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Friday 15th Dec 2017

 Greetings from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Diane and I were hoping to make it, from St. Louis yesterday, hoping to make the Drillers game, where it was SPCA day at the park. Since we are trekking to California, from Chicago, we were excited in that Diane's dog Mahi could come along.

Well, the drive was longer than we thought--almost 400 miles, which AAA suggests you can do in five plus hours, but in reality took more like eight. But, we did listen to the Royals and Cards on the radio, which was a lot fun too. Listening to the radio, especially baseball, on a road trip is always great. And, since we travelled Route 66, well, there were a lot of roadside attractions to observe, also a favorite during road trips.

But, back to baseball, and since last week there was such a run of veterans who came back to the Show, to try and make an impact, this time, let's look at a bunch of youngsters who are pretty much getting their first look.

Although, we do have want to start with Alfredo Simon, the new Baltimore closer. At least for the moment, as he has six saves since acquiring the gig (his first save was April 27). Simon, 29, functioned as a stopper in the minors only once, in 2005, when he converted 19 at Norwich (AA), posting a 3-8 record and 5.03 ERA. As a minor leaguer, he registered a WHIP of 1.394, and he struck out 594 while walking 274 over 772 innings. Looking at the 1.79 WHIP this year, and the ten whiffs to seven walks over 11 innings, if you have Simon, enjoy the saves while you can. But, do not expect him to keep the job.

Ok, so Washington's Justin Maxwell is no longer a rookie, with 167 plate appearances. The fourth round pick of the Nats in 2005 was recalled this week, though. Of course with Maxwell, as with all the players on this list, the short term prognosis is playing time, and since Washington is faring way better than expected, the Nats management will be careful not to derail their magic so far. Maxwell does have decent power (127 of his 349 minor league hits have been for extra bases) but, he also has trouble with plate discipline (390 whiffs to 183 walks), as his minor league totals indicate. He also has excellent speed (107 swipes with 29 CS) so for now, Maxwell will be a bench presence, but, he could be a player to stash for the future (I am thinking about swapping for him in my Strat league).

Cristhian Martinez is a 27-year old who has been up and down with the Marlins this season, and at present has a 1-1, 5.13 ERA. At 41-26, 3.35 in the minors, Martinez allowed 587 hits or 611 innings, and tossed 427 whiffs to 119 walks, good for a ratio of 1.15. The 18 whiffs to eight walks look pretty consistent, and Florida is very good at developing prospects, and young pitchers, so Martinez is a nice pickup.

Diane and I listened to the Cards on Saturday as well, driving from Chicago to St. Louis, so we heard PJ Walters 2009 debut. The 25-year old, an 11th round pick of St. Louis in 2006, did pitch last year going 0-0, 9.56 over 16 innings. Walters was 33-23, 3.68 as a minor leaguer, with 470 strikeouts over 479 innings (159 walks). With 454 hits allowed, those are excellent totals, and like Martinez, Walters could have some long term value, and even a little as a long man in the pen at present.

The Astros look to be rebuilding, having let go of Kaz Matsui, now advancing 25-year old Oswaldo Navarro. Hitting 312-3-19 over 72 at-bats, with a good .418 OBP (18 whiffs, 10 walks) when summoned, with career totals of .259-22-292 including 153 doubles. For the most part, however, Navarro seems like his apex would be numbers like Skip Schumaker, but even that--becoming a .300 hitter--is still on the path ahead. Probably a utility role is the likely path for Navarro.

Boston brought up middle infielder Angel Sanchez, a 26-year old who did have a cup of coffee with the Royals in 2006 (.222-0-1 over 28 at-bats). At Pawtuckett, when summoned, Sanchez was hittin .313-0-9 with a swipe, and his career totals in the minors were .280-21-310 over 804 games. Sanchez has a decent eye (412 strikeouts to 232 walks) and he could make a nice contribution as a spare part in Boston this season in the Mike Aviles tradition. The jury is still out, but for the most part, an AL only format is the only avenue for this year, if that. 

My friend Michael Duca maintains Dodgers pitcher Jonathan Broxton looks like the box your refridgerator was delivered in. Same could be said for the Padres Adam Russell, who logs in at 6'8", 250 pounds. The 27-year old functioned primarily as a starter until last year when he converted nine saves between Class AA and AAA. Russell has posted some good numbers as a starter in the minors, and the Pads are doing well focusing on arms in their pitcher friendly venue, but Russell does not look like more than a middle man to me.

The Cubs Jeff Stevens was plucked from the Reds, who drafted the right-hander in the fourth round of the 2005 draft in the fourth round. Now, Stevens now only plays for Chicago, my second home, but he was born in Berkeley, my first, so you know I like him for that. But, what I really love are the 427 strikeouts over 387 innings, with just 141 walks. Add in 293 hits allowed and you get a 1.12 WHIP and those numbers are not really reflected in the 25-21, 3.26 totals. Stevens did win a game during a September appearance (1-0, 7.11) last year at Wrigley, but, those control numbers are exactly the kind that say "take me, and take me now."

With Asdrubal Cabrera likely out for the season, Cleveland advanced Jason Donald, originally selected by the Phils in the third round of the 2006 draft. A 25-year old, Donald put up .281-34-184 totals in the minors with a pretty good .371 OBP, improving his eye this year with 21 walks to 33 whiffs at Columbus. Donald is one of those guys who could be have a future as a utility player, but he also could sneak into the lineup by virtue of this opening, slip past Luis Valbuena, and have a Jim Gantner career. He is worth a gamble in a deep league right now for sure.

Xavier Paul was selected by the Dodgers out of high school, their fourth selection in the 2003 draft, and the outfielder could certainly give them a killer outfield, with Andre Either and Matt Kemp. Paul was hitting .388-4-11with a .430 OBP despite the free-swinging 622 strikeouts to 265 walks. He did assemble .291-62-354 minor league totals over 684 games, including a pretty good .360 OBP despite the whiffs, and he has continued at Dodger Stadium with .326-0-5 numbers this year in LA. Those are numbers that also suggest you want to take a chance on Paul.

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