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Wednesday 28th Jun 2017

Alas, with the Internet and information so accessible, there are really very few secrets in the world any longer. That especially holds true in the fantasy baseball universe, where, like the stock market, when I hear someone suggesting a hot tip/player, I figure by the time the name gets to me it is hardly a secret.

Since we can fill the pages with the likes of Jeremy Hellickson, I want to spend this time looking at players who are in the Show and are making a mark, thus potentially hitting the undervalued/hot list next year. Which also suggests the players could be worth picking up now, before they are too good/expensive.

So, as with Pat Burrell, the first on the list are certainly reclaimation projects. For, Burrell has dropped from favor fast, but the outfielder is just a few years removed from an eight year spread where he banged 234 homers and regularly logged an OBP in the .380 range. That all fell apart in Tampa, where Burrell's power (16 homers over 572 at-bats) and his on-bse skills (.304) tanked. Well, sometimes a change is a good thing, and Burrell is playing fairly regularly in San Francisco, back in the National League where he enjoyed his real success. The .287-5-12 totals with a .382 OBP over 110 at-bats are much closer to the career numbers, and the Giants are not only in the hunt, but will exploit players like Burrell and Aubrey Huff as they race towards a possible post-season appearance. Expect Burrell to keep it up.

While we are in San Francisco, the Giants now really have the deepest most promising rotation on the planet with Madison Bumgarner taking his place among the top five. I loved Bumgarner as a prospect, but feared whether he was overpowering enough to consistently get major league hitters out. Ture, his five SF starts this season are a small sample, and true, Bumgarner will have his share of bumps, but, there is no denying his 2-2, 2.57 totals so far, or the 21 whiffs over 28 innings with just five walks and 24 hits. He is a definite second half play.

I worked one of the Mets/Giants games over the weekend, and it is interesting Angel Pagan and Andres Torres, the respective lead off hitters for each team carries a pretty similar resume this season. Pagan, at .306-6-40 with 20 swipes and a .368 OBP bode pretty well for the future as he is just 28 years old. Torres is .276-8-32 with 17 swipes and a .371 OBP this season, though he logs in at age 32. Meaning both are good bets for some speed this season, with Pagan holding the torch for the coming years. 

A lot of folks were suggesting a break-out season for Padres third sacker Chase Headley, so to that end he may be disappointing with .276-7-33 totals. Headley had a nice April, hitting .322-1-8, with seven swipes, but tanked it somewhat in May and June hitting .250-2-12 and .225-1-7, but in July he has seriously picked up the pace, hitting .362-2-6 so far for the month. In his third full season, this all points to Headley stepping up his game.

An AL counterpart for Headley, though younger at 23 to Headley's 26, is Chicago's Gordon Beckham, who was pretty much written off after .216-3-22 totals for the first half. Even worse, Beckham banged just one homer over the first ten weeks of the season and hit .235-1-4 in April and .159-0-6 in May. Well, over the past month, Beckham has been hitting .305-3-9 over 62 at-bats. He is getting hot, and the worst of his season is likely over. Ideally this will be the worst slump of Beckham's career, but both these young men are good future targets for any keeper team.

I was looking through the top hitters in the majors for the first half of the season and was sort of surprised to see Florida's Gaby Sanchez among the leaders, with 96 hits (9 homers, 2 triples, 21 doubles) and the 26-year old has shown a good eye with 33 walks to 51 strikeouts (.362 OBP). Expect the power numbers to go up, at least to the 20 homer range, and potentially to 30 for a couple of good seasons. Again, Sanchez is just enough under the radar that you might just sneak him onto your roster as a good cheap power source: one whose on-base numbers will continue to improve.

 I have to admit, I saw a lot of Marco Scutaro in Oakland and did not think he had the durability to be a solid every day contributor. Wrong, was I as Scutaro did so well as a full timer in Toronto last year hitting career highs with .282-12-60 totals along with 35 doubles and 14 steals. This year, like Sanchez, Scutaro is among the leaders in hits with 103 (.278-4-28 with 28 doubles), but at 34 years of age, he is unlikely to get much better. Still, on the Sox for the next few years he is a good place holder. 

Looking at some hurles, I was skeptical that Colby Lewis would be able to translate his Japanese success into a winning career back in the USA. At 30, Lewis is a big guy (6'4", 230 pounds) who had 13-15, 6.12 totals before his exodus to Japan where apparently Lewis did indeed learn some control. At 9-5, 3.42 this season, with 112 strikeouts over 115.1 innings, Lewis is clearly on the right track, and he is also on a very good team.

Finally, Max Scherzer is back at it in Detroit (and Rick Porcello just might be, meaning the Tigers could be formidable over the second half) and though he is 6-7, 4.74 for the season, Scherzer is 2-1, 2.0 for the last month with 28 strikeouts over 25 innings, and with 95 strikeouts in in the top third of hurlers in strikeouts (with 95) despite almost a month's demotion in the minors.

Greetings at the break.

I kind of cheated this year, taking off for Yosemite to meet a bunch of friends for a long weekend eating and swimming and playing guitars and generally have fun out of the range of WiFi and the net, at least for a few days. We did listen to the Giants and then  the Athletics games on the way home, though, and ESPN was never off the charts.

But, usually at this juncture, I offer my words of advice for the break, so, here it goes.

  • Be realistic about your team. Sure, you want to win, and in redraft leagues the path is different, but, if you are in a keeper league and can make the moves to win--even by trading some youth and bargains that would be painful to lose--do it. Period. Winning is tough. More prospects will come.
  • And, if you are out of it, make the moves you have to to secure the players for your base in 2011. In other words, import as many of the cheap/promising players from those contending teams in exchange for your high priced vets as you can.
  • This is the time to begin looking at the June draft players and think about who to target for the Fall League.
  • Spend time with your family. Take them to the beach or at least out to dinner or an amusement park or something.
  • Make sure to you spend as much attentive time with your partner. Listen to him or her. Watch what they want to watch on the tube.

I hope the break is restful.

I will be back next week with the folks I am looking at grabbing or dumping for the second half next time.

Greetings andfelications of the Independence Day holiday. I hope you are haveing a great weekend full of family, food, and fun.

This is actually the weekend I have been waiting for for a while. With both teams out of town, I am actually getting some good rest. Watching games and moives (flipping in and out of the Star Wars marathon on Spike).

Of course it is always fun to start locally, and Oakland brought back Clayton Mortensen to cover for their damaged arms (in this case Dallas Braden). Acquired as part of the multi-player Matt Holiday swap, and the Cards #1 draft selection in 2007, Mortensen pitched pretty well in his Saturday debut. In a no-decision, he allowed six hits and four runs, but just a walk, and more important, struck out seven. Strikeouts had not been part of his big league game so far, so keep an eye on Mortensen and his control.

Sticking in Oakland, Vin Mazzaro, also part of the relief corps to Oakland's damaged arms, has had two good starts in a row, though one was a loss. In that game, Mazzaro allowed just two runs and six hits plus a walk over seven innings, while over the weekend just three hits to six walks as he got a win. With pretty good minor league credentials (38-30, 3.98) Mazzaro has kept his hits under innings since graduating to AA Midland in 2008. He has 409 whiffs over 538 minor league innings, but again has been closed to a whiff an innning since Midland. On a good defensive team like Oakland, he should fare well.

Speaking of recalled pitchers Mark Rzepcynski was recalled to help the Jays and their arm issues. Rzepcynski had a pretty good resume in 2009 at Toronto (2-4, 3.67) but the pitching deep Jays could spare him. Interstingly, Rzepcynski has had his worst showing during his pro career this season at Las Vegas (4-3, 6.66), but his track record, and team are enough to take a chance in a deeper league.

The Dodgers brought back the yo-yoing Xavier Paul with Manny nursing a dead thumb. The Dodgers are among the best at developing talent, and the flychaser has very good minor league totals (.292-70-377 over 709 games). With a pretty good career OBP of .361, Paul was hitting .348-12-34 with seven swipes in the minors, and is .298-0-5 with the big club over 69 at-bats this year. Again, in a deep league Paul could be a good fifth outfielder.

Hanging with the Dodgers, Travis Schlichting is one of those interesting players who can hit and throw. Drafted originally by the Rays Schlichting was a position player, who played all four infield positions (plus one game behind the dish) through 2007 when he converted to being a pitcher. As a hitter he went .249-8-92 over 399 games, while he is 12-6, 3.82 as a hurler. Pitching pretty much as a reliever, Schliting has good strikeout numbers with 156 over 186 innings, but 75 walks over that span is worrisome, and the 196 hits allowed suggests Schliting throws hard, but straight. So, interesting or not, let him go, at least till Schliting gives a reason to be sought.

It is probably a good thing that Schlichting switched to pitching, for the arms seem to be having a tough time staying healthy all over. Boston, also suffering from damaged wings, advanced Robert Manuel to fill the spot vacated by the hurting Manny Delcameron. This is a one-for-one, as Manuel, 26, has been a middle reliever since he was signed. With a career mark of 28-18, 2.75, including 27 saves over 409 innings. Manuel has 372 whiffs, and has allowed 362 hits, with just 75 walks and a 1.06 WHIP as a minor leaguer. Guys like Manuel tend to fare pretty well, so in a deep league he is a nice play.

Daniel Schlereth, traded with Max Scherzer last fall, was promoted by the Tigers, and he too makes an interesting selection. At 24, Schlereth was a first round pick of the Dbacks in 2008. He has gone 2-2, 1.93 with 105 whiffs over 74.2 innings and just 51 hits allowed. It is the 49 walks that are problematic, so though Schlereth has future closer (he has four minor league saves) written all over him, the potential wildness needs to be monitored prior to making a committment on him. 

Since we are deep into pitchers this week, Colorado's Esmil Rogers is the next new face on the block at Coors. With a Pedro Martinez body (6'", 150 lb.), Rogers has struggled his past two seasons at Class-AA Colorado Springs. Last year Rogers was 3-5, 7.42, and this season 1-3, 7.41. With 398 whiffs over 513.2 innings, Rogers may have a Pedro bod, but he lacks Pedro's velocity and control (552 hits, 177 walks). Pass. 

Barry Enright, a Diamondback arm, has had a nice minor league run since being selected in the second round of the 2007 draft, with totals of 28-16, 3.78 over 429 innings. Not completely overpowering, Enright still has 346 whiffs, and just 92 walks for a 1.25 WHIT. He has allowed 446 hits though, so control is the big thing. Enright did indeed display that control his first start with Arizona, winning his debut after allowing just a run over five innings (four each of hits and walks with five strikeouts). In an NL only format, Enright is worth a gamble; in a mixed league hold for now.

Finally, St. Louis promoted reliever Fernando Salas, a 25-year old Domincan hurler who has a 22-10, 3.58 record with 37 saves over 181 games and 243.2 innings. Salas has 235 whiffs, and has allowed 219 hits to 74 walks for a good 1.16 WHIP. Salas has fared well over his first three major league games, going 7.1 innings, allowing five hits, with four whiffs, a walk, and a run (which was a homer) allowed. Under Dave Duncan Salas should do well, so as a middle reliever on a good team, he makes a safe gamble in an NL only format.

 

I was driving home last Wednesday afternoon, listening to the Athletics game, when Oakland's brainiest (he went to Yale) player, Craig Breslow, came in to relieve with none out and the bags juiced. He got a pop out and two whiffs, and out of the inning with no damage. Now, I have had Breslow on my Tout Wars team for almost a month now, and in a deep AL or NL only format, guys like Breslow are essential.

Same with leagues where holds are counted, but, the reality is there are a lot of things to love about middle relievers. They do earn whiffs. They eat innings. If they get hit, it is usually minimal damage, such as a couple of runs over two-thirds of an inning. They also grab the occassional win or save, and, even in a shallow league, as the season progresses, they can come in and stabilize and protect good numbers. Oh yeah, and there are usually a handful available in any given league at any given time.

So, this time I thought we could take a look at middle relievers of note, starting with Mr. Breslow himself. Plucked off waivers from the Twins last season after struggles (1-2, 6.28 over 14.1 innings) Breslow has been nothing short of brilliant in green and gold. Over 60 games and 55. innings, he was 7-5, 2.60 last season for Oakland, appearing in a total of 77 games. This year is no different, as Breslow is 3-1, 2.60, with a WHIP of 0.96. What more needs to be said?

Arguably the best set-up guy in the Show is Tyler Clippard of the Nationals, who toiled 60.1 innings over 40 appearances last year for a 4-2, 2.69 mark. The nice thing about Clippard is he can do two innings, not to mention last year he allowed only 36 hits. This year Clippard is 8-5, 2.21, over 47 innings (32 hits, 53 whiffs, 20 walks). Simply said, he is the best right now.

Boston's pen is pretty good, and a lot of the strength comes from youngster Daniel Bard. A big (6'4") hard thrower, this is the year that Bard has come into his own (though he is just 25). Over 38 appearances, the Bard has gone 39.1 innings allowing 22 hits and 12 walks for a staggering WHIP of 0.86. Bard also has 42 strikeouts and a 1-2, 2.06 ERA with three saves.

Sometimes it takes a transition or two before a pitcher discovers his talent for setup, and Sean Marshall seems to be such an animal, as he was a starter (9-29, 4.56) with marginal effectiveness. This year, though, Marshall has realized himself, going 5-2, 2.29 over 35. innings and 36 games. He has 42 whiffs and has allowed just 2 walks and 26 hits for a good WHIP of  1.07. Oh yes, he also has a save.

Ineffective in the AL with Seattle, Eric O'Flaherty began to put it together when he joined the Braves last year going 2-, 3.04 over 78 games and 56. innings (52 hits, 39 stirkouts, 8 walks). This year he has indeed kicked it up a notch, going 2-1, 2.25, over 37 games and 28 innings. He has allowed 23 hits, 24 strikeouts and 3 walks for a WHIP of 1.28. As a situational lefty, O'Flaherty is kind of the opposite of Clippard in that he will rarely go more than an inning. It also means he will rarely get lit up.

Part of the Padres success this season is due to the dominance of Luke Gregerson, the 26-year old who earned his first save of the year Sunday while I was theorizing this very piece. Gregerson has gone 38. innings over 36 innings, and has allowed 16 hits and just four walks, to 49 strikeouts. That makes for 2-2, 1.64 totals, with an absolutely sick WHIP of 0.52. 

As good as Gregerson has been, the Reds Arthur Rhodes, now 40, and in his 19th season, has had numbers that are off the chart. He has thrown 33 consecutive innings as press time, without allowing a run, tying the major league record for relievers. That makes his numbers 2-1, 0.28 over 32 innings. He has allowed 5 hits and  walks, while striking out 30, and well, with an 0.81 WHIP, I cannot wait to get my hands on his Strat-O-Matic card next year.

Now 34, Scott Downs was cruising following a monster 2008 (0-3, 1.78, five saves) and actually earned the closer gig in Toronto last year before an injury pulled him from cruise control. He is 2-5, 3.13 this season, but the 24 strikeouts to just seven walks, and 26 hits over 31.2 innings reveal a 1.04 WHIP.

I noticed Darren O'Day last season, as he (and Downs, and the last guy on this list, Matt Guerrier) was one of the middle guys I used from my pen and reserve list moving them in and out. O'Day went 55.2 innings last season with a record of 2-1, 1.94. He struck out 54 and walked just 17, while allowing 36 hits (0.95 WHIP). This year is nearly identical, though over just 30.1 innings, with a mark of 3-2, 1.78, with 21 each of hits and whiffs to seven walks (0.92)

In 2008 Matt Guerrier led the AL in appearances with 76, though his record was 6-9, 5.19, but last year though he again led the league, this time with 79 appearances, a 5-1, 2.36 record, and though a lesser 47 whiffs over 76 innings, a very good 0.96 ratio. This year Guerrier is much the same at 1-2, 1.64, with an 0.93 WHIP. As noted, Guerrier is not the strikeout machine as some on this week's roster, but he is dependable, and he is on a very good team that knows how to win.

Back to it, and I hope all you Dad's out there had a great day that included family and food, and of course some fun interleague baseball.

We have been spoiled lately with the amount of monster prospects being recalled to the Majors. Last week the pace slowed, but we did get one more: Pedro Alvarez! The Pirates have already been advancing their other major league ready guys, but Alvarez, a third sacker, might just prove to be the best. Pittsburgh selected the 23-year old in the first round of the 2008 draft, and since then he has hit .284 with 40 homers and 148 RBIs  over just 192 minor league games. 92 of his 201 hits have gone for extra bases. He was hitting .277-13-41 over 66 games at Indianapolis and looks like the Pirates made the right choice in selecting him.

I was checking the box scores and have noticed a lot of veterans have had quite a few ups and downs this season. Some of those guys have recently been on the upswing lately including Fausto Carmona who was among the best in the league with 12 whiffs last week. And, Carmona has been as good this year as he was awful in 2008-09. For example, this year his ERA is a fine 3.31, almost half of the 6.32 number he logged, last year. His WHIP, similarly, is down to 1.22, after 1.73 and 1.62 the past two seasons (Carmona pitched 120.2 innings in 2008, 125 last year, and has 92.1 this season). Likely he has been acquired in most 15-team formats, but Carmona, who seems to do better, the worse the Indians at large play, is a pretty good bet to finish more like his good 2007 year.

Then Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman, who has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness since 2005 when his skill and expectations were just coalescing, seems to be back after a couple of good starts against Pittsburgh and Washington. He is 3-4 with a 4.06 ERA and is more likely on the free agent list in most mixed leagues. A good gamble right now with his team playing well,

I don't feel as warm and fuzzy about Manny Parra, who has been pitching well, but whose team has hit the skids. Like his predecessors above, Parra has really struggled since 2007 when his major league playing time was excellent, but a small sample of 26 innings. Parra does have a pretty good 3.91 ERA, and 50 whiffs over 48 innings, but he also has a ratio of 1.57, and is pitching on borrowed time with 52 hits and 22 walks over that span. And, well, his team is not very good (1-5 record verifies that). Leave him out there/let him go.

I have never been a Nate Robertson fan in any year, and he has pretty much been ineffective since 2006, but he too was among the strikeout leaders last week as well, and his last two starts, both against Tampa, allowing just a couple of runs over 11.1 innings, but 77 hits and 31 walks over 75 innings, with just 49 whiffs tells me stay away as well.

Then again, Texas Scott Feldman has also won his last two games against two weaker appointents - one with six shutout innings over the Brewers and then pitching seven quality innings against Houston. Feldman is streaky and is nearly at the point last year when he reeled off seven very good starts over August and part of September. Feldman's Ranger team is really rocking and I like him this time of the season. 

It seems that Aubrey Huff is one of those guys who alternates between good and lousy years, and it also seems this year is a good one for the left-handed Giant, who is hitting .304-11-36 and looks like he did two years ago in Baltimore, when he hit the same .304. He will keep playing in SF and keep producing, and I do like him with the 305 foot right field line. Always have. 

The Brewers advanced 24-year old Jonathan LeCroy who was rocking at AA (.452-0-5) and then struggled a bit with ,238-2-11 totals after being promoted to Class-AAA Nashville. LeCroy has a nice .341 average over 44 at-bats, but nothing else. He was among the MLB leaders in swipes last week, however, with a pair. Note the same is true of Robb Quinlan (who has nothing to offer this year) and Sean Rodriguez, who has marginally more value, especially in an AL only format.

What a week for Ultra Players, with arguably the best cluster of prospects advanced during the season, ever.

So let's jump right in with Pittsburgh's promising flychaser, Jose Tabata. I have written about Tabata several times, including after viewing his impressive skills at the AFL last year. Tabata is kind of like Pedro Sandoval in that he does not look like he should should have a quick bat. At a listed 5'11", 215 pounds (I don't think he is that tall, personally), Tabata plays center field and stole 106 bases over six  minor league seasons. Just 21, he hit .297-29-240 with a a .365 OBP, and the 21-year old will probably stick and probably be able to play just fine. He is a great gamble in any format, if he is still available (which is probably the case with most of the names on this week's list).

The Buccos also advanced hurler Brad Lincoln over the past week. Lincoln was the Pirates first round pick in 2006, and has pretty good control, having posted a 20-21, 3.82 over 332 innings. Lincoln whiffed 256, a decent number, but walked just 66 over that period. The 25-year old was doing well (6-2, 3.6, with 55 whiffs over 68. innings with 14 walks this year) during his second stint at AAA Indianapolis. Lincoln is also worthy of a free agent selection, not to mention reserve spot for a season or so when he will be an asset.

Boston is another squad where two players were promoted over the week, of notce. First, due to the injury to DiceK, Scott Atchison started the Saturday game versus the Phillies. At 34, Atchison is as far removed from being a prospect as one can be and is probably not the best fantasy gamble. Over 85 major league innings, and 63 games, even though he does have 82 whiffs but he also has allowed 85 hits and 31 walks, and is pretty much just a AAA pitcher picking up the slack. Yes, he is a Red Sox, but no he does belong on a roster.

However, Boston also advanced outfielder Daniel Nava, a Northern California native who made as lovely a splash in Boston on Saturday as is humanly possible by hitting a slam on the first pitch he saw. Nava, unquestionably an under-the-radar guy in this year of the uber-prospects, is the feel good story, having overcome health issues and other obstacles on his unlikely path to the show. I think of him as a David Eckstein kind of player, and guys like that should not be dismissed. Nava has a .979 OPS over his four pro seasons, and when you think he is 27, starting that late makes his appearance the more remarkable. .342-35-192 over 1003 at-bats. Don't sell him short.

Then, you want to grab Carlos Santana, the new Indians backstop who is a stick-and-a-half. Santana had 2171 plate appearances in the minors with .290-75-360 totals, including .31-3-51 numbers this year at Columbus. Santana has 333 professional walks to 332 whiffs, an incredible number, an .899 OPS, and, well, you simply want him on your team, especially as your backstop.

Baltimore promoted their fifth round pick in 2007, Jake Arrieta, earlier in the week. Arrieta, 24, is a big guy (6'4", 225) has a fine 23-18, 2.89 ERA over 59 starts. He has tossed 339.2 minor league innings, with 332 strikeouts to 270 hits with 141 walks. At Norfolk this year, he was 6-2, 1.85, and had 64 whiffs over 73 innings, with just 58 hits allowed.  Again, Arrieta is a guy you want to take a chance on or stash. 

Of course I have to note Stephen Strasburg who won his first two starts including a Sunday start against the Indians. I suppose everyone knows he whiffed 14, including the final seven batters he faced. A singular talent, Strasburg was the #1 pick of the 2009 draft, and was 7-2, 1.30, and he struck out 65 over 55 innings, allowing just 13 walks to 31 hits. I cannot imagine Strasburg is available anywhere in the universe, but if he is, don't let that continue. 

Finally Justin Masterson, a pitcher whom many of us have coveted and anticipated for the last couple of seasons might finally being coming into his own. Masterson has won his last two starts, after starting the season 0-5, shut out his fomer team, the Red Sox, on two hits and two walks earlier in the week. Once Masterson has some confidence, he will have some consistency, and once he has that, he will be a force.

 

So now it seems we are racing our way to the All Star Break, it being just a month in the distance. And, at the same time we can anticipate the arrival of Stephen Strasburg, tomorrow as the stream of prospects making their arrivals at The Show continues.

But, on top of Strasburg, one of the best hitting prospects in the minors was also promoted Sunday, that being Mike Stanton. Just 20, Stanton was hitting .311-21-52 over 52 games at Jacksonville this season when promoted (yes, those numbers are real). He also boasted a .441 OBP and career numbers of .274-89-284 totals as a minor leaguer. Stanton does strike out (371 as a minor leaguer) but otherwise, he is just a monster as his .293-39-97 2008 year as an 18-year old also suggests. Grab him. Stash him. Enjoy owning him.

Stepping away from the prospects for a minute, I was again busy tracking the veterans with new venues--and ideally second chances that will reinvigorate careers--and I want to start with a guy I paid $2 for in Tout Wars, Pat Burrell. Just two years removed from a .250-33-86 season in Philadelphia, Burrell was a disappointment in Tampa, who released him this season (.202-2-13).  San Francisco is hurting still for some pop, and Burrell figures to get a chance to contribute back in the league where he enjoyed his success. And, if you grabbed him in an AL only format, and were able to hold on, by next week Burrell will qualify in the outfield.

Then, former Giant Randy Winn was let go by the Yankees, and that was not really unexpected. New York is so deep in the outfield that is was unlikely Winn would get much of a chance. Winn had an off 2009 (.262-2-51) but he is only that one season removed from back-to-back .300 seasons. Winn is exactly the kind of player who manager Tony LaRussa is good at exploiting, so he is a good pickup as a #5 flychaser in your NL only format.

Across the bay, Gabe Gross has been playing a very good fourth outfielder spot, and more important, went 14-for-31 between May 25 and the weekend series with the Twins (note Gross hit the ball very hard on Friday, but always at the wrong place). Gross is clearly outfielder #4 in Oakland, especially when Coco Crisp returns, but he will get 300-plus at-bats over the season, and contribute a few more dingers and hits if you are in an AL only format.

The Detroit experiment with Dontrelle Willis is also over, as the Tigers swapped off the big and ineffective lefty to Arizona. Certainly the move cannot hurt Willis, who has not really contributed since 006 when he was 12-12, 3.87 with the Fish. Since then it has been injuries and ineffectiveness, and though Willis did win his first start with the Dbacks this week, his four walks to three strikeouts is what is really revealing. I would leave Willis alone until he gives a reason, and three-to-four starts, to make us want him.

Detroit replaced the departed Willis with Max Scherzer, whom they acquired last season from the same Diamondbacks. Scherzer struggled this season and was demoted, but over two starts at Toldeo, Scherzer was 2-0, 0.60 over 15 innings, with 17 whiffs to a pair of walks. Apparently the stint helped a lot as Scherzer whiffed 14 of 17 outs he recorded during his first start back. You can grab--or reactivate--Scherzer for the coming week.

The Red Sox, also deep in flychasers, swapped Jonathan Van Every to the Bucs, a team that has been a campground for reclamation projects. At 30, Van Every had minor league totals of .257-128-413 over 772 games, and is not likely to get more than a platoon gig at PNC. He could make an interesting Strat-O-Matic platoon card next year, but that is optimistic. As for fantasy value, well, forget it. 

Danny Valencia had an excellent defensive evening on Friday versus the Athletics, spearing a couple of hard liners into "look what I found" plays. Valencia also walked, but he is actually a legitimate third base option for the Twins, who have been struggling to fill the hot corner all season. Selected in the 19th round of the 2006 draft, Valencia, 25, has progressed well since the draft, in particular splitting 2009 between AA (.284-7-29) New Britain, and AAA (.286-7-41) at Rochester. His minor league totals read .298-54-256, and this season he was .292-0-24 at Triple-A when summoned. I like his sticking and holding the third base job.

Finally, Atlanta, who has done well with their young arms the past years, advanced Craig Kimbrel, their #3 selection in the 2008 draft. Kimbrel is a reliever, who is 6-5, 1.84 with 36 saves over 69 games finished over 89 games. Probably the most revealing stat around Kimbrel is the 198 strikeouts he garnered over just innings as a minor leaguer. He is a closer waiting to happen, and a very good pick up now in an NL or mixed format.

Happy Memorial Day, all around, the first real milepost of the fantasy--and baseball--season. Again, sorry for the late posting, but Diane and I got home yesterday after 3400 miles, five National Parks, nine cities, over ten days. Needless to say, we were fried (though it was a good time).

One thing that was cool, though, is we were able to listen to the Cards, Rangers, Dodgers, Royals, Giants, Athletics, Cubs, White Sox, and Brewers on the radio. Not to mention Fresno State. And, a million oldies and 80's stations. I do love my IPhone and the IPod on it, but there is really nothing quite like the radio.

Needless to say, when we were listening to the Giants Saturday, after crawling out of the Death Valley, and got close enough to hear the Giants broadcast, who was the first at-bat I heard, but super prospect Buster Posey. Posey, the Giants first round selection in 2008, and the #5 guy selected overall has had a stellar minor league career (.333-25-118 over 172 games) though it was thought a little more minor league seasoning would be good for Buster. Apparently going .349-6-32 at Fresno was enough, so the Giants advanced Posey, who debuted with an RBI single and six hits over nine at-bats his first two games. Posey is the everyday first baseman now, with Aubrey Huff manning left field. Posey is a guy--for he was drafted as a catcher--you want on your team, apparently now and in the future.

Looking to another first rounder, take a look at Florida's Taylor Tankserly, the Marlins first round pick in 2004. Tankersly has made splashes with the Fish before, going 8-3, 4.18 over 107 innings, but injuries wrecked his 2008 (0-1, 8.15) forced him to sit out 2009 after surgery. Prior, howver, Tankersly was pretty good with 110 strikeouts over 107 innings as a major leaguer, and 209 over 205.2 minor league innings, mostly as a reliever. The Marlins are a National League version of the Twins, able to use their players and develop them well. He is a nice and safe middle reliever gamble in an NL only format.

Looking to the N: Central, The Reds Sam LeCure is another interesting arm just promoted. LeCure was a fourth round pick of the Reds in 2005, and list his counterparts above, LeCure has some nice minor league numbers, with a 44-35, 3.67 mark, including 575 whiffs over 656.2 innings, allowing 641 hits to 224 walks. This season LeCure was 5-2, 2.55 over nine Louisville starts, and he won his debut Friday with a good performance over the Astros to earn his first big league win. When you think of the Reds recent young arms--Bailey, Cueto, Chapman, and Leake--LeCure makes an interesting choice as well.

Another first rounder who made his debut this weekend is the Cards Adam Ottavino, a first round pick of St. Louis in 2006. Ottavino went 5.2 innings during his debut, though on the losing end. But, he did pitch pretty well (four runs, five hits, six walks and five whiffs). He was 30-25, 4.17 as a minor leaguer, with 444 whiffs over 519 innings. I have to say I am not as sold on Ottavino as some of the other young arms on this list.

Over in the American League, Oakland's Craig Breslow appeared in 77 games last year (17 for the Twins, then 60 more for Oakland after being swapped) and this year he is again picking up a lion's share with 20 appearances to go with a 1-1, 2.21 mark that includes 21 strikeouts to eight walks and 14 hits. Breslow, a Yale grad, is one smart cookie and is a great addition to an AL only bullpen.

On Saturday, the Orioles Chris Tillman made his return to the majors pitching 5.2 pretty good innings, worth a no-decision. Tillman, part of the spoils of the Eric Bedard swap with Seattle has posted dominant (484 whiffs over 456.1 innings) numbers in the minors including 427 hits allowed and 184 walks. He was 5-4, 3.12 this year at Norfolk when called up. Note too that he is just 22 years old, so his totals need that context. He is a definite investment on the good side.

As a possible reclamation project, the Brewers recalled Chris Capuano, who ideally is over his arm difficulties. Capuano won 18 games for the Brewers in 2005 and 11 more in 2006, tossing over 200 innings each season before he blew his arm out. It has been a rough road back for Capuano, who did go 3-1, 1.59 over two levels this year and 25 minor league innings (25 innings, 21 hits, 16 strikeouts and four walks). Looks like he is ready to return and the one thing that Capuano--now 31--has over most of the others on today's list is experience.

The Padres seem to come up with a new young player each week, and this week the honor goes to Lance Zawadzki, a middle infielder. Zawadzki was a fourth round pick by San Diego in 2007, he has some pop (.285-15-77 with 17 swipes last year over two levels), but speed is the big part of his game (49 steals over 310 minor league games). So far Zawadzki is hitting .200 over his first 15 at-bats. Unlike Mr. Posey, the jury is still out.

 

 Greetings from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Diane and I were hoping to make it, from St. Louis yesterday, hoping to make the Drillers game, where it was SPCA day at the park. Since we are trekking to California, from Chicago, we were excited in that Diane's dog Mahi could come along.

Well, the drive was longer than we thought--almost 400 miles, which AAA suggests you can do in five plus hours, but in reality took more like eight. But, we did listen to the Royals and Cards on the radio, which was a lot fun too. Listening to the radio, especially baseball, on a road trip is always great. And, since we travelled Route 66, well, there were a lot of roadside attractions to observe, also a favorite during road trips.

But, back to baseball, and since last week there was such a run of veterans who came back to the Show, to try and make an impact, this time, let's look at a bunch of youngsters who are pretty much getting their first look.

Although, we do have want to start with Alfredo Simon, the new Baltimore closer. At least for the moment, as he has six saves since acquiring the gig (his first save was April 27). Simon, 29, functioned as a stopper in the minors only once, in 2005, when he converted 19 at Norwich (AA), posting a 3-8 record and 5.03 ERA. As a minor leaguer, he registered a WHIP of 1.394, and he struck out 594 while walking 274 over 772 innings. Looking at the 1.79 WHIP this year, and the ten whiffs to seven walks over 11 innings, if you have Simon, enjoy the saves while you can. But, do not expect him to keep the job.

Ok, so Washington's Justin Maxwell is no longer a rookie, with 167 plate appearances. The fourth round pick of the Nats in 2005 was recalled this week, though. Of course with Maxwell, as with all the players on this list, the short term prognosis is playing time, and since Washington is faring way better than expected, the Nats management will be careful not to derail their magic so far. Maxwell does have decent power (127 of his 349 minor league hits have been for extra bases) but, he also has trouble with plate discipline (390 whiffs to 183 walks), as his minor league totals indicate. He also has excellent speed (107 swipes with 29 CS) so for now, Maxwell will be a bench presence, but, he could be a player to stash for the future (I am thinking about swapping for him in my Strat league).

Cristhian Martinez is a 27-year old who has been up and down with the Marlins this season, and at present has a 1-1, 5.13 ERA. At 41-26, 3.35 in the minors, Martinez allowed 587 hits or 611 innings, and tossed 427 whiffs to 119 walks, good for a ratio of 1.15. The 18 whiffs to eight walks look pretty consistent, and Florida is very good at developing prospects, and young pitchers, so Martinez is a nice pickup.

Diane and I listened to the Cards on Saturday as well, driving from Chicago to St. Louis, so we heard PJ Walters 2009 debut. The 25-year old, an 11th round pick of St. Louis in 2006, did pitch last year going 0-0, 9.56 over 16 innings. Walters was 33-23, 3.68 as a minor leaguer, with 470 strikeouts over 479 innings (159 walks). With 454 hits allowed, those are excellent totals, and like Martinez, Walters could have some long term value, and even a little as a long man in the pen at present.

The Astros look to be rebuilding, having let go of Kaz Matsui, now advancing 25-year old Oswaldo Navarro. Hitting 312-3-19 over 72 at-bats, with a good .418 OBP (18 whiffs, 10 walks) when summoned, with career totals of .259-22-292 including 153 doubles. For the most part, however, Navarro seems like his apex would be numbers like Skip Schumaker, but even that--becoming a .300 hitter--is still on the path ahead. Probably a utility role is the likely path for Navarro.

Boston brought up middle infielder Angel Sanchez, a 26-year old who did have a cup of coffee with the Royals in 2006 (.222-0-1 over 28 at-bats). At Pawtuckett, when summoned, Sanchez was hittin .313-0-9 with a swipe, and his career totals in the minors were .280-21-310 over 804 games. Sanchez has a decent eye (412 strikeouts to 232 walks) and he could make a nice contribution as a spare part in Boston this season in the Mike Aviles tradition. The jury is still out, but for the most part, an AL only format is the only avenue for this year, if that. 

My friend Michael Duca maintains Dodgers pitcher Jonathan Broxton looks like the box your refridgerator was delivered in. Same could be said for the Padres Adam Russell, who logs in at 6'8", 250 pounds. The 27-year old functioned primarily as a starter until last year when he converted nine saves between Class AA and AAA. Russell has posted some good numbers as a starter in the minors, and the Pads are doing well focusing on arms in their pitcher friendly venue, but Russell does not look like more than a middle man to me.

The Cubs Jeff Stevens was plucked from the Reds, who drafted the right-hander in the fourth round of the 2005 draft in the fourth round. Now, Stevens now only plays for Chicago, my second home, but he was born in Berkeley, my first, so you know I like him for that. But, what I really love are the 427 strikeouts over 387 innings, with just 141 walks. Add in 293 hits allowed and you get a 1.12 WHIP and those numbers are not really reflected in the 25-21, 3.26 totals. Stevens did win a game during a September appearance (1-0, 7.11) last year at Wrigley, but, those control numbers are exactly the kind that say "take me, and take me now."

With Asdrubal Cabrera likely out for the season, Cleveland advanced Jason Donald, originally selected by the Phils in the third round of the 2006 draft. A 25-year old, Donald put up .281-34-184 totals in the minors with a pretty good .371 OBP, improving his eye this year with 21 walks to 33 whiffs at Columbus. Donald is one of those guys who could be have a future as a utility player, but he also could sneak into the lineup by virtue of this opening, slip past Luis Valbuena, and have a Jim Gantner career. He is worth a gamble in a deep league right now for sure.

Xavier Paul was selected by the Dodgers out of high school, their fourth selection in the 2003 draft, and the outfielder could certainly give them a killer outfield, with Andre Either and Matt Kemp. Paul was hitting .388-4-11with a .430 OBP despite the free-swinging 622 strikeouts to 265 walks. He did assemble .291-62-354 minor league totals over 684 games, including a pretty good .360 OBP despite the whiffs, and he has continued at Dodger Stadium with .326-0-5 numbers this year in LA. Those are numbers that also suggest you want to take a chance on Paul.

Here we are again, streaking to Memorial Day and the first real milepost of the year.

 I am looking at having to make some serious decisions on my teams, as I am in the odd position of having players and getting at-bats, and even innings. But, I am not getting anything close to production, which is a killer.

 It seems some of the major league venues are in a similar spot--hopefully you are not--as several teams sent distress calls for some good youngsters, while several teams sent some prospects (Scott Sizemore, for example) down and recalled some veterans. In fact this week had as large a contingent of grizzled vets hit the radar, many of whom might help, as any I can remember.

 Of course the marquis guys is the Nats Drew Storen, a first round pick in 2009, who was advanced following Sunday's game, to help augment the pen. With Matt Capps closing, the bulk of relief innings have fallen on the excellent Tyler Clippard, who at 7-2, leads the majors in decisions. Storen, who should close eventually, was a sensational 0-0, 1.12, with four saves over 16 innings (15 whiffs, three walks, 12 hits) split between Harrisburg (AA) and Syracuse (AAA). You should not let him slip by in a keeper league, and Storen is a worthwhile risk in pretty much any format.

 Remember hot prospect Brent Clevlen? A second round pick of the Tigers in 2002, Clevlen looked great after .282-3-6 September performance in September of 2006, but, he never could do anything in the majors after that. At 26, Clevlen signed with the Braves last year, and this week he was recalled following .259-1-14 totals at Gwinnett. The Braves are good at reclamation projects, although where Clevlen will find an opening is more the question.

 Then, the Tribe advanced Trevor Crowe, their first round pick in 2005. Crowe managed .235-1-17 totals with six swipes last year, not enough to keep him in the Show, but his .297-2-20, with 14 swipes and a .401 OBP last year seems to good to keep Crowe at Columbus. So, this year Cleveland, looking for a spark, recalled him with much poorer totals (.244-1-13 with a .298 OBP). Crowe has some shine, but just what he can contribute right now, like Clevlen, is a question mark.

 So, now let's look at some very familiar names of vets, all of whom enjoyed a recall or rennaisance this past week, starting locally wher Oakland decided they needed some stick, and recalled Jack Cust. It is true that Cust is a terrible fielder, and it is also true in the Oakland Press Box we identified a new stat, the "Custian Cycle," which means the big man walks, whiffs, homers, and hits into a double play in the same game (it happens more often than you would think). Cust did bang 84 homers, and knock in 229 between 2007-09 for the Athletics, and he could be just fine in the DH slot if given a chance to slug it out every day. The Athletics owe themselves (and you if you have him stashed owe it to your team) to give him a chance.

 Then Tampa has the luxury of being the best team in baseball despite have one of the worst DH's in Pat Burrell ( .202-2-13) this season. It is hard to imagine that Burrell whacked 30, and 33 homers respectively for the Phils in 2007 and 2008, but at 33, something is clearly off. The Rays do have Willy Aybar in the wings, but I don't think Aybar, who is versatile, is an everyday guy. So, they recalled Hank Blalock to augment the spot. Hard to believe that Blalock is still just 29, and he has ripped the International League to the tune of .349-4-24, and whatever else be said, he can hit when he is on. Blalock is streaky, and he has not really contributed, even marginally, to a major league team since. 2006. Still, he is a good gamble on a deep team where the pressure will not be so great.

Then Baltimore recalled Corey Patterson, a former starter of the Cubs who had fallen from grace, to replace one of last year's surprises, the slumping Nolan Reimhold. Since 2008, over 424 at-bats, Patterson played with three teams and could not bat over .205, which explains the fall. Just 30, Patterson hit .368 at Norfolk, but like Cust and Blalock, all of them should hit at the AAA level. Patterson, though could be another good flier as with his predecessors on this list, he has little to lose.  

If you checked out the Phils, they have struggled with their closer role for a couple of years, and now Brad Lidge is officially on the DL and it looks like Jose Contreras, always exasperating as a starter, might have found his niche. Working in relief for the Rockies last year, Contreras was 1-0, 1.59 over 17 games, and this year is 2-1, 0.68, now with his first major league save and potentially a great niche. Take advantage, and if you have fear, think Ryan Franklin.

Then a longtime fave of mine, Jake Westbrook, tossed only 32.1 innings in 2008 (1-2, 3.12) before he blew his arm out, and the righty sat out all of 2009, and pretty much proceeded to get hammered his first cluster of starts in 2010 (1-2 5.06), but yesterday he tossed a complete game nine-hitter, allowing a walk, and a run, while striking out eight. Methinks he is back and worth a gamble

Finally as a final arm flier, Armando Gallaraga was recalled by the Tigers with the demotion of Max Scherzer. Gallaraga was a mainstay the Tigers rotation last year (6-10, 5.64) but he was 3-0, 1.84 over his first four starts last year before the league caught up with him, and Gallaraga had a nice debut yesterday, holding the Red Sox in check over 5.1 innings, earning a first win. I had him (and several of those mentioned above) stashed on various teams. I do hope they help their teams, and in the process mine, get out of their funk.

  

 

 

 

 

Greetings again stat afficianados, and I hope all the mothers in your household (including those of you who might be both reading this and moms) had a lovely Sunday and Mother's Day.

I know I did, in fact check out yesterday's Zen Zone for the particulars as I scored Dallas Braden's perfect game.

If I had to pick a particularly proud mom out there, though, that would likely belong to that of new Cubbies shortstop Starlin Castro, who debuted with a statement, banging a homer and driving in six on Friday. That alone should send Castro's FAAB pricetag through the roof in most NFBC-type leagues. Signed in 2008, at just 20, Castro is the first player to appear in the majors to have been born in the 90's, believe it or not, and though the Cubs were thinking defense (he apparently has a great arm at short) Castro has performed well in the minors with .310-9-122 totals over 264 games. That includes 48 doubles, 18 triples, 51 swipes, 75 walks to 121 whiffs and a good .362 OBP. Since he is young and a rookie, expect some ups and downs, but Castro is likely here to stay. Any mother would be proud.

Quick, who is the best set-up guy in the game right now? Well, you should have answered the Nats Tyler Clippard. A ninth round pick of the Yankees in 2003, Clippard went 3-1, 6.33 over six starts in 2007, and was then swapped to Washington, where he spent ten uneventful innings in 2008 before his remarkable 2009. Clippard went 4-2, 2.69, and over 60 innings allowed just 36 hits and 32 walks while whiffing 67. He is 6-0, 0.74 over 23.2 innings, 13 hits allowed to 12 walks and 28 K. I have him on my Strat-O-Matic team (Clippard is my closer over Carlos Marmol) and he is a perfect middle guy for your team in any format should he still be in the free agent pool.

Boy, the John Buck owners much really be enjoying his incredible production the last week, but I have to think he is still a questionable pickup. True, if you had him active during his recent spree that is great, but he is .239-8-18 with a weak .276 OBP, and over his career of 2214 at-bats,  the average is .235, the OBP is .297, and the Slugging is .415. Dingers or not, that is hard to recommend.

Brennan Boesch was a third round selection of the Tigers in 2006, and the big (6'4", 235 lb) flychaser had pretty good totals in the minors, hitting .273-53-314 over 453 games. Boesch has had a nice start going .333-2-10 over his first 11 games. But, in the minors, the 357 strikeouts to 117 walks, in particular 127 strikeouts to 33 walks last year with a .319 OBP.

I am hopeful that the Royals will give a shot to recent promotion Kila Ka'aihue, a minor league slugger whom I do think will perform well. I have written about Ka'aihue a few times, and he was having a terrific season at Omaha (.304-7-20) this season. Ka'aihue has an excellent eye (609 minor league walks to 637 strikeouts) and very good power (137 homers and 165 doubles as a minor leaguer) and if given a chance to play regularly, should do very well. Of course for now only the deepest formats merit taking a chance.

On the National League side, the Buccos, and many roto owners, have been waiting for Steve Pearce to show up. That is, the Steve Pearce who hit .333-31-113 with 40 doubles over three levels in 2007 at the age of 24. Well, a Steve Pearce was called back up to the Pirates last week, one who was hitting .349-2-8 at AAA Indianapolis. And, there is a Steve Pearce who has hit .234-37 over 124 games. Clearly the former Steve Pearce is too good for the minors, so the question is what can the latter Steve Pearce do? For better or worse, I suspect the Baseball Reference has it right, for they list Pearce's position as "First base and pinch hitter." I think that is all we need to know about who Steve Pearce really is.

San Francisco has a nice little squad this year. True, they don't have a true power hitter, but, virtually everyone in their starting lineup and related rotation is capable of double digit homers, and all are seasoned veterans, as opposed to the call-ups who were largely role players the Giants advanced, especially in the infield, the past few years. Among this cluster is Bengie Molina, the catcher with some pop who is enormously popular in San Francisco, and on the advent is Buster Posey. Somewhere in the middle is Eli Whiteside, who has quietly been having a National League counterpart season to that of Francisco Cervelli . Whiteside is hitting .333-2-5 over 34 at-bats, and in an NL only format, he is as good a #2 pick as is Cervelli in a parallel AL format. The Giants are good. Expect Whiteside to have a nice little under the radar year.

Chicago to the north side has been giving playing time to Tyler Colvin (.275-4-9 over 51 at-bats) and Colvin has done well, and could also be a nice addition in an NL only format. In fact, those totals are pretty much mirrored over a longer stretch when you look at his career .277-56-274 totals over 1516 minor league at-bats. Colvin also logged a .320 OBP as a minor leaguer and as a major leaguer so far as well, so, it appears it is easy to see what to expect from him. Act according to need. 

I like players who make the show that attended Stanford for some reason, and that includes Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie, who had fine 2008 (10-12, 3.63) and an awful 2009 (10-17, 5.04), and now, at 1-4, 4.67, following a couple of good starts, may be back on course. Guthrie's ratio is down to 1.19 (from 1.42 last year) and his 25 whiffs to 9 walks also bode well.

In closing, it looks as if the life and times of Milton Bradley in Seattle may be at an end with the return of Michael Saunders  and Ryan Langerhans. Short term, I am liking Langerhans, 30, to get some playing time, while of the longer run Saunders will probably get the nod.   Saunders, 23, has .277-50-245 totals over 1709 minor league at-bats, and at age 23 should be poised for the next step. In a deep league, Langerhans is a good short term play: in a shallow or mixed format, Saunders is a guy to grab for the not-to-distant future.

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