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Sunday 25th Feb 2018

Oh how fickle the gods of baseball, who have deemed Billy Burns and Shelby Miller be sent down. Dave Stewart must be suffering worse than any fantasy owner ever could, although I have the joy of owning Burns in my Scoresheet league. 

So, with the second half, and these drastic measures, we all have to adjust and the Athletics compensated for the demotion of Burns with the addition of Ryon Healy. A corner infielder--though primarily third base--Healy was a third-round selection of Oakland in 2013 who sort of fits in the "we have a lot of guys who can play all over as interchangable parts" philosophy Billy Beane seems to be exploiting. With a .296-43-238 line over 392 minor league games, Healy has some pop, and though he makes good contact, his on-base numbers (.332, with 94 walks to 264 strikeouts) are a little remiss. Still, since Coco Crisp is somewhat healthy, and Danny Valencia can play first, third, and the outfield, and pending the departure of Josh Reddick, Healy could get some real playing time between now and October. The 24-year-old was hitting .318-6-30 at Triple-A when summoned.

A little older, but equally interesting is the Padres' Ryan, this time Schimpf, a second/third sacker with some pretty good pop who is getting a good look with the Friars. Schimpf was a fifth-round selection of the Jays in 2009, played five years, was released, and then inked by San Diego. He did his minor league time, and also played in the Mexican League before getting this break at Petco. The infielder has a .249-128-412 line over 733 minor league games, with a decent .349 OBP, and he has shown good pop during his big league tenure with a .206-5-9 line over 23 games that includes a .556 Slugging Percentage. Of the pair, I would probably yield to Ryon over Ryan, but unless I needed to fill a gap, I would let someone else take the risk for either.

So, in keeping with the flexible infielder theme, the Astros signed Cuban import Yulieski Gourriel to a $47.5 million deal this past week. Gourriel, who plays second and third, notched a professional line in Cuba and Japan of .335-250-1018 over 925 games with a terrific OBP of .417 with 628 walks to just 428 strikeouts. While in Japan, the 32-year-old played 62 games, posting a .305-11-30 line with just 15 free passes to 48 strikeouts. The Cuban players have largely been beyond successful when transitioning to the Majors. However, the latest batches of players--Leonys Martin and Rusney Castillo spring to mind--have had their struggles and more. Still, Gourriel is intriguing, although he might not get a chance to strut his stuff until 2017.

A couple of hitters I have tried to exploit over the past few years are getting some chances these days, starting with J.B. Shuck, now getting some good time in the outfield for the White Sox. Shuck had a pretty good run with the Angels--after being swapped by the Padres--in 2013, hitting .293-2-39 with eight swipes over 437 at-bats. After that, Shuck has yo-yoed among teams and the Minors with somewhat mediocre numbers. In the Minors, the outfielder has hit .303 with 411 runs scored and 87 swipes, and 311 walks to 255 strikeouts (.379 OBP). Though this season of .250-3-12 isn't killer, it is an improvement and his play is steady. So, if you are in a deep league or AL-only, and you need at-bats, well, just saying.

Junior Lake is the other player who has tempted me. Kind of like Shuck, Lake has been dabbling in the Majors since 2013. But working it in the Minors, Lake has a .272-62-330 line with 140 swipes, although his 221 walks to 722 strikeouts is disturbing anywhere. Lake is getting some time in the Toronto outfield, but if I had to choose, I would go with Shuck over Lake.

In case you had not noticed, Howie Kendrick is hot, hitting .353-1-8 the past three weeks, raising his season line to .271-4-21. Kendrick is generally undervalued, so now is a good time to swap for him, or again, fill a hole in a deep league for on the injury-plagued Dodgers, he will play, and all over. Add in over the second half of his career, Kendrick has hit .302-35-254 over 519 games and there you have it.

I have long been a Hector Santiago fan too, though the Angels lefty does get clobbered at times. But over the past month, he is 3-0, 2.08, with a 1.192 WHIP and 26 strikeouts over 26 frames. That brings Santiago's season line to 7-4, 4.27, with a 1.272 WHIP to go with 93 strikeouts over 105.3 innings. Santiago is probably overlooked in a lot of shallower leagues, and might even be ripe for a swap from the Angels to a contender. 

Finally, the Diamondbacks' Robbie Ray has some ugly numbers (5-8, 4.72, with a 1.562 WHIP over 97.3 innings, but with a killer 115 strikeouts). Ray has pitched pretty well since the middle of June, going 3-3 with a 3.64 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP across 42 innings. He too makes for a good under-the-radar play in any league where you need to gamble on pitching.

Don't forget to take me on at Beat the Experts at RTSports every Friday, and hit me up @lawrmichaels.

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