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Friday 23rd Feb 2018

Pitching is crazy, no? And, I don't think the reason is that hitting has improved, although, believe it or not, the MLB league OBP of .324 is the highest total since 2010.

But, as I have shared on Twitter, this year is the year of Pitcher Russian Roulette: Pick a pitcher, spin a wheel, hold a gun to your head waiting for the results to determine whether to pull the trigger or not.

Certainly this week's column will look at some pitchers, but first there are some position players worth a look for your league, starting with the Braves and Johan Camargo. A 23-year-old, Camargo, a Panamanian, was signed by the Braves in 2010, and has assembled a pretty solid minor league line of .279-12-181 with a .333 OBP (139 BB to 277 K). Camargo is hitting .281-0-10 with the Braves, is playing every day, and in a deeper league could be a nice middle infield play who could qualify at the corners as well before long.

Max Kepler and Byron Buxton get a lot of the ink for the Twins outfield but maybe it is time to take a peek at Eddie Rosario as well. Rosario, who reminds me a lot of the Phillies' Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera, has the power/speed skill set and showed his abilities in 2015, when he went .267-13-50 with 11 steals. But the outfielder dropped off to start 2016, forcing a demotion and then a return that proved productive. This year, Rosario is hitting .271-9-23 though his steals are down, and over the past two weeks he's hitting .368-4-8 with a steal.

There is a changing of the guard in Oakland, and we will be covering the team and their interesting moves over the course of the season, and we can start with Bruce Maxwell, the Athletics' second-round pick in 2012. Maxwell hit .267-27-215 with a good .344 OBP (195 BB to 297 K) and has come on strong, hitting .333-0-2 with a swipe this past week as he joins the cluster of fun young Oaklanders.

 Oakland also advanced shortstop Franklin Barreto, the team's 21-year-old shortstop of the future. Barreto has a .291-42-219 line with 81 steals to go with a .345 OBP, and was hitting .281-8-32 at Nashville this year, although with just 17 walks to 92 whiffs. Barreto should get some playing time, eventually owning shortstop, moving Marcus Semien to second, and is a great pickup in deep and keeper contests.

While we are in Oakland, pitcher Daniel Gossett picked up his first win on Saturday versus the White Sox. The second rounder out of Clemson in 2014 now has a 1-2 mark with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.188 WHIP with Oakland, and registered a 19-22, 3.55 mark with 342 whiffs over 383 innings. Oakland, as we have seen, is pretty good at bringing forth arms and I like how Gossett fits in with Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton.

The Padres' Luis Perdomo had a bit of a rocky season last year, going 9-10, 5.71 over 146.6 frames. Although his 2017 line is better at 2-4, 4.56, over his past three starts, the right-hander seems to have gotten it together, going 2-1, 2.41 over 18.6 innings with 14 strikeouts. In a deeper league, Perdomo makes for an interesting potential play. 

Houston has advanced two top pitching prospects, first with David Paulino, and now with Francis Martes. A 21-year-old Dominican, Martes is 23-17, 3.18 with 343 strikeouts over 353.6 frames in the Minors. Martes is a hard thrower who will have some issues--he is 2-0, 5.51 thus far this year--but has some serious upside and is a good future gamble in just about any kind of league. As for now, well, look further.

The feel good story in baseball this year has to be Austin Bibens-Dirkx, the Rangers' 32-year-old rookie who has logged 1040 minor league innings, going 61-52, 4.04 with 855 whiffs and a 1.25 WHIP. The righty is 3-0, 3.68 over 36.3 innings with 21 whiffs and a 1.01 WHIP, allowing just a .207 average. It is truly hard to recommend pitchers these days when there does indeed seem to be a gun to our heads, but Bibens-Dirkx is the kind of guy who can sneak through the rest of the season with some decent numbers. Just don't be surprised if there is a meltdown.

Follow me @lawrmichaels.



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