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Friday 15th Dec 2017

Another week, another interesting catching prospect is brought forth, that being Blake Swihart. Boston's #1 selection in 2011 (as a high school senior), Swihart had a fine .300-12-55 line at Double-A Portland last year, and that prompted a move up to Pawtucket, where over 18 games, he hit .261-1-9. Swihart returned to Triple-A to start this year, playing another 18 games (.338-0-11), and with the Ryan Hanigan injury, it became prime time for the 23-year-old Swihart. He is a fun and interesting pick, and another in a long line of promising Boston backstops, so gamble if you have a hole in a deep league, but don't be disappointed--or surprised--if he struggles.

The Brewers' Jason Rogers is of a kind I really love. A 32nd round pick in 2010, he has simply played pretty well, posting a .288-63-314 record over six seasons with a solid .368 OBP (238 walks to 357 strikeouts), and he put together a great season split between Huntsville and Nashville (.296-18-82) in 2014. Rogers, a first/third baseman, is hitting .412-0-0 over his first 17 at-bats, and he just seems like one of those hardworking guys who will be successful simply because he is a hardworking guy.

OK, switching to some arms, let's start with a couple of youngsters. First, Michael Lorenzen was the Reds' first-rounder in 2013 out of Cal State Fullerton. Lorenzen has had decent success in the Minors, going 7-8, 3.08 over 49 games (28 starts) and 160.6 innings. However, he is not a strikeout pitcher (115) and not only is his control still under development (1.326 WHIP with 152 hits and 61 walks), but what concerns me are the dingers. Lorenzen allowed 13 in the Minors, and I watched his start last week, where he pitched well enough for a first start, allowing eight hits over his first five innings; however, three of those hits were homers. I'd pass.

Even though A.J. Cole was pounded for a lot more damage (two innings, nine runs) in his debut than Lorenzen, I like his future a lot more. Cole, a fourth-round pick of the Nationals, has posted a 33-25, 3.55 record over 515.3 minor league frames, with 514 whiffs to 120 walks (519 hits) with a 1.24 WHIP. Though the 47 homers he's allowed are a greater percentage than Lorenzen, less baserunners means less damage. Cole has been well enough thought of to have been part of deals that involved Gio Gonzalez and Mike Morse.

For some older arms, Marco Estrada is now in the Jays rotation following the demotion of Daniel Norris. Estrada's win/loss (24-26), and even ERA (4.16) totals might not look too encouraging, but he has a career 1.178 WHIP over 551.6 innings with 519 strikeouts. He makes for a great free agent pickup in AL-only leagues, as he's 1-0, 0.84 over 10.6 relief innings so far this season.

Sam Deduno is filling in as a spot starter with the red-hot Astros, and he has picked up the gauntlet. Deduno came up as a starter but has really been a reliever since 2014. At 31, his pen experience seems to have made him a better strikeout pitcher (94 over 113 frames as a reliever as opposed to 119 over 193.6 as a starter), and he could be a nice sleeper starter in a deep league. He did go 8-8, 3.83 over 108 innings as a starter for the Twins in 2013, though his 2012 and 2014 numbers were not so pleasing. Still, Houston has a magic touch right now, and Deduno, who will be in the rotation for another week at least, makes for a fairly safe play.

Finishing with a couple of outfielders, the Cubs activated that wiley old veteran, Chris Denorfia. I say old as Denorfia, who is 34, is on a team full of first-year players of course, but he is also a pretty good hitter who should get some at-bats to spell the youngsters, and also provide that veteran presence. Denorfia has a career .272-38-172 line over 1,978 career at-bats, and I would expect him to get 275 or so at-bats through the balance of the season and hit around .270-8-40 with maybe even a few steals. You could do worse!

Finally, looking for some juice, the Athletics brought back speedster Billy Burns. The 25-year-old outfielder has a great on-base line of .387 (211 walks to 245 strikeouts) and a .289 batting average along with 184 swipes over 406 games. Kind of Ben Revere-like in that Burns has very little pop (.357 minor league slugging percentage), but he is a leadoff hitter who makes things happen, and he likely will continue to do so until Coco Crisp returns, at least.


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