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Thursday 18th Jan 2018

Towards the break we steam, and this cycle a handful of prospects worthy of a look, a bid, and even a potential long-term slot come to light, starting with the Cubs who finally made space for first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Drafted by the Red Sox in the sixth round in 2007, Rizzo then went to the Padres as part of the Adrian Gonzalez swap in 2010, then off to the Cubs for Andrew Cashner last year. The Cubs were playing the patience game with Rizzo this year, after the then 21-year old was promoted and over his head (.191-1-9 over 49 games) by the Padres. 70 games, and .342-23-62 numbers later Rizzo was called to claim first base (pushing Bryan LaHair to the outfield, and possibly even making him expendable). Rizzo is  .267-1-3 with a pair of doubles over his first four games and is a definite claim if still available in any format.

While we are on the subject, the Padres recalled the hard throwing--as in a fastball around 100 MPH--Cashner who has 12-8, 2.75 totals over 196 minor league innings. Cashner has 183 whiffs and a fine 1.197 ratio in the minors, including 2-0, 1.88 total at San Antonio this year, with 22 strikeouts over 14.1 innings. Cashner has had his control issues in the majors with 53 walks over his 99.2 major league innings, though he also has 101 whiffs. Cashner did well his return to Petco with 6.1 solid innings over Houston over his second major league start. Cashner had been working out of the pen the bulk of the year for San Diego, but their damaged corps needed the help, so now Cashner is in the rotation. Again, this is a guy you want to own (43 strikeouts over 34.2 innings so far this year in the majors).

Another arm to watch is the Diamondbacks Trevor Bauer, the teams first rounder last year (#3 overall) out of UCLA. Bauer's 11-1, 2.23 totals over 16 starts and 93 innings split between Mobile (AA) and Reno (AAA) this year pretty much tell the story. Well, ok, 159 minor league strikeouts over 118.2 innings, although like Cashner the walks (60) are an issue. Bauer was acceptable his first start last week (4.1 innings, five hits, a pair of runs, and three each of walks and whiffs) against the Braves in a no decision. Bauer is a little iffier statistically this year than Cashner, but still, if available, you want him for the future. And, if your NL team is destroyed by the likes of Daniel Hudson, Roy Halladay, and Shaun Marcum, Bauer is as good a crap shoot as you will find for the bulk of this season.

While we are at it, Texas (Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, and Colby Lewis down) needed to call up 21-year old Venezuelan Martin Perez for his first major league start. Perez did struggle with four hits allowed over two-thirds of an innings against the Tigers Wednesday, but his start against Oakland was a lot better (5.1 innings, six hits, a pair of runs, five strikeouts and a walk) Saturday. In the minors Perez was good for 25-29, 4.29 totals over 497.2 innings. Perez struck out an acceptable 442 strikeouts, but the 525 hits and 210 walks allowed (1.475 WHIP) is of concern.  Again, I like Cashner better not just because of experience, but due to, as my friend Jeff Erickson would say, his "ability to miss bats."

However, one other arm I do like as an alternative to all the above is the Athletics A.J. Griffin. I actually worked Griffin's first start against the Giants last Saturday (June 23) and he pitched with a lot of poise, throwing first pitch strikes though he pretty much used a fastball, change, and slider all between 81-89 MPH. That means he was actually pitching, always a good sign. Over 42 minor league starts (along with 24 relief appearances) in the Athletics system, Griffin was 18-11, 3.10 (281.2 innings) with 273 strikeouts and a terrific 1.012 WHIP. Griffin backed up the first start with a fine second start (six shutout innings over the Rangers last Friday) and I like his stuff, and place in a rotation with the likes of Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker (and maybe even the resurrected Travis Blackley).

While we are in Oakland, Chris Carter was brought back to ideally add some right handed punch to the first base slot, where Brandon Moss has indeed filled in well as the left-handed side of the equation. It is difficult to document how many times (four promotions and three demotions) Carter has tantalized us with potential. As in .283-182-639 numbers over 826 games that translated into .174-3-7 numbers over 39 major league games and 114 at-bats. Well, perhaps Carter has figured it out as hit .439-2-2 totals over seven at-bats since being recalled Friday. I am just saying (as in if you are in an AL only format, Carter is worth a flier).

.395-1-7 over his last 43 at-bats and 20 games this past month. Along with eight doubles, a triple, a pair of swipes, seven runs, and a .481 OBP? How about Justin Ruggiano of the Fish? Like I always say, ride the hot hand, especially as necessary, so if you are in an NL only format, well, I will say no more.

I wrote a few weeks back about Padres catching prospect Yasmani Grandal who was brought forth for a game as bench support. Well, as a minor leaguer the 23-year old Cuban has .314-20-104 totals with 50 doubles over 169 games. Add in 100 walks to 136 strikeouts (.415 OBP), the fact that Nick Hundley was sent down, and that Grandal set a major league record by homering from each side of the plate during his first major league start, and, well, if you don't jump on this kid there is no hope for any of us. We are lucky to see Grandal and Salvador Perez--the next generation of potentially dominant catchers--debut in their respective leagues as starters the past cycle. Even luckier if you have one on your squad.

Finally, if you are in an AL only set up, you have to take a shot on Jim Thome. With five dingers over just 30 at-bats this year, and 15 over 277 at-bats last year, the guy clearly still has his eye and pop. He may only log another 175 at-bats the rest of this year, but at the rate of his past two seasons, that should be good for another 12 or so big flies. That is huge in such a setup. Get him.

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