Well, here we are, starting year 21, and Z and I are in Manhattan getting ready to draft our Fantasy Sports Trade Association Football Team for the coming season.
Hah. We still have over three months of baseball to go, and last week I kind of took a bye, so, let's get started with a question.
Who were the best two starting pitchers last week? Clayton Kershaw? Chris Sale? John Lackey? Jordan Zimmermann?
Well, Jon Lester did have a monster cycle with two wins and a 0.00 ERA over 15 frames, but how about Trevor Bauer (1-0, 1.72, with a 1.02 WHIP over 15.6 innings), Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 2.30, with a 0.77 WHIP over 15.6 innings) and Tyler Chatwood (2-0, 2.45 with a 0.95 WHIP over 14.6 innings)?
Probably no troika of hurlers can better exemplify the ups-and-downs and insanity that goes with managing a baseball squad, for if you think the schizo careers of these guys make us crazy, imagine trying to work through it as Theo Epstein. Still, the lesson is in most leagues it is impossible to win with a set lineup you selected on draft day. If you want to stay among the big dogs in your league, it means being on top of who is hot, who is not, and ideally trying to figure this out a little ahead of the curve, adjusting your lineup accordingly.
One name who might indeed intrigue--as well as drive us whacky as he develops--is Jameson Taillon, a high school first-round selection of the Bucs in 2010. A top 100 prospect every year since his draft, the 24-year-old has a 20-23 mark with a 3.49 ERA over 442.6 innings with 417 whiffs with 2014-15 lost to injury. Taillon did get his first start against the Mets on Wednesday, going six innings, allowing six hits and three runs. Though he was sent back to Triple-A, expect the 6'5", 240-pound righty back getting every opportunity to realize his potential. Just be mindful of the lumpy road the previous paragraph implies and stash him on your reserve list if you can.
Oakland has been having huge mound issues, so they sought help from Daniel Mengden, a fourth-round pick of the Astros in 2014 whom the Athletics copped along with Jacob Nottingham for Scott Kazmir. The A's swapped Nottingham to the Brewers (for Khris Davis), but after going 15-5, 2.78 over 210 minor league innings which includes a 3-1, 1.39 spread at Nashville this year over seven starts, Oakland gave Mengden a shot. The righty responded with 5.2 solid innings, making a mistake only to Jay Bruce. Oakland, in a pitcher's park, will give Mengden the ball until he gives the team a reason not to. Ride accordingly.
Got Smoke? That likely means you discovered the Astros' Michael Feliz, a 22-year-old Dominican reliever who whiffed 419 over 419.2 minor league innings, but this year has put down 42 hitters on strikes over 29.1 innings, with a 4-0, 3.38 record that includes a 0.85 WHIP. Feliz might be a future closer but for now, in a deep league, he is a perfect stabilizer who can get whiffs. Grab him if you can/need to.
Arizona brought back outfielder Peter O'Brien, a former second-round selection of the Yankees in 2012, swapped for Martin Prado in 2014. O'Brien hit .280-109-363 as a minor leaguer over 1760 at-bats, and though he has hit 59.7% of his hits for extra bases, 112 walks to 492 strikeouts (.327 OBP) looks problematic to me.
Probably the most promising hitter promoted this week has to be the 2014 #1 pick of the Pale Hose, Tim Anderson. A speed burning shortstop, Anderson has hit .301 as a minor leaguer with 220 runs scored over 1374 at-bats with 94 steals, 26 triples, and 62 doubles, Anderson has been called upon to fill the void left with the release of Jimmy Rollins. Anderson does have it all, save he too suffers from lack of zone command with 64 walks to 332 whiffs and a not too stellar .327 OBP for a guy with a .301 average. Still, Anderson looks exciting and should not be dismissed.
In case you did not notice, I have long been a fan of Wilmer Flores, who has just returned to the Mets lineup. Over the past three weeks, Flores has hit .368-0-3 over 13 games and 38 at-bats. The 23-year-old clobbered 16 big flies last year over 483 at-bats and though he does have on-base issues (46 walks to 133 whiffs and a .297 OBP), give him time and I think the utility infielder establishes himself.
Please do feel free to comment, and don't forget you can tweet me @lawrmichaels
It was indeed 20 years ago today that the very first HotPage appeared under my original site, CREATiVESPORTS, which has since merged with Todd Zola and Mastersball.
Though I had been playing sim games since the mid-70's--largely APBA and Strat-O-Matic--in the late 80's Rotisserie ball hit my ilk and I started playing, and a fluke in 1993 brought me to the stable of then fantasy staple, John Benson.
I wrote for Benson for three years, while playing in local AL- and NL-only leagues, also working for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan as an analyst, but grabbed a buyout option in 1996 and was suddenly looking for a job.
Because of my family's and my pretty well documented health issues, I had to look for a more traditional job whereby I could get health care for us all but while I looked for a job, I took a class in HTML thinking since I already wrote for Benson, and had a rep, maybe a website on fantasy baseball would be fun.
My thought was simply presenting a weekly list of players each Monday worthy of roster acquisition--in most cases--trying to simply present 750 words on eight-to-ten such guys in a manner useful to fantasy baseball players.
In 1996, there were roughly five million humans playing fantasy sports worldwide, with three million of them playing baseball and the balance going after fantasy football. At the time, I hoped to simply contract with ATT to earn a living (which proved to be a great company to complete my work life in the real world), and write about fantasy, grabbing 1% of those players as readers and see how things went from there.
Things did not work out exactly as I imagined. They more than worked out, though. That is because though my site was free, suddenly a cluster of other burgeoning web locales--CBS Sportsline, Sandbox Sports, Wall Street Sports, MSNBC online, Fox Sports to name a few--all liked my writing and thoughts, and they all hired me to write for them on a regular basis.
In fact, this is where I met Rick Wolf, the driving force behind Sportsline (the first of many big sites Wolf would develop), along with Scott Engel, who turned out be my first boss in the industry when Wolf hired me. Of course, this was just before the dot-com explosion, and a lot of my mates--Jeff Erickson was then at RotoNews, Ron Shandler's BaseballHQ, Steve Moyer at STATS, Greg Ambrosius with the NFBC/NFFC in their infancy days--were all just getting started and gaining followings on the Web as well, and it was a very exciting time.
It was tough and competitive too, especially when the bottom fell out a few years later, forcing RotoNews to morph into RotoWire and Mastersball, eaten up by Fanball, to go back to the roots Jason Grey, Rob Leibowitz, and Todd Zola established. But others, like Wall Street and Sandbox, were chewed up never to return.
At the time, it was tough for me, when all my mates' sites were bought up and growing, and while CREATiVESPORTS seemed to have a good critical reputation, no one wanted to merge or buy me out, something that turned out to be a blessing, for though I was not a temporary millionaire, I did get to maintain control of my site over those strange times within the industry, not to mention our economy.
But, make it through we did, bigger and badder and better than ever, as fantasy took hold, fostering just about every variation imaginable (check here for Fantasy Fashion Leagues), pushing Daily games almost to the point of irritation (and legislation), the NFBC to a standard mixed-league draft format, and driving the industry such that at the end of 2015, there were 56.8 million fantasy players just in North America (that includes Canada).
Of course, there were a myriad of changes more. Health issues did indeed take my family--Cathy in 2005, and Joey in 2006--there was Sam Walker's Fantasyland book followed by Stephen Palgon's movie of the same name. Matthew Berry moved from movies to Rotoworld to The Talented Mr. Roto and Rotopass to ESPN, becoming a household name, and I got involved with a new and wonderful partner, Diane Walsh. Oh yes, and Jason Grey moved to Tampa to become a MLB scout, and Todd Zola and I merged our companies.
There is so much more, and I could write and additonal 1000 words on those changes, but I think you get the point. But, just as you become friends with the guys in your local league, I was lucky enough to be thrust into the core of an industry where I not only got to play with the guys I noted, but where they became my dear friends, and where leagues like LABR and Tout Wars became my local leagues.
It is difficult for me to explain just how lucky and crazy and wonderful this all seems and has been, for that seems to speak for itself. I mean, whoever imagined a game based upon a game would spur a crazy new industry that reinvented games as we know them?
But, it did, and as lucky I feel to be part of that industry, I feel even luckier to have industry mates that I can indeed call friends. So, in closing, I want to mention as many as I can. Because, you know, "I get by with a little help from my friends."
Oh yeah, I will do my best to get another 20 years behind us, though in all honesty, I cannot begin to imagine what that might be like.
Thank you all for reading, for sharing your time and lives, and for your support.
Ron Shandler. Marc Meltzer. Rick Wolf. Glenn Colton. Stacie Stern. Jeff Erickson. Peter Schoenke. Tim Schuller. Chris Liss. Todd Zola. Brian Walton. Rob Leibowitz. Zach Steinhorn. Cory Schwartz. Mike Siano. Dean Peterson. Greg Ambrosius. Steve Moyer. Tony Blengino. Doug Dennis. Scott Engel. Howard Bender. Ray Flowers. Peter Kreutzer. Alex Patton. Perry Van Hook. Don Drooker. Derek Van Riper. Andy Behrens. Brandon Funston. Nando DiFino. Matthew Berry. Tristan Cockcroft. Eric Karabell. Stephania Bell. Nate Ravitz. Lenny Melnick. Kyle Elfrink. Eno Sarris. Ray Murphy. Brent Hershey. Gene McCaffrey. Justin Mason. Lori Rubinson. Corey Parson. Jason Collette. Mike Gianella. Paul Sporer. Rick Wilton. Ryan Bonini. Scott Pianowski. Jason Grey. Seth Trachtman. Louis Maillone. Mike Cardano. Patrick Davitt. Steve Gardner. John Hunt. Tim Heaney. Nick Minnix. John Benson. Al Melchior. Charlie Wiegert. Dave Gonos. Vlad Sedler. Patrick Mayo. Geoff Stein. Tom Kessenich. Mike Hall. Oh yes, and Diane, Jeep, and Pavlov!
Here we are at another Memorial Day, and aside from being a great holiday, loaded with baseball, family, food, and ideally great weather, this issue of the Hotpage completes my 19th year of writing the same column under the same title at the same URL. So I will try to conjure something special next week for our 20th anniversary edition (which is kind of exciting).
Memorial Day is indeed considered that first big milepost of the baseball season, and the one where fantasy owners have to decide whether their team has the parts to contend, or to rebuild for 2017. Memorial Day also leads into arguably the toughest stretch for managing a team, for the run from June 1 to essentially August--when the stretch run starts--is long and slow and often seems tedious. And, that can breed complacency, and that is the worst thing that can happen to an owner with a team on the hunt. But, the weather, busy schedules, vacations, and just everyday tasks can easily distract (sometimes appropriately). So, do stay on top of the transaction line and try to be vigilant making roster moves that keep the at-bats and innings coming as the season rolls on.
As for today, as has been our place for so long, here is our weekly list of players maybe worth a look, and sometimes not, that struck my eye over the past week.
Sometimes it is tough to see a ballplayer who is so good seem to fall off the face of the earth, but in a way that is what has happened to the Twins' Joe Mauer. A three-time batting leader and former MVP, Mauer has not led the league in much of anything save OBP in 2012 (.416) since 2009, almost seven years ago. Since then, injuries and age have slowed the former catcher with his OPS dropping to a career low .718 last year, making Mauer a sort of afterthought to a lot of owners and within a lot of formats. At age 33, it is not realistic to think Mauer would ever regain the prowess that produced the .365-28-96 MVP season, but despite the falling numbers, no question Mauer can still hit and get on base.
Now mostly a first baseman (and DH when not), Mauer has shown some signs that there is indeed life still in his bat, hitting .417-3-6 last week, raising his season numbers to .287-5-17 with a .394 OBP. In an AL-only league, those totals are beyond wonderful. Even in a mixed format, they are pretty good. But, Mauer, showing he still has the eye, makes a good mid-priced DFS gamble on a regular basis not so much for the power, but the default that he stands a good chance of getting on base (much like Ben Zobrist). And, of course, every once in a while, like last week, the stick goes wild. Anyway, if you had dismissed thoughts about Mauer as useful, reconsider, depending upon the situation.
Among the best part of baseball is how each season brings us surprises, and one of the best of 2016 thus far is the Phillies. Projected for the dumpster, the Phils are retooling with some really good youngsters like Tyler Goeddel. A first-round selection of the Rays in 2011, Goeddel assembled a .262-31-244 line over five season in the Tampa organization, moving as high as Double-A where he hit .279-12-72 for Montgomery last year. But, unprotected, Goeddel, still just 23, became what seems to be a slick Rule 5 selection of the Phils, for whom he has hit .270-1-7 over 32 games thus far. In an NL-only league, those are fine contributions for a fifth outfielder, especially spelling Aaron Altherr (wrist injury), who is due back to the team maybe by the break. In the mean time, Goeddel is playing every day and as a Rule 5 guy, he will likely stay with the big club the remainder of the season.
The Dodgers promoted their top pitching prospect, Julio Urias, for what turned out to be a disappointing debut (2.6 innings, five hits, four walks, three runs), but we must remember Urias is still just 19 and was 4-1, 1.10 at Oklahoma City this year over 41 innings, with 44 whiffs and a stellar 0.780 WHIP before the call-up. Give him a little time, and if your league rules allow to grab and stash a player once he has appeared in a big league game, do this with Urias right now.
Toronto got some Bowie-esque "chchchcanges" this week with the return of Devon Travis, and then the loss of Troy Tulowitzki. Toronto stocked up well with subs, and right now, Darwin Barney is hitting .316-2-6, logging a solid .350 OBP. Barney does have just three walks to 15 strikeouts, which suggests a correction. But for now, he should get to play every day, and qualifies at third (six games), second (20 games), and now short (two games), depending upon your league and rules.
Similarly, Cliff Pennington (.217-1-5) is back from the DL and will probably get the starting time at short in the absence of Andrelton Simmons. Again, as we plod into the hot months, keeping as many players as you can active is the only path to victory, and Pennington offers at-bats and some speed potential (80 career swipes). Plus, playing daily often fuels a player's numbers for a spell. Pennington is of use only in the deepest of leagues, but those are indeed the ones where the at-bats are toughest to scrounge, so don't write the Angel off.
Don't look now, but former hottest prospect on earth Jurickson Profar is back! Profar, still just 23, has had the ups-and-downs to make owners--fantasy and those in Texas--crazy with promise and injuries and struggles. But with a solid .277-40-201 minor league line with 57 swipes and 198 walks to 249 whiffs (.364 OBP), maybe the infielder has been down and away just long enough to have become a sleeper? Watch out!
Let's finish with another middle infielder in the Giants' Kelby Tomlinson, a 12th round pick of the Giants in 2011. Tomlinson made his mark with the team last year, supplying a .303-2-20 line spelling the injured Joe Panik. So, Tomlinson made the club this year as a utility player, and that he has been, hitting .339 with four steals over 28 games. But, with the injury to Angel Pagan, Tomlinson has played some outfield--and even earned an assist the other night--meaning he has spent time at second, third, short, and the outfield this season. He makes a great addition, again in a deep format.
Feel free to comment below and don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.
Second chances are indeed a great thing (not to mention third opportunities) and a cluster of players moved into some kind of limelight this past week, trying to recapture previous skill.
Let's start with the two guys--one local, one formerly--I probably know the best with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
The Angels, whose pitching staff looks like a bedraggled collective of refugees from the Battle of Austerlitz, took the big bite and signed former Giant Tim Lincecum to a one-year $2.5 million deal. I have written a lot of times of how much I have seen of Lincecum at a micro level, tracking his pitches over a good 50 games over the years.
No question about how good Lincecum was, but similarly, there is no question that some combination of velocity loss, inability to adjust to hitters not biting on his slider, coupled with what looked like a loss of confidence led to a 4.68 ERA over 614.6 innings since 2011. In 2010, Timmy led the league in strikes, but 2012, he led the league in earned runs and has not scored a WHIP under 1.315 over these past four seasons. I wish I could recommend Lincecum, who was as fun and exciting a pitcher in baseball from 2007-11, but has been among the worst since. Sorry all, just cannot go there.
Similarly, I have thought Cain, still a Giant, had also succumbed to the toil of innings and adjustments and confidence. But it looks like he might have regained some stuff, posting a 1-1, 1.71 record over his last three starts with a 1.095 WHIP and 17 punchouts over 21 innings. Cain's fastball was ringing in at around 92 against the Cubs last Saturday. I still have some concerns with Cain, but he is more than worth a gamble, and is likely available in most leagues and formats thanks to a few mediocre and injury-plagued seasons.
If you ever wondered how ephemeral pitching skills can be, let's look at another Angel, Matt Shoemaker, who was solid for a couple of starts (1-0, 1.38) after his first game this year, then was as bad as can be over his next three starts (0-2, 17.41), prompting a demotion. But Shoemaker has returned in his last pair of outings, going 1-0, 2.19 over his next 12.3 innings. Again, Shoemaker comes with the potential to be clobbered, but he also had a solid 2014-15 with a 24-13, 3.74 over 271.3 frames with 240 whiffs and a 1.146 WHIP, meaning the skills appear to be there.
Another hot arm belongs to Alex Wood of the Dodgers. I have always been a fan of Wood, who really established himself with the Braves in 2014, going 11-11, 2.71, with a 1.141 WHIP over 24 starts and 171.6 innings. Wood struggled a little in 2015, and was then part of the crazy giant Braves/Dodgers/Marlins swap and his 1-3, 4.06 record might look iffy to a lot of owners. However, over his past three starts, the southpaw is 0-0, 1.96 over 18.3 frames, with 27 punchouts and an 0.818 WHIP. The Dodgers are indeed the best team at developing and working with hurlers in my view, and ideally the team might well have unlocked Wood's skills to the next level. Do track the lefty, who makes for a solid fourth or fifth starter on any roto squad and could look good as a cheap DFS gambit before the world notices.
One more under-the-radar hurler has to be the Brewers' Junior Guerra, a 31-year-old Venezuelan signed by the Braves in 2001 who has posted a minor league line of 5-12, 3.72 with the Braves and then Mets until 2008, and then fled to the Mexican and Carribean Leagues along with the American Association until 2015, when the White Sox took a shot and signed the righty. The Brewers claimed Guerra off waivers during the off-season, and over his last two starts, he is 2-0, 2.08 with an 0.923 WHIP and 15 whiffs over 13.3 innings. Guerra is now 3-0, 3.96 and could be another quiet replacement on your roster.
Turning to a few hitters, Jimmy Paredes, who hit .275-10-42 for the Orioles as a utility player last year, began 2016 on the DL with a wrist injury, came off the DL and was promptly released. Paredes signed with the Jays and whacked a homer his first game back, suggesting maybe his wrist is stronger than Baltimore realized. The issue for Paredes is second base will belong to Devon Travis when Travis returns from the DL in the next couple of weeks, and Darwin Barney is hitting .338-2-6 as bench support. Still, Paredes can play all over and in a deep format is worth a look.
The Reds' Adam Duvall just banged his eighth homer over the weekend, pushing his line to .264-8-17, which is pretty good, albeit with a .297 OBP. Duvall strikes out a lot (39 times over 39 games) and does not walk much (just six this year) but the former Giant is showing good pop with a .543 slugging percentage. The right-handed hitter could make a good choice in an NL-only format, and might be a good low end DFS selection depending upon the matchup.
Another guy I had hopes for is Robbie Grossman, still just 26, but now on his fourth team. Drafted by the Bucs in 2008, Grossman has posted a solid .379 OBP as a minor leaguer and a .329 MLB mark to go with .243-12-66 totals over 193 games played for those four squads. Grossman is a switch-hitter, has decent speed (131 minor league swipes) and has to have some good seasons in him once he has a chance to play every day. I am not sure this will happen with the Twins, but do track the outfielder and his playing time.
Please feel free to comment to your heart's content below, and don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.
Well, to start, no, you are not hallucinating, or stuck in one of Stewie Griffin's time machines, but last week I did call "Week 5," and now we are at "Week 7." Since I start the season cycle essentially after the completion of the first week of play, I have always numbered as such, but the reality--per serious discussions between Lord Z and me--is that this is indeed the beginning of the seventh week of play. So, in an effort to mitigate as much confusion as permits, let it be "Week 7," and from there we move forward, henceforth and forever. Or, till the end of the season if I forget.
Last week, I started with the odd paths of Drew Stubbs and Colby Rasmus, noting the hitting anemic Braves must have felt pretty sure of themselves to drop Stubbs on May 2. Texas then signed the flychaser five days later, and five days after that, Stubbs hit a walk-off for the Rangers. Karma. It is a strange and scary thing, especially as related to baseball.
Which is not unlike Michael Bourn, released Monday by the Jays, then signed a couple of days later by Arizona, and now back in the Majors due to the injury to David Peralta. Not that I recommend either of these journeymen, save playing in the deepest of leagues to fill a space with something.
Which brings me to Matt Bush, where I linked to the Wikipedia bio on the former shortstop, felon, and Ranger (does Texas not care who plays for them?). I am not sure if the story merits saying much more than Bush doesn't seem like a stand-up guy--or wasn't in the past--but as a converted pitcher, the 5'9" right-hander has some serious gas. Over 88.6 innings, Bush has 131 strikeouts with just 71 hits allowed (1.174 WHIP). He won't start, and might be a closer some day, given Bush keeps a clean nose, but for now a story--though not sure if "feel good"--about a middle guy who can fill a gap with some whiffs should your team need it. By the way, Bush is already party to controversy, having hit Jose Bautista, which became the prelude to a scrum between Bautista and Rougned Odor.
There is an odd Bush connection in Brandon Guyer, a player I targeted for the week before Bush appeared on my radar. The Rays outfielder has been assembling a fine year, banging a pair of homers off Sonny Gray on Sunday, raising his season totals to .338-4-11 over 71 at-bats. A fifth-round pick of the Cubs in 2007, Guyer has a minor league line of .298-55-297 over 588 games, and .266-16-64 over 265 big league contests. Guyer is 30, so if you grab the outfielder, the relationship might be quick. And, when Guyer played at Durham in 2012, teammate Bush borrowed Guyer's SUV and was involved in an accident that led to 30 months in state prison.
A couple of top prospect hitters were promoted over the past week, starting with the Reds' Jose Peraza. Peraza, a 22-year-old Venezuelan, was originally signed by the Braves in 2010, and then was involved in not one, but two three-team swaps, starting with the complex Mat Latos and Alex Wood deadline deal of last year, then the Todd Frazier swap in December. Peraza was hitting .295-1-8 with six swipes at Louisville when called up, although the infielder/outfielder's tenure might be linked to Billy Hamilton's time on the bereavement list. The reality is the Reds would probably be better off letting Peraza play and develop at the Major League level as he has a much better set of skills than Hamilton, but don't really expect a full-time role for another year.
Similarly, the Yankees promoted catcher Gary Sanchez, another 22-year-old, signed in 2009 by the Pinstripes. A power-hitting backstop, Sanchez has minor league totals of .275-99-394 over 592 games with an .801 OPS. Sanchez had a great Fall League last year, hitting .295-7-21 over 22 games, and the catcher is the future behind the dish in the Bronx, meaning something needs to be done with respect to Brian McCann, signed through 2018 (with a 2019 option). If there is a way to grab either Peraza or Sanchez and hide them on your minor league roster, do so.
Atlanta hurler Mike Foltynewicz has been up and down between the Braves and Gwinnett this year, with his most memorable start being May 2, against the Mets, when the New Yorkers clubbed three second inning homers off the 24-year-old right-hander. Foltynewicz was a first-round selection of the Astros in 2010, and went to the Braves as part of the Evan Gattis swap. If you are desperate for an arm in a deep format, Foltynewicz might make a good sleeper. Since the abuse at the hands of the Metropolitans, the 19th overall pick has gone 1-0, 1.20 over 15 innings with 12 whiffs and a miniscule 0.890 WHIP, holding the Royals and Diamondbacks in check over the past week. Based upon Foltynewicz' rugged 5-8, 5.23 line thus far in the bigs, most owners will be scared off. But, track a player who could even make a great cheap flier in DFS contests.
Back to Tampa, Matt Andriese twirled a two-hit shutout against the Athletics on Saturday, has made two starts thus far, and is 2-0, 0.56, with an 0.562 WHIP and eight strikeouts over 16 innings. The right-hander was a third-round selection of the Padres in 2011, and was then swapped to Tampa Bay as part of the 2014 Jesse Hahn deal, and he has a decent minor league mark of 41-29, 3.27, with 520 strikeouts over 584 innings. Andriese could be helpful in an AL-only format right now, and maybe more, meaning he is worth tracking.
Finally, the Giants are having issues with the bottom part of their rotation, and one of the team's top young arms, Clayton Blackburn, got the call to ATT. A 16th round pick of San Francisco in 2011, Blackburn is 34-24, 3.11 over 550.3 minor league frames, with 527 strikeouts and a 1.145 WHIP. The righty is 11-7, 3.43 over 154.6 minor league innings and has very little left to prove at Triple-A. However, I am not certain Blackburn is the tonic to the struggles of Matt Cain and Jake Peavy. Add him accordingly.
Please feel free to comment below with epiphanies, as you see fit, and don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.
On Monday, the Braves--a team who could surely use some hitting--bagged their investment in Drew Stubbs, and designated him, essentially making the former up-and-comer a free agent. Stubbs signed with the Rangers five days later but the moves reminded me once again about what a tough game--and business--baseball is.
For some reason, I always associated the seemingly talented Stubbs with another talent from the same basic generation in Colby Rasmus. Stubbs, 31, was a first-round pick of the Reds in 2006 (#8 overall) while Rasmus, 29, was a first-rounder taken by the Cardinals in 2006 (#28 overall). Perhaps because both had relative breakout seasons in 2010 is why I linked the pair, for that year Rasmus went .276-23-66-12 while Stubbs was .255-22-77-30.
Now both toil for the Texas teams, and though Rasmus was off to a hot start, his streaky stick has slowed, making him almost as vulnerable on the struggling Astros as is Stubbs, now a minor leaguer with the Rangers. Meaning it is just as tough for the Rangers and Reds and Cards and Astros to get it right as it is for us as fantasy GM's.
It is a tough game, but a little planning can often help, and one player who is interesting to plan around right now would be Evan Gattis. A DH only last year, Gattis hit ,246-27-88 with 20 doubles, but as we well know, he missed the last of spring and early weeks of the season due to hernia surgery.
Gattis has been back for 20 games, hitting a rugged .207-1-7, but, in a move that could prove beyond interesting this past week, the Astros sent their investment to Corpus Christi partially to get into a groove, but mostly so the DH could work on his catching skills. Gattis caught 135 games for the Braves from 2013-14, prior to his swap to Houston, and now the plan is for Gattis to back up Jason Castro. That means if you have Gattis filling your DH slot, you will suddenly have a lot of flexibility, and perhaps three catchers with which to contend. That means a possible trade for what you need, so monitor Gattis' progress, and who in your league needs a catcher, with whom you can deal, and project some possibilities to strengthen your roster.
Looking at one other backstop, the Rockies' Dustin Garneau was a 19th round selection of the Coloradans in 2009, and over parts of eight minor league seasons has a line of .248-64-296 after 529 games. Garneau played a limited role of 22 games (.157-2-8) last year but has returned with a .333-0-2 mark over his first week of play since returning to Coors. Catchers come into their own later than other position players as a rule, and Garneau might make an interesting cheap FAAB pick in a deep NL format.
Turning to a couple of more hot new arms, I have to say I hate to endorse another Rockie, Jon Gray, Colorado's #1 selection in 2013, mostly because of his home park. Gray has pretty good minor league totals of 20-12, 3.76, with 285 whiffs over 284.6 frames, but until last week, his life at Coors was beyond miserable. However, over two starts last week, Gray is 0-1, with 16 strikeouts over 13 innings to go with a 1.38 ERA and 0.651 WHIP. Both starts were outside hitting friendly Coors, but those are some deadly numbers, making Gray a streaming possibility, as well as a potential DFS gamble when he throws in a pitcher's park.
Another intriguing arm, that which belongs to John Lamb, might also be coming into its own. A fifth-rounder of the Royals in 2008, Lamb was part of the Johnny Cueto spoils the Reds culled last year at the deadline. The southpaw struggled over 10 starts after the trade, notching a 1-5, 5.80 mark over 49.6 innings, albeit with 58 strikeouts. Lamb started this season in the Minors but made his debut last week, holding the Giants to six hits and a run. Before nabbing the pitcher, do check out his injury status, for Lamb was lifted in the fifth inning of his start against the Brewers on Mother's Day. Otherwise, in most formats, Lamb is worthy of a roster spot depending upon your league format.
Boston is close to inserting Eduardo Rodriguez back into the rotation. Rodriguez, who went 10-6, 3.85 last year over 121 frames at Fenway, has been sidelined by a knee injury incurred over the spring. The lefty tossed 93 pitches for Pawtucket last week and might make one more start there before returning to Boston, although management could decide the hurler is ready now. Either way, if available, keep an eye on the Red Sox pitcher.
With Mike Moustakas injured, the Royals advanced Cheslor Cuthbert, a 23-year-old Nicaraguan signed in 2009. Cuthbert came up last year under similar circumstances but was overmatched, posting a .217-1-8 line over 19 games. This year, however, he has posted a .333-7-28 mark at Omaha with 12 walks to 14 strikeouts, Cuthbert could be ready for the Majors. Certainly, stash him in your AL-only league and do watch his progress in every other format.
Finally, the Dodgers seem as deep in outfielders as they do pitchers, but just as the team's hurlers get hurt, so do the flychasers seem brittle. Enter Trayce Thompson, acquired as part of the three-way White Sox-Reds-Dodgers deal of last season, who hit .260-13-39 over 106 games at Charlotte last year before the swap. Thompson has been with the big club all year, hitting .268-2-9 over 56 at-bats although with just three walks to 19 strikeouts. Meaning it is hard to endorse Thompson, but if your league is deep, sometimes the hand of an owner is forced.
Make sure you comment below as moved, and remember, you can indeed find me @lawrmichaels.
Hot on the heels of some top prospect pitchers being promoted to the Show last week, this past week was no different with another cluster of potentially awesome young arms arriving to ideally take a spot in baseball stats and lore.
Of course the local buzz was that of Sean Manaea, the Royals' first-round selection in 2013 out of Indiana State, whom the Royals swapped at the trade deadline last July to Oakland as part of the Ben Zobrist deal. With a 16-9, 2.82 minor league record (257 K over 214 IP), Oakland was clear that Eric Surkamp and Chris Bassitt (now injured) were not the answer to the bottom of their rotation, so the Athletics gave their top pitching prospect the ball Friday. The results were iffy: four runs, four hits, four walks, three whiffs, but not unlike Manaea. I say this in that I saw him pitch both at the Fall League, and then again this spring, where the big right-hander (6'5", 245 lbs.) would take a hitter or two to lock into a zone, and then be fine. As in during the spring, Manaea walked a batter, then whiffed the next four in a row and got six out more than efficiently. Obviously, Oakland is a good pitcher's park and for sure, times have changed with respect to grabbing rookie twirlers. Manaea does have a pedigree, if nothing else.
Detroit nabbed 23-year-old hurler Michael Fulmer in much the same way that Oakland copped Manaea: The Mets drafted Fulmer in the first round in 2011, and then swapped him to the Tigers as part of the Yoenis Cespedes trade, again at the trade deadline last season.
Fulmer has started 78 games over his six years as a minor league professional, accumulating a mark of 27-25, 3.21, with 385 strikeouts over 398 innings to accompany a 1.261 WHIP. Fulmer had a better debut than Manaea, earning a win with five innings (seven hits, two runs, four whiffs). Fulmer might have an easier initial adjustment to the Majors, but Manaea looks to be a better prospect.
Another arm that garnered looks this past week belongs to Adam Conley, who went 7 2/3 frames against the Brewers on Friday. Conley did not allow a hit, but he did walk four, and finally succumbed to a pitch count of 116. A second-round selection of the Marlins in 2011, the Southpaw turned in 81 starts over 439.6 innings, with 397 strikeouts and a 1.251 ratio. Conley debuted last year for the Fish, posting a more than respectable 4-1, 3.76 mark over 11 starts and 67 innings, with a good 59 strikeouts, acceptable 1.281 WHIP, and worth considering seven dingers. Conley, now 26, has seemingly stepped up his game this year with a 1-1, 3.67 record over five starts and 27 innings with 29 punchouts. He makes a decent gamble in an NL-only format and is worth tracking in anything mixed.
OK, there is even one more starting arm out there in 22-year-old Jose Berrios, the Twins flame thrower who fanned 484 over 457.3 minor league innings after being a first-round selection in 2012 out of Papa Juan High School in Puerto Rico. The slender (6', 185 lbs.) righty chalked up 38 wins to 20 losses, with a 2.91 ERA prior to his promotion before taking some lumps with his first start Wednesday when the Tribe roughed him up for five runs, six hits, and a pair of walks, and it could be that Berrios is up before his time. However, the Twins, who are scrambling right now, could well choose to keep Berrios, who was 8-3 over 16 starts and 97 innings at Triple-A, meaning the next level is The Show. Berrios could well be the most talented of all these arms, so the issue is whether he has the skills and personality to grow at the highest level. But, if I were to pick one of the four, Berrios would be the guy.
With Huston Street broken, Joe Smith appears to be the heir apparent to saves for the Angels, at least until Street is back on the street, or gives a reason to turn to Cam Bedrosian. Smith earned 15 saves with the Halos in 2014, and five more last year, making him as safe a bet as there is. Do watch out for Bedrock II, who bagged 29 saves in the Minors.
Turning to some hitters, I like Mallex Smith, the fifth-round selection of the Padres in 2012 who went to the Braves as part of the 2014 Justin Upton swap. Over five minor league seasons, Smith assembled a .295-12-108 line, although with 226 steals and 296 runs over 337 games. Smith managed a decent 190 walks to 300 whiffs (.380 OBP) in the Minors, and surely, at .188-0-7, on a sorry Braves team, things might be bleak for a spell. But, do keep an eye on the speedy centerfielder, for learning with a team like this is a lot different than say the pressure on Fulmer, who is trying to find a niche on a team that is contending.
I am not sure if it is worth the mention, but I have long been a fan of Brett Wallace, who has stumbled around the Orioles, Jays, Athletics, and Astros organizations before landing with the Padres. To be sure, Wallace was a first-round pick of the Cardinals out of Arizona State in 2008 with a minor league line of .304-99-373 with an .858 OPS and .377 OBP over 650 minor league games. However, the talent just never seemed to move to the big leagues with a .246-34-121 line over 390 contests at the highest level. Wallace will be 30 in August, and I have no idea why the third sacker has caught my eye, other than I always imagined him performing better, and he is starting at third for the Pads (hitting .174-0-3 over 15 games). Call me a patron saint of lost causes (actually that would be St. Jude), but keep an eye on Wallace in an NL-only format, at least till the break (if he can manage to stay in the Majors that much longer). There has to either be a hot streak or his stepping up to his skill set at some point.
Toronto will likely not miss the suspension of Chris Colabello nearly as much as the Marlins will miss Dee Gordon, but Derek Dietrich, with his .278-2-8 line, looks like the man. Dietrich, who qualifies at all the infield spots and played 26 games in the outfield last year, sports a .237-26-72 line over 214 games. Dietrich is getting playing time, but if his stick cannot deliver, Martin Prado can indeed play second. The Fish also have Chris Johnson, who hit .286-3-18 over 83 games split between the Braves and Indians last year. Johnson could sneak into the hot corner and move Prado, so check out the playing time there, as well.
If you are playing DFS anywhere, make sure you check out Lord Zola's daily projections.
And, don't forget, you can always hit me up @lawrmichaels.
In what might be more than just a stop-gap, three top pitching prospects were brought forth over the weekend. Blake Snell, Henry Owens and Aaron Blair all got starts, and save ultra leagues, all three might even be available on the waiver wire.
Of the three, we have seen Owens before, over 11 starts and 63 innings last year, resulting in 4-4, 4.57 totals with 50 punchouts. The lefty is tall (6'6", 220 lbs.), so one would think Owens should be more dominant, and his minor league totals of 595 whiffs over 536 frames suggest that could be the path. But for now, Owens is still learning the game at the Major League level. Among the three, he is the most likely to stick simply because there is little else to conquer at Triple-A. Owens was 1-1, 1.00 over three starts and 18 innings, with 23 strikeouts, but 10 walks. As witnessed by the Southpaw's Sunday performance which included four free passes and five hits over 3.3 innings, Owens is still a work in progress, meaning if you are rebuilding and this is a way to protect Owens, fine. But if you play him, expect some lumps, at least until the final months of play.
Snell was the top June selection as a High School graduate by the Rays in 2011, and since went 34-25, 2.74 over 436.3 innings with 488 strikeouts, and though the 6'4" lefty walked 217, he allowed just 22 homers while posting a 1.295 WHIP. Snell was clearly up for just the one start, but he comported himself well with five innings and six strikeouts to a pair of hits and a walk in a no-decision. Snell was 1-1, 2.51 with 21 whiffs over 14.3 Triple-A innings and will be the first one back in all likelihood should the Rays have a need to fill. I like Owens, but I like Snell better.
The 23-year-old Blair was drafted out of high school by the Astros (21st round) but went to Marshall University and was subsequently drafted #1 in 2013 by the Diamondbacks, who then included the prospect in the questionable Shelby Miller trade last fall. Blair has made 66 starts in the Minors, going 26-13 over 382 innings with a 3.51 ERA, 354 strikeouts and a 1.149 WHIP, all of which suggests the 6'4" right-hander will need his defense. On Sunday, Blair took the loss in his first start, allowing three runs over 5.3 innings. On a rebuilding team, times could be tough for Blair, but the Braves might as well let him gain experience in the Majors. Of the three arms, he is the least desirable. However, all three are excellent prospects and gambles depending upon your game.
Yet another hurler worth a look is Tyler Duffey, just brought up by the Twins. Following his strong 5-1, 3.10 record for Minnesota last year over ten late-season starts, it was speculated Duffey would crack the Opening Day rotation. Not to be, though like his mates, the fifth round pick out of Rice in 2012 started at Rochester where he went 0-0, 1.72 over three starts and 15.6 innings. Duffey is definitely a control guy (92 walks over 443 minor league innings with a 1.115 WHIP, although the Twins too might be in for a roller coaster season. All these young arms are interesting, and all are fine on a reserve list, but be careful not to stack up with too many at one time unless times are already desperate for your team.
Looking at an older arm, it is not likely that Oakland can keep it up with Eric Surkamp and Chris Bassitt. This means that Henderson Alvarez, formerly of the Marlins via the Rays by virtue of the million player 2012 Jose Reyes trade, might just be a guy worth tracking. Alvarez did undergo shoulder surgery in 2015 after four starts (0-4, 6.45) but in general had been developing well with an overall 27-34, 3.80 line over 563 big league innings, though with just 296 strikeouts. Alvarez has been rehabbing (three innings thus far at Stockton), and he did turn in a fine 12-7, 2.65 season over 187 innings with a 1.234 WHIP before the injury in 2014, so there is something there that could suit the Coliseum. And, I would still keep an eye on Jesse Hahn.
While we are in Oakland, I had a lot invested in Danny Valencia, but not Chris Coghlan. With Jed Lowrie--who can play third--hanging at second for the most part, Coghlan factors to get a good chunk of playing time. He banged a pair of homers over the weekend in Toronto and did have a nice .283-9-45 season with the Cubs a couple of years back. In an AL-only format, the multi-positional (first, second, third, and outfield) Athletic might be the filler of the gap.
The Angels will be giving time to Rafael Ortega while Daniel Nava is sidelined. The 25-year-old Venezuelan did appear briefly (six at-bats, three hits) as a 21-year-old for the Rockies in 2012 and is a speed burner with 192 steals over 709 minor league games, posting a .289-36-212 line with a solid .355 OBP (277 walks, 381 whiffs). Playing time is the name of the game, and in an AL-only format, Ortega makes a nice pick up.
Lastly, there is Ezequiel Carrera, off to a nice start with the Jays. Carrera, who is 28 and has played with four teams over six seasons, is hitting .318-0-2 this year and banged a homer off Surkamp on Sunday. But over the long-term, his 39 walks to 134 strikeouts (.310 OBP) is more likely to reveal itself. Tread carefully.
If you are playing DFS anywhere, make sure you check out Lord Zola's daily projections which now include positioning.
And, don't forget, you can always hit me up @lawrmichaels.
It certainly did not take long for the injury bug to haunt our drafts in 2016. Those of us with A.J. Pollock and Ender Inciarte already feel the burn, and this past week a few more names hit the DL, making space for some free agent at-bats that could indeed help your squad.
For example, Glen Perkins is gone with something scarily deemed to be a "frayed labrum", which just sounds bad for a guy who uses said muscle to hurl a projectile. The Twins verified Sunday tha it will be more than the obligatory 15 days on the DL--in fact, to me, this sounds bad--but the closer for Paul Molitor today is Kevin Jepsen. The righty culled his second save over the weekend and is the guy for now, although I would keep an eye on Trevor May.
Charlie Blackmon--a top pick of many in NFBC-style formats--is out with turf toe, one of those seemingly minor sounding ailments that can haunt a player for a long time. Blackmon is down probably through the end of the month, and Ben Paulsen will continue to get everyday play, either in the outfield or at first.
But, if Ryan Raburn is floating around in your free agent pool, the streaky hitter--off to a hot start of .357-2-3--will get some time and is a good bet in a deep league. Similarly, if out there, Mark Reynolds--also good out of the blocks at .280-0-3--who is equally streaky makes a good play.
Looking at backstops, the Tigers' James McCann is out with an ankle injury and that likely means Jarrod Saltalamacchia will handle the load. Salty definitely has some pop with 101 homers as pretty much a decade long part-timer who does very little else.
Texas catcher Robinson Chirinos has a broken forearm and is out until July it seems, and in an AL-only league, this could be a tough blow. Chirinos is one of those guys who could hit 20 homers if given 400 at-bats, and a lot of owners understood this going into the 2016 drafts. Right now, the Rangers have Bryan Holaday with a career .246-3-33 line as a Major Leaguer over 114 games.
Texas also has 27-year-old Brett Nicholas on the bench, owner of a minor league .275-60-355 mark over seven years of play, meaning neither is really worthy of much thought. The Rangers had signed Mike McKenry, who fit the Chirinos profile over part-time play, meaning both were .250-10-38 guys with 215 at-bats, but McKenry was released.
The other possibility is Chris Giminez, who has been down with a leg infection and is also several weeks away from being useful on the diamond. Meaning, I would not be surprised to see Texas make a bid for Jonathan Lucroy depending upon how the next weeks shake down in both Texas and Milwaukee.
However, were I plugging a fantasy hole, there is no question Boston's Christian Vazquez is the guy I would go for in just about any format. The 25-year-old Vazquez debuted in 2014 as a 23-year-old, posting a .240-1-20 total over 175 at-bats. But, the prospect then missed all of 2014 following Tommy John surgery, beginning his rehab with the Winter League in his native country.
Since the Sox were high on Blake Swihart to start 2016, Vazquez started this season at Triple-A, but the change has been made. It has been a tough row to hoe for Boston and their "promising backstops," for just over the past years, Swihart and Ryan Lavarnway were among the guys thought to be the next stalwart catcher for Boston. I think Vazquez is the guy.
One more Texas injury, that to Shin-Soo Choo, who is out for a month with a calf injury. Enter Nomar Mazara, the 21-year-old phenom who busted onto the scene this past week, posting .444-1-5 totals. As a 20-year-old last year, Mazara put up .296-14-69 totals split between Double-A and Triple-A at age 20, notching 52 walks to 102 strikeouts, good for a .366 OBP. Mazara could well prove to be the exciting debut of 2016, and he may even force some nice decisions upon the Rangers management when Choo is ready to return. If by some miracle Mazara is available in your league, grab him.
If you are looking for an arm, not meaning to pick on the Rangers today, but Martin Perez has always been one of those guys who had talent but had trouble harnessing it. I watched Perez pitch against the Orioles Friday, and he looked very polished, so then I noticed the lefty has a solid 0-1, 3.44 record and though Perez walked six against the Angels two starts ago, six whiffs to a pair of walks were the results in a no decision. If you need an arm--and we all do--Perez is worthy of a look.
Finally, with the injury to Sergio Romo, San Francisco promoted Mac Williamson, a big outfielder, originally drafted by the Red Sox, with .290-52-210 totals over 322 minor league games. The 25-year-old had an exciting .298-5-14 spring over 27 games, and the Giants seem to come up with a guy like him every year: guys who get called up and explode for 4-10 homers out of nowhere. If you are in a deep NL format and need a hitter, give Williamson a thought.
Don't forget you can always hit me up @lawrmichaels.
Craziness and surprise players and second guesses are all part of the first week of 2016, when the "story" was indeed NL power hitting NL'er Trevor Story. In fact, aside from being clever in using Story as a lead, we will leave him, as the Rockies shortstop is hardly a secret.
However, there are a cluster of Week 1 performers worth our eyes, so let's take a look at them, starting with Reds shortstop Eugenio Suarez. A member of Lord Zola's Tout Wars team, Todd inadvertently nominated Suarez for $12 when he meant to open the infielder at $1 (and whom I rostered two years for a while on my AL Tout squad while Suarez played for the Tigers). Traded for Alfredo Simon last September, Suarez is well on his to earning Todd his $12 with a killer .368-3-8 week. Suarez did hit 13 big flies last year and though his on-base numbers are a little low (.315 range) the infielder similarly has some pop and a little speed for a middle infielder, and if you have an injury in a mixed league, chances are the shortstop is out there. You could do worse.
On the other hand, Houston might have a serious find in their 33rd round pick of 2013, Tyler White, who owns the first base slot for now. White is one of those guys I love, having posted a .422 OBP with 174 walks to 164 strikeouts over 294 minor league games, which included a .911 OPS and line of .311-35-215. If available, jump all over White.
With the injury to Kyle Schwarber, expect Jorge Soler to get the lion's share of playing time, and also expect that when is active Javier Baez, who played some outfield during the spring, to get into a groove as the team's utility player. Also remember how deep the team is with the likes of Ben Zobrist, who can play second and the outfield, but I would not expect a lot from Matt Szczur, despite his hot start (.571-1-4). A fifth-round selection in 2010, Szczur has some skills for sure, in speed (140 minor league swipes) but his on-base numbers, unlike those of White, are derelict. 347 whiffs to 199 walks was good for a minor league .346 OBP when we factor the .281 batting average, but in the Majors, over 153 at-bats, that number drops to .289 and I don't see Szczur improving it that much at age 26.
One more hitter this week, Jeremy Hazelbaker, was a fourth-round pick of the Red Sox in 2009, then was swapped to the Dodgers, then released, and signed as a free agent no less than twice by St, Louis. A left-handed hitting first baseman/outfielder--something of which the Cards have a surplus--has had a nice start with a .400-2-3 first week of 2016. But, like Szczur, I don't see much growth potential, partially because of his 295 walks to 789 whiffs (.341 OBP) but mostly with Matt Adams, Brandon Moss, Matt Holliday, and Stephen Pisoctty all vying for outfield/first base time, Hazelbaker will be a victim of those numbers.
Turning to some pitching, the big name of the week has to be Dodgers starter Ross Stripling who dazzled the Giants on Friday. Nabbed from Texas A&M in the fifth round in 2012, Stripling has made 48 starts with a 12-10, 2.83 mark over 235.3 innings. Stripling earned 213 whiffs to just 57 walks, with a 1.105 WHIP and just 12 homers allowed and on a team so good at developing pitchers, Stripling makes as good a rookie pitcher gamble as you will find.
A couple of more starters worthy of your interest continues with Vince Velasquez, the Astros second rounder in 2010, who then swapped the hurler along with Mark Appel for Ken Giles. Velasquez made 19 appearances after the swap last year, including seven starts, over which he posted a 1-1, 4.37 record, but whiffed 58 over 55.3 innings while posting a 1.275 WHIP. The down side is the Phils are not likely to set too many records for wins this year, but Velasquez is an interesting cog in a potentially interesting Phils rotation.
Juan Nicasio has been bouncing around the Majors since 2011, posting a somewhat boring 23-25, 4.83 record over 445.3 innings, which included 71 starts, largely for the Rockies. A change of scene to the Dodgers last year helped a lot as Nicasio, now 29, whiffed 65 over 58.3 innings. Control is a concern, as the big righty (6'4", 240 lbs.) did walk 32 last year (1.56 WHIP), but Nicasio could be a nice fit on a good Pirates team. He was easily a big FAAB target in all the premiere leagues last week, and a solid seven strikeout, zero walk start last week suggests maybe the new Buc is coming into his own.
Looking to a couple of relievers, again back the Phils where Jenmear Gomez now has a pair of conversions and talk of committee or not, looks like he is primed to bag the bulk of saves this year. This is interesting, as the 25-year old Gomez only has that pair of saves for his career which spans back to 2006 when he debuted for Cleveland's Gulf Coast team, and Gomez is not really a strikeout guy with just 254 over his 445 big league frames, but, for now he has the hot hand and will likely get the ball.
Finally, expect Ryan Madson to be the right-handed platoon in Oakland's closer land, with Sean Doolittle being the Southpaw counterpart, meaning both will get save chances, and both can be stretched out over the season. My big fear of Doolittle is indeed that overwork coupled with his hard throwing would invite injury, but the Oakland is so good at interchangeable parts that this move makes a lot of sense in a lot of ways.
Never was there a game or time where hopes springs more eternal than with the opening of the baseball season. As proof of this, over the last couple of days Cory Luebke (who tossed 139.6 frames for the Padres in 2011, and not much since) earned a spot in the Pirates' bullpen while 32-year old situational lefty Dana Eveland made the cut in Tampa.
If you just finished drafting and are in a deep format, chances are something like the Marco Estrada or Evan Gattis injuries might have stung your squad for a bit, so, who are some guys who made rosters this spring who might be able to fill in with some innings or at-bats. Again, we are talking 20-team mixed leagues or AL/NL only formats, though with some success, these guys might indeed become more valuable even in shallower leagues. But, for now, most should be floating around the free agent pool.
Jesse Hahn (Oakland): OK, this is kind of cheating as Hahn was sent down following a horrendous spring where he had an 11.15 ERA over 15.6 innings but a forearm injury to Felix Doubront opens the door for Hahn to return. The Athletics hurler had some injury woes last year, but the righty did go 6-6, 3.35 with a 1.169 WHIP when he pitched last year and well, I have to think Hahn will work into a groove closer to those totals than his spring ones.
David Freese (Pirates): Two Opening Day hits? Wow. With Jung-Ho Kang injured, the equally brittle Freese has claimed the third base spot at PNC Park. Freese's numbers dropped since 2012, his final year in St. Louis, with the OBP falling from .371 that year, to .341 his first with the Angels to .323 last year. But, with a return to the National League and his best success, and on a deeper team meaning some time off, Freese could make a nice corner contributor.
Scott Schebler (Reds): Schebler is starting out as the left-handed hitting platoon in left field for Cincy. He had a decent enough spring hitting .255-3-12. Schebler, who came to the Reds via the three-team Todd Frazier deal last December, hit .250-3-4 with a pair of swipes for the Dodgers last year and a solid start could mean a starting gig, especially if Jay Bruce is moved.
A.J. Griffin (Texas): The former Athletic was sent down a la Hahn, but similarly was slated to be the #5 starter for the Rangers. Texas is said to be shopping for an arm, and there is Nick Martinez, but Griffin has always been a good WHIP (1.126) guy although he is vulnerable to the long ball, with 46 allowed over 288.6 innings (not necessarily good in Texas). Still, expect Griffin to make his start and with a little success, work the rotation spot, at least for a time on a team that should win some games.
Vincent Velasquez (Phillies): Acquired from the Astros as part of the Ken Giles deal, Velasquez is set to be the #5 starter in Phillies-land with the demotion of Adam Morgan. With the Astros last year, Velasquez whiffed 58 over 55.6 innings, and posted a 1.275 WHIP. After six scoreless innings with eight whiffs his last spring start, the job defaulted to the 23-year old right-hander.
Cody Anderson (Indians): Obviously there is a lot of focus on starting pitching here, but the truth is we all know a team can never have too much. Anderson bagged the fourth starter spot mostly based upon his solid 7-3, 3.05 year over 91.3 innings and 15 starts last year. A big guy--6'4", 240 pounds--who is more control than power (44 whiffs to 24 walks)--Anderson had a solid 1.106 WHIP last year. He is the kind of guy who can get knocked around from time-to-time, but the fundamentals seem to be there.
Rey Fuentes (Royals): Speedy outfielder who made the team thanks to the injury to Jarrod Dyson, Fuentes had a cup of coffee with the Padres in 2013 (.152-0-1 with three steals over 33 at-bats), but at two levels within the Royals system last year, Fuentes hit .310-9-47 with 29 steals and a .364 OBP.
Steven Wright (Boston): The Red Sox are giving Henry Owens a little more time, so Wright, who had a solid 2.77 ERA with 19 whiffs over 26 innings gets the ball every fifth day while Eduardo Rodriguez remains sidelined. Wright is not really any more overpowering than Anderson (52 whiffs over 72 innings last year for Boston) but first month of the season the junk ball guys seem to do well while hitters are getting their timing down.