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Almost Rizzo-time in Chicago?
Last week, I wrote of the significance of Memorial Day weekend as it relates to the evaluation process among fantasy owners. The time for making a decision on struggling stars and would-be prospects is at hand. In the past several weeks, fantasy owners have celebrated the promotions of a number of highly-touted heroes, most notably Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.
The holiday weekend also sets in motion a number of roster transactions in Major League Baseball. Discussions begin about service clocks and number of years remaining until arbitration eligibility. Those terms and teams’ short-term and long-term goals will frame conversations about a number of players in the next several weeks. Count me among those excited about the business side of the game.
For the purpose of this piece, I’m stepping back between the white lines to review the latest minor league news and to evaluate the future heroes of our nation’s pastime. I’ll begin with a pair of mid-week promotions that may have passed under the radar.
Brooks Conrad (2B/3B) was named Batter of the Week in the Pacific Coast League this past week. He batted .417 (10-for-24) with five home runs and 15 RBI during the period. Conrad earned the award and a promotion to rejoin the Milwaukee Brewers. Conrad owned a ridiculous .405 batting average (30-for-74) at the time of his promotion with 10 home runs and 28 RBI.
Washington placed Chad Tracy on the disabled list because of a groin injury, a move that prompted the promotion of Corey Brown. Brown batted .297 at Triple-A Syracuse (55-for-185) with 12 home runs, nine doubles and 30 RBI to earn his promotion. He can also run a bit, having legged out four triples while stealing six bases. The banged-up Nationals enter Thursday’s action ranked 26th in runs scored and in need of a jumpstart.
The Giants rank 18th in Major League Baseball in runs scored heading into Thursday’s games. They have a sweet-swinging right-handed hitter waiting at Triple-A Fresno to help the cause. Roger Kieschnick possesses a .319 batting average (65-for-204) with 30 extra-base hits (14 home runs) and 37 RBI. The hole in the 25-year-old outfielder’s game is his big swing. Kieschnick has struck out once every 3.29 at-bats.
Do you remember Matt LaPorta? The 27-year-old former hot prospect continues to ply his trade for Triple-A Columbus in the Cleveland system. He owns a .304 batting average (48-for-158) with 13 home runs, eight doubles and 30 RBI. LaPorta appeared in 107 games for the Indians in 2011 and produced 35 extra-base hits (11 home runs), 53 RBI and a .247 batting average.
The Dodgers rank second in team ERA with a 3.08 mark, and reinforcements are working their way through the minor league system.
• John Ely, a 26-year-old righty, has pitched to a 3.58 ERA in 10 starts for Triple-A Albuquerque with 65 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings pitched. Ely has walked 2.2 batters per nine innings. He made five appearances for the Dodgers in 2011, pitching to a 4.26 ERA while striking out 13 batters in 12 2/3 innings.
• Matt Magill was roughed up in his last start for Double-A Chattanooga, surrendering seven hits, including two home runs, in five innings. Magill has averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 10 starts, though his promotion through the system will be impeded by his bloated walk rate (5.1 walks allowed per nine innings).
Would you be shocked to find out that the Braves rank 22nd in team ERA (4.23)? Beyond the success of Brandon Beachy (1.77 ERA), it’s been a struggle for the normally pitching-rich Atlanta staff. Jair Jurrjens pitched to a brutal 9.37 ERA in four starts before getting demoted. Mike Minor owns a dismal 6.98 ERA in his 10 starts, while Randall Delgado has produced a weak 4.58 ERA with a 1.47 WHIP.
Twenty-one-year old righty Julio Teheran anxiously awaits his return to Atlanta. Teheran owns a 3.57 ERA in 10 minor league starts for Triple-A Gwinnett. He’s struck out 37 batters in 45 1/3 innings, though his elevated walk rate (4.2 per nine innings) and penchant for serving up longballs (seven home runs allowed) will hold him back.
Former UCLA standout Trevor Bauer is making a rapid ascent through the Arizona system. Bauer pitched to a dominant 1.68 ERA in eight starts for Double-A Mobile prior to his promotion to Reno. He’s struck out 24 batters in 19 innings for Reno while limiting opponents to a .169 BAA. Though he’s been unhittable for long stretches, Bauer has struggled with his control in his past two starts with nine walks in 11 innings pitched.
Jose Bautista has the power categories covered for the Blue Jays and fantasy owners. Speedster Anthony Gose is tearing up the basepaths for Triple-A Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League. The 21-year-old Gose owns a .294 batting average (63-for-214) with 17 extra-base hits (nine doubles) and 23 stolen bases in 28 attempts. He entered Thursday’s action with a streak of six consecutive multi-hit games.
The pitching-rich Cardinals (and dynasty league owners) anxiously await the arrival of 21-year-old righty Shelby Miller. Miller was named the Cardinals’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in each of the past two seasons to earn the promotion to Triple-A Memphis. He’s pitched to a middling 4.38 ERA in 10 starts while posting a fantastic strikeout rate (10 strikeouts per nine innings), but his efforts have been affected by his 1.64 WHIP.
Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to check in on everyone’s favorite slugger-in-waiting, Anthony Rizzo. He’s torn up Pacific Coast League pitching to the tune of a .354 batting average with 30 extra-base hits (17 home runs) and 46 RBI. Rizzo was pulled from a Triple-A game this week, prompting rampant speculation that a call-up to Wrigley Field was imminent. Alas, the call-up of this potential powerhouse was not to be, as Rizzo was pulled from the game because of a sore wrist. The call-up will come in time, but there’s no need to speed up the process given the Cubs’ current record.
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