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Tuesday 20th Feb 2018

In what might be more than just a stop-gap, three top pitching prospects were brought forth over the weekend. Blake Snell, Henry Owens and Aaron Blair all got starts, and save ultra leagues, all three might even be available on the waiver wire.

Of the three, we have seen Owens before, over 11 starts and 63 innings last year, resulting in 4-4, 4.57 totals with 50 punchouts. The lefty is tall (6'6", 220 lbs.), so one would think Owens should be more dominant, and his minor league totals of 595 whiffs over 536 frames suggest that could be the path. But for now, Owens is still learning the game at the Major League level. Among the three, he is the most likely to stick simply because there is little else to conquer at Triple-A. Owens was 1-1, 1.00 over three starts and 18 innings, with 23 strikeouts, but 10 walks. As witnessed by the Southpaw's Sunday performance which included four free passes and five hits over 3.3 innings, Owens is still a work in progress, meaning if you are rebuilding and this is a way to protect Owens, fine. But if you play him, expect some lumps, at least until the final months of play.

Snell was the top June selection as a High School graduate by the Rays in 2011, and since went 34-25, 2.74 over 436.3 innings with 488 strikeouts, and though the 6'4" lefty walked 217, he allowed just 22 homers while posting a 1.295 WHIP. Snell was clearly up for just the one start, but he comported himself well with five innings and six strikeouts to a pair of hits and a walk in a no-decision. Snell was 1-1, 2.51 with 21 whiffs over 14.3 Triple-A innings and will be the first one back in all likelihood should the Rays have a need to fill. I like Owens, but I like Snell better.

The 23-year-old Blair was drafted out of high school by the Astros (21st round) but went to Marshall University and was subsequently drafted #1 in 2013 by the Diamondbacks, who then included the prospect in the questionable Shelby Miller trade last fall. Blair has made 66 starts in the Minors, going 26-13 over 382 innings with a 3.51 ERA, 354 strikeouts and a 1.149 WHIP, all of which suggests the 6'4" right-hander will need his defense. On Sunday, Blair took the loss in his first start, allowing three runs over 5.3 innings. On a rebuilding team, times could be tough for Blair, but the Braves might as well let him gain experience in the Majors. Of the three arms, he is the least desirable. However, all three are excellent prospects and gambles depending upon your game.

Yet another hurler worth a look is Tyler Duffey, just brought up by the Twins. Following his strong 5-1, 3.10 record for Minnesota last year over ten late-season starts, it was speculated Duffey would crack the Opening Day rotation. Not to be, though like his mates, the fifth round pick out of Rice in 2012 started at Rochester where he went 0-0, 1.72 over three starts and 15.6 innings. Duffey is definitely a control guy (92 walks over 443 minor league innings with a 1.115 WHIP, although the Twins too might be in for a roller coaster season. All these young arms are interesting, and all are fine on a reserve list, but be careful not to stack up with too many at one time unless times are already desperate for your team.

Looking at an older arm, it is not likely that Oakland can keep it up with Eric Surkamp and Chris Bassitt. This means that Henderson Alvarez, formerly of the Marlins via the Rays by virtue of the million player 2012 Jose Reyes trade, might just be a guy worth tracking. Alvarez did undergo shoulder surgery in 2015 after four starts (0-4, 6.45) but in general had been developing well with an overall 27-34, 3.80 line over 563 big league innings, though with just 296 strikeouts. Alvarez has been rehabbing (three innings thus far at Stockton), and he did turn in a fine 12-7, 2.65 season over 187 innings with a 1.234 WHIP before the injury in 2014, so there is something there that could suit the Coliseum. And, I would still keep an eye on Jesse Hahn.

While we are in Oakland, I had a lot invested in Danny Valencia, but not Chris Coghlan. With Jed Lowrie--who can play third--hanging at second for the most part, Coghlan factors to get a good chunk of playing time. He banged a pair of homers over the weekend in Toronto and did have a nice .283-9-45 season with the Cubs a couple of years back. In an AL-only format, the multi-positional (first, second, third, and outfield) Athletic might be the filler of the gap. 

The Angels will be giving time to Rafael Ortega while Daniel Nava is sidelined. The 25-year-old Venezuelan did appear briefly (six at-bats, three hits) as a 21-year-old for the Rockies in 2012 and is a speed burner with 192 steals over 709 minor league games, posting a .289-36-212 line with a solid .355 OBP (277 walks, 381 whiffs). Playing time is the name of the game, and in an AL-only format, Ortega makes a nice pick up.

Lastly, there is Ezequiel Carrera, off to a nice start with the Jays. Carrera, who is 28 and has played with four teams over six seasons, is hitting .318-0-2 this year and banged a homer off Surkamp on Sunday. But over the long-term, his 39 walks to 134 strikeouts (.310 OBP) is more likely to reveal itself. Tread carefully.

If you are playing DFS anywhere, make sure you check out Lord Zola's daily projections which now include positioning. 

And, don't forget, you can always hit me up @lawrmichaels. 



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