There is usually some kind of theme or common thread among the gaggle of players I select to look at each week. And, sometimes, I will write a name down with my thoughts on the theme, and then when it comes to writing and looking more specifically at the stats, the player gets tossed out.
Not so this week, although I know virtually every player on today's list has been written about before (well, ok, most of them). That is because this week, we have a bunch of reclamation projects to discuss, and there is probably no better place to start than with now Indian, Scott Kazmir.
Still just 29, Kazmir was a first round pick of the Mets in 2002 who seemed to be the next big thing when the Mets somewhat inexplicably swapped him to Tampa for Victor Zambrano in a stretch drive swap in 2004, and Kazmir pitched pretty well for the Rays over the next few years, going 55-44, 3.92 over 834 innings. Perhaps nothing shows Kazmir's ups and downs more than the fact that he led the league in walks with 100 (2005) and strikeouts with 239 (2007). Overall mediocre totals of 68-62, 4.19, with a 1.41 WHIP are what Kazmir has produced, and he missed all of last year after Tommy John surgery, returning to the Show and Tribe this year. Kazmir has won his last pair of starts, going 12 innings, striking out 17, allowing just 11 hits and a walk. Cleveland has some interesting possibilities, and for sure Kazmir has been floating among the jetsom in shallower leagues, and he might well be worth a grab.
I am not sure if I have been burned by Luke Hochevar as many times as it feels like he has been killing me forever. Another first round pick (Royals, 2006), Hochevar has been tantalizing for almost as long as Kazmir, and at age 29, pretty much disappointing for just as long. Hochevar has a 38-59, 5.32 mark over 783 innings, although his WHIP, at 1.39, is oddly better than Kazmir's. This year, the Royals have moved him to the pen, and he is 0-0, 0.73 over his first nine appearances and 12.1 innings, along with 13 strikeouts to three walks and seven hits (0.811 WHIP). Go figure.
How about Francisco Liriano making his return this weekend to the Pirates? Yet another 29-year-old, Liriano was signed by the Giants in 2000, then swapped to the Twins along with Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser, again somewhat inexplicably for A.J. Pierzynski. After dominating with a 12-3, 2.16 mark in 2006 over 121 innings, Liriano blew his arm out, missing 2007 also as a result of surgery. And, since then, ugly, yet tempting results. He's 54-54, 4.39 with a 1.354 over 845.1 innings with 855 strikeouts. Liriano worked his way back into the Buccos rotation, and went 5.1 innings, allowing a pair of walks and six hits, while whiffing nine.
Looking at a couple of local guys, I have always been a fan of Adam Rosales' energy and enthusiasm on the field, but not so much with the schizy results. Yet another 29-year-old (Rosales turns 30 later this month), Rosales has a career line of .231-16-71 over 266 games and 719 at-bats. Rosales only has a .300 OBP (65 BB:163 K). But, with Scott Sizemore gone, second base is up for grabs, and Rosales is putting it together over an extended period with .311-1-3 over 15 games, with 14 hits over 45 at-bats. Rosales will get the majority of playing time as long as he is producing (he also plays short) and could be a nice add, at least in AL-only formats.
I almost wrote about Cody Ransom last week, simply because he was getting his requisite month of playing time with the Cubbies. Now 37, Ransom has 11 years of play under his belt, but only 643 at-bats over that span. His high point was 2012 split between Milwaukee and Arizona, with .220-11-42. Over 11 seasons, he is .223-24-90. In a deep league, his 2-5 homers between now and the end of the season could make a difference if you have an infield hole to plug (who doesn't?).
Moving back to the Athletics, Daric Barton, he of the most unfulfilling, is back in Oakland with so many injuries to the Athletics. Hitting from the left side is something Oakland needed, and Barton has a .248-28-166 line over 498 games and 1594 at-bats. The one thing Barton does have to show is a .360 OBP (273 walks to 320 whiffs) and he has a ,182-1-3 mark over his first 11 at-bats. I would not really want to bet much on Barton, and he does get on base, and Oakland does have a lineup with some hitting shoes. So, like Rosales, anyone who gets some playing time in Oakland could get some good pitches to hit.
It is almost painful to write about Jason Bay. In fact, Bay and Francisco Liriano were the source of dump trades I made in the XFL. As in I received them in hopes of building a decent and competitive team. (As you can guess, it has not worked out so well for me.) Bay actually was not that bad through 2009, but, he was not as good as we anticipated for sure. His last gasp was .267-36-119 for Boston in 2009, and since then, Bay has been injured and ineffective. As in .240-26-124 with an ugly .686 OPS over 986 Mets at-bats that will have cost New York $75 million by 2014 when his contract dies. That means he only costs the Mariners $1 milllion this year, and his bat is about as good as a $2-$3 play in a deep league. Bay is hitting .239-3-9 with the M's this year, but over the last month those totals are .269-2-7 with eight walks to 13 whiffs (.364 OBP). I probably would not gamble on the guy, but in an AL-only format the 34-year-old might be enjoying a bit of a Renaissance.
OK, let's move on to some younger bodies to close out this week. My bud from STATS, Jeff Smith, turned me onto the Padres' Burch Smith a few weeks back. In fact, I wrote about him for my USA Today prospect piece right after. I never expected Smith, as in Burch, to make it to the Show as fast as he did, however. Drafted in 2011 in the 14th round out of the University of Oklahoma, Smith went 9-6, 3.85 over 128.2 innings at High-A Lake Elsinore last year, whiffing 137 while walking just 27 and allowing 127 hits (1.19 WHIP). At 22, Smith was 1-2, 1.15 at San Antonio this year with 37 punchouts over 31 innings (17 hits, six walks, and a 0.74 WHIP) and while he might not be totally Major League ready (one inning, five hits, six runs his first start) yet, Smith is surely worth a grab and stash.
Finally, big (6'6", 240 lbs.) Zach McAllister was acquired by the Indians from the Yankees in 2010 in a swap for Austin Kearns (the Yanks drafted McAllister in the third round of the 2006 draft) and he logged 125.1 innings at Progressive last year, going 6-8, 4.24, with 110 strikeouts (1.364 WHIP). He seems like he has come into his own, however, this season, having gone 3-3, 2.63 over his first six starts and 37.2 innings, along with 27 whiffs, ten walks and 32 hits (1.15 WHIP). In a shallow league, McAllister might well be available and is surely worth grabbing for the balance of this year.