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Thursday 19th Oct 2017

It is Memorial Day, so a wonderful and safe and happy day to you and yours as we hit the first real milepost of the season long fantasy format.

I actually just started making some trades in NL LABR, where my team could be dangerous given some strong pitching here on out, and I have the guys to do just that. On the other hand, in AL Tout, falling short, and simply playing the wire actively and hoping for a hot streak.

Anyway, here we are, looking at some newbies and perhaps under the radar players lurking in your league's reserve pool to give the boost I am looking for on my teams.

It is as much fun seeing the influx and development of the ever interesting Astros, and the team's newest toy, Lance McCullers, is it. A first rounder in 2012 (and son of a former MLB hurler with the same name), McCullers has a fine 304 minor league strikeouts, the main stat over his 12-16, 3.79 record over 256.3 innings. It is the 24 homers and 128 walks (1.364 WHIP) that might be of concern, but if you need to add an arm, he is as good a bet as you will get right now.

Puerto Rican native Alex Claudio was drafted in the 27th round in 2010, performing almost exclusively as a reliever, earning 17 saves while whiffing 279 over 268.6 innings with an excellent 0.983 WHIP. The 23-year-old has put up solid numbers with the Rangers overall (1-0, 3.05 20 strikeouts over 20.6 frames) and is 1-0 this year over 8.3 innings. If you are looking for stabilization in your pitching, rather than innings, he could be a good choice and a pitcher with an expanding role.

Looking to a couple of sort of lost souls, the Pirates brought outfielder Jose Tabata back to the Majors, and if you are in a deep NL-only format, he could be a bit of a help as a fifth outfielder. Hard to believe, but Tabata is just 26 still, and he was raking at Indianapolis (.352-0-4) and really has very little more he can do in the Minors anyway. I have always been a big fan, going back to seeing the outfielder at the Fall League, so I am rooting for him. By the way, as a cheap end right-handed platoon in a Daily format, Tabata could be a good and cheap play here and there.

Remember when it seemed like the Red Sox had as many hot outfield possiblities as the Dodgers? Well, Rusney Castillo, one of the many "next big things" is finally in the bigs after he began the season in Pawtucket, hitting .293-2-10 with six swipes over 82 plate appearances. Castillo replaces a like former hopeful, Jackie Bradley, but I am not certain just how much playing time he will get. A year older than Tabata, he is not as advanced, but Boston will probably want to get something back from their seven-year, $70 million commitment. I still like Tabata better. 

With Devon Travis down, the question is who to grab between the recently recalled Munenori Kawasaki and journeyman Steven Tolleson. Tolleson has hit pretty well (.263-0-2 with a pair of swipes) playing all over, and though Kawasaki can steal, his offense (.233-1-48) over 241 games is not much, so there could be a split of time between the two while Travis convalesces. But, another thought is Danny Valencia, who can play all over and is hitting (.348-1-10 with a pair of steals) and he could get some time there too. If I had to plug the gap, it would be Tolleson, though.

Back to a couple of hurlers, Carter Capps is back with the Fish after rehab, and he could well become a source of saves on a team that needs a steady closer. While A.J. Ramos currently holds the job after the latest Steve Cishek meltdown, he only has one save. Capps was thought to be the next closer in Seattle a few years back. A hard thrower, Capps has 11 strikeouts over his first six innings, and he's allowed just a run and three hits. Just saying.

Finally, Shaun Marcum is a guy I have really loved for a bunch of years, but injuries and ineffectiveness got in the way of my man-love for the guy. Marcum lost 2009 and 2014 to injuries, but he is now in the Tribe's rotation with a 1-0, 2.31 mark over two games and a start with 10 punchouts over 11.6 innings. He is now 33, so ideally a little older, wiser, and better. I hope he does well (I think he will).

That is it for this time. Again, have a great holiday and don't forget to follow our DFS suggestions at MastersDaily and play against us at FantasyScore every day.

With the surprising return of Alex Rodriguez, and amazing resurgence of Matt Harvey from serious surgery, there is another return that might just be worth tracking. The Phillies' Grady Sizemore had his mojo so dialed in for the Indians between 2005-08, missing only nine games during the four years, and averaging .281-27-86 with 24 swipes until the injury bottom fell unto him. Over the next three years, Sizemore could only play in 210 total games, hitting 28 big flies with an anemic average in the low .240's. By 2012, he was done in Cleveland.

Sizemore then spent a couple of years getting healthy, and in 2014 he hit a sad .233-5-27 over 112 games split between Boston and Philadelphia and the former top-3 round pick had become an afterthought.

Now 32, Sizemore is still with the Phillies, and though he is not performing as in his former peak, his numbers are up to .275-0-6, of with .348-0-5 has been accumulated over the past three weeks. Not saying you should pluck Sizemore from the FAAB pile expecting too much, but a fifth outfielder who can hit in the .270's is not a bad thing, and maybe we will see a little of the Sizemore former flash. That would be nice.

While we are looking at the Phils, it appears that with the demotion of Cody Asche, the Maikel Franco era might have begun. A 22-year-old Dominican, Franco caused a buzz following his .320-31-103 season in 2013, split between Reading and Clearwater at age 20. 

There was enough interest that I drafted Franco as a reserve pick in LABR in 2014, a move that did not pan out, but after hitting .355-4-24 over 33 games, the Phils wisely determined there is not much more to be accomplished at Triple-A. Franco is a blue chipper to be grabbed wherever possible.

I was going to write about Randal Grichuk several weeks back, but then he went on the DL and the interest was side-stepped. Grichuk, who was hitting .286-1-2 when he went down, was a first rounder of the Angels in 2009, and swapped to St. Louis as part of the 2013 David Freese deal.

The outfielder was hitting .259-25-71 when summoned in 2014, and he did contribute some timely hitting during the stretch run. However, Grichuk does like to swing the bat (28 walks to 108 whiffs last year), so that is something to watch. But with Jon Jay down, Grichuk could establish himself and give your team a little boost of pop. I like him and think he can learn the Major League zone. 

I was big enough on Micah Johnson coming out of camp to buy him for my Tout Wars AL team. Since that team is in last place, and faring just awfully, you can take that with a grain of salt. There is something odd though, with a rookie hitting .270-0-3 with three swipes (two caught stealing) and eight runs over 27 games, and being demoted. 

Johnson was having trouble with his glove (three errors) but the thing that is interesting is his numbers don't necessarily look bad, his WAR is -0.8 which isn't so good. But, it does sort of modify my Tout team, which doesn't seem as awful as it really is.

That might explain last place, or even the demotion, but the point is Carlos Sanchez, who almost even grabbed the starting job during the spring, was promoted and given the second base slot. Sanchez was hitting .344-2-17 with five swipes. If you have to fill a middle infield slot, and need some speed, and especially if you were hot on Johnson, you can probably add Sanchez and get some production. 

I am starving for fifth and sixth starters in all my single-season throw-back leagues, so that means a lot of scouring for pitchers. I know the Yankees activated the occassionally successful yet oft injured Chris Capuano. Overall, Capuano's 76-87, 4.28 line with a 1.341 WHIP and 7.5 strikeouts per nine is not particularly inspiring. Neither was three innings, four runs, and a loss yesterday. In a deep format, I would either leave the spot open or slide a reliever into an open spot.

Let's finish it the "Wright" way. That would be starting with the Orioles' Mike Wright, a third-round pick in 2011 by Baltimore. Wright has advanced well enough, but has also had control issues in the Minors with 510 hits and 121 walks over 477.6 innings (1.321 WHIP). Although, this year at Norfolk, Wright was 3-0, 2.64 over 30.6 innings with 30 strikeouts and a 1.109 WHIP, and the big (6'6", 240 pounds) right-hander pitched 7.3 innings of four-hit shutout ball Sunday, besting the Yankees. If I am looking at pitching, I am looking here for sure, as opposed to guys like Capuano.

It's been a big week for promoted prospects this past cycle, and a fun week for hitters, but for my teams a rugged one for everyone. Sorry to see my man Allen Craig demoted. Craig, a UC Berkeley alum, was such a great hitter with the Cardinals, but his body seems to have failed him, much like Carlos Quentin (maybe they can start their own team, and invite Jarrod Parker and Alex Cobb to join?).

Irrespective, the games and season march along, and so do the promotions with the demotions, so let's take a peak and derive what we can, starting up the middle with the Yanks, who brought spring training phenom Jose Pirela back, ostensibly to be the second baseman for the team. Pirela hit .370-0-5 over 15 spring games (1.030 OBP) and with the anemic Stephen Drew (.182-4-7) holding onto the keystone for now, I cannot imagine the youngster being promoted in order to sit. The 25-year-old Venezuelan should be grabbed in deeper leagues if available.

Sticking with the middle, I have been a Jedd Gyorko fan for three years now, but I am getting weary of waiting for him to return to a shadow of his rookie self. I guess the Padres are as well, as former #1 pick (2011) Cory Spangenberg is getting some serious playing time, and could uproot the powerful but unproductive Gyorko. But, Spangenberg has been getting on with a .289-0-1 line with three swipes and five walks to nine whiffs (.360 OBP). Four of those walks did come last Friday in a game where the second sacker also tripled and amassed 11 DFS points, so he's at least worth tracking.

Turning to some backstops, Matt Wieters was supposed to be the thing, the best catcher since Johnny Bench and on and on. Wieters has obviously fallen somewhat short of expectations, including the injury that felled him last year, and still has the back-stop backed up. Well, Caleb Joseph, who has spelled Wieters for the most part since the injury, has picked it up and could be giving the Orioles the old quarterback controversy, save behind the dish. Joseph is hitting. .311-3-9 with 11 walks to 19 strikeouts over 22 games, and is the next big new thing at catcher since Stephen Vogt. I like this guy, and I hope the Orioles stick with him as he quietly succeeds.

Carlos Perez, a 24-year-old countrymate of Pirela, was summoned to help the Angels behind the dish where the ineffective Chris Iannetta (.091-0-1 over 22 games) has been trying to hold down things. Perez has a pretty good minor league resume of .280-22-265 over 555 games, with 245 walks to 332 strikeouts (.361 OBP) and has broken out well with .357-1-3 over his first four games. Perez came to the Angels last fall in exchange for Hank Conger.

Across town from theAngels, the Dodgers rotation is in a tailspin, although they have received some ballast with the arrival of Carlos Frias, who is 3-0, 2.13 over three starts and 12.6 innings. The downside with Frias, however, is he is not a strikeout pitcher (456 stirkeouts over 554.6 minor league frames with a 1.417 WHIP, and 582 hits allowed). He is hot, but I suspect the league will catch up.

Similarly, I would steer clear of Chad Billingsley, who started his second game since 2013 for the Phillies, allowing five runs and eight hits over five innings in taking a loss to the Mets. Billingsley was interesting in 2007 (12-5, 3.31), better in 2008 (16-10, 3.14) and then the bottom started to fall off finishing with the injury and TJ surgery and a year off. I was on the Billingsley bandwagon but fell off, and just don't have much faith in the guy, I am sorry to say.

One other pitcher I am checking out due to desperation in Tout Wars is Matt Andriese, a third-round pick of the Pads in 2011 who was then swapped to the Rays for Jesse Hahn (and the Pads then turned him into Derek Norris). Since I need arms, I am taking a stab at Andriese, who is not a strikeout guy either (411 over 486.6 innings), though he does have a nice minor league WHIP of 1.200. Since I am sitting on Sam Deduno and Chris Bassitt, well, I can more than afford to take the chance.

Saving the best for last, perhaps the most exciting Major League arrival this week is that of Noah Syndergaard, whose presence should really be a boon to the already giddy fans of the Mets. Syndergaard, who is replacing the injured Dillon Gee, was drafted in the first round by the Jays in 2010 and then swapped as part of the R.A. Dickey trade. All I really need to say about Syndergaard's minor league line is 508 strikeouts over 451.3 innings with a 1.207 WHIP. He was 3-0, 1.82 with an 0.994 WHIP to go with 34 strikeouts over 29.3 innings at Las Vegas of the hit happy Pacific Coast League when summoned, and should be owned wherever and whenever possible.


Another week, another interesting catching prospect is brought forth, that being Blake Swihart. Boston's #1 selection in 2011 (as a high school senior), Swihart had a fine .300-12-55 line at Double-A Portland last year, and that prompted a move up to Pawtucket, where over 18 games, he hit .261-1-9. Swihart returned to Triple-A to start this year, playing another 18 games (.338-0-11), and with the Ryan Hanigan injury, it became prime time for the 23-year-old Swihart. He is a fun and interesting pick, and another in a long line of promising Boston backstops, so gamble if you have a hole in a deep league, but don't be disappointed--or surprised--if he struggles.

The Brewers' Jason Rogers is of a kind I really love. A 32nd round pick in 2010, he has simply played pretty well, posting a .288-63-314 record over six seasons with a solid .368 OBP (238 walks to 357 strikeouts), and he put together a great season split between Huntsville and Nashville (.296-18-82) in 2014. Rogers, a first/third baseman, is hitting .412-0-0 over his first 17 at-bats, and he just seems like one of those hardworking guys who will be successful simply because he is a hardworking guy.

OK, switching to some arms, let's start with a couple of youngsters. First, Michael Lorenzen was the Reds' first-rounder in 2013 out of Cal State Fullerton. Lorenzen has had decent success in the Minors, going 7-8, 3.08 over 49 games (28 starts) and 160.6 innings. However, he is not a strikeout pitcher (115) and not only is his control still under development (1.326 WHIP with 152 hits and 61 walks), but what concerns me are the dingers. Lorenzen allowed 13 in the Minors, and I watched his start last week, where he pitched well enough for a first start, allowing eight hits over his first five innings; however, three of those hits were homers. I'd pass.

Even though A.J. Cole was pounded for a lot more damage (two innings, nine runs) in his debut than Lorenzen, I like his future a lot more. Cole, a fourth-round pick of the Nationals, has posted a 33-25, 3.55 record over 515.3 minor league frames, with 514 whiffs to 120 walks (519 hits) with a 1.24 WHIP. Though the 47 homers he's allowed are a greater percentage than Lorenzen, less baserunners means less damage. Cole has been well enough thought of to have been part of deals that involved Gio Gonzalez and Mike Morse.

For some older arms, Marco Estrada is now in the Jays rotation following the demotion of Daniel Norris. Estrada's win/loss (24-26), and even ERA (4.16) totals might not look too encouraging, but he has a career 1.178 WHIP over 551.6 innings with 519 strikeouts. He makes for a great free agent pickup in AL-only leagues, as he's 1-0, 0.84 over 10.6 relief innings so far this season.

Sam Deduno is filling in as a spot starter with the red-hot Astros, and he has picked up the gauntlet. Deduno came up as a starter but has really been a reliever since 2014. At 31, his pen experience seems to have made him a better strikeout pitcher (94 over 113 frames as a reliever as opposed to 119 over 193.6 as a starter), and he could be a nice sleeper starter in a deep league. He did go 8-8, 3.83 over 108 innings as a starter for the Twins in 2013, though his 2012 and 2014 numbers were not so pleasing. Still, Houston has a magic touch right now, and Deduno, who will be in the rotation for another week at least, makes for a fairly safe play.

Finishing with a couple of outfielders, the Cubs activated that wiley old veteran, Chris Denorfia. I say old as Denorfia, who is 34, is on a team full of first-year players of course, but he is also a pretty good hitter who should get some at-bats to spell the youngsters, and also provide that veteran presence. Denorfia has a career .272-38-172 line over 1,978 career at-bats, and I would expect him to get 275 or so at-bats through the balance of the season and hit around .270-8-40 with maybe even a few steals. You could do worse!

Finally, looking for some juice, the Athletics brought back speedster Billy Burns. The 25-year-old outfielder has a great on-base line of .387 (211 walks to 245 strikeouts) and a .289 batting average along with 184 swipes over 406 games. Kind of Ben Revere-like in that Burns has very little pop (.357 minor league slugging percentage), but he is a leadoff hitter who makes things happen, and he likely will continue to do so until Coco Crisp returns, at least.


Does it seem like every time this year we are bemoaning that this must be the worst year ever with respect to injuries?

Adam Wainwright, Ben Zobrist, Yasiel Puig, Jonathan Lucroy (catcher seems particularly injury prone so far) and on and on. Well, I am just as hammered as you, so let's see if we can find some innings and at-bats hiding out there in the reserve pool?

San Francisco is on the verge of some change, I think. Justin Maxwell (.308-3-9) has been beyond effective against lefties, to start. Drafted by the Nationals in the fourth round in 2005, Maxwell was a reserve guy who struggled till the Astros obtained his services and he went .229-18-53 over 124 games in 2012. Then it was back to nondescript back-up, with the Astros and then Royals before moving to the Giants this year. 

I think the Giants are a team in transition, and with Gregor Blanco (.233-0-3) and Brandon Belt (.234-0-4) both struggling, and with Hunter Pence due back, and the potential of Andrew Susac (.385-1-1), I think the Giants have some roster options, especially in deference to prolonging the career of Buster Posey. As for Maxwell, ride the hot hand, but don't expect it to last all season, for the return of Pence means the Giants have a stable starting three.

Is anyone more exasperating than Ryan Raburn to fantasy owners? From out of nowhere in 2008-09, to a solid value between 2010-2012, then back to mediocrity in 2013 (.171-1-12), then a resurgence with the Tribe (,272-16-55), and the skids (.200-4-22) and now what appears to be a hot year starting with .364-1-7 so far. If Raburn is still in your free agent pool, grab him, especially in an AL-only.

With Ben Zobrist injured, look to Eric Sogard (.265-0-4) to get the bulk of playing time, though expect the team to promote Tyler Ladendorf to pick up the utility spot, and perhaps even face left-handed batters in lieu of Sogard. Ladendorf has some speed, and has developed a reasonable eye (.376 OBP last year at Triple-A, with 35 walks to 56 whiffs) and could even deliver a little speed. But, Sogard is the play in an AL-only.

The struggles of Kendall Graveman means Jesse Chavez should get the bulk of starts, by the way, which is just fine. Though Jarrod Parker, and then A.J. Griffin, are working their way back to the rotation, so that time in the rotation could be fleeting. And, do keep an eye on Graveman, a definite talent who needs to adjust to the next level a little more than just spring training.

A quick word in support of the Royals' Brandon Finnegan, the team's first round pick last year who made both an end of season and postseason appearance, but lost the numbers game this spring. Finnegan is the owner of an 0-1, 3.86 line over a pair of starts at Northwest Arkansas, and he has the stuff that could displace either Jeremy Guthrie or Jason Vargas should they prove ineffective. Finnegan is a comer in any format.

The same is true for the Cubs new second sacker Addison Russell, who has both displaced Javier Baez, and who is likely now the second sacker of the future with the Cubs. Forget the other guys, Russell, the Athletics first round pick in 2011 who was part of the Jeff Samardzija swap, has pretty much nowhere to go but up. The 21-year-old was hitting .318-1-9 at Iowa before his call-up, and he may have some struggles, but Russell is unlikely to go back down now, and more likely to establish himself in what will shortly be the best infield in the Majors.

Add Adam Ottavino to the ever growing list of Rockies closers. The 29-year-old, who has been a solid enough setup man the last pair of years, now has three conversions for the team. In the spirit of Curt Leskanic, Jerry Dipoto, Bruce Ruffin, Darren Holmes, Shawn Chacon, Dave Veres and Manny Corpas, to name a few, welcome Ottavino to your roster where you can while he lasts. It could be till the end of this season, but likely not too far into next. Rockies closers never seem to carry over, year-to-year.

Four Dodgers to watch: Alex Guerrero, Andre Ethier, Scott Baker and Mike Bolsinger. Guerrero (.500-5-13) is screaming to be starting at third while Ethier (.342-2-6) is raking like he did when the Dodgers signed him to a multi-year contract through 2017. While Yasiel Puig is down, Ethier will get at least time against right-handers.

Then with Brandon McCarthy potentially gone, former Twin Scott Baker, who tossed seven decent frames (four hits, six whiffs, two walks, two homers) against the Padres on Sunday. For now, either Baker or 27-year- old Mike Bolsinger (who started Thursday against the Giants, rather effectively), who is 2-0, 0.00 over a pair of starts and 11 innings (17 whiffs) at Oklahoma City.

Finally, I would gamble first on Carlos Villanueva to pick up the rotation slot vacated by Wainwright. Still just 31, Villanueva has started 76 games in the Majors, and was working well enough in long relief for the Redbirds (though used for just 2.6 frames this year). Of course, this is for an NL-only, but there you have it.

What a wild Week 2, and among honoring Jackie Robinson, being awestruck by the Kris Bryant promotion, and amazed J.P. Arencibia still has a career, what actual strategic nuggets can we try to glean for Week 3?

Certainly injury replacements, rather than icons or the new hot thing in the game, was the big topic, and let's start with the red-hot Mets, who lost backstop Travis d'Arnaud to a fractured hand. The team has Anthony Recker lurking, but I would bet that Kevin Plawecki, the team's 2012 #1 selection out of Purdue, sees the playing time. The 24-year-old hit a solid .309-11-64 split between Double-A and Triple-A last year, though he is off to a slow .229-0-6 start at Las Vegas, and I would bet he gets the first chance to grow with this young and fun team of Metropolitans.

In Kansas City, the hot-hitting but equally brittle Alex Rios is down and that means speedy Jarrod Dyson has a chance to get some regular playing time. However, keep an eye open for Paulo Orlando, a 29-year-old Brazilian by birth, who has some very good minor league hitting numbers. With a .314-63-404 line over 1017 games, Orlando hit 63 triples, 164 doubles, and swiped 200 bags, and he might just be a Mike Aviles/Yangervis Solarte kind of pleasant late bloomer. 

Jake Peavy is down, and I am having a bad feeling about this year and the future. Not that I don't love the Jake, but back injuries. Ugh. But, if you are looking to the Giants for a replacement, I would steer clear of Ryan Vogelsong and should Yusmeiro Petit be available, grab him.

Petit is not a hard-thrower, but he does throw strikes, and gets whiffs (190 over 177 frames as a Giant). In fact, with San Francisco, Petit, who is just 30, has a 9-6, 3.71 mark with a 1.107 WHIP. Those are very good numbers.

OK, Nick Martinez: Who knew? Well, for one, I should have been paying more attention to the 24-year-old Fordham graduate, who put together a pretty good 23-16, 3.26 mark over four seasons and 338.6 innings. Martinez, who has never pitched above Double-A within the Minors, struck out 302 while compiling a WHIP of 1.221. He is also off to a very good 2015 with a 2-0, 0.00 record over 14 innings and a couple of starts. I think I may have underestimated him, not that he will be another Clayton Kershaw, but he could be Tim Hudson, and that is very good.

It seems like I have waited so long for Yonder Alonso to get good. In fact, I had the first baseman for a number of years in different leagues, and he just never panned out, despite flashes. I traded for Alonso in the XFL (along with Matt Moore) when Alonso was a rookie, and did get his .273-9-62 2012, which was ok, but not good enough to freeze.

At least it was not what I was expecting, nor was it worth $13 as a third-year player, but now, at 28 years old, perhaps Yonder has figured out hitting? He is clubbing to the tune of .342-1-4, to go with eight walks to seven whiffs. I want this to be true, even if I cannot personally trust him, you know?

Back to some injury replacements, Eric Campbell looks to get playing time for the injured David Wright. Campbell, and eighth-rounder in 2008 out of Boston College (Lord Z's Alma Mater), has hit .287-45-318 over 667 games, with the last three seasons all being at Triple-A Las Vegas. The problem for Campbell is that he is stuck behind Wright, but he makes a good play if you need a stick while Wright convalesces.

I like 26-year-old Dominican Jimmy Paredes, who will get playing time in Baltimore while Jonathan Schoop heals, though I'm not sure why (I did draft, and then release him from my Strat-O-Matic team), as Paredes was signed by the Yankees in 2006, and then swapped to the Astros as part of the Lance Berkman deal in 2010. The infielder was then plucked off waivers by the Marlins, Orioles, then Royals before being sold back to the O's near last year's trade deadline.

Paredes is a crazy free-swinger with 563 minor league strikeouts to 131 walks, and just 23 free passes to 128 strikeouts in the Majors, so it is hard to recommend him, and he obviously can be streaky but, unless you just need a placeholder, I would steer clear.

Wade Davis is the closer in Kansas City until Greg Holland returns, and for sure Davis can strike out batters, as witnessed by his 109 punchouts over 71 frames last year. He is a terrific addition if not already snatched up in your league. (Though my guess is Davis was grabbed on draft day, like Brad Boxberger and Kevin Quackenbush.)

This is an official Yasmany Tomas "Lost in Space Will Robinson Danger, Danger, Warning." He is raw, and cannot play Major League defense, nor can he hit Big League pitching. Let someone else take the risk.

And, don't forget. Early first pitch on Patriot's Day.


What a fun first week: So all over the map, right?

Miguel Cabrera comes out of the box crushing, as does Adrian Gonzalez, while Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw get knocked around like batting practice cannon fodder. Good thing pitchers are dominant early in the season, no?

So, let's take a look at a few of my favorite names for the week, starting with the newest Giants starter, Chris Heston. The 27-year-old has been very workmanlike in his climb from being a 12th round pick in 2009 out of East Carolina University. As a minor leaguer, Heston has assembled a line of 46-45, 3.56 over 765 innings, with 646 strikeouts with a 1.255 WHIP. Heston went 12-9, 3.38 over 173 frames at Fresno last year prior to a brief appearance at ATT (0-0, 5.06 over 5.3 innings) but with questions in the Giants rotation, and based upon Heston's great start Tuesday, he makes a good FAAB selection.

Across the bay, Mark Canha was drafted by the Fish in 2009 (seventh round) out of U.C. Berkeley, then picked up by the Rockies as a Rule 5 pick in December, and then swapped to the Athletics for Austin House the same day (meaning Canha needs to stay on the roster all season, hit the DL, or go back to the Fish). With a .285-68-303 line in the Minors, including a strong .303-20-82 2014 with New Orleans, Canha is a perfect right-handed fit for Oakland. He gets on as the .375 OBP (232 walks to 388 whiffs). The outfielder/first baseman makes a nice addition in an AL-only for sure and should get some at-bats and give some pretty good numbers, methinks.

I am liking Tampa's Kevin Kiermaier more and more as one of those quiet producers. A 31st round pick out of Parkland College in Illinois, Kiermaier played pretty steady ball through the Rays system, hitting .305-3-13 over 34 contests last year, then off to Tropicana where he hit .263-10-35 over 108 games. The 25-year-old seems to have increasing power (.353-2-4 this year), having 12 dingers in the bigs, while he only managed 13 in the Minors since being drafted in 2010. Another play, primarily in the American League.

The Jays picked up there now starting second sacker, Devon Travis, in exchange for the Tigers Anthony Gose. Travis was a 13th round pick by Detroit in 2012. Travis had a great year at Double-A Erie in 2014, hitting ,298-10-52 with 16 steals (and seven triples with 20 doubles) while walking 37 times to 60 free passes (.358 OBP). Travis is off to a hot start (.313-1-3) and is probably lurking on the available list in most leagues.

On the flip side, Anthony Gose is similarly off to a nice start. A second-round pick out of Bellflower High School, in 2008 by the Phillies, then swapped to the Astros as part of the Roy Oswalt deal in 2010, then to the Astros for Brett Wallace the same day at the 2010 trade deadline, and then during the off-season to Detroit for Travis. Gose seems to have settled in, adjusting his sea legs to the Majors, hitting .450-1-5 with a steal for the first week. It looks like this promising youngster (he is now 24) is ready for prime time.

As noted in my DFS coverage, I might well have underestimated the skill set of Houston's Dallas Keuchel. The Houston right-hander now has two very good starts over 14 innings (a pair of runs, nine hits, three walks and seven whiffs) although truly not against the toughest opponents on the planet. Still, Keuchel's 2014 (12-9, 2.93) seems to be the real deal. As in while I am not so sure about Collin McHugh and Matt Shoemaker, I am about Keuchel. I think he will prove to be very good in a Tim Hudson kind of way.

I always wondered about DJ LeMahieu: a big guy (6'4", 215 pounds) for a second sacker. Especially, a second sacker without a lot a power (nine homers over 318 Major League games), but he seems to have gotten the hang of hitting. LeMahieu was a second rounder by the Cubs in 2009 out of LSU, who hit .321-9-210 over 378 games. LeMahieu hit ok as a full-timer last year (.267-5-42) but has come out of the blocks hot, and looks ready to step it up a la Gose.

Let's finish with another great looking Cuban import, Jose Iglesias. Originally signed by the Red Sox, Iglesias was part of the crazy three-way deal that involved Avisail Garcia and Jake Peavy among Boston, the White Sox, and Tigers. Like his team (and mates Miggy and Gose), Iglesias is off to a great start (.600-0-2 with a steal) and is a large reason why Detroit is 6-0 through the first week of the season. He too is more than worth a look as we adjust our rosters this first cycle.


It is hard for me to believe, but today begins the 20th anniversary of the Hotpage. What a ride it has been, and it has been wonderful to share it with all of you as Fantasy Sports have now become so mainstream!

So, as the exciting Cubs take on the Cardinals, in the wake of the Padres and Braves major swap, let's take a look at a few of the implications of that big trade.

Of course, Craig Kimbrel becomes the closer in San Diego, but what about Kevin Quackenbush, whom many of us projected as a save recipient? Well, at least I thought Quackenbush could surpass Joaquin Benoit. Quackenbush is still a great WHIP/ERA stabilizer, and will get some whiffs, but his stock drops in all formats save when Holds are a stat. I do think Quackenbush figures to be a closer somewhere before long, but "future" is the key word.

On the Braves side, I confess to having been a Carlos Quentin fan for a number of years, although after his bad and injury-plagued 2014 (.177-4-18 over 50 games), I stayed away. Quentin, however, can hit when he is healthy (that is obviously the issue) but he could get a new lease on everything in Atlanta, where he should have a starting gig. It has been reported that the Braves will demote the 32-year-old, but Quentin's skill set is so much better than anything the Braves are throwing in the outfield (including Cameron Maybin, who was traded with Quentin, and top pitching prospect Matt Wisler) at this point, I think it is a mistake to designate Carlos. We shall see.

I have been hyping the Jays' Marco Estrada as a perfect reserve/ninth pitcher in most deep leagues. Estrada is sixth on the starter depth chart, but Drew Hutchison, Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez are still somewhat untested over a prolonged period, while Estrada, who is 31, has a 1.181 WHIP and 508 strikeouts over 541 Major League innings. The issue is the 85 homers Estrada has allowed, but if he can channel some of the great 2013 (7-6, 3.87 over 21 starts), he could be a valuable asset.

If you are looking for a utility player, I want to repeat that the Giants' Matt Duffy could wind up with some serious playing time, and related numbers. The 24-year-old, who was an 18th round selection in 2012, has a .302-13-135 line over 248 games and parts of three seasons, and hit a respectable .267-0-8 last year over 34 late season games. Duffy, who plays second, third, short, and has worked some in the outfield, hit .361 this spring with three dingers to earn an Opening Day slot, with a good eye (.387 minor league OBP with 120 walks to 145 whiffs) and could be a nice play in a deep league.

I want to trust Baltimore #5 starter Ubaldo Jimenez over Kevin Gausman, but I don't. Jimenez was a huge disappointment at 6-9, 4.81 last year, though he did whiff 116 over 125.3 frames. The issue was the 77 walks he also allowed. But, I think holding back Gausman (7-7, 3.57 with 88 whiffs over 112.3 innings) is an error. It was Gausman who helped pick up the slack behind the struggles of Jimemez, after all. Handcuffing the pair in a deep league is a great idea, by the way, but Gausman is the long-term play, for sure.

The Braves have installed former #1 pick of the Padres (in 2011) Jace Peterson as their everyday second sacker. Much like Duffy, Peterson has good zone judgement with 217 walks to 233 strikeouts (.381 OBP) to go with a .287-14-187 line with 148 steals over 389 games, and hit .306-2-39 over 68 Triple-A games when not yo-yo-ing to Petco, where he did struggle (.113-0-0 with a pair of swipes), but with lesser expectations on a rebuilding Braves team, Peterson could do just fine. Peterson was part of the Justin Upton swap, by the way.

Continuing with a couple of more middle infielders, the Reds' Kris Negron is of a similar ilk, albeit a bit older than Duffy or Peterson. Negron hit .271-6-17 with five swipes last year during limited time (49 games) and could prove to be a nice middle infield gamble in a deep league. Negron is a Northern California product (Cosumnes River College, near Sacramento) and was drafted by the Red Sox in 2006 in the seventh round.

Don't look now, but Dan Uggla has made the Nationals roster. Now, I am not so much endorsing the second sacker with the biggest swing this side of the "Pit and the Pendulum," but Uggla hit .261 this spring with a pair of dingers to earn his slot. I wouldn't gamble much on Uggla, but I would keep my eye on him, especially in a deep format. He can hit the big fly, and if Uggla can harness that swing with a little control, he could be as good as...Mark Reynolds?

Here we are, just a week from the start of the 2015 season, with a bunch of drafts and auctions behind us, but no doubt with a bunch more ahead. In some leagues--like my NL LABR for instance--there is even a special Saturday pre-season transaction period to fix holes, upgrade, and rectify post-draft-buyer's remorse-second-guessing.

With that in mind, let's take this cycle to look at some late surprises to get some playing time at the Show, and maybe even carve a notch on our rosters for the season.

Matt Duffy (SS/3B/2B, Giants): Duffy, an 18th round pick of the Giants in 2012, did ok after an August big gulp last year, hitting .267-0-8 over 34 games, but he has been red-hot this spring, smacking the ball to the tune of .349-2-9 with a 1.029 OPS. Duffy seems to have survived the latest round of cuts and has a lock on the utility spot in San Francisco, which means Major League time. However, should Joe Panik or Casey McGehee struggle, Duffy might have enough defensive skill and pop to simply step in and pick it up.

Carlos Rodon (P, White Sox): Rodon was maybe the hottest name of the week last week, as he wiped out nine Royals over four innings, bringing his strikeout total to 19 over 12.3 innings, and probably cementing a gig in the rotation, at least until Chris Sale returns. With a 1-0, 3.65 mark over four starts, Rodon is a great nab from the free agent pool if no one has grabbed him as of yet.

T.J. House (P, Indians): A 16th rounder of the Tribe in 2008, House climbed the ladder and debuted with the Tribe last May, earning a job in the rotation, posting a 5-3, 3.35 over 102 innings and 19 starts, whiffing 80 to 22 walks and 112 hits (1.324 WHIP). With a 2-1, 5.60 spring over 17.6 frames, with 15 strikeouts, he has earned a job in the rotation. House makes an ok fifth or sixth starter for now, and his stock and skill set are on the rise.

Blake Swihart (C, Red Sox): How many catchers have the Red Sox paraded past us with the whisper of stardom on their bats, only to struggle and fade away (Ryan Lavarnway, Jarrod Saltalamacchia) recently? Well, Swihart, a first round high school pick in 2011, shot up the chain last year, hitting .293-13-64, primarily at Double-A Portland. Swihart seemed likely to pick it up at Triple-A Pawtucket to start 2015, but his .333-1-5 spring has camp buzzing that Swihart might just make the Opening Day roster with Christian Vazquez injured. Vazquez better watch out, or he could be Pipped.

C.J. Cron (1B/DH, Angels): Another first rounder from 2011, Cron did well enough, hitting .256-11-37 over 79 games and a call-up last year, and coming off his great spring of .407-2-10, Albert Pujols' understudy might well get as much playing time as his mentor between covering first and DH with Josh Hamilton out for awhile. Cron has definite 25-homer pop, and is surely worthy of a pick up in every format.

Justin Smoak (1B, Jays): So many years of promise and disappointments, Smoak does have 74 homers over his five-year career, but just a .224 average and .309 OBP, fueled by 492 strikeouts to 238 walks. Smoak is surely streaky, and if they can simply exploit him against right-handers, and avoid the temptation of everyday play, for which he is simply not suited. Maybe only for use in daily games, or weekend platoons, but Smoak could be a nice cheap source of some power.

Tyler Clippard (P, Athletics): It's settled for now: Tyler Clippard will close in Oakland, at least pending the return of Sean Doolittle. The questions are will he return, and is Oakland better off with the more durable Clippard in the stopper role while Doolittle becomes the lefty specialist, complementing Clippard as a one-two close out punch. I am not so sure Doolittle's arm issues are so simple anyway, and I think Clippard keeps the job for the year, and turns in 30 saves.

 Once again, it was indeed Tout Time, and Saturday I bought my team for the the American League, as many of you know from the blitz of Tweets and great coverage on Sirius XM Fantasy Radio.

Of course, part of the addition of social media to the crazy electronic world in which we live, is that everyone is now an expert at everything. Mind you, as I have noted for the last 23 years, I am not an expert at much of anything.

With respect to fantasy baseball, I can play pretty well, and I can write a little better than I play, but surely there are a lot of humans out there who probably play better than me. If I do have a strength, it is--I hope--in being as fearless as possible in trying things, which as we know works pretty well sometimes, but also can fail majestically just as often.

But, I do sort of liken criticisms to how any of us might draft to parenting: That is, everyone I know who doesn't have kids always knows exactly how to handle other people's children.

Not that I feel defensive. After my $40 experiment on Clayton Kershaw in NL LABR, for Tout I felt like going back to my roto-roots, and simply draft a somewhat quiet, steady team featuring a roster full of good everyday players. I tried to avoid superstars and paying more than $25 on any player.

That said, I had pegged two guys--Chris Sale and Yoenis Cespedes--for that $25 tag, and did get the Detroit outfielder, but Sale went over, so I adjusted.

But essentially I was looking for a cost bottom line that in the context of the respective player's skill set would turn a profit of a couple of bucks.

Anyway, here is my team with basic thoughts. You can review the entire league here

C Josh Phegley ($3): Athletics back-up should get some time behind the versatile Stephen Vogt and has some good pop. A .255-5-32 line will do it.

C Mike Zunino ($9): You know I like his 22 homers last year: I am guessing his minor league .365 will push the average up.

1B Billy Butler ($15): Because 2014 was a down year, we tend to dismiss that it was still pretty good. Bounceback with a new team!

2B Micah Johnson ($9): Speedster looks like he has the Keystone slot locked going into the season.

3B Brett Lawrie ($15): New environ, playing on grass, and some position flexibility.

SS Alexei Ramirez ($22): Power/Speed/Generally healthy.

MI Eduardo Escobar ($1): The perfect MI, Escobar qualifies at second, third, short and even outfield in some leagues. .275-6-37 line last year.

CI Nick Castellanos ($16): Sophomore campaign on a good hitting team should pay off.

OF Kole Calhoun ($23): Everyone knows I love this guy: I thought he would cost a few bucks more.

OF Dustin Ackley ($8): Raked in college, raked in the Minors, and I think this year he will rake in the Majors.

OF Allen Craig ($7): Forgotten man could surprise us all. Or better, get traded somewhere and get a new start.

SW Marco Estrada ($2): In line to be the fifth starter in Toronto, Estrada has good WHIP/strikeout potential. Plugging him at swing gives me an extra potential starter, as you can never have enough.

OF Yoenis Cespedes ($21): Cheaper than I imagined, love him hitting behind Miguel Cabrera.

U Collin Cowgill ($2): Should get some nice playing time with Josh Hamilton down. I think if he gets 350-plus at-bats he will flourish.

P Yordano Ventura ($16): Adjusted after Sale, Ventura has enormous K and ace potential.

P Chris Archer ($17): Another up-and-comer, with big upside, going into his third season.

P Ervin Santana ($10): Ervin misses a lot of bats, and is very steady for the price.

P Chris Tillman ($14): Another steady hurler who still has his best years ahead.

P Kendall Graveman ($4): Looks like he has a spot in the rotation, along with a lot of upside in a pitcher's park.

P Jesse Hahn ($7): In the Oakland rotation, I think Hahn has very good things ahead.

P Tyler Clippard ($10): At best, he gets me saves and a surplus: at worst, he gets me innings, WHIP, and maybe some wins.

P Joe Nathan ($9): Iffy, but I don't think as iffy as everyone else. Should be good for at least 15 conversions.

RES Brock Holt: Versatile bat to plug in just about anywhere.

RES Carlos Sanchez: Handcuff to Johnson.

RES Grant Green: Like Ackley, Green has hit everywhere so far. If he can do it in the Majors, he has a job.

RES Barry Zito: Sentimental, but I still think he could be the new Jamie Moyer.

Rototour 2015 continues this Saturday with the great and fun Tout Wars Weekend in New York City. In fact, this season the drafts will be open to the public, held at City Crab in Manhattan. Further information is available at the Tout Wars Site. Also note the auctions will be broadcast live on Sirius-XM Fantasy Sports Radio.

Anyway, as I completed a list of players I was looking towards as potential bargains prior to last week's LABR auction, here is a compendium of American Leaguers I am looking at for this coming Saturday's auction.

Jesse Hahn (SP, Athletics): I confess, this list will indeed be Oakland friendly, but the reason for this is two-fold: First, I do tend to agree with Billy Beane's assessment of players, and two, because the team is sort of re-engineering, I think many of their players are under-appreciated. Hahn performed very well with the Padres (7-4, 3.07 over 73.3 MLB frames) before he was shut down to avoid overuse. Traded to Oakland as part of the Derek Norris deal, he is slated for the rotation in a pitchers park, with pretty good defense, and his skills point to some pretty good success. Maybe $5 or so?

Josh Phegley (C, Athletics): This time the trade was with the Sox, and Phegley had a great (.274-23-75) Triple-A season last year. He will share some backstop duties with Stephen Vogt, but Vogt will also spend some time at first and in the outfield. I am guessing he would be a $1-$3 investment and should return a little profit.

Billy Butler (1B/DH, Athletics): Coming off a .271-9-66 year, Butler, who is just 28, has seen his stock drop. Just two years ago, he hit .313-23-107, and while he will spend a lot of time at DH, I will bet he hits between 35-40 doubles at the Coliseum. Homers might drop, but the guy can hit, and I think for around $14.

Steve Pearce (1B/OF, Orioles): The American League's version of Scott Van Slyke, Pearce should get another 350-plus at-bats and be good for .270-15-70 or so totals, and a modest ($7-$10) price. If he gets 400 at-bats, Pearce can do even better.

Nick Castellanos (3B, Tigers): Castellanos had a good enough rookie campaign (.259-11-66) and will step it up as a Sophomore, surrounded by a lot of pop (as in Miguel Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Kinsler, and when he returns, Victor Martinez). .265-20-70 is what I see in the mid-teens dollars.

Allen Craig (1B/OF, Red Sox): Good example of lost luster after one down season, coupled with being on a team with a lot of prospects. Craig can seriously rake, as witnessed by his solid 2012-13 seasons, and there should be enough positional chairs as the Red Sox settle into some kind of lineup, that either gives Craig a shot at 450 at-bats, or forces a trade where his offensive skills can be exploited. I am guessing he will be less than $5.

Emilio Bonifacio (OF/3B): Three teams over three years suggests Bonfacio wears out his use and welcome, but he does offer some position flexibility and has swped in excess of 25 bags each of the last three years as well. He starts out hot, so a good April might mean dealing him, especially if the price tag is low (I am guessing $4 or so).

Dustin Ackley (OF, Mariners): Is Ackley the most obscure big leaguer of 2014 to hit 14 homers? Seems like, but as another third-year guy, I am guessing the line drive hitting Ackley will kick it up from his .245-14-65 line. I hope he goes for around $6.

Chris Archer (P, Rays): Has a 3.28 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP over 356.6 innings, with 310 strikeouts as a Major Leaguer, again, going into his third full season, ideally as the team's #1 starter. I hope I can grab Archer for $12 or so.

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