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Tuesday 17th Oct 2017

It is frenzy time for sure as the final trade deadline moves are made before today's 4 PM ET deadline. Of course there are still waiver swaps teams can make with one another, but that game among and between the clubs is nearly complex and political as what goes on in the capital.

Certainly this past week there were some trades involving some interesting prospects, and we will review a couple of them. But the most interesting transaction of the week involves new Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers. And, despite the presence of ex-Giant Eduardo Nunez, Devers has claimed third base, playing there every day since his call-up, hitting .300-2-3 his first week. Just 20, Devers has 399 minor league games under his belt, posting .296-49-256 totals with a decent 133 walks to 294 whiffs, good for a .354 OBP, which is solid enough for such a young player. If there is a name to watch for the rest of the year, like Gary Sanchez last year, and Carlos Correa the season previous, Devers is the man.

The Marlins swapped their closer with an eye on the future, and part of the A.J. Ramos spoils was former Mets hurler Merandy Gonzalez. Signed by the Fish in 2013, Gonzalez, still just 21, has been quite good, going 29-14, 2.98 over 345.3 frames with 302 strikeouts, with a 1.14 WHIP, and opposition batting average of .226 with just 11 homers allowed. This season, pitching first at St. Lucie, then Columbia, Gonzalez is a combined 12-3, 1.78 over 106 innings with 89 strikeouts and a solid 0.98 WHIP with just 21 bases-on-balls. 

The Mets certainly are gearing up their pen for next year, for they might have swapped Gonzalez, but then nabbed Drew Smith from the other Florida team in exchange for Lucas Duda. Smith, 23, is probably further along the development line, having twirled at five locales this season, assembling a 1-3, 1.53 mark over 47 innings with seven saves over 12 attempts. He's converted 13 of 19 over 126.6 minor league innings with 140 whiffs, holding hitters to a .190 average while compiling an 0.90 WHIP. Smith has thrown as high as Triple-A Durham for an inning this season, but will probably finish the minor league season at Binghamton, though a September call-up is certainly a possibility.

Arizona pitcher Silvino Bracho is another youngster who has prettymuch been a yo-yo, having just been recalled for the sixth time this year. Make no mistake, Bracho is a potential serious closing prospect with 83 saves over 92 attempts during the six years since he signed as a 20-year-old. Bracho has 293 strikeouts over 201 innings, holding opposing hitters to just a .205 average while posting a 2.40 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, having allowed just 157 hits. Closer, as we know, is about as volatile a slot as there is, but on a team where Fernando Rodney leads the pen pack followed by the likes of the de la Rosas (Jorge and Rubby), Bracho could well be the man by next year. Meaning in your deep league, stash and watch, or for other formats, certainly watch.

While we are staring at those irritating saves, Oakland will give Blake Treinen every opportunity to earn the stopper gig this season. The 6'5" right-hander moved into the closer role with the Nationals last year, converting one of three while posting a  2.28 ERA over 67 innings with 63 whiffs and a decent 1.22 WHIP. Handed the stopper job to start 2017, Treinen, like so many of his positional mates this season, just couldn't hold the job with a 5.73 ERA and 1.62 WHIP for the Nationals, relegating the 29-year-old, who actually blew his first save chance in Oakland, allowing a homer to Kendrys Morales. Still, Santiago Casilla has been moved back to a setup role (he entered in the seventh on Sunday) and Bob Melvin has been pretty clear about giving Treinen every opportunity to earn the job this season. 

Turning to a couple of hitters, if you are in a deep American League format, Omar Narvaez is a name to check out. A 25-year-old Venezuelan, Narvaez is hitting a cool .292-1-9 with the Pale Hose, but has walked 23 times to 26 strikeouts, good for a .359 OBP. In the Minors, Narvaez played 459 games, recording a .277-7-170 line (lots of lucky sevens in there, right?) with 176 walks to 168 strikeouts with a .353 OBP. Again, those numbers might seem anemic, but in a deep league, the worst about a guy like Narvaez is he won't hurt you and should you be in an OBP league, he can be golden. More important, catchers work on defense and working with the pitching staff first, then focus on hitting, meaning those numbers should translate really well with big league experience. 

The Angels promoted third sacker Kaleb Cowart, a first-round high school pick in 2010 who has a .265-65-429 line with 114 steals over 782 games. Cowart walked 306 times to 703 whiffs, posting a .335 minor league OBP, but he was hitting .311-12-57 with a dozen swipes and an .865 OPS this year at Salt Lake City. Furthermore, Cowart, now 25, is hot out of the blocks, hitting .476 over his first seven games, likely displacing Yunel Escobar for ownership of the hot corner, at least through the rest of this year.

Finally, the Jays' Steve Pearce deserves recognition for having belted a pair of walk-off grand slams in one week. Pearce, who qualifies only in the outfield thus far this year, has a .267-10-32 line and is interesting for a deep league. But since he has been hitting .278-6-25 against right-handers, he's also a potentially cheap reverse righty DFS option.

Don't forget to tune into The Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY Sports Network every Thursday from 9-11 PM, Eastern (6-8 Pacific) as me and my mate Justin Mason from Friends With Fantasy Benefits explore the fantasy world with a filter, looking at tactics and strategy. Join us and our special guests, along with Lord Zola for the Z Zone, where Todd explains the universe to us.

You can follow me @lawrmichaels.

David Price. Mike Trout. Carlos Correa. Aaron Sanchez. Now maybe Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw? What a season. I was trying to remember a year as rife with injuries to star players, but just couldn't. And, I don't really think this has anything to do with the 10-day DL, which does wreak a kind of havoc, adding another variable to the insanity of trying to manage a season-long roto team.

Personally, I hate having to deal with this stuff, and most of my teams are failing a lot more due to key injury holes--Kershaw, Sanchez, Cameron Maybin, Freddie Freeman, Devon Travis, Kevin Kiermaier, etc.--but I am also pretty clear just about anyone reading this has suffered the same fate.

To make things dicier, we have the trade deadline looming. In fact, tune into The Tout Wars Hour on FNTSY radio this Thursday as Justin Mason and I welcome Paul Sporer to talk about all the moves to date and the impact. Later in the show, Matt Thompson will join in to shine a light on the prospects most likely to arrive in the bigs the soonest.

Since there are holes now and future, we are here, however, to at least examine the availables, most of whom we like, or at least want to like. So, what better place to start all this insanity than with Pablo Sandoval's "return" to the Giants. I am sure I have written about The Panda over the years, both pro and con.

He was not only pretty good in San Francisco, he was good fun, and though Pablo carried a spare tire of sorts, at least while he was young, he was deceptively quick. In fact, I liked watching Pablo cover the hot corner because he jumped on a ball just like he could jump on a pitch. He was also a good bad ball hitter: I always thought of the Panda as Vladimir Guerrero lite, in fact. 

I suppose the Giants have little or nothing to lose in giving Sandoval a shot at reclaiming a portion of the glory he foolishly abandoned in favor of Boston. But let's face it, the Panda is toast. Try to keep adding Pablo to your roster at a minimum. I really think he has had it. I thought he had last year. 

A year older, though a better gambit in a deep AL format right now, is the Tigers' Jim Adduci, who has sort of become a professional hitter, at least in short spurts. A first-base/outfielder, Adduci has a fairly anemic career big league line of .218-1-15, but he spent 2014-16 in Korea to the tune of .288-41-171 with a .357 OBP, comparable to his minor league numbers of .285-44-373. Adduci is .298-0-7 over 53 at-bats with the Tigers, and in an AL-only format is a safe guy with which to plug a hole and at least garner a few plate appearances.

In the wake of the injury to Carlos Correa, the Astros advanced their #1 pick from 2013, Colin Moran to augment the left side of the infield. It is true that Moran was smacked in the face by a freak foul ball Sunday, is on the DL, and might need surgery. But he was hitting .308-18-73 at Sacramento with a strong .373 OBP (31 BB/55 K). Obviously, Moran is damaged goods at present, but if the parms of your league do not allow for the claim of a player until he becomes a Major Leaguer, and if you are working towards the future, Moran makes an interesting roster spot investment.

The Cards' Carson Kelly seems like he has been bouncing around the league for years, but he is still just 23, and really only made his big league debut last year. A second-round selection in 2012, Kelly advanced seemingly in concert with how the Redbirds fare over the next few weeks and whether or not Yadier Molina becomes expendable. With a .253-5-243 line in the Minors, although augmented by a .283-10-41 mark at Memphis this season, St. Louis might as well see what they have as the season hits critical mass. Kelly is pretty good as a future investment, and could be pretty good right now.

The Angels' Alex Meyer is just off the DL, and is quietly having a pretty good season, with a 4-5, 3.74 record over 67.3 innings with 75 strikeouts, but sadly, 42 walks, meaning a 1.337 WHIP. Still, pitching is so iffy, and as Scott Pianowski pointed out not long ago on Twitter, "I am ok with the day of the 4.00 ERA and 1.30 WHIP being here." Well, here it is.

The Padres' Dinelson Lamet is a tall (6'4") 25-year-old Dominican right-hander who has a pretty good minor league resume of 20-20, 2.99 over 298.3 innings with 336 strikeouts and a 1.23 WHIP, with a 3-2, 3.23 line at Triple-A El Paso this year. Lamet has certainly struggled in the Minors thus far with a 4-4, 5.92 record over 51.3 innings. Lamet kind of reminds me of Luis Perdomo on the development scale, save a year removed, making him worth a look for the rest of the season as the Friars retool. 

The Jays have been pretty much as injury plagued as have our Fantasy teams, but they just swapped for the Yankees' Rob Refsnyder. With the ineffective Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney covering the middle in lieu of Devon Travis, and Troy Tulowitzki nursing a sore groin, Refsnyder might get a chance to really play every day. I realize this is a sort of man-love thing, but the guy has a .294-37-294 minor league mark over 522 games with an excellent .379 OBP (243 BB/345 K), and depending upon your league could qualify all over the diamond. All I am saying is give Rob a chance?

Hit me up @lawrmichaels.

OK, so even though this season seems to be goofy with whiffs, by the title I more mean let's get going, kind of like Lewis and Clark and the Expedition of Discovery, save we are exploring the second half of the MLB season rather than the lands west of St. Louis.

There was a lot of action over the break with a couple of swaps and some call-ups and even an anticipated one, so let's hop right to it. And we will start with the Pale Hose and three players, two the spoils of the Jose Quintana deal. In fact, just last week I wrote about a pair of minor leaguers who were due, Eloy Jimenez and Yoan Moncada.

I expect Moncada to hit the roster shortly, though Jimenez might not see some big league time till call-ups in 2018 unless something unusual occurs. Of course these days, that would not be odd.

But, the final interesting puzzle piece the Sox really got, Dylan Cease, does deserve some virtual ink. A sixth-round selection of the North Siders in 2014, Cease throws hard but has only managed 33 starts and 120.3 frames since being signed, so durability is surely a question. On the other hand, 160 whiffs with just 78 hits, three of which were homers, suggests some serious gas. I suspect Cease might wind up closing with the Sox, but either way he is worth tracking.

Another newbie to the league, Garrett Cooper, new of the Pinstripes, is a player I would certainly try to nab in a deep Mixed or AL-only format. Cooper, swapped by the Brewers for lefty Tyler Webb, is a 26-year-old who hit .366-18-72 this year, albeit at Colorado Springs. Still, the sixth-round selection out of Auburn is a big guy--6'6", 240 pounds--who does strike out (322 times in the Minors) but walks ok as well (143). The Yanks have pretty good luck with second half first base fill-ins, and Cooper should get a shot at being the right-handed platoon. And, he could indeed give ten homers and 25 knocks as the season crushes on.

Oakland also made a swap, dealing a pair of bullpen parts--Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle--to the Nationals for essentially reliever Blake Treinen and the interesting Jesus Luzardo. At 29, Treinen flirted with closing this year in Washington, saving three games, but getting knocked around to the tune of a 5.73 ERA and 1.619 WHIP, so he will likely not get much of a chance to do much in the Bay Area.

However, especially in an NL format, either of the ex-Athletics hurlers should get a shot to save some games. The edge probably goes to Madson, with better closing experience in the NL, along with being right-handed, but Doolittle is no slouch and who knows exactly what Dusty Baker will do when push comes to shove. Either/both make good FAAB acquisitions this cycle.

NOTE: This Thursday, Joe Pisapia subs for Justin (who is on vacation) and we will spend some time looking at closers on The Tout Wars Hour, at 9 PM, Eastern (6 Pacific) on the FNTSY Radio Network. Tune in and see what we determine.

Luzardo, 19, was a third-round high school selection last year and has had a brief professional career, toiling just 13.6 innings in Rookie Ball this year, whiffing 15, winning a game, and allowing a homer and a couple of runs. He is young, but Billy Beane is pretty good at spotting young arms as we have seen, meaning Luzardo is worth watching as well. For, the Athletics are reloading, and this time next year should fall into place in a pretty good way.

With Michael Pineda out for the season, the Yanks are looking to their system, and advanced Caleb Smith, a 14th-round selection in 2013, who has been a lights out 8-0, 2.11 with 91 whiffs over 89.6 innings this year. Smith, as a minor leaguer, has started 84 games and pitched 457.6 innings, going 32-23, 3.15 with 430 whiffs. He's moved pretty steadily up through the Yankees farm, improving eventually with each promotion culminating with his current stop in New York. Expect some bumps, but Smith is a good AL-only gamble and could be useful all over as we scrounge for starting arms while the season slips away.

The Cards, hurting in the outfield with Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk ailing, recalled Magneuris Sierra, who banged out four hits Sunday, making for an auspicious return. Sierra has a pretty good .297 career mark in the Minors, and swiped 92 bags, but has very little pop (11 homers, .386 slugging), so he is likely a fourth outfielder at best. However, for now, everyday play is probably out there for the next week, and at-bats are the name of the game, so exploit what you can where you can.

24-year-old Max Moroff hit his first big league homer Sunday, and with all the trade rumors swirling around the Pirates, the 16th-round selection in 2012 could slide through with some serious playing time, and be productive to boot. Moroff has a .256-38-237 line in the Minors, hitting .269-13-36 at Indianapolis this season while not with the big club. Moroff has a good eye with 327 walks to 530 strikeouts, good for a .358 OBP, so he could also pick it up and be a valuable part in a deeper format.

Finally, the Tribe recalled Tyler Naquin, a surprise last year but a disappointment this season. A solid .296-14-43 last year, Naquin struggled around .200 this year before being relegated to Columbus where he has done well, hitting .309-5-16. With Lonnie Chisenhall injured. Naquin should get some regular at-bats and could also be useful as we each try to push towards a title.

You can track me down @lawrmichaels.

 

Here we are at the All Star break, eagerly anticipating the second half, or not being able to stand it till the season is over and the 2018 drafts begin.

So, this time, let me give you some names I think make great pick-ups for the second half and ideally beyond.

Do enjoy the few days off from boxes, and remember to spend some time with the family and those you love bereft of baseball and DFS and the looniness it brings.

I am going to start with some youngsters, and the youth brigade begins with Jesse Winker, who got a look at a cup of coffee in April, but is back with the big team, ideally for good. A compensation pick from 2012, Winker has assembled a solid minor league line of .297-56-311, adding a .302-2-37 2017 Louisville total to that sum. Winker does not posess a ton of power, but with an .844 OPS line, extra-base hits are out there, and his .397 minor league OBP is 100 points higher than Billy Hamilton's.

It should not be long before the White Sox Yoan Moncada claims his spot in the infield of one of the teams juggling players and struggling to re-define itself. With a .282-11-33 mark with 16 swipes, the 22-year-old really does not seem to have much more to show at Triple-A, so the team should let him go at the big league level. And, he should respond.

The Cubs had enough outfield depth before the 2017 season to feel ok about swapping Jorge Soler, so the fact that the team is struggling filling their flychaser roles seems surprising. Clearly the Cubs are struggling to prove 2016 was not a fluke and perhaps the tonic is their 20-year-old uber prospect, Eloy Jimenez. Though Jimenez is just playing at High-A, he is hitting .271-8-32 and has a minor league line of .293-32-173 over just 253 games. Sure, Jimenez is young, and a way off in some ways, but he could be the shot in the arm the team needs. And, sooner or later, he will be very good.

Brad Miller had a big 2016 but thus far has had a frustrating 2017 with a .203-3-17 record, though he has spent the last month on the DL. Back from the DL, Miller homered on Sunday, and though he only hit two more homers in the second half last year compared to the first half, he bumped his OBP by 34 points, and his OPS by 83, and helping his surprisingly strong team seems like a likely prescription.

Pitching is so dicey, we all know, but the Rays have been so good at developing young arms, and Jacob Faria is one I both like a lot and trust. The nearly 24-year-old has a minor league line of 41-32, 3.13 over 599 innings with 623 whiffs and was 6-1, 3.07 at Durham when summoned. Since then, he has posted a 4-0, 2.11 record with 37 whiffs over 38.3 frames. I really like this kid.

Injuries have kept Boston's Sam Travis from claiming starting status at first in Beantown following the retirement of David Ortiz. Travis has a minor league mark of .298-25-165 over 289 games with a solid .359 OBP (102 walks to 182 whiffs). Neither Mitch Moreland or Hanley Ramirez are long-term answers to much for the Sox, and Travis is on the roster now, boasting .275-0-1 totals over 16 games. He should get increased playing time as 2017 concludes, and own a starting gig next year.

Seattle's Ben Gamel was a tenth round pick of the Pinstripes in 2010 but was swapped to the Mariners at the deadline last year. Although Gamel was in the Minors during the first month of this season, he has delivered .323-4-29 totals for the Mariners and has a .288-27-319 mark with 97 swipes in the Minors. The pair of Gamel and Mitch Haniger offer the next generation of good flychasers in the Northwest.

Let's finish with a 2017 June draft selection, that being another Ray, Brendan McKay. McKay, who pitches and hits, reminds me a lot of John Olerud, the former Jay who threw and hit and made the Majors just a few months after being drafted, never to return to the Minors. As a hurler for Louisville last year, McKay was 11-3, 2.56 with 146 whiffs over 109.3 frames while simultaneously hitting .341-18-57. Expect his minor league stay to be short and his big league stay to be long.

You can find me @lawrmichaels.

The Rotobituary of the week belongs to former Card and Red Sox Allen Craig, unceremoniously released, and now free to sign with whomever will have him.

But, on this eve of our nation's birthday, a week before the All-Star break, there are some players out there worth a hit, or perhaps a miss as we shore up our rosters and prepare for the dog days and perhaps a run at the pennant.

If you are in an AL-only format, you have to drop a bid on Adeiny Hechavarria, the new Rays and former Marlins shortstop who has banged it out, hitting .421 his first week with his new team, bringing his season line to .310-1-9. Hechavarria is not any kind of monster hitting threat, but if he plays every day, and you are in a deep league, he is certainly worth the gambit for the at-bats and potential fallout.

And, while we are talking about weak hitting shortstops who might be worthy of at least a look, the Royals' Alcides Escobar, surely one of the worst hitters in the Majors this year, has been red hot the past three weeks, hitting .365-1-8 with 27 hits over 74 at-bats. Escobar does indeed play daily and though he is not much of a power threat, he does have a career average of .259, and over the past three seasons has hit over .234, suggesting there are still hits, and maybe even some steals (he has double-digits the last seven years) out there.

The Yankees might have dispatched Miguel Andujar after just one game, whereby the 22-year-old went 3-for-4 with a homer, a steal, and a walk, but we can likely expect the third sacker back before too long. Andujar was jumped from Double-A Trenton, where he was hitting .312-7-52, and then moved up to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a week before the Yanks summoned, and the thought is for the infielder to get everyday at-bats at Triple-A for now. Now should not last a long time, however.

Boog Powell at least has a name to live up to, although Lord Zola corrected my thinking that Powell was the progeny of the former Oriole with the same name. This Powell was drafted by the Athletics in the 20th round of 2012, then swapped to the Rays as part of the Ben Zobrist deal, then from the Rays to the Mariners as part of the Brad Miller deal last year. Powell is hitting .331-3-20 with nine swipes and a strong .426 OBP, with 24 walks to 16 whiffs and could earn some playing time on a team moving towards youth.

If you are looking for a temporary closer in San Francisco, look no further than Sam Dyson for now. For, despite his horrible numbers with Texas of 1-6, and four blown saves to go with a 10.80 ERA and 2.25 WHIP, fostered a release into free-agent purgatory for Dyson. He is 0-1 with a pair of saves with San Francisco, filling in for Mark Melancon, but apparenty the future of Hunter Strickland is clear.

Former Giants property Adalberto Mejia is 2-0, with a 0.00 ERA over two starts last week, and the 24-year-old has 503 whiffs over 586.6 innings with a 3.30 ERA and solid 1.17 WHIP. On the rag-tag Twins team of overachieving hurlers, Mejia might indeed be ready to come into his own. Certainly, I have always liked him as a prospect.

Paul Blackburn is the hurler of the week in Oakland, originally drafted by the Cubs, then swapped to the Mariners as part of the Dan Vogelbach deal, then nabbed by the Athletics in exchange for Danny Valencia. Blackburn has gone 34-23, 3.21 over 496 innings with 344 strikeouts and a 1.25 ERA. Blackburn, who turns 24 in December, has had a solid start and picked up a win for the A's early in the week. He will certainly get another start for the Oaklanders. In a deep league, with crazy pitching, not much to lose.

One final thought on George Springer, the Astros leadoff hitter who was swinging a hot stick last week, hitting .375-2-5, bringing his season totals to .287-24-52 with a .363 OBP. Now in his fourth full season, Springer is easily on a path for career highs in everything but swipes, but even there the Astro can help. If I were to target a player who will be a first rounder for the next few years, it would be Springer, so if your keeper league team is out of it, look into acquiring him for the coming season(s).

You can try to argue with me @lawrmichaels.

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.

 

 

What a crazy Father's Day we had, getting up early to watch our niece Lindsay graduate from UC Davis, then beating it back to the Bay Area and San Francisco where Diane and I hit a 3:00 PM flight to NYC where tonight I draft in the FSTA Expert Football "B League."

I have to say it was a haul, driving up back and forth, rushing to catch our plane, which spent an untimely six hours in the air, allowing us to plop down on our hotel bed around 2:30 AM. Hence, the delay in getting today's Hotpage posted.

But, here we are with a fun week ahead. In fact, I will review my draft next Saturday on Bed Goes Up.

As for now, we have baseball and we can start with Matt Chapman, the new Athletics third sacker. I distinctly remember at Spring Training in 2015, Ron Washington told me "Chapman is the future at third." Well, the future is indeed here and Chapman is the man. having banged out 80 homers while driving in 203 since being a first-round pick in 2014. The A's have some fun stuff going on among Chapman, Chad Pinder, Franklin Barreto, Ryon Healy and Marcus Semien when he returns. Watch them.

In the meantime, the Athletics turned former third sacker Trevor Plouffe into a player to be named later, sending him off to Tampa where the best guess is Plouffe spells Evan Longoria while platooning at first against lefties, against whom Plouffe is hitting .294.

Trey Mancini was hot to start the season, but the return of Chris Davis pushed the Orioles utilityman to the back burner, but with the Davis injury, Mancini is again shining. He has hit .354-5-14 over the past couple of weeks, and surely has made a case for full-time consideration having a season line of .310-12-28. Mancini is exactly the kind of guy I would think about for 2018 as a potential bargain, by the way.

The Mets are certainly as broken up as any DL'd team this year, but a couple of bright spots are the opportunites given to Wilmer Flores, and now T.J. Rivera. Rivera has indeed been hot, hitting .400-1-4 over the past couple of cycles, banging ten hits over 25 at-bats, bringing his season line to .289-2-14 and even posting a .338 OBP, which these days is pretty good.

Since I am in New York, let's look at one other Metropolitan in Gavin Cecchini, a first-round prep pick of the Mets in 2012. Cecchini has been pretty solid as a minor leaguer, hitting .282-27-215 with 27 swipes and a solid .348 OBP. Cecchini has 201 walks to 303 whiffs, and the 23-year-old and Flores are likely the future middle at Citi Field.

The Rangers have been having major bullpen issues, as have so many teams this year, and the team's latest call-up, Ernesto Frieri, at least has a closer track record with 73 career saves. Frieri struggled the last few years, even relegating himself to Mexico for a bit last year, but he was 2-0, 2.86 with seven saves over 20.3 innings, and could be the next in line for conversions.

If you are just looking for a reliever to fill a hole in a mixed format, a nice conservative choice is the Bucs' Felipe Rivero. Rivero has thrown 37.3 innings and leads the circuit in appearances with 36, while whiffing 41 and posting three saves. Oh yeah, his ERA is 0.72, which is also Rivero's WHIP, meaning the hurler probably won't hurt you much no matter what happens, and he could help with some whiffs and wins and maybe even a couple of conversions.

Finally, the Padres' Dinelson Lamet had a good start, whiffing 12 Brewers over six innings on Saturday. With a line of 2-2, 7.50, I cannot really recommend Lamet, but the 24-year-old is certainly worth tracking. In fact, his 1.33 WHIP is pretty good considering Lamet's other numbers.

Bewitch, bother, or bewilder me @lawrmichaels.

 

 

It seems fitting that going into the week of the 2017 June draft that prospects and top picks dominate the Hotpage this week.

A first-round pick of the Mariners in 2013, we all had hopes for Mike Zunino, who was actually a pretty good on-base hitter with a .368 minor league OBP. But in the bigs, he could not catch up with the fastball and the results have been a .197 average and .268 OBP. Granted catchers' hitting generally does develop later as working the zone with pitchers is the primary function of backstops. Zunino is only hitting .218-4-17 for the year, but over the past couple of weeks he has produced .389-3-18 numbers. Yes, it is premature to think Zunino has found his stroke, but he is first worth tracking, and second, could indeed be picking it up.

I have long been a fan of Cory Spangenberg, a first rounder of the Padres in 2011. Spangenberg had a solid debut when he arrived at Petco in 2014, hitting .290-2-9 over 20 games, then .271-4-21 with nine steals the following year over 303 at-bats. Then Spangenberg got hurt, and was in and out of a lineup going through Petco changes, playing sporadically, and not that well. With the power potential of Ryan Schimpf, Spangenberg seemed back burner news, but Schimpf, who hit with power, but little else, was sent down this past week while Spangenberg has been smoking. Spangenberg is hitting .500-2-4 this past week, with the big blows coming Sunday, and ideally some full-time play ahead.

Lewis Brinson is yet another first rounder, this time in 2012 by the Rangers, though the Rangers swapped the outfielder off as part of the Jonathan Lucroy deal of last year. Brinson has posted a .283-82-299 mark with 92 swipes over 514 minor league games. At Colorado Springs this year, Brinson was hitting .312-6-25 when summoned, and what is worthy of note is that over 2012-13, Brinson whiffed 265 times while walking just 69. Since then, the numbers are 326 strikeouts to 120 walks, significantly improved. Brinson might not work his way immediately into full-time play, but it lies ahead.

While we are working with the Brewers, the team brought up top prospect Josh Hader, a lefty hard-thrower who was selected in the 19th round in 2011 by the Orioles, who then swapped Hader to the Astros as part of the Bud Norris trade. Houston then swapped Hader to the Brewers as part of the Carlos Gomez deal. Hader, who will initially be working out of the pen, has dominant stuff, with 610 strikeouts over 541.3 innings, averaging 10.1 per nine. Hader has had his struggles this year (3-4, 5.47), but in reality, there is very little more he can learn in the Minors. If brought along concertedly with the Brewers, Hader has the potential to be an ace. 

The Tigers selected Buck Farmer in the fifth round in 2013, and 24 of his 32 appearances going into this year were in relief. But Farmer has been pretty much exclusively a starter in the Minors, with a 26-21, 3.65 mark over 402.3 innings with 387 whiffs. Farmer has been lights out this past week with two wins on a pair of starts to go with a 0.00 ERA over 13 innings with 16 punchouts.

In addition to Farmer, however, several interesting hurlers were advanced during the past week, starting with Jacob Faria, a tenth-round selection of the Rays in 2011. The 23-year-old has posted stellar minor league totals--41-32, 3.13, over 599 innings with 626 strikeouts--including a 6-1, 3.03 mark at Durham this year that includes 84 whiffs over 58.6 innings. Faria had a great start and win Wednesday, and was sent down the next day. Since Faria was up in place of Matt Andriese, and since Andriese's future is probably the DL, it is reasonable to anticipate Faria's return, soon. 

Struggling San Francisco promoted eighth-round pick in 2014, Austin Slater out of Stanford, to help fill their struggling, ailing defense. Slater has a nice minor league line of .308-27-165 over 300 games, with 24 swipes and a .371 OBP (106 walks to 238 whiffs). Slater has come out of the blocks hot, hitting .322-4-26 his first week, and since the Giants really are going nowhere, he should get a chance to show what he can do. I like the outfielder to be a sort of Mark Kotsay kind of player: one who does not do anything spectacularly, but everything very well. That is pretty good.

Finally, the Pirates ran out of patience and options with infielder Alen Hanson, designating him with the White Sox picking up the infielder. A switch-hitter, still just 24 years old, Hanson has had a fine minor league career, hitting .281-53-316 with 205 steals over 719 games. With decent on-base numbers (240 walks to 531 strikeouts, a .340 OBP), Hanson just cannot do it in the Majors, hitting just .193-0-1 over 93 at-bats. The move should be good for Hanson, whom if he gets a shot to play regularly, could indeed be a player.

Don't forget to tune into The Tout Wars Hour every Thursday night on the FNTSY Sports Radio Network, where Justin Mason and I try to break down fantasy into strategies and tactics we can all understand and employ. That is Thursday nights, from 8-10 PM, Eastern Time.

You can give me grief @lawrmichaels.

In the Bay Area, the San Francisco Giants were famous for starting the season hot through April and May, but come the summer months, the team fell into a "June swoon" it seemed every year.

We did pass the first big milestone of the season with Memorial Day, and if your team is indeed swooning with the coming of the hot weather, maybe we can help with some suggestions for your roster.

I cannot really recommend Alcides Escobar and his .183-0-12 line, but the KC shortstop's career mean over 10 years is .258-4-50 with 22 steals. That means if Escobar just finishes the season hitting .250, and hits the rest of those decade-long means, he will hit .285-4-30 with 22 steals, which might be lofty, but getting close is certainly not impossible with 100 games left. The Royals continue to push Escobar to the top of the order, and he does have nine hits over his last six games, so do keep an eye on him.

The Nats drafted Brian Goodwin in the first round of the 2011 draft, but the outfielder has pretty much languished since, posting a .253-52-249 line, making a brief (22 games: .286-0-5) visit to the Show last year. Injuries forced the hand of the team and Goodwin returned, having a big game Friday when he singled twice, tripled, and homered off the Athletics to give him a season line of .303-1-5 over 15 games and 33 at-bats. Goodwin might not stay on as a starter, but he could get 10 or so at-bats a week as a #4 guy in Washington and be of help in an NL-only format.

With both Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout on the DL, the Angels hit some desperate straits, but 32-year-old Eric Young, Jr. climbed aboard with a hot start, hitting .348-1-2 with a pair of swipes over his first week back in The Show. He's for sure a solid grab in an AL format (and if his hot bat continues, every format).

The Angels also sought help from pitcher Parker Bridwell, a ninth-round pick of the Orioles in 2010. That means 687.6 minor league innings with a pedestrian 33-46, 4.70 ERA with a 1.41 WHIP. Bridwell did whiff 623, so it appears control is a lot of the issue and the O's did give Bridwell a look (3.3 innings, five hits and five runs). Don't bite.

Another rookie hurler you might have noticed is Eric Skoglund, the Royals third-round selection in 2014. Skoglund comported himself well following a stint at Central Florida, going 15-18, 3.74, moving up through the Minors and arriving at Kauffman last week. Skoglund did well enough in his first start with 6.3 shutout innings and a win over the Tigers, but things were different in his second outing as Cleveland pounded the rookie for four runs over a pair of innings. Skoglund whiffed 266 over 310.6 minor league innings, meaning he is not a dominant starter, so probably best to shy away. Maybe Skoglund becomes a decent fourth starter, but not much more.

I have to admit I was one of those who thought veteran Yankee Brett Gardner was on the downhill slide, but over May, Gardner has seriously lit it up, contributing with a .327-9-21 line. So, Gardner has hardly had it.

One pitcher I do like is Silvino Bracho, a 23-year-old Venezuelan who collected 283 whiffs over just 198.6 minor league innings. Bracho has been up and down this year, struggling in the Majors (0-2, 6.18 over 39.3 innings) but has been so dominant in the Minors (2-1, 1.64 with four saves) that something has to give. Bracho, who has 90 minor league conversions and if he gets the hang, only Fernando Rodney seems to be in his way.

Finally, back to the Bay Area, the decimated Giants promoted 25-year-old Dominican Orlando Calixte, who has produced a somewhat dubious minor league line of .249-63-274 over 719 minor league games, with a .304 OBP. Calixte had a nice first game in the Majors, with a couple of hits and RBI, but Calixte is just filler. Young Jr. is the guy to go for should you need some outfield production.

Don't forget to tune into The Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY Sports Radio Network every Thursday night from 8-10 PM, Eastern Time. Justin Mason and I talk with the writers and analysts you follow the most, trying to unravel the real strategies that live underneath all fantasy games. This week, Rotowire's Vlad Sedler and FNTSY's Pat Mayo will be our guests, discussing NFBC, DFS, and previewing the US Open.

And, you can always harrangue me all you like @lawrmichaels.

First and foremost, the happiest and safest of Memorial Day holidays to all of you and your families. Of course, it is easy to be able to enjoy ourselves in a world where Scott Kazmir, still a functioning lefty, goes to the 60-day DL, and Kyle Blanks is released.

As for your roto teams, this is indeed the time to take stock of your team, if you have a realistic shot at winning, and what you can do to make that happen. So, as usual, the Hotpage is here to help you stay ahead of the curve, and we will start locally this time with Athletics second sacker Jed Lowrie.

The keystone guy, Lowrie was .500-0-4 over the past week, with four doubles, notching his season totals to .303-6-16 with 29 runs scored, and is signed through this season, though with a 2018 option. However, with Franklin Barreto, Chad Pinder and Matt Chapman on the horizon, and Marcus Semien and Ryon Healy already producing, Lowrie becomes an obvious trade chip to a contending team.

I wanted Hunter Renfroe, of whom I have more than a few shares, and who was largely disappointing as he was adjusting to full-time play over the course of an entire season in the big leagues, but he has finally started to push his numbers north of the Mendoza line. With a .429-1-2 week, Renfroe raised his season line to .231-9-20 and his OBP up to an almost respectable .286. Keep it going, Hunter.

Similarly, if you have been waiting for the explosive Carlos Gonzalez, alas, he has finally got some heat in his bat with a .303-2-10 month, pushing his season totals to .244-4-16. A good month ago, a friend actually sent me a note asking if he should acquire Cargo, who had been dropped by his frustrated owner, and I simply responded "absolutely," noting that Gonzalez is a potential impact player. Even if you don't need him, pulling Gonzalez out of the free agent pool and preventing other owners from having him is in and of itself a great move.

If you want to watch for the emergence of the next dominant pitcher in baseball, try Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray, who over the past two weeks has gone 2-0, 1.93 over 18.6 innings with 17 whiffs and a stunning 0.857 WHIP, giving Ray a 4-3, 3.45 over 60 innings, with 74 whiffs, and most importantly, a 1.20 WHIP. Including this season, Ray has a career WHIP of 1.413, so if Ray indeed has gained that final command, look out for him, and try to own him wherever you can.

Let's check out a couple of Beantown players next, starting with a hitter I like in first sacker Sam Travis, who looked like the first base heir apparent in 2015, following his .307-9-78 year, with 32 doubles, split between High-A and Double-A. But, after a hot start (.272-6-29) at Pawtucket last year, Travis blew out his knee and missed the bulk of 2016, waylaying progress. But, after a .286-4-14 start at Triple-A, he has arrived and will be the ultimate answer to first base.

Travis' teammate, pitcher Brian Johnson, stunned the universe on Saturday, shutting out Seattle on five hits, tossing a complete game on the same day that Chase Anderson struggled to keep his pitch count under 120 trying to no-hit Arizona. Johnson, a first-round pick in 2012, has a 2-0, 2.57 mark with Boston, augmented by 2-0, 2.87 at Pawtucket. Johnson lost the numbers game to the activation of David Price. That is cool: grab him and stash him, for it is certain the Sox will need him again this year.

The Braves advanced former Padres top pick Matt Wisler, and while it is very difficult for me to recommend a hurler with a career big league 15-21, 4.95 line, I have long liked Wisler and his control. As a minor leaguer, Wisler has a line of 31-23, 3.65 over 524.6 frames with a 1.20 WHIP to go with 474 whiffs. The Braves are indeed working through the struggles to get to the next step, and Wisler could rise to the occasion and become a solid #3 starter. While I am not suggesting you grab him now, I am saying keep an eye on the guy. I think he is better than his numbers suggest.

Finally, Leury Garcia, the 26-year-old outfielder of the Pale Hose, is seriously worth taking a look at in every format. That is because Garcia has grabbed a starting gig, posting .276-6-17 totals with four steals, with 22 runs scored. Garcia has a .273-22-210 line with 322 runs and 204 swipes over 657 minor league games. He might really just be a fourth outfielder, but he is playing like a #3 this year, so in your deep league, don't let Garcia sit in the FA pool.

Make sure you check out my radio show on FNTSY every Thursday night, from 8-10 PM, ET. This week my special guest will be Ron Shandler, Tout Wars and BBHQ founder.

And, feel free to bug, cajole, harangue, or simply praise me @lawrmichaels.

The week before Memorial Day is always a fun one, and we all speculate summer travels and changes with graduations and weddings; something we are part of with a couple each of trips, graduations, and weddings on the horizon.

It does mean the warm weather is here, something Mother Nature has largely complied aside from dropping indiscriminate dumps of rain hither and yon. For now, there are a bunch of names, some new, some old, and some not worth bothering about for us to ponder. And, if you like what you read here, join my running mate Justin Mason from Friends With Fantasy Benefits and me every Thursday evening from 8-10 PM, ET for the Tout Wars Hour where we talk strategy and a lot of other good stuff with the analysts and writers you follow the most. This week our guests will be MLB.com's Fred Zinkie and BBHQ relief specialist Doug Dennis.

I noted in the Tout Wars FAAB report last week that I liked the acquisiton of Chad Pinder for a couple of bucks by current league leader Clay Link. For, on a team with some interesting players, interesting possibilities, and a GM happy to give a solid kid a shot, Pinder is indeed making himself known, hitting .267-4-9, hitting one of his bombs this weekend over the pavilion in center, a feat duplicated only four times. A former #2 pick (2013), Pinder plays both short and second, and can indeed double in the outfield as well. With the Athletics limping through with Jed Lowrie and Adam Rosales--both of whom I like, neither of whom is a long-term anything--Pinder should get a fair shake of time to show what he can do. 

While we are at it, Jose Berrios, following his ridiculous 7.6 inning two-hitter with 11 whiffs, is now totally worth activating in any format. He may struggle, but he is here to stay, so if you drafted or reserved Berrios, or maybe picked him up years ago in your Ultra League, and have been waiting, activate him now. Again, he may struggle, but he will never again qualify as a rookie, so any benefits your league constitution affords go for it. Or, trade him. His value might get higher, but it is pretty high right now. Just don't sit on him.

And, I have to wonder about Cleveland, who advanced Bradley Zimmer over Tyler Naquin (.396-1-5 at Columbus) but that they did, and Zimmer looks like he could be interesting. A first-round pick of the Tribe in 2013, the California native had a nice .270-42-171 line in the Minors over 338 games, with a strong .372 OBP (167 walks to 378 strikeouts), and has begun his big league career well enough with a .267-1-3 with a steal this past week, and is a sure pickup in deep leagues, if still available.

The Angels signed Doug Fister. Nothing against Doug Fister, but this time last year they signed Tim Lincecum. How did that work out? Acquire accordingly.

In the same vein, the Braves signed James Loney, and then swapped for Matt Adams hoping to plug the horrible Freddie Freeman void. It appears Adams will get frst shot at everyday at-bats. If your objective is to try and stop the bleeding the loss of Freeman presents, try to figure out something else. Freeman was the best player on an up-and-coming team: he is the kind of player who simply makes the other players around him better. Neither Adams nor Loney is that guy, as the good pitches the players around Freeman saw will dissipate, and Loney/Adams will have to face the music without any more protection than anyone else on the team.

If you are lamenting the struggles of Julio Urias, think about Jose Berrios. Yeah, Urias adjusted more quickly at first, but now the Dodger hurler is not so much of a secret, and for now the team has a strong rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood, Rich Hill, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Surely one of those guys will hit the DL, probably before the break, so Urias will be back and he should be pretty good.

I have been biting it up the middle this year it seems, and in shallower leagues Neil Walker is hitting .364-2-12 over the past two weeks, raising his season totals to .255-4-24. Walker is pretty steady, and is a good pickup right now.

If you are in an NL-only format, give Eric Sogard, now of the Brewers, a look. Sogard is back after a year off with a nasty knee injury, and while Jonathan Villar is struggling, Sogard is hitting .476-2-7 his first week. Sogard is now 30, and a total pro, and that means he knows how to do his job. And that could well mean some long-term steady play. All he needs is the chance. Here it is.

Track me down @lawrmichaels.

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