Like life itself, the baseball season is a subtle thing. It starts off as the cold is just beginning to melt away, into spring, with a few games and a small sample of stats, things on a roto team can vary from joy and abandon, to downright suicidal misery.
Hold your breath, however, and a month is gone and then Memorial Day, and then the All Star break, and poof, suddenly the trade deadline is upon us. Which is where we are in season 2010, as we anticipate Dan Haren (who was swapped at press time to the Angels) or Roy Oswalt shifting teams, or maybe even leagues, there are still players we need to watch already on the available slot in our leagues (although, this Tuesday, check out Lawr and Order on our Platinum Pages, where second half access will only cost $4.95, and where I talk about some trade deadline strategies).
For the here and now, though, let's start with Reid Brignac, the Rays second round pick in 2004, and a guy who pretty much had a lot of hype and not so much delivery until he began to get the hang of things in the second half of 2009. Brignac finished the season at .278-1-6 with a .301 OBP over 90 at-bats and the Rays looked so strong coming into 2010, that it seemed unlikely the middle infielder would get much attention. But seasons and performance and injuries are fickle things, and Brignac has supplied 206 good at-bats (.282-5-32 with an improved .332 OBP) and has even played in the outfield three times. This does not mean he is the next Ben Zobrist, but, it does suggest Brignac will get increased playing time as the Rays redefine themselves. He is a steady play for the rest of this year and promising future.
Mike Morse has to be one of the most tantalizingly frustrating players in recent memory. For example, Morse hit around .400 during spring training in 2008, and seemed to have a starting job with the Mariners, the team who acquired Morse from the Pale Hose who selected Morse in the third round in 2000. Mostly, though, it has been injuries that have hampered Morse's progress Over five promising seasons, Morse has hit .303-12-63 over 432 at-bats. Well, for the Nationals this season, he is hitting .350-6-16 over 80 at-bats. Morse has a killer .395 OBP and OPS of 1.033, albeit over a small sample. Still, especially in an NL only format, these are numbers worth noticing, and Morse could be one of those late bloomers who could leave that frustration in the dust. If he can stay healthy.
Speaking of which, let's revisit a guy I wrote about a month back, Pittsburgh's rookie third sacker, Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez looked totally out of place during his first month at The Show, and when I saw him, Alvarez whiffed four times in four chances. In fact over the month of June, Alvarez was .152-0-5, but this month Alvarez seems to have gotten the hang, hitting .315-7-15 with a .425 OBP and a pair of two-homer games over the past couple of weeks. Good for now it seems, very good for later.
As long as we are looking at recent hot bats, Oakland's Jack Cust, who was relegated to the minors to start the season: quite a demotion for a guy who hit 84 homers and 229 RBI between 2007-09 for the Athletics. Well, Cust, though unhappy, went to Sacramento and waited for his turn, which did come. Since returning, Cust is .306-8-29, and for the month of July is .346-6-18. He is the pop on the Athletics team right now, and will play (one of the things Cust does is stay healthy, unlike his flychaser teammates) and is a great pick up in mixed format
The Nationals advanced hurler Collin Balester this week, and though I have always been a fan of Balester, and though Washington is certainly making the correct moves to develop a winning team, it is hard to recommend Balester at this juncture. So far in the bigs he is 4-11, 5.85 over 112.2 innings, with 128 hits allowed, including 23 homers. Balestar has 72 whiffs, but 42 walks which mean a 1.53 WHIP. Now, there will be adjustments to coming to the majors, but Balester was 2-3, 7.27 at Syracuse this year with a 1.73 WHIP over 52 innings, and last season finished at 7-10, 4.44 over 107 innings with a 1.53 WHIP. For now any innings Balester might get in the majors will be mop-up, so don't trust him till he gives a reason.
Detroit has suffered a cluster of injuries over the past weeks, and one of their promotions was Will Rhymes, a diminuitive (5'9", 153 LB) second sacker who was drafted in the 27th round of the Tigers in 2005. Rhymes evokes thoughts of Dped and David Eckstein with his resume of .289-15-259 over 684 minor league games, with 243 walks to 285 whiffs, good for a .353 OBP and 123 swipes. If you have a hole in an AL format, Rhymes makes an interesting free agent selection.
Closing this time. Let's look at a pair of players with some home, and some struggles. The Phillies activated pitcher JA Happ, who was so strong at 12-4, 2.93 last season with the World Champions. but who has struggled with arm issues this season. Happ's minor league totals, though, have been less than impressive (1-2, 5.97 over eight starts) and Happ's '09 Philadelphia totals even suggest some concern. for example, the 20 homers allowed over 166 innings, as well as the 56 walks to 116 strikeouts. Not that I am knocking Happ, just be cautious, and note that his WHIP this season was 1.65, and he walked eight over ten innings.
Finally, Alex Gordon, maybe the next Crash Davis, was recalled by the Royals after being demoted to Omaha and then seriously destroying the IL hitting .315-14-44 over 44 games, with a .443 OBP and a 1.019 OPS. Too bad the numbers don't seem to translate as he is just .158-1-1 over 48 at-bats and career totals of .237-38-142 over 348 games. Not that Gordon does not have promise, but if you are in contention in your league, let someone else take the jump. On the other hand, if you play in a keeper league, and can freeze or hide Gordon till next year, he is worth protecting. Just not at the cost of a Jose Tabata caliber prospect.