Welcome back to all of us from the Hotpage, as we go into our 21st year of covering baseball with a fantasy bend.
And, to kick off the New Year and our first Hotpage of this cycle, we are indeed releasing the Top 250 Prospects for this year, a list I have indeed been producing for almost as long as we have been posting the Hotpage.
In the past, the Top 250 went deep into prospect-land, looking at level of success relative to age, relative to power skills, relative to strike zone judgement, and came up with players who were usually a few years away, perfect for your Ultra or Dynasty format. Well, I have not changed the format at all, but over the years, the number of prospects coming up, getting a chance, and even making an impact has increased dramatically such that the number of rookies generally debuting these days is nearly double the number who were brought up when I first started playing Fantasy Ball in 1989.
If you tuned into Bed Goes Up a few weeks ago, you will have seen my sneak preview in which I tossed a few names to whet your appetites, but also noted the likes of Trevor Story (#241) and Willson Contreras (#112) might have been far off big league and fantasy rosters 20 years ago, but both players ranked at the number shown last year, and each had my special sleeper highlight.
And, like last year, I give the players, their organization, the player's rating, a brief comment on the player, and again I highlighted players who I think are either a little under the radar, or poised for some instant karma.
In addition to level of play, and age, players are ranked on strikeout-to-walks and also innings pitched, on-base and OPS skill, extra-base hits to hits ranking only play at Low-A and above when the pitcher has hurled 70 innings, or the hitter has batted 200 times over the course of the season.
Of course since age is a significant factor in determining potential success, clearly the better a player is, at a higher level, at a younger age, the better. And, this year, the top handful of picks are indeed youngsters, likely not on a lot of radar units. But, that is the way it goes, for in the past names like Jurickson Profar and Carlos Zambrano have topped the list on the good side, while Cody Buckel was a top banana without "appeal."
One final thought: The list looks at 3000 players, largely between the ages of 20-25, so the difference between the number 15 slot on the list and the number 150 slot is just 1.6, as in #15 (Logan Allen) scored 24.40 points while #150 (Corey Zangari) logged in at 26, meaning there were 135 players mashed in between those two totals. So, if you wonder why Dansby Swanson rated so low (215), "low" is contextual. One final note: all ages are factored upon what the player's age will be on Opening Day.
The Top 250 is indeed free when you subscribe to our Platinum Package, driven by the one and only Lord Zola, and the final list should be up and downloadable in the next 48 hours.
So, here is this year's Top 10.
1) Roniel Raudes (P, Boston, 19): Raudes, who will turn 19 this week, finished a full year in the Sally League last year going 11-6 with a 3.64 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, with 104 whiffs across 113.3 frames. The lanky (6'1, 160) Nicaraguan was signed as a 16-year-old.
2) Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta, 20): Hit .321-4-33 at Mississippi before advancing to Gwinnett where there was a little struggle (.248-2-20 over 56 games), but Albies did just turn 20 last week, meaning he was just out of 18's-ville when 2016 began. When you add it up, Albies played 138 games, going .298-6-53 with 33 doubles and 30 steals, showing great zone judgement with 52 walks to 96 strikeouts.
3) Franklin Perez (P, Houston, 19): Perez played a full season at the Midwest League as an 18-year-old, striking out 75 over 66.6 innings, allowing just one homer, going 3-3, 2.84, starting ten games, and earning a save over one of five relief appearances.
4) Kolby Allard (P, Atlanta, 20): Allard began the year in the Appalachian League, then advanced to the Sally League and did 60.3 innings, going 5-3, 3.73 with 62 strikeouts, posting a 1.23 WHIP.
5) Mike Soroka (P, Atlanta, 20): The tall (6'4") Canadian played in Rome with Allard (I suspect we better watch out for the Braves in the future, no?) and went 9-9, 3.02 with 125 whiffs over 143 innings with just three dingers allowed.
6) Anderson Espinoza (P, San Diego, 19): Espinoza, who doesn't turn 19 until March, split his season between Greenville (5-8, 4.38) and Ft. Wayne (1-3, 4.73), whiffing 100 over 108.3 total innings last year. He is a little raw (1.38 WHIP) but San Diego thought enough of him to swap Drew Pomeranz in exchange.
7) Spencer Adams (P, White Sox, 21): Moved up to Double-A after 107.6 innings in the California League, going a cumulative 10-12, 3.98 over 163 innings with 100 total strikeouts and a 1.29 WHIP with just four homers allowed. Not overpowering, but excellent control and is probably Comiskey bound sometime this year.
8) Imani Abdullah (P, Los Angeles, 20): In his first full season, Abdullah went 4-4, 3.61 over 72.6 innings with 59 strikeouts, but just 12 walks, good for a 1.19 WHIP at the Midwest League. He did allow ten dingers, but otherwise pretty stellar numbers for the kid.
9) Ariel Jurado (P, Texas, 21): Went 1-4, 3.30 in the Texas League after going 7-2, 3.86 at High Desert resulting in an 8-6, 3.66 mark over 123 innings with 106 whiffs.
10) Nick Neidert (P, Seattle, 20): Second round pick in 2015, Neidert went 7-3, 2.57 over 91 innings at Clinton with 69 strikeouts to just 13 walks (0.970 WHIP), with just 75 hits allowed.
You can follow me @lawrmichaels.
What a sad, sad Sunday it was with the passing of Jose Fernandez. Not much I can say beyond what we already feel or know. Shades of Ken Hubbs and Tony Conigliaro, losing not just a young player, but such a talented one.
Within that context, maybe it is a good thing that we finish the 2016 season looking ahead at some of the young players I am high on for 2017. That does mean this is the last Hotpage of our 20th year, and that means the Hotpage itself goes into Winter mode. There will be a column in November covering the 2017 Top 250 Prospects, and in December we will review the Winter Meetings and trade circus.
Ideally, come January, I will be #MockDraftArmy-ing with my mate Howard Bender (@RotoBuzzGuy), and will report back from the FSTA convention in Nashville. Come February, we will go back into full tilt mode, covering Spring Training, LABR, Tout Wars, and some other fun stuff.
So, let's finish off, as noted with some young talent I think has some serious room to grow as we look towards next spring.
Kyle Barraclough (RP, Marlins): Let's start with the Fish, who seem to be marked, losing their franchise arm and unable to keep their star outfielder healthy all year. But, perhaps some good things are coming from the Northern California native who looks to be the next closer in the Miami area, drafted in the seventh round in 2012, then swapped for Steve Cishek in 2015. In the Minors, the now 26-year-old righty was 6-6, 2.70, with 28 conversions over 146.3 innings with 185 strikeouts, although 80 walks contributed to an ungainly 1.316 WHIP. Barraclough, who debuted briefly last year, has settled down, going 6-3, 2.76 over 71.6 innings this year with an awesome 110 strikeouts, good for a 13.8 K/9. He did walk 44, but allowed just 42 hits (1.200 WHIP) and looks like a guy to invest in now.
Trevor Story (SS, Rockies): Not much of a secret is the shortstop who replaced Troy Tulowitzki and then led the NL in homers the first few weeks of the season. In fact, Story was a top pick all over following his .277-18-63 2012 at Asheville as a 19-year-old. He then faded into the fabric of the Minors. But last year, Story had a solid 69 games at New Britain (.281-10-40 with 15 steals) and then off to Triple-A Albuquerque for 61 more games (.277-10-40 with seven steals), and that was good for a .279-20-80 mark with 22 swipes. Story hit the #242 slot on last year's 2016 Top 250 Prospect List, including getting blue fill in his cell on the spreadsheet for being a sleeper in my view. So, I will let the words I wrote on January 11 of this year speak for themselves. Looking ahead, though, I think the 23-year-old will get better, especially playing half of his games at Coors.
Jett Bandy (C, Angels): I just like this guy, and though I am not totally sure how good he will be as a Major Leaguer, let alone fantasy gamble, I am certainly willing to risk a dollar on him in Tout and LABR next year. But, in my Strat-O-Matic Dynasty League, I am surely looking at Bandy, who has hit .239-8-25 over 66 games and has some pop with over one-third of his Angels hits going for extra bases. Since catchers develop their hitting later, working on defense and calling games, two areas which Bandy is already pretty good (he has nailed 40% of base runners trying to steal), I am guessing Bandy will have a great Strat card. He will be a guy I can draft in the fourth round or so looking towards the future.
Jon Gray (P, Rockies): Yeah, yeah, Gray is a Rockies pitcher, but he was the #3 overall pick made in 2013 out of the University of Oklahoma. Gray whiffed 285 hitters over 282.3 minor league innings, with a 20-12, 3.76 mark. But he really did target missing bats this year with 182 strikeouts over 162.6 innings, great despite the 4.54 ERA, as witnessed by the 1.233 WHIP. Gray will get better, and possibly be dominant enough so that it really doesn't matter where he pitches.
Whit Merrifield (2B, Royals): A ninth-round selection in 2010, Merrifield, now 27, has had a slow crawl up a system that has been chock full of future stars. But he seems to be one of those quiet kind of middle infielders that can do everything ok, but nothing really spectacularly. He has hit .273-43-265 over 719 minor league games, banging 169 doubles and stealing 142 bases while walking a modest 238 times to a manageable 476 strikeouts (talk about a two-to-one ratio). Nothing flashy, but I still have a feeling that the keystone player, who has hit .282-2-25 with seven swipes with the big club this year, will get some nice quiet full-time play next year, and put up a season-long mark along the lines of his history: .270-10-50 with ten swipes. The thing is he will be a $1 investment in auctions and a reserve pick in most drafts, meaning well worth the price.
Alex Dickerson (OF, Padres): Some good things seem to be working in the land of the Friars, including Dickerson, a third-round pick of the Pirates in 2011 who was then swapped to San Diego for Jaff Decker in 2013. Dickerson assembled an impressive minor league line of .309-58-325 over 524 games with 153 walks to 366 strikeouts (.367 OBP) and an .867 OPS. The 26-year-old is .259-10-37 with five steals over 78 games this year, but I would expect a nice jump next year, and a chance at becoming one of the big hitters in the NL come 2018.
Ender Inciarte (OF, Braves): Some of the spoils from the worst trade of last year, Inciarte was a hot commodity after his .303-6-45 performance with 21 steals for the Diamondbacks last year, which is part of why the Shelby Miller swap seemed odd. But, Inciarte was injured in the spring, making a late debut and getting going slowly this year. But, the end results were a fine .296-3-29 line with 16 swipes over 125 games. Inciarte will likely be an afterthought/filler in a lot of leagues next year, but he should help a lot with swipes and average and runs scored, great for a late-round selection.
Tanner Roark (SP, Nationals): After a great 15-10, 2.85 season in 2014 pitching 198.6 innings, Roark disappointed us all in 2015, going 4-7, 4.38 over 111 innings and a frustrating season. But, Roark, now 29, rebounded in style this year, going 15-9, 2.70 over 200.3 innings with 162 strikeouts and a 1.163 WHIP. Still, based upon the ups-and-downs, Roark will be a fourth starter for a lot of owners, and maybe lower in shallow mixed leagues. Take the gamble: he is good.
With a couple of more weeks left in the regular season, let's continue our prep and look at a bunch of guys you might want to be a tad wary of when 2017 rolls around.
In contextualizing this, I must say that this year an alarming number of players actually performed as predicted. We may have had doubts about D.J. LeMahieu, or Rick Porcello, but as examples both comported themselves well, actually improving upon the 2015 numbers we were not sure were there to stay.
But, that meant the focus this year is on a lot more younger players than normal, as we focus on high fliers who have become underachievers, so that simply means let your leaguemates take the high level risk, but should many of these youngin's slip to the later rounds, suddenly you may indeed have a sleeper.
J.A. Happ (P, Blue Jays): OK, Happ had a solid 2009 (12-4, 2.93, 1.235), but essentially Happ is a career 81-65, 4.00 hurler, with a 1.336 WHIP and just 7.7 whiffs per nine innings. Yes, the Toronto lefty has had a monster year and will likely win 20 (at present he is 19-4, 3.27, 1.164), but we are talking a career high in innings (176.3 at present) and no real history of being anyone other than Ryan Vogelsong after he toiled for nine years and suddenly became good. I have had Happ on teams a lot, and normally, the junk baller is effective in April, then loses it thereafter. Happ is a decent $9 gamble as a #3 or #4 starter, but I would not risk much more on him.
Adam Duvall (OF, Reds): OBP will indeed be a common theme today, and Duvall, who is 28 and just completing his first full season, has a ton of power but not a lot of discipline at the dish. In the stats world, we have an .800 OPS fueled largely by a .505 Slugging Percentage, barely augmented by a .295 OBP. Duvall has struck out 149 times this year to just 36 walks, but even in the Minors, he recorded 216 walks to 527 strikeouts (.338 OBP), so the outfielder had trouble getting his bat on the ball. Clearly, MLB has given in to homers even if they come with a high number of strikeouts (think Chris Carter), but I would be a lot less enamored of the drain on my other numbers the homers might try to offset.
Byron Buxton (OF, Twins): A stark contrast to Duvall, Buxton is six years younger than the Reds flychaser, but his contact rate is not much better in the Majors, as he has logged .219-9-37 totals with a .269 OBP and 23 walks to 144 strikeouts. Buxton does indeed have a bunch more upside and potential, as the Twinkies outfielder had a solid .380 OBP in the Minors over 325 games, and he could well start to really deliver the numbers in a few years (think Wil Myers), but I am guessing 2017 will not be much happier on the stats.
Tim Anderson (SS, White Sox): Another youngster who has comported himself well enough as a rookie (.280-7-25 with 10 steals) but who does not look like any kind of long-term solution to much at the top spot of the order. Anderson has struck out 101 times this year, to just 10 walks at US Cellular, but his minor league numbers of 78 walks to 461 whiffs doesn't bode that well, and once there is a book on the kid, he must adjust or languish, most likely on reserves or in Triple-A.
Yoan Moncada (3B, Red Sox): Maybe Moncada will be a big star, but with one walk to ten strikeouts this year, I am guessing at best he is a few years off. With Travis Shaw solid enough in the interim, I would simply not expect much for a few more years when positions and maturity push the now 21-year-old infielder--who arguably can rake at the lower levels--into the limelight. Moncada is worth grabbing and stashing, but I am not expecting much of a serious contribution until 2018, if not later.
Melvin/Justin Upton (OF, Jays/Tigers): So strange: Melvin hits .241-20-61 (albeit with 26 swipes) and resurrects his career at 31, while Justin goes to Detroit and hits .236-24-74 and his career looks like it is tanking. Truth is they have both simply become big swingers who just are not the complete players we once imagined, and more recently hoped for. Melvin has a .264 OBP this year while Justin is at .297. I don't care what anyone says, the objective of baseball is to get on base and score runs. Neither has convinced me they will improve their skills, and the investment in either suggests more towards erosion of said abilities.
Jason Heyward (OF, Cubs): He is hitting .228-6-43 over 491 at-bats with the best team in baseball? Double Ugh. The .618 OPS makes it Triple Ugh. I just don't know about this guy, but with the riches the Cubbies have all over, and their experience now as a very fine team, Theo can kiss Jason goodbye. Where he lands, I don't know, but I would not trust Heyward again until 2018, and that depends on his contact and on-base numbers in 2017. I don't even like Heyward (or the Uptons, for that matter) as sleepers next year.
Collin McHugh (P, Astros): Truth is he was never as good as his solid 2015 (19-7, 3.89) and was always much more like his 162-game mean of 14-12, 4.22 with a 1.302 WHIP. This year he is 11-10, 4.66, with an awful 1.475 WHIP, much more down to earth, and what we expected. But, as a fifth or sixth starter, I prefer Ervin Santana and Nathan Eovaldi by a long shot.
As we wind down the 2016 Baseball Season, let's finish off the next few weeks with some annual traditions, starting with my looking at prospects who are worth keeping on your radar (or Ultra reserve list) and who might make an impact in 2017 (not that my 2017 Top 250 Prospect List will be out in November).
Hunter Renfroe (OF, Padres): Though there are indeed some Triple-A hopefuls, Renfroe's big league team could really use his potentially big stick. A first-round selection of San Diego in 2013 (Renfroe was a 31st rounder in 2010 but opted to attend Mississippi State), the outfielder moved through the ranks, debuting at Triple-A El Paso in 2015 with a .333-6-24 line over 21 games, and then played a full complement there this season. The results produced a PCL MVP to go with .306-30-105 totals with 34 doubles. Strike zone judgement is an issue as Renfroe only walked 22 times, but he only whiffed 105, which ultimately suggests pretty good contact. Of all the prospects on this list, Renfroe might be the most vulnerable, but similarly at this point he has the best chance of earning full-time play next year.
Gleyber Torres (SS, Yankees): If Renfroe represents the top shot playing at Triple-A, then Torres is the long-shot. The 19-year-old shortstop started at the Carolina League as a member of the loaded Cubs minor league system, and then went to the Pinstripes as part of the Aroldis Chapman deadline swap. Before the trade, Torres hit .275-9-47 in the Carolina League, then finished at .254-2-19 as part of the Florida State League. That made for a .270-11-66 line with 40 extra-base hits, 21 steals and a pretty good .354 OBP (58 walks to 110 strikeouts). Torres will start the 2017 season at Double-A, and is a long-shot to hit Yankee Stadium until maybe a year from now, but he is a real talent and will get a chance to earn the shortstop gig on a retooling team before long.
Willy Adames (SS, Rays): A 2014 pcik by the Tigers, then swapped to Tampa as part of the David Price deal, Adames put up .274-11-57 numbers with 89 runs scored and 13 steals. Just 21 last week, Adames also contributed 30 doubles and worked 74 walks to 121 strikeouts, good for a solid .372 OBP.
Jake Bauers (OF, Rays): Tampa set the tone for complete rebuilds via prudent drafting and prospect acquisition over a decade ago. The team is again undergoing reconstruction, not just with Adames, but also Bauers. Another 2014 trade acquisition, the Rays copped Bauers from San Diego as part of the Wil Myers deal. A month younger than Adames, Bauers notched a .274-14-78 line with ten swipes and 207 Total Bases. Similarly patient, Bauers garnered 79 walks to 89 strikeouts, good for a .370 OBP.
Barrett Astin (P, Reds): Cincy has done pretty well assembling a group of young arms, and Astin could indeed join the ranks. Playing at Pensacola last year, Astin logged a 9-3, 2.26 line over 103.3 innings, striking out 96 while walking just 25 (0.96 WHIP). Astin made 11 starts and 26 appearances in relief, earning one save (he has six in the Minors), so it looks like the pen might indeed be his future and that means a potentially faster path to the Show.
Dylan Cozens (OF, Phillies): A 22-year-old, signed in 2012, Cozens toiled in Redding last year and delivered some major offensive totals, hitting .276-40-125 with 38 doubles, meaning 56% of his hits went for extra bases. Cozens did strike out an awesome 186 times, but walked a decent 61 while also stealing 21 bags. He should get a shot at joining Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera in one of the more potentially exciting outfields in the Majors.
Rowdy Tellez (1B, Blue Jays): A Northern California product, Tellez produced a solid .297-23-81 mark with 29 doubles at New Hampshire last year. He is a big (6'4", 240 pounds) guy who is not a speedster, making him a potential perfect power source at the corner. Tellez also displayed a good eye, walking 63 times to 92 strikeouts, good for a solid .387 OBP. 35% of his minor league hits have gone for extra bases.
Matt Chapman (3B, Athletics): A 23-year-old drafted out of Cal-State Fullerton, Chapman is a guy who I have written about before. The third sacker posted .244-29-83 totals at Midland before finishing at Nashville (.197-7-13), good for an aggregate .237-37-96 with 27 doubles. Chapman too has to work on his zone judgement as he has whiffed 173 times to just 68 walks, but Oakland management is looking at Chapman as the future at third, not Ryon Healy.
Francis Martes (P, Astros): Finishing with a hurler on a team that desperately needs a dominant guy on the hill, Martes went 9-6, 3.30 at Corpus Christi last year, in a hitters league, wherein he struck out 131 over 125.3 innings. The right-handed Dominican is just 20, and was originally a Marlin who came to Houston via the 2014 Jarred Cosart swap. As a minor leaguer, Martes has 307 punchouts over 321.3 innings with a 1.20 WHIP.
If you were a statistician with MLB.com, your nightmare month would be starting this week with roster expansion as you tried to track replacements between innings for teams giving their fuzzy faced youngsters a chance (note that Jackie Robinson Day, when everyone wears #42 is actually even tougher).
But, for the fantasy world, this means both a look at newbies and a chance for dominant teams to pick upon the weaker squads, and that means roto teams with a complement of players with postseason possibilities can pad some stats with the likes of Jose Altuve matching up against the likes of Henry Owens.
Speaking of the Red Sox, the team advanced one of their most prized prospects in Yoan Moncada, a 21-year-old Cuban import who hit .277-4-28 over 101 games in his home country, also bagging 21 steals while posting a solid .388 OBP (40 walks to 69 strikeouts). The youngster has kept impressing, biding time while hitting .287-23-100 over 187 minor league contests with 91 steals and a spectacular 52% of his hits going for extra bases. Moncada will get every chance to become the starting third sacker at Fenway, and should be owned in all formats, now and till he proves he is not worth the investment or roster slot. But, the bottom line, he looks dynamite.
The Royals, no strangers to having prospects, advanced Hunter Dozier, the younger sib of the Twins' Brian, and a player I have been watching for a few years. A third sacker who has also played some outfield, Dozier has a .262-50-240 line over 456 minor league games wherein he swiped 21 and managed a .344 OBP (203 walks to 407 strikeouts). Just 25, Dozier has some possibilities on a team with some question marks for the coming season, but owning Dozier is not nearly as compelling as the chance to own Moncada.
Pittsburgh also took the cue, and promoted 23-year-old Domincan infielder Alen Hanson, another fellow I have tracked since he went .309-16-62 with 35 steals and 13 triples playing for West Virginia as a 19-year-old in 2012. The mostly shortstop has been toiling at Triple-A Indianapolis for the past two seasons, hitting .265-14-75 with 75 swipes over 227 games played at that level. Hanson does have some strike zone issues with 69 walks to 169 strikeouts (.316 OBP) playing the International League, and as an investment, is somewhere between Dozier and Moncada on the lick your chops scale. Hanson should have a chance to play full-time starting next season.
The Fish are pretty well set at catcher with J.T. Realmuto, but the team also has Venezuelan Tomas Telis, a 25-year-old who has impressive numbers (and strike zone judgement), notching .290-42-380 totals over 755 minor league games. Over that span, Telis made great contact, walking 149 times and whiffing in just 305 at-bats. This past year, Telis hit .310-6-45 over 336 at-bats with 26 walks to 42 whiffs (.362 OBP). Telis might not see daylight with Miami, but he should get a chance to play somewhere, and as a result is worth tracking.
There are many more prospects to look at, but let's save some for the coming weeks and focus a bit on players we gambled on over the past couple of years who struggled, and now are back, starting with the Mets and Michael Conforto. We all drooled over Conforto after he posted .297-12-54 totals in the Minors last year, and then splashed at Citi Field, going .270-9-26. But he struggled with full-time play, hitting just .220-11-33 over 87 games and showing how overmatched he was with just a .301 OBP. Conforto certainly needs no more time at Triple-A after hitting .422-9-28 at Las Vegas following this year's demotion, but he probably needs next season to get comfortable and understand he belongs. That is if he can get that. I am banking he will, and will be quite good, meaning Conforto might be a dismissed sleeper in 2017.
Much the same can be said about 22-year-old Twins prospect Byron Buxton, who hypnotized us with .302-39-182 totals over 325 minor league games that featured 40 triples and 112 swipes. Buxton managed well controlling the zone in the Minors, with 149 walks to 303 whiffs and a .380 OBP. However, those numbers have not as yet translated in the Majors with a .211-5-27 line and .258 OBP over 112 games. Like Conforto, this is a good time for Buxton to grab some sea legs at the Show and move towards really settling into full-time play next year. But, he is a commodity worth owning.
On the other hand, there is now 30-year-old Darin Ruf, who went .317-38-104 in 2012 at Double-A Reading and set the ownership Pavlovian motions in order. I was never that high on Ruf. He did have a fine year, but at age 25, he was old to be making a mark at that level, especially in the context of the other prospects mentioned today. Let him go. Ruf will never be more than a Brandon Wood pipe dream.
We can finish with one of the more frustrating hurlers of this decade in Alex Cobb, who has been injured every year since 2011, but then missed all of 2015. The problem is when Cobb pitches, he is very good with a 35-23, 3.22 line with a great 1.189 WHIP over 503.6 innings (433 whiffs). Still just 28, Cobb went five innings allowing a couple of runs while striking out seven in his first start since returning from the MASH unit, and I would certainly gamble on him down the stretch. Over the course of a season, however, I would tread lightly and bring a lot of slings and bandages.
It is the last week before the insanity of roster expansion, but that did not stop the big league clubs from promoting a potential star for now, and one who was supposed to be a few years back.
The Nationals drafted hurler A.J. Cole in the fourth round in 2010 out of Oviedo High School in Florida, and he toiled in their system for three years before moving west to Oakland as part of the big Gio Gonzalez swap in 2011. But, the Nats coveted Cole enough to get him back as part of a three-way Seattle/Oakland/Washington swap that involved John Jaso and Mike Morse a couple of years later. Cole had pretty good minor league success, going 46-39, 3.63 over seven seasons, with 689 strikeouts over 730.3 innings. But, Cole's dominance has dropped with promotions, as he whiffed 10.2 batters per nine at A-ball, while that number dropped to 7.2 in Triple-A. Cole has turned in 22.3 innings in the Majors with an 0-1, 5.32 record over 22 innings. The big (6'5") 24-year-old is interesting, and on a good team, but worth worshiping only from afar at this juncture.
Alex Reyes actually made his debut with the Cardinals a few weeks ago, and made a tough start against the Athletics. The 22-year-old (today is his birthday) had a solid 20-21 resume in the Minors with a 4.10 ERA and a 1.314 WHIP, but that belies a terrific 449 whiffs over 339 innings, which translates to 12.1 strikeouts per nine. The Saturday start against Oakland was the first for Reyes, and the patient Athletics hitters made the youngster pay, chasing him after 4.6 innings. But, Reyes pitches for a great team and a manager who knows pitching, and has a promising future.
If you are looking for a stabilizing bullpen arm for now who might turn into a closer later, take a peek at another of the young Yankees in Ben Heller. A 22nd-round pick of the Tribe in 2013, Cleveland swapped Heller to New York as part of the Andrew Miller deal, and he has impressed in the Minors. With 233 strikeouts over 178.3 innings, Heller managed a 9-9, 2.72 line along with 32 saves in the Minors. This year, he was 3-3, 1.69 over 48 innings with 55 strikeouts and 13 saves at two levels with three teams.
As long as we are cashing in on trade spoils, the Braves recalled Aaron Blair, the former #1 pick of the D-backs in 2013, whom the Braves nabbed along with Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson in the ill-fated Shelby Miller deal. Blair has pretty good minor league totals of 28-17, 3.46 over 76 starts and 434.6 innings, with 403 whiffs, going 5-4, 4.65 at Gwinnett this season, a far cry from his 0-5, 7.99 totals in Atlanta. I cannot recommend Blair on a contending team. But, going into the final month, with roster expansion and younger players, if the Braves throw Blair into their rotation and give him 4-5 starts on which to grow, the righty becomes an interesting potential keeper and similar play for 2017.
Remember how deep the Dodgers were in starting pitching and outfielders? Hah. Meaning it is time to look at Rob Segedin, the 27-year-old who was the Yankees third-round pick in 2010. The Pinstripes dealt Segedin early this year as part of the Ronald Torreyes trade, and he was hitting .319-21-69 at Oklahoma City when summoned. With 215 walks to 397 strikeouts (.357 OBP), Segedin logged a minor league OPS of .800 on the nose and is hitting .263-2-12 with the big club, and similarly looks to be getting everyday play during the team's stretch run.
Let's turn now to a few names who continue to haunt, starting with a former star and top pick gone awry, Carlos Gomez. Gomez, whom I will say I never trusted, had a hot run between 2012-14, hitting 66 homers and swiping 111 bags while driving in 197 runs. But last year the wheels started to come off, and this year's .210-5-29 line with the Astros made it such that the team flat out released the $8 million a year outfielder (Gomez is a free agent at the end of this year). Do I think the move to the Rangers will help? Nope, not for a guy with a .310 career OBP. Pass unless desperate.
This was supposed to be the breakout year for Taijuan Walker, but the young hurler was relegated to Tacoma after his 4-8, 5.17 line over 18 starts and 95.6 innings. Walker made a pair of starts for Tacoma, going 1-0, 3.60 over 15 innings, and he's now back with the big club. Walker had a pretty good second half last year, going 4-1, 4.14, and Seattle has a decent team. I actually like Walker as a gamble for the rest of the season.
Much the same could be said about Matt Wisler, who was 5-11, 4.92 and went down to Gwinnett, where the righty went 2-1, 3.71 over four starts and 26.6 frames. The Braves will be iffy for a few years, but Wisler, a 7th round pick in 2011, should be ok. Like Walker, he will be working through a lot of expansion rosters. For next year, however, bets are still off.
Wow, it has been a pretty good week of top notch prospects making their Major League debuts, so let's jump right into it.
The Braves promoted the receiving end of their great off-season deal with Arizona, whereby Shelby Miller fetched Ender Inciarte and 2015 first-round pick of the D-backs Dansby Swanson. The 22-year-old shortstop needed just 127 minor league games, over which he notched .277-10-66 numbers with 13 swipes. Swanson posted an .803 OPS, banging 36% of his hits for extra bases, while walking 64 times to 98 strikeouts (.367 OBP). Swanson is off to a good start and seems to have all the tools to be the core of a team in Atlanta and roto a la Corey Seager, meaning if available in your keeper league, grab. In fact, he makes a good gamble in throw back leagues as well.
It did not take long for the Twins to decide that newly acquired hurler Adalberto Mejia was ready for the big time, advancing the spoils of the Eduardo Nunez trade deadline swap to Target Field. I have long been a Mejia admirer, and even noted the 23-year-old Dominican a few weeks back. Mejia sports a 42-29, 3.32 minor league line that features 482 strikeouts over 559 innings. However, his strikeout rate in Triple-A has been a cool 65 whiffs over 65 innings and has an aggregate 1.182 WHIP. Mejia throws pretty hard (middle to upper 90's) and has dominance potential.
Oakland is likely satisfied with the progress made by shortstop Marcus Semien, so they will have to figure where to place newly promoted infielder Chad Pinder. A second-round selection of the team in 2013, Pinder has a solid minor league line of .280-45-200 over 360 minor league games, with a decent enough .331 OBP (87 walks to 351 strikeouts), posting a .258-14-51 line at Nashville this season before the call earlier in the week. Pinder did start 89 games at second in the Minors, and with Jed Lowrie back on the injury gang, Pinder could get an extended look at the Keystone slot between now and October. He did look good at the AFL last fall, and might even return to Phoenix this fall to get some more playing time up the middle.
As if that was not enough, Houston promoted their long-toothed rookie in 32-year-old Yulieski Gurriel, a Cuban national infielder who has banged out a .335-250-1028 line over 15 seasons played in his home nation and then Japan. Gurriel played in only 15 minor league games (250-2-14) before he was called to the Show, and though he does have a ton of experience at a very high level of play, it has indeed taken the latest wave of Cubans a longer time frame to adjust and succeed, and at an age where most players' skills begin to erode, I would tread carefully.
One other issue for Houston and Gurriel is Alex Bregman seems to be laying claim to third base. Bregman, who was a first-round selection of the Astros last year, has, like Pinder, been a shortstop and second sacker but Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve are likely ensconced, so third is the likely slot. Bregman hit .300-24-95 over 124 games, and then came up to Minute Maid. Bregman has been hot, hitting .286-3-13 over the past three weeks, and is another guy to keep on your short-term radar and long-term teams.
26-year-old Keon Broxton is also older than a lot of his page mates and at this point is better travelled. Originally signed by the Diamondbacks in 2009, the Pirates then obtained rights to the outfielder, and then swapped him to the Brewers for Jason Rogers at the end of 2015. Broxton had a decent minor league line of .255-83-363 with a fine 168 swipes, but a rather paltry 368 walks to 1027 strikeouts. He clubbed a pair of dingers on Sunday, bringing his mark this year to .250-6-14 over 53 games, but is probably not much of a long-term speculation player. However, if you are filling a hole to win this season, Broxton could indeed hit a couple of big flies and steal a few bags.
Let's close with a couple of relievers. I really like setup guys like Derek Law of the Giants, who was a ninth-round selection of San Francisco in 2011. Such pitchers can keep the counting numbers going while tossing a few innings a week that generally don't hurt. As a minor leaguer, Law assembled a line that included 46 saves over 192.6 innings, while striking out 261. With the Giants this season, Law is 4-2, 2.03 over 48.6 frames with 45 whiffs and a 1.05 WHIP. Law will get some use down the stretch and adds to the longtime closer question in San Francisco which also features Hunter Strickland, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla.
The Mets' Josh Smoker was a first-round selection of the Nationals out of high school in 2007 and has functioned as a reliever since 2011, accumulating 12 saves while striking out 292 over 298.3 innings. Smoker's WHIP dropped a lot once he moved to the pen, and he has been up and down with the Metropolitans this season, quietly putting up a pretty good line of 4-4, 1.50 over 66 innings with 65 punchouts, a 1.05 WHIP and three conversions. I'm not sure if Smoker is a closer of the future, but he is one of those guys that can fill a spot on your rotation late in the season and keep things stable.
Feel free to comment, and don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.
Richard the III would declare, "My kingdom for a pitcher" this week if he dared look at the transaction line, as MLB seems to be scrambling for arms in likely as desperate a search as the world of fantasy owners.
In response to the call to arms, big league teams are taking a look at some pitchers familiar to us, and even tempted us with moments of success. So, let's take a look at some of these retread arms and see if they are worth picking up for fantasy purposes.
Of course we have to frame looking at these guys knowing that they are probably of potential use only in the deepest of leagues, but, well, there is always someone like Chris Young, Edinson Volquez or Scott Feldman who do give us a late-season push towards redeeming value.
An interesting gamble of this cluster in my view belongs to the Brewers' Wily Peralta, who held the Braves in check after being recalled early in the week. Peralta was sent down in June after going 4-7, 6.68 over 66 frames before being relegated to the Minors, and the reality is Peralta was bad with Colorado Springs, going 1-3, 6.38. But Peralta has at least a history of pretty good success between 2012-14, and is still just 26 years old.
Possibly my favorite spring training moment this year was waiting to pick up my rental car and spotting a fan wearing a Chris Narveson t-shirt. Truth is, I never expected Narveson was good enough to merit a tee, but Narveson, now 36, was decent enough in the Minors (4-5, 3.48) to get a new shot with the Fish, although the lefty's first foray back to The Show was less than stellar, despite a win (8.3 innings, eight runs, and six whiffs). Narveson has a career 1.35 WHIP as a Major Leaguer, which is actually better than Peralta's 1.44, but I would be wary.
Perhaps the best bet to help a team is the Padres' Brandon Morrow, who has a checkered career for sure, but can indeed whiff hitters with 788 strikeouts over 767.6 innings. Still just 32, Morrow previously toured with the Mariners and Jays, but he has never toiled more than 179 innings in a season, which he did for the Jays in 2011. Morrow does, as noted, get the whiffs, but he also owns a lifetime WHIP of 1.343, obviously is not too durable, and plays for a crappy team. On the other hand, he does get whiffs and pitches in a pretty good park.
Ugh, the next bunch are beyond the pale to a degree, but teams are using these pitchers, and strange things do happen. Like, I mentioned Scott Feldman above, who was a throw-in when I made a trade in 2009 as part of Tout Wars where I swapped CC Sabathia for some hitting (Howie Kendrick) and also got Feldman, giving me an arm to plug into Sabathia's spot. Feldman was 9-4, 3.99 when I got him at the trade deadline, but went 5-0, 2.89 over August, and, well, that helped me win a pennant.
That doesn't mean I can recommend Ross Detwiler, now of the Athletics, but, well, the 30-year-old did have a pretty good start the other day, blanking the Orioles over eight innings. Detwiler has a career mark of 22-37, 4.19 over 542 innings, and was less than effective for the Tribe (0-0, 5.79 over 4.6 innings) before the Athletics--who are as pitching starved as anyone--purchased the southpaw to try and fill in the gaps. Detwiler is not a strikeout guy (just 331 whiffs) and has a WHIP of 1.435, but like Morrow, he gets to pitch in a park favorable to hurlers.
Daniel Norris was recalled by the Tigers this week, after injuring his back during the spring. The #2 draft pick of the Jays--who was traded to Detroit for David Price--whiffed 543 over 519 minor league innings and managed a 4-2, 3.93 record in the Majors, including a victory this past week over the Mariners when he gave up a run over five frames. Norris is an interesting grab for the stretch, and has the most potential of anyone discussed today over the long haul.
We can finish up this week with a couple of position players, starting with Angels catcher Carlos Perez. The Angels have been having trouble filling the backstop role the past few seasons, and though Perez did log a .250-4-21 line last year over 86 games, he could only manage a .298 OBP (19 walks, 49 whiffs). If you need a catcher in an AL-only, Perez could at least fill the hole benignly, but the reality is I prefer Jett Bandy over the long haul.
If last is best, the Yankees advanced 6'7" outfielder Aaron Judge, the team's first-round selection in 2013. Over three seasons and 348 minor league games, Judge put up a .278-56-215 line with a solid .373 OBP that featured 189 walks to 373 strikeouts. Judge has homered in each of his first two big league games, and will probably get every chance to start and prove his mettle as the Pinstripes retool. Grab Judge wherever you can.
The last day of the trade deadline was indeed a busy one, and now that the dust has settled, let's look at both some of the best spoils as well as eyeballing some interesting players promoted over the past week.
Let's start with Dilson Herrera, a former Mets prodigy, now a member of the Reds via the Jay Bruce deal of last Monday. Herrera, who scored as the #1 guy on my Top 250 Prospect List in 2015, has a fine .299-58-294 minor league mark with 193 walks to 435 strikeouts (.361 OBP) and knocked 35% of his minor league hits for extra bases (that percentage is often a good barometer of future power and potential, particularly in young players, so we will begin focusing more on it in the future). Herrera made his Mets debut last year at the age of 21, has a .215-6-17 Major League line and with the Reds looking to get young, he is likely slated for a starting gig next year. He is good, so you want to stash Herrera (how I wish I had not traded him in my Strat-O-Matic league).
Boston continues to materialize the killer young outfielders, and Andrew Benintendi is indeed the new kid on the block. At just 22, Benintendi was drafted (31st round) out of high school by the Reds in 2013, but he opted for the University of Arkansas instead, and his performance there prompted a first round (#7 overall) selection in 2015, and after just 151 games in the Minors, the young flychaser has arrived. With a minor league resume of .312-20-107, with 38 doubles, 16 triples (41% for extra bases) and 26 swipes, Benintendi is tempting enough, but add in 74 walks to 63 whiffs (.392 OBP) and grabbing and playing the new Bostonian is simply a must.
Houston's A.J. Reed was recalled this week and he indeed looks to be the future at first base for the franchise, and the future is likely now with Tyler White slumping (.212-7-22) and possibly heading to the DL. Reed, Houston's second round selection in 2014, is big (6'4", 275 lbs.) and has played 273 minor league games assembling an impressive slash of .316-61-231, with a solid .403 OBP (148 walks to 243 strikeouts). Reed hit 43% of his minor league hits for extra bases and has nowhere to go but up.
The Phils might indeed have an interesting potential starter in Jake Thompson, a second-round selection of the Tigers in 2012. Detroit then swapped Thompson to the Rangers as part of the Joakim Soria deal in 2014, and Texas turned around and swapped Thompson to the Phils as part of the Cole Hamels deal a year ago. Thompson has made 92 starts, notching a 36-22, 3.06 record over 503.6 frames with 482 strikeouts, a 1.203 WHIP and just 31 homers allowed. The Phils already have two interesting starting arms, and Thompson, 22, looks to fall in line with Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff.
The Braves closer situation is a bit of a merry-go-round these days, with Jim Johnson claiming the job while Mauricio Cabrera sits in the wings. Well, add the name Brandon Cunniff to the "hmmm" list. Cunniff was drafted by the Marlins in the 27th round of the 2010 draft, was then released, and picked up by Atlanta for whom he debuted last year, going 2-2, 4.63 over 32 innings. Cunniff converted 39 saves while in the Minors, and copped 194 strikeouts over 190.3 innings, allowing ten homers and just 139 hits, good for a 1.172 WHIP. The 27-year-old could be a stabilizer in a deep league should you need to plug a gap, and is worth keeping an eye on playing on a team in serious (and fun) transition.
The Twins made a good trade with the Giants, sending Eduardo Nunez to the City by the Bay and receiving Adalberto Mejia in return. Nunez is a good fit with San Francisco, as he's able to play several positions, adding some pop and speed to a lineup that has been tired of late. But Mejia, who scored #10 on my Top 250 Prospect List last year, has a 41-28, 3.25 record over 526.6 innings with a solid 470 punchouts and 1.176 WHIP. Mejia clocks in the high 90's, and had a 7-4, 2.86 record this year in the Minors split between Double-A and Triple-A, striking out 109 over 112.6 innings.
I really like Yankees backstop Gary Sanchez, who was recalled and should get some good playing time as the season continues. A 23-year-old Dominican, Sanchez notched a solid .275-99-428 line in the Yanks minor league system, hitting 37% of his hits for extra bases during his minor league tenure. Sanchez looked great last year at the AFL (.295-7-21) and though he does whiff more than his mates (.339 OBP, with 216 walks to 544 strikeouts), as the Pinstripes restructure, Sanchez should be a core part of the transition.
The White Sox acquired Charlie Tilson in exchange for Zach Duke, and the outfielder Tilson has a solid enough minor league profile. The 23-year-old was a second-round pick of the Cardinals in 2011, hitting .293-19-154 over 471 games with 89 steals and an acceptable 142 walks to 295 strikeouts. He makes for an interesting cog in the Pale Hose's future outfield.
The Angels signed infielder Jose Rondon, a Venezuelan native, in 2011, and then traded him to the Padres in 2014 as part of the Huston Street swap. Rondon had a minor league line of .289-11-203 with 72 swipes over 463 games. He does make decent contact, and is not a complete free swinger (134 walks to 266 strikeouts and a .340 OBP). The 22-year-old should get some good playing time through the rest of the season.
Oh what fun is the trade deadline, but since tonight marks the end of this year's cycle, let's put off looking at some of the spoils till next week, especially since there was a cluster of call-ups and returns of players we have indeed been anticipating for what seems like years.
Let's start with Tyler Skaggs, the Diamondbacks #1 selection in 2009, who was then swapped to the Angels in a 2013 deal that involved Mark Trumbo, Adam Eaton and Hector Santiago. Between 2012-14, Skaggs tossed 181 innings, going 8-11, 5.07, with a 1.298 WHIP. He missed all of last year as a result of Tommy John surgery, but at long last, Skaggs returned last week, perhaps not just fixed, but ready to pitch as anticipated when the lefty was the 40th overall selection. Still just 25, Skaggs has twirled 12.3 frames this past week, with 13 whiffs and no runs allowed. He was 3-2, 1.67 over seven starts with Salt Lake this year, and looks like he is ready to indeed pick up the gauntlet along with the next generation of starters.
The Astros have handed third base over to Alex Bregman, another first-rounder, just last year by the Astros. The #2 pick overall last year, selected out of LSU, has done nothing to dispell the high selection, going .294-4-34 with 13 steals over 66 games last year after signing, and climbed from Double-A to Triple-A this season, notching a .297-14-46 mark over 80 games before Minute Maid beckoned this week. Note the 22-year-old posted a .388 OBP (78 walks to 64 strikeouts), and though Bregman has started slow, the 'Stros should give him every opportunity to prove he belongs.
Next, Raul Mondesi, of the Royals, son of Raul Mondesi (formerly of the Dodgers), was advanced to the big club this week and has broken out quite nicely, going .300-0-2 his first week. Signed at just 16, the second sacker climbed from High-A Wilmington (.243-1-4) to Northwest Arkansas (.259-9-17), and then to Omaha (.304-1-9) before the final rung of Kauffman early this week. Mondesi, who turned 21 last week, swiped 96 bags over five seasons, but only walked 111 times to 453 strikeouts (.297 OBP), which is a cause for caution. You may also recall Mondesi is the first player ever to make his MLB debut in the World Series as the Royals used a rules quirk to make him playoff eligible last fall.
The Rangers recalled slugger Joey Gallo, yet another first-rounder. The third sacker struggled last year over 36 games, going .204-6-14, with just a .301 OBP (15 walks to 57 strikeouts). He began this season at Round Rock, going .246-19-47, but with an improved 53 walks to 91 strikeouts (.381 OBP), meaning maybe he is ready a la Skaggs.
The Phillies get Aaron Altherr back after the outfielder tore a tendon sheath in his wrist during spring training. This was tough for many owners who targeted Altherr, after he hit .242-5-22 with six swipes after an August call-up last year. Altherr is big (6'5") and fast with 134 swipes over three seasons in the Minors. Because of the spring injury, Altherr might be ignored or written off by now, but the outfielder has gone .300-1-3 with a swipe during his first three games back and is a good play to plug a hole and offer some power/speed in a shallower league. And, Altherr makes a nice play for next year, too.
Minnesota recalled shortstop Jorge Polanco to fill the hole created with the swap of Eduardo Nunez. Polanco has hit .288-6-53 with 19 swipes this year over 117 minor league games, mostly at Chattanooga. Just 23 years old, he has a minor league record of .286-34-293 with 317 runs and 60 steals. Polanco also has a decent eye (216 walks to 339 strikeouts for a .346 OBP) and should get a chance to start with Eduardo Escobar providing his requisite support all over the diamond.
I did not mean this week to be so American League focused, but that is where the interesting players appeared. Finally, we get to the return of Luis Severino to the Yankees, who are indeed deconstructing. Severino was a big pre-season target, but after eight starts and an 0-6, 7.05 line, he returned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where the 22-year-old went 7-1, 3.25 over ten starts. The Pinstripes could throw Severino back into the rotation to take his lumps and get the hang, and chances are in a shallow league he is likely floating in the free agent pool and could be ok plugging a gap.
So, we are into the last week of July, pushing towards the trade dealine. Fantasy owners all want to know not just who will get swapped, and where, but perhaps more important, what is the future of the team/position as prime players move and we get to speculate on which prospects we should watch with our eyes upon the future.
Jeff Todd, at MLB Trade Rumors identified 15 primary trade pieces for this year, pretty succinctly. So, let's use that as a basis and see what, if anything, we can reason out.
Jay Bruce/Jose Peraza (Reds): If nothing else, the Reds have to find a permanent spot for Peraza to sink or swim, and thus far the supposed infielder has played 11 games in the outfield to just nine at second and three at short. Just 22, Peraza has a minor league line of .299-10-195 with a wicked 219 swipes, and if Bruce departs, Peraza has to simply get a chance to play every day. The knocks are walks to strikeouts (110 to 240) and somewhere the Reds will need to replace Bruce's power, which Peraza will not do. Also note that the team may move Zack Cozart as well, and that would be a more likely spot for Peraza. Regardless, I have to think he gets to play every day in the event of an offensive swap.
Jonathan Lucroy/Jacob Nottingham (Brewers): The Brewers have a prime chip in Lucroy, and one of the rumors has the Brew Crew backstop going to the Mets, and Travis d'Arnaud going back to Milwaukee. Certainly, the Brewers would need a catcher, for now they have Martin Maldonado, a 29-year-old with a lifetime .215-25-93 line over 320 games, as first in line. But, in the wings is Jacob Nottingham, a 21-year-old 2013 draftee who ripped it over three levels last year (.316-17-82). Nottingham has been adjusting to Double-A Biloxi full-time (.239-7-26), so he is likely a year or so away. But, Nottingham is the only thing the Brewers have that can be called a catching prospect, and he certainly can hit. He will be the answer to something, somewhere.
Ryan Braun/Brett Phillips (Brewers): As long as we are poking at the poor carcass that is the Brewers, their right fielder is apparently expendable. Considering the money/injury issues (Braun is signed through 2020 for $20 million a year), acquiring Braun is not unlike investing in Enron. But, the 22-year-old Phillips, drafted by the Astros in 2012, has a .230-12-47 line with 42 walks to 115 strikeouts in Biloxi, where he toils with Nottingham. As a minor leaguer, Phillips is hitting .284-45-220, and 41% of his hits have gone for extra bases.
Danny Valencia/Ryon Healy (Athletics): This transition seems like it might have already taken place, with Healy starting every day since being promoted, and belting two homers while driving in seven his first week at the Show. However, the real sleeper here would be Matt Chapman. Oakland's first-rounder in 2015 is hitting .225-22-61 at Midland this season after posting a fine .250-23-57 line over 80 Stockton games last year. Chapman is the guy to watch.
Sean Doolittle/Ryan Dull (Athletics): No question Doolittle can close, and even if he doesn't, as a dominant lefty, any team would love to have him on their roster. There is no question Ryan Madson--who is signed through 2018--is the closer in Oakland today, but Dull, who collected 42 minor league saves, has become dominant, with a 4-2, 2.13, with 53 whiffs over 50.6 frames. By the end of the year, the A's will transition the 26-year-old into the gig. In fact, just as Doolittle is jettisoned, Madson could be dealt as well.
Yunel Escobar/Kaleb Cowart (Angels): Escobar is a pretty good hitter (.318-3-30 this year) and he can play all over the infield, making him a boon to any contending team. In the wings is Kaleb Cowart, who has indeed struggled in the Majors (.173-1-4 over 58 at-bats), but who is holding a .288-5-43 line at Salt Lake. Cowart has an adequate eye (255 walks to 608 whiffs) but he has interesting power potential. Although the third sacker only accumulated 49 homers over six years, he did nab 134 doubles over the same span, and looks like the kind of guy who could hit .280-15-80 with 40 doubles per season. He also has 91 minor league steals, and though Jefry Marte is the place holder if you need immediate coverage, Cowart is the guy to watch.
Matt Kemp/Alex Dickerson (Padres): Like Braun, Kemp carries a big contract ($160 million through 2019), and perhaps the lesser priced Jon Jay will be the trade target. But either way, Dickerson, the Pirates' #3 selection in 2011, has kind of already grabbed his place, posting a .254-3-11 line over 71 at-bats. The 26-year-old was hitting .382-10-51 at El Paso, and he carries a .309-58-325 line over 524 games. No matter what, Dickerson is starting the rest of the season in the outfield (I actually wrote about both Dickerson and Healy over the past several weeks).
Arodys Vizcaino/Mauricio Cabrera (Braves): At 22, Cabrera moved into the pen last year. Since the move, his strikeout numbers improved to 85 whiffs over 82 innings (as a starter, Cabrera had 225 whiffs over 274 frames). Vizcaino, who is on the DL with a muscle pull, isn't so expensive as a closer, but he is arbitration eligible next year and the rebuilding cost-cutting Braves will likely be happy to save the bucks and move Vizcaino while giving Cabrera a shot as part of the process. Stranger things have happened.