Recap: Apparently, with a fair dose of Pittsburgh (read: playing time) to his name, Travis Snider has been reborn; early returns on his plate discipline in the new digs are all positive… He’ll remain a prime asset into the sunset of the season, if not because of his average, then because of his power… Gregor Blanco isn’t yet doing much of anything with his speed since the Melky suspension, and will continue to cede some starts to the inept Justin Christian… Oh, Bruce Bochy…While it was fun to speculate about Kameron Loe’s qualifications for the closer job in Milwaukee, wild John Axford seized back the role with the final out two days in a row… Fernando Martinez still can’t hit major league pitching and is an injury waiting to occur, but if you want some high-risk, high-reward at-bats at such a late point in the season (and if you don’t, I ask why not?), look no further… One wants to award Eric Stults some credit for generating 11 ground balls in his start versus the Giants, but one finds it hard to do so when Stults allowed 27 out of 28 (also known as 96 percent) of batters he faced to put the ball in play. Unsurprisingly, six were extra base hits, and unless he retires more batters via the strikeout, he’ll be a headache… Recommendation: expired… But Javier Lopez finally tallied a couple of saves, two weeks later…To a better week.
Major league talent in a barren player pool.
Domonic Brown| Phillies | OF | 4 percent Yahoo ownership | 1.2 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: .282 / .364 / .397
Oliver ROS: .269 / .336 / .431
|Brown’s loopy 2011 stance, with his arms outstretched (MLB.com)|
|Brown’s compact, crouched stance with his arms brought in. (MLB.com)|
A rough scouting job tells me that Dominic Brown has eliminated some of the loopy-ness from his swing by reworking his stance and shuffling his hands. Here’s a video of Brown grounding out in 2011: he looks stiff and unbalanced, and swings around and slightly downwards in a choppy motion. In this video of a home run off Bronson Arroyo, though—from this week—Brown appears comfortable, balanced, and relaxed; his swing is much shorter, his hands held closer to his body and to each other, allowing him to pull the hell out of Arroyo’s offering. The difference is more noticeable in screen-grabs of both at-bats: his hands are pulled in and bunched this year, where his bat was held outward in his more spacious stance of 2011.
The change in approach is paying dividends. Not only has Brown improved his batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentages (though the sample is small), but his newfound comfort is translating, it seems, to an increased patience at the plate; his walk rate matches his strikeout rate in his 22 games this season.
Recommendation: Looks like a new player, and is particularly impressive over the last seven days: nine hits, one home run, three walks, seven ribbies, and five runs. Buy now, and buy next year when he and only he mans right field.
Adam Ottavino | Rockies | RP | 1 percent Yahoo ownership | 1.7 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 4.13 ERA / 1.24 WHIP / 9.5 K/9
Oliver ROS: 5.38 ERA / 1.54 WHIP / 7.2 K/9
Colorado’s wacky, experimental rotation leans heavily on long-relief work, and to go-to man of late has been Ottavino. The burly former Cardinal has, at times, struggled with pitch placement, but can throw gas (averages 94.2 on his fastball, per FanGraphs), and is on a roll of pinpoint control in August. In his 16-plus innings, he’s generated five times as many strikeouts as walks. The key to Ottavino’s success is no surprise: if he gets ahead in the count on the first pitch, opponents manage a mere .219 wOBA against him; if he gets behind in the count, the mark spikes to .295. He’ll vulture more than a few wins with the short outing shenanigans in Colorado.
Recommendation: Worth deploying as a relief pitcher for those searching for wins; hardly has the ability to blow up in short appearances and has some raw talent.
Minor league helpers
The following is a list of impressive minor league talent—or in the case of the two pitchers, newly christened big leaguers—ready to impact your roster in the coming month. Many are well known, a few are probably owned (particularly in dynasty and keeper leagues), but bear with me.
Billy Hamilton | Reds | SS | 3 percent Yahoo ownership | 1.7 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: .280 / .355 / .376 (Major League Equivalent)
Oliver ROS: .250 / .309 / .333 (Oliver 2012 Preseason Forecast)
The lanky, skinny Hamilton has kicked up quite a share of dirt on his way to the minor-league stolen base record of 148 (and counting); also impressive to this set of eyes is his vastly improved plate discipline. Hardly a model of an excellent eye in years prior, Hamilton has completely transformed his stock as a future big-leaguer; he’s long carried the label of once-in-a-generation talent on the basepaths, but whether he’d get on base enough to utilize his all-world speed is an open question that seems to have been answered. His Double-A transition is impressive mostly for his 17.9 percent walk rate—his 44 steals in 40 games seems routine. If he continues his torrid hitting (13 for his last 30 with eight walks and a dozen steals in his past 10 games), he’ll be a September part-timer. For now, though, he looks destined to pinch run his way onto the collective fantasy radar.
Recommendation: Has the potential for double-digit steals in the ultimate month, even without regular playing time. Value accordingly: that’s all he’ll do in this taste of the majors.
Jedd Gyorko | Padres | 2B/3B | 1 percent Yahoo ownership | 0 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: .272 / .328 / .471 (Major League Equivalent)
Oliver ROS: .265 / .324 / .446 (Oliver 2012 Preseason Forecast)
Gyorko—a short, stocky, powerful hitter—has long and often been recommended in this column; my apologies that he hasn’t given you a single long-ball for your invested interest. The Padres decided to hold their Chase Headley stock until the winter, where he’ll be a trade alternative to the big-buck free agent class that includes Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn and perhaps David Wright—all to say that Gyorko’s opening at third never came. Alexi Amarista, incumbent second baseman (Gyorko’s other position) on the lowly Padres, has stumbled since the break, hitting only .235 with limited on-base and slugging skills; Gyorko shouldn’t have trouble pushing him four days out of five, as he has no discernible lefty/righty split to his name.
Recommendation: Has the potential for a few home runs in the final month, but PETCO is a thorn in the power-hitter’s balloon, so the potential is also there for him to flop.
Jerry Sands | Dodgers | OF | 0 percent Yahoo ownership | 0 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: .231 / .304 / .391 (Major League Equivalent)
Oliver ROS: .239 / .309 / .422 (Oliver 2012 Preseason Forecast)
Ready for part three of Sands Takes L.A.? The first installment was a mixed bag: respectable, but hardly head-turning, power displays mixed with fair plate discipline. The second installment, a nine-game stint this season, was a disaster: nine strikeouts in 23 at-bats, with a mere four hits to his name. Sands has been a minor league masher since Rookie Ball in 2008, though, and in the second half of this year, has posted an otherworldly .387/.449/.690 with a 50 home run pace over 600 at-bats. Considerable raw power and a hot streak may reward him with another stint in L.A. blue, and perhaps this time, he’ll end the insufferable James Loney era. For now, he’s a failed prospect; give him a chance to prove you wrong this September.
Recommendation: Similar to that of Gyorko—could boom, could bust; gamble on the continuation of the hot streak, but prepare for a belly flop.
Tyler Skaggs | D’Backs | SP | 8 percent Yahoo ownership | 3.8 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 4.34 ERA / `1.38 WHIP / 7.3 K/9 (Major League Equivalent)
Oliver ROS: 4.96 ERA / 1.46 WHIP / 7.3 K/9 (Oliver 2012 Preseason Forecast)
Like Gyorko, Skaggs is an alumnus of this Waiver Wire column; unlike Gyorko, Skaggs is a tall, skinny lefty thrower with considerable zing on his fastball. He averages 90-91 mph on his heater, with the occasional 93 when he pushes it, and mixes it with a nasty curveball, mostly. The downside with Skaggs is that of most any young pitcher: suspect control at times, though the Oliver-projected 2.21 strikeout to walk ratio bests the marks put up this year by the talented likes of Yu Darvish, Matt Moore, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson and Matt Harrison. If he has trouble tallying strikeouts at the major league level, it might be a tumultuous couple of weeks in the majors before he loses his rotation spot; if Skaggs can channel more of his Double-A self, where he struck out more than 11 per nine innings, he’ll find a comfortable home in Arizona’s plans for September and beyond.
Recommendation: Proceed with caution—he might struggle to adapt and Chase Field certainly won’t do him any favors—but he’ll be as good on an NL-only stream option as you can find.
Colin McHugh | Mets | SP | 0 percent Yahoo ownership | 0.0 percent ESPN ownership
YTD: 3.91 ERA / 1.28 WHIP / 6.6 K/9 (Major League Equivalent)
Oliver ROS: 5.02 ERA / 1.49 WHIP / 6.7 K/9 (Oliver 2012 Preseason Forecast)
What you can’t find with Skaggs—a favorable home park, ground-ball tendencies—you certainly can with McHugh, who sports a 1.46 groundball-to-flyball ratio in Triple-A. He’s comparable to Skaggs in both size (6-foot-2 for McHugh; 6-foot-3-plus for Skaggs; 195 lbs for both) and results (McHugh possesses good command and 91-93 mph on his fastball, too). But he is overlooked because of his age (25 this June) and lack of pedigree (18th round pick and never one of top prospect lists). The righty should succeed in his home starts at least with his mix of command and ground balls, and has the potential to develop into more. He should be a popular pickup after his staggering Mets debut, but don’t be tricked into thinking McHugh is any kind of savior to your rotation—he’s likely nearing his innings limit.
Recommendation: Perhaps a better option than Skaggs, in that he’ll assume Johan Santana’s rotation spot for the time being and will pitch in a friendly park. As always with young pitchers, though: buyer beware.