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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

I would like to blame Josh Byrnes, but it would not be fair to pile on a guy who has twice been fired from one of the 30 best jobs in Major League Baseball by the age of 44.

So, I will more appropriately take the blame myself, instead.

Last week, I wrote about a key element of my plan to improve my place in the standings of National League Tout Wars. In a nutshell, I want to acquire young prospects before they are promoted to the Majors.

While I have had some successes in my approach, two examples of pitching mistakes I made came to light this week. One involves Byrnes.

About a month ago, the then-general manager of the San Diego Padres was quoted as saying that he was impressed with the pitching of right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne and more than hinted that the 27-year-old Cuban expat could get a look in San Diego soon.

Granted, San Diego is not an offensive powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination, but any starter worth a darn who pitches half his games in Petco Park is worth having. (Or is it that anyone who pitches half his games in Petco has to be worth a darn?)

Now perhaps Byrnes was engaging in a bit of hype-building. After all, in early May, he had committed a million bucks of his team’s owners’ cash on the pitcher and things were probably already not going too well at the office.

No matter, as the praise seemed justified. At the time, Despaigne had dominated in his first two professional starts - in a known hitters’ circuit, the Double-A Texas League. He allowed just one run on four hits and struck out 12 in 7 2/3 innings. A promotion to Triple-A quickly followed.

That was good enough for me. I made an uncontested bid of $1 (zero dollar bids on minor leaguers are not allowed in Tout) and carried Despaigne for a week on my active roster generating no stats, as required by league rules.

I then parked Despaigne on my bench for the next three weeks while watching his results every fifth day at El Paso. It was not pretty to say the least.

Despaigne pitched beyond five innings just once in five Triple-A outings. Worse, he was battered for 20 runs in 23 2/3 innings for a 7.61 ERA. If that wasn’t bad enough, his supporter Byrnes was sacked in San Diego.

I dropped Despaigne 10 days ago, and in the process, added another speculation play, Atlanta catcher Christian Bethancourt (I guess that roster spot is dedicated to those with long names).

I should know by now that things in San Diego often do not go as expected, especially this season. To that end, the Padres soon encountered a run of pitching injuries. Specifically, the shoulder problems of Andrew Cashner created a rotation opening filled by none other than the aforementioned Despaigne.

Now sitting on NL Tout’s waiver wire, Despaigne’s impressive results in his major league debut were wasted. All he did was shut out the team with the best record in the National League at the time, the San Francisco Giants, on four hits over seven innings.

Needless to say, Despaigne should generate considerable bidding activity this coming weekend and surely will not go for $1 this time.

It is of little solace that some scouts suggest that Despaigne lacks swing and miss stuff and may have trouble once he becomes known around the league. I know I could have at least enjoyed his honeymoon period.

To be honest, I might not have written this article had the Despaigne situation been an isolated incident.

Instead, just a couple of days later, salt was rubbed in my wounds by the organization I cover for a living, the St. Louis Cardinals.

The club lost 40 percent of its starting rotation on Monday when shoulder ailments pushed Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia to the disabled list. While Carlos Martinez - who is on my Tout roster – took one spot, the Cards had no obvious choice for the other.

The club made a bold move, promoting the 19th overall selection in the 2013 draft, left-hander Marco Gonzales, straight from Double-A to a major league starting berth. It had been over two decades since a similar move occurred in the organization.

Gonzales lost two major recognition opportunities in the process. He had to give up his starting assignment in the Texas League All-Star Game as well as his invitation to the MLB All-Star Futures Game, to be held in Minneapolis on July 13. Somehow, I don’t think he minded.

Though Gonzales yielded five runs in five innings in his MLB debut, I liked what I saw from the 22-year-old. He had a 2:1 groundball advantage and three strikeouts, including a very impressive punchout of the hottest hitter in baseball in Troy Tulowitzki. Gonzales should also receive a mulligan since his debut was in Coors Field, a tough assignment for even a seasoned veteran.

Perhaps I am being too hard on myself for not having anticipated Gonzales’ arrival. I have been very aware of his talents, but did not expect the Cardinals to bring him up until September at best. Those plans clearly changed in one day – the day after our most recent free agent period ended.

As in the case of Despaigne, I expect aggressive bidding from my Tout peers will result in Gonzales landing on a competitor’s roster.

Can I somehow blame that on Byrnes, too?


Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.


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