Fantasy pitchers and the trade deadline
As a born and bred Dodgers fan, it's always nice to wake up in the morning to news that your team acquired a player like Hanley Ramirez. Still just 28, Ramirez has three consecutive .940-plus OPS seasons to his credit, but he's dropped off that pace in recent years: .853, .712 and this year's .750. Still, Dodgers third basemen (seven players have played there this year) have hit a collective .249/.308/.373 this season, so a hopefully invigorated Ramirez could be a massive upgrade. As a bonus, perhaps they can convince him to wear No. 99 so they can reduce their inventory of "Ramirez 99" jerseys.
This is trade deadline week, one of the more exciting times of the year for baseball fans. Let's look at a handful of players (even hitters!) who could be positively impacted should some of the rumored deals go down.
Domonic Brown, PHI - Remember this guy? The Phillies are reportedly shopping the likes of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, and Juan Pierre probably could easily be had as well. Would that finally open the door for Brown to get a long look as a starting outfielder? I have to say yes, as even though the Phillies are a large market, they have so much money tied up in a handful of players that they are going to need cheap productive options to offset the likes of Cole Hamels' $24 million annual salary. Brown is batting a modest .277/.325/.436 in Triple-A, but in July, he's been red-hot - .364/.417/.591. It's time to see what he can do.
Mike Olt, TEX - With Jurickson Profar untouchable in any deal, the big piece the Rangers appear to be dangling for a pitcher (Josh Johnson?) is Olt. He's blocked at third base by Adrian Beltre, so he's movable in the right deal despite an impressive .287/.397/.580 (26 homers) for Double-A Frisco. Despite just being in Double-A, Olt is probably major-league ready now and could slide in at third base for a team like the Marlins or even the Brewers if they deal Aramis Ramirez. Olt could be one of the top NL-only league crossovers this week, so watch where he lands.
Jedd Gyorko, SD - The Yankees could be desperate enough to deal multiple top prospects for Chase Headley now that Alex Rodriguez (hand) is out for an extended period. Headley is also drawing interest from other organizations, though it's unclear whether anyone will step up and meet what is considered a lofty asking price by the Padres. Nonetheless, keep Gyorko in mind as Headley's potential successor. Overall between the upper two minor league levels, Gyorko is batting .313/.377/.545, but that improves to .340/.389/.604 in Triple-A. Gyorko homered 25 times last year and has another 22 in 2012, so despite the home park of his parent club, he's an intriguing power prospect.
Wil Myers, KC - With speedster Billy Hamilton likely looking at a MLB debut sometime in 2013, Myers is the one fantasy owners are circulating promotion petitions for now. He's slumped a bit lately, but Myers leads all minor leaguers with 29 home runs and has a .310/.390/.640 batting line. He'll strike out a lot, but Myers has the talent to come in and hit .290 with power in the middle of an emerging Royals lineup. Now all the Royals have to do is find a taker for Jeff Francoeur, though that might not be easy with Francoeur batting .242/.280/.367.
Carlos Gomez, MIL - Gomez could draw interest from other teams, but it seems unlikely he'd be viewed as a starter by a contender given his lack of on-base skills. More realistic is that a team trades for someone like Corey Hart, Norichika Aoki or Nyjer Morgan. That would open up more playing time for Gomez to both improve upon his 17 stolen bases and get his OBP back down from its lofty (for him) .296 mark.
Jeff Bianchi, MIL - Bianchi was called up recently, and he potentially could benefit from an Aramis Ramirez deal. Bianchi is a second-round pick of the Royals who has seen his career derailed by injuries, but perhaps there's some talent still there. He hit .319/.372/.378 with just one homer in 251 at-bats before his callup, so he's not your prototypical third baseman. He did have 12 steals, making him a worthy NL-only option given regular playing time. A shortstop in the minors, Bianchi probably would slot there with either Cody Ransom or Cesar Izturis in the mix for playing time as well.
Donovan Solano, MIA - OK, so this deal has already happened, but Solano will get first crack at replacing Hanley Ramirez at third base. Solano was slotted in the two-hole between Jose Reyes and Carlos Lee on Wednesday and went 0-for-1 with a run, three walks and a pair of stolen bases. He's now batting a lofty .322/.406/.441 in 59 at-bats. He's yet to go deep so far, and that's par for the course given his lack of minor league pop. He's stolen four bases, so he could help as long as he's hitting near the top of the order, though he's far from a speedster. Go ahead and grab him in NL-only leagues, but he's playing over his head right now.
Austin Kearns, FLA - Kearns is getting a slight boost in playing time due to Giancarlo Stanton (knee) being on the deal, and Emilio Bonifacio playing second base due to the Omar Infante trade. Even once Stanton returns, however, (sometime in August), Kearns would benefit from a Carlos Lee trade as well. Such a deal would allow the Marlins to move Logan Morrison to first base, unless they decided to give Gaby Sanchez another (final?) chance. Kearns has hit .256/.337/.433 with four home runs in 90 at-bats. That's a decent amount of power, making him a semi-valuable NL-only commodity should the at-bats increase the rest of the way.
Wily Peralta, MIL - Zack Greinke sounds all but done in Milwaukee, so unless a major league-ready pitcher comes back in the deal, this could open the door for the likes of Peralta. Peralta was probably the team's top pitching prospect entering the season, but after a 6.40 ERA through his first 15 starts, he was in danger of a demotion to Double-A. It appears, though, that he's made some adjustments, posting a 1.59 ERA over his last five starts. He's probably middle-of-the-rotation material, but he could have an impact for NL-only leaguers if Greinke is dealt.
Vinnie Pestano, CLE - Chris Perez has had a solid year, but we've already heard his name in connection with the Giants, so perhaps the Indians consider selling him at what could very well be his peak. That would most likely lead the Indians to make Pestano their closer, and he certainly has the credentials. After a strong 2011, Pestano has been just as good this year with a 1.50 ERA and 11.1 K/9. He features a fastball in the 90-93 mph range with solid enough control. Go ahead and speculate if you can afford the roster spot.
Brooks Raley, CHC - Raley isn't a highly-regarded pitching prospect, but he's probably the best the Cubs have at the upper levels of their system Either one or both of Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster could be dealt at any moment, which would put a rotation spot or two up for grabs. Raley could fill one of those slots. He's a 6-foot-3 left-hander who was rated as a top-50 talent in the 2009 draft, but fell to the sixth round due to signability concerns. This year in 118.2 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A, Raley has a 3.34 ERA and 85:34 K:BB. Far from spectacular, but two bad starts skew his Triple-A ERA of 3.21. In his last eight starts, Raley has a 1.48 ERA, so he has some momentum. Just a name to keep in mind in deeper leagues.
Aaron Crow, KC - The Royals are reportedly in discussions with multiple teams about dealing closer Jonathan Broxton. With Greg Holland having an ugly outing Monday and sporting a 1.59 WHIP, that would likely mean Crow is the favorite to close should Broxton depart. Crow, however, has allowed eight runs in eight appearances this month, though a 40:14 K:BB in 42 innings overall would suggest he's pitched well for most of the season. He also averages nearly 95 mph with this fastball and would be worth an immediate pickup in all formats if Broxton goes.
Chris Archer, TB - Archer impressed in his first two big-league starts in June. Even though he was credited with losses in both, his 14:2 K:BB in 11.2 innings carries more weight. Archer is regularly in the 92-95 mph range with his fastball and his breaking stuff continues to progress. His Achilles' heel has always been his wavering control, and that's been no different this year with a 5.3 BB/9IP in Triple-A. Archer, though, has a decent amount of upside, and at 23, he has plenty of time to develop confidence and drive down that walk rate.
Santiago Casilla, SF - Casilla has had a rough month, allowing an 8.38 ERA in his last 12 appearances while blowing half of his 10 save opportunities during that time. He's probably on the verge of being replaced by Sergio Romo anyway, but the Giants are also looking at relievers like Huston Street and perhaps even Jonathan Broxton. Either way, look for someone else to be closing games come Aug. 1.
Danny Hultzen, SEA - Seattle's top pitching prospect has had some control issues in Triple-A lately, but he has a 3.00 ERA in his last five starts and has fanned 114 hitters in 102.1 innings this year. He's a polished big-league ready left-hander who impressed me when I saw him in the Arizona Fall League. With every Seattle starter except Felix Hernandez either available via trade or just plain shaky to begin with (sorry Hisashi Iwakuma), expect Hultzen to be in the Seattle rotation no later than the first week of August. He's an immediate pickup in most formats.
Regan, a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.
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