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Wednesday 29th Mar 2017

Well, a very happy Labor Day Weekend to you all as we again wind into the stretch run of the 2015 baseball season.

I hope your teams are hot and pushing towards the title, and if they are, there is a good chance you had Ryan Zimmerman active last week. In case you had not noticed, the Nationals first sacker has a ten-game stretch where he has hit .400-7-22 (that is correct, not a typo) and raised his line to .246-16-73. It is reasonable to expect more as Zimmerman has a career line of .293-40-145 over 261 September games. Zim is only better in August (.305-43-163) but is clearly a stretch hitter.

In the American League, Logan Forsythe of the Rays has not been quite as hot, but he is still banging the ball to a .300-4-13 clip over the past three weeks, with .375-3-10 going over just the past week. Forsythe has never really excelled like we hoped he would after his big 2011 (.243-23-72 with the Fish) but things have largely been a disappointment since. Forsythe, who qualifies at first and the outfield, is up to his second-best campaign at .228-16-50, and at 28 years old, with his plate discipline improving, Forsythe is certainly a guy to keep an eye on as a bargain going into next year. He also makes a nice potentially cheap DFS play right now.

Looking at the Marlins, Christian Yelich is again back (his knee and ankle are nettlesome) after his last stint on the DL, but he is hitting a hearty .500-0-2 with four doubles and six runs scored over the past week. Yelich won't turn 24 until December, and while it is not infrequent that a promising young hitter fails and loses favor (think Forsythe), similarly, it is easy to dismiss a youngster who excelled in the Minors but then struggled when he reached the Show.

Another hot stick belongs to Brandon Moss, of course now of the Cardinals, who had a nine-game hitting streak going into yesterday (it was stopped) and has hit .478-3-5 over the past week, bringing his St. Louis totals to .274-4-8 (a far cry from the .217 he hit in Cleveland, although with 15 homers and 50 RBI). Moss is streaky, and a good left-handed play in daily formats.

Looking at some streaky pitchers, Jorge De La Rosa is a lefty, and he pitches at Coors to boot. But, he is 2-1, 2.08 over the last three weeks, and 2-0, 0.69, with an 0.850 WHIP over 13 innings last week when he earned 14 whiffs as well. Again, if the Rockies are on the road, and facing a team that is vulnerable to southpaws, don't painstakingly dismiss De La Rosa.

Looking at a few more September call-ups, of course we all know the exploits of Corey Seager, the most anticipated of the next future superstars, who was advanced by the Dodgers and is hitting .400-0-3 over his first three games in the Majors. Seager was in Double-A for only three weeks, hitting .375-5-15 before moving to Oklahoma City for 105 games, where he hit .278-13-61 prior to the promotion this week. If Seager is not owned in your keeper league, grab him, at least for now. If you can hold him through the winter, and have the option of keeping or even trading Seager, that is a smart planning move this time of season.

Christian Colon, who was a hot commodity just a year ago, is back up with the Royals following a pretty good 2015 where he hit .281-0-17 at Omaha when not at Kauffman. Colon is exactly one of those guys who was hot, and then was not an immediate superstar, and thus we all dismissed him. He too makes a potentially interesting play as the Royals, who have a lot of parts and can make some trades, let us know their path for 2016.

DFS Watch: OK, Mastersball is dedicated to covering the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest (you play against all the Touts every Tuesday at the Tout Wars Challenge), so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: How can you not like Lance Lynn facing the Reds and Michael Lorenzen this coming Saturday? I mean, a contending team with arguably their strongest starter facing a struggling team with a 3-8, 5.66 mark. Good day for the hitter means it should be a good day for the pitcher in this case.

Hitters to Watch: I don't think we have much of a wait for a slugfest with the Toronto hitters lining up to face Rick Porcello on Monday. In fact, Boston has been struggling with their arms all season, meaning I would favor the Toronto hitters at least until the weekend series begin. I also have to think the Rays facing Matt Boyd (1-5, 8.36) seems like a good bet.

The joy of September call-ups is upon us, and that is indeed a fun time for fantasy owners to whet their appetites in anticipation of future stars and numbers. And, I will indeed look at some names this week, and for the remaining few weeks we have left this season. But let's start with the usual unsung guys who may be floating around in your shallow reserve list, or better, might make a nice and cheap DFS play.

I have always sort of been a fan of the Marlins' Martin Prado, and even grabbed him for my NL LABR squad. Prado has struggled with injuries this year, but up until yesterday was running an eight-game hitting streak, good for a .351-2-4 with five runs, bringing his season totals to .272-7-42 over 408 at-bats. Prado does indeed make a nice pick-up in your shallow mixed league and is a fairly cheap daily play ($3700 at FantasyScore), meaning he is a nice under-the-radar and cheap play in most formats.

The American League counterpart to Prado is the Twins' Eduardo Escobar, who is hitting .304-3-5 this past week, upping his season line to .254-8-40, not bad for a guy I nabbed for a buck in AL Tout Wars and who was a throw-in as part of a Strat-O-Matic swap a couple of years back. Escobar also qualifies at second, third, short, and the outfield, making him mega-useful, and still pretty cheap for a regular, so plug him in where you can.

On the pitching side, since Mike Fiers was swapped to the Astros, he has responded with three quality starts (in four tries), posting a 2-0, 2.25 mark with a 1.00 WHIP and 36 strikeouts over 32.6 innings. Fiers had a killer second half last year hurling for the Brewers, but he may well have a serious new home and his numbers might well kick up all over with his new environment.

OK, on to some rookies not named Corey Seager, starting with the Dodgers' Jose Peraza. Peraza, 22, was signed by the Braves out of his native Venezuela and swapped to the Dodgers this trade deadline as part of the mega-deal that also brought Alex Wood to Southern California. Peraza hit .293-4-42 over 118 games at Triple-A, with 33 swipes before recently being called up. Over his first three games in the Majors, he is .300-0-1, and though Chase Utley may get the starting nod as the Dodgers try to nudge into the post-season, Peraza is a name to watch.

The White Sox drafted 6'3" Erik Johnson out of UC Berkeley (so you know I have a soft spot for him) in the second round of the 2011 draft. No longer a rookie (Johnson has 51.3 innings posted in the Majors with a 4-3, 4.73 mark), the right-hander had a fine 2015 at Charlotte, going 11-8, 2.37 over 132.6 innings, with 136 whiffs and a fine 1.123 WHIP. Now 25, Johnson should get a start or two down the stretch, and then get a chance to vie for a rotation job in the spring.

I have been a big Alen Hanson fan since the then 19-year-old broke out with a .309-16-62 line at West Virginia. Hanson spent 2015 at Triple-A Indianapolis, producing a .268-6-42 line with 33 swipes over 109 games, and should finally get a chance to show what he can do in the Majors. But much like Peraza, with the Bucs pushing for post-season play, his real chance to shine will be in 2016. Still, if we track him now, we are ahead of the curve.

The rebuilding Tigers advanced shortstop Dixon Machado (.143-0-0 over his first three games), a 23-year-old, also from Venezuela, after his solid .260-4-47 season with 15 steals and 22 doubles at Toledo. Machado makes decent enough contact with just 83 whiffs over 547 plate appearances (35 walks) and he too should get a fall chance to show what he is made of. He should also improve with age and experience, if the infielder can keep his bat in the lineup.

Yet another Venezuelan to catch my eye is the Brewers' Luis Sardinas, signed by the Rangers in 2009, and swapped to the Brewers last January for Yovani Gallardo. That gives the 22-year-old six seasons of pro ball under his belt and a .288-6-160 line over 437 games, with 74 doubles and 99 steals. This year at Colorado Springs, Sardinas hit .283-1-32 with 15 steals over 94 games, and though he only logged 18 walks, similarly he only struck out 48 times. Another middle infielder, Sardinas has passed his rookie status baseline with 196 big league at-bats (.246-0-9) but the middle infielder is still both very young (22) and though he is 6'1", still weighs just 150 pounds. Give him some weight, power, and experience, and who knows what he might turn into.

DFS Watch: OK, Mastersball is dedicated to covering the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest (you play against all the Touts every Tuesday at the Tout Wars Challenge), so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: If you are looking for a cheap starter to build some hitters around, Chris Bassitt has pitched a lot better than his 1-6 mark shows, giving a strong 2.82 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 73.3 innings. Bassitt is facing the Angels, who have some big sticks, but some holes as well, and he faces them at home.

Hitters to Watch: It is very hard for me not to like the Mets batters facing Aaron Harang on Monday, and I suspect the Tribe could have big fun with Buck Farmer and his 8.30 ERA come this Friday. And, though Robbie Ray's ERA is 3.86, he has been totally tortured over the past month, going 0-5, 7.83 with a 1.86 WHIP. He pitches in Colorado on Monday and against the Cubs on Saturday. Lick your chops, play those hitters against him.


Amazing how quickly this season has been screaming past us, for Labor Day is just around the corner and before we can blink, the postseason will be begging our attention.

For now, many of us are trying to make the postseason in our own leagues, or just hanging playing daily games (which is easier on the emotions), or god forbid, prepping for football season. (OK, I am too, in fact check around the site for our coverage of the #MockDraftArmy's weekly forays coordinated by @rotobuzzguy, Howard Bender.)

In the meantime, it is the stretch run and maybe it is time to take a serious look at Carlos Beltran as an add in shallow leagues (should he still be out there) and even as a play in DFS. Over the past three weeks, the Yankees outfielder is hitting .322-5-10, bringing his season totals to .272-13-44. The Yanks are in it, Beltran will get some rest, but he is hot, and again, for daily game purposes, he is a switch-hitter.

Similarly, Marlon Byrd, now of the Giants, is really a perfect fit for that team, helping keep the outfield producing on a team that has indeed been productive at the dish. Byrd has a career line of .277-17-105 over the month of September, and as often happens when a player is sent to a new team--especially a contender--the flychaser has come out of the blocks hot with his new team, hitting .333-1-2 over his first two games with San Francisco. Again, in shallow leagues, Byrd's .239-20-44 totals thus far might have meant a trip to the free agent pool.

The Metropolitans have been doing well with acquiring pitchers, and left-hander Dario Alvarez, a 26-year-old Dominican who has whiffed 404 batters over 343.3 innings, is a good example. Although he was roughed up his first appearance, Alvarez could be just the kind of quiet stabilizer in a league where you need to fill a slot, but risk very little. Before his call-up, Alvarez, originally signed by the Phils, had whiffed 36% of the hitters he faced between Double-A and Triple-A this season, and though he will probably just work in situations right now, keep an eye on this kid.

Across town, an American League version of Alvarez is the Yankees' Branden Pinder, drafted in the 16th round in 2011 out of Cal State Long Beach, who has saved 35 and whiffed 250 over 248 innings and 158 games. Like Alvarez, if your league is tight and you need to fill a spot and pick up some frames and whiffs and maybe even stumble into a win or save, Pinder is a nice quiet gamble.

The Rangers drafted hurler Jerad Eickhoff in the 15th round of the 2011 draft and for Texas he twirled until this past July when the big (6'4", 240 pounds) right-hander was swapped to the Phillies as part of the Cole Hamels deal. Eickhoff improved as he climbed the minor league chain, posting his best overall strikeout-per-innings rate this year at 4.67, putting together a 12-5, 3.85 season over 133.3 minor league innings (126 strikeouts, 1.1185 WHIP). Eickhoff then hurled a fine first Major League start, going six innings, whiffing five while walking just one for his first win. He makes a nice crapshoot in a deep National League format down the stretch.

Yet another member of the 2011 draft to watch is Travis Shaw of the Red Sox, a corner infielder whose minor league totals (.261-69-280 over 581 games) seem to belie the amazing .351-6-13 start over his first 26 games at Fenway. Shaw is big (also 6'4", 225) and he hits left-handed, but I would be surprised if he can keep it up.

Before we leave, a couple of hot hitters this past week have been Nick Castellanos and Wilmer Flores. Castellanos hit .474-2-9 this past week and has raised his season totals to .246-13-60. Over the past month, he has hit .299-2-10 with an .886 OPS. As the season winds down, his numbers could get a bit of a surge as September call-ups loom and the third sacker gets to face some weaker pitchers.

Similarly, Flores has had a hot month, hitting .324-2-9 while raising his season line to .262-12-49. Flores was .429-1-5 last week, and he is getting the hang of everyday play in the Majors too, and just like Castellanos, could feed on late-season new and tired arms.

I like both going into 2016.

DFS Watch: OK, Mastersball is dedicated to covering the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest (you play against all the Touts every Tuesday at the Tout Wars Challenge), so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: I am thinking Chris Archer could have a fun time against the Twins this week, facing a team with just a .249 average against right-handers, with just a .304 +OBA and 92 +RC.

Hitters to Watch: On the other hand, the Cubs might strike out more than any other team, but facing Matt Cain won't be as daunting. Cain has just 6.6 whiffs per nine, the lowest number of his career, and he has allowed nine homers over 47.3 innings. I have a feeling some of Chicago's young sluggers are going to have fun with that. Take your pick!


This past week, I noticed that both Travis Snider and Joba Chamberlain were released. Remember just how folks salivated over these guys when they made their respective debuts? And now Snider is without a team while Chamberlain was just picked up, along with Wandy Rodriguez, by the Kansas City Royals.

Which cannot be said for the now Athletics sort of third baseman/left fielder/DH/first baseman, Danny Valencia, whom the Athletics grabbed off waivers in late-July, and whom the Jays decided was expendable despite a solid .297-7-29 line. Valencia has been pretty good with Oakland, going .298-3-10. He is a tougher pick in an AL-only or mixed format as the Athletics do a lot of platooning, but he is not a bad lower end play in daily formats.

David Peralta is probably not quite as obscure as Valencia, being a starter in the Arizona outfield, posting a great .304-12-63 line thus far. But, he has been smoking hot, hitting .474-2-10 this past week, making him a solid DFS choice as well as a good target to watch for 2016.

The Yankees promoted one of their top hitting prospects with the arrival of first baseman Gregory Bird, a fifth-round pick out of high school in 2011. I saw Bird at the AFL last year and he had a smooth swing and looked good enough as a hitter. He started out well this year at Double-A Trenton, hitting .258-6-29 before moving up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he hit .301-6-23, and over 347 minor league games, Bird has an OBP of .395 and OPS of .878. Bird might be up and down depending upon Mark Teixeira's stretch strength, but he is a definite pick-up if your league involves reserve lists and freezes.

The Padres' Jedd Gyorko seems to be back, or least hot after taking the last year-and-a-half off from his great rookie season of .249-23-63 over 125 games. Gyorko struggled last year to the tune of .210-10-51 and finally played himself out of the lineup, and back into the Minors, losing his gig to Cory Spangenberg. Spangenberg's injury forced the team's hand, and they recalled Gyorko, who has been getting it back together with a .292-2-10 week while raising his average to .240. Gyorko might well be best as a platoon against lefties (.813 OPS), but also remember he was a third baseman in the Minors, so if he can handle right-handers, there could indeed be room for both youngsters within the Friars infield.

The Reds' spoils from the Johnny Cueto deal began to surface with the first start by John Lamb. I covered Lamb back at the trade deadline when I looked at the trade deadline spoils, but to refresh, he was a fifth-round high school pick in 2008 with great stuff and a delicate wing. Lamb does indeed look like he has made it back. With a 10-2, 2.67 minor league record, that includes 117 strikeouts over 111.3 innings, there is very little reason to not let Lamb adjust to the Majors, ideally making him veteran ready for a full campaign in 2016. But, if you can hold off activating until next year, that is probably not a bad path.

The Mariners brought back would-be closer Danny Farquhar this week. Farquhar, a small (5'9") hard thrower, had been very good over 2013-14, but struggled this year and was demoted, and even in the Minors, his 1.392 WHIP and 3.62 ERA don't bode so well for use this season. Wait till next, and watch him in the spring.

Colin Rea was a 12th round pick of the Padres in 2011, out of Indiana State, and while he pitched very well at San Antonio this year (3-1, 1.08, with an 0.8013 WHIP over 75 frames) he was less than stellar at Double-A (2-2, 4.39, 1.583 WHIP over 26.6 innings), so he is probably not much of a pick-up this season either. Rea does pitch in a good home park, but the three runs on seven hits he allowed over five innings in his first start are probably indicative of the near path for the big (6'5") righty. Keep him on your radar, though.

Finally, Boston advanced yet another pitching prospect with the return of Matt Barnes, a first rounder of the team in 2011. Barnes has already spent time at Fenway this year prior to the call back, but with less than stellar (3-2, 5.64, 1.881 WHIP) results, so you can probably shine him on as well for now. However, Barnes did nail 417 minor league strikeouts over 397.3 innings, and though he was a starter in the Minors, he could be a closer in the making with dominant numbers like those in his resume.

DFS Watch: OK, Mastersball is dedicated to covering the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest (you play against all the Touts every Tuesday at the Tout Wars Challenge), so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: Clearly, the pitching match-up that should grab your tournament eye is the Tuesday battle between the Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) and the Athletics. However, at least as the week begins, I would take a look at James Shields, pitching at home Tuesday against the Braves.

Hitters to Watch: Once again, on Tuesday, the hitting crazy Jays face the Phils in a contest between rookie Aaron Nola and R.A. Dickey, which should be a nice run-scoring opportunity. Later in the week, on Thursday, the Pirates/Giants contest proposes Charlie Morton and the erratic Jake Peavy, which could also produce some killer hitting numbers coming off a week where the Mariners and Orioles and Red Sox scored runs by the boatload.


I swear, this has indeed been the craziest and busiest summer of my life. Not that I am complaining, but for the most part Diane and I have been on the road attending conferences, or attending some kind of music something-or-other since the middle of June.

And, that makes it hard to travel and stay on top of all my teams, especially in daily formats, and last week we spent at our annual trek to Performing Arts Camp in Cazadero, where cell phones simply don't work.

I do recommend such times of respite during the baseball season (and off) as it does remind that the world will continue to miraculously turn and spin, irrespective of whether I know or not.

Still, there was indeed a cluster of fine young prospects once again brought forth, and one I am interested in is Rangers' catcher Tomas Telis, whom I own the rights to in my Strat-O-Matic league and whom the Rangers swapped to the Marlins this year at the deadline. 

A prototype fireplug (5'8", 210 pound) backstop, Telis is just 24 and has a pretty good resume with a .291-36-332 line over eight minor league seasons that includes a .325 OBP (117 walks to 257 whiffs, and he was hitting .291-5-25 at Round Rock before the swap) and solid defense, where 33 of his 52 minor league errors were comitted prior to 2012 (defense matters in Strat). He could be an interesting back-up for now, and perhaps even emerge as a Mike LaValliere type player: not so much good in Roto, but as a DFS platoon, and ideally in Strat-O-Matic, that would be great.

The White Sox advanced their second-round selection in 2009 with the promotion of outfielder Trayce Thompson, a high school selection out of Southern California who has since toiled seven years in the Minors with a .241-101-395 line, albeit with a somewhat paltry .319 OBP (291 walks to 817 strikeouts). Prospects can be shiny, but I would not expect too much out of Thompson.

However, the Indians' Abraham Almonte, called up with only two games at Columbus after being claimed off waivers from the Padres, has come out of the blocks hot, hitting his second homer in a pair of days and going 5-for-9 with a pair of dingers and three RBI this past few days. Since there is no one to really block his playing time, if you need at-bats in an American League only format, he could indeed be a good source of those.

Finishing up with one more hitter, as if the Cubs needed one, the team did bring up Matt Szczur, their fifth-round selection in 2010 who attended Villanova. The Cubs are indeed stacked, but Szczur has a pretty good .281 minor league average, coupled with 139 swipes and could be a good speed source in an NL-only league. At Iowa, just prior to the call-up, the outfielder was hitting .295-7-26 with 19 swipes and a fine .360 OBP.

Seattle advanced 24-year-old hurler Mayckol Guaipe, a 6'4" Venezuelan whom the team signed at age 16 in 2007, and who has functioned as a reliever since 2012. With 334 strikeouts over 436.6 minor league frames, Guaipe is not a potentially dominant pitcher, but he could develop into a Dan Quisenberry ground-ball out reliever on a team that has a sort of up in the air pen. Still, for now, he is the longest of shots.

However, the final troika of newbie hurlers we will review this week are all primo, starting with Jon Gray, the Rockies first rounder in 2013 who is 20-11, 3.82 over 53 starts and 276 minor league innings, with 274 strikeouts and a 1.272 WHIP. Gray is worth a gamble in an NL-only format, and perhaps even if you need to gamble in a mixed set-up as well. For sure, you should stash him in a keeper league as long as you can.

Same with his American League counterpart of the week in Boston's Henry Owens, a 6'6" lefty the team drafted out of high school in the first round in 2011. After 518 innings and 95 starts, the Red Sox finally advanced the 22-year- old, who whiffed 572 batters and posted a 1.195 WHIP with a 43-24, 3.30 mark in the Minors. Again, he is a must own in freeze leagues, and I am activating Owens, or trying to grab him wherever I can.

DFS Watch: OK, Mastersball is dedicated to covering the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest (you play against all the Touts every Tuesday at the Tout Wars Challenge), so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: With a short set of Monday games, Chris Sale, Johnny Cueto and Sonny Gray all get a shot at a pair of starts this week, but if you are looking for a tournament match-up, Gerrit Cole/Michael Wacha and Jordan Zimmermann/Clayton Kershaw lead the way.

Hitters to Watch: If I am watching series, I think Oakland/Toronto, who will start Drew Hutchison (10-2, despite a 5.42 ERA and 1.516 WHIP) on Tuesday, and also think the fun Jeremy Hellickson/David Buchanan game on Tuesday could be a hitter's haven.

As far as batters go, switch-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera has been hot (.583-1-4) this past week and I am still down with Randal Grichuk.

With the trade deadline behind us, and a gazillion articles out there on who got swapped for whom and what that means, let's just go back to our regular format, even if that involves some trade fall out.

In this case, I mean Tyler Collins, Detroit's sixth-round selection in 2011 who was summoned to fill the slot opened with the trade of Yoenis Cespedes. Collins got some Detroit playing time last year (.250-1-4), posted a pretty good .263-18-62 line at Toledo and is hitting .259-2-7 at Comerica. If you are in a deep AL format, and need at-bats, Collins makes a good gamble, but he might also make a good cheap left-handed play in DFS depending upon the match-up.

In case you had not noticed, the Yankees' Didi Gregorius has been hot, hitting .305-1-15 over the past month, raising his season numbers to .260-5-32. In fact, over the past two weeks, the shortstop has a .973 OPS. Still, Gregorius is not much of an on-base or base stealing machine. But again, if you are looking for potentially productive at-bats in a deep format, Gregorius has been swinging the bat and his team is in contention, so he should be playing regularly.

But, probably the best hitting prospect to get some playing time this last cycle is the Cardinals' Stephen Piscotty, a first rounder in 2012, Piscotty mostly played the outfield in Memphis, where he hit .272-11-41 with 28 doubles and a good 46 walks to 62 whiffs (.366 OBP) and as a Stanford grad, we can figure he is a smart guy. Piscotty is a great add in any league or format.

OK, let's check out the latest spate of new pitchers now, starting with Keyvius Sampson, a fourth-round pick of the Padres in 2009 who was grabbed by the retooling Reds as a free agent after the first of the year. Sampson, with a career 40-35, 4.17 mark (1.341 WHIP), doesn't appear to have a lot to offer, though he did strike out 634 batters over 607 innings, so the 25-year-old might have some value out there if he can gain some command. He has a chance to now in the Majors, but I would still steer clear.

On the other hand, Daniel Norris, the Jays' #2 pick in 2011 who was part of last week's David Price deal, has been written about, but he is a pretty interesting gamble from here on out. Norris made the Toronto rotation to begin 2015, and went 1-1, 3.86 over 23.3 frames, but with a 1.50 WHIP. Like Sampson, Norris gets the whiffs with 384 over 348.3 innings, but like Sampson, he has a minor league WHIP (1.387) that is cause for concern. Still, Norris has potential and will likely be in the Detroit rotation for the rest of the season, so crapshoot accordingly.

29-year-old Yohan Flande has such an irresistable name that I cannot ignore him. Still, the backstory is the right-hander was signed by the Phils in 2010, released, then signed by the Braves, then granted free agency, and then signed by the Rockies, which is kind of what his road to the Show has been. Flande was 3-3, 7.11 at Albuquerque with a 1.985 WHIP, but inexplicably is 1-1, 3.68, with a 1.318 WHIP over 22 big league innings this year. Still, name or not, he will be an innings eater and I would shy away.

Finally, Martin Perez is back from TJ surgery and in the Rangers rotation, and has pretty much been clobbered (0-2, 10.50, with a 2.33 WHIP) since his return. Well, clobbered until yesterday, when he held a good Giants team to just two hits and a ninth inning run while whiffing six and walking none over 8 2/3 innings for his first win. In the process, Perez also lowered his ERA to 6.64 and he could indeed be in a groove, worth a pick-up, and worth a play every and anywhere. Track him.

DFS Watch: OK, we are willing to adjust to the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest, so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: My mate Marc Meltzer really loves Francisco Liriano starting against the Cubs tomorrow, and their .298 OBP, and even over the coming weekend, facing the Dodgers, who only have a .311 total in the same category.

Additionally, I am not a huge fan of new Rockies pitcher J.A. Happ, but he is a junk ball pitcher who will be facing many NL hitters for the first time and that could produce some productive starts.

Otherwise, at least to start the week, it means your teams should blow the money on hitters and that the primo starters only have one shot, so choose wisely.

Hitters to Watch: Shock, Mike Zunino was on a nine-game hitting streak, making him almost as dangerous as Gregorius (cue to LOL), but when looking at this week, all the players on new teams--Brandon Moss, Jose Reyes, Troy Tulowitzki, and Yoenis Cespedes will thus be making my rosters accordingly.

Oh boy, trade deadline time, which is big fun for sure. As a couple of interesting moves have taken place, let's begin this week looking at some of the young trade spoils.

Ok, the Johnny Cueto deal brought the Reds John Lamb and Brandon Finnegan in a fun swap. Lamb, a fifth-round high school selection of Kansas City in 2009, caught attention with a fabulous 2010 at three levels where he went 10-7, 2.38 as a 19-year-old, finishing at Double-A with 159 whiffs over 141.6 innings. In the interim, he has struggled with Tommy John surgery and the return, but at Omaha this year, Lamb might finally be ready with a 9-1, 2.67 mark with 96 strikeouts over 91.6 innings and a 1.155 WHIP. He is now still just 25, and on the verge of showing us if he was for real when we started fancying Lamb five seasons ago.

As for Finnegan, I have loved him since he was drafted last year. Finnegan was there to try and help the Royals finish off the Giants despite just a few months as a pro. A potentially dominant Major Leaguer, Finnegan has 89 whiffs over 86.6 professional innings, although walks are the question, so Finnegan's future rests within that and closing or starting. I actually have Finnegan in a couple of leagues on reserve lists, so I am anxious to see what path this will take. But, I think he will be good regardless.

The Brewers swapped off Aramis Ramirez in exchange for 23-year-old Columbian (via Cartagena, Bolivar) Yhonathan Barrios, of whom we are not sure will pitch or hit, just yet. A pitcher/third sacker/shortstop, Barrios has a 5-11, 3.09 mark as a reliever with 81 strikeouts over 110.6 innings, and a .239-4-39 line as a batter over 201 games. The path does seem to be towards Barrios being on the mound, but the ability to do both at a high level merits a look-see.

One more trade "victim" to check out this time is Jacob Nottingham, a 6'3", 230 pound backstop/first baseman/DH the Astros selected out of high school in 2013 in the sixth round. Nottingham is a resident of Northern California, and as a result the Athletics front office probably has a pretty good book on which to covet. He has a pretty good .282-20-108 line over 171 games, with a decent .354 OBP (62 walks to 157 strikeouts) but is ripping it at three levels this year, hitting .327-14-60 over his first 79 games. The 20-year-old probably gets a shot at Double-A this year. We should see what he can do.

Then there's the up-and-down Cheslor Cuthbert, a Nicarauguan native who was signed by Kansas City as a 17-year-old in 2010. A corner infielder, Cuthbert was hitting .272-8-38 with 17 doubles and 30 walks to 48 strikeouts (.335 OBP). Cuthbert is interesting and worth grabbing as a longer term project, but he is likely still a year-plus away from threatening as a starter.

Gotta mention the Phils Aaron Nola, the team's first rounder last year who, like Finnegan, has shot his way into the Bigs, and it seems the Philadelphia rotation. The 23-year-old fared well his first start as a Major Leaguer (six innings, five hits, a run). He was 14-7, 2.57 over 29 starts and 164.6 innings (137 whiffs, 1.057 WHIP) and while he is a rookie, there is something happening with rookie pitchers this year we all know, so fill the hole as necessary and adjust down the road as needed.

Before closing, take a look at Carlos Sanchez, the White Sox second baseman whose bat could not even be called anemic up until ten days ago. He is hitting .343-2-2 over the last ten days. Just saying.

DFS Watch: OK, we are willing to adjust to the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest, so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: If I were looking at two-start arms this week, David Price should be able to handle both Tampa and then the Brewers. As for single starts, the retooling Athletics could have some trouble with Clayton Kershaw Wednesday in Oakland, and later in the week, I like A.J. Burnett against the equally redefining Reds.

Hitters to Watch: Most of the season series this cycle appear to be pretty even, with no glaring potential run binging, but I would check out the St. Louis match-ups against a fairly poor Rockies rotation at home. The Cards are ready to flex for their annual second half run, and Randal Grichuk, Jason Heyward, Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta et al could all pay off nicely against the likes of Kyle Kendrick.

Wow, here we are at another second half of a season that has been largely a disappointment for my season-long teams. I have to admit that injuries have largely been deadly (as in my Scoresheet outfield of Alex Gordon, Steven Souza and Marcell Ozuna, or my LABR team with Josh Harrison, Martin Prado and Ozuna sort of say it better than I can) but poor performances (like Ozuna) and misplaced expectations (are you listening Mike Zunino?) have also paved the way to standings disaster.

Still, the beauty of baseball is largely within the optimism the next pitch, out, inning, game, series, season, and on, and well, we are at the second half where I still have hope for my bottom rung teams.

Anyway, since we are at the mid-way point, there are some players I hope can pick it up (some of them I even own) and get their game together for the latter portion of 2015, and since my tradition the last 19 seasons has been to list the players I think will have a strong finish, there is no reason to stop now. So, here are indeed some of the players I am watching.

Robinson Cano: Huh? .254-8-34 from the best hitting keystone player over the last bunch of years? True, everyone has an off year now and again, and most players would probably kill for a chance at a .254-16-64 year (doubling the numbers), but Cano is indeed better than most players. His two-homer game Saturday might already be a harbinger for a career .306 hitter who has knocked the pill at a .299-4-10 clip over his last 67 at-bats.

Matt Kemp: Kemp is not as much of a "WTF?" as Cano, but odd in that Kemp's .254-9-50 is eerily close to the numbers of Robinson. It seemed that following his monster (.309-17-54) second half last year, Kemp was ready to return to first-round draft status, but at this point third-round seems generous. However, there are those guys (this could be a theme) who are second-half players, and since Kemp rocked it last year, he is a good gamble if you need to make a move.

Kyle Schwarber: I confess man-love for the best hitting Cubs prospect of all, but with Miguel Montero down, Schwarber will now collect full-time play, I am guessing for the rest of the season, irrespective of what happens with the return of Montero. But Schwarber will play, and the dude will hit. After all, he has hit everywhere else he has played, including his thus far brief stint in the Majors (.407-1-6 over eight games).

Ervin Santana: Santana really hobbled several of my teams with his untimely suspension, but his seven shutout innings over the Athletics this past week suggests he is still a solid enough hurler, and he's not the kind of pitching risk that Jose Fernandez and Patrick Corbin are, where the player is trying to right himself following an injury.

Mike Fiers: Another player who has been getting it together after a horrible start, Fiers is 2-0, 2.00, with an 0.869 WHIP and 17 whiffs over 27 frames his last four starts. Fiers was 6-4, 2.09 with an 0.835 WHIP over ten second half starts last season with 71 strikeouts across 64.6 innings.

Carlos Santana: Puzzling when a guy with 60 walks to 59 whiffs and ten homers can only wrangle a .226 batting average. It is sort of like a pitcher with a 1.35 WHIP and a 2.98 ERA where the numbers seem to scream for a correction. Right?

Anibal Sanchez: Kind of a pitching parallel to Santana (as in Carlos), Sanchez has a great 1.20 WHIP, but a 4.55 ERA. The Tigers are underperforming thus far this year, but I do think they will step it up the remainder of the season, and Sanchez's numbers will improve accordingly.

Mark Trumbo: We all know what Trumbo is capable of, and it isn't like he has to hit .309-35-115 (though that would be nice). But a second half of .255-15-35 is totally reasonable, and the outfielder is hitting .341-1-4 over his last 13 games. Over that period, the whiffs-to-walks (11-to-2) are indeed worrisome, but Trumbo is making nice contact, and if he relaxes, and Cano picks it up, Seattle could have a nice run with Trumbo a major part of the equation.

DFS Watch: OK, we are willing to adjust to the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest, so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: Forget the double starts this week as the bottom of every rotation is getting the shot the early portion of the week, although that does portend some juicy hitting numbers. When I look at the coming match-ups, I do like to look for potentially good two-start pitchers, but truthfully, no one tickles my fancy. 

Zack Greinke pitches Saturday, and Clayton Kershaw on Sunday against those very Mets, and I love both of those plays, no matter how expensive. 

Hitters to Watch: If you want to stack a game, somehow the Scott Feldman versus Jeremy Guthrie game next Friday seems like a really fun way to go. For the first part of the week, the Texas at Colorado affairs similarly look like the harbinger of juicy hitting stats.

It is indeed All Star Week, and well, Diane and I sort of inadvertently jumped the gun heading off to our annual trip with our music crowd to the Eastern Sierra.

Normally, there is easy wi-fi up at the funky Long Barn Lodge, but a busy schedule and crappy wi-fi pretty much forced me into an early break, and truth is, up in the mountains like that, with a chance to play music and goof off with our friends all day all weekend was hard to resist.

So, I took it as a sign the universe was saying to start the break early, which reminds me that this is the time I do indeed write this year about just that: how important it is to let go of baseball for a few days this time of year.

I am not saying don't watch the All Star Game, but, here are some things I would suggest you do during this brief respite from DFS, throw back leagues, and your Ultra rosters.

1) Do indeed get away if you can, especially where your cell phone and internet connection is at best iffy. The world will not stop, and you will actually feel kind of reinvigorated doing so.

2) Relinquish control of the clicker to your family. Period. Let them dominate what they want to watch, even if it is Hollywood Hillbillies, or the Kardashians, or whatever. It is the least you can do if they get to endure endless "MLB Tonight" and especially if you play fantasy football as well.

3) Take your partner for a romantic ride or walk or dinner or play or some combination of all these things or some variation.

4) Do the same with your kids, if you have them: ask them what they want to do (within reason) and join them in the activity, accordingly.

5) Remember that there are still 10 weeks left in the season to be neurotic, second guess, plan for next year and trade for this year. That is still a lot of time.

We will pick up our regular schedule on Thursdays through the baseball season, covering DFS and season-long leagues, along with Rotisserie Duck, Articles of Configuration, Bed Goes Up, Diary of a Fantasy Madman and the Hotpage, plus we will begin our 2015 Football Coverage that will include Marc Meltzer's Hotpage and a lot of coverage of both season-long and DFS football contests.

As we are indeed upon the All-Star Break in just a week, it is hard to believe just how quickly the season is dissipating, before our very eyes.

And, once again, a prime prospect has been brought forth, this time in the countenance of Miguel Sano. Sano, 22, is a Dominican product who was signed as a 17-year-old and has since produced brilliant numbers, consisting of a .278-105-339 line over 445 games (note Sano missed all of last year due to injury) with 233 of his 450 hits going for extra bases (.564 SLG). This year at Double-A Chattanooga, Sano was hitting .278-15-48 with a .918 OPS when called up, and though Sano played third in the Minors, for now he is a DH. Sano is big (6'4", 240 pounds), clearly powerful, and is a must grab everywhere, in every way.

Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham is hardly such a prodigy, but with the Cards ailing in the outfield, the 27-year-old has been summoned. Drafted in the 16th round in 2006, Pham has spent his ten-year career with St. Louis climbing through the farm system, posting a .256-63-306 line over 723 games (compare that to Sano) with some decent speed (119 swipes). St. Louis knows how to use their puzzle parts and get the most out of them, but unless you need to plug a gap in an NL format, pass on Pham.

OK, on to a cluster of pitchers, starting with the Tribe's Cody Anderson. A 14th round selection in 2011, Anderson posted a 21-25, 3.44 mark over 436.3 innings, with 332 strikeouts and a 1.263 WHIP in the Minors. But, like so many of his contemporaries, Anderson has flourished thus far in the Majors, going 1-1, 0.76 over 23.6 innings, but has just 10 whiffs in the bigs. Anderson is big (6'4", 235) but not that dominant, so ride the hot hand, but be ready to dump.

Actually, big guys seem to be a theme today, and yesterday I caught a chunk of Mike Montgomery's start against the Athletics, and he was impressive. A tall (6'4") lefty, and first-round pick in 2008 out of high school, Montgomery toiled eight years in the Minors, going 46-50, 4.24 over 824.3 innings. Montgomery whiffed 692 and posted a minor league WHIP of 1.345, but like his rookie pitching mates, Montgomery has killed it, going 20 scoreless innings before giving up a dinger to Sam Fuld on Sunday. Despite his size, he lives off ground balls, and like all these other rookie pitchers, take 'em and grin.

On Sunday, Montgomery matched up against Chris Bassitt, a 6'5" right-hander, who pretty much held the Mariners in check. He might have escaped the start with a win had he not hit Robinson Cano on the foot with a two strike count (with two outs) in the sixth that opened the door to a massive two-run outburst, enough to win the game. A 16th round selection of the Pale Hose in 2011, Bassitt moved to Oakland with Josh Phegley and Marcus Semien as part of the Jeff Samardzija swap, and filling in for the ill Sonny Gray, he has comported himself well. Bassitt whiffed 367 over 380.3 minor league frames, and I do indeed like his prospects because of said size, numbers, and his home park. Bassitt could make an interesting DFS play if he sticks, depending upon the opponent, by the way.

Finishing with some quick shots, three pitchers are just back from extended stays on the DL, starting with Patrick Corbin, of the D-backs. Corbin was ok in his Saturday return, allowing a couple of runs over five, but surrendering eight hits while earning a victory. Corbin makes for a decent play in an NL-only format, but I am sitting on him as part of my LABR DL for at least another week.

I would not trust Dan Straily, however, although I liked the former Athletic a lot while he pitched in Oakland. Straily has allowed 38 homers over 248 innings which is a lot, and he has not been effective at keeping runners off base (2.07 WHIP over 18.3 innings since 2014). I would want to see some extended success at something before gambling.

Jose Fernandez is a great talent, a la Matt Harvey. But I would expect Fernandez to have some ups-and-downs in his return, just like Harvey, and not really be a dependable rotation mate until September (call-up time) at the earliest. But, by next year, I would be happy to roster either of them.

Finally, Ervin Santana is back after his supension, but that is a lot different than being out due to injury. I would be happy to jump on him in every format. In fact, I activated Ervin in the three leagues in which I own him.

DFS Watch: OK, we are willing to adjust to the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest, so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: A.J. Burnett gets a couple of starts, first against the Padres, then later in the week against the tougher Cardinals. But Burnett has done very little to disappoint roto players this season. I also have to endorse Madison Bumgarner, scheduled to go against the Phils (who have trouble with southpaws) this coming Friday.

Series to Watch: It looks like there are some tasty opportunities for hitters this week too, starting with the Giants on Monday, facing the Mets and Jon Niese, making Buster Posey, Andrew Susac and Matt Duffy all good plays. Later in the week, the Twins against the so far awful Justin Verlander seems fun, and Texas could indeed bring Odrisamer Despaigne not just to earth, but into the earth's magma with the likes of Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder.

We are indeed screaming to the All-Star break it seems and though no marquee names were pulled to the Show this past cycle, there are certainly some sticks worthy of attention, starting with the Giants' spare backstop, Andrew Susac

Susac has seen some time of late when San Francisco faces lefties, allowing Buster Posey to play first, and sit Brandon Belt, who has a tougher time against southpaws. With Nori Aoki down, however, playing time is loosening up per Bruce Bochy, allowing the team to play Belt in the outfield, Posey at first, putting Susac in the squat. And, over the past two weeks, over nine games, Susac has hit .458-1-5.

Similarly, across the bay, Josh Phegley has received more playing time, allowing incumbent Stephen Vogt to play some first and rest his battered bones. Last week, Phegley hit .333-2-5 and over the past month has knocked the pill to the tune of .286-4-9 with a .359 OBP. Both guys are good plays in deep AL and NL contests, and both are cheap plays in DFS formats.

It is crazy enough that the blast of rookie pitchers has been dominant on the hill, but what is this with Mets first start hurler Steven Matz going 3-for-3 with four RBI at the dish his first game? That is a record for rookie pitchers, and Matz comported himself well with 7 2/3 innings over which he whiffed six and allowed a pair of runs. A second-round high school pick in 2009, Matz has a tidy 380 whiffs over 365 2/3 frames, with an excellent 1.160 WHIP and just 14 dingers allowed, meaning he does keep the ball down. I think that means "endorsement."

I had some high hopes for Deolis Guerra, who scored well on my Top 250 prospect list in 2009, after going 12-11, 4.89 over 149 innings split between Ft. Myers and New Britain as a 20-year-old. But, it has been a long row to hoe for the 6'5", 245 pounder, now with the Bucs. Guerra had a fine 2015 at Indianapolis, going 2-1, 1.23 with four saves and 37 strikeouts over 36 2/3 innings, with an 0.797 WHIP. Guerra likely won't help you too much this year, but if you need to plug a pitching staff hole benignly, he is a good gamble.

Speaking of big, the Tigers recalled monster (6'3", 275 pounds) Bruce Rondon, who has 267 whiffs over 238 1/3 innings, to go with 80 saves and a 2.64 ERA and a 1.255 WHIP. Rondon missed all of last year after blowing out his arm, and his minor league time this year looks spotty (2-2, 7.11, with a 1.737 WHIP), but three of his first five outs since the call-up were whiffs, and I would not be surprised to see Rondon in the closer job by the end of 2015.

Finishing the pitchers, the Angels brought back Andrew Heaney, their first rounder in 2012, and he responded with six solid frames (one run, five whiffs, a walk, and four hits) and along with the rest of the rookie pitchers who are jerking around batters this year, Heaney makes a good addition and gamble in just about any format these days.

The hitters of interest this week are all sort of retreads, starting with Cole Gillespie, a 31-year-old former third rounder of the Brewers in 2006, who has also toiled for the Giants, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Mariners, Blue Jays, and now Marlins, logging 271 plate appearances since 2009. At one time, I considered Gillespie a promising prospect, but no more. Pass.

Similarly, the Phils brought back Darin Ruf, he of the .317-38-104 line at Reading in 2012. Since then, not much, and as a 25-year-old at Double-A at the time, it should have been clearer that Ruf's success was largely rooted in age and experience.

However, the Astros have been pushing all the right buttons this year, and they called back Jon Singleton, who was hitting .280-17-66 at Fresno, with a solid 47 walks to 63 strikeouts (.387 OBP). Singleton is a gamble I would take in just about any format, including tracking for starting DFS time as the first baseman works into the lineup.

DFS Watch: OK, we are willing to adjust to the fun market of Daily Games. In fact, you know we play FantasyScore and participate in the FanDuel Tout Wars contest, so let's add to our daily MastersDaily coverage and simply pick a couple of series/games/starts this week that look good.

Pitchers to Watch: The week begins with some pretty crappy pitching Monday, but keep an eye on Marco Estrada, who starts the week against the Red Sox, and finishes against the Astros, who hit long balls, but also fan excessively. Estrada has regained form, and is 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA his last three starts to go with 19 strikeouts over 20 1/3 innings.

Series to Watch: Starting the week, I have to like the Phils against Taylor Jungmann no matter how well the junk baller pitched his first start and also like the Cubs mashers, especially with Jorge Soler due back, against the Mets and Jon Niese on Monday. Towards the holiday weekend, the Jays and Red Sox could put up some hitting numbers between them (especially on the Jays side) and the Cardinals will have some nice interleague contests with the Royals, like Jeremy Guthrie (Saturday), so exploit accordingly.

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