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Tuesday 20th Feb 2018

Last week, I listed players I would probably shy away from, were draft day coming in the Majors.

So, to finish the 2013 series of the Hotpage, I will discuss 13 players I like going into 2014 and why.

As with last week, often the criteria that makes players attractive is relative to the style and size of the league. And, sometimes, the value is simply nabbing someone for the reserve list in any kind of format.

Again like last week, I will start the festivities here at our Mastersball home, and conclude Tuesday with our partners and mates, KFFL.

Sonny Gray (P, Athletics): OK, so this list might prove to be a little Oakland heavy, but that is the team I see the most, and as I have regularly noted, they are vastly underrated. In that scheme, Gray is the latest in a terrific line of pitching acquisitions Oakland has made over the last few years. Be by trade (Jarrod Parker, Brett Anderson), free agent signing (Bartolo Colon), or the draft (A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily), Gray, who was a #1 pick out of Vanderbilt in 2011, might prove to be the best of them all (don’t forget the arms, a la Dan Haren and Gio Gonzalez they have dealt away as well).

With a mid-90’s fastball, and offspeed stuff with some filthy movement, Gray is one of those guys that throw deceptively hard, and can be equally efficient. He is also a quick worker, and able to keep the ball down, both solid traits for a pitcher (and Gray is just 23).

As a minor leaguer, he was 17-17, 3.66 over five starts and 292.2 innings, with 237 strikeouts to 103 walks and 294 hits.

But in Oakland, with a strong defense and cavernous park, he is now 4-3, 2.90 after pitching as the A’s clinched the AL West title Sunday. He now has 59 punchouts to 17 walks, with 48 hits allowed over 59 innings (1.101 WHIP). I do not think you will be sorry getting him for a modest price now.

Jedd Gyorko (2B, Padres): The 24-year-old second San Diego selection in 2010, Gyorko came up as a third sacker, but moved to second this year at Petco in deference to the presence of Chase Headley.

Gyorko only managed 117 games during his rookie campaign due to injuries, but his .248-20-53 line was a triumph. First, the 20 big flies is pretty good for a rookie, especially when your home games are in Petco Park, which is as spacious as Oakland. Second, though he only walked 30 times, Gyorko whiffed 118, not so bad for a first-timer with pop, especially up the middle. And, well, if you want to extrapolate that he would have struck out 170 times over a full season, similarly Gyroko would have hit 30 homers using the same factoring.

Either way, I would expect him to get better every year for a few.

Josh Donaldson (3B, Oakland): Ok, I think one of Oakland’s real hidden weapons is their third sacker; a player who was a catcher going into the spring of 2012.

But, injuries at third changed Donaldson’s life it seems, for though he could not really cut it at first, Donaldson went to Sacramento last July and returned to hit .344-4-14 in August to help propel Oakland to their division title last year.

This year, he has become their best hitter, with a .306-24-91 line, including 54 multi-hit games.

Donaldson is probably a keeper in most of your freeze leagues, simply because he is probably cheap as a sleeper this year. Fair enough, but if he is not, he should still be modestly priced next year compared to Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre (and maybe even Brett Lawrie) and if so, you would be well served to grab him.

By the way, if you play in a Scoresheet or Strat-O-Matic format, where defense counts, Donaldson has become a very good patroller of the hot corner.

Zack Wheeler (P, Mets): It is too bad that Matt Harvey will likely not be himself until mid-2015, because it will be big fun to watch the tandem of Wheeler and Harvey come of age.

Obtained by New York in exchange for the short-tenured Carlos Beltran, from San Francisco, Wheeler was the Giants' #1 selection in 2009.

Wheeler was 28-20, 3.56 in the Minors, with 420 strikeouts over 391.1 innings (176 hits, 323 hits, 1.275 WHIP).

At Citi this year, he’s been 7-5, 3.42 over 100 innings, with 84 strikeouts to 42 walks and 90 hits (1.360 WHIP).

At 23, he will get better. Much better.

Jonathan Villar (SS, Astros): I saw the 22-year-old Villar, a Venezuelan native, over a couple of games in Oakland in early September and he was one of those guys that did everything well. Nothing eye-dropping, but he played his position well, got his bat on the ball, moved runners along, and showed very good speed.

Over what amounts to the final third of this year, Villar has hit a respectable .267-1-8, with eight doubles, a couple of triples, and 17 swipes over 180 at-bats. He has 22 walks to 60 strikeouts, good for a .347 OBP and along with Jose Altuve, will constitute one of the best and productive sets of middle infielders in the Majors over the next few seasons.

Nathan Eovaldi (P, Marlins): Acquired as part of the Hanley Ramirez deal with L.A. last season, Eovaldi struck out 298 over 364 innings, allowing 338 hits—just 11 homers though—and 146 walks (1.330 WHIP).

The 23-year-old, picked in the 11th round of the 2008 draft, does have those fits of wildness, but he also throws a fastball close to 100 MPH, and when he is on can be dominant.

Miami has some interesting young players, and Eovaldi, along with Jacob Turner and Jose Fernandez, could be a deadly troika anchoring a pretty good team in a couple of years. But, I like him having a full 2014, and he will likely be on the cheaper side.

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