Lin, who has 69 steals in the Minors over 501 games, does rely on speed but needs to work on his on-base skills with a .240 average to go with a .312 OBP, though the flychaser does have a pretty good 201 walks to 330 strikeouts, meaning he has an eye, but his contact rate is not too good. Lin is probably not much more than a fourth outfielder, if that.

Orioles catching prospect Chance Sisco was advanced with the call-ups following a decent .267-7-47 season at Norwich that included 23 doubles. Sisco does need to work on his plate discipline with 195 walks to 340 strikeouts, for though his OBP in the Minors was .390 over 455 games, that was augmented by a strong .311 average to go with 25 homers and 266 RBI, 98 doubles, and an .815 OPS, Still just 22, Cisco was a second-rounder in 2013 and is a little ways off from serious fantasy consideration. But come spring, he could pose an interesting option.

With the swap of Justin Verlander, maybe the next-in-line starter for the Tigers is Artie Lewicki, and eighth-round pick in 2014 out of Virginia. Over 56 minor league starts, Lewicki is 22-18, 3.36 over 337 innings with 303 strikeouts to go with a 1.23 WHIP and just nine homers allowed. He spent this year split between Erie (9-4, 3.76) and Toledo (5-0, 2.03), giving a cumulative 14-4, 3.38 line over 141 innings with 123 whiffs and a WHIP of 1.18 (135 hits, 31 walks). Lewicki, 25, makes a nice FAAB pickup for the final month and particularly going into next season. 

Most of us waited for the arrival of Rymer Liriano while he was a Brewer, but Milwaukee let him go and the White Sox grabbed the 26-year-old, who has a .275-83-430 minor league line over 861 games. Liriano has some power (.432 SLG) and major speed (195 steals), but he also strikes out a lot (318 walks to 885 strikeouts). Liriano has posted a .207-1-6 mark over 40 games at the Show, which includes nine walks to 43 strikeouts, a .273 OBP, and a pathetic .523 OPS. He has some talent, and he is in a situation wherein if he can improve his contact rate, he has some promise, and even a chance to get some playing time. But for now, he remains a disappointment. 

The Mets brought forth hurler Jamie Callahan, a 23-year-old selection from 2012 by the Red Sox who was sent to New York in a deadline swap for Addison Reed last July. In 2015, the Sox moved Callahan to the pen, where he has relieved 104 times since, converting 17 of 23 save chances. The righty has 373 strikeouts over 384 minor league frames, and he is good at keeping the ball in the yard with just 25 homers allowed and 388 hits. But Callahan does give up the walks, as in 174. Callahan is worth watching while the Metropolitans try to figure out exactly what their pen will be. As far as this year, he looks like a safe gamble, and he could develop into a solid reliever, but not just yet.

Finally, the Royals just brought up Andres Machado, a Venezuelan hurler who does have some spotty numbers as in a 13-24, 4.76 line over 279.6 innings with a 1.52 ERA. However, Kansas City moved Machado to the pen this season and he responded with 111 whiffs over 111 innings, and a couple of saves over his seven games in the pen. At age 24, Machado could indeed be one of those guys who has power, but cannot manage as a starter, and that is the thing closers are made of. So, track accordingly. 

Remember to go to the Tout Wars site for our Friday picks. And, tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET.

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

A week prior to roster expansion, a bunch of players came up for the first time while a few interesting starting pitchers returned for a look in the Show. It is the relievers, however, who garner most of the attention today. If you are protecting your WHIP and ERA at this point, several of these guys could be of value. And, the way things are going, several could wind up competing for saves as early as next season.

A.J. Cole has been up and down after originally being drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Nationals. Still just 25, Cole has a solid enough minor league resume with a 50-43, 3.53 mark over 817.3 innings that also produced a 1.30 WHIP to go with 740 strikeouts and 840 hits. Cole is big (6'5") and has promise but has been a bust at the Show (2-6, 5.00 over 72.6 innings) and I really don't see much in his future aside from long relief or a bullpen job. Despite the promise of being a helpful starter, don't bite.

On the other hand, the White Sox Lucas Giolito is back for his second try and first games of this year. The 23-year-old, also originally drafted by the Nationals but in the first round back in 2012, struggled a little, allowing four runs over six innings in facing the Twins. The 6'6" right-hander, obtained in exchange for Adam Eaton last year, has a 31-25, 3.15 record over 497.6 minor league innings with a solid 531 strikeouts to go with a 1.25 WHIP. He has a ton more promise, meaning Giolito is worth the crapshoot for this season and into next. 

Detroit might be using Shane Greene as a closer at present, but keep an eye on 24-year-old Zac Reininger, a reliever groomed for relief since being drafted. Reininger has moved up four levels this season alone, starting at High-A Lakeland and now being on the Tigers roster as a result of a 3-2, 2.54 season during which he has notched a pair of saves over 63.6 innings. The righty has 60 whiffs and a 0.94 WHIP this year with opposing hitters batting just .193. Over his four minor league seasons, Reininger has 26 saves across 184.6 innings with 180 whiffs and is a perfect deep league acquisition to protect your pitching numbers.

The Reds promoted 24-year-old reliever Alejandro Chacin, a free-agent signed out of Venezuela. Chacin has completed 398 minor league relief innings, striking out 458 while notching a mark of 25-18, 2.46 complemented by a 1.28 WHIP and 90 saves. This year at Louisville, Chacin was 0-3, 2.60 over 69.3 innings with 63 strikeouts.

Another A.J., that is A. J. Minter of the Braves, is another reliever who made a big jump this season, starting things at Rome, Florida, then Mississippi and finally Gwinnett prior to the Braves grabbing his contract last week. The compensation pick from 2015 who is only 23 has tossed just 24.3 innings with 30 strikeouts, adding to a brief minor league career line of 2-2, 2.14 over 59 innings with a couple of saves and 77 strikeouts. Minter has some wicked stuff apparently, so another kid worth tracking.

Minnesota promoted their sixth-round pick in 2014, John Curtiss, who attended Texas. Curtiss advanced from Double-A Chattanooga to Triple-A Rochester this year, posting a 2-0, 1.28 line with 19 saves over 49.3 frames, striking out 60 while registering a WHIP of 0.91. Over 195.6 minor league innings, Curtiss struck out 245 with a great WHIP of 1.21, converting 26 of 28 saves before his call-up.

Texas brought forth Nick Gardewine, a seventh-round pick in 2013. Gardewine has decent minor league numbers with a 21-17, 3.64 mark over 304.3 innings with 14 saves, 280 strikeouts and a 1.24 WHIP. His numbers--save the WHIP--really improved this year with Gardewine toiling at Double-A Frisco, going 1-2, 2.34 with five saves over 34.6 innings during which the righty struck out a solid 50 batters, though with a 1.36 WHIP. Still, that jump in strikeout effectiveness makes the right-hander worth watching.

Moving to a position player to close out the week, Cleveland brought up third sacker and Cuban import Yandy Diaz from Columbus following a .350-5-33 line over 85 games that featured a tremendous .450 OBP that included 33 walks to 60 strikeouts over 309 at-bats. Diaz hit .315-23-184 in the Minors over 419 games during which he posted a .414 OBP (258 walks to 247 strikeouts). He makes for a more than interesting gamble going into the stretch and even next year. 

Tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET and you can follow me @lawrmichaels.  

Playing first base for the Yankees this season is a lot like being a keyboard player for the Grateful Dead, with Garrett Cooper and Greg Bird exploiting the DL in deference to one another. So, we have to ask ourselves here at the Hotpage, how does this bode fo Tyler Austin? A 13th round high school selection in 2010, Austin hit well enough at Double-A (.429 over five games at Trenton), which we should expect from a 25-year-old, and that fostered the move to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where Austin hit .292-7-27. Still, the long ride up the Minors coupled with a .369 OBP in the Minors make Austin worth following, at least until Bird gets fully healthy, which might not happen for awhile.

The Reds advanced 25-year-old flychaser Phillip Ervin for the second time this year. Ervin, a first-round pick in 2013 out of Samford, has decent pop with a .251-50-259 line over four minor league seasons and 526 games, featuring a .256-7-40 line this season at Louisville. Ervin does not have huge zone command with 83 whiffs to 37 walks, good for a .328 OBP, but he does have 24 swipes this season and 137 as a minor leaguer. Still, I would not expect a huge contribution from Ervin right now and presently he projects to be little more than a fourth outfielder, if that. 

Looking at a couple of backstops, the Royals advanced Cam Gallagher in deference to the Sal Perez injury. Gallagher was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft, and was hitting .294-5-34 at Omaha when summoned. The 24-year-old, however, has a .243-26-157 line over 462 games with a measly .318 OBP to go with a .668 OPS, so not much there.

Similarly, the Astros are beat up behind the plate, so they brought up Max Stassi, a fourth-round pick of the Athletics in 2009 who grew up in Northern California. Stassi was hitting .266-12-33, which seems pretty pedestrian. But of interest is the jump in OBP Stassi enjoyed this season, walking 38 times to 67 whiffs, handcuffed to a .383 OBP. What makes this noteworthy is that Stassi has a minor league OBP of .318 including this year's numbers, meaning prior to 2017, he had 288 walks to 588 whiffs and that represents a serious number shift. Whether Stassi has mastered the zone is another question, but he is worth watching in deference to remembering that in general, hitting develops later for catchers than for other position players.

While we are at it, even a better gamble looks like Mitch Garver, 26, of the Twins. Garver was nabbed in the third round of the 2013 June draft and has a pretty solid minor league resume of .271-51-286 over 508 games with 249 walks to 370 whiffs and a fine .364 OBP. This includes 50 walks to 85 strikeouts this year, where he has a .387 OBP and a .928 OPS. Of the troika, I like Garver the best.

While we are at it, the Twins also brought forth hurler Aaron Slegers, a fifth-rounder also in 2013. Siegers, a right-hander, also happens to be 6'10" (245 pounds). He posted a 13-4, 3.18 record this season over 130.3 innings, striking out just 97, while walking only 27. Siegers is pretty good at keeping the ball down with just seven homers allowed this year and just 32 over 583 innings. He has a 41-29, 3.46 line over those games with a 1.19 WHIP and with that height and angle poses an interesting possibility. (Note: Slegers was optioned the day after his 8/17 start, but with roster expansion coming in September, look for his return shortly.)

Gavin Cecchini of the Mets is back for a second time with Jose Reyes hurt, but Reyes is a lot more expendable and the Mets infield, with Dominic Smith and Wilmer Flores, could have some real potential. The 23-year-old Cecchini was a first-round pick of the Metropolitans in 2012 and has hit .283-30-237 with a pretty solid 219 walks to 327 strikeouts, although his OBP is .348. Cecchini is not as good as his Royal brother Garin but still has a lot of upside. 

As the first Lithuanian-born big leaguer, the Pirates' Dovydas Neverauskas deserves some attention. The 24-year-old relief pitcher posted a 22-26, 4.05 line over 433.6 minor league innings. Neverauskas whiffed 332 over that span, but allowed 431 hits and posted a 1.42 WHIP, so despite 12 saves even at Triple-A this year, I would shy away.

You can follow me @lawrmichaels and listen to the Tout Wars Hour every Thursday from 9-11 PM ET (6-8 PT) on the FNTSY Sports Network.

The Dog Days are indeed here and once again a couple of premier prospects have found their way to the Major Leagues. And our job, as always, is to give you an idea of who these guys are, and whether they are worth drafting or reserving or avoiding in your fantasy league.

Among the top tier newbies to the show, perhaps the most promising is the Phillies' Rhys Hoskins, a fifth-round selection in 2015 out of Sacramento State in Northern California. Over 455 minor league games, Hoskins posted a .287-97-337 line with an excellent 211 walks to 353 strikeouts, good for a .375 OBP and as part of a .907 OPS. At Lehigh Valley this year, he went .284-29-91 and with Aaron Altherr likely out until September 1, Hoskins should get a good shot at some big league time between now and season's end.

The Rockies promoted a similar commodity in Ryan McMahon, a second-round high school pick in 2013 out of Southern California. A third baseman by trade, McMahon produced a solid minor league line of .297-78-386 over 558 games, and split this season between Double-A Hartford (.326-6-32) and Triple-A Albuquerque (.375-13-50), though McMahon does not have as patient a bat as Hoskins with 223 walks to 598 whiffs (.367 OBP). With Nolan Arenado hit on the hand by a pitch on Sunday, McMahon should at least get the first part of the week to settle into his regular spot and see what he can do.

Another native Californian, Dominic Smith, 22, was called up by the Mets this past week. A first-rounder in 2013, Smith has a .302-40-316 line in the Minors over 539 games with a decent 201 walks to 350 strikeouts (.350 OBP) and was enjoying a .339-16-76 line at Las Vegas when summoned. With the swap of Neil Walker, the Mets can now move Wilmer Flores to second and allow Smith to take a stab at the first base hole opened up with the trade of Lucas Duda. 

Which does bring us to Neil Walker, new to the Brewers who have suffered with the under-performing Jonathan Villar this year, and enjoyed solid work from Eric Sogard, who is not a long-term solution to much. But Walker could give the team a solid Keystone bat down the stretch. Batting .264-10-36 this year before the swap, Walker has a good .277-23-92 line over 178 August games.

Willson Contreras might have gone on the DL, but no matter to the Cubs, who simply advanced Victor Caratini, a backstop hitting .344-10-59 at Iowa over 76 games, with a solid 23 walks to 46 punch outs, good for a .387 OBP. Note that though Caratini has a low walk total, he doesn't strike out a lot. Caratini is also a switch-hitter and a great pickup, starting with NL-only leagues.

The White Sox brought up Nicky Delmonico, a 25-year-old third sacker selected in the sixth round of the 2011 draft by the Orioles. The Birds swapped him to the Brewers for Francisco Rodriguez, and Delmonico was then released and signed by the Pale Hose as a free agent. With Matt Davidson on the DL, Delmonico has been getting the hot corner time, hitting .364-1-6 over his first two weeks in the Show. Delmonico was hitting .262-12-45 at Charlotte when advanced and might be a good filler in a deep league, but he's probably not much of a long term anything.

Chris Stratton turned in a nice game on Sunday, shutting out the Nationals over 6.6 innings, having whiffed ten, lowering his ERA to 4.91 in the process. The 26-year-old has tossed 25.6 frames this year for the Giants, whiffing 22, but he isn't anything beyond a rotation filler in a deep format. Stratton has thrown 623.6 innings in the Minors, whiffing 544 and walking 228 while allowing 618 hits, making for a 1.35 WHIP to go with a 4.07 ERA and a 38-34 record.

You can follow me @lawrmichaels and listen to the Tout Wars Hour every Thursday from 9-11 PM ET (6-8 PT) on the FNTSY Sports Network.

 

Another week, another bunch of prospects and another cluster of changed uniforms, another week to try and sort through all the madness that unites Major League Baseball, Fantasy Baseball, our brains and apparently the DL.

With roster expansion just a little more than a couple of weeks ahead, who are some of the latest to change uniforms and maybe obtain some roto roster time?

Well, no team has suffered more pitching casualties and disappointments as have the Giants, who brought forth 2010 Compensation selection Kyle Crick, a right-handed hurler who had been a starter till this year when he moved to the pen in Sacramento with pretty good success. Crick was 24-29 as a starter in the Minors with 540 strikeouts over 480.6 frames, albeit with 321 walks (1.49 WHIP). He has responded well to the move to the pen, reducing his WHIP to 1.26 in the Minors this year across 29.3 innings and 1.27 over 17.3 at ATT. Crick did earn six saves out of 11 chances with the River Cats this year, though, so that looks indeed like it could be his calling, and before long at that.

Across the bay, the Athletics pinched 29-year-old 2009 pick of the Rockies Dustin Garneau ideally to be a right-handed counterpart to Bruce Maxwell. Garneau has seen 609 minor league games, posting a .255-87-354 line over seven each of minor league teams and corresponding years. Garneau walked 244 times to 379 strikeouts, good for a .343 OBP and decent .801 OPS. Oakland is indeed reinventing itself and Garneau should get a shot at lefties with his .255-0-4 line over 36 at-bats this season.

Another backstop to hit the Show this week is Jorge Alfaro, a 24-year-old native Colombian who signed with the Phils in 2010 and has posted a .262-74-360 line over 639 minor league games with a modest .321 OBP (133 walks to 710 strikeouts). Alfaro spent this season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, hitting .242-7-43 with a limp .291 OBP. If Alfaro has trouble getting on base at High-A, he probably won't fare much better a level up, at least for awhile.

Houston has brought forth a pretty good cluster of prospects over the past few years and J.D. Davis, a third-round pick out of Cal-State Fullerton in 2014, is the latest. A third sacker, Davis has some pretty good pop with a .282-88-312 line with an .862 OPS over 422 games. Davis is batting .282-26-78 this year split between Corpus Christi and Fresno. The big issue is where does the kid play?

Toronto advanced a 27-year-old 29th round pick in 2011 in Taylor Cole, who could well step into the rotation with Aaron Sanchez still blistering on the sidelines. Cole posted a 33-40, 3.56 line over 635 innings and 127 starts. He has 572 strikeouts with 218 walks which contribute to a 1.31 WHIP. The righty has spent most of this year on the DL but has shot up through three levels over just nine games, four starts, and 12.3 innings. This is likely a spot start, but you just never know. 

The Nationals' Erick Fedde was the team's first round selection in 2014 out of Nevada Las Vegas. Fedde has twirled 262.3 innings in the Minors since signing, notching a 17-12, 3.36 line with a 1.21 WHIP that included 251 strikeouts and just one Intentional Walk. Fedde made seven starts at Double-A before moving up to Triple-A Syracuse with a cumulative line of 4-4, 3.72 over 77.3 innings with 69 strikeouts. He made his second start on Sunday, going 5.3 innings, allowing eight hits and four runs, whiffing seven and gaining his first win. In a deep NL format, Fedde could be a help and he is certainly worth keeping on the radar for the future.

Some golden oldies, relatively speaking, changed uniforms this past week, so let's take a look at a couple of these before we close, starting with Sean Rodriguez, whom the Braves swapped to the Pirates. Kind of the everyman/every-position player, Rodriguez has played second, third, and the outfield this year and qualified all over the place to finish last season. Rodriguez homered on Sunday to help his new team win, and despite his paltry .179-3-4 line this year, he's just the kind of guy who can get red hot for a couple of weeks, especially when thrust in a new environment. 

The Dodgers got Tony Cingrani from the Reds in exchange for Scott Van Slyke in a deal that is not much of one, yet one that involves a couple of role players I like a lot. Cingrani is pretty much a situational lefty, and Van Slyke is a platoon against lefties, so there is a kind of Zen to the deal. Neither is of any value in anything save the deepest of leagues. However, in a sim game like Strat-O-Matic with usage rules, both players are a godsend. We all play a lot of different formats. Pick your players accordingly.

You can follow me @lawrmichaels and listen to the Tout Wars Hour every Thursday from 9-11 PM ET (6-8 PT) on the FNTSY Sports Network.

 

 

It is frenzy time for sure as the final trade deadline moves are made before today's 4 PM ET deadline. Of course there are still waiver swaps teams can make with one another, but that game among and between the clubs is nearly complex and political as what goes on in the capital.

Certainly this past week there were some trades involving some interesting prospects, and we will review a couple of them. But the most interesting transaction of the week involves new Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers. And, despite the presence of ex-Giant Eduardo Nunez, Devers has claimed third base, playing there every day since his call-up, hitting .300-2-3 his first week. Just 20, Devers has 399 minor league games under his belt, posting .296-49-256 totals with a decent 133 walks to 294 whiffs, good for a .354 OBP, which is solid enough for such a young player. If there is a name to watch for the rest of the year, like Gary Sanchez last year, and Carlos Correa the season previous, Devers is the man.

The Marlins swapped their closer with an eye on the future, and part of the A.J. Ramos spoils was former Mets hurler Merandy Gonzalez. Signed by the Fish in 2013, Gonzalez, still just 21, has been quite good, going 29-14, 2.98 over 345.3 frames with 302 strikeouts, with a 1.14 WHIP, and opposition batting average of .226 with just 11 homers allowed. This season, pitching first at St. Lucie, then Columbia, Gonzalez is a combined 12-3, 1.78 over 106 innings with 89 strikeouts and a solid 0.98 WHIP with just 21 bases-on-balls. 

The Mets certainly are gearing up their pen for next year, for they might have swapped Gonzalez, but then nabbed Drew Smith from the other Florida team in exchange for Lucas Duda. Smith, 23, is probably further along the development line, having twirled at five locales this season, assembling a 1-3, 1.53 mark over 47 innings with seven saves over 12 attempts. He's converted 13 of 19 over 126.6 minor league innings with 140 whiffs, holding hitters to a .190 average while compiling an 0.90 WHIP. Smith has thrown as high as Triple-A Durham for an inning this season, but will probably finish the minor league season at Binghamton, though a September call-up is certainly a possibility.

Arizona pitcher Silvino Bracho is another youngster who has prettymuch been a yo-yo, having just been recalled for the sixth time this year. Make no mistake, Bracho is a potential serious closing prospect with 83 saves over 92 attempts during the six years since he signed as a 20-year-old. Bracho has 293 strikeouts over 201 innings, holding opposing hitters to just a .205 average while posting a 2.40 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, having allowed just 157 hits. Closer, as we know, is about as volatile a slot as there is, but on a team where Fernando Rodney leads the pen pack followed by the likes of the de la Rosas (Jorge and Rubby), Bracho could well be the man by next year. Meaning in your deep league, stash and watch, or for other formats, certainly watch.

While we are staring at those irritating saves, Oakland will give Blake Treinen every opportunity to earn the stopper gig this season. The 6'5" right-hander moved into the closer role with the Nationals last year, converting one of three while posting a  2.28 ERA over 67 innings with 63 whiffs and a decent 1.22 WHIP. Handed the stopper job to start 2017, Treinen, like so many of his positional mates this season, just couldn't hold the job with a 5.73 ERA and 1.62 WHIP for the Nationals, relegating the 29-year-old, who actually blew his first save chance in Oakland, allowing a homer to Kendrys Morales. Still, Santiago Casilla has been moved back to a setup role (he entered in the seventh on Sunday) and Bob Melvin has been pretty clear about giving Treinen every opportunity to earn the job this season. 

Turning to a couple of hitters, if you are in a deep American League format, Omar Narvaez is a name to check out. A 25-year-old Venezuelan, Narvaez is hitting a cool .292-1-9 with the Pale Hose, but has walked 23 times to 26 strikeouts, good for a .359 OBP. In the Minors, Narvaez played 459 games, recording a .277-7-170 line (lots of lucky sevens in there, right?) with 176 walks to 168 strikeouts with a .353 OBP. Again, those numbers might seem anemic, but in a deep league, the worst about a guy like Narvaez is he won't hurt you and should you be in an OBP league, he can be golden. More important, catchers work on defense and working with the pitching staff first, then focus on hitting, meaning those numbers should translate really well with big league experience. 

The Angels promoted third sacker Kaleb Cowart, a first-round high school pick in 2010 who has a .265-65-429 line with 114 steals over 782 games. Cowart walked 306 times to 703 whiffs, posting a .335 minor league OBP, but he was hitting .311-12-57 with a dozen swipes and an .865 OPS this year at Salt Lake City. Furthermore, Cowart, now 25, is hot out of the blocks, hitting .476 over his first seven games, likely displacing Yunel Escobar for ownership of the hot corner, at least through the rest of this year.

Finally, the Jays' Steve Pearce deserves recognition for having belted a pair of walk-off grand slams in one week. Pearce, who qualifies only in the outfield thus far this year, has a .267-10-32 line and is interesting for a deep league. But since he has been hitting .278-6-25 against right-handers, he's also a potentially cheap reverse righty DFS option.

Don't forget to tune into The Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY Sports Network every Thursday from 9-11 PM, Eastern (6-8 Pacific) as me and my mate Justin Mason from Friends With Fantasy Benefits explore the fantasy world with a filter, looking at tactics and strategy. Join us and our special guests, along with Lord Zola for the Z Zone, where Todd explains the universe to us.

You can follow me @lawrmichaels.

David Price. Mike Trout. Carlos Correa. Aaron Sanchez. Now maybe Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw? What a season. I was trying to remember a year as rife with injuries to star players, but just couldn't. And, I don't really think this has anything to do with the 10-day DL, which does wreak a kind of havoc, adding another variable to the insanity of trying to manage a season-long roto team.

Personally, I hate having to deal with this stuff, and most of my teams are failing a lot more due to key injury holes--Kershaw, Sanchez, Cameron Maybin, Freddie Freeman, Devon Travis, Kevin Kiermaier, etc.--but I am also pretty clear just about anyone reading this has suffered the same fate.

To make things dicier, we have the trade deadline looming. In fact, tune into The Tout Wars Hour on FNTSY radio this Thursday as Justin Mason and I welcome Paul Sporer to talk about all the moves to date and the impact. Later in the show, Matt Thompson will join in to shine a light on the prospects most likely to arrive in the bigs the soonest.

Since there are holes now and future, we are here, however, to at least examine the availables, most of whom we like, or at least want to like. So, what better place to start all this insanity than with Pablo Sandoval's "return" to the Giants. I am sure I have written about The Panda over the years, both pro and con.

He was not only pretty good in San Francisco, he was good fun, and though Pablo carried a spare tire of sorts, at least while he was young, he was deceptively quick. In fact, I liked watching Pablo cover the hot corner because he jumped on a ball just like he could jump on a pitch. He was also a good bad ball hitter: I always thought of the Panda as Vladimir Guerrero lite, in fact. 

I suppose the Giants have little or nothing to lose in giving Sandoval a shot at reclaiming a portion of the glory he foolishly abandoned in favor of Boston. But let's face it, the Panda is toast. Try to keep adding Pablo to your roster at a minimum. I really think he has had it. I thought he had last year. 

A year older, though a better gambit in a deep AL format right now, is the Tigers' Jim Adduci, who has sort of become a professional hitter, at least in short spurts. A first-base/outfielder, Adduci has a fairly anemic career big league line of .218-1-15, but he spent 2014-16 in Korea to the tune of .288-41-171 with a .357 OBP, comparable to his minor league numbers of .285-44-373. Adduci is .298-0-7 over 53 at-bats with the Tigers, and in an AL-only format is a safe guy with which to plug a hole and at least garner a few plate appearances.

In the wake of the injury to Carlos Correa, the Astros advanced their #1 pick from 2013, Colin Moran to augment the left side of the infield. It is true that Moran was smacked in the face by a freak foul ball Sunday, is on the DL, and might need surgery. But he was hitting .308-18-73 at Sacramento with a strong .373 OBP (31 BB/55 K). Obviously, Moran is damaged goods at present, but if the parms of your league do not allow for the claim of a player until he becomes a Major Leaguer, and if you are working towards the future, Moran makes an interesting roster spot investment.

The Cards' Carson Kelly seems like he has been bouncing around the league for years, but he is still just 23, and really only made his big league debut last year. A second-round selection in 2012, Kelly advanced seemingly in concert with how the Redbirds fare over the next few weeks and whether or not Yadier Molina becomes expendable. With a .253-5-243 line in the Minors, although augmented by a .283-10-41 mark at Memphis this season, St. Louis might as well see what they have as the season hits critical mass. Kelly is pretty good as a future investment, and could be pretty good right now.

The Angels' Alex Meyer is just off the DL, and is quietly having a pretty good season, with a 4-5, 3.74 record over 67.3 innings with 75 strikeouts, but sadly, 42 walks, meaning a 1.337 WHIP. Still, pitching is so iffy, and as Scott Pianowski pointed out not long ago on Twitter, "I am ok with the day of the 4.00 ERA and 1.30 WHIP being here." Well, here it is.

The Padres' Dinelson Lamet is a tall (6'4") 25-year-old Dominican right-hander who has a pretty good minor league resume of 20-20, 2.99 over 298.3 innings with 336 strikeouts and a 1.23 WHIP, with a 3-2, 3.23 line at Triple-A El Paso this year. Lamet has certainly struggled in the Minors thus far with a 4-4, 5.92 record over 51.3 innings. Lamet kind of reminds me of Luis Perdomo on the development scale, save a year removed, making him worth a look for the rest of the season as the Friars retool. 

The Jays have been pretty much as injury plagued as have our Fantasy teams, but they just swapped for the Yankees' Rob Refsnyder. With the ineffective Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney covering the middle in lieu of Devon Travis, and Troy Tulowitzki nursing a sore groin, Refsnyder might get a chance to really play every day. I realize this is a sort of man-love thing, but the guy has a .294-37-294 minor league mark over 522 games with an excellent .379 OBP (243 BB/345 K), and depending upon your league could qualify all over the diamond. All I am saying is give Rob a chance?

Hit me up @lawrmichaels.

OK, so even though this season seems to be goofy with whiffs, by the title I more mean let's get going, kind of like Lewis and Clark and the Expedition of Discovery, save we are exploring the second half of the MLB season rather than the lands west of St. Louis.

There was a lot of action over the break with a couple of swaps and some call-ups and even an anticipated one, so let's hop right to it. And we will start with the Pale Hose and three players, two the spoils of the Jose Quintana deal. In fact, just last week I wrote about a pair of minor leaguers who were due, Eloy Jimenez and Yoan Moncada.

I expect Moncada to hit the roster shortly, though Jimenez might not see some big league time till call-ups in 2018 unless something unusual occurs. Of course these days, that would not be odd.

But, the final interesting puzzle piece the Sox really got, Dylan Cease, does deserve some virtual ink. A sixth-round selection of the North Siders in 2014, Cease throws hard but has only managed 33 starts and 120.3 frames since being signed, so durability is surely a question. On the other hand, 160 whiffs with just 78 hits, three of which were homers, suggests some serious gas. I suspect Cease might wind up closing with the Sox, but either way he is worth tracking.

Another newbie to the league, Garrett Cooper, new of the Pinstripes, is a player I would certainly try to nab in a deep Mixed or AL-only format. Cooper, swapped by the Brewers for lefty Tyler Webb, is a 26-year-old who hit .366-18-72 this year, albeit at Colorado Springs. Still, the sixth-round selection out of Auburn is a big guy--6'6", 240 pounds--who does strike out (322 times in the Minors) but walks ok as well (143). The Yanks have pretty good luck with second half first base fill-ins, and Cooper should get a shot at being the right-handed platoon. And, he could indeed give ten homers and 25 knocks as the season crushes on.

Oakland also made a swap, dealing a pair of bullpen parts--Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle--to the Nationals for essentially reliever Blake Treinen and the interesting Jesus Luzardo. At 29, Treinen flirted with closing this year in Washington, saving three games, but getting knocked around to the tune of a 5.73 ERA and 1.619 WHIP, so he will likely not get much of a chance to do much in the Bay Area.

However, especially in an NL format, either of the ex-Athletics hurlers should get a shot to save some games. The edge probably goes to Madson, with better closing experience in the NL, along with being right-handed, but Doolittle is no slouch and who knows exactly what Dusty Baker will do when push comes to shove. Either/both make good FAAB acquisitions this cycle.

NOTE: This Thursday, Joe Pisapia subs for Justin (who is on vacation) and we will spend some time looking at closers on The Tout Wars Hour, at 9 PM, Eastern (6 Pacific) on the FNTSY Radio Network. Tune in and see what we determine.

Luzardo, 19, was a third-round high school selection last year and has had a brief professional career, toiling just 13.6 innings in Rookie Ball this year, whiffing 15, winning a game, and allowing a homer and a couple of runs. He is young, but Billy Beane is pretty good at spotting young arms as we have seen, meaning Luzardo is worth watching as well. For, the Athletics are reloading, and this time next year should fall into place in a pretty good way.

With Michael Pineda out for the season, the Yanks are looking to their system, and advanced Caleb Smith, a 14th-round selection in 2013, who has been a lights out 8-0, 2.11 with 91 whiffs over 89.6 innings this year. Smith, as a minor leaguer, has started 84 games and pitched 457.6 innings, going 32-23, 3.15 with 430 whiffs. He's moved pretty steadily up through the Yankees farm, improving eventually with each promotion culminating with his current stop in New York. Expect some bumps, but Smith is a good AL-only gamble and could be useful all over as we scrounge for starting arms while the season slips away.

The Cards, hurting in the outfield with Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk ailing, recalled Magneuris Sierra, who banged out four hits Sunday, making for an auspicious return. Sierra has a pretty good .297 career mark in the Minors, and swiped 92 bags, but has very little pop (11 homers, .386 slugging), so he is likely a fourth outfielder at best. However, for now, everyday play is probably out there for the next week, and at-bats are the name of the game, so exploit what you can where you can.

24-year-old Max Moroff hit his first big league homer Sunday, and with all the trade rumors swirling around the Pirates, the 16th-round selection in 2012 could slide through with some serious playing time, and be productive to boot. Moroff has a .256-38-237 line in the Minors, hitting .269-13-36 at Indianapolis this season while not with the big club. Moroff has a good eye with 327 walks to 530 strikeouts, good for a .358 OBP, so he could also pick it up and be a valuable part in a deeper format.

Finally, the Tribe recalled Tyler Naquin, a surprise last year but a disappointment this season. A solid .296-14-43 last year, Naquin struggled around .200 this year before being relegated to Columbus where he has done well, hitting .309-5-16. With Lonnie Chisenhall injured. Naquin should get some regular at-bats and could also be useful as we each try to push towards a title.

You can track me down @lawrmichaels.

 

Here we are at the All Star break, eagerly anticipating the second half, or not being able to stand it till the season is over and the 2018 drafts begin.

So, this time, let me give you some names I think make great pick-ups for the second half and ideally beyond.

Do enjoy the few days off from boxes, and remember to spend some time with the family and those you love bereft of baseball and DFS and the looniness it brings.

I am going to start with some youngsters, and the youth brigade begins with Jesse Winker, who got a look at a cup of coffee in April, but is back with the big team, ideally for good. A compensation pick from 2012, Winker has assembled a solid minor league line of .297-56-311, adding a .302-2-37 2017 Louisville total to that sum. Winker does not posess a ton of power, but with an .844 OPS line, extra-base hits are out there, and his .397 minor league OBP is 100 points higher than Billy Hamilton's.

It should not be long before the White Sox Yoan Moncada claims his spot in the infield of one of the teams juggling players and struggling to re-define itself. With a .282-11-33 mark with 16 swipes, the 22-year-old really does not seem to have much more to show at Triple-A, so the team should let him go at the big league level. And, he should respond.

The Cubs had enough outfield depth before the 2017 season to feel ok about swapping Jorge Soler, so the fact that the team is struggling filling their flychaser roles seems surprising. Clearly the Cubs are struggling to prove 2016 was not a fluke and perhaps the tonic is their 20-year-old uber prospect, Eloy Jimenez. Though Jimenez is just playing at High-A, he is hitting .271-8-32 and has a minor league line of .293-32-173 over just 253 games. Sure, Jimenez is young, and a way off in some ways, but he could be the shot in the arm the team needs. And, sooner or later, he will be very good.

Brad Miller had a big 2016 but thus far has had a frustrating 2017 with a .203-3-17 record, though he has spent the last month on the DL. Back from the DL, Miller homered on Sunday, and though he only hit two more homers in the second half last year compared to the first half, he bumped his OBP by 34 points, and his OPS by 83, and helping his surprisingly strong team seems like a likely prescription.

Pitching is so dicey, we all know, but the Rays have been so good at developing young arms, and Jacob Faria is one I both like a lot and trust. The nearly 24-year-old has a minor league line of 41-32, 3.13 over 599 innings with 623 whiffs and was 6-1, 3.07 at Durham when summoned. Since then, he has posted a 4-0, 2.11 record with 37 whiffs over 38.3 frames. I really like this kid.

Injuries have kept Boston's Sam Travis from claiming starting status at first in Beantown following the retirement of David Ortiz. Travis has a minor league mark of .298-25-165 over 289 games with a solid .359 OBP (102 walks to 182 whiffs). Neither Mitch Moreland or Hanley Ramirez are long-term answers to much for the Sox, and Travis is on the roster now, boasting .275-0-1 totals over 16 games. He should get increased playing time as 2017 concludes, and own a starting gig next year.

Seattle's Ben Gamel was a tenth round pick of the Pinstripes in 2010 but was swapped to the Mariners at the deadline last year. Although Gamel was in the Minors during the first month of this season, he has delivered .323-4-29 totals for the Mariners and has a .288-27-319 mark with 97 swipes in the Minors. The pair of Gamel and Mitch Haniger offer the next generation of good flychasers in the Northwest.

Let's finish with a 2017 June draft selection, that being another Ray, Brendan McKay. McKay, who pitches and hits, reminds me a lot of John Olerud, the former Jay who threw and hit and made the Majors just a few months after being drafted, never to return to the Minors. As a hurler for Louisville last year, McKay was 11-3, 2.56 with 146 whiffs over 109.3 frames while simultaneously hitting .341-18-57. Expect his minor league stay to be short and his big league stay to be long.

You can find me @lawrmichaels.

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