It has been a busy wedge of time.
Last week was the LABR draft, held in Phoenix, as well as the USA Today mock draft. During the week our Strat-O-Matic expansion draft moved along, and Saturday was my 720-plus round Scoresheet draft, and yesterday was time spent with the BaseballHQ First Pitch which passed through the San Francisco Bay Area. Wednesday I leave for New York and Tout Wars, and the Tuesday after that is the XFL expansion draft.
I am sure many of you are experiencing the same amount of tug in a number of directions, which is great. It is also hard, and can been tiring. But worth it. And, no less fun.
However, the one thing I really have taken away from the past couple of weeks is you can never have too many names out there.
So, as we finish off the intense peak of the draft season, here are a bunch of names that you might want to keep your eye on, and each nab under the noses of your league mates.
Ernesto Frieri is a 26-year old member of the Padres pen who put up these scary numbers last year: 1-1, 1.74 ERA, with a 1.11 WHIP over 31.2 innings with 41 strikeouts. When he was not hurling for San Diego, Frieri was at Triple-A Portland, where he was 3-1, 1.43 with 17 saves over 37.2 more innings, with 49 more strikeouts and a wicked 0.85 ratio. I snatched Frieri up in my Strat-O-Matic league, but that was the only place. Those numbers are terrific, and because of his limited major league experience, Frieri is sort of under the radar. For now.
If Frieri has an American League counterpart, it is likely Alexi Ogando, the 25-year old fireballer pitching within the Rangers’ organization. Over 41.2 innings for Texas, Ogando was 4-1, 1.30 ERA, with 39 whiffs and a 1.12 ratio. Ogando also managed time at two minor league levels last year, going 0-0, 2.05 ERA, with 42 more strikeouts over 30.2 innings and an 0.81 ratio. The biggest problem with Ogando is whether he should start, or go to the pen pushing Neftali Feliz to the rotation. Kind of a win-win situation for the Rangers.
Cincinnati's Chris Heisey is a player who caught my eye at the AFL two years ago (well, 2009). Heisey spent that year at a couple of levels, going a combined .314-22-77, with 35 doubles, and as a minor leaguer has gone .297-51-238 with a solid .825 OPS. Last year Heisey started the season at Louisville, going .241-4-13 over 20 games before being called up to the Show, where he went .254-8-2, and Heisey could quietly emerge. Compare him to Mark Kotsay.
The DBacks have a lot of question marks with their pitchers, and David Hernandez is the best-kept secret among them. Hernandez appeared in 16 games, starting eight and going 79.2 innings, with 72 strikeouts, with a 1.42 WHIP, posting an 8-8. 4.32 mark. The 25-year old was a 2005 draft selection of the Orioles in the 16th round, and was swapped to Arizona last year as part of the Mark Reynolds swap. As a minor leaguer, Hernandez whiffed 621 over 539.2 innings, and posted a 1.19 ratio. As a result, Hernandez becomes a sleeper closer candidate. Well, that and all that stands in the way is J.J. Putz.
The Indians are trying some things at third base, like Jason Nix (.224-14-34) and Jason Donald (.253-4-24), neither much of a threat, especially when Lonnie Chisenhall is lurking in the minors. Chisenhall, was .278-17-84 at Akron in 2010, and the 23-year old clearly does not have a lot blocking him. Chisenhall was originally drafted by the Bucs in 2006, but opted for Pitt Community College in North Carolina. Smart move, as the Indians selected Chisenhall #1 in 2008, and the third baseman could well be at the Jake (I mean, Progressive Field) this year.
First sacker Brandon Allen was drafted by the White Sox in 2004 in the fourth round, then traded to the Diamondbacks in 2009 for Tony Pena. Over seven minor league seasons Allen has amassed .264-121-462 totals, including going a .298-20-75 numbers in 2008 over three levels, then .261-25-86 at Reno last season. Over parts of two seasons at Chase Field, Allen is .221-5-20 ( 172 at-bats), and with Juan Miranda, Xavier Nady, and Russell Branyan the competition at first, Allen could come out of spring with a starting job.
I have been a big Kila Ka'aihue fan for a few years, in fact I have written about him more than a few times. Over 185 at-bats for the Royals last season, the big first sacker went .217-8-25, and despite a .307 OBP, walked 25 times to striking out 39, which are very good totals. Ka'aihue has a job going into the season, good power, and a good eye. On the up side he is Carlos Pena waiting to happen. (On the down side he is Carlos Pena after it happened.) But, there is some power potential out there (.266-154-598 over 966 minor league games) and the 26-year old is finally getting a real chance.
21-year old Cuban refugee Dayan Viciedo has played exactly 216 minor league games, and put up totals of .277-32-125 with 35 doubles. That prompted time at US Cellular last year where the White Sox third baseman went .308-5-13 over 108 at-bats. The only knock on the youngster is he is a free swinger (34 walks to 167 whiffs as a minor leaguer), but ideally his eye will improve with experience, and as long as his bat is making contact, even that will not be an issue. In the mean time Brent Morel and Mark Teahen own third. I would guess not for long, though. And, even if third is not in the ultimate picture, outfield could be (though first, manned by Paul Konerko, and DH with Adam Dunn are taken for now).
Forgotten man Brad Hawpe has averaged .279-23-92 over 162 games plotted over seven seasons. That includes .245-9-44 totals over 385 somewhat miserable at-bats last year split between the Rockies and Rays. Hawpe can regain his place and consistency now with the Padres, even though his power numbers could tail a bit in Petco. The other side is Hawpe also averaged 32 doubles, 74 runs, and 147 hits over that 162-game career average, and at just 31, a resurgence with the Padres seems like a no-brainer.