A week prior to roster expansion, a bunch of players came up for the first time while a few interesting starting pitchers returned for a look in the Show. It is the relievers, however, who garner most of the attention today. If you are protecting your WHIP and ERA at this point, several of these guys could be of value. And, the way things are going, several could wind up competing for saves as early as next season.
A.J. Cole has been up and down after originally being drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Nationals. Still just 25, Cole has a solid enough minor league resume with a 50-43, 3.53 mark over 817.3 innings that also produced a 1.30 WHIP to go with 740 strikeouts and 840 hits. Cole is big (6'5") and has promise but has been a bust at the Show (2-6, 5.00 over 72.6 innings) and I really don't see much in his future aside from long relief or a bullpen job. Despite the promise of being a helpful starter, don't bite.
On the other hand, the White Sox Lucas Giolito is back for his second try and first games of this year. The 23-year-old, also originally drafted by the Nationals but in the first round back in 2012, struggled a little, allowing four runs over six innings in facing the Twins. The 6'6" right-hander, obtained in exchange for Adam Eaton last year, has a 31-25, 3.15 record over 497.6 minor league innings with a solid 531 strikeouts to go with a 1.25 WHIP. He has a ton more promise, meaning Giolito is worth the crapshoot for this season and into next.
Detroit might be using Shane Greene as a closer at present, but keep an eye on 24-year-old Zac Reininger, a reliever groomed for relief since being drafted. Reininger has moved up four levels this season alone, starting at High-A Lakeland and now being on the Tigers roster as a result of a 3-2, 2.54 season during which he has notched a pair of saves over 63.6 innings. The righty has 60 whiffs and a 0.94 WHIP this year with opposing hitters batting just .193. Over his four minor league seasons, Reininger has 26 saves across 184.6 innings with 180 whiffs and is a perfect deep league acquisition to protect your pitching numbers.
The Reds promoted 24-year-old reliever Alejandro Chacin, a free-agent signed out of Venezuela. Chacin has completed 398 minor league relief innings, striking out 458 while notching a mark of 25-18, 2.46 complemented by a 1.28 WHIP and 90 saves. This year at Louisville, Chacin was 0-3, 2.60 over 69.3 innings with 63 strikeouts.
Another A.J., that is A. J. Minter of the Braves, is another reliever who made a big jump this season, starting things at Rome, Florida, then Mississippi and finally Gwinnett prior to the Braves grabbing his contract last week. The compensation pick from 2015 who is only 23 has tossed just 24.3 innings with 30 strikeouts, adding to a brief minor league career line of 2-2, 2.14 over 59 innings with a couple of saves and 77 strikeouts. Minter has some wicked stuff apparently, so another kid worth tracking.
Minnesota promoted their sixth-round pick in 2014, John Curtiss, who attended Texas. Curtiss advanced from Double-A Chattanooga to Triple-A Rochester this year, posting a 2-0, 1.28 line with 19 saves over 49.3 frames, striking out 60 while registering a WHIP of 0.91. Over 195.6 minor league innings, Curtiss struck out 245 with a great WHIP of 1.21, converting 26 of 28 saves before his call-up.
Texas brought forth Nick Gardewine, a seventh-round pick in 2013. Gardewine has decent minor league numbers with a 21-17, 3.64 mark over 304.3 innings with 14 saves, 280 strikeouts and a 1.24 WHIP. His numbers--save the WHIP--really improved this year with Gardewine toiling at Double-A Frisco, going 1-2, 2.34 with five saves over 34.6 innings during which the righty struck out a solid 50 batters, though with a 1.36 WHIP. Still, that jump in strikeout effectiveness makes the right-hander worth watching.
Moving to a position player to close out the week, Cleveland brought up third sacker and Cuban import Yandy Diaz from Columbus following a .350-5-33 line over 85 games that featured a tremendous .450 OBP that included 33 walks to 60 strikeouts over 309 at-bats. Diaz hit .315-23-184 in the Minors over 419 games during which he posted a .414 OBP (258 walks to 247 strikeouts). He makes for a more than interesting gamble going into the stretch and even next year.
Tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET and you can follow me @lawrmichaels.