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Thursday 18th Jan 2018

Just six weeks to close out the season, and we are in sort of advancement never-neverland: that is, the trade deadline and most of the related moves have transpired, but the September call-ups are still on the horizon.

Meaning things can be tight for fantasy teams in deeper formats, especially with late-season trade restrictions and freeze lists. But, that does not mean we might not be able to pluck a couple of plums from the depths of the reserve list. Starting with the Jays' J.A. Happ, who has put together a pair of pretty good starts, first over the Yankees (5.2 innings, six hits, four runs, and four whiffs) and topped it off with a very good win over the Rangers (six innings, two hits, one walk and eight strikeouts), and while that brings his overall record to an unremarkable 9-10, 4.88 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP over 127.1 innings. Happ has a start against the Tigers ahead, but especially with roster expansion and the slower bat speeds that generally accompany this time of year, Happ could be a quiet--and effective--late season surprise.

If you are back scouting saves, Grant Balfour is back on board in Oakland after having the gig, and losing it to Ryan Cook. Just following the small melodrama between Cook and Balfour, for Balfour was installed as the Opening Day closer, and was then ineffective and after seven conversions lost the job to Brian Fuentes, who then lost it to Cook. Cook, as we know, became an All Star, then became ineffective, so now Balfour is back in charge with four perfect innings since August 11 to put him back on track. Obviously there are no sure saves, but today, here, and now, Balfour is the Oakland closer.

Still with Oakland, Josh Donaldson is back to spell third base and Bradon Inge who is nursing a separated shoulder. Donaldson was almost the Athletics Opening Day third sacker, but flopped in the field and the dish, Inge was acquired (well, after other options like Luke Hughes) and Donaldson dispatched to Sacramento. Donaldson was hitting .153-1-7 over 100 at-bats, hence the demotion, although at Triple-A, he hit a robust .335-13-45 over just 209 at-bats, with a solid .403 OBP (23 walks to 34 whiffs). Since being called back, however, Donaldson is 10-for-24, good for .416-1-4, and while he won't take anyone's job away, long as the guy hits, he will play. He does have some pop, and the versatility of being stashed at catcher.

Back to Toronto and third base, while Brett Lawrie is convalescing, youngster Adeiny Hechavarria will likely get a look at the hot corner. The 23-year old has a good enough eye with .312-6-63 totals at Las Vegas over 443 at-bats this season, including a decent .363 OBP (38 walks to 86 strikeouts) but I have to confess that Hechavarria strikes me more like a Danny Valencia clone, and though I thought the former Twin would be a winner in the show, he wasn't. Pass on Adeiny.

However, another AL infielder worth a look is the Royals second sacker Johnny Giavotella, who probably should have been given the starting job in Kansas City to begin 2012, but instead was supplanted by the now injured Chris Getz. Giavotella, 25, was hitting very well at Omaha this year after the demotion, going .323-10-71 with 20 doubles, seven swipes, and an excellent 46 walks to 40 strikeouts. The keystone guy had just a .272 OBP for the Royals last year (.247-2-21) over 178 at-bats last year, and Giavotella has to figure as the starting second sacker at Kaufman when 2013 begins. I am guessing to he has learned from being in the majors, then minors, then back. 

I don't feel as good about the Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon, who was brought up to fill the Brian Dozier hole. Claimed from the Orioles, the 25-year old hit .267-8-60 at AA Bowie last year, a level at which he should succeed at that age. In fact this year Florimon hit .283-2-8 over 113 at-bats at New Britain, also in the Eastern League but stumbled at AAA Rochester (.251-3-27). With 256 lifetime minor league walks to 695 strikeouts (.312 OBP) it is hard to believe that will improve with a promotion.

Looking to the National League, I have good feelings about Kelly Shoppach, now with the Mets. Shopppach, still only 32, posted .250-5-17 numbers over 48 games for Boston this year before going to Flushing on a waiver move. Shoppach responded with a homer and a couple of RBI so far, and I think he can push hit .476 Slugging Average higher and give a little extra pop in that NL only format.

Next, I want to look at two Baltimore hurlers in Chris Tillman and Zach Britton. Starting with Tillman, who has born many a burden since being a second round pick of the Mariners, then part of the swap that sent Erik Bedard to the Mariners. Now 24, Tillman is quietly 5-2, 3.65 for the O's, over 44.1 innings. He has 35 strikeouts, and though 44 hits surrendered, he has just 14 walks allowed, good for a 1.286 WHIP. Tillman is more than worth tracking and especially worth a cheap flier in 2013.

As for Britton, who rose quickly, was 11-11, 4.61 over 154.1 innings for the Orioles last year, and though he was 6-7, 4.05 the first half, Britton struggled second half with 5-4, 5.76 totals over 50.1 innings, once again proving wins can be a deceiving statistic. Britton started 2012 in the minors, and just recently returned to the Show, and really only has one good start (seven shutout innings versus the Tigers last week) but I would similarly keep an eye on the big lefty. He will be pitching--like Tillman--agains the tough AL East to close out the last month of the season and a good trend can carryover. Who knows, this pair might even help turn the Orioles rotation into real contenders in that dogfight of a division that is the AL East.

Finally, as long as we are hanging with the Orioles, I have been an Omar Quintanilla fan long enough to anticipate his "prospects," become frustrated, completely give up, and now notice he is hitting pretty well with the Baltimores in a full time role right now. Oakland's first round pick in 2003 has stumbled from bay area ownership to Colorado, Texas, the Mets, and now Orioles. But, despite the .306-40-291 line with a good .368 OBP in the minors, nothing translated in the majors (.226-6-49 over 672 at-bats). Well, half Quintanilla's pop has come this season as the infielder has posted .288-3-11 numbers over 80 of those at-bats, playing some second and some short. In an AL format that could be a nice boost.



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