The first week of action following the MLB All-Star break has been unkind to players and fantasy owners. The Twitter-verse nearly reached its breaking point on Monday night, as three prominent sluggers sustained injuries. The losses of Jose Bautista, Joey Votto and David Ortiz (he was rounding the bases!) sent fantasy owners scrambling for replacements and cursing their impediments to achieving fantasy glory.
Of course, the deadline for signing franchised NFL players had also come to pass, and everyone felt the need to chime in on Jeremy Lin and “The NeverEnding Story,” also known as Dwight Howard’s long-anticipated departure from the Magic. The fact that we had actual on-field news to dissect instead of additional legal wranglings was actually a welcome departure. I mean no disrespect to these players or others who have been injured. Those are serious issues and we want to see them healthy and hitting, but crunching numbers is far more entertaining than dissecting legalese.
With that said, let’s take a look at the happenings in the minor leagues. I’ll begin with the player called up to take Bautista’s roster slot, speedster Anthony Gose.
Gose was batting .292 with 33 extra-base hits (five home runs), 41 RBI and 29 stolen bases in 39 attempts for Triple-A Syracuse at the time of his call-up by the Blue Jays. He plays a fantastic center field, and you find ample highlights to demonstrate his ability to roam the outfield, including a grab in the Futures Game. Gose strikes out a ton (one every four at-bats), but he has the speed to leg out hits and absolutely terrorizes opponents on the basepaths.
There was some initial speculation, and Gose confirmed his own feelings on the subject, that former fantasy hero Travis Snider would return to the lineup in Bautista’s absence. The Blue Jays evidently decided that the roster included enough power and opted to bring speed and defense to the table. Snider is developing as a corner outfielder and has rediscovered his bat in the minor leagues. He possesses a .320 batting average with 10 home runs and 49 RBI as of this writing.
The Mets promoted Miguel Batista to take the place of injured Dillon Gee for Saturday’s start. Fantasy owners had hoped to see 23-year-old strikeout artist Matt Harvey promoted from Triple-A Buffalo, but Harvey struggled with his control in his last outing against Toledo (four walks and a HBP) and was held back. Harvey has struck out one batter per inning pitched and induces a lot of groundballs. He owns a 3.34 ERA this season with a 1.30 WHIP. His arrival in New York is imminent.
Another New York prospect, Matt den Dekker, went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBI on Tuesday against Toledo. The 25-year-old outfielder has struggled at the plate since his promotion from the Eastern League overall, but he continues to produce solid power and speed numbers. He’s batting .219 since his promotion in 137 at-bats after tormenting Double-A hurlers at a .340 clip.
Chicago fans have been enamored with the early returns from slugger Anthony Rizzo. They anxiously await the arrival of outfielder Brett Jackson as the next piece of Theo Epstein’s rebuilding project. Jackson owns pedestrian .258 batting average overall, but the 23-year-old outfielder from Berkeley has demonstrated great power (42 extra-base hits) with 22 stolen bases at Triple-A Iowa. Let me spin it another way. Jackson has produced a ridiculous .417 BABIP.
I started this piece with the Blue Jays, and I’d be remiss to post this piece without checking on Las Vegas catcher Travis d’Arnaud. I know. Fantasy owners love the power stroke of J.P. Arencibia. The 23-year-old Long Beach native is currently on the seven-day disabled list, though he’s expected to be sidelined for at least another month because of a torn PCL. He was batting .333 at the time of his injury with 39 extra-base hits (16 home runs) and 52 RBI.
His brother, Chase d’Arnaud, is a speed merchant in the Pittsburgh organization. Chase is batting .219 with 16 doubles, 24 RBI and 23 stolen bases for the Indianapolis Indians. He’s struck out once every 3.74 at-bats in his 228 at-bats.
The Astros are looking for an everyday replacement for Jed Lowrie, who has been sidelined indefinitely because of an ankle injury and nerve issue. Their answer may be found internally. Angel Sanchez has batted .299 for the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City with four home runs, 35 RBI and seven stolen bases. He batted .240 with 28 RBI and three stolen bases (.305 OBP) in 110 games for the Astros in 2011.
Well-traveled infielder Brett Wallace, who was traded to the Astros as part of a deal that landed the Blue Jays the aforementioned Anthony Gose, may warrant a second-half call-up to Houston. Wallace owns a .295 batting average in 76 games for Oklahoma City, producing 15 doubles, 14 home runs and 49 RBI.
The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping several members of their lineup, including Justin Upton, Stephen Drew and Ryan Roberts. Ken Kendrick’s earlier comments about Upton and Drew should make for interesting negotiation discussions. The departure of these players would open up opportunities for two players producing fantastic numbers at Triple-A Reno.
• Second baseman Jake Elmore has demonstrated great gap power (25 doubles) and run run production (62 RBI) while circling the bases (25 stolen bases). He possesses a ridiculous .373 (123-for-330) batting average with great plate discipline. A look inside the numbers of this 25-year-old prospect reveals that he’s actually walked more than he’s struck out this season (52-to-34 ratio).
• Teammate Ryan Wheeler has absolutely crushed PCL pitching and anxiously awaits his call-up to Arizona. Wheeler owns a robust .353 batting average with 26 doubles, 15 home runs and 90 RBI in 91 games. The 6-foot-3, left-handed slugger out of Torrance, California is ready for his call-up. NL-only owners should be prepared to pounce as the trade deadline approaches.
Similarly, the Dodgers are expected to make a move or two to bolster their rotation and their lineup. As such, prospect John Ely may be on the move. The 26-year-old righty has pitched to a solid 3.55 ERA with 123 strikeouts in 114 innings pitched. Ely has exhibited fantastic control with five strikeouts per walk issued.
I circle into the Double-A realm briefly for Joseph Dunigan, a 26-year-old outfielder for Jackson, the Seattle Double-A affiliate. Dunigan owns a .276 batting average with 19 home runs, 18 doubles, 53 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Alas, he continues to swing a Mark Reynolds-esque (insert Adam Dunn, if you will), bat with 108 strikeouts in 294 at-bats (one per 2.7 at-bats).
San Diego third baseman Chase Headley has been the subject of many trade rumors in recent weeks. His departure might open the door for 23-year-old slugger Jedd Gyorko. The product of Morgantown, West Virginia (College football is coming!), Gyorko has torched PCL pitching to the tune of a .355 batting average (81-for-228) with 17 doubles, 15 home runs and 54 RBI in 54 games. Gyorko started the season at Double-A San Antonio and appeared in 34 games before his promotion. He would share time with Logan Forsythe (.299 in 107 at-bats) if promoted to the Padres.
As the 2012 season began, there were two young pitchers who appeared on my “Second-Half Watch List.” Alas, I’ve watched, and their performances have been, to be kind, uneven. Their ascent to the major league “All-Name Team” has been delayed. Let’s get performance updates on Shelby Miller and Brad Peacock.
Miller, the 21-year-old St. Louis prospect, was fantastic in his last turn, tossing five shutout innings with four strikeouts against three hits and a walk. Unfortunately, it was only Miller’s second quality start in his past 10 outings. Miller owns a blistering strikeout rate (10.3 per nine IP), but he’s also yielded a hefty number of walks (five per nine IP) en route to a bloated 5.79 ERA.
Peacock, a 24-year-old righty for the A’s, finally turned in a strong start in his last outing against the Las Vegas 51s. He allowed a single earned run on four hits and three walks with eight strikeouts. Peacock had five or more earned run in six consecutive starts prior to Sunday’s performance. He possesses an alarming hit rate (11.1 hits per nine IP) while walking 4.3 batters per nine innings pitched.