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Friday 23rd Feb 2018

It is the last week before the insanity of roster expansion, but that did not stop the big league clubs from promoting a potential star for now, and one who was supposed to be a few years back.

The Nationals drafted hurler A.J. Cole in the fourth round in 2010 out of Oviedo High School in Florida, and he toiled in their system for three years before moving west to Oakland as part of the big Gio Gonzalez swap in 2011. But, the Nats coveted Cole enough to get him back as part of a three-way Seattle/Oakland/Washington swap that involved John Jaso and Mike Morse a couple of years later. Cole had pretty good minor league success, going 46-39, 3.63 over seven seasons, with 689 strikeouts over 730.3 innings. But, Cole's dominance has dropped with promotions, as he whiffed 10.2 batters per nine at A-ball, while that number dropped to 7.2 in Triple-A. Cole has turned in 22.3 innings in the Majors with an 0-1, 5.32 record over 22 innings. The big (6'5") 24-year-old is interesting, and on a good team, but worth worshiping only from afar at this juncture.

Alex Reyes actually made his debut with the Cardinals a few weeks ago, and made a tough start against the Athletics. The 22-year-old (today is his birthday) had a solid 20-21 resume in the Minors with a 4.10 ERA and a 1.314 WHIP, but that belies a terrific 449 whiffs over 339 innings, which translates to 12.1 strikeouts per nine. The Saturday start against Oakland was the first for Reyes, and the patient Athletics hitters made the youngster pay, chasing him after 4.6 innings. But, Reyes pitches for a great team and a manager who knows pitching, and has a promising future.

If you are looking for a stabilizing bullpen arm for now who might turn into a closer later, take a peek at another of the young Yankees in Ben Heller. A 22nd-round pick of the Tribe in 2013, Cleveland swapped Heller to New York as part of the Andrew Miller deal, and he has impressed in the Minors. With 233 strikeouts over 178.3 innings, Heller managed a 9-9, 2.72 line along with 32 saves in the Minors. This year, he was 3-3, 1.69 over 48 innings with 55 strikeouts and 13 saves at two levels with three teams. 

As long as we are cashing in on trade spoils, the Braves recalled Aaron Blair, the former #1 pick of the D-backs in 2013, whom the Braves nabbed along with Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson in the ill-fated Shelby Miller deal. Blair has pretty good minor league totals of 28-17, 3.46 over 76 starts and 434.6 innings, with 403 whiffs, going 5-4, 4.65 at Gwinnett this season, a far cry from his 0-5, 7.99 totals in Atlanta. I cannot recommend Blair on a contending team. But, going into the final month, with roster expansion and younger players, if the Braves throw Blair into their rotation and give him 4-5 starts on which to grow, the righty becomes an interesting potential keeper and similar play for 2017.

Remember how deep the Dodgers were in starting pitching and outfielders? Hah. Meaning it is time to look at Rob Segedin, the 27-year-old who was the Yankees third-round pick in 2010. The Pinstripes dealt Segedin early this year as part of the Ronald Torreyes trade, and he was hitting .319-21-69 at Oklahoma City when summoned. With 215 walks to 397 strikeouts (.357 OBP), Segedin logged a minor league OPS of .800 on the nose and is hitting .263-2-12 with the big club, and similarly looks to be getting everyday play during the team's stretch run.

Let's turn now to a few names who continue to haunt, starting with a former star and top pick gone awry, Carlos Gomez. Gomez, whom I will say I never trusted, had a hot run between 2012-14, hitting 66 homers and swiping 111 bags while driving in 197 runs. But last year the wheels started to come off, and this year's .210-5-29 line with the Astros made it such that the team flat out released the $8 million a year outfielder (Gomez is a free agent at the end of this year). Do I think the move to the Rangers will help? Nope, not for a guy with a .310 career OBP. Pass unless desperate.

This was supposed to be the breakout year for Taijuan Walker, but the young hurler was relegated to Tacoma after his 4-8, 5.17 line over 18 starts and 95.6 innings. Walker made a pair of starts for Tacoma, going 1-0, 3.60 over 15 innings, and he's now back with the big club. Walker had a pretty good second half last year, going 4-1, 4.14, and Seattle has a decent team. I actually like Walker as a gamble for the rest of the season.

Much the same could be said about Matt Wisler, who was 5-11, 4.92 and went down to Gwinnett, where the righty went 2-1, 3.71 over four starts and 26.6 frames. The Braves will be iffy for a few years, but Wisler, a 7th round pick in 2011, should be ok. Like Walker, he will be working through a lot of expansion rosters. For next year, however, bets are still off.

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