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Wednesday 29th Mar 2017

Oh what a fun week, with a more than satisfying conclusion, though I must say I was very surprised to see Oakland swap Yoenis Cespedes, the closest thing they had to being a bona fide star on their roster.

On one hand, Cespedes, 28, has a career .318 OBP (319 strikeouts to 108 walks), something the Oakland organization would like to see higher, and he was going into his contract year worth $10.5 million this year, and next.

On the other hand, Oakland played 442 games with Cespedes on the roster since the start of 2012, and winning 255 while losing 169. But, with Cespedes in the lineup, the team is 228-131, which means when he is not in the lineup, the team is 27-38, so, even if Yoenis does not produce the numbers the team had envisioned, he might well have made those around him better hitters.

I do like Jon Lester--who had given Oakland fits anyway--in the rotation, but the question is can the runs Lester saves make the difference to what Cespedes helped produce?

To tell the truth, I am not sure. Oakland is good, but I suspect Cespedes was more important to the lineup that his meager OBP.

Cespedes was, if nothing else, a lot of fun to watch and I shall miss that. I wish him luck, too.

Of the moves Oakland made--among their many--the one that made me smile was the re-acquisition of Sam Fuld, a player the team signed as a free agent in the off-season, but then had to waive when Craig Gentry came off the DL. Fuld was picked up by the Twins, and now Oakland swapped the disgruntled Tommy Milone to get Fuld back.

It's fun to see Andy Marte, a top 40 prospect from 2006-2009, and who didn't even play in 2012, with Arizona. Now 30, Marte hit .330-13-62 for Reno before his call-up, and banged a homer since. The whole affair is kind of surreal--I carried him on my Strat-O-Matic team for three years--and I would not expect too much from him at this point. Though you never know.

Kind of the same with Jason Pridie, who is the same age as Marte, and was a #2 pick of the Rays in 2002. Pridie was hitting .275-10-43 with Colorado Springs when the Rockies summoned him. Not sure how long he will last, but it seems both players have whet our appetites for stats for so long. Baseball is a tough game.

If you doubt that, just ask Chris Denorfia, with nine years in the Majors, and a lot of injuries, and despite a pretty good bat, he never really worked himself into full-time play till last year. Since joining the Padres five seasons back, Denorfia was .275-33-154 over his 573 games in Southern California. I like him in Seattle at 33, where he does not seem so brittle, and can hit, and with Austin Jackson, makes the outfield a lot more respectable.

I love Justin Masterson with the Cardinals, a very good team, should well be able to use his good, if erratic skills, being as prime an example of Saberhagemetrics--that is a good year every other year--as we have had the past four years.

If you have tracked the big (6'6", 250 lb) Jamaican, even since his Boston days, you know what I mean. Tantalize, then disappoint, then tantalize, then disappoint. Meaning you draft him on the cheap as a risk, and he comes through one season, then pay a price and he helps you lose money the next.

I do think this trade will straighten Masterson out, going to a very good team, in a pennant race, where he need not be the ace, and where a former catcher will be his manager.

I see Masterson coming into his own a la Kyle Lohse, albeit sooner than the couple of seasons it took Kyle.

I talked about Jake Peavy last week some. Peavy is four years older than Masterson, and is much more looking at the downward curve of his career, but back in the NL West, with his former manager from San Diego in San Francisco. The Giants have become sort of a rag tag piece-mealed team, with the comings and goings of Dan Uggla and Aaron Hicks, but like Tim Hudson, Peavy is the kind of guy that San Francisco can squeeze some good innings from.

I don't like him as much as Masterson, but at age 33, Peavy is hardly at the end of his career: just a period of slowing, but, there is no reason he cannot perform as well as Hudson.

Finally, the Cards did well swapping Allen Craig, having Matt Adams to cover first, and a strong enough outfield for now, but he did average hitting .308-18-95 over the past two seasons. Craig is injury prone, we know, but he should take over first base/DH duties as the Red Sox rebuild around a bunch of great young players.

I think he will have a reasonable finish to the season, and next year will return to form.

I mean, he went to U.C. Berkeley: what else can I think?

PS: Keep an eye on Jordan Pacheco, who did hit .309 in 2012, and who qualifies at catcher and will soon qualify at third. He will get a chance to play the hot corner in Arizona, and I think he could close out the year on a high with low expectations on a team waiting for 2015.

I really like that the trade deadline dovetails just a bit into Week 18, as that will make observing--and even participating in--FAAB for interleague swaps all the more interesting.

Of course there was the big Chase Headley swap of earlier in the week that I covered in AL or Nothing (the San Diego spoils of which were minimal) and now that of Jake Peavy to the Giants.

Now 33, a return to his division of origin--the NL West--could be just the boost the former Cy Younger needs to jump-start what has really been a disastrous season. It looked like the righty had regained his form in 2012, when he managed 219 innings for the Pale Hose, with 194 whiffs and a solid 1.094 WHIP coupled to a 3.37 ERA.

Then from slipping (12-4, 4.17 with a change of Sox last year) to worse, with a 1-9, 4.72 mark so far this year with a 1.427 WHIP and league leading 20 homers allowed. With 100 whiffs, Peavy still can dominate, but something is clearly amiss; however, a pitcher friendly park, new contending scene, and return to his roots (coupled with pitching alongside fellow vet Tim Hudson) all suggest a bit of a return to form for Peavy.

That would be a good thing, though I am not sure how much more than $40 of FAAB I would go, depending upon need of course.

Boston did get a couple of prospects in exchange, but I want to move to a couple of other veteran moves before we look at any of this week's interesting newbies.

The Tigers, whose bullpen has simply been their bane for the past few seasons, obtained Joakim Soria (for the interesting Corey Knebel, of whom we wrote last week) in order to get some depth and consistency.

With Joe Nathan struggling along with so many other closers this season (think Sergio Romo and the recently dumped Jim Johnson), adding Soria, who has really had a pretty good year in spite of his injury riddled team (17 saves, 2.67 ERA) as the newest pen member at Comerica is a fine gamble, provided he is still even available in your league.

In fact, the possibility of the workload being split could well improve Nathan's performance as well, both in terms of having some competition for a job, as well as evening out his workload.

St. Louis, trying to fill the nearly impossible void of losing Yadier Molina, signed A.J. Pierzynski to a deal. It is not fair to say Pierzynski's time with Boston (.254-4-31 over 274 at-bats) was a total failure, but in deference to the way the season was going, it is certainly understandable that the team would cut ties.

The Cards, however, should be a good fit, not unlike Peavy and the Giants. The veteran catcher is in the throes of a pennant race, and has a new manager who himself is a former backstop, along with a strong rotation, and even some bats up and down the lineup who can hit.

I am not sure how 2015 will fit in the Pierzynski scheme of things, but for the rest of 2014, I think he is a good bet.

Not so Jeff Francoeur, just brought back by the Padres, to fill their stretch gap. The last time Frenchy hit over .235 was in 2011, but even with that, a guy with a lifetime .306 OBP (908 whiffs to 251 walks) over 1,230 games is not likely to improve too much at this point in his career.

I must admit that Francoeur, who is still only 30 believe it or not, could learn some strike zone discipline as he is still young enough. But, I would not bet on it.

Wilmer Flores has to be the top prospect promoted this last cycle, by the Mets (who oddly are trying to land Troy Tulowitzki, it seems when they have a fun investment in Flores).

OK, so with 54 games played between last year and this, Flores is hardly a newbie, and the .214 average and .296 OBP in the Majors over that span has to have the Mets front office wondering if he can handle the load.

In his defense, Flores is still just 22, and he climbed the minor league pole fairly quickly, landing in Triple-A Las Vegas at the age of 21, and posted excellent .321-15-86 totals last year.

Better, Flores made a lot more contact, as while he walked just 25 times last year, he only struck out 63, and this year, after his demotion, the shortstop has kept it up, hitting .323-13-57 over 55 games.

The deal is Flores clearly will not get any better in the Minors, and giving him the rest of 2014 to simply play every day and prove to himself he belongs is a smart play. However, that does not mean I would bid a lot for his services, if available. Keep it modest, but remember there is a good chance he will play every day and the tools seem to be there.

The Phils brought back Phillippe Aumont, a former first rounder of the Mariners in 2007 who was then swapped as part of the Cliff Lee trade of 2009.

Over 35.3 Major League frames, Aumont has been pretty awful (1-5, 4.79 ERA, 1.682 WHIP), but like Flores, he cannot do much more in the Minors, having played at Triple-A Lehigh Valley the bulk of the past four seasons.

A reliever, with 43 minor league saves, Aumont also has 456 strikeouts over 406.3 innings, and he has allowed just 365 hits.

It is the free passes--249--that comprise a strikeout-to-walk rate of 1.83 that is the killer. However, since Jonathan Papelbon is probably near the end of his time in Philly, someone will need to pick up the gauntlet, and again, working in the Majors, the 25-year-old Aumont might well settle in and learn that control at the higher level.

Definitely worth consideration as it does look like the closer job for the Phils will be up for grabs with the departure of Papelbon.

Finally, Danny Salazar was among the most coveted young arms in most leagues this spring, coming off his fine 2-3, 3.12 performance in the second half last year for the Tribe, where he struck out 65 over 52 innings.

However, in the rotation to begin 2014, the 24-year-old hit the wall, going 2-4, 5.12 over 45.6 innings, sending him back to Columbus.

Salazar has not been too impressive there either, going 3-6, 4.02 with 67 strikeouts over 53.6 innings but having allowed 53 hits and compiling a 1.509 WHIP.

Salazar is a nice commodity, and he could have a pretty decent Hector Santiago-like return, but personally, I don't think the time is quite now. If you have him stashed in your Minors, and can keep him there, do so.

Back from the break and discards seem to be the name of the game.

Let's start with Dan Uggla, released by the Braves just after returning from suspension. Uggla is signed through 2015, at $13 million a year, and at 33, his skill set is very clear: he can hit for power. Still, if Atlanta is going to eat the bulk of that salary, there are teams who could use some help up the middle. As in perhaps the Giants, despite the presence of Joe Panik (inexperienced) and Marco Scutaro (broken).

Or maybe Oakland, where a combo of Nick Punto, Alberto Callaspo and Eric Sogard patrol the keystone?

Now, you might blanch at this, but while Uggla has not hit over .235 in more than three years, he does walk, something the bay area teams like. And, he does have power.

Of course I am only speculating as a bay area guy, but rest assured: as long as Atlanta is culpable for that huge portion of salary, someone will take a chance, if only to get over the hurdles that lead to the postseason.

What now Brett Wallace?

Another former first rounder (2008) of the Cards has a Crash Davis-like .301-84-313 line over 553 minor league games, but is only .242-29-102 over 336 big league contests.

Wallace was traded to the Jays, who are reeling trying to fill the hole left by the Edwin Encarnacion injury. However, since being drafted by the Cards, Wallace was swapped to the Athletics (Matt Holliday deal), then to the Jays (Michael Taylor) and then Houston (Anthony Gose). Then, Houston released him, and Baltimore signed the corner infielder, who then sent him almost full circle, back to Toronto.

I suspect Wallace has a Steve Pearce hot streak in him, and maybe the time for that to reveal itself is now. But, unless you can afford to sit on him, or take a hit in case history that has more acumen than hunch, let him go. Even if he was a first rounder.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece in "Bed Goes Up" where we looked at first names. That was when between the Giants and Athletics, there were seven players named Brandon. And, in it, I suggested "Dylan" was the next big wave in players names, thanks to kids born to lovers of the music of Bob Dylan.

So, Dylan Axelrod, selected by the White Sox in the 30th round in 2007, became the first with that moniker, and now the 28-year-old finds himself with the Reds.

Like Wallace, Axelrod has fine minor league numbers (40-26, 3.04, with a 1.09 WHIP) but awful big league ones (7-13, 5.36, 1.6010). But, with a new team, in a new league, Axelrod could indeed do alright the first time around the circuit, and is an OK gamble for the short term.

Keep an eye on Paco Rodriguez, the hard-throwing lefty who racked up 66 whiffs over 45.3 minor league innings with six saves in the Minors and then had a great 2013 with the big club (3-4, 2.32 with two saves and an 0.92 WHIP last year). Elbow problems messed up the first half of his 2014, but Rodriguez could be a nice stat stabilizer who gets some whiffs (78 over 69.3 innings with the Dodgers) and maybe even a win or a save here and there.

Similarly, the Braves brought forth another southpaw, Chasen Shreve, a 2010 (11th round) signing with pretty good minor league totals. As in 19-15, 3.20 over 267 innings, with 264 strikeouts, and a 1.330 WHIP.

But, this year Shreve has been brilliant, with seven saves and 76 strikeouts to 9 walks (0.939 WHIP) and a 3-2, 2.86 mark over 54.3 innings.

As noted, this time of year, especially in a deep league, generating counting stats while balancing against hurting your WHIP and ERA are essential to winning. However, the tough part is judging when the right time to move as such, for you want to be conservative enough to not hurt your team, and yet remain aggressive with active players.

Either Rodriguez or Shreve can help your squad with that at this juncture.

On the other hand, the Tigers' Corey Knebel, a first rounder in 2013, might be a real find for the seemingly ever-struggling Detroit pen, and similarly, with 6-2, 1.26 totals over just 64.1 minor league innings, that includes 84 strikeouts and 18 saves, well, the numbers speak for themselves. More than worth a gamble.

Knebel could turn out to be a real source for saves, unlike his bullpen counterparts here. Bid aggressively.

What a lot of transactions--particularly teams looking at the second half, and dropping dead weight--were placed during the last cycle.

So, let's start with Arismendy Alcantara, another of the young Cubbies who might just well lead the team out of their 100-year plus World Series victory drought.

A 22-year-old Dominican, Alcantara has literally advanced a level of play every season since he signed in 2009, going .271-15-69 with 36 doubles and 31 swipes at West Tennessee last year, prompting a promotion to Iowa this year where he went .307-10-41 with 11 triples and 21 Triple-A swipes.

With a minor league line of .284-40-254 over 530 games, with 41 triples and 112 swipes, Alcantara burst onto the Wrigley scene with a four-hit debut. Furthermore, with the ability to play second, short and the outfield, Alcantara really fits the mold of the new young player--a la Brock Holt--who can perform all over the diamond and help their team move forward.

In other words, I like him as a second half crap shoot.


...Let's see, Alfonso Soriano gets released and Carlos Pena gets signed. Joe Saunders is released and Jair Jurrjens is called up, and then Saunders is signed after all. So, of course Dan Johnson is signed by the Jays to fill the Edwin Encarnacion hole.

Now 35, Johnson has a wunderkind of minor league numbers with a .285-238-878 line that includes 794 walks to 893 whiffs (.393 OBP) and a ridiculous .903 OPS over 13 seasons, which translates to .236-56-194 and a .748 OPS over parts of eight years. Pass.

Then we have Grady Sizemore, again trying to jump-start something in Philly. Pass.

As for Marco Scutaro, he will probably not play full time now that he has returned to the Giants, meaning Joe Panik should get the playing time in the near term. Scutaro can hit, but similarly, he has been suffering with back issues. He could be a of some help. He could also break tomorrrow, but, I think if Scutaro shows any stick at all and can stay healthy through the end of July, those things could change.

OK, so old, new, A.J. Pierzynski gets sent packing, while Christian Vazquez was brought up. Vazquez was signed out of Puerto Rico, and he has a .265-38-251 line over 500 minor league games. Vazquez has a pretty decent .344 OBP (204 walks, 361 whiffs). He has had a nice start for the Sox and with David Ross as his only obstacle, he will get at-bats. And, though I do like Vazquez as a gamble, I cannot help but think Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the ghosts of Boston catchers past.

Finally, I see the Pirates promoted Jaff Decker, and I don't really have an issue with that, but I have to wonder just how badly Jose Tabata must have pissed off the Pittsburgh front office (not that he is faring so well at Indianapolis with a .219-0-2 line over ten games).

*   *   *   *

OK, so it is the break and I usually dispense with some thoughts about how to spend it.

Like taking your partner out for the evening to some event of their choosing.

Like spending time with your kids, if you still have them at home with you.

Like, even take your own hiatus for a day or two from stats and trades and such.

In other words, it is a break.

So take one.

Your family will thank you, and so will your brain. And, that could help kick it during the second half.

Peace out.

What an exciting weekend to be an Athletics fan as Billy Beane went for the roster jugular grabbing Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel without even remotely impacting his on-field roster. In fact, suddenly Oakland has a bounty of starting arms and a pitching staff that is as deep and flexible as the team's roster of position players.

On the Athletics side, Samardzija's great Oakland debut Sunday (seven innings, four hits, a walk, and five whiffs) is largely what the team and roto owners should expect as the team with the lowest team ERA in the league actually collected a legitimate top flight starter with a current three-year stat base.

For Samardzija, he gets a team that is both in contention and can score runs, which makes the deal win/win in every possible direction. Furthermore, the Athletics will have the rights to the former Cub for 2015 as well.

If you are in an AL-only configuration, and Samardzija is available for a FAAB pick-up, throw a max bid out for him, for if you need a starter, the tall right-hander is exactly what you need, and if you don't need pitching, you will have a surplus from which to trade, for one thing. For another, this will allow you to have more control over the distribution of talent within your league. (note he went for $85 in Tout AL.)

Much the same can be said for Jason Hammel, who at 31 is a couple of years older than Samardzija, is having the best campaign of his career, going 8-5, 2.98 over 108.6 innings with a 1.021 WHIP and a fine 104 strikeouts over 108.6 frames. Hammel steps into the same Oakland rotation that to a large degree has been piecemeal this year, and just makes the entire cluster that much more potentially stable and reliable over the course of the most challenging part of the year.

Hammel might not have the luster of Samardzija, but he is still a pretty good FAAB bet.

What about Tommy Milone, who just shut out the Blue Jays over six innings and who is 5-1 over his last six starts with a season mark of 5-3, 3.57, who has delivered 96 very strong innings stepping into the team breach left by injuries to A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker, and the ineffectiveness of the now traded Dan Straily?

Well, sending Milone down made administrative sense since he started Friday, and was unavailable to pitch for a couple of days anyway. I would expect that Milone will be back from Sacramento at the expense of Jesse Chavez as Brad Mills has already been moved to the bullpen.

Add in that Chavez is a great story, but he has already tossed 36 more innings than his career high in 2009, so a breakdown as the season progresses is not out of the question.

Meaning, in the event of an injury--because there haven't been any this year, right?--he is there, and if Billy still has his trading shoes on, Milone simply provides an extra chip. Irrespective, I suspect we have not heard the last of Milone this season.

What about the Cubs spoils of Dan Straily, Addison Russell and Billy McKinney?

Expect Straily to step into the Chicago rotation after a stint in Triple-A and help get some NL sea legs and working on command at Wrigley, despite the lumpy season he has endured thus far. As in a 4-3, 4.71 mark at Triple-A after being demoted from the Oakland rotation in May (1-2, 4.93 over seven starts).

Straily is pretty good at keeping runners off base with a 1.257 WHIP in the Majors, and he strikes out a reasonable share of hitters (8.0 per nine innings) but he does give up the long ball (1.4 over nine innings). He is just 25 years old, but surely has to work on the big fly, but otherwise he has a reasonable future out there, although I am not sure how much I would gamble this season.

In McKinney and Russell, the Cubs continue to add to their prospect riches for both are former #1 picks. Exactly where Russell winds up, in deference to  position, with Starlin Castro on the roster is a question, but not one to think about for the most part until 2015. Either way, the Cubbies are loaded with talented prospects. The only questions are when and if they emerge as we anticipate.

While we are on the path of Oakland hurlers, what about former Athletic, now former Diamondback Brandon McCarthy, who is now a Yankee? Well, if Samardzija and Hammel make good bets, McCarthy becomes a reasonable gamble. He has had good success in the American League, and now goes to a contender.

The reality is that McCarthy has never really rebounded from the bang on the noggin from a line drive he received in 2012. I don't mean this as a criticism, for I was at that game and it was indeed wicked. In fact, I don't see how he can even go back on the mound.

Irrespective, McCarthy is 8-21, 4.75 over 244.6 innings with a 1.361 since returning from the injury, hence the use of the word "gamble."

There is no way I can let the week pass without noting the same Yankees sent down Yangervis Solarte in deference to the equally deliciously named Zelous Wheeler.

Wheeler is hitting .299-7-31 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year, with 20 walks to 49 strikeouts. That means a .367 OBP and an .834 OPS. Wheeler might start out hot for the Pinstripes, but if you do select him, expect to exploit and then dump. I don't think the utility infielder will prove to be as successful as Solarte, even for half as long.

If you need to gamble on a middle infielder, however, I would rather risk it on Munenori Kawasaki. I really liked Kawasaki when I saw him in the spring in 2012 but he proved to be overmatched at the dish. But, now, with a couple of years in the Majors, he seems like a different guy at the dish, going with the pitch, and using his intrinsic skills and the edge now of his experience. Kawasaki should be starting at second base for a spell, and will not hurt your average and grab some swipes.

Finally, were I to gamble on a hitter this week who is likely floating around the free agent universe, it would be on new Blue Jay Nolan Reimold.

Reimold will likely step into a starting gig, with Edwin Encarnacion now down, and since Toronto has tried virtually every available piece in right field--assuming Jose Bautista grabs first base--Reimold has the cred and also tends to start out hot. He could give you a deadly season balance.

As I write, the Athletics just swept the Marlins over three days, giving them 51 wins, and sealing the first half of the season for the team.

It has indeed been an intriguing run thus far, and while it is clear the Athletics are the best team going right now, the Fish have a very good young team, and they will get even better. In fact, Seattle, Kansas City and Houston have taken what appear to be steps forward which is just great.

Locally, it has been a fun week, and I must start by giving a nod to Tim Lincecum, who just tossed his second no-hitter earlier in the week. I saw the bulk of the game and Timmy did a great job, moving the ball around, changing speeds and showing that he can indeed be one of the best pitchers in the league.

I have always enjoyed watching Timmy and his game, so I truly hope this success indeed pushes Lincecum forward to the next big phase of his career.

Lincecum had his way with the Padres Wednesday, but San Diego tossed a couple of interesting pitchers out against the Giants the first part of the week, starting with Odrisamer Despaigne, the newest Cuban on the scene, and one who has caused a lot of virtual chatter largely because of his 1-3, 7.61 record over 23.6 innings at Triple-A El Paso.

Despaigne was the picture of command, changing speeds and fooling hitters with a giant curve ball, throwing very little more than 89 MPH, if that. I have to confess that the right hander reminded me a lot of Orlando Hernandez in that he looked hittable and wily at the same time. I am not sure about the prolonged success of the 27-year-old, but I would surely pick him up and watch him go through the league once, taking advantage accordingly, dropping him when and if he is figured out. But, for now, I think what he did to the Giants (four hits and nothing else over seven frames), he will do to his next half dozen victims.

The Padres also pushed Jesse Hahn, a sixth-round pick of the Rays in 2010 who was traded early this year as part of the Alex Torres deal to Petco land. Hahn has pitched well in the Majors thus far, going 3-1, 2.38, with 27 strikeouts over 22 innings and four starts. In the Minors over 45 games and 42 starts, he has been 6-4, 2.32, with 155 whiffs over 159.6 innings (1.117 WHIP). Probably, the 24-year-old has a longer potential career ahead of him than Despaigne, but hey, this is baseball, so who really knows what the future holds?

For the immediate future, however, I like Despaigne.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Red Sox promoted Mookie Betts (though I wonder just what Rubby de la Rosa did wrong?). Betts was hitting .345-8-48 over 77 games this year, split between Portland and Pawtucket, with 29 steals and a fantastic 51 walks to 33 strikeouts, good for a .437 OBP. In fact, Betts has recorded 164 walks to 120 whiffs over his 276 minor league games with a .408 OBP and .869 OPS. He can play the infield, but can also do the outfield, which is likely where he will get most of his time this time through. But, with Brock Holt, Xander Bogaerts, Garin Cecchini and now Betts up, the Sox have an exciting bunch of young players who will be fun to watch coalesce into a very good team.

Well, let's see, let's trade our crappy closer for yours, said the Pirates and the Angels.

That means Ernesto Frieri (0-3, 6.19, 11 saves) gets back to the National League (he started in San Diego). Frieri has 38 whiffs over 33 innings, which is good, but he has allowed eight homers, one about every four frames, which is not very good, especially for a closer. I have always liked Frieri, but the homers and strikeouts tell me he still throws hard, but in an Armando Benitez/it goes pretty straight way. Not good.

As for Grilli, his numbers seem better (0-2, 4.87, 11 saves and 22 whiffs over 21 innings, with just four dingers surrendered). But, Grilli  is seven years older than Frieri, and he moves in behind Joe Smith, who probably owns the closer role for now. If I were to gamble on one of the two, it would be Frieri.

Note that I took them both in the monthly Shandler Park format as they were each $2 (of a $300 cap) and holds count as do saves.

How tough are things in Texas? Well, the team just brought forth Carlos Pena to fill the Prince Fielder/Mitch Moreland first base abyss. If your league favors OBP, Pena could be an OK source of power. He hit .207-8-25 last year over 280 at-bats, but managed a .324 OBP. If you go average though, unless you can take the hit there, Pena probably is not worth the gamble.

To say that Oakland works miracles with pitchers is a bit of an understatement this year. And, he did have a good start, but I would draw the line with Brad Mills, no matter how much you need a starter or were impressed with his game the other day in New York. The guy has a 7.21 career ERA and though he has 59 whiffs over 63.2 innings, he has a WHIP of 1.696 (73 hits, 35 walks, 11 homers). I am not saying Oakland won't figure a way to get the most out of Mills, but I don't think the numbers will work out the same for your team.

Here we are, Week 13 of the season, meaning we really are hitting the halfway point of the 2014 season, amazingly.

During the weekend, I watched a lot of the Red Sox and Athletics duke it out, and I must confess that I had not really noticed just how effective a couple of their middle relievers have been, starting with Burke Badenhop, who had gone 31.6 innings--since April 18--without allowing an earned run till Sunday when he ran into the Oakland hitters. Badenhop sports an 0-2 mark, but a sparkly 1.55 ERA to go with a save and a solid 1.181 WHIP (just one homer allowed) and this time of year, stabilizing numbers is as important as simply building a base of stats at the beginning of the season.

Similarly, I hadn't noticed just how effective lefty Andrew Miller of the Sox has been. Miller is 2-5, but with a 2.70 ERA and most impressive 40 whiffs over 30 frames (14.6 whiffs per nine innings) to go with a 1.00 WHIP and also just one dinger allowed. Either of these guys is a good pick-up, particularly in a deep AL-only setup.

Speaking of Boston, let's now say goodbye to Grady Sizemore and also to Daniel Bard, both released over the last week as was Raul Ibanez. Tough game, but again, the writing of the future path of the game is on the wall: the move towards giving lower-priced prospects a chance.

Which brings me to a couple of National League call-ups of interest, starting with the Giants, who finally bagged it with their post Marco Scutaro revolving door of Aaron Hicks/Joaquin Arias/Ehire Adianza and promoted their #1 pick of 2011 out of St. Johns, Joe Panik. Panik was hitting .321-5-45 at Fresno when summoned, and has 171 walks to 180 whiffs and a nice .365 OBP over 410 games.

Panik's pop is a little low with a .403 slugging percentage, but his 78 doubles suggest future pop, and well, I saw Panik belt a couple of lasers at the AFL and he does have a quick enough bat. He is a great gamble in just about any format.

Similarly, the Marlins brought up Andrew Heaney, their first rounder in 2012 out of Oklahoma State. With roughly a season's worth of work as a starter under his belt (199 innings) as a minor leaguer, Heaney has some very nice numbers with a 17-7, 2.31 to go with 198 strikeouts over 36 starts. Heaney has a nice minor league WHIP of 1.126 and really had nowhere else to go after blasting through both Double-A and then Triple-A this year with a combined 7-2, 2.47 record. It is no secret that the Marlins are doing a great job of drafting and developing a fine young team, and Heaney just adds to the scorecard. Again, a solid acquisition.

Speaking of the Fish, with the injury to Christian Yelich, the team also brought back outfielder Jake Marisnick, the Jays' third-round pick in 2009 who went to Miami as part of the massive Jose Reyes deal in 2012. Marisnick had a 40-game taste last year (.183-1-5), although the fact that his .558 OPS so far this year is nearly 100 points higher than last year is not such an accomplishment. Marisnick might get some playing time with Yelich down, but even at Triple-A New Orleans, Marisnick could only wrangle a .710 OPS (.264-6-27 with a paltry .306 OBP), so I would probably pass.

I cannot recommend Jumbo Diaz, but his profile is so delicious that I simply cannot let it go. Jose Rafael Diaz is a 30-year-old lefty from the Dominican Republic, signed by the Dodgers in 2001. With 321 relief appearances over his 12 years in the Minors, Diaz has 105 saves and 437 whiffs over 439.6 frames. Jumbo, who earned his moniker by virtue of his 6'4" 315 pound frame, will not close at all for the Reds as long as Aroldis Chapman exists, but in baseball, the names and background and lore of the game are as much as anything, and, well, congrats Jumbo!

The Twins' Yohan Pino, a Venezuelan, is just a couple of months older than Diaz, but he is also 125 pounds lighter. Pino has been on five teams, including the Twins twice, this being his second time in the system. However, like Diaz, Pino is a rookie reliever at age 30, although he has been a starter for 153 of his 292 minor league games. At Rochester this season, Pino was 9-1, 1.92 over 61 innings and seven starts (14 total appearances) with 61 whiffs and a fine 0.934 WHIP. The Twins surely need rotation help, however, and while I would shy away from Diaz, in a deep format, I would indeed give Pino a shot, especially if you are looking for a starter.


The yin/yang of marquee prospects being promoted to the Majors, then being dropped back down continued this week, starting with the Pirates advancing the next hot outfielder, Gregory Polanco. After his .347-7-49 run at Indianapolis over 62 games, with a .945 OPS, the Buccos moved the flychaser to PNC Park, where the youngster responded with a fine first week of .385-1-5, so obviously, if by some chance he is still available, do grab him. But, don't expect every week to be quite that impressive.

Case in point would be Oscar Taveras, who was up for one week longer, having a tougher time with .189-1-2 totals, and then returned to Triple-A. It is curious that the Cards would advance Taveras, with all the Super 2 fuss, and then send him back down so quickly, but our mate, Brian Walton, who is indeed well versed in the Cards machinations, says this is minor in the grand scheme.

Still, I have to wonder why St. Louis did not give more of a Mike Trout-like first chance of say 30-40 games before seeing whether the young outfielder could adjust. Certainly, Taveras is an outfielder of the near future, but he lost to the numbers game; however, the Pirates decided now was indeed the time, figuring Jose Tabata and Josh Harrison could play elsewhere on the field, or possibly be used for a trade deadline-type move. Taveras will be back, and the Cards are even deeper that Pittsburgh and Taveras went down in deference to Matt Adams. Personally, I would favor giving Taveras a chance instead of Jon Jay, however.

On the veteran end of the spectrum, Rafael Furcal is back with Miami, after not being able to play a full complement of games since 2009. In 2010, 93 games, in 2011 85 games, in 2012, a decent 120 contests, but then he missed all of 2013 to injury. Furcal does have a good career line of .281-115-385, but he has not hit higher than .264 since 2009. Still, he is an experienced stick and player on a young team that is actually faring pretty well, and as such would be a good FAAB gamble in a deep mixed or NL-only format.

Tampa has had a sadly disappointing season but outfielder Kevin Kiermaier has been a fairly bright spot subbing for the injured Wil Myers. An unlikely (in a good way) success story, Kiermaier was selected in the 31st round of the 2010 draft, and comported himself pretty well with a .278-15-122 line over five pro seasons. Kiermaier swiped 86 bags in the Minors and made decent contact with 147 walks to 304 whiffs (.352 OBP) and has continued to produce in the Majors with a .362-3-4 line with a steal over 22 games. I hope he does well, and I wanna like this kid, so I would be willing to gamble on him.

Shhhhhh. There was a Logan Morrison sighting in Seattle with the goofy (check out his Twitter @Cupof LoMo) outfielder returning to play on a team that does seem to be making some noise. LoMo hit 23 big flies for the Marlins and knocked in 72 in 2011, and I have a lot of hope in the 26-year-old, who is entering his prime years. With Justin Smoak injured, Morrison has a chance to show what a valuable resource and producer he can be. And, he does have a history--well one season--of solid production. In an American League format, he is a good gamble.

As long as we are whispering, anyone notice that Hector Santiago has returned from the depths, perhaps? Santiago was 0-6, 4.82 when the Angels sent him down to Salt Lake, where he was 1-1, 6.43. Due to an armed emergency--and injury to Tyler Skaggs--the Angels were forced to bring Santiago back, but, as I write, he has tossed 12 frames over two games and allowed four runs, but over just one bad inning (and Kevin Jepsen let the final two runs score). I guess Hector doesn't fancy a return to Triple-A, which is indeed a good motivator. He does have control issues with a 1.353 big league WHIP, but his 3.53 ERA also portends Santiago can bear down when he needs to, and his 257 Major League strikeouts over 268 innings also suggest Santiago is a good gamble for a second chance.

If you are looking for a cheap catcher, note that the Rangers' Robinson Chirinos is hitting .304-3-7 over the last two weeks.

The Dylan Bundy watch continues as the former first-round pick of the Orioles in 2011 made his first minor league start since his Tommy John surgery last year. Twirling for Aberdeen on Father's Day, Bundy went five innings, against Hudson Valley in the New York/Penn League, allowing just a run and five hits while whiffing six and walking none. Alas, his Aberdeen mates could not do enough to help with a win, in fact they could not keep him from getting the loss. Still, a more than encouraging development, and continued success likely could mean Bundy is back at Camden sometime after the break.

Finally, a couple of prospects I used to really like--Carlos Triunfel and Michael Taylor--were moved this week.

Triunfel came up for the Dodgers to replace the injured Chone Figgins, so theoretically, those are small shoes to fill. Formerly a top 100 prospect (in 2008-09), Triunfel is another one of those guys who never lived up to our hopes or expectations, so pass.

Taylor was a fifth-round pick of the Phils, who then went to Toronto for Travis d'Arnaud, then to the Athletics for Brett Wallace before the Athletics swapped the outfielder to the Pale Hose this past week. Taylor did have pretty good minor league numbers (.289-102-503 over eight minor league seasons), but I think that Triple-A is his limit.

Another week pushing towards the summer, and two more advances--in fact a pair of signings--graced the American League this week.

The Twins, who waited till the early June date so, as with the other MLB teams, they would not forfeit a pick by acquiring Kendrys Morales did just that, pretty much surprising all of us. But, the Twins, who are two games below .500 and just five games back, are to be commended for taking a shot in what has become so much of a fun free-for-all thanks to the expanded wild card format baseball has embraced.

Morales will join the Twins and will probably own the DH slot from now on out (provided he does not break a limb stomping onto home plate). The owner of a 162-game mean of .280-27-90 over his seven years, Morales is a pretty good gamble if you want or need some hitting.

But, it is odd that vet Jason Kubel wound up on the short end of that stick. I have to think someone needing some left-handed pop will take a chance on the streaky hitter, so I would not dump Kubel and would bid on him as FAAB going to an NL-only format.

By the way, weird to see Jason Lane up and back down, and now Scott Sizemore go down. For it was Sizemore's injury a few years back that opened the door for Josh Donaldson to play third in Oakland. Odd how that works: the Zen of baseball in action.

Similarly, the Astros inked Jon Singleton to a new long-term deal and handed him the keys to first base. Singleton, who knocked his second homer--a slam--Sunday along with George Springer suggests the Astros are seriously starting the upside of their rebuild, which will be a lot of fun to watch.

I would have grabbed either in any league, were they available. However, let's talk about Nick Castellanos, whom I have in a couple of leagues, and whom I benched in one. The Detroit third sacker hit just .233-3-14 for April this year, and .233-1-6 for May, but seems to have made an adjustment, hitting .611-1-1 over five games and 18 at-bats in June. Granted, this is a small sample, but he has only whiffed once and walked once over that span (four walks to 17 whiffs in April, seven walks to 26 in May), and that is very encouraging. I would keep a serious eye on him. And, due to that poor start, in a shallow mixed NFBC format, he might well be a free agent.

This is the time of year when if my pitching is doing well, I try to mitigate any potential damage by streaming middle relievers and checking starts and match-ups just to see. Ubaldo Jimenez, on my otherwise very strong AL Tout staff, is the case in point. I had thought after four starts that Jimenez had worked into a sort of decent fifth starter groove, but he is still way too erratic to trust. So, there are a few middle guys I would like to have, starting with the Orioles, and Darren O'Day.

O'Day, a sneaky side-armer, has long been a fave of mine with a career 22-9, 2.79 mark, with a great 1.047 WHIP and 301 strikeouts over 333.6 frames. This year, he is 2-0, 1.01 over 26.6 innings, with a pair of saves and a 1.050 WHIP. Very consistent, unlikely to hurt himself, and easy to replace.

Another pretty good option is Jason Frasor, now with the Tigers, who is 1-0 with a 1.71 ERA over 21 frames this year, with 22 whiffs (though a somewhat alarming 10 walks) and a 1.143 WHIP. The beauty of streaming these guys is that there are always a few out there, so they can be interchangeable and cheap. Plus, one bad inning, which is the worst they will do, should not hurt nearly as much as one Ubaldo Jimenez start these days.

Speaking of Ubaldo, Kevin Gausman had an excellent start against Oakland and Sonny Gray Saturday, hurling seven innings and holding a potent Athletics team to just a run and four hits plus a walk. The former #1 pick of the Orioles in 2012 earned his first win and he is certainly worth a grab.

While we are at it in Baltimore, keep an eye peeled for Dylan Bundy, who is set to start a minor league game and is throwing around 94 MPH. He could join the rotation after the break if the Orioles rotation--of whom Wei-Yin Chen has the lowest ERA at 4.11--does not settle down with some kind of clear ace.

Let's finish with one more #1, looking at Cam Bedrosian, the top pick of the Angels in 2010, and son of Cy Young winning reliever Steve Bedrosian. Bedrock the younger is indeed following in the footsteps of his esteemed reliever pop, and though he got knocked around his first couple of games in the Majors, he was 1-0, 1.12 with eight saves over 24 innings at two minor league levels this year. He has 45 strikeouts to eight walks and just six hits allowed (0.583 WHIP) and he could very well pick up some save chances if Ernesto Frieri stumbles again. I have to think he is their closer of the future, and the future could well be very soon.

I am just back from time at our mountain house, where as I have noted we have no television or radio. We do have Internet, but that is all.

So, I can write, and track scores, but I don't listen to games and certainly don't watch any. Mostly, I look at the trannies and the box scores and that is it, so it was weird to come home on Sunday and while looking at the day's boxes, see that there were six shutouts.

That's pretty good and fun in a week that features a lot of anticipated stars, but let's start with Roenis Elias, Seattle's new flash who tossed one of those sets of goose-eggs for his first Major League complete game, whiffing eight, allowing just three hits and a walk, bringing his season totals to 4-4, 3.41 with 65 whiffs over 76 innings, with 27 walks. Elias did get clubbed around his last start (five runs, eight hits over 6.3 innings) but he is exactly the kind of arm I would target right now if you need to take a chance: enough starts to get the hang of the Show as the warm weather arrives.

Switching to less mundane things, the Cards' Oscar Taveras was finally given a shot, and he homered his first game, against the Giants. And, I am not so sure what I can tell you that you don't already know? .321-52-315 minor league line over 423 games with an .896 OPS. Matt Adams' injury cleared the path for Taveras, but rest assured, now that he is here, he isn't going anywhere but in the lineup every day. Taveras is the NL's answer to George Springer this year. At least so far. If you can grab him, do.

Just as interesting, not quite so marquis, is the Braves' new second sacker Tommy La Stella, who has a .322-21-167 line with 63 doubles and 34 minor league steals. La Stella has a great eye with 136 walks to 102 whiffs, good for a .407 OBP over 288 games. La Stella will never hit with the power of Dan Uggla, whom he replaces, but at least he will get on base and score some runs and cause some grief on the basepaths. I have to think that is of more value.

One additional exciting promotion--albeit temporary--was the one-day visit of the Red Sox Garin Cecchini. A fourth-round pick of Boston in 2010, Cecchini is another youngster who can take a walk (192 walks to 235 strikeouts, and a .408 OBP) and a .307-15-167 line over 329 games. Boston might have to make some decisions with Brock Holt as Stephen Drew is back at shortstop, pushing Xander Bogaerts to third (and Cecchini back to Pawtucket). Short term, Holt will be filling in at first base as Mike Napoli, Mike Carp and Ryan Lavarnway are all on the disabled list – Spinal Tap anyone? Cecchini’s development may make Will Middlebrooks deadline trade bait. If Cecchini’s short recall makes him eligible in your league, he’s worth a stash as he should be pretty good in a Kevin Youkilis way.

Should you be jonesing for some speed, the Mariners just revived the career of Endy Chavez. Well, at least that is how we thought of Chavez, who swiped 18 in 2003 and 32 in 2004 for Montreal, but just 47 since including just one last year over 97 games and 266 at-bats (.267-2-14 with a .298 OBP). He might be a vet, but pass.

The Phils promoted big (6'7" 260 pound) Phillippe Aumont, the Mariners' first-round pick in 2007, who was then swapped in exchange for Cliff Lee in 2009. Aumont is a reliever, but he could slowly move into the closer role (he notched a pair last year) as Jonathan Papelbon ages. Aumont earned 43 saves over seven seasons in the Minors with 429 whiffs but with 240 walks and a 1.512 WHIP. He is worth keeping an eye on for future considerations, but not much more.

Yes, that is the same Dana Eveland the Mets promoted who pitched for the Orioles and Athletics and Brewers and Pirates and Dodgers and Diamondbacks over his past 11 professional years and eight Major League seasons. Eveland is still just 30, believe it or not, but I would not count on some form of Scott Kazmir-like transmogrification into a decent starter. Left-handed situations are about as much as I would trust him with at most. Kind of a Jamey Wright type, with a career mark of 19-25 over 392.6 innings, with a 5.46 ERA and 1.66 WHIP. I may like looking at vets to help plug roster holes, but this is where I stop.

I have always liked the Orioles' Francisco Peguero, who was originally signed by the Giants in 2005 out of the Dominican Republic. Peguero has a pretty good .307-36-359 stat line over 706 games. The problem for Peguero is 111 walks to 502 strikeouts and a .338 minor league OBP. That has not translated into any kind of big league anything, but Peguero could have a hot streak that could help in an AL-only setup.

Here we are, Memorial Day 2014, and as I conjure, this would be the 18th time I have concocted a piece for this space. If you have been along for the ride all these years, I humbly thank you. So, as usual, I wish a safe and happy holiday to you and yours.

OK, enough for pleasantries. In a week that followed the migration of Kyle Blanks from the National League to the American, we now have Nick Hundley, similarly leaving Southern California, though this time for the other coast and the Orioles. Like Blanks joining Oakland, Hundley could indeed be a nice fit for the Orioles, splitting time with Matt Wieters back-up Steve Clevenger.

Since Wieters could indeed be down, at least from playing behind the dish, for quite a spell, Hundley (.271-1-3 over 39 games, but with just a .271 OBP) could get a boost from the move and new home. In an AL-only setup, he is worth a few bucks as a FAAB selection, but I don't have the same feel for upside as I did Blanks last week.

While we are at it, after what, six months of speculation, Stephen Drew finally has returned to Boston, where he hit a decent .253-13-67 last year over 124 games, to go with a .333 OBP (54 walks, 124 whiffs). Drew is one of those classic players and roto hopefuls, full of talent and speculation after being a first-round pick in 2004 who has had a reasonable career (is he better than Neil Walker?) and yet one that fell below anticipation (is he worse than Neil Walker?). Drew might get some playing time when he works his way back from his minor league assignment, but even with Will Middlebrooks out, I would think more playing time will go to Brock Holt as long as the Sox struggle below the .500 mark.

The bulk of interesting moves this week seemed to all fall to the American League, where another disappointing star of the future, Mike Moustakas finally ran out of time in Kansas City. So, the Royals called up Jimmy Paredes to fill the slot (as well as back up second base and the outfield). Danny Valencia is down for a bit with a sprained hand, but I would expect him to hang onto the hot corner when healthy. Paredes could be a little help in a deep format if you need speed, and he was hitting .327-3-17 at Omaha when summoned, but with just five walks to 28 whiffs this year (119:481 in the Minors), I see no role better than a bench spot ever.

That said, players like Paredes often do have a run a la Eduardo Escobar, who with 164 minor league walks to 507 whiffs, has a similar profile to Paredes (they differ in age by 41 days, even). Well, Escobar has been red-hot, hitting .337-1-7 and who seems to be starting at short on a daily basis in Minnesota these days. As noted many times: ride the hot hand, and Escobar has one, and is likely available in a lot of mixed formats. Just don't try to predict a streak, and certainly don't be afraid to cut loose when--and if--his bat chills down a mite.

One encouraging thing in San Diego-land was the good performance by Tim Stauffer, who had a nice showing Friday night during his first start (five IP, two hits, one walk, five whiffs) since 2012 (five innings, seven hits, four runs, three walks, five whiffs). That start was it for Stauffer, who looked like a good young arm, then fell to arm surgery, and might be returning to form. Stauffer has a 2-0, 1.90 mark right now, with 23 whiffs, a 1.225 WHIP and just one dinger allowed. In a way, his path is not unlike that of Dustin McGowan, but at this point I kind of like Stauffer to pick it up from here on out. He is a good gamble. while McGowan no longer is.

Seattle recalled the somewhat lost Nick Franklin, probably because Brad Miller's bat (.156-3-11) was so weak. Unfortunately, Franklin, hitting .154-0-1, is not much better, though in 30 fewer games. Ultimately, I like Miller and his .925 minor league OPS (.334-27-128) to Franklin (.293-53-193 with an .839 OPS), however.

Now is the time to grab Trevor Bauer 9-1, 2.25 over a pair of starts (13 K over 12 innings, but 11 hits and two homers suggest he is around the plate). Bauer was 4-1, 2.15 at Columbus this year with 44 strikeouts over 46 frames and a 1.087 WHIP. At least if he is there to grab, but this is Bauer's third go at the Majors, and I find this sort of a make or break number for most young players in that he has figured it out now (which is good) or not (ask Mike Moustakas, after his third year). So, if you are going to gamble, now is the time.

Darin Ruf is also back in Phillie-land, also for the third time, coming off hitting .261-1-4 over 12 minor league games. Much like Moustakas, much of our anticipation of Ruf was based upon a monster minor league season (.317-38-104 at Reading in 2012), but the big question is where will he play? Since third base is what the Phils need help at right now, I would pass.

I am not sure how St. Louis keeps coming up with these guys, but with Kevin Siegrist injured, take a peek at Sam Freeman, who struggled out of the pen in 2012 (0-2, 5.40 over 20 innings), did much better last year (1-0, 2.19 over 12.3 innings) and is now back. A lefty, Freeman does have 275 whiffs in the Minors over 288.3 innings, along with a 1.255 WHIP. If you need to fill a middle spot, a guy like Freeman on a team like the Cards can be a help.

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