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Tuesday 20th Feb 2018

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.

Through the first month we are, and somewhat surprising are the results. For example, Carlos Lee (.176) and Mark Teixeira (.189 after a four hit day) stuggling at the plate while Javier Vasquez (1-3, 9.78) and Mark Beuhrle (2-3, 5.40) are struggling with the plate. Not to mention Curtis Granderson and Joe Mauer are nursing injuries.

Which means it is beginning to look like baseball season all over, with ups and downs and injuries and streaks along with promising debuts. Like Oakland's Josh Donaldson, advanced to provide some defense behind the dish in deference to Kurt Suzuki's injured intercostal muscle strain. Mind you, I still like Landon Powell, but Donaldson does have a better glove, not to mention his first big league hit was a tater on Saturday against Toronto. Donaldson, a 2007 selection out of Auburn, was hitting .269-4-19 when summoned.

For now, in a deep league, a better selection would be the Rays John Jaso, advanced with the injury to Kelly Shoppach and suspension to Dioner Navarro. Jaso, a 2003 twelfth round pick out of McKinleyville High School, in Southern California by Tampa. A26, Jaso has nice .291-57-330 totals over eight minor league seasons, including a terrific .379 OBP (297 walks to 306 whiffs). Jaso has shot out of the blocks hot (.400-1-9 over 11 games) and is getting playing time and is a good replacement in just about any format.

Yet a third backstop worthy of note is Texas catcher Max Ramirez, also advanced over the past week. Ramirez, 25, was drafted by the Braves in 2002, swapped to the Indians (for Bob Wickman) and then to the Rangers (for Kenny Lofton). Ramrez .298-69-333 totals over 561 minor league games, with a .398 OBP suggests his hitting skills, and with an inability to really establish any of their young catchers recently (Salty and Teagarden, eg) if Ramirez can start it off like Jaso he will earn a starting gig.

Moving to the NL and the outfield, the Reds Chris Heisey was promoted after Curtis Dickerson injured his finger. I saw Heisey at the AFL and he looked great. At 25, Heisey owns .296-51-231 totals over five minor league seasons, with a good .367 OBP and OPS of .825. Heisey does not walk that much (172) nor does he strike out that much (206) so he is a good contact hitter with a good eye. A lot

Back to the AL for a flychaser, with Curtis Granderson down, look for Marcus Thames to grab the bulk of playing time, mostly because he hits lefy. However, just because he is platooning, do not sell Thames short. With a career .495 SLG (102 homers) over 1569 at-bats, Thames should (he has before) flourish in a part-time temporary role with the Yanks as he did with the Tigers the last couple of years, especially 2008 with Detroit where he hit 25 dingers over 316 at-bats.

Back to the NL for another kid I saw at the AFL, this time two years ago, with Eric Young, Jr, son of the former player, who was drafted in round 30 in 2003 by the Rockies. At 26 he has speed like his pop (306 swipes over 583 minor league games) as well as some decent pop (27 homers, 115 doubles). Young also has a good eye with 291 walks to 418 strikeouts to a good .383 OBP, and he could be a serious cog in a youth movement in Colorado that could spell dynasty.

I write that previous paragraph having just listened to Rockies rookie hurler, Jhoulys Chacin having handcuffed the Giants with seven shutout innings, allowing a hit and three walks and not much else. It is hard to think of the Rockies as pitching oriented, but, well, Chacin, along with Jorge De La Rosa (who is on the DL), Jeff Francis (also hurt, but both will be back this season, and De La Rosa shortly) along with Umbaldo Jiminez, and bingo, this is a pitching team. In case you are interested, Chacin is 40-17, 2.43 as a minor leaguer, with 422 whiffs to 145 walks over 488 innings. Not bad.

Finishing this week, we leave with new San Diego second sacker Matt Antonelli, a 23-year old first round pick of the Padres in 2006. Antonelli has promise, though he has struggled at AAA the last two years. In 2008 he went .215-7-39 over 540 at-bats, and that was in the PCL, a definite hitters league. Last year it was .196-4-22 over 219 at-bats, coupled with .193-1-3 major league totals, so Antonelli has some offensive work to do yet. He does make good contact (233 minor league walks to 247 strikeouts) and did hit .307-21-78 split between A and AA in 2007, so the skill set appears to be there, just not necessarily ready as of yet.




Marcus Thames


Back we are, heading into Week 4 as the major league clubs start making the moves in anticipation of their team making a move at a given spot.

If you team is off to a slow start a la Chris Davis or Mike Jacobs, I feel your pain, and though I do not have either the pair on any teams, underperformers abound on my squads. Which means I am really interested in a lot of the guys below (although if you have everyday players who are underperforming, but have a solid job, hold onto them) for some of my holes.

Starting with the big names, the Mets jettisoned Jacobs and handed Ike Davis, the 23-year old son of former Yankees reliever Ron Davis who was a first round pick in 2008. Davis has a nice resume of totals (.288-22-92 over 182 games) with a .371 OBP (89 walks to 160 whiffs, which is not bad), and was hitting .364-2-4 over ten games at Buffalo when called up. He has already whacked a homer his first week and if available, should you need to fill first, Davis is an excellent choice.

The American League counterpart would be Texas' Justin Smoak, who now has the job as Davis (as in Chris) was demoted (which suggests the regard the team holds for reserve player Ryan Garko). Drafted #11 in 2008, seven ahead of Davis (as in Ike), Smoak's minor league numbers were .293-16-68 over 135 games. He managed a brilliant 96 walks to 99 whiffs. On the Rangers, Smoak will, well, smoke. He is likewise a terrific acquisition, with a chance to contribute nicely this season and surely beyond.

Then, Washington recalled outfielder Justin Maxwell who was faring well at Harrisburg (.333-0-2 over four minor league games this year) posting minor league numbers of .258-52-195 over 363 games scattered among the three levels. Maxwell, selected in 2005 in the fourth round does not have the eye and patience of Smoak with 175 walks to 353 whiffs, but if he gets playing time those numbers will improve. Maxwell has struggled in the show before, but ideally the six walks to seven strikeouts he has garnered in Washington this year is a harbinger. Note Maxwell is a gamble, but in an NL only format he could be a help.

Don't ask me how Mitch Talbot suddenly got as hot as he did last week with a pair of wins including a nifty complete game six hitter against the White Sox. Talbot did post some good minor league numbers including 748 strikeouts to 265 walks over 905 innings. The Tribe are struggling, but Talbot will likely keep the starting role for a few more starts at this point, and he has yet to show any domination like he did in the minors, but the talent to do so is there and improves with each strong start. Talbot is a good gamble in an AL only format.

While we are at it, Toronto's Brett Cecil also deserves a look should he be available in your league. Cecil was a first rounder in 2007 who made 17 starts last year (7-4, 5.30 over 93.1 innings) but did not made the club out of the spring. Cecil was recalled last week and jumped on his first start going six plus innings, whiffing eight, allowing four runs, but grabbing a win. Cecil struck out 228 over 228 innings in the minors, allowing 73 walks, very nice numbers.

Boston suffered a double-outfield whammy with Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron inured, and the guy taking advantage is Darnell McDonald, who homered his first game as a major leaguer. At 31, McDonald could be this year's feel good story of an aged star who finally got a chance. At 31, he was a first round selection of the Orioles in 1997, a journeyman who then played for Tampa, Cleveland, back to Tampa, back to Cleveland, then Tampa again, then the Twins, Washington, the Reds and finally Boston where he hit .341-2-8 at Pawtuckett before his call up, and two homers his first week. Ride the hot hand, and I think McDonald is just that.

Next we have 25-year old Brennan Boesch, advanced this week when Carlos Guillen went on the DL, a third round selection in 2006. A big lefty, Boesch reminds me some of Matt Joyce, another Detroit outfielder who was a good FAAB buy a couple of years back/ Boesch was hitting a stellar .379-3-17 over 15 minor league games, and though he has some pop (,275-28-93 last year at Erie) he also strikes out a lot, like Joyce. For a few FAAB bucks, though he could be a good investment in a deep AL format.

In closing, let's look at a middle reliever from the Reds in Carlos Fisher. In the absence of good starters in a deep league, a good middle guy can always fill a hole and I live Fisher, 27. Last year Fisher struck out 48 over 52 innings, allowing 50 hits. His undoing was the 31 walks allowed, but that is something (400 whiffs to 142 walks over 454 innings) he has mastered in the minors, so there is a solid chance he does the same as a major leaguer and earns some wins a smattering of saves and a decent WHIP (1.25 as a minor leaguer) as a major leaguer.

In the mean time, keep the faith, you and your teams. I will.



Welcome back for Week 3 of the 2010 Season, a time where hitters seem to be settling in, although our teams do indeed bounce up and down in the standings like ping pong balls. And, sorry for the late posting, but so many directions these days, and just not enough time.

Still, even this early in the season there are indeed names who spring up week to week, and though it is tough to be patient and wait for Mark Teixeira to break out of his slump, a good owner is always looking and thinking about tweaking his or her lineup. Although there is a fine line between being too passive and letting your team go with too little intervention, and overmanaging and overthinking.

That said, let's take a peek at the players who grabbed  my eye over the last cycle.

I saw Doug Fister pitch in the spring, and to tell you the truth, the 26-year old reminded me a lot of a guys like Mark Hendrickson and Jon Rauch. You know those tall guys (Fister is 6'8") who seem like the'y should be overpowering, but really are not. Kind of like Desi Wilson seems like he should have had a lot of power (Wilson was 6'7" and 240 pounds, yet he only hit two homers over 130 major league at-bats). Well, Fister shut out Oakland last week on three hits, a week after he was unimpressive, lasting four innings (six hits, three walks). Somehow, though, the 480 hits he allowed as a minor leaguer over 417.1 innings still tells me I really don't want to take a chance on Fister unless I have a serious hole in my pitching. I think Fister will be a weight on your ERA and WHIP.

Looking locally, as in Bay Area, I picked up Gabe Gross in both my AL only leagues, hoping he would show some of that promise and get a little playing time. Then the Athletics did the correct thing, in building a starting outfield with Coco Crisp, Raj Davis, and Ryan Sweeney, but with Crisp injured, I thought Gross would get a chance. And, over the ocurse of the season, he would do ok. Well, then Travis Buck sneaked past both Gross and Jack Cust to grab the starting gig, but over the weekend Buck's slump and some good games (four hits, two RBI) from Gross, shifted the playing time back to the former Jay. As with Buck, Eric Chavez is getting every chance to compete and prove himself, but I am guessing if Chavez keeps struggling, Cust will be back to replace him, and Gross will hang as well. The A's have a good team defensively, and their pitching is fine, and they can hit for average and exhibit speed.  But, they lack pop. They will need Gross (who belted 13 homers over 301 at-bats for Tampa in 2008) and Cust to come through when Buck and Chavy don't.

Across the bay, in San Francisco, Eugenio Velez will get the bulk of playing time with Aaron Rowand down after a beaning. Velez can be electric, with terrific speed. And, he tied into a Ramon Troncoso pitch Friday with a tremendous blast, showing his power. Velez has speed, and his average is ok (.267 as a minor leaguer) but he is also a free swinger (.310 career OBP) and can hurt you as much as he can help you.  

In Texas, they have a nice little team, with some pitchers who could be ok despite hurling in Arlington. Add fifth starter Matt Harrison to the list following two very good starts so far . Harrison actually had better strikeout totals (454 over 654 innings) in the minors, and was only 22 when he made the Rangers rotation in 2008, going 9-3, but with a 5.49 ERA. He is 0-1, 1.38 right now over two starts and 13 innings, and he is on a team that can hit, which is the closest you can hope for when trying to draft to wins.

Back to the Senior Circuit, the Reds debuted 2010 #1 pick Mike Leake last week and after two starts Leake is 0-0, 2.63, with 8 strikeouts over thirteen innings, but 12 walks which is a bit disconcerting. Leake, the PAC-10 player of the year and eighth pick overall last June somehow jumped past Stephen Strasburg and even his teammate Aroldis Chapman, though because he is a rookie and first pro, well, expect some lumps. Better to keep him stashed on your reserve roster if you can.

Lefty Greg Smith, a sixth round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2005, who was swapped with Chris Carter and Brett Anderson to Oakland as part of the Danny Haren deal, then moved to Colorado with Carlos Gonzalez for Matt Holiday has made the Rockies rotation and assembled a couple of good starts. The LSU alum is not a strikeout guy, but he also has managed to keep the hits well below his total innings (184 over 207.3 major league innings) but has been vulnerable to the long ball (24 over 207 innings). If he can keep the ball in Coors, he could be a nice pick in an NL only format.

My friend Chrissy Chitwood has been hyping the Cards third sacker, David Freese for a couple of years now. Freese, the everyday third sacker in St. Louis, has started the season strong with .353-0-5 totals over his first ten games this year, following a good debut in 2009 (.323-1-7 over 17 games last year). I would like to see Freese appear more patient. As a minor leaguer Freese walked 161 times to 322 walks, but in 2007 Freese walked 69 times to 99 strikeouts, a nice balance. If he can move towards that St. Louis will have a nice player at the hot corner for a few years to come.

Back to the AL for a couple of quickies. First, Andruw Jones is now on the Pale Hose and is hitting .296-3-6 over 36 at-bats. We know he can hit, and Jones is still just 33, so if you need a utility spot filled, he is the guy. At least this week.

Finally, when my mates Glen Colton and Rick Wolf nabbed Yuniesky Betancourt for a buck in LABR they shuddered, but I maintained a $1 starter was always a bargain. So far Betancourt is hitting .318-2-5 and has likely earned his money for Glen and Rick. Remember Betancourt hit .289, .289, and .279 over 2005-08, so he could be just fine on their roster, and even on yours in a deep league. If he keeps it up, even in a shallow format. 


Into the breech we go, as Week 2 and full time box score tracking is back as a primary function in our fantasy lives.

So, let's get started with Detroits fourth outfielder, Ryan Raburn, a player who has not received a lot of at-bats as of yet this year, but, a player I really encourage some patience with should you have him, especially in a deep format. Raburn had a nice .533 slugging average last year, whacking 16 homers over 291 at-bats. Better, he has already logged a game at second base which could give some nice flexibility. Just remember, though, it is a long season, and if Raburn gets 250 at-bats, he will likely give you your investment. Just try to be a little patient.

Same with Mike Napoli, who seems to be on everyone's dog list. Through eight games last year, Naps was .214-2-5, so the outlook was not all that much better. But, this is a guy who has whacked 20 homers in each of the last two seasons. True, Jeff Mathis is getting more starting time now, but that is because he boasts better defense. However, Mathis is a career .203 hitter with a career .278 OBP. Napoli will get his licks, and he will give you your double digit homers, and ideally be better rested the second half this year (his average dropped from .293 with a .380 OBP first half to .249, .309 the second).

San Francisco picked up Todd Wellemeyer, and he could be a nice addition/stash in a deeper league. Wellemeyer had a great 2008 in St. Louis, going 13-9, 3.71 over 191 innings, but fell off last year to 7-10, 5.89 over 121 innings. The 191 innings represented an increase over any of Wellemeyer's previous seven seasons of 120 innings, and much of his struggles last year I believe can be attributed to that. He came to SF bringing a fastball at 91, and with a strong staff in a pitcher's park, he seems a good bet to deliver as a fifth or sixth starter.

Then there is that schizy Oliver Perez, who pitches great one year, then falls off the edge of the earth the next. Such it was that following his good 2007 (15-10, 3.57) was a worse 2008 (10-7, 4.22), to last year's nightmarish 3-4, 6.82. Perez got his first start Saturday and though he lost, he pitched well, allowing just four hits (and four walks) over 5.2 innings, with six whiffs. When Ollie is on, he has wicked stuff, so watch him carefully, and if you can stash him, do so.

I shuddered when I wound up with Nick Punto on my AL Tout Wars team, but since Punto has been playing pretty regularly, I am less freaked. True, he has no power, but over his career he has averaged .248-3-39, though with 66 runs and 19 swipes and a decent .322 OBP. He does play all over the infield, which does help your flexibility and it looks like he will get the bulk of playing time at third, especially as long as the Twins keep winning. And, Punto has hit both .284 (2008) and .290 (2006) so he is capable of better than that average. 

Back to San Francisco, Edgar Renteria set a Giants (including New York) record with 11 hits over his first three games, including a game winning dinger. Coming off a poor 2009 (.250-5-48 with an anemic .635 OPS) I don't think that Renteria is back, however, despite the gaudy start. In 2008 his OPS was .699 (.270-10-55), but that was down from .332-12-57, with an .860 OPS in 2007. I don't see Renteria as a long term contributor in SF, thinking Juan Uribe and Freddie Sanchez as the principle short/second combo there. Renteria has simply lost enough of a step to make a difference in the field and at-bat.

Is Houston bad? it seems so, as the Astros appear to be a team who are lacking a clear direction. Which means at-bats can be found all over, and actually Jason Michaels, again in a deep format, could be useful. He was awful last year (.237-4-16) and in 2008, split between Cleveland and Pittsburgh (.224-8-53) essentially worse. Before that, though, Michaels was a good #4 outfielder, with averages between ,267-.330 over the previous five years.  Michaels has some pop and as a fourth outfielder in Houston, could give you some good numbers as a #5 on your NL fantasy team.

With Greg Zaun hurt, the Dodgers advanced catcher AJ Ellis and though I his .278-17-220 totals over 568 games are pretty good, his .398 OBP is great (274 walks to 255 whiffs). Ellis could do well spelling Russell Martin and well, with othere AJs Hinch and Pierzynski, well, maybe there is something to backstops with that moniker?


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