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Hotpage: July 27, 2015 (Week 17) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 27 July 2015 00:00

Oh boy, trade deadline time, which is big fun for sure. As a couple of interesting moves have taken place, let's begin this week looking at some of the young trade spoils.

Ok, the Johnny Cueto deal brought the Reds John Lamb and Brandon Finnegan in a fun swap. Lamb, a fifth-round high school selection of Kansas City in 2009, caught attention with a fabulous 2010 at three levels where he went 10-7, 2.38 as a 19-year-old, finishing at Double-A with 159 whiffs over 141.6 innings. In the interim, he has struggled with Tommy John surgery and the return, but at Omaha this year, Lamb might finally be ready with a 9-1, 2.67 mark with 96 strikeouts over 91.6 innings and a 1.155 WHIP. He is now still just 25, and on the verge of showing us if he was for real when we started fancying Lamb five seasons ago.

As for Finnegan, I have loved him since he was drafted last year. Finnegan was there to try and help the Royals finish off the Giants despite just a few months as a pro. A potentially dominant Major Leaguer, Finnegan has 89 whiffs over 86.6 professional innings, although walks are the question, so Finnegan's future rests within that and closing or starting. I actually have Finnegan in a couple of leagues on reserve lists, so I am anxious to see what path this will take. But, I think he will be good regardless.

The Brewers swapped off Aramis Ramirez in exchange for 23-year-old Columbian (via Cartagena, Bolivar) Yhonathan Barrios, of whom we are not sure will pitch or hit, just yet. A pitcher/third sacker/shortstop, Barrios has a 5-11, 3.09 mark as a reliever with 81 strikeouts over 110.6 innings, and a .239-4-39 line as a batter over 201 games. The path does seem to be towards Barrios being on the mound, but the ability to do both at a high level merits a look-see.

One more trade "victim" to check out this time is Jacob Nottingham, a 6'3", 230 pound backstop/first baseman/DH the Astros selected out of high school in 2013 in the sixth round. Nottingham is a resident of Northern California, and as a result the Athletics front office probably has a pretty good book on which to covet. He has a pretty good .282-20-108 line over 171 games, with a decent .354 OBP (62 walks to 157 strikeouts) but is ripping it at three levels this year, hitting .327-14-60 over his first 79 games. The 20-year-old probably gets a shot at Double-A this year. We should see what he can do.

Then there's the up-and-down Cheslor Cuthbert, a Nicarauguan native who was signed by Kansas City as a 17-year-old in 2010. A corner infielder, Cuthbert was hitting .272-8-38 with 17 doubles and 30 walks to 48 strikeouts (.335 OBP). Cuthbert is interesting and worth grabbing as a longer term project, but he is likely still a year-plus away from threatening as a starter.

Gotta mention the Phils Aaron Nola, the team's first rounder last year who, like Finnegan, has shot his way into the Bigs, and it seems the Philadelphia rotation. The 23-year-old fared well his first start as a Major Leaguer (six innings, five hits, a run). He was 14-7, 2.57 over 29 starts and 164.6 innings (137 whiffs, 1.057 WHIP) and while he is a rookie, there is something happening with rookie pitchers this year we all know, so fill the hole as necessary and adjust down the road as needed.

Before closing, take a look at Carlos Sanchez, the White Sox second baseman whose bat could not even be called anemic up until ten days ago. He is hitting .343-2-2 over the last ten days. Just saying.

DFS Watch: OK, we are willing to adjust to the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest, so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: If I were looking at two-start arms this week, David Price should be able to handle both Tampa and then the Brewers. As for single starts, the retooling Athletics could have some trouble with Clayton Kershaw Wednesday in Oakland, and later in the week, I like A.J. Burnett against the equally redefining Reds.

Hitters to Watch: Most of the season series this cycle appear to be pretty even, with no glaring potential run binging, but I would check out the St. Louis match-ups against a fairly poor Rockies rotation at home. The Cards are ready to flex for their annual second half run, and Randal Grichuk, Jason Heyward, Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta et al could all pay off nicely against the likes of Kyle Kendrick.

Last Updated on Monday, 27 July 2015 08:24
 
Hotpage: July 20, 2015 (Week 16) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 20 July 2015 00:00

Wow, here we are at another second half of a season that has been largely a disappointment for my season-long teams. I have to admit that injuries have largely been deadly (as in my Scoresheet outfield of Alex Gordon, Steven Souza and Marcell Ozuna, or my LABR team with Josh Harrison, Martin Prado and Ozuna sort of say it better than I can) but poor performances (like Ozuna) and misplaced expectations (are you listening Mike Zunino?) have also paved the way to standings disaster.

Still, the beauty of baseball is largely within the optimism the next pitch, out, inning, game, series, season, and on, and well, we are at the second half where I still have hope for my bottom rung teams.

Anyway, since we are at the mid-way point, there are some players I hope can pick it up (some of them I even own) and get their game together for the latter portion of 2015, and since my tradition the last 19 seasons has been to list the players I think will have a strong finish, there is no reason to stop now. So, here are indeed some of the players I am watching.

Robinson Cano: Huh? .254-8-34 from the best hitting keystone player over the last bunch of years? True, everyone has an off year now and again, and most players would probably kill for a chance at a .254-16-64 year (doubling the numbers), but Cano is indeed better than most players. His two-homer game Saturday might already be a harbinger for a career .306 hitter who has knocked the pill at a .299-4-10 clip over his last 67 at-bats.

Matt Kemp: Kemp is not as much of a "WTF?" as Cano, but odd in that Kemp's .254-9-50 is eerily close to the numbers of Robinson. It seemed that following his monster (.309-17-54) second half last year, Kemp was ready to return to first-round draft status, but at this point third-round seems generous. However, there are those guys (this could be a theme) who are second-half players, and since Kemp rocked it last year, he is a good gamble if you need to make a move.

Kyle Schwarber: I confess man-love for the best hitting Cubs prospect of all, but with Miguel Montero down, Schwarber will now collect full-time play, I am guessing for the rest of the season, irrespective of what happens with the return of Montero. But Schwarber will play, and the dude will hit. After all, he has hit everywhere else he has played, including his thus far brief stint in the Majors (.407-1-6 over eight games).

Ervin Santana: Santana really hobbled several of my teams with his untimely suspension, but his seven shutout innings over the Athletics this past week suggests he is still a solid enough hurler, and he's not the kind of pitching risk that Jose Fernandez and Patrick Corbin are, where the player is trying to right himself following an injury.

Mike Fiers: Another player who has been getting it together after a horrible start, Fiers is 2-0, 2.00, with an 0.869 WHIP and 17 whiffs over 27 frames his last four starts. Fiers was 6-4, 2.09 with an 0.835 WHIP over ten second half starts last season with 71 strikeouts across 64.6 innings.

Carlos Santana: Puzzling when a guy with 60 walks to 59 whiffs and ten homers can only wrangle a .226 batting average. It is sort of like a pitcher with a 1.35 WHIP and a 2.98 ERA where the numbers seem to scream for a correction. Right?

Anibal Sanchez: Kind of a pitching parallel to Santana (as in Carlos), Sanchez has a great 1.20 WHIP, but a 4.55 ERA. The Tigers are underperforming thus far this year, but I do think they will step it up the remainder of the season, and Sanchez's numbers will improve accordingly.

Mark Trumbo: We all know what Trumbo is capable of, and it isn't like he has to hit .309-35-115 (though that would be nice). But a second half of .255-15-35 is totally reasonable, and the outfielder is hitting .341-1-4 over his last 13 games. Over that period, the whiffs-to-walks (11-to-2) are indeed worrisome, but Trumbo is making nice contact, and if he relaxes, and Cano picks it up, Seattle could have a nice run with Trumbo a major part of the equation.

DFS Watch: OK, we are willing to adjust to the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest, so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: Forget the double starts this week as the bottom of every rotation is getting the shot the early portion of the week, although that does portend some juicy hitting numbers. When I look at the coming match-ups, I do like to look for potentially good two-start pitchers, but truthfully, no one tickles my fancy. 

Zack Greinke pitches Saturday, and Clayton Kershaw on Sunday against those very Mets, and I love both of those plays, no matter how expensive. 

Hitters to Watch: If you want to stack a game, somehow the Scott Feldman versus Jeremy Guthrie game next Friday seems like a really fun way to go. For the first part of the week, the Texas at Colorado affairs similarly look like the harbinger of juicy hitting stats.

Last Updated on Monday, 20 July 2015 01:04
 
Hotpage: July 13, 2015 (Week 15) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 13 July 2015 00:00

It is indeed All Star Week, and well, Diane and I sort of inadvertently jumped the gun heading off to our annual trip with our music crowd to the Eastern Sierra.

Normally, there is easy wi-fi up at the funky Long Barn Lodge, but a busy schedule and crappy wi-fi pretty much forced me into an early break, and truth is, up in the mountains like that, with a chance to play music and goof off with our friends all day all weekend was hard to resist.

So, I took it as a sign the universe was saying to start the break early, which reminds me that this is the time I do indeed write this year about just that: how important it is to let go of baseball for a few days this time of year.

I am not saying don't watch the All Star Game, but, here are some things I would suggest you do during this brief respite from DFS, throw back leagues, and your Ultra rosters.

1) Do indeed get away if you can, especially where your cell phone and internet connection is at best iffy. The world will not stop, and you will actually feel kind of reinvigorated doing so.

2) Relinquish control of the clicker to your family. Period. Let them dominate what they want to watch, even if it is Hollywood Hillbillies, or the Kardashians, or whatever. It is the least you can do if they get to endure endless "MLB Tonight" and especially if you play fantasy football as well.

3) Take your partner for a romantic ride or walk or dinner or play or some combination of all these things or some variation.

4) Do the same with your kids, if you have them: ask them what they want to do (within reason) and join them in the activity, accordingly.

5) Remember that there are still 10 weeks left in the season to be neurotic, second guess, plan for next year and trade for this year. That is still a lot of time.

We will pick up our regular schedule on Thursdays through the baseball season, covering DFS and season-long leagues, along with Rotisserie Duck, Articles of Configuration, Bed Goes Up, Diary of a Fantasy Madman and the Hotpage, plus we will begin our 2015 Football Coverage that will include Marc Meltzer's Hotpage and a lot of coverage of both season-long and DFS football contests.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 July 2015 08:59
 
Hotpage: July 6, 2015 (Week 14) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 06 July 2015 00:00

As we are indeed upon the All-Star Break in just a week, it is hard to believe just how quickly the season is dissipating, before our very eyes.

And, once again, a prime prospect has been brought forth, this time in the countenance of Miguel Sano. Sano, 22, is a Dominican product who was signed as a 17-year-old and has since produced brilliant numbers, consisting of a .278-105-339 line over 445 games (note Sano missed all of last year due to injury) with 233 of his 450 hits going for extra bases (.564 SLG). This year at Double-A Chattanooga, Sano was hitting .278-15-48 with a .918 OPS when called up, and though Sano played third in the Minors, for now he is a DH. Sano is big (6'4", 240 pounds), clearly powerful, and is a must grab everywhere, in every way.

Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham is hardly such a prodigy, but with the Cards ailing in the outfield, the 27-year-old has been summoned. Drafted in the 16th round in 2006, Pham has spent his ten-year career with St. Louis climbing through the farm system, posting a .256-63-306 line over 723 games (compare that to Sano) with some decent speed (119 swipes). St. Louis knows how to use their puzzle parts and get the most out of them, but unless you need to plug a gap in an NL format, pass on Pham.

OK, on to a cluster of pitchers, starting with the Tribe's Cody Anderson. A 14th round selection in 2011, Anderson posted a 21-25, 3.44 mark over 436.3 innings, with 332 strikeouts and a 1.263 WHIP in the Minors. But, like so many of his contemporaries, Anderson has flourished thus far in the Majors, going 1-1, 0.76 over 23.6 innings, but has just 10 whiffs in the bigs. Anderson is big (6'4", 235) but not that dominant, so ride the hot hand, but be ready to dump.

Actually, big guys seem to be a theme today, and yesterday I caught a chunk of Mike Montgomery's start against the Athletics, and he was impressive. A tall (6'4") lefty, and first-round pick in 2008 out of high school, Montgomery toiled eight years in the Minors, going 46-50, 4.24 over 824.3 innings. Montgomery whiffed 692 and posted a minor league WHIP of 1.345, but like his rookie pitching mates, Montgomery has killed it, going 20 scoreless innings before giving up a dinger to Sam Fuld on Sunday. Despite his size, he lives off ground balls, and like all these other rookie pitchers, take 'em and grin.

On Sunday, Montgomery matched up against Chris Bassitt, a 6'5" right-hander, who pretty much held the Mariners in check. He might have escaped the start with a win had he not hit Robinson Cano on the foot with a two strike count (with two outs) in the sixth that opened the door to a massive two-run outburst, enough to win the game. A 16th round selection of the Pale Hose in 2011, Bassitt moved to Oakland with Josh Phegley and Marcus Semien as part of the Jeff Samardzija swap, and filling in for the ill Sonny Gray, he has comported himself well. Bassitt whiffed 367 over 380.3 minor league frames, and I do indeed like his prospects because of said size, numbers, and his home park. Bassitt could make an interesting DFS play if he sticks, depending upon the opponent, by the way.

Finishing with some quick shots, three pitchers are just back from extended stays on the DL, starting with Patrick Corbin, of the D-backs. Corbin was ok in his Saturday return, allowing a couple of runs over five, but surrendering eight hits while earning a victory. Corbin makes for a decent play in an NL-only format, but I am sitting on him as part of my LABR DL for at least another week.

I would not trust Dan Straily, however, although I liked the former Athletic a lot while he pitched in Oakland. Straily has allowed 38 homers over 248 innings which is a lot, and he has not been effective at keeping runners off base (2.07 WHIP over 18.3 innings since 2014). I would want to see some extended success at something before gambling.

Jose Fernandez is a great talent, a la Matt Harvey. But I would expect Fernandez to have some ups-and-downs in his return, just like Harvey, and not really be a dependable rotation mate until September (call-up time) at the earliest. But, by next year, I would be happy to roster either of them.

Finally, Ervin Santana is back after his supension, but that is a lot different than being out due to injury. I would be happy to jump on him in every format. In fact, I activated Ervin in the three leagues in which I own him.

DFS Watch: OK, we are willing to adjust to the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest, so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: A.J. Burnett gets a couple of starts, first against the Padres, then later in the week against the tougher Cardinals. But Burnett has done very little to disappoint roto players this season. I also have to endorse Madison Bumgarner, scheduled to go against the Phils (who have trouble with southpaws) this coming Friday.

Series to Watch: It looks like there are some tasty opportunities for hitters this week too, starting with the Giants on Monday, facing the Mets and Jon Niese, making Buster Posey, Andrew Susac and Matt Duffy all good plays. Later in the week, the Twins against the so far awful Justin Verlander seems fun, and Texas could indeed bring Odrisamer Despaigne not just to earth, but into the earth's magma with the likes of Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder.

Last Updated on Monday, 06 July 2015 08:58
 
Hotpage: June 29, 2015 (Week 13) PDF Print E-mail
Hotpage
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 29 June 2015 00:00

We are indeed screaming to the All-Star break it seems and though no marquee names were pulled to the Show this past cycle, there are certainly some sticks worthy of attention, starting with the Giants' spare backstop, Andrew Susac

Susac has seen some time of late when San Francisco faces lefties, allowing Buster Posey to play first, and sit Brandon Belt, who has a tougher time against southpaws. With Nori Aoki down, however, playing time is loosening up per Bruce Bochy, allowing the team to play Belt in the outfield, Posey at first, putting Susac in the squat. And, over the past two weeks, over nine games, Susac has hit .458-1-5.

Similarly, across the bay, Josh Phegley has received more playing time, allowing incumbent Stephen Vogt to play some first and rest his battered bones. Last week, Phegley hit .333-2-5 and over the past month has knocked the pill to the tune of .286-4-9 with a .359 OBP. Both guys are good plays in deep AL and NL contests, and both are cheap plays in DFS formats.

It is crazy enough that the blast of rookie pitchers has been dominant on the hill, but what is this with Mets first start hurler Steven Matz going 3-for-3 with four RBI at the dish his first game? That is a record for rookie pitchers, and Matz comported himself well with 7 2/3 innings over which he whiffed six and allowed a pair of runs. A second-round high school pick in 2009, Matz has a tidy 380 whiffs over 365 2/3 frames, with an excellent 1.160 WHIP and just 14 dingers allowed, meaning he does keep the ball down. I think that means "endorsement."

I had some high hopes for Deolis Guerra, who scored well on my Top 250 prospect list in 2009, after going 12-11, 4.89 over 149 innings split between Ft. Myers and New Britain as a 20-year-old. But, it has been a long row to hoe for the 6'5", 245 pounder, now with the Bucs. Guerra had a fine 2015 at Indianapolis, going 2-1, 1.23 with four saves and 37 strikeouts over 36 2/3 innings, with an 0.797 WHIP. Guerra likely won't help you too much this year, but if you need to plug a pitching staff hole benignly, he is a good gamble.

Speaking of big, the Tigers recalled monster (6'3", 275 pounds) Bruce Rondon, who has 267 whiffs over 238 1/3 innings, to go with 80 saves and a 2.64 ERA and a 1.255 WHIP. Rondon missed all of last year after blowing out his arm, and his minor league time this year looks spotty (2-2, 7.11, with a 1.737 WHIP), but three of his first five outs since the call-up were whiffs, and I would not be surprised to see Rondon in the closer job by the end of 2015.

Finishing the pitchers, the Angels brought back Andrew Heaney, their first rounder in 2012, and he responded with six solid frames (one run, five whiffs, a walk, and four hits) and along with the rest of the rookie pitchers who are jerking around batters this year, Heaney makes a good addition and gamble in just about any format these days.

The hitters of interest this week are all sort of retreads, starting with Cole Gillespie, a 31-year-old former third rounder of the Brewers in 2006, who has also toiled for the Giants, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Mariners, Blue Jays, and now Marlins, logging 271 plate appearances since 2009. At one time, I considered Gillespie a promising prospect, but no more. Pass.

Similarly, the Phils brought back Darin Ruf, he of the .317-38-104 line at Reading in 2012. Since then, not much, and as a 25-year-old at Double-A at the time, it should have been clearer that Ruf's success was largely rooted in age and experience.

However, the Astros have been pushing all the right buttons this year, and they called back Jon Singleton, who was hitting .280-17-66 at Fresno, with a solid 47 walks to 63 strikeouts (.387 OBP). Singleton is a gamble I would take in just about any format, including tracking for starting DFS time as the first baseman works into the lineup.

DFS Watch: OK, we are willing to adjust to the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest, so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: The week begins with some pretty crappy pitching Monday, but keep an eye on Marco Estrada, who starts the week against the Red Sox, and finishes against the Astros, who hit long balls, but also fan excessively. Estrada has regained form, and is 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA his last three starts to go with 19 strikeouts over 20 1/3 innings.

Series to Watch: Starting the week, I have to like the Phils against Taylor Jungmann no matter how well the junk baller pitched his first start and also like the Cubs mashers, especially with Jorge Soler due back, against the Mets and Jon Niese on Monday. Towards the holiday weekend, the Jays and Red Sox could put up some hitting numbers between them (especially on the Jays side) and the Cardinals will have some nice interleague contests with the Royals, like Jeremy Guthrie (Saturday), so exploit accordingly.

Last Updated on Monday, 29 June 2015 08:08
 
Hotpage: June 22, 2015 (Week 12, from Manhattan) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 22 June 2015 00:00

With the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) assembling in New York City this week (stay tuned for the results of the industry draft where Todd and I draft), things are running a little late, but that doesn't mean we are ignoring the baseball season. But, after a long day of travel, a short look at some of the players who gave me the "hmmms" this week.

And, with another week, a pair of great prospects again moved forward, starting with my favorite player from the 2014 draft, Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs (who else?). A catcher, at least for now, Schwarber needed just 130 games (.333-31-92) to hit the bigs where he arrived with a bang (.389-1-6 over his first five games) and personally, I think he is the best stick among all the new wonderful young Cubs. I did see Schwarber's first at-bat over the spring and he hit a grand slam. Need I say more?

Then I have had Matt Wisler buried on my teams for a few years, at least since he was drafted in 2011 by the Padres. going 28-19, 3.53 over 461.3 innings with 429 strikeouts and a 1.185 WHIP as a minor league, of which his 3-4, 4.29 totals this year with Gwinnett. The team shift came with Wisler being swapped to Atlanta as part of the Melvin Upton/Craig Kimbrel mega trade, and his debut was solid enough as he limited the Mets to one run over eight frames, allowing just six hits while striking out a pair. Again, especially in an NL-only format, grab him.

The Phils Phillippe Aumont is back for his third go-around at the Show after being drafted by the Mariners in 2007 (first round), and though he has 526 minor league strikeouts over 482.3 innings, he also has a 1.4999 WHIP (299 walks) to go with his Major League numbers of 1-6, 6.80 over 43.3 innings with the Phillies (he was swapped by the M's for Cliff Lee). Aumont might make it as a reliever at some point, but otherwise, steer clear.

Xavier Scruggs was selected by the Cards in the 19th round of the 2008 draft out of UNLV. Since then, the 27-year-old has had a solid enough career (.255-145-533) over 831 games with a decent .351 OBP that belies 350 walks to 922 strikeouts. The Cards are playing pretty well despite injuries, and Scruggs is there to help, but only in the toughest of NL-only formats should he be considered.

Looking to a few resurrection projects, the Phils also brought up Domonic Brown, who just does not seem to be able to hit much of anything at the big league level any longer after his .272-27-83 run in 2013. Brown hit .257-2-26 over 52 games at Lehigh Valley after being demoted, but he could only wrangle a .307 OBP. Out of gas and hope he is, I fear.

However, both the Diamondbacks' Patrick Corbin and the Rangers' Martin Perez are working rehab stints. Corbin has gone 11 minor league innings (1-1, 6.55) but has not pitched since 2013, meaning he is just getting into a groove. Corbin could be forgotten in a lot of leagues, and could indeed be a great second half addition this year.

Much the same can be said about Perez, though he never enjoyed the success of Corbin (in 2012). Perez just has a couple of rehab innings completed at Frisco this year, but again, he could be sitting in the free agent pool and makes for a good second half boost to your AL pitching staff. In fact, both Perez and Corbin could help in mixed formats as well.

Keep an eye on the progress of both as they return to the Majors.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 June 2015 08:52
 
Hotpage: June 15, 2015 (Week 11) PDF Print E-mail
Hotpage
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 15 June 2015 00:00

Goodness, what a banner month for prospects, as now both Byron Buxton and Francisco Lindor have been advanced.

So, let's just get right to it, starting with Buxton, who has the profile to me of an Andrew McCutchen-like presence. Buxton, 21, was a first-round high school pick of the Twins in 2012, and since signing is .296-27-150 with 92 steals and a .380 OBP (131 walks to 233 whiffs) over 263 games. Buxton was .283-6-37 with 20 steals over 59 games at Double-A Chattanooga, and the outfielder should be grabbed pretty much wherever available.

Cleveland's Francisco Lindor signed a year earlier than Buxton, having been a first-rounder in 2011. However, the shortsop, like Buxton, is also 21 years old. Lindor has a .273-21-162 line, along with 89 swipes over 414 games. Lindor has 185 walks to 263 strikeouts (.354 OBP) and I have actually seen him play a few times in the spring. I don't think he is as prime a prospect as Buxton, but he is still a pretty good gamble, especially in an AL-only league or for any reserve/Ultra format where he is not already claimed. Lindor was hitting .279-2-22 when summoned.

Though not debuting, the Mets' Dilson Herrera has been getting some playing time of late, and he too is a player to watch in your Ultra and long-term leagues. Also just 21, Herrera was inked by the Bucs in 2010, and then swapped to the Metropolitans in 2013 as part of the Marlon Byrd deal. Herrera had a monster year in the Minors in 2014, hitting .323-13-71 with 23 steals and an .858 OPS split between St. Lucie and Binghamton. This year, at Las Vegas, Herrera was hitting .367-1-13 over 22 games, with ten of his 33 hits going for extra bases. I think he is going to be really good!

What about the Rays' Joey Butler, this year's journeyman-made-good? Butler is one of those Crash Davis-like guys (a .294-78-390 minor league line over 763 games) who has played with the Rangers and Cardinals briefly at the Show. Butler does whiff a lot (360 walks to 758 whiffs), but he is hitting a nice .347-4-16 with the Rays, although with just two walks to 35 strikeouts. 

Looking to some arms, as we know, the Red Sox must do something, and maybe Eduardo Rodriguez is the answer to some of their problems. Rodriguez, 22, was signed by the Orioles in 2010, then swapped to the Red Sox for Andrew Miller last tading deadline. Rodriguez has pretty good minor league totals (29-30, 3.23 over 534.6 innings, with 462 strikeouts) and was 4-3, 2.98 at Pawtuckett with 44 whiffs over 48.3 innings before getting called up. Since then, Rodriguez is 2-0, 0.44 with an .0798 WHIP and 21 whiffs over 20.3 frames. I am not sure this will last, but he is on a hot streak. Still, I am waiting for Henry Owens.

The Brewers advanced their first-rounder from 2011 in pitcher Taylor Jungmann. At 25, Jungmann is an old man in this week's list, although he did spend time at the University of Texas rather than be a high school selection. With a 35-29, 4.10 mark in the Minors, Jungmann toiled through 505.3 minor league innings, whiffing just 382. He is a control guy (1.83 strikeout-to-walk) and keeps the ball down (just 31 homers), and Jungmann pitched really well his first start (1-0, 1.29, three hits, five whiffs, and a walk). I would be a little careful with him just yet. For the most part, strikeouts tell us everything about the future success of pitchers, and his are down.

Toronto's Scott Copeland is much the same, at 27, having toiled in the Minors after being a 21st round pick of the Orioles in 2010. With a 42-43, 4.15 minor league record, to go with 458 strikeouts over 692.3 innings, Copeland allowed 711 hits (1.403 WHIP) over those games. Like Jungmann, Copeland had a great first week (1-0, 0.90 over ten innings with four strikeouts), but again, I would not grab Copeland unless you are desperate for an arm in an AL- only format.

Finally, I have been a Kevin Correia fan for a long time, as the pitcher was first drafted by the Giants in the fourth round in 2002. Correia had some nice seasons over his 13 years in the Majors, but he has been pretty bad the last few years (it pained me to dump him from my Strat-O-Matic team, but it was a practical move), so despite his "decent" start (5.3 shutout innings) over the weekend, let him go. He is really just "Philler."

DFS Watch: OK, we are willing to adjust to the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest, so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: This week starts with the lesser hurlers (save Dallas Keuchel and Trevor Bauer), but if I had to look at an arm scheduled for a pair of starts, it would be the Braves' Williams Perez, who starts the week with the Red Sox (who have never seen him before) and finishes the week going against the Mets, who have been struggling, and who similarly like to swing the bat. Mind you, this is not a top-of-the-line pick, but a play when you need a jackpot to cash in. 

However, were I to go more top flight, it would be with Francisco Liriano, facing the Pale Hose Monday, and the Nationals over the weekend.

Series to Watch: To me, the big point bonanza should be similarly in the Tigers/Reds series that starts Monday. I really like the likes of Joey Votto, Todd Frazier and the undervalued Brayan Pena going against the likes of Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander. Similarly, all those Tigers sluggers could have a feast against a Reds staff looking for some stability after Johnny Cueto, who is a main reason the team's ERA is as low as 4.18.

Last Updated on Monday, 15 June 2015 08:10
 
Hotpage: June 8, 2015 (Week 10) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 08 June 2015 00:00

How cool is it that the top prospects are being moved to the Majors, with a theoretical "future star" being promoted every week?

It is just great, and impacting every format with guys like Kris Bryant, who might have been grabbed in your ultra league, and even as a reserve pick in your single-season league, but where minor leaguers cannot be rostered, and especially in daily formats, where Bryant, and now the Rangers new toy, Joey Gallo are sought after players costing a pretty price in daily games.

So, what about Gallo, summoned almost by emergency after Adrian Beltre's injury, and Gallo has been an instant hit, and has been hitting, and he could indeed be here to stay despite what seems to be a premature arrival at the Show. True, Gallo does whiff a lot, with 478 minor league strikeouts, but that is pretty normal--a lot of whiffs--in younger players and his 209 walks point to a pretty good .382 OBP over 330 games despite a .268 average. Gallo, just 21 years old, is .313-2-5 thus far and truth is, I do think unless a hideous slump occurs, Gallo is both here to stay, and worth the investment.

As if that were not enough, the Astros have brought forth their top prospect, shortstop Carlos Correa, and handed him the starting gig. Correa, just 20, has ripped through every level of everything, posting a .313-28-199 line over just 282 minor league games, including .276-3-12 totals at Triple-A Fresno this year. Correa has 54 swipes and a solid .394 OBP (133 walks to 211 whiffs) and is a must pick where available in any format.

With Jorge Soler down, Junior Lake is back and getting some platoon time with the Cubbies. I confess a soft spot for Lake, who has a .270-49-278 line over 655 minor league games, with 122 swipes. Lake has had streaky success in the Majors, hitting nine homers over 108 games last year, but he is a free-swinger with a .283 big league OBP (30 walks to 194 whiffs). Still, if you have to fill a hole, he could give a little pop in a deep league while Soler convalesces.

Flipping to some hurlers, a cluster of well thought of ones also raised some eyebrows, starting with the Brewers' Tyler Cravy. A 17th round pick in 2009, Cravy is somewhat under the radar, but his 34-26, 3.66 mark over 466.3 frames belies 448 strikeouts, a 1.22 WHIP, and just 31 homers allowed. Cravy as 6-4, 3.60 over 55 innings at Colorado Springs, and he excelled in his first big league start, taking a loss but allowing just four hits and a run over seven innings. He could be one of those quiet gems.

Last week, I wrote about Shaun Marcum, and this week's version is Dustin McGowan, now both 33, and with the Phillies. McGowan, a first-rounder by the Jays in 2003, had nasty stuff coming up, but also had nasty injuries which delayed his progress, as he missed 2009, 2010 and 2012. McGowan's numbers have looked worse than iffy since this last return especially (1-1, 4.67 ERA, 1.92 WHIP) but he is on a poor team, and still getting his sea legs. Track McGowan in deeper NL formats as he could indeed settle in, again under the radar (which seems to be a theme today) and pick up, then drop as necessary.

Since under the radar is the theme, the Tigers' Kyle Ryan, a 12th round pick by Detroit in 2009, has come up and had some nice success, going 3-0, 2.66, over eight games and a couple of starts--two late last year, one this--with a 1.082 WHIP. Ryan's minor league numbers are not unlike those of Cravy, with a 37-24, 3.66 ERA over 705 frames. Ryan is not a strikeout guy (469 in the Minors), so he is somewhat less desirable in formats like DFS where whiffs are everything, but in a deep AL league, he could be a great fifth or sixth starter, adding some stabilizing stats at the bottom of your rotation. 

Let's close with Joe Ross, the Nationals new toy, and brother to the Padres' Tyson Ross. Joe was pressed into service last weekend, making the jump from Double-A Harrisburg where he was 2-2, 2.81 over nine starts, with a 1.13 WHIP and 54 strikeouts over 51.3 innings. Ross got knocked around a little in his first start, but he has pretty good stuff and presence. Ross is likely to go back down to Triple-A, but he is more than worth grabbing and stashing.

DFS Watch: OK, we are willing to adjust to the fun market of Daily Games, in fact you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest, so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: Chris Sale gets a couple of starts, first against the young and swinging Astros (second most MLB whiffs) on Monday, then the Rays (eighth most MLB whiffs) on Saturday. Sale, like his NL counterpart Clayton Kershaw, is settling in as one of the top pitchers in the American League, and he makes a fun play.

If there is a hotter pitcher, that would be Chris Archer, and he is facing those same White Sox on Friday. The Sox don't really strike out so much, but they have a team OBP of .296, and Archer should be able to take care of that team.

Series to Watch: The Blue Jays and Red Sox mix it up over the weekend at Fenway, and if there is a chance to exploit hitters in the DFS universe, that looks like it. Both teams rank among the bottom in pitching, as well as homers allowed, and with the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and the very hot Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts all playing, there could be points o' plenty to exploit.

Last Updated on Monday, 08 June 2015 13:59
 
Hotpage: June 1, 2015 (Week 9) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 01 June 2015 00:00

I start writing down names of players I want to cover each week on Monday. Usually, I assemble a list of about 12-13 players during the week depending upon who has been promoted, demoted, and/or started to shine a little, and then whittle the list down to seven or eight on Sunday afternoon, and then write the profiles, hoping the universe looks more or less the same Monday morning as it did Sunday evening.

I marked down Slade Heathcott, a first-round pick of the Pinstripes, on Monday after the Major League newbie whacked a homer, but he then went and strained his quad. Enter Ramon Flores, a 23-year-old Venezuelan who was hitting .294-4-15 with an excellent 23 walks to 28 strikeouts (.389 OBP). Flores is not really a base stealer of late, though in 2012 he swiped 24 at Tampa. 

With Jacoby Ellsbury still down, and the underproducing combination of Carlos Beltran, Garrett Jones and Chris Young, Flores could give your team a boost in an AL-only league, especially if it's an OBP league. 

I love the Rule 5 guys, and Miami's Justin Bour might be the guy from that draft to emerge as a star. Bour, drafted by the Cubs in 2009, likely became expendable as a first baseman, but for Miami he is hitting .361-4-9 over 28 games, with five walks to ten whiffs (.409 OBP), and he is playing every day. Act accordingly.

With Maikel Franco holding down third base, the Phils brought back Cody Asche and are giving him a shot at earning the left field slot. With the release of Grady Sizemore, Asche will have every chance to prove his worth, getting at-bats, so again, if you need plate appearances, he is worth a gamble (and also qualifies at the corner and the outfield).

A bunch of young pitchers came to light this cycle, so let's look at some, starting with the Braves' Williams Perez, a 24-year-old signed in 2009. Over three starts (five total games) and 20.3 innings, Perez has 19 strikeouts and a 1-0, 2.66 mark, albeit with a 1.475 WHIP. Perez struck out 413 over 504 minor league innings, and kept the ball in the yard, allowing just 27 homers. Depending upon the depth of your league, he can indeed make a reasonable flier. However, there are other choices today. 

bettisChad Bettis was a second-round pick of the Rockies in 2010 who had some unsuccessful bouts in the Majors, first in 2013 (1-3, 5.64) and then last year (0-2, 9.12). But this year, the 26-year-old might have figured out the next level. Bettis has mastered the Minors with a 26-16, 3.03 record over 389 innings with 389 strikeouts, so ideally the 2-0, 2.96 mark over four big league starts this season (27.3 innings), with 22 strikeouts is a sign of things to come. There is the Coors factor, of course, but Bettis has fared well, especially if your league allows streaming.

The Tigers brought up Buck Farmer to make a start, likely based upon his 5-1, 2.91 record at Toledo over nine starts and 51.3 innings, with 50 punchouts and just one homer allowed. Farmer went through Bettis-like first time wobbles with the Tigers, however, with seven runs allowed over five innings in his first start this year, so I would probably pass on Farmer until he at least passes the Bettis test.

As wonderful a name as is Buck Farmer, Chi Chi Gonzalez (though his real name is Alexander) of the Rangers has an even better moniker. And he's coming off a brilliant start with over five innings of shutout, two-hit ball, although with just a pair of strikeouts, and five walks. The 2013 first-round pick out of Oral Roberts was 3-5, 4.15 this year at Round Rock when called up, and though he did debut brilliantly, I might wait a bit before I trusted any chips on Chi Chi.

I feel pretty much the same about the Fish's Jose Urena, a 23-year-old Dominican who was 4-0, 1.21, also with just one homer allowed over 37.3 innings, with 22 strikeouts, although Urena got pounded in his first Major League start, so again, keep the long-term eye on him (and Gonzalez) but pass for now.

DFS Watch: OK, we are willing to adjust to the fun market of Daily Games, in fact you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest, so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Let's start with Clayton Kershaw, going against the Rockies (who have a tough time with lefties, and whiff a lot), albeit in Denver. If Kershaw is the dominant pitcher he was last week against the Braves, however, it probably doesn't matter where the lefty throws.

Come the weekend, the White Sox and Tigers meet, and aside from David Price pitching for Detroit Saturday, and Jeff Samardzija for the Pale Hose Sunday, pitching in general should be iffy, making Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Alexei Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez potentially nice plays. Turn into the MastersDaily each day for our day-to-day selections.

Last Updated on Monday, 01 June 2015 09:25
 
Hotpage: May 25, 2015 (Week 8) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 25 May 2015 00:00

It is Memorial Day, so a wonderful and safe and happy day to you and yours as we hit the first real milepost of the season long fantasy format.

I actually just started making some trades in NL LABR, where my team could be dangerous given some strong pitching here on out, and I have the guys to do just that. On the other hand, in AL Tout, falling short, and simply playing the wire actively and hoping for a hot streak.

Anyway, here we are, looking at some newbies and perhaps under the radar players lurking in your league's reserve pool to give the boost I am looking for on my teams.

It is as much fun seeing the influx and development of the ever interesting Astros, and the team's newest toy, Lance McCullers, is it. A first rounder in 2012 (and son of a former MLB hurler with the same name), McCullers has a fine 304 minor league strikeouts, the main stat over his 12-16, 3.79 record over 256.3 innings. It is the 24 homers and 128 walks (1.364 WHIP) that might be of concern, but if you need to add an arm, he is as good a bet as you will get right now.

Puerto Rican native Alex Claudio was drafted in the 27th round in 2010, performing almost exclusively as a reliever, earning 17 saves while whiffing 279 over 268.6 innings with an excellent 0.983 WHIP. The 23-year-old has put up solid numbers with the Rangers overall (1-0, 3.05 20 strikeouts over 20.6 frames) and is 1-0 this year over 8.3 innings. If you are looking for stabilization in your pitching, rather than innings, he could be a good choice and a pitcher with an expanding role.

Looking to a couple of sort of lost souls, the Pirates brought outfielder Jose Tabata back to the Majors, and if you are in a deep NL-only format, he could be a bit of a help as a fifth outfielder. Hard to believe, but Tabata is just 26 still, and he was raking at Indianapolis (.352-0-4) and really has very little more he can do in the Minors anyway. I have always been a big fan, going back to seeing the outfielder at the Fall League, so I am rooting for him. By the way, as a cheap end right-handed platoon in a Daily format, Tabata could be a good and cheap play here and there.

Remember when it seemed like the Red Sox had as many hot outfield possiblities as the Dodgers? Well, Rusney Castillo, one of the many "next big things" is finally in the bigs after he began the season in Pawtucket, hitting .293-2-10 with six swipes over 82 plate appearances. Castillo replaces a like former hopeful, Jackie Bradley, but I am not certain just how much playing time he will get. A year older than Tabata, he is not as advanced, but Boston will probably want to get something back from their seven-year, $70 million commitment. I still like Tabata better. 

With Devon Travis down, the question is who to grab between the recently recalled Munenori Kawasaki and journeyman Steven Tolleson. Tolleson has hit pretty well (.263-0-2 with a pair of swipes) playing all over, and though Kawasaki can steal, his offense (.233-1-48) over 241 games is not much, so there could be a split of time between the two while Travis convalesces. But, another thought is Danny Valencia, who can play all over and is hitting (.348-1-10 with a pair of steals) and he could get some time there too. If I had to plug the gap, it would be Tolleson, though.

Back to a couple of hurlers, Carter Capps is back with the Fish after rehab, and he could well become a source of saves on a team that needs a steady closer. While A.J. Ramos currently holds the job after the latest Steve Cishek meltdown, he only has one save. Capps was thought to be the next closer in Seattle a few years back. A hard thrower, Capps has 11 strikeouts over his first six innings, and he's allowed just a run and three hits. Just saying.

Finally, Shaun Marcum is a guy I have really loved for a bunch of years, but injuries and ineffectiveness got in the way of my man-love for the guy. Marcum lost 2009 and 2014 to injuries, but he is now in the Tribe's rotation with a 1-0, 2.31 mark over two games and a start with 10 punchouts over 11.6 innings. He is now 33, so ideally a little older, wiser, and better. I hope he does well (I think he will).

That is it for this time. Again, have a great holiday and don't forget to follow our DFS suggestions at MastersDaily and play against us at FantasyScore every day.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 May 2015 14:22
 
Hotpage: May 18, 2015 (Week 7) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 18 May 2015 00:00

With the surprising return of Alex Rodriguez, and amazing resurgence of Matt Harvey from serious surgery, there is another return that might just be worth tracking. The Phillies' Grady Sizemore had his mojo so dialed in for the Indians between 2005-08, missing only nine games during the four years, and averaging .281-27-86 with 24 swipes until the injury bottom fell unto him. Over the next three years, Sizemore could only play in 210 total games, hitting 28 big flies with an anemic average in the low .240's. By 2012, he was done in Cleveland.

Sizemore then spent a couple of years getting healthy, and in 2014 he hit a sad .233-5-27 over 112 games split between Boston and Philadelphia and the former top-3 round pick had become an afterthought.

Now 32, Sizemore is still with the Phillies, and though he is not performing as in his former peak, his numbers are up to .275-0-6, of with .348-0-5 has been accumulated over the past three weeks. Not saying you should pluck Sizemore from the FAAB pile expecting too much, but a fifth outfielder who can hit in the .270's is not a bad thing, and maybe we will see a little of the Sizemore former flash. That would be nice.

While we are looking at the Phils, it appears that with the demotion of Cody Asche, the Maikel Franco era might have begun. A 22-year-old Dominican, Franco caused a buzz following his .320-31-103 season in 2013, split between Reading and Clearwater at age 20. 

There was enough interest that I drafted Franco as a reserve pick in LABR in 2014, a move that did not pan out, but after hitting .355-4-24 over 33 games, the Phils wisely determined there is not much more to be accomplished at Triple-A. Franco is a blue chipper to be grabbed wherever possible.

I was going to write about Randal Grichuk several weeks back, but then he went on the DL and the interest was side-stepped. Grichuk, who was hitting .286-1-2 when he went down, was a first rounder of the Angels in 2009, and swapped to St. Louis as part of the 2013 David Freese deal.

The outfielder was hitting .259-25-71 when summoned in 2014, and he did contribute some timely hitting during the stretch run. However, Grichuk does like to swing the bat (28 walks to 108 whiffs last year), so that is something to watch. But with Jon Jay down, Grichuk could establish himself and give your team a little boost of pop. I like him and think he can learn the Major League zone. 

I was big enough on Micah Johnson coming out of camp to buy him for my Tout Wars AL team. Since that team is in last place, and faring just awfully, you can take that with a grain of salt. There is something odd though, with a rookie hitting .270-0-3 with three swipes (two caught stealing) and eight runs over 27 games, and being demoted. 

Johnson was having trouble with his glove (three errors) but the thing that is interesting is his numbers don't necessarily look bad, his WAR is -0.8 which isn't so good. But, it does sort of modify my Tout team, which doesn't seem as awful as it really is.

That might explain last place, or even the demotion, but the point is Carlos Sanchez, who almost even grabbed the starting job during the spring, was promoted and given the second base slot. Sanchez was hitting .344-2-17 with five swipes. If you have to fill a middle infield slot, and need some speed, and especially if you were hot on Johnson, you can probably add Sanchez and get some production. 

I am starving for fifth and sixth starters in all my single-season throw-back leagues, so that means a lot of scouring for pitchers. I know the Yankees activated the occassionally successful yet oft injured Chris Capuano. Overall, Capuano's 76-87, 4.28 line with a 1.341 WHIP and 7.5 strikeouts per nine is not particularly inspiring. Neither was three innings, four runs, and a loss yesterday. In a deep format, I would either leave the spot open or slide a reliever into an open spot.

Let's finish it the "Wright" way. That would be starting with the Orioles' Mike Wright, a third-round pick in 2011 by Baltimore. Wright has advanced well enough, but has also had control issues in the Minors with 510 hits and 121 walks over 477.6 innings (1.321 WHIP). Although, this year at Norfolk, Wright was 3-0, 2.64 over 30.6 innings with 30 strikeouts and a 1.109 WHIP, and the big (6'6", 240 pounds) right-hander pitched 7.3 innings of four-hit shutout ball Sunday, besting the Yankees. If I am looking at pitching, I am looking here for sure, as opposed to guys like Capuano.

Last Updated on Monday, 18 May 2015 09:36
 
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