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Wednesday 18th Oct 2017

Seems like it has been a nasty year for injuries, with some wicked ones coming these last weeks of the season. Actually, there is no good time for an injury, and while I enjoyed a really successful season last year, largely because my teams were injury free, this year, losing guys like Kevin Youkilis and Kendry Morales and Jake Peavy has pretty much killed the slight chances I had to win a crown in most of my leagues.

Sot, let's start with a few such replacement players, starting with the Twins, and their hurler Kevin Slowey, for whom I had nothing to say but good things last week. So, what does Slowey do, after hurling seven no-hit innings last Sunday? Get pounded and go on the DL. I still like Slowey's prospects for next season--as long as he does not need any additional surgery--but in the throes of the pennant race, Minnesota recalled Nick Blackburn so the issue is to pick him up in a deep league. Well, in August of 2009, with his team in a similar situation, Blackburn was 1-4, 5.70, but turned it around in September, going 2-2, 3.41, with a 1.13 WHIP, as opposed to that of 1.63 a month earlier. So, if you need to gamble on an arm now, in an AL format only, take a chance.

Looking at the Yankees, who are taking a pounding, but, who also must continue to field the best roster they can, Austin Kearns is the flychaser to pry out of the free agent pool. Kearns will help spell the outfield, and he will also platoon with Marcus Thames so while Lance Berkman and Arod are down, even beyond roster expansion, Kearns will pretty much play every day.  (Barring a swap, Ramiro Pena is the answer at third, although you don't want him in any format.)

Long-time rivals, the Red Sox, have been injured, probably out of contention, and now their heartbeat is out again with Dustin Pedroia going down, and actually Bill Hall is a nice replacement, though Hall is probably gone in the deeper formats. Hall, though is an interesting piece, valuable in H2H formats, and I got him as a throw-in in my Strat-O-Matic league this year, so he will be a big help in that very deep format next season. But, now with 17-homers, and hitting .270-6-10 for the last 30 days, and though his OBP is just .298, his slugging is .556. And, he will play every day.

The Dodgers are in a similar position, struggling to keep up with the Giants and Padres, and now Vicente Padilla and at 6-4, 3.26 is a tough replacement for the team. I have written before about Travis Schlichting who was 1-0, 3.57 over 14 games and 22 innings and he is a good gamble in Dodger Blue, especially looking towards the future, although whether the 25-year old will really make it as a hurler or an infielder is a question still (3-0, 4.57 as a pitcher this season while .249-8-92 as a minor league hitter) although the Dodgers want him to concentrate on his arm.

But, Jeff Weaver was also reactivated for the Dodgers, although I would not recommend plopping Weaver on my roster. Last year Weaver did go 6-4, 3.65 over 79.1 innings, his ratio was 1.519, and this year, though 5-1, his ERA is 5.35 with a WHIP of 1.459 including 17 walks over 37 innings. Pass.

I have to admit that I shoveled a lot of FAAB at Jorge Cantu, getting him in LABR for $71, but it is Mitch Moreland who is getting the bulk of playing time as Texas presses ahead pushing towards the post-season. Moreland, hitting .314-3-9 with a good .426 OBP (nine walks, 15 whiffs) since arriving at the Show was a 17th round pick of the Rangers in 2007, and hit .313-48-264 with a .382 OBP Moreland is a good gamble. Which is a reminder of how weird player success can be when we think of the names Chris Davis and Justin Smoak, eh?

Matt Lindstrom is down on the Astros, a team that is working hard to re-invent themselves, but don't look for a future arm to pick up the closer role for that probably belongs to Brandon Lyon, who has six conversions this year (6-5, 3.57) and who will hold the job until Lindstrom returns. Lyon is a good acquisition in any format, in that he will help you if you need saves, and if you don't, you can still cause some havoc with your fellow owners, as you can play spoiler by taking him, or well, to a needy and hungry team, you can swap.

Derek Lee is off to a pennant race and Atlanta, so now Xavier Nady, who is .232-4-23 this year, is the man. If you are desparate in a deep format, and think you need to take a chance, trust your instincts, but personally, I would wait till September first and try to pluck a call-up from a team that will try some things. The .307 OBP this year, and .310 during his injury riddled 2009. He could get hot, but don't hold your breath.

Finally, the Giants copped yet another flychaser with Cody Ross and at .263-11-58 for the year but they are now deeper in outfield bats than they need to be. With Jose Guillen, Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand, Nate Schierholtz, and Andres Torres all on the active roster, Ross will maybe see some defensive playing time and a few pinch hitting spots. Sorry, but I am dumping him in my mixed league and you should too. 

 

 

 

 

Week 20 is here, and this is a good time to not just look at some new faces, and faces with new surroundings, but look at some guys you might want to track or acquire for the coming season.

Starting with Oakland's Chris Carter, who is one of those players who fits all the categories above, as he was promoted this week to the majors, and as you might want to take a look at this power hitter as a future and grab the first sacker for your ultra list. Carter, acquired with among other Brett Anderson and Carlos Gonzalez, for Dan Haren, Carter looks lik the power source the Athletics need to push to the next level. His .285-145-502 totals, with a .381 OBP, Carter was .262-27-89 at Sacramento prior to his call-up, and whether he usurps Daric Barton or claims the DH spot, Carter will get a chance to display the pop that provided .540 SLG average, and .921 OPS.

Houston is wasting no time in pushing towards resurrection, having now advanced hurler Mark Melancon, acquired last week as part of the Lance Berkman deal. Melcanon enjoyed a cup of Bronx coffee last fall, going 0-1, 3.86 over 16 innings. The potential future Houston closer was 19-3, 2.79, with 15 saves over 216.1 innings and 61 game closures. He has 211 whiffs, to 67 walks and 183 hits allowed and is a great risk for saves next year at this point.

Wellington Castillo is a 23-year old backstop in the Cubs system, and while he might not displace Geovany Soto, adding him adds some energy and potential position flexibility to the North Siders. Castillo was .251-13-57 at AAA Iowa this season, and he is a bit of a free swinger (281 whiffs to 77 walks in the minors), so if you grab Castillo, stash him, but don't count on a lot of help from him this season.

The Rockies brought Eric Young back for a third time, and though he has struggled as a major leaguer, Young has 313 swipes as a minor leaguer, with a .291 average and .382 OBP. Young does have a little pop with 27 homers and 229 RBI, but the 487 runs over 605 games, along with the steals, are really the value and potential in Young. He does have talent, and is still a rookie with 103 at-bats (.245-1-4) but that is exactly what he needs to work on to get a full time role. Like Castillo, let Young age on your reserve list for now.

Finishing with a young arm, the Rangers advanced Pedro Strop, and the former Rockie prospect, aged 25 has a nice future as a setup man--and is a long-shot as a closer, though on Texas, with Neftali Feliz, that shot is really long--largely due to his 228 strikeouts over 190.1 innings, with 158 hits allowed to 84 walks. Strop has taken some lumps (0-0, 5.91 ERA) over 10.1 innings as a minor leaguer, so though he has some potential, that too is in the future.

The Giants acquired Jose Guillen over the weekend after Kansas City put the outfielder on waivers, and he could indeed be a major cog in San Francisco making the post season. Guillen is on his tenth team since 1997, that provided .270-211-872 totals over 1609 games. Guillen swings from the heels to be sure (1074 whiffs to 316 walks), but he has not just the pop SF can use, but he is a strong right fielder with a great arm and totally adds to the overall San Francisco depth. He will get a chance to play, but, SF is not a homer haven, so there could be a drop in power.

Finishing with three names to grab this season, ideally on the cheap for next year, starting with the Orioles Jeremy Gutherie, who is 7-11, 3.88 right now. The former Stanford star was 3-10, 4.77 over 111.1 first half innings, but since the break is 4-1, 1.51, with an 0.96 WHIP over 41 innings.

Coming off surgery last year, it has taken Kevin Slowey a while to get back in the groove, but now at 10-5, 4.45, he has been more than deadly at 2-0, 2.63 over 27 innings this last month. Slowey no-hit the Athletics through seven innings Sunday, striking out 23 over 27 innings, allowing just three walks and 18 hits for an .076 WHIP. Wait till next year.

Finally, I have mentioned how hot Gordon Beckham has been already, but it really is important to note that the White Sox infielder is now .251-7-40 over 104 games, which might not seem like much. Well, Beckham is .303-3-13 over the last month, and .360-4-18 over 27 second half games compared to .215-3-22 over 77 first half games. He will only get better, but Beckham will likely never be cheaper.

 

 

Low, things are getting tight in most every major league division save the AL West, but even there, as Oakland showed Saturday and Sunday, Texas can be had. This coming Friday, Diane and I will be in San Francisco all weekend, attending the wedding of the daughter of my friend Mark Berenberg (ok, so that would be Emily Berenberg and Mike Schlesinger, and be it known, Mike is a roto-head). On Friday, we have tickets to the Giants and Padres, though, so into it we are indeed.

I doubt Mike will take too much time off the wedding to talk fantasy, but, I will bet he will like knowing the following stuff as he and his league push towards titles (Mike won his league last year).

So, as long as "Mike" is the name, let's start with new Phillie Mike Sweeney who with .297-213-902 totals, they spell a fine career, but newly swapped from Seattle, filling Ryan Howard's shoes will be more than tough. Sweeney has had some nice runs this year even, going .314-6-14 for the month of May, and pretty much nothing, or the DL the rest of the time. Sweeney does have some pop still, but moving to a fastball league can prove to be a rough row to hoe. If you are filling a spot in an NL only format, Sweeney is worth a gamble, but that is about as far as you would want to stretch it.

Looking at a couple of more first base options, I have to hope the Royals finally hand some kind of everyday role to Kila Ka'aihue as I have long been a fan and promoter of the big hitting Hawaiian who has .266-154-598 totals, with a .391 OBP, over 3360 minor league at-bats. Just for grins, I did a comparison with another guy who finally made it at 26, and who walked a lot, Kevin Youkilis, comparing the numbers. Now, Youk only logged 1814 minor league at-bats, and he hit .299-30-205 with a .442 OBP and 327 walks to 214 whiffs, while Ka'aihue has 673 walks to 689 whiffs. Do note that Ka'aihue began his professional career at age 18, while Youk started four years later at age 22. But, I want the Royals to look and see the potential they have in playing this kid. He needs a chance to play every day, and in pretty much any format you can hide him for next year and the future, do so.

Then there is the polar opposite: Carlos Delgado who signed with the hurting Red Sox--who are now Youki-less for the rest of the season. Delgado, now 38, has not played this season, and had an injury-shortened 2009 where he went .298-4-23 over 112 at-bats, with a .393 OBP. Again, Delgado has not faced live pitching in a while, but, lesser players--Adam Kennedy and Scott Podsednik--for example, have come back from vacations, and Delgado cut his chops with Toronto, so he is familiar with the tough AL East. Still, only in the deepest of formats is Delgado worth a gamble.

Few major leaguers have debuted as auspiciously as Toronto's JP Arencibia, who copped four hits including a double two taters his first game on Saturday. The first round selection in 2007 for Toronto, Arencibia was three-fourths through his second season at AAA Las Vegas, improving on last year's .231-21-75 totals over 116 games and 466 at-bats last year, to .303-31-79 this season over 95 games and 379 at-bats this season.  Arencibia whacked 32 doubles over both campaigns, and raised his OBP from .284 last year to .360 this season. Arencibia looks to be the starting backstop, of the near future, John Buck or not, and is a nice pick up (Lord Zola and I tried to FAAB him on our NFBC team, but failed) in any format, especially if you can freeze him for under $7 or so for 2011.

Brett Wallace is another prospect--and former Jay, amongst other things--that you want to latch on to. Wallace, drafted by the Cards in the first round of 2008 was sent to Oakland as part of Matt Holliday swap, then off to Toronto, and now to Houston where Wallace takes over the first place spot vacated by Lance Berkman. A teammate of Arencibia, Wallace hit .301-18-61 in Las Vegas this season over 385 at-bats and totalled .304-46-160 over 1260 minor league at-bats, and is a great pick-up in any format, especially for the future.

The Angels made a big change, moving Torii Hunter to right field, opening center to Peter Bourjos, their tenth round pick in 2005. Bourjos has advanced nicely over the past three seasons, starting at High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2008 (.295-9-51), to AA Arkansas last year (.281-6-51) to a nice .314-12-52 at AAA Salt Lake this year, meaning he is handling a good level jump each season. Expect Bourjos to take a few lumps, but also expect the Angels to stick with him for a spell. That does not, however, mean he will be muchhelp to your roto team in the near future. Pass for now.

Atlanta promoted their #1 selection last year, Mike Minor to the Show. Split between AA Mississippi and AAA Gwinett this year,  Minor was 6-7, 3.44, striking out 146 over 120.1 innings, allowing 95 hits and 46 walks meaning every 3.3 batters he faced whiffed. Not much more one can say than that.

Finally, in this year when so many terrific young players have had their first taste of the bigs, The Rays promoted Jeremy Hellickson, early in the week, and the youngster hurled seven innings, winnings, and allowing three hits and a pair of walks while whiffing six. Hellickson was then sent back down to Durham where he was 12-3, 2.45 with 123 strikeouts over 112.1 innings. Again, this is a player you want on your team for the future. 

 

 

Trade deadline time is crazy time for those of us who play in an NL or AL only format. A lot of good movement occurred, so we can look at some of those moves this time, starting with Lance Berkman going to the Yankees. I actually have Berkman in the XFL, and I like this move a lot. Now 34, Berkman might only be hitting .245, but his OBP is a good .375, and his OPS .808. With powerful Yankee lineup, and the nice right field distance, I seem him finding himself for the last couple of months of the season.

The Padres are showing they are serious in plucking up several plums, including Miguel Tejada. It is easy to discount the .269 average, however, Tejada is just a year removed from a 199 hit season, where he led the league in doubls with 46, in the National League. Again, going to a contender should boost Tejada, and despite the tougher hittin circumstances in San Diego, again, this should bode well.

The Cardinals made a couple of swaps, and acquiring Jake Westbrook from the Indians for their pennant push, and despite his 6-7, 4.65 totals for this, it is important to remember that Westbrook missed almost two years to arm surgery. And, it generally takes a year or so to recover from surgery and cut loose as a pitcher. Westbrook can now regularly toss over 100 pitches per start and better, he is going to Dave Duncan, the all time champ reclaimation process pitching coach. Again, this bodes well.

The Twins, red hot now as well, nabbed Matt Capps to try and fill the hole left when Joe Nathan went down. True Twins substitute closer Jon Rauch has 21 saves and a 3.05 ERA, but he also posts a 1.35 WHIP and 27 strikeouts over 38.1 innings, while allowing 43 hits, and those are not closer numbers. In contrast, Capps has 38 whiffs over 46 innings, and though he has allowed 51 hits, the ratio is 1.30, and moving to a contender should help Capps push his game.

Speaking of closers, in Oakland Andrew Bailey is out now for a few weeks, and though Oakland is optimistic, for now I would grab Michael Wuertz to fill the hole, with a nod to Craig Breslow, but still, Wuertz, as a right-hander, will get the bulk of chances. Though Wuertz also has ugly numbers, don;t forget his missed the first two months of the season, and has allowed just one run over his last ten appearances. He also has three saves and is the logical choice.

As the Astros are trying to rebuild they have promoted former ACardinals, Athletic and Jay minor league property Brett Wallace is up to fill the first base spot vacated by Berkman. A first round pick in 2008, Wallace has put up .304-46-160 totals over 287 games, with excellent .301-18-61 totals at Las Vegas this season, proving he has nothing left to prove in the minors.

I wish I could feel good about the Orioles grabbing a long time favorite, Rick Vanden Hurk and his minor league numbers of 27-24, 3.74, with 438 whiffs over 449 innings for a 1.29 WHIP were why, but his major league totals of 8-9, 5.96 and 1.63 WHIP tell me he is Danny Cabrera redux. Stay away!

I do like James McDonald, acquired by the Pirates from the Dodgers, and the 25-year old pitched well last year for Los Angeles, with his best work coming from the pen. In Pittsburgh McDonald should get a chance to start, and with his Pedro Martinez frame (6'5", 195) he does have some promise, but not necessarily in Pirateland. I would probably pass on his as well this time.

Finally, with one last look at Danny Valencia who probably solidified his hold on third base with back-to-back four hit games which included seven RBI and a homer, and raising his season average to .384. In an AL format, and perhaps a deep mixed, you probably want to jump on Valencia as he can hit.

 

 

 

 

Like life itself, the baseball season is a subtle thing. It starts off as the cold is just beginning to melt away, into spring, with a few games and a small sample of stats, things on a roto team can vary from joy and abandon, to downright suicidal misery.

Hold your breath, however, and a month is gone and then Memorial Day, and then the All Star break, and poof, suddenly the trade deadline is upon us. Which is where we are in season 2010, as we anticipate Dan Haren (who was swapped at press time to the Angels) or Roy Oswalt shifting teams, or maybe even leagues, there are still players we need to watch already on the available slot in our leagues (although, this Tuesday, check out Lawr and Order on our Platinum Pages, where second half access will only cost $4.95, and where I talk about some trade deadline strategies).

For the here and now, though, let's start with Reid Brignac, the Rays second round pick in 2004, and a guy who pretty much had a lot of hype and not so much delivery until he began to get the hang of things in the second half of 2009. Brignac finished the season at .278-1-6 with a .301 OBP over 90 at-bats and the Rays looked so strong coming into 2010, that it seemed unlikely the middle infielder would get much attention. But seasons and performance and injuries are fickle things, and Brignac has supplied 206 good at-bats (.282-5-32 with an improved .332 OBP) and has even played in the outfield three times. This does not mean he is the next Ben Zobrist, but, it does suggest Brignac will get increased playing time as the Rays redefine themselves. He is a steady play for the rest of this year and promising future.

Mike Morse has to be one of the most tantalizingly frustrating players in recent memory. For example, Morse hit around .400 during spring training in 2008, and seemed to have a starting job with the Mariners, the team who acquired Morse from the Pale Hose who selected Morse in the third round in 2000. Mostly, though, it has been injuries that have hampered Morse's progress Over five promising seasons, Morse has hit .303-12-63 over 432 at-bats. Well, for the Nationals this season, he is hitting .350-6-16 over 80 at-bats. Morse has a killer .395 OBP and OPS of 1.033, albeit over a small sample. Still, especially in an NL only format, these are numbers worth noticing, and Morse could be one of those late bloomers who could leave that frustration in the dust. If he can stay healthy.

Speaking of which, let's revisit a guy I wrote about a month back, Pittsburgh's rookie third sacker, Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez looked totally out of place during his first month at The Show, and when I saw him, Alvarez whiffed four times in four chances. In fact over the month of June, Alvarez was .152-0-5, but this month Alvarez seems to have gotten the hang, hitting .315-7-15 with a .425 OBP and a pair of two-homer games over the past couple of weeks. Good for now it seems, very good for later.

As long as we are looking at recent hot bats, Oakland's Jack Cust, who was relegated to the minors to start the season: quite a demotion for a guy who hit 84 homers and 229 RBI between 2007-09 for the Athletics. Well, Cust, though unhappy, went to Sacramento and waited for his turn, which did come. Since returning, Cust is .306-8-29, and for the month of July is .346-6-18. He is the pop on the Athletics team right now, and will play (one of the things Cust does is stay healthy, unlike his flychaser teammates) and is a great pick up in mixed format

The Nationals advanced hurler Collin Balester this week, and though I have always been a fan of Balester, and though Washington is certainly making the correct moves to develop a winning team, it is hard to recommend Balester at this juncture. So far in the bigs he is 4-11, 5.85 over 112.2 innings, with 128 hits allowed, including 23 homers. Balestar has 72 whiffs, but 42 walks which mean a 1.53 WHIP. Now, there will be adjustments to coming to the majors, but Balester was 2-3, 7.27 at Syracuse this year with a 1.73 WHIP over 52 innings, and last season finished at 7-10, 4.44 over 107 innings with a 1.53 WHIP. For now any innings Balester might get in the majors will be mop-up, so don't trust him till he gives a reason.

Detroit has suffered a cluster of injuries  over the past weeks, and one of their promotions was Will Rhymes, a diminuitive (5'9", 153 LB) second sacker who was drafted in the 27th round of the Tigers in 2005. Rhymes evokes thoughts of Dped and David Eckstein with his resume of .289-15-259 over 684 minor league games, with 243 walks to 285 whiffs, good for a .353 OBP and 123 swipes. If you have a hole in an AL format, Rhymes makes an interesting free agent selection.

Closing this time. Let's look at a pair of players with some home, and some struggles. The Phillies activated pitcher JA Happ, who was so strong at 12-4, 2.93 last season with the World Champions. but who has struggled with arm issues this season. Happ's minor league totals, though, have been less than impressive (1-2, 5.97 over eight starts) and Happ's '09 Philadelphia totals even suggest some concern. for example, the 20 homers allowed over 166 innings, as well as the 56 walks to 116 strikeouts. Not that I am knocking Happ, just be cautious, and note that his WHIP this season was 1.65, and he walked eight over ten innings. 

Finally, Alex Gordon, maybe the next Crash Davis, was recalled by the Royals after being demoted to Omaha and then seriously destroying the IL hitting .315-14-44 over 44 games, with a .443 OBP and a 1.019 OPS. Too bad the numbers don't seem to translate as he is just .158-1-1 over 48 at-bats and career totals of .237-38-142 over 348 games. Not that Gordon does not have promise, but if you are in contention in your league, let someone else take the jump. On the other hand, if you play in a keeper league, and can freeze or hide Gordon till next year, he is worth protecting. Just not at the cost of a Jose Tabata caliber prospect.

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.

 

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