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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

It seems fitting that going into the week of the 2017 June draft that prospects and top picks dominate the Hotpage this week.

A first-round pick of the Mariners in 2013, we all had hopes for Mike Zunino, who was actually a pretty good on-base hitter with a .368 minor league OBP. But in the bigs, he could not catch up with the fastball and the results have been a .197 average and .268 OBP. Granted catchers' hitting generally does develop later as working the zone with pitchers is the primary function of backstops. Zunino is only hitting .218-4-17 for the year, but over the past couple of weeks he has produced .389-3-18 numbers. Yes, it is premature to think Zunino has found his stroke, but he is first worth tracking, and second, could indeed be picking it up.

I have long been a fan of Cory Spangenberg, a first rounder of the Padres in 2011. Spangenberg had a solid debut when he arrived at Petco in 2014, hitting .290-2-9 over 20 games, then .271-4-21 with nine steals the following year over 303 at-bats. Then Spangenberg got hurt, and was in and out of a lineup going through Petco changes, playing sporadically, and not that well. With the power potential of Ryan Schimpf, Spangenberg seemed back burner news, but Schimpf, who hit with power, but little else, was sent down this past week while Spangenberg has been smoking. Spangenberg is hitting .500-2-4 this past week, with the big blows coming Sunday, and ideally some full-time play ahead.

Lewis Brinson is yet another first rounder, this time in 2012 by the Rangers, though the Rangers swapped the outfielder off as part of the Jonathan Lucroy deal of last year. Brinson has posted a .283-82-299 mark with 92 swipes over 514 minor league games. At Colorado Springs this year, Brinson was hitting .312-6-25 when summoned, and what is worthy of note is that over 2012-13, Brinson whiffed 265 times while walking just 69. Since then, the numbers are 326 strikeouts to 120 walks, significantly improved. Brinson might not work his way immediately into full-time play, but it lies ahead.

While we are working with the Brewers, the team brought up top prospect Josh Hader, a lefty hard-thrower who was selected in the 19th round in 2011 by the Orioles, who then swapped Hader to the Astros as part of the Bud Norris trade. Houston then swapped Hader to the Brewers as part of the Carlos Gomez deal. Hader, who will initially be working out of the pen, has dominant stuff, with 610 strikeouts over 541.3 innings, averaging 10.1 per nine. Hader has had his struggles this year (3-4, 5.47), but in reality, there is very little more he can learn in the Minors. If brought along concertedly with the Brewers, Hader has the potential to be an ace. 

The Tigers selected Buck Farmer in the fifth round in 2013, and 24 of his 32 appearances going into this year were in relief. But Farmer has been pretty much exclusively a starter in the Minors, with a 26-21, 3.65 mark over 402.3 innings with 387 whiffs. Farmer has been lights out this past week with two wins on a pair of starts to go with a 0.00 ERA over 13 innings with 16 punchouts.

In addition to Farmer, however, several interesting hurlers were advanced during the past week, starting with Jacob Faria, a tenth-round selection of the Rays in 2011. The 23-year-old has posted stellar minor league totals--41-32, 3.13, over 599 innings with 626 strikeouts--including a 6-1, 3.03 mark at Durham this year that includes 84 whiffs over 58.6 innings. Faria had a great start and win Wednesday, and was sent down the next day. Since Faria was up in place of Matt Andriese, and since Andriese's future is probably the DL, it is reasonable to anticipate Faria's return, soon. 

Struggling San Francisco promoted eighth-round pick in 2014, Austin Slater out of Stanford, to help fill their struggling, ailing defense. Slater has a nice minor league line of .308-27-165 over 300 games, with 24 swipes and a .371 OBP (106 walks to 238 whiffs). Slater has come out of the blocks hot, hitting .322-4-26 his first week, and since the Giants really are going nowhere, he should get a chance to show what he can do. I like the outfielder to be a sort of Mark Kotsay kind of player: one who does not do anything spectacularly, but everything very well. That is pretty good.

Finally, the Pirates ran out of patience and options with infielder Alen Hanson, designating him with the White Sox picking up the infielder. A switch-hitter, still just 24 years old, Hanson has had a fine minor league career, hitting .281-53-316 with 205 steals over 719 games. With decent on-base numbers (240 walks to 531 strikeouts, a .340 OBP), Hanson just cannot do it in the Majors, hitting just .193-0-1 over 93 at-bats. The move should be good for Hanson, whom if he gets a shot to play regularly, could indeed be a player.

Don't forget to tune into The Tout Wars Hour every Thursday night on the FNTSY Sports Radio Network, where Justin Mason and I try to break down fantasy into strategies and tactics we can all understand and employ. That is Thursday nights, from 8-10 PM, Eastern Time.

You can give me grief @lawrmichaels.

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