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Monday 18th Dec 2017

Playing first base for the Yankees this season is a lot like being a keyboard player for the Grateful Dead, with Garrett Cooper and Greg Bird exploiting the DL in deference to one another. So, we have to ask ourselves here at the Hotpage, how does this bode fo Tyler Austin? A 13th round high school selection in 2010, Austin hit well enough at Double-A (.429 over five games at Trenton), which we should expect from a 25-year-old, and that fostered the move to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where Austin hit .292-7-27. Still, the long ride up the Minors coupled with a .369 OBP in the Minors make Austin worth following, at least until Bird gets fully healthy, which might not happen for awhile.

The Reds advanced 25-year-old flychaser Phillip Ervin for the second time this year. Ervin, a first-round pick in 2013 out of Samford, has decent pop with a .251-50-259 line over four minor league seasons and 526 games, featuring a .256-7-40 line this season at Louisville. Ervin does not have huge zone command with 83 whiffs to 37 walks, good for a .328 OBP, but he does have 24 swipes this season and 137 as a minor leaguer. Still, I would not expect a huge contribution from Ervin right now and presently he projects to be little more than a fourth outfielder, if that. 

Looking at a couple of backstops, the Royals advanced Cam Gallagher in deference to the Sal Perez injury. Gallagher was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft, and was hitting .294-5-34 at Omaha when summoned. The 24-year-old, however, has a .243-26-157 line over 462 games with a measly .318 OBP to go with a .668 OPS, so not much there.

Similarly, the Astros are beat up behind the plate, so they brought up Max Stassi, a fourth-round pick of the Athletics in 2009 who grew up in Northern California. Stassi was hitting .266-12-33, which seems pretty pedestrian. But of interest is the jump in OBP Stassi enjoyed this season, walking 38 times to 67 whiffs, handcuffed to a .383 OBP. What makes this noteworthy is that Stassi has a minor league OBP of .318 including this year's numbers, meaning prior to 2017, he had 288 walks to 588 whiffs and that represents a serious number shift. Whether Stassi has mastered the zone is another question, but he is worth watching in deference to remembering that in general, hitting develops later for catchers than for other position players.

While we are at it, even a better gamble looks like Mitch Garver, 26, of the Twins. Garver was nabbed in the third round of the 2013 June draft and has a pretty solid minor league resume of .271-51-286 over 508 games with 249 walks to 370 whiffs and a fine .364 OBP. This includes 50 walks to 85 strikeouts this year, where he has a .387 OBP and a .928 OPS. Of the troika, I like Garver the best.

While we are at it, the Twins also brought forth hurler Aaron Slegers, a fifth-rounder also in 2013. Siegers, a right-hander, also happens to be 6'10" (245 pounds). He posted a 13-4, 3.18 record this season over 130.3 innings, striking out just 97, while walking only 27. Siegers is pretty good at keeping the ball down with just seven homers allowed this year and just 32 over 583 innings. He has a 41-29, 3.46 line over those games with a 1.19 WHIP and with that height and angle poses an interesting possibility. (Note: Slegers was optioned the day after his 8/17 start, but with roster expansion coming in September, look for his return shortly.)

Gavin Cecchini of the Mets is back for a second time with Jose Reyes hurt, but Reyes is a lot more expendable and the Mets infield, with Dominic Smith and Wilmer Flores, could have some real potential. The 23-year-old Cecchini was a first-round pick of the Metropolitans in 2012 and has hit .283-30-237 with a pretty solid 219 walks to 327 strikeouts, although his OBP is .348. Cecchini is not as good as his Royal brother Garin but still has a lot of upside. 

As the first Lithuanian-born big leaguer, the Pirates' Dovydas Neverauskas deserves some attention. The 24-year-old relief pitcher posted a 22-26, 4.05 line over 433.6 minor league innings. Neverauskas whiffed 332 over that span, but allowed 431 hits and posted a 1.42 WHIP, so despite 12 saves even at Triple-A this year, I would shy away.

You can follow me @lawrmichaels and listen to the Tout Wars Hour every Thursday from 9-11 PM ET (6-8 PT) on the FNTSY Sports Network.

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