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Wednesday 28th Jun 2017

Here we are at the end of another season of fantasy and roto and simulated baseball games, and while last week I noted a few players that I think are worthy of shying away from, this week I want to discuss some guys I am already targeting going into 2016.

I have to say that in a way, it was as tough this week as last. While I was truly having trouble identifying players who made me nervous after their 2015 performance, there are so many players who debuted and established themselves this year that it is tough to isolate whether I really think Kris Bryant or Miguel Sano or Maikel Franco is the best future third base option.

I do think it is important to remember that baseball is a tough grind, and chances are half the prospects who delighted us this season will struggle and many will drop from sight a la Jeremy Hermida; however, that means half will give solid productive careers, and some will indeed emerge as stars.

So, this time, I will look at the guys I think might have either emerged with some staying power, as well as some vets who we tend to dismiss but put up great solid quiet numbers that make them potential cheap bargains next spring.

I am going to start with perhaps my favorite of this cluster with the Mets shortstop, Venezuelan Wilmer Flores, who is just completing his first season as a starter, posting a .264-16-59 line over 469 at-bats. Flores, who just turned 24 in early August, has no speed and his OBP (.298 this year) is low, but he makes contact, with just 61 strikeouts (19 walks) and did have a .334 minor league on-base total. Along with some of his young Mets mates, Flores looks good to me!

I guess I have to mention at least one Cubs hitter, and if I do, Kyle Schwarber is the man. I liked him from the moment I saw his first at-bat last spring (he hit a grand slam off the Giants), Theo Epstein's #1 choice in 2014 hit .344-18-53 over 72 minor league games last year, blasting through all the A-ball levels. 75 games this year split between Double-A and Triple-A resulted in a .323-16-49 line, meaning a .333-34-102 minor league total over 147 games. So he comes to Wrigley and hits .242-16-42 as a 22-year-old with an .872 OPS. In a lot of leagues, Schwarber goes into next year as a catcher, and if there was one hitter I would target to grab for next season, he would be the man.

I still kick myself that I did not pay more spring attention to the Giants' Matt Duffy. I clearly remember at least two games and at-bats where he looked good, but since the Giants had signed Casey McGehee (though I did wonder why they did that), I just figured Duffy was not worth putting on a "this year's watch list."  Oops. Just an 18th round pick in 2012, he hit .304-13-135 over 248 minor league games, but after making the big team out of spring, he siezed the opportunity granted to him by a McGehee slump, posting a .301-10-71 line. Like Flores, Duffy does not walk a lot (just 28) but similarly he makes good contact (just 85 whiffs), sporting a .342 OBP and .772 slugging line. I like the guy. He is a gamer.

Wanna get how fast time flies, and how we get old really fast without realizing it? Well, do you realize this is Eric Hosmer's fifth season as the Royals' starting first sacker? Hosmer has pretty much duplicated his fine 2013 line this year, hitting .302-15-85 with a career high .365 OBP. Hosmer is still just 25, his team is not just great, but young and improving (like Hosmer himself) and going into his peak years, I suspect the first sacker will up his game to .290-25-90 or so next year. And, because we had high expectations, his price tag probably won't be that high.

Would you rather have Billy Burns and his .297-4-36 line with 36 steals and 66 runs over 114 games, or Billy Hamilton and his .228-4-26 line with 57 steals and 56 runs, also over 114 games this year? I know who I want, and I will also want him next year, and he lives on my side of the Continenal Divide.

I got Eduardo Escobar for a buck in Tout Wars and as a throw-in in my Strat-O-Matic league a couple of years back, and, well, if you play in a deep league, he is the perfect cheap guy. Over 111 games this year, Escobar has a .263-11-51 line, upping last year's .275-6-37 production, while qualifying at outfield, shortstop and even second and third in some leagues. Escobar will be 27 next Opening Day, and I am thinking at Tout 2016 I still won't have to spend more than a couple of bucks.

Nick Markakis is sort of a National League hybrid of what I wrote about for Escobar and also Hosmer. When Markakis came up ten years ago and posted a .300-23-112 line in 2007, the sky was the limit. Markakis was consistent since with the Orioles, but his power and luster wore off such that in 2015 the outfielder signed as a free agent with Atlanta following a .276-14-50 mark in 2014. Markakis is still looking for some power, but he likes hitting in Atlanta, going .298-2-49 with a .376 OBP and 67 runs scored. Markakis will be 32 going into next season, and while his power might not return, give me a team with half-a-dozen hitters like him for $6 or so, and I will use the rest of my money to kick anyone's butt in just about any league. 

If you are wondering just what the Reds are doing, they will be really good in a year or so and that will be much like the Mets rise this year, with some killer starting pitching that will include newly acquired John Lamb and Brandon Finnegan and two kids I love, Anthony DeSclafani and in particular, Raisel Iglesias. The 25-year-old Cuban is just 3-7, 4.15 over the course of this season, but over the second half, he has acclimated well, going 2-5, 3.39 with 77 whiffs over 66.6 frames, posting a 0.988 WHIP. These guys will be good, and I am not even thinking about Michael Lorenzen or Tony Cingrani or Keyvius Sampson.

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.

Pitching to Watch: Anyone notice Tyler Duffey, the Twins' newest potentilly big time pitcher? Well, Duffey went 2-0 last week with a 0.67 ERA and an 0.988 WHIP along with 14 whiffs over 13.3 innings. He will likely get a start against the Tigers later this week and with the season winding down, he makes for a great cheap play.

Hitting to Watch: Billy Butler's 2015 with Oakland has been a disappointment (.252-13-62) but over the last month, "Country Breakfast" (as he is known in the bay area) has hit .338-4-14, pushing his numbers back up where we would expect. Again, a veteran hitter facing some young pitchers going into the last push makes me want to favor hitters like Butler.

Starting next week, Extra Points will be moved up to Mondays while the Hotpage goes on the winter schedule, which is the second Monday of each month until mid-February, when we go back to weekly.

Don't forget you can follow me @lawrmichaels.

As we wind down the 2015 season, I always like to finish off with two lists (because we all love lists, don't we?).

The first is players whom I am shying away from in the coming season, and this week I will touch on them. But, as I reviewed my lists and stats and players, I was surprised to see how few players there were who made me nervous. A good example is Yunel Escobar, the Nationals third sacker who is hitting .321-9-46, surprisingly hot for a hitter who has been a steady, but hardly overambitious fantasy player over the past decade. However, Escobar has had some fine years (.299-14-76 in 2009) but was never really a double-digit cost factor. In fact, this year, in NL LABR, Eric Karabell paid a reasonable $9 for Escobar, so it isn't like any owners had unreasonable expectations, and I would suspect Escobar's 2016 price tag will be right around the same. 

So, who do I think might have a gap next year between dollar value and actual production? Well, I hate to feel like I am ragging on a player but I just don't see the success of Taylor Jungmann continuing.

Jungmann has comported himself beyond belief since his call-up, going 9-6, 3.05 over 116.3 innings with a 1.193 WHIP, light years beyond his minor league 4.05 ERA and 1.358 WHIP across 505.3 frames. Over his last two starts for the Brewers, Jungmann is 0-1, 9.31 in 9.6 innings, so I believe the correction has already begun. I would trade him before the season began if I owned Jungmann in a keeper league, and let another owner take the risk next season. And I promise to either admit I was wrong if Jungmann wins 12 games next year, or not say "I told you so" if there is a meltdown.

At 28, Gerardo Parra is going into his prime years and he certainly has had a prime season, going .295-14-45 with 11 steals and 76 runs scored. Parra has flirted with such a line before, going .292-8-46 over a similar complement of games in 2011 for Arizona, but that is the apex of his skill set and I would both not expect Parra to ever top that and then figure he will settle back next year to the .273-7-36 he hit in 2012. He is .196-0-4 over the past couple of weeks, by the way.

This is a hard one to wrirte, but Jeff Samardzija has regressed. The wildness that plagued the Shark early in his career has returned such that over his last four starts, he is 1-3, 6.66 (now there is the anti-ERA, no?) with a 1.684 WHIP and his season totals are now 9-12, 4.89, with a 1.303 WHIP. If he goes for $12 in an auction next year, I would consider that a gamble, not a bargain at this point.

No one loved the ascent of the Giants' Chris Heston more than me. I actually picked Heston up as a reserve player in NL LABR and he was obviously a free boost to my team and his 11-10, 3.55 season with a 1.265 WHIP has been great. But, Heston is not overpowering, with 120 whiffs over 159.6 innings and his recent ineffectiveness prompted a demotion to Triple-A Fresno. Heston is back, but over his last three starts, he is 0-3, 5.79 with a 1.786 WHIP and like Jungmann, I fear the league has caught up with the San Franciscan. I do like him better than Jungmann, however, as a gamble next year, but sadly, that is not a ringing endorsement.

So, let's change our focus to some of the DFS picks who might be fun in the coming week. The Cubs are so full of great prospects, we all know, but how about journeyman Chris Coghlan, who has been smoking hot the past week, going .400-1-4, playing all six games, and hitting safely in eight of his last ten games with 13 hits (.342), 11 runs, and five knocks. Coghlan qualifies at first, second, third, and the outfield (left and right), depending upon rules, and could be a fun and cheap DFS play.

Anthony DeSclafani has been a trooper, logging 169 innings. DeSclafani was originally drafted by the Jays, then traded to the Fish, and hit the Reds by virtue of the Mat Latos swap last year. He was knocked around at first--kind of the opposite of Jungmann--but has really got it together the last months, dropping his ERA to 3.67 and his WHIP to 1.314 for the season, and over his last four starts, the righty is 2-1, 2.08, with an 0.962 WHIP and 29 strikeouts over 26 innings. 

DeSclafani's AL counterpart might be Roenis Elias, who has a 5-8, 4.07 mark for the year over 101.6 innings, but the Mariner has been hot over his last three starts, going 1-1, 3.38, with a 1.250 WHIP and 18 whiffs over 16 innings. Elias pitches in a nice environment for hurlers and is also a potential cheap DFS play, depending upon the match-up.

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.

Pitching to Watch: We are talking about tonight but I have to take Clayton Kershaw at home against the Rockies and Jon Gray. Kershaw by himself can deliver enough points (in the 20-25 range) on a regular basis that you can live with the likes of Jordy Mercer filling up the cheap gaps. Kershaw takes on the tougher Pirates over the weekend but again it is at Dodger Stadium, and Kershaw is so good this time of year, it is hard to ignore him.

Hitting to Watch: Boston and Toronto get it on at Rogers this coming weekend, and that could be a fun series to stack some hitters, especially this coming Saturday when Rick Porcello (5.06 ERA) faces Marcus Stroman (5.40 ERA). True, Porcello pitched well his last start, and Stroman is just getting back into a post-surgical groove, but next Saturday, I am not sure the hitters on either side of the bench will care.

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.

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