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Thursday 23rd Mar 2017

It really seems like retread is the name of the game this year, with so many veterans--with hefty salaries, no less--being released by a team, and then grabbed by another squad.

The latest of this craze would be Jim Johnson, ex of the Athletics deep pen, now a member of the Tigers somewhat weak version of the same.

Johnson really did have it going pretty well with Baltimore over the past three seasons, with 110 saves, 101 of which were earned between 2012-13. Despite that, any number of analysts steered clear of the hard thrower who has had flashes of command problems, and those issues haunted the reliever all through his brief tenure in Oakland, and I would not expect those issues to dissipate with his new team.

If you are desperate for saves--and more important those saves are what you need to win--by all means, take a chance. Otherwise, steer clear.

Were I to gamble on a Tigers arm, that would be the one belonging to Buck Farmer, Detroit's fifth round pick in 2013. Farmer began this season at West Michigan, where he went 10-5, 0.60 over 103.6 frames, and then received a push to Double-A Erie, where he went 1-0, 3.00 over a pair of starts.

Farmer has 127 strikeouts over 115.6 innings this season in the Minors, with a 1.115 WHIP, so the 23-year-old has surely climbed the minor league rungs quickly, and I would expect him to take a few lumps (5.3 innings, four runs, five hits his first start), but he is a prospect who still has to prove he can't do it, and the quick drive to the Majors certainly means a player worth tracking, if not for now, for later. 

The White Sox Avisail Garcia is a player who was likely selected in most drafts and auctions last March, but when the right fielder tore his labrum two weeks into the season, Garcia was dumped as the Pale Hose determined he was gone for the year.

Not so, as the Sox reactivated Garcia over this past week, and that means he might well be available in any number of leagues as a free agent. The 23-year-old does have a .289-9-39 line over 104 games and is a great pickup right now, especially in an AL-only league.

The road to roto-Hell has been paved with disappointing prospects, so that brings me to Kyle Drabek, a first rounder in 2006 and son of former Pirate Doug Drabek.

Drabek was considered a top prospect into 2011 as he mastered the Class A and Double-A levels, but then hit the wall that year both at Triple-A Vegas (5-4, 7.44) and in the Majors (4-5, 6.86). 2012 was not much better (4-7, 4.67), and when he was not pitching, Drabek was hurt.

The former 18th overall pick has truly done nothing to convince anyone that he has transcended his difficulties over the past three years, so I would pass. Although, I would keep an eye on the guy: #1 pick means he did have some talent, and if not as a starter, it is not unusual for an arm like Drabek's to become a reliever, and even turn into a closer.

Another such underachiever would be Cord Phelps, now on the Orioles, but drafted by the Indians in the third round in 2008 out of Stanford.

Over 679 minor league games, Phelps has a line of .280-60-349, with a solid .368 OBP (346 walks to 389 whiffs), but like Drabek has been a washout at The Show, going .158-2-11 over 54 games.

I have to say that like Andy Marte, I also drafted Phelps for my Strat-O-Matic team, and though I froze Phelps as an uncarded player this year, my long term expectation is just like that of Marte, who I dumped this year. Fun? Yes. Speculative? Of course. Worth the gamble? Nope.

I will tell you that one hitter I have been tracking of late for next season is the Astros' Robbie Grossman. A pick of the Pirates (sixth round of 2008), Grossman was swapped at the trade deadline for Wandy Rodriguez at the deadline last year, and though the right fielder has a solid minor league line (.274 average and a solid .383 OBP) and though he did have a .337 average and a .417 OBP at Oklahoma City this season, he has been up and down in numbers and leagues this year, going .210-6-27 over 68 games.

However, over the past couple of weeks, the switch-hitting right fielder has gone .261-2-7 with nine walks to 13 strikeouts (.393 OBP), and I have a feeling he is becoming comfortable as a Major Leaguer.

I did see Grossman at the AFL a few years back, and he looked like he could hit, and run, and play, with a good eye, and though he won't be much of a power source, I do see runs and OBP and even 20-plus steals in his portfolio for next season. If you have room to get him cheap and freeze him for next year, do so. I want to nab him in my keeper Strat-O-Matic league if I can.

On the other hand, Adam Rosales has had the week of his life, hitting .333-3-9 over the past cycle. If you are thinking about grabbing him, think about Rosales as a stock tip that already peaked, and just walk away. I saw the guy a lot in Oakland. He is enthusiastic. He does have some pop. He will never get it for you when you need it.

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