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Monday 25th Sep 2017

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Jedd Gyorko is really a third basemen. But if he wants to play in the Majors for the Padres, a shift to second base will be necessary and thus his inclusion in our list of potential impact prospects at second base for 2013!

Heading into last season I had concerns regarding his power potential given that the righty stands just 5’10 . Well, Gyorko has now produced consecutive 25 and 30 home run outputs. The former second round pick is pretty well disciplined, makes consistent hard contact, but is not the fastest of runners, so there’s potential here as a .280 to .300 20 to 25 HR guy in the Majors and a possibility he could push for the starting job in the spring.

Jonathan Schoop’s 2012 outwardly was not all that impressive with a .245 14 HR performance in Double-A. Now keep in mind that he did not turn 21 until after the season. Schoop’s best tool is his power, projecting possibly as a 20+ HR per season type and with some experience, perhaps making him a .270s hitter. Schoop’s long-term position is part of the question as he not strongly suited for shortstop and is not particularly fast, so it remains to be seen whether he’ll be a second or third basemen long term. For now, his bat profiles well at second. Schoop could repeat Double-A or advance to Triple-A which would put him in line for a mid to late season call-up depending on Brian Roberts’ health.

Cord Phelps, 26, barely retains his rookie status. However, the righty has had three consecutively solid seasons for the Indians at Triple-A, yet has barely received an extended look in the Majors. The switch hitter is highly disciplined, can play multiple infield positions, and has mid-teens power potential. Second base is probably Phelps’ best position, but the best opportunity may lie at third should Lonnie Chisenhall continue to be unimpressive.

Jemile Weeks failed to take the A’s second base job and run away with it. So now, Rickie’s younger brother will have to fend off Grant Green this spring. Green  may not have Weeks’ plate discipline skills, but does have a bat that is a good fit for second base. A righty, Green has mid-teens home run power and did make some strong improvements to his contact in 2012. His upside is a.280 to .290 with 12 to 17 HR's a year. In other words Green is a possible starter, but unlikely a star player.

Robinson Cano is well entrenched as the Yankees’ second basemen. However, Corban Joseph has nothing left to prove in the minors and could see a promotion to a utility role. The 24-year old is an exceptionally well disciplined hitter with high single digits to low-teens power skills. The lefty falls well into the Cord Phelps class of player who needs an extended chance, but may need a new organization in order to even receive that opportunity.

The Mariners are still fairly committed to keeping Dustin Ackley as their starting second basemen. However, given the middle infield depth in this organization, this is a make or break year for Ackley. Nick Franklin will soon push Brendan Ryan aside at shortstop while Stefen Romero and Brad Miller will pushing their way to the upper minors. All three players are probably not at their ideal positions with Romero perhaps being better suited to third and both Franklin and Miller best suited to second. While for now, Romero is the only one of the bunch actually being used at this position; the second basemen of the bunch. The 6’3” righty hit 23 homers between two levels while showing an ability to make consistent contact and reminds me a bit of former Mariner, Jose Lopez as an aggressive hitter with power, but with question marks surrounding the rest of his game. Still, this is a player who could end up hitting .280 20+ HR at the MLB level and must be watched.

Henry Rodriguez should see some action with the Reds in 2013, but probably in a utility role with sleeper potential. The switch-hitter is a very aggressive contact hitter with doubles power and double-digits steals potential.

Former first round pick Kolten Wong is inching his way to the Majors and in 2013 the lefty will advance to Triple-A while focused on a mid-season call-up. Wong is a fundamentally strong player who plays solid defense at second and good base stealing technique despite average speed. At the plate he is aggressive, but actually controls the strike zone quite well, making contact well over 80% of the time and possessing gap power and high single digits home run potential. Wong is not going to be a star, but could be a .270's to .280's hitter who may in some years manage double digit results in HR's and steals.

Scooter Gennett, like Kolten Wong, will advance to Triple-A with an eye on a call-up. Unfortunately, Rickie Weeks is a more significant obstacle than Kolten Wong’s Daniel Descalso. Still, Weeks is a weak defensive player who could be moved to the outfield. Like Wong, Gennett makes very consistent contact and is a smart baserunner with gap power. However, Gennett is not quite as disciplined a hitter as Wong. It will be interesting to see which of the two actually ends up a starter in the long run and if both, which ends up superior. I have a sneaking suspicion Gennett actually ends up a utility player given his OBP skill shortcomings.

To Review:

Possible MLB Phase/Auction Selections:
Jedd, Gyorko, Grant Green

Possible Minor League Draft Phase Selections:
Jonathan Schoop, Stefen Romero, Kolten Wong, Scooter Gennett

Possible In-Season Pick-Ups:
Cord Phelps, Joseph Corban, Henry Rodriguez

This week we continue our look at the Impact Prospects for 2013 with an examination of the first base candidates.

While Jonathan Singleton’s suspension for marijuana use is disappointing and will delay his ascension to the Majors, I would not let it deter you at all from selecting the Astros' future first-sacker. The lefty really tapped into his power potential in 2012 with 21 dingers while continuing to show an advanced approach at the plate. And it was all done as a 20-year-old in Double-A. When the suspension is served, he’ll begin at Triple-A and could be up mid to late season depending on his progress and the production from Houston’s first base stop gaps.

The Pirates are entering 2013 with a possible platoon of on-base challenged Garrett Jones and 2012 disappointment Gaby Sanchez. While this platoon could end up being quite productive for the Buccos, journeyman Clint Robinson should not be ignored. The soon-to-be 28-year-old has mid-teens to twenty HR per season power and an advanced plate approach that should allow him to get on base and hit in the .270 to .280 range. The issue is opportunity. The most likely scenario has Robinson spending most of 2013 in Triple-A as roster filler.

Todd Helton is still the Rockies’ first baseman. However, the 39-year-old managed just 283 plate appearances in 2012 and is clearly in the twilight of his career. While Tyler Colvin might get the first opportunity to replace and/or platoon with Helton, Ryan Wheeler may be the name to watch. A third baseman, Wheeler’s path to the Majors will be through 1B given Nolan Arenado is also a Rockie. Wheeler is not a future star but could be a regular given modest plate discipline, a left-handed bat with consistent contact-making skills, and high-teens to low-twenties homer potential.

The Marlins may be without Logan Morrison to begin the season. Enter journeyman Joe Mahoney. The former Oriole is no great offensive force but may be a passable fill-in for NL-only leaguers. The lefty makes consistent contact but is not a huge threat in the power game, possessing only low to mid-teens home run potential.

Corey Hart could miss the first 3 to 4 months of the season. This provides an opportunity not only for Mat Gamel, who will get first crack at playing first base for the Brewers, but potentially for Hunter Morris too. Should Gamel be unable to rise to the challenge, the job could fall to the 24-year-old. A left-handed hitter, Morris is coming off of a 28-HR performance in Double-A where he batted .303/.356/.563. However, Morris is a rather aggressive hitter who may be overmatched against MLB pitching, lefties in particular. Still, he has some interesting potential as a platoon player or average regular.

Matt Adams has a MLB ready bat but no place to play. The 24-year-old has mid to upper twenties home run power and a good track record for making contact that could help him develop into at least a .260s hitter, if not better, in the Majors. Defensively, Adams is best suited for first base, where he is currently blocked by Allen Craig. An injury may have to happen for opportunity to occur.

Darin Ruf enjoyed a breakout season that included 41 homers between Double-A and the Majors in 2012. The 26-year-old has legitimate 20+ home run potential and a disciplined, hard-contact approach. The problem is positional. Ruf is a below average defender everywhere he plays, but has at least seen some time in left field and could push for playing time there should Domonic Brown fail to lay down a strong claim.

Chris McGuiness was selected by the Indians from the Rangers’ organization in the Rule-5 draft and must be kept on the MLB roster for the 2013 season or be offered back to the Rangers. The Indians do indeed have an opening at DH and McGuiness will receive an opportunity to lay claim to it. The 24-year-old has legitimate 20+ HR power and a well-disciplined approach that let him hit 23 homers in Double-A in 2012. He profiles as a .260s hitter at the MLB level.

The Astros snagged Nate Freiman from the Padres in the Rule-5 draft and are an organization in need of offense, especially with the suspension of Jonathan Singleton. A former 8th round pick, Freiman brings good contact making skills and 20+ HR potential. He could be a .270s or better hitter at the MLB level. He’ll compete against Brett Wallace and Carlos Pena for playing time but could end up the odd man out.

To Review:

Possible MLB Phase/Auction Selections:
Joe Mahoney, Chris McGuiness, Nate Freiman

Possible Minor League Draft Phase Selections:
Jonathan Singleton, Darin Ruf, Ryan Wheeler, Matt Adams, Hunter Morris

Possible In-Season Pick-Ups:
Clint Robinson

That time of year has come again. It is mid-January and now that all of (or most of anyway) the holiday goodies have been digested, it’s time to start ingesting draft preparation content!

For those new to this series, my definition of “impact” may be different than others. By impact I mean primarily, “what are the odds they will play in the Majors and how much.” How good are they? Well that’s what the rest of the article is about.

Why this focus? This is elementary of course for re-draft leaguers whose prospect context is only that of a single season. For keeper leaguers (particularly auction-style), I believe focusing on players who are likely to get the call in 2013 is an important mindset for your taxi-squad or minor league draft. If you are in it for 2013, a similar mindset to a re-draft leaguer is necessary. This is beneficial for two reasons. Either (A) you draft a player with the intention that he will contribute this season and vault into your lineup at a low price (particularly if your league utilizes a cap) and provide needed stats or (B) you use that player for leveraging veterans from other players.

The “Impact Prospects” are the most attractive targets for dumping teams as they look towards contending the following season. “Impact Prospects” provide a statistical need at a low price, allowing for auction leaguers to redistribute their budget with great flexibility, opening up a number of strategic options whether they throw all their eggs into offense, or pitching, a stars and scrubs strategy, or whatever else they choose.

There is an exception, of course, to selecting just players who will impact 2013. And that is the uber-prospects that not only have the tools but have high-level skills that suggest they will be potential All-Stars.  Of course, these types of players should be drafted regardless of whether they will actually play in the upcoming season.

And now, the Catchers for 2013!

The Marlins picked up Rob Brantly in the Anibal Sanchez deal and now have him penciled in as their #1 catcher. The 23-year-old is perhaps most comparable to fellow lefty, Josh Thole. The lefty has a fairly disciplined bat and makes consistent contact but is a single-digits HR type without a high ceiling. I recommend him as an end-game, #2 catcher option who could out-earn his projection depending on how well his batting average skills hold up over the course of an entire season.

Travis D'Arnaud gives the Mets the best young catcher they’ve had in their minors since Todd Hundley. D’Arnaud combines a quick, short stroke and legitimate 20+ HR power. Given an aggressive approach and “catcher speed”, there could be quite a variance in the batting average department on a year to year basis. For now, the safest best is to expect a .260 mark and treat anything better as gravy. The righty could start 2013 as the Mets’ starter or spend the first half of the season in Triple-A.

Jason Hagerty makes this article thanks to the suspension of Yasmani Grandal, who will miss the first 50 games of the MLB season. The former fifth round pick combines a fairly good understanding of the strike zone with double-digit home run potential. The switch-hitter's shortcomings, however, are on the defensive side of the ball and this could regulate him to being an organizational player.

Chris Herrmann earned a cup of coffee with the Twins last season and could challenge Drew Butera for the backup catching gig this spring. Butera may have a leg up in the defensive department, but Herrmann is at least average defensively and is strong armed. Being a lefty with gap power and a very solid plate approach could put Herrmann over the top. An interesting sleeper should anything happen to Joe Mauer.

The Phillies have two catching prospects in their upper Minors in Sebastian Valle and Tommy Joseph. The former, Valle, was the reason the Phillies traded D’Arnaud as part of the package for Roy Halladay. Right now, it looks like the wrong decision. Valle has good raw power and defensive chops but is ultra-aggressive at the plate. This became increasingly apparent at both Double-A and Triple-A and it's likely he will be made mincemeat of in the Majors absent a complete plate approach turnaround. 21-year-old Tommy Joseph could end up spending a second season in Double-A or could earn a promotion to Triple-A, though that depends a lot on whether or not the former second-round pick stays behind the plate. Joseph is not in Valle’s class defensively but could be adequate in the long run. At the plate, the righty has greater raw power than Valle, a slightly less aggressive approach and has shown better signs of making contact. While both players could certainly make the Majors as soon as this season, I suspect neither may end up starters for the Phillies.

The White Sox’s Josh Phegley has no proven starter in front of him at the MLB level which gives him a chance to make it. The former supplemental first- round pick was a slugger in college who earned mixed reviews for his defense and bat speed. Health concerns have slowed him down and the righty has yet to reach double digits in any minor league season. He's probably an organizational player, but there may be opportunities given the Sox lack of catching depth.

Austin Romine is likely to start 2013 in Triple-A with Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli at the MLB level. Romine is not a high-ceiling player but is a solid defensive player with fair plate discipline skills, an ability to make contact and gap power. There may be enough here to make the former second-round pick a low-end starter, though he probably profiles better as a backup.

The Mariners are blessed with catching depth. Jesus Montero will open 2013 as the starting catcher and for a 22-year old, actually held his own quite well, already translating some power and contact skills, though his plate discipline lagged behind. Defensively, Montero is adequate at best though and it is only a matter of time before he is forced to shift positions, particularly with 2012 third overall pick Mike Zunino hot on his heels.

Zunino is a superior defensive catcher to Montero and that skill is greatest factor that will get him to the Majors. The righty and so far in the lower minors has shown fairly advanced plate discipline and contact-making skills. The righty also showed above-average power and projects long-term to be a 20+ HR hitter as compared to Montero who could still be an upper twenties or better HR hitter at his peak. Keep in mind that Zunino is a fairly slow runner, so even with his power and contact-making skills, hitting for average is not a given. Just ask Matt Wieters. It will be interesting to see how his skills translate to the upper minors.

It is possible that Zunino could begin 2013 in Triple-A, but they can afford to take it slow with him given Montero’s presence and the fact that Zunino has just 57 plate appearances at the Double-A level and will turn 22 just before the start of the season. Barring injury to Montero, a post All-Star break call-up at earliest seems most likely.

To Review:

Possible MLB Phase Draft/Auction Selections:
Rob Brantly, Travis D’Arnaud, Erik Kratz

Possible Minor League Draft Phase Selections:
Mike Zunino, Sebastian Valle, Tommy Joseph, Austin Romine

Possible In-season Pick-Ups:
Jason Hagerty, Chris Herrmann, Josh Phegley

If you have any questions on players who you felt were omitted from this article, please feel free to ask. 

With the Rule-5 draft now in the books, here are some first impressions!

  • Josh Fields was the first pick of the draft. The Astros selected the former Mariner first-round pick from the Red Sox organization. Fields was drafted as a closer prospect expected to make it to the Majors quickly. Now 27 years old, Fields has started to become a pitcher, throwing strikes while still posting well above a strikeout per inning. Fields is a solid  pick that could stick with the Astros all season long and play a prominent role in their pen.

  • Nearly 25 years old, Hector Rondon spent most of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery. If not for the injury, he’d already be a part of the Indians' rotation. When healthy, Rondon is a strike-thrower with a good fastball/changeup combo. The Cubs could end up using him in middle relief with an eye on moving him towards starting if the righty is effective.

  • The Rockies selected lefty Daniel Rosenbaum from the Nationals. He’s a former 22nd round pick and something of your typical crafty lefty that throws strikes, gets groundballs, does not throw hard, but knows how to change speeds and throw strikes. Rosenbaum spent 2012 in Double-A as a starting pitcher.

  • The Red Sox lost pitcher Ryan Pressly to the Twins. A right-hander, Pressly spent time in A+ and Double-A in 2012. The former 11th round pick profiles best in middle relief where having a cut fastball and changeup may help him be effective against righties and lefties alike.

  • The first position player of the Rule-5 draft was Chris McGuiness from the Rangers organization. The Indians have had some difficulty getting production out of the 1B/DH slots so the move makes sense from that perspective. The lefty is a patient hitter with legitimate 20-plus per season HR power. Strikes me as a possible platoon first baseman with enough upside to be a solid, but unspectacular starter.

  • The Marlins are retooling their team and are in need of outfielders, so taking Alfredo Silverio from the Dodgers was a sound move. The righty is a fairly toolsy player who can play centerfield adequately, has 15-20 HR per season power potential and double-digit steal speed. Silverio makes fairly regular contact and could potentially hit for average, but has shortcomings when it comes to overall discipline and could have shortcomings when it comes to getting on base overall.

  • The Red Sox selected Jeff Kobernus from the Nationals and have already traded him to the Tigers for cash or a player to be named. The 24-year-old has plus speed, gap power, and makes contact 83-84% of the time but is an impatient hitter unlikely to post an OBP to make him a credible starter. The second baseman looks more like a utility player long-term to me, though one who may be an asset for fantasy players given 40+ steals in the Minors in each of the past two seasons.

  • Similarly it appears, the Mets have dealt a Rule-5 pick to Detroit. The selection was Kyle Lobstein from the Rays. Lobstein is a former second-round pick who made 27 starts for the Rays’ Double-A organization in 2012. The lefty does not throw hard but changes speeds and spins the ball well. 2012 was the first season in which his command was not an asset. The 23-year-old could have a future in middle relief or as a middle to back end member of a rotation.

  • Starlin Peralta was selected from the Cubs by the Diamondbacks. The 22-year-old’s future likely lies in the bullpen. The righty is a hard-thrower who can hit the mid to upper nineties and has mediocre command. The high octane fastball, however, has not resulted in high strikeout rates, indicating further work on his secondary stuff is necessary.

  • Ender Inciarte is a slightly built left-hander out of Venezuela, The 22-year-old outfielder has little to no power but stole 46 bases at two levels for the Diamondbacks while showing impressive contact-making abilities as well as a good batting eye, especially at full-season A-ball (1:1 BB/K ratio). If he somehow sticks with the Phillies, expect his role to be limited to defensive replacement and pinch-runner with an upside of replacing Juan Pierre's 2012 role. The test for all speedsters like Inciarte is whether or not MLB-caliber pitchers can simply overpower them. That combined with a multiple level jump could get Inciarte returned to Arizona.

  • In a surprising move, the White Sox selected journeyman shortstop Angel Sanchez from the Angels. The righty had a good season in the Texas League where he walked more often than struck out and batted .320/.390/.407. Regardless, Sanchez fits best on any MLB roster as a utility player/defensive replacement.

  • The Orioles selected T.J. McFarland from the Indians. A left-hander, McFarland is a pitch-to contact ground-baller who made 27 starts between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012. The red flag here is a drop off in strikeout rates to the sub-5.0 level during his stay in Triple-A. McFarland is most likely a fifth starter or middle reliever at best.

  • Sticking with pitchers, the Rangers selected Coty Woods from the Rockies. A nearly 25-year-old, Woods relieved in 61 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, posting 27 saves along the way. It was a Jekyll and Hyde season as Woods posted an 8.6 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in Double-A before falling on his face with a 5.7 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 following the righty’s promotion. A submariner, Woods' best role in the Majors would be as a right-handed relief specialist.

  • Nate Freiman was the final position player selected in the Rule-5 draft. As a 24-year-old, Frieman belted 24 homers in Double-A while making contact over 83% of the time and posting a .298/.370/.502 line. Right now, the Astros lack a true starting first baseman and are searching for stop gaps for Jonathan Singleton. The former 8th round draft pick’s power is legitimate with back-to-back 20+ HR seasons. He could fill a role as interim first baseman or designated hitter. His solid career contact hitting skills may also make Freiman more than a mere platoon player.

  • The final pick in the draft was Braulio Lara by the Marlins from the Rays. The 24-year-old has moved one level at a time and has pitched only as high as A+ ball where he posted a 5.71 ERA. Lara is a hard-thrower for a lefty but lacks command of his pitches and much beyond a fastball. There is lefty specialist potential here, but it is more likely that Lara gets returned to the Rays.
  • This week let’s take a slight deviation from the prospecting frontier to the land of keeper league strategy and gamesmanship. The season that unfolded in my local, NY-based, keeper league has provided an excellent lesson and reminder that is worthwhile to share.

    For as long as I can remember, an “all in” approach has been my favored strategy for keeper leagues. When going for the gold, do everything needed to win. Trade every last prospect, every last potential keeper. Then typically the subsequent year, having most likely drained keeper resources, or simply when a team has too many injuries or there are other mitigating issues that will most likely preclude victory, do the opposite. Do everything in one’s power to acquire potential keepers, trading every last commodity you have to assemble options for the following season.   Generally, If one tries too hard to play with one foot in the current season and the other foot in the following, chances are that that team will end up somewhere in the middle of the standings both years. As an aside, in leagues where teams are able to still able to win and have a good stash of keepers, it is likely a sign that there is some sort of market inefficiency occurring where not all team owners are as active as they should.

    Keeper leagues often have a period that starts out with a trickle, then an avalanche, as teams decide to dump. Typically the team that starts the avalanche does the best as they have targeted the keepers they want and then attempt to pull the trigger on a trade or multiple trades all on the same day to engineer the outcome they desire. From there on it is something of a scramble that can leave a league with more than half the teams having dumped.

    What does this mean? It means there are a heck a lot of points available to team so inclined to grab them.

    The Gotham Baseball Club

    Heading into the 2012 season, one team was heavily favored to win given the work that had been done to build an amazing keeper crop (AL only, 12 teams, 8 keepers max for those scoring at home). After draft day it became even more obvious it was that team’s season to lose and for much of the season that team had a significant lead over the rest of the competition, but it slowly bled away, particularly within the final six weeks of the season.

    So what went wrong? The team owner had made several trades to sew up some weaknesses, but failed to make it airtight. Injuries to Jason Hammel, Colby Lewis, and a few others certainly did not help either. Regardless, given the massive lead, the owner tried to play two seasons at once, hanging onto keepable commodities. Hammel, Jeremy Hellickson, Eric Hosmer, Desmond Jennings, and Jake Marisnick were and still all are still rostered when they could have earned enough in return to perhaps lock off first place or at the very least direct talent away from competitor’s rosters. However, the owner’s inaction forced dumping teams to seek other willing trade partners. One team who had been considering dumping, instead went all in and was willing to deal Mike Trout (while still in the minors mind you)  and Jurickson Profar amongst others while targeting specific categories that would provide the most points to be gained. The result? That team that was willing to take a chance at sacrificing its future that future came back from a 30+ point deficit to win by six.

    So the lessons to be learned here:

  • Embrace an all out approach, whether dumping or going for it.
  • If dumping, target exactly the players you want. Do not broadcast your intentions as it may cause others to enter the fray. Instead engineer trades, multiple ones if possible, and coordinate as much as you can into one or two transaction periods as possible to catch league mates off guard.
  • Hate to be cliché, but baseball is a marathon. Dumping in early on may work for one or two teams who get the high profile keeper goodies first, but don’t dump just because others do. It may be better to simply wait to pick up the pieces as other opportunities arise.
  • Similarly, don’t go down with a sinking ship. In the scenario you went for it and dealt your keepers, but find other teams have better shots, tradable commodities, and/or your team is riddled with injuries. Don’t sulk and let too much time pass. Instead, take advantage of your acquired veterans, play the teams that came out of the go for it/dump frenzy off one other by dealing with them all, and it’s quite possible you’ll have better keepers than before you went for it in the first place.
  • Just because a team may have a significant lead does not mean that owner can kick back and relax. You have to assume an aggressive defensive posture. Make trades with competing teams if it helps them move ahead or more competitive in categories against the team that is your primary rival. Or, more simply note the teams that are in dump mode or moving towards dumping that still have good players who are non-or quasi-keepable. Pry those players away. Consider it your duty to provide your opponents with the fewest possible opportunities to gain ground by denying them trade partners.
  • And finally. Keep something in reserve. It is tempting to go all in quickly, but it is an even better move to retain a few gems in reserve to account for injuries or to shore up categories/counter opponents moves later in the season.
  • I  hope the 2012 season has been good for all my readers. Next week while we enjoy the playoffs I’ll be turning my writing gaze completely towards 2013.

    The Astros will be joining the AL West next year, so in preparation for that move, it's time AL only keeper and dynasty leaguers started to familiarize themselves with this organization. Given the current state of the Astros, minor leaguers will continue to play a substantial role going forward and the Astros do indeed have quite a few players that will be targeted early.

    Rob Rasmussen, yes son of the pitcher of the same name, is not so shockingly a left-handed starting pitcher acquired by the Astros in the middle of this season from the Marlins and has pitched at both the Single-A and Double-A levels.  Rasmussen has done a solid job of translating his skills over his promotion, but overall the Texas League has not been as welcoming to him given an ERA close to 5. Overall, the UCLA grad has a solid 4-pitch repertoire with 2 to 3 potential plus pitches with the ability to throw them generally for strikes. Right now, he looks like a potential #4 starter to me given a tendency towards fly-balls. I can see him returning to Double-A to start next year, but given that he will be 24 around opening day, A Triple-A promotion is easy to imagine too.


    Possibly the best well known Houston prospect headed into 2012 was Jonathan Singleton whom they acquired from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt deal. The lefty has not disappointed at all and has indeed really started to tap into his 25+, if not 30+ home run per season potential with a 21-HR campaign at Double-A. While the development of his power game is excellent to see, what I really enjoy is how his approach at the plate has remained unchanged as he ascended through the minors, drawing walks at high rates while keeping his strikeout rates under a quarter of the time. The 21-year old will advance to Triple-A next year and could be in the starting lineup by mid-season.

    Singleton’s teammate Jonathan Villar has not had as great a season for Corpus Christi, but for a 21-year old in Double-A, has more than held his own. A switch-hitter, Villar has an intriguing combination of power and speed. Strangely he is not much of a doubles hitter and has actually hit more HRs (11) than doubles (7) this season. Villar’s aggressive approach (23% strikeout rate) despite only having mid-teens per season power might have something to do with this and definitely has a lot to do with the fact that he has managed just a .260 .336 line at Double-A. Still, Villar has plenty of speed (38 steals) and the defensive skills to handle the position, so it’s possible he may simply end up a low-average hitting, but overall worthwhile fantasy option. Villar does have youth on his side and has at least shown more patience at the plate, he perhaps just needs to become a bit less power-conscious to put his game all together.

    Continuing our theme of prospects whose first name’s start with the letter “J”, Jarred Cosart along with Singleton was one of the principle acquisitions of the Roy Oswalt deal. The 22-year old has pitched at both Double-A and Triple-A this season and will likely start 2013 in the minors, but like Singleton, could be up by mid-season. The right-hander is a very hard-thrower who has finally started to show signs of refining his secondary stuff. After two seasons of producing declining strikeout rates, Cosart has been back above the 7+ K/9 level and actually has improved as has he has been promoted, striking out nearly 8 batters per nine innings in Triple-A. Both his curve and change have flashed plus potential in the past and his improvement in his strikeout rates could signal that he is more than just flashing potential, but showing it with some consistency. He could yet be an upper end of the rotation starter for the Astros. At the very least, he could be a very effective late inning reliever given his fastball/curveball combination.

    As you have already seen based on the youth of the player’s above, the Astros have not been shy with promoting their players. 2011 first round pick George Springer had an excellent first full season of professional  ball and has already hit Double-A.  The righty is a true 5-tool player with 20-20, if not 25-25 or 30-30 potential. Springer dominated A+ ball, hitting 22 homers and stealing 28 bags while producing a .316 .398 .517 line. Clearly, though, he was old for the level of the play and was clearly too advanced for the level of competition. At Double-A, Springer has struggled and his strikeout rates has ballooned to over 30% making it likely he will star there in 2013. Springer is worthy of your attention, but there is a decent degree of risk here that he ends up a low-batting average hitter in the mold of Mike Cameron, which is far from a bad thing.

    I was somewhat skeptical of Delino DeShields Jr.’s chances to follow in his father’s footsteps as a legitimate MLB leadoff hitter, but some of my concerns have been assuaged. Junior has made good strides in improving his selectivity, walking at solid rates at both of his minor league stops while showing the Deshields family speed off with 102 combined steals. Where the young righty does not match up well with his dad continues to be in the area of making contact. Yes, junor Deshields  has good gap power for someone of his size (like his father), but in order to be effective for a player who primarily relies on his speed, that contact rate will have to improve. However, I think we can give a player with his pedigree who only just turned 20 some benefit of the doubt to still make him a early round minor-league draft selection.

    The line drive to Brandon McCarthy’s head was truly frightening to behold. Fortunately, the A’s right hander is already on the road to recovery, out of the ICU, and even walking again following surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.  I wish him nothing but the best of luck as he makes his way back to baseball for the 2013 season.

    Quietly in the meanwhile, 23-year old right-hander Dan Straily has been filling in for him admirably with two of his three starts being high-quality. Straily was a fairly late (24th round) pick by the A’s out of Marshall University in West Virginia. He’s long been thought of as more of an organizational player or fringe prospect, but forced the A’s hand over time, translating his ability to miss bats and throw strikes to each level of the minors. While none of his pitches are considered special, Straily has four offerings, featuring a low to mid-nineties fastball while mixing in his slider and change effectively. As a fly-ball pitcher, Straily benefits from his home field, but will have to have his command spot-on to succeed. Long term he now profiles as a fourth or fifth starter if he can keep the ball the in the park. Amongst the currently available talent in most AL only leagues, he is probably amongst the better options.

    On the hitting side of things, the Phillies recently recalled first basemen Darin Ruf from Double-A reading. Like Straily, Ruf has a similar 20th-plus round pedigree out Creighton. The righty has never been noted for his defensive skills or been considered a significant power threat until this season. What he has done is show a disciplined, contact-driven approach that has allowed him to post solid batting average and OBP numbers over his minor league career. At Reading he has busted out of nowhere, slugging .608 with 38 homers without much change to his approach at the plate.

    Ruf was not drafted for his tools and is old for his league at 26 years of age and could well be overmatched at the Major League level, especially given the two level gap. That said, he has nothing really left to prove in the minors. The question is where he will play and whether the Phiillies will even bother giving him a chance considering Ryan Howard man’s first base and that Ruf is defensively inadequate elsewhere. My advice here: don’t let the numbers draw you in for much of a bid. Ruf probably will not receive much playing time and is a fair bet to return to the minors in 2013 as organizational filler.

    The Orioles meanwhile added to their roster depth with the recall of L.J. Hoes.  Hoes is former second basemen whose defensive shortcomings have pushed him to an outfield position. The 22-year old has played well at two levels in 2012, continuing to show an ability to make contact and get on base as well as above average speed with 20 steals. The righty lacks power for a corner outfielder and his bat has always profiled best at his original position or centerfield. An expectation beyond low-single digits per season HR power is unwarranted. While Hoes has some skills and talents that could be useful for fantasy and real baseball purposes alike, the sum total of those talents and skills suggest he is more of a utility player long term regardless of the fact that he is a former 3rd round pick. Like Xavier Avery, expect Hoes to see minimal playing time while the Orioles attempt to make the post season.

    Changing gears to players still in the minors, Mikie Mahtook was a fairly prominent signing of the Rays as the 31st overall selection in the 2011 draft out of Louisiana State. When he was drafted, he was considered a fairly solid all-around player without necessarily any one outstanding tool, but  someone who had produced quite well at the college level. In his first full season of professional ball, the righty has played at two minor levels (A+ and AA) showing similar skils at both levels. Mahtook has made a moderate amount of contact, but also shown a tendency to be a bit overly aggressive and his on base numbers have suffered as a result. His game really only fits as a centerfielder (mid-teens per season pop and 20+ stolen base potential), but unless he proves to be superior defensively there, I am not seeing him as a starter at the moment given a lack of overwhelming tools and very mediocre on base skills.

    Sticking with the 2011 first round we come to Levi Michael who was taken 30th overall by the Twins out of UNC. He was a favorite of mine and a bit of sleeper heading into the season given the advertised combination of advanced plate discipline, solid shortstop defense, and speed skills. Alas it does not look like it was meant to be. The 21-year old has played the entire season at A+ ball and has looked overmatch despite showing on-base and contact- making skills. The pitchers have held him to an extremely unimpressive .246 batting average, 0.65 isolated power, and overall .650 OPS. Unless he makes a dramatic turnaround in 2013, Michael will quickly become a non-prospect.

    In the same vein, we have the Cardinals Kolten Wong. A second basemen out of Hawaii and the 22nd pick overall, Wong was projected with similar OBP skills, but better bat speed and power potential than Michael. The lefty has responded quite well, making contact 87% of the time while posting a .287 .348 .405 line along with 21 steals and 9 roundtrippers. While not earth shattering, Wong at least offers the potential of a major league starter who could hit in the .280s and perhaps provide double digit homers and steals for the Cardinals down the road.

    Jurickson Profar’s call-up pretty much blows away the field of September call-ups. Despite being only 19 years of age, the Ranger’s aggressively promoted him and are giving him a sample of what it is like to be a Major Leaguer. Given that his arbitration clock has now started, one would think they intend to play him full time. However, Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, and Elvis Andrus will all still be under contract , so unless Profar or someone else is making a move to the OF (will Josh Hamilton depart?), there is no opportunity. Unless, the Rangers make a trade.

    Getting to Profar’s skills, the young righty has held his own at the Double-A level. First off, we are talking about a teenager with advanced plate discipline that walks nearly 12% of the time while making contact over 85% of the time.

    Not only does he have plate discipline and the ability to make contact, but he has the speed and punch behind it to accomplish something with 14 round-trippers and 47 overall extra-base hits to go along with 16 steals and 7 triples that indicate his speed.

    Long-term this is a 20-20+ .300+ hitting tools and skills threat that could, given his discipline and ability to make contact, translate quickly to the Majors.

    Short-term, this is a cup of coffee. The Rangers are in the pennant chase and Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler should see most of the action in the middle infield with Profar getting starts here and there.

    Over in the NL, the Diamondbacks recalled Adam Eaton on Tuesday. Not to be confused with the pitcher, Eaton is a 23-year old outfielder with interesting plate discipline and speeds skills. The lefty is not a complete waste in the power department and has smacked 58 extra base hits this year, but only 7 of them went out of the park.  I’m not sure he will ever get a shot at being an everyday player given the presence of A.J. Pollock who has similar to slightly better talent and tools ahead of him, but this is someone to simply note and watch as a potential platoon or surprise starter who would not hurt you in the average and stolen base department at all.

    The Braves brought back both Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado, but have no rotation spots with which to give them. Teheran was expected to possibly be an integral part of the Braves rotation this year, but instead was up for a single spot start. In Triple-A the results have been less than ideal. The righty sported a 5+ ERA and has been trending downwards for four seasons in the strikeout rate department. The 21-year old’s issues appear to be command related as he continues to throw strikes, but gets hit hard and is not hitting his spots as well. Hopefully no injury is being hidden here. Randall Delgado was up for 17 starts with the Braves this year and got a decent share of swings and misses, but like at the minor league level, Delgado has not shown ability to consistently throw strikes (4+ BB/9 at all levels in 2012) and the results have been mediocre at best. Suddenly two pitchers who looked like they could be locks for the rotation by mid-season and beyond are starting to look suspect. For the Braves’ sake, Kris Medlen picked the right time to fully recover from Tommy John surgery.

    Sticking with the NL East, the Mets called up two of their more highly noted right-handers in Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia.  Familia, 22, has been in the Buffalo rotation all season long where he has shown a power arm and ability to miss bats. He has, however, been unable to find the plate like he did at two minor league stops in 2011. The Mets will use him in relief the rest of the season and given his power fastball/slider combination, keeping him there might not be a bad idea. Mejia has been used as both a reliever and as a starter this year. Like Familia, his long-term role, has yet to be determined. At least, when healthy, Mejia has shown some appitude for changing speeds which could get him more opportunities to remain a starter. The most encouraging sign has been the righty’s ability to throw strikes at two minor leagues while coming back from Tommy John surgery. The huge drop off in K/9 at Triple-A, however, is not. Mejia may get an opportunity to make a start or two this September, but if I need help in the ERA/WHIP department, I wouldn’t recommend adding him.

    On a happier note Tyler Thornburg has cruised through the Brewer’s system, pitching at three levels including a brief MLB stint, in 2012. The 23-year old was solid in 13 Double-A starts and ended up in being even more dominant at Triple-A, raising his K/9 from 8.5 to 10.0 all while keeping his walk rates around the 3.0 mark. The short right-hander has three pitch arsenal including a good changeup and profiles well as a middle of the rotation starter.  The Majors have not been kind to him over a small 5-game sample, so buy at your own risk.

    Finally, the Brewers also brought up Wily Peralta. Heading into the season Peralta was perhaps the most notable pitcher in their system. The 23-year old has continued to strikeout almost a batter per inning in his first full year at Triple-A, but was far less able to command the strikezone with any consistency and posted a 4.79 BB/9 and 4.66 ERA. His stuff is that of a #3 to #2 starter or late inning reliever and he has a decent enough changeup to stay a starter, but will need to get back to what he showed in his previous seasons to do so.

    September is a fascinating month in baseball and not just because the pennant chase is in the final stretch. I’m of course talking about September call-ups. It is the time of year when teams can get some glimpses of their team’s young talent at the MLB level and what the future may hold for their team’s lineup or rotation next season and beyond.

    For redraft leagues and contending teams in keeper leagues, the September call-up period can be a source of some frustration as these players can steal playing time. They’re also simply not realiable to do much of significance over a month’s time. You’re talking about 100 or so at-bats tops and perhaps five starts. Given the transition to a new level, the likelihood is a lot more is going to go wrong over a small sample size than good. So if you are in contention, you should not be hanging your hat on the impact of a few September call-ups to get you that extra point or two.

    For keeper leaguers, particularly those playing for next year, September is like being a kid in a  candy store. You want to stash a little extra FAAB or acquire it if your league allows, while on the other hand you don’t want to overpay as you want these youngsters at keepable prices. So FAAB becomes a chess match.

    My advice: nickel and dime it. In other words, don’t bid under a nickel. You likely won’t get them unless they’re a more under the radar prospect. If you’re bidding over a dime, then you’re probably bidding too close or over full value for the following season. Better to let someone else overpay. Exception to that rule, however, might be a speedster with some good contact-hitting/on-base skills.

    All that said, here are some call-ups to watch.

    Dylan Bundy might just crack the Orioles' rotation in a week. Yes, he is only 19, but the righty is already on the 40-man roster and the Orioles, though they are in contention, do not have a strong staff and could use a power arm. It might be a bit much to expect greatness out of him given a two-level jump at his age, but Bundy is quite arguably the best pitching prospect currently in the Minors with an already deep repertoire and good feel for pitching. He’s most likely already drafted in most keeper leagues, but just in case he’s not, Bundy’s a must-have.

    Continuing with pitching prospects, the Cardinals are likely to promote Shelby Miller next week. It is a bit uncertain where he will plug into the rotation or whether the Cardinals may move to a 6-man rotation. But then again, we’re really just focused on 2013 here. In 26 starts at Memphis, Miller has posted a 10.5 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. The 21-year-old potential future ace throws regularly in the mid-nineties, hits the upper nineties and overall has a 3-plus pitch arsenal.

    For those impressed with Collin McHugh’s debut last week and disappointed by his demotion, fear not. OK, he’s really just a back end of the rotation starter long-term who works mostly in the eighties. But one hast to respect his ability to change speeds, throw strikes, and generate swings and misses despite a lack of overpowering stuff. He’s not  a bad play as a $1 potential keeper.

    Moving on to hitters, the Royals will finally bring Wil Myers to the Majors. He should push Frenchie to the bench, and while the Royals' defense may suffer as a result of that move, Myers has a very intriguing power and patience combination. As a right-handed hitter who strikes out more than a fifth of the time, however, I will be very curious to see how his ability to hit for average translates to the Majors short and long term. The 30+ HR power, however, is for real.

    Sticking with the Royals, I mentioned Jake Odorizzi last week in my impact prospect retrospective. He too will get the call and should earn a few September starts and could start laying the foundation for opening 2013 in the middle of their rotation.

    Over in the National League, perhaps the most highly anticipated hitter is Jedd Gyorko of the Padres who will take over as their starting second baseman. I have some doubts that he will stay at second long-term, but he’ll be there as long as Chase Headley remains a Padre at the very least. As long as he does stay at second, however, he is quite exciting as a disciplined hitter who makes fairly regular contact and has 20+ HR power. He has a chance to be the next Jeff Kent.

    Sticking with NL hitters, the Astros are a team certainly with openings and Marc Krauss might get a prime opportunity. He was acquired in exchange for Chris Johnson and could easily end up the better player long-term. While his upside is as a left fielder and possible platoon player, Krauss has high-teens to low-twenties per season HR power and good OBP skills. The move to the AL next year could put Krauss in a situation where he could be a top candidate for playing time at both OF and DH.

    Next we’ll see who indeed got the call and take an in-depth look at some of the notables.


    This week we spend more time looking back at some of my pre-season AL impact starting pitcher picks.


    Drew Smyly was one of my favorites entering the spring and managed to secure a starting job with the Tigers, beating out the likes of Jacob Turner (since traded to Miami) and Andy Oliver. Smyly turned in some very nice peripherals over 15 starts (8.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9) but went on the shelf and then found himself without a job given the Tigers' playoff hunt. While the lefty is still getting plenty of strikeouts at Triple-A, his usually very good control is well off and it shows in his 6+ ERA. Given that, I am not convinced Smyly is entirely healthy. Health willing, he is on target though for a rotation slot to begin 2013 and also a likely September call-up to pitch in long relief.

    The aforementioned Turner was one of the centerpieces of the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante trade. He had some shoulder issues late last season and earlier this year too and has not been missing bats at any of his three stops. I’m very concerned that the Marlins may have bought damaged goods. I may also be simply being too hard on this 21-year-old, who is young for the level he is pitching at and may simply need to add further refinement to his secondary stuff to raise those strikeout numbers.

    23-year-old Casey Crosby continues to have upper end stuff but cannot command it. I’m seeing his future in relief. Andy Oliver, who was one of the frontrunners for the fifth slot earlier this year, is in a similar boat and has in fact pitched some in relief in Triple-A this season. The lefty is striking out nearly a batter per inning, but is also walking nearly 7 batters per nine innings.

    Kansas City

    Continuing with the disappointment theme brings us to Mike Montgomery, who not only hasn’t been promoted to the Royals but who has in fact ended up being demoted from Triple-A to Double-A. The results have been entirely too similar at each level with mediocre control and command, mediocre (sub 7.0 K/9) strikeout rates and ERAs over 5.00 at both stops. Reports out there indicate it is not a velocity issue and it may be more of a mental/mechanical issue, though I have to wonder if it might be an elbow issue. That last part is pure speculation, but something is clearly amiss and I’m now very wary of the young righty.

    Given the Royals' struggles with starting pitching, it is a bit surprising that Jake Oderozzi has yet to get the call. I suspect that will happen come September though! The righty has pitched at two levels, showing better skills at Double-A, but having better success in Triple-A. That pretty much sums up how useful ERA is as an indicator of anything at all. I still believe he has middle of the rotation potential and he’s worthy of note for keeper leaguers and AL-only redraft leaguers looking for some possible late-season starts.

    Chris Dwyer is another promotion candidate who has pitched at two minor league levels in 2012 despite mediocre control and strikeout rates, and fairly awful results to go with them. I stand by my pre-season thought that he needs a transfer to the bullpen after two straight seasons of struggling as a starter.

    Finally, it has been Will Smith out of all these Royals' starters who has gotten the most playing time. While his fifth starter potential at the Majors has been quite apparent, he has thrown strikes and at times shown the plus command he showed in the Minors. Smith is all about working a very fine line, and with experience could be a capable innings eater at the MLB level.

    Los Angeles

    Garrett Richards’ stint with the Angels was a mixed bag, as he at times showed flashes of plus talent but at other times looked very much like a rookie. It’s all about command here and Richards, while he improved his strikeout rates in the Minors to 7+, still is not quite there yet. He’ll get another chance next season once a few of the Angels' playoff drive starters for 2012 depart. Zack Greinke will be a free agent and Ervin Santana has a $13 million option with a $1 million buyout, so it is fair to say that at least one of these two won’t be back for 2013.

    If Garrett Richards can no longer crack the Angels’ deep rotation, it is not surprising to see that neither Trevor Reckling nor Orangel Arenas have received MLB time this year. In the pre-season, I suspected both of these pitchers would end up in relief long-term. Reckling has barely pitched this year, working in A+ ball before being released. It may be the end of the line for him. Arenas’ game has shown little development. He is still a hittable sinker-ball pitcher with solid, but not excellent command.


    I have oft compared Liam Hendriks to the Twins’ next Brad Radke.  Remember, Brad Radke was absolutely awful earlier in his caree and Hendriks deserves some patience too. The righty has been solid in Triple-A, throwing strikes (though not as good as in previous yeras) while getting strikeouts. Missing bats is something he still needs to do in the Majors. While he is no future ace, given experience and time to acclimate himself to the Majors, Hendriks can still be a competent middle of the rotation starter.

    Next week we take a break from reminiscing and take a closer look at potential September call-ups!


    This spring I covered 42 American League minor league pitchers who might make an impact on the 2012 season. It’s time we checked up on some of their progresses.

    Oliver Drake started the season at Double-A and made a total of three starts and has not pitched since May 28th. He’s been on the DL since. When healthy he profiles best as a back-end-of-the-rotation starter or as a middle reliever.

    Alex Wilson has not made the Majors and I suspected in my original writeup his best role probably in relief. The righty’s made 3 starts, but appeared in 32 games as a reliever for Pawtucket where he has struck out more than a batter per inning. A September call-up is quite possible.

    Nestor Molina has spent all but one starter in Double-A where the righty continues to be an excellent strike-thrower (2.1 BB/9). However, his K/9 has dropped to a sub 7.0 per nine level and overall he’s been hit fairly hard with a 4.70 ERA. I questioned this ability to change speeds and it is possible that this part of his development (or lack thereof) is showing up a little at Double-A. Long term Molina is starting to look like a sinker-baller who pitches to a fair amount of contact.

    Simon Castro has had a more successful year and has been with the Triple-A club for 5 starts. Castro is very similar to Molina as a good strike-throwing  fastball/slider guy who lacks a change. The walk rates have translated well to Triple-A, but he is missing fewer bats over the small sample and will need to work to improve that. Castro’s another guy I would not be surprised to see end up in relief.

    Charlie Leesman, the veteran lefty of this group, is on the one-level-at-a-time plan and has made 23 Triple-A starters. It is somewhat surprising he has not gotten the call as his strikeout rates have translated very well from Double-A to Triple-A and his command is much improved over his 2011 campaign. The view that he is more of an organizational pitcher/5th starter at best type probably explains it, but I’d still be surprised if he does not get a September call-up considering hie is on the 40-man roster.

    Dylan Axelrod has been up and down with the big club appearing in 10 total games and making 6 starts and despite not having the highest ceiling, has the deepest repertoire and understanding of pitching. To that effect, Axelrod has translated his control skills swimmingly from Double-A to Triple-A to the Majors. More interestingly, he has been able to fool even major league hitters with a 7+ K/9. I still don’t think he’s much more than a back end of the rotation type, but he could easily end up being the most effective long-term of this foursome.


    Austin Adams was certainly a favorite of mine heading into the season with the expectation he would begin in Triple-A. The 5’11 right-hander but has not thrown a pitch this year. Instead he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder in late May and has been recovering since then.

    Zach McAllister has made a larger impact this season than expected. The righty has already exhausted his rookie eligibility and has 17 MLB starts under his belt between late last season and this year.  His ability to locate all 4 of his pitches and show a good curve have allowed him to fully replicate his skills at the MLB level. While he certainly is showing the skills of a middle-of-the-rotation starter, it remains to be seen how his high fly-ball rates will hold up over time. Still, the Indians have at the very least what looks to be a competent innings eater in McAllister.

    Like McAllister, Scott Barnes has spent time on the Indians roster. However, the left-hander has spent his time in 2012 almost entirely in relief at both the Triple-A and MLB level. I didn’t see the conversion coming considering a 4-pitch arsenal, but nevertheless, Barnes has seen his strikeout rates jump upwards with the move, but also has seen a decline in his strikeout rates. For now, his future seems to be in middle relief.

    I didn’t think very highly of either Matt Packer or T.J. McFarland heading into the season, figuring both would end up in swing roles or middle relief. Packer has instead missed much of the season due to a rotator cuff strain. Since coming back in late June he has advanced from rookie ball to A+, to AA, and finally to Triple-A where he has been hammered in his first two appearances. McFarland, on the other hand, has been healthy and made a combined 23 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, showing above average command. His strikeout rates, however, have dropped dramatically at the Triple-A level to sub 5.0. The lefty is a pitch to contact, ground-ball, so it is not that surprising. To have success, however, he’ll have to replicate his Double-A 1.8 to the higher levels.

    More pitching next week!

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