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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

In to the third week we go, and routines are mostly enforced. By that I mean checking statistics, and handling roster moves for both the majors, and our teams. And hopefully the Hotpage can help you with your roster moves when necessary.

Over the past week a first wave of injuries has forced some moves, so let's start with looking at some of the substitutes you might want to check out, depending upon your league format.

With Chase Utley down in Philadelphia, Wilson Valdez has earned the playing honors. Valdez has gotten off to a nice start, hitting .375 with five RBI and a swipe over seven games and 24 at-bats. Valdez caused a bit of a splash last Thursday, when against the Mets he was 4-for-4, with three each of runs scored and RBI. In a deep league Valdez is a place holder, however, as a 32-year old with .245-5-67 career numbers over 270 games going back to 2003. In such a format you do want to play the hot hand (actually you always want to try and do that) and Valdez is on a tear, but he has a career OBP of .292 and that does not make the infielder seem like much of a long-term anything, no matter how long Utley is down.

In a similar vein, the Cubs Jeff Baker had a huge game against the Brew Crew on Thursday, going 4-for-5, driving in four, and belting a homer. That puts his season numbers at a lusty .467-1-4, and Baker makes a better gamble than Valdez, with .273-31-274 career totals over 384 games. Baker has a .328 OBP over that period, and a .451 SLG, giving an OPS of .779 which is not bad for a backup. Of course, Baker is not any more a real solution than Valdez, so play him, but keep your eyes open for the next replacement.

The Twins imported Tsuyoshi Nishioka to steady their second base slot, but unfortunately their new middle infielder suffered a fractured fibula, meaning out of the lineup for over a month. The Twinkies promoted Luke Hughes to fill the hole, and in an AL only league the second baseman, like his mates on today's list is an acceptable sub till Nishioka returns. Signed as a free agent in 2002 by Minnesota, Hughes played sparingly last year (.286-1-1 over seven at-bats), assembling minor league totals of .270-56-305, with 185 walks to 465 strikeouts, good for a .332 OBP. By the way, Hughes, born in Perth, Australia, adds to the International flavor of today's piece, for Nishioka is, as noted, of Japanese birth, while Baker was born in Bad Kissingen, Germany. Not to mention Valdez, who is Dominican.

Kevin Kouzmanoff had a pretty hot spring, hitting .413, but "Kouz" is not only off to a slow start, he is notoriously streaky. Which means Andy LaRoche, who can play all the infield spots, could get some playing time. LaRoche had a similarly strong spring, and in an AL league, LaRoche is a good option for either your corner or middle infielder spots. Still just 27, LaRoche did start at shortstop for Oakland the other day, and has hit .444-0-1 so far over nine at-bats. As a major leaguer, LaRoche is .226-22-109 over 368 games. Being born in Fort Scott, Kansas, the son of former major leaguer Dave LaRoche, and brother of Adam, this offering is clearly all American.

Rockies utility infielder Jonathan Herrera was actually born in Venezuela (Maricaibo), the 26-year old was signed as a free agent by Colorado in 2004. As a minor leaguer, Herrera has gone .286-26-293 over 727 games, with 134 stolen bases. Herrera has a decent eye (256 walks to 414 strikeouts) with a career .346 on-base total. As a major leaguer in 2010, over 76 games, Herrera was .284-1-21, with an acceptable .352 OBP, and a terrible .342 SLG average. At best Herrera is a reserve player for your NL team, however, and he falls in the category of "he won't hurt you."

I really like the Cardinals Allen Craig, a player the Birds picked in the eighth round of the 2006 draft. Craig, who can play third and the outfield, hit .308-90-358 over 505 minor league games, including 120 doubles, a strong .370 OBP, and .518 SLG good for a more than respectable .888 OPS. With fragile David Freese at third, and Lance Berkman as an outfielder, Craig should get good playing time off the bench this year, and a strong performance could lead to a starting gig with the Birds--or possibly elsewhere--and a productive career and useful fantasy life. If you can grab Craig for your bench, even in a mixed league (and especially in an Ultra format), do so.

Looking to a couple of solid prospects we have discussed before on the Hotpage, Brett Wallace, now of the Astros. Wallace, selected in the first round of the 2008 draft by St. Louis, following a solid collegiate career at Arizona State, was then swapped to Oakland as part of the Matt Holliday trade in 2009. Oakland promptly swapped Wallace to Toronto for Michael Taylor, and the Jays then turned the first baseman over to the Astros for Anthony Gose. Well, the Astros will have the last laugh, as Wallace can really hit. Though his major league totals so far (.225-3-17) don't suggest it yet, the 24-year old had .304-46-160 numbers over just 287 minor league games. Look for Wallace, who is the starting first sacker at Minute Maid, to improve his game and become a steady .280-15-85 contributor in years to come.

I similarly like Florida's Logan Morrison, a first baseman playing left field because Gaby Sanchez has a lock on first. A 22nd round selection in the 2005 draft by the Fish, Morrison has solid minor league totals of .292-53-274 over 462 games. With a terrific 238 walks to 291 whiffs (.383 OBP) Morrison has been hot out of the blocks this year, going .320-2-5 over his first seven games this year, with a .485 OBP (eight walks; six strikeouts). As with Wallace, and Craig, grab Morrison if he is at all available in your league. You will not regret it.

Every year there is some sort of Mike Aviles player: a journeyman who might have been a prospect, who suddenly gets a chance and excels. This year I am thinking that player might be Tampa's Sam Fuld, who has put on a show since getting a chance to start. Fuld had .285-24-218 minor league numbers, with 106 swipes and a terrific 302 walks to 254 strikeouts, but that could not translate to the majors where .250-1-5 was the best he could muster. Originally a Cub, Fuld migrated to the Rays over the off season, and has opened eyes with four swipes, great defense, playing the role of a lead off hitter. Keep an eye on Fuld, and even take him if you are in an AL league with an opening.

I will close with Detroit hurler Robbie Weinhardt, a tenth round selection of the 2008 draft. Over 93 minor league games--all as a reliever--Weinhardt has 6-4, 1.64 totals, with 10 saves. With 150 strikeouts over 142.1 innings, to just 48 walks and 105 hits (1.03 WHIP), Weinhardt is worth grabbing as a middle man now, and potential closer in Detroit town. I saw part of his 2011 debut yesterday, and Weinhardt does have some filthy movement.



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