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Sunday 25th Feb 2018

Welcome back for another hot week of the Hotpage, and let's jump out of the box with Patrick Corbin, a southpaw drafted by the Angels in 2009, then traded with Joe Saunders to the Diamondbacks in 2010. We start with Corbin, because this has to be a time of the year where you guys might be scrounging for starting pitching, and the logical turn might be to Corbin.

Over the minors, the now 22-year old was 28-14, 3.83 over 70 starts, with 349 whiffs to 96 walks (1.25 WHIP), though I am a tad wary of picking him up at this point. Of Corbin's pair of big league starts one went pretty well (a win over 5.2 innings) and one not so (a loss over 3.1) but there is nothing that suggests any potential dominance as a starter (compare, say, to Drew Hutchison who is more of a strikeout pitcher) and I am guessing if Corbin sticks as a starter, he will get knocked around some as he adjusts to the majors.

Before we migrate to everyone's probably sore spot--third base--let's look at a couple of potential closers in waiting, starting with Oakland's Jordan Norberto. Of course we know that Grant Balfour is still the man in Oakland, but clearly Brian Fuentes is not, and Joey Devine is not either for sure. And, well, Fautino De Los Santos has been relegated to the bowels of Sacramento (I grew up there: it is no picnic) while Norbeto picked up the save for Jarrod Parker's first win. And, Balfour has struggled his last appearances (that is how Norbeto got his conversion) allowing six runs while picking up three saves. Anyway, in this year of goofy closing situations anything seems to go.

And, well, if you doubt the previous sentence, think of Norberto's fellow countryman, Rafael Dolis. The 23-year old, who was 8-5 with 17 saves last year at Iowa, now has a pair of saves and a win over the past week. Dolis might have also displaced yet another Dominican, Carlos Marmol who was never known for his control with 313 walks allowed over his 469 major league innings, although he has only allowed 297 hits, while striking out an incredible 608. Those numbers scream the phrase "effectively wild." Well, despite 97 saves the last couple of years, with just two saves, a 5.81 ERA, and two blown conversions, the door has opened for Dolis.

So, be open to picking up extra conversions via arms like these. I do think you should expect the incumbent closers--in this case Balfour and Marmol--to earn the lion's share of saves between now and the end of the year, but, also expect managers to go with the hot hand (think Yankees and White Sox and Angels, too). It's a crazy year, after all.

Continuing on the North Side, but before get to Tony Campana and the Chicago outfield, I must admit I was wrong about Bryan LaHair. I dismissed the 29-year old as a Quad-A player, when really he has a resume a lot like Kevin Millar, whom I recognized had real potential I do see LaHair potentially in the outfield as Anthony Rizzo advances, along with maybe Brett Jackson, and Campana.

I like the 13th round pick of the 2008 draft, who has broken out with his Cub mates hitting .306 with seven each of runs and steals over 36 at-bats, after a .259-1-6 stint with 24 swipes last year. Kind of like the Phils are playing Juan Pierre, and the Twins should play Ben Revere, guys like Campana are there to score runs. That he can do, and in an NL situation, I would certainly grab him as a fifth outfielder. In fact I would consider this even in a mixed format.

If you are looking for a little help behind the dish in the National League, take a peek at 28-year old Brett Hayes. Injuries have pretty much forced the hand of the Marlins and Hayes--and though it does not matter for fantasy purposes, is pretty good defensively--is hitting .300 over his 30 at-bats which is nearly double starter John Buck. Hayes is 28, which is just around the age most big league catchers come into their own, and I am thinking he could see increased playing time as he continues to hit. Hayes is not bad as a #2 catcher in an NL format. He might even graduate to #1 if he keeps it up.

OK, bad week at the hot corner. And, if you are a Kevin Youkilis owner, then Will Middlebrooks, Boston's fifth round pick in 2007 might be your next big thing. With .276-52-269 minor league numbers, including .333-9-27 this year before being called to Fenway, Middlebrooks is drawing some attention. I would watch the 128 walks to 449 whiffs, however, and keep an eye on how well Middlebrooks gets on base.

I do love the Brewers Taylor Green, whom I thought was going to make the club out of spring with his respectable September of 2011 (.270-0-1 over 37 at-bats) and especially following his solid .336-22-88 season at Nashville, with 36 doubles and an .828 OPS. Green had played second and third last year for the Brewers, and debuted for Milwaukee at first base Sunday, hitting a double his first at-bat of the season off Matt Cain. I like him better as a gamble than Middlebrooks. 

San Francisco is giving the third base gig of injured Pablo Sandoval to Conor Gillaspie. The team's first round pick in 2008, Gillaspie has had a few stabs at the majors (.229-1-3 over 29 September coffee sips), but he also brings .296-23-223 numbers over 429 games, including 91 doubles, and 178 walks to 243 strikeouts, good for a solid .364 OBP. I think Gillaspie will hang with the club till at least the Panda returns, and that his numbers will improve as he gets more comfortable. But, as with his mates so far above at the hot corner, none of these players is worth a mixed gamble yet.

Finally, looking at the Rays, it is true that Joe Maddon likes to get all his guys in the game as much as possible, but I would be surprised if Jeff Keppinger does not get the lion's share of playing time while Evan Longoria rehabs. Keppinger does have 103 appearances at third in the majors, and is hitting a solid enough .310-2-6 over 58 at-bats. Plus, though Keppinger does not walk a lot (157 times as a big leaguer) he is even harder to strike out (143 times). I would got with Keppinger over all the above were he available. On such a good team, he can relax and do his thing giving Maddon a tough problem of where to play him when Longo returns.



0 #3 Lawr Michaels 2012-05-08 05:03
hey cub-

i do like ryan, and, Z is correct in that i try to look a little beyond the obvious.

but, i also think that sometimes the obvious is not so much.

eg the giants sergio romo, who might be the best reliever in baseball (and he is my favorite pitcher to watch).

romo looks like he has everything to be a deadly closer, but i think he is more effective within the giants scheme, and based upon his skill set, to set up.

his slider and velocity, after a starter, then leading up to a smoke thrower is just the combo to jack with a hitter's mind and timing.

this is not to say he couldn't close, but again, i think this is the best use of him in context.
0 #2 Todd Zola 2012-05-07 17:02
My take on Cook -- it is really hard to judge relievers when they throw so hew innings. His K/9 is great, but his BB/9 is high. His 2012 hit rate is absurdly lucky. Once that corrects, the walks will haunt him. Basically saying it is better to use his career than 14 innings and his career suggests a correction is on the way.

That said, he is getting 8thinning duty.

Not wanting to speak for Lawr, but one of the things he does in this column is highlight the more obscure players, especially if he has seen and or talked to them. In this wacky closer landscape, Norberto is a nice example of someone else to keep an eye on.
0 #1 Michael July 2012-05-07 16:11
Lawr, no love for Ryan Cook (OAK) as a possible replacement for Balfour? K:BB is OK and K/9 is around 9 and no one can hit him so far. These are all better than what Norberto has posted. What is it that you like about him?

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