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Saturday 23rd 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.

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.  

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.

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.

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