W1ST1667.JPGI had a delightful Memorial Day weekend, and I hope you did too. I barbecued and went to the beach and played with this great, genius dog named Jamo He’s easily a 7-8 WAR (Wags Above Replacement) dog, and he’s aging like Chipper Jones. A very good boy, indeed. Memorial Day is also the unofficial point of the baseball season where I stop citing small sample sizes and start thinking that what we see might be what we get. Some of these players below are just starting to heat up, others are having better years than we may have expected, and opinions on them should start to change. All have some potential fantasy value. Let’s talk about them.

Pennies For Someday
Xander Bogaerts, SS — Boston Red Sox
I could write a lot about Xander. I’ve been a Red Sox fan since before Ellis Burks gave me a ball at a game in 1989. Ellis Burks is a great American. Xander Bogaerts is a great Aruban, and is available in 26% of Yahoo leagues right now. Xander has OPS’d over 1.000 the past two weeks and he’s scorching line drives all over the place. His power is developing, more of these doubles are going to turn into homers, and he’s going to be a top five fantasy shortstop the rest of the season. One day soon young Xander will rule the world as a wide-smiled, beneficent, and just leader. When that happens, you can tell your friends about the time he was on your fantasy baseball team, and it felt good.

Oscar Taveras, OF — St. Louis Cardinals
We all know about Oscar, how he’s the left-handed Vladimir Guerrero, how he’s going to be a fantasy monster as soon as he gets the call to the bigs, how the Prophecy says he’ll bring balance to The Force, et cetera, et cetera. Well, believe it. There were some injury concerns
early on in the season, but he’s back to doing what he does — hitting for average and power, not striking out a ton, and walking just enough. The only problem is that the Cardinals don’t have an opening in their outfield for him right now. Peter Bourjos is the only outfielder on the Cards that’s not hitting enough to justify his roster spot, but Taveras doesn’t have the defensive acumen for center. The Cards need to solve this logjam soon, as their best team has Taveras in the lineup.

Andrew Heaney, LHP — Miami Marlins
Heaney was recently promoted to AAA, and all he’s done in his two starts is strike out 14 batters and walk zero batters. His numbers are fantastic across the board this season — just like they were last season. Since an evil wizard seemingly cast a bifurcation spell on a few dozen UCLs this spring, Heaney may get a chance in the majors sometime this summer, particularly since the Marlins are, right now, atop the NL East standings. Heaney’s got everything you look for in a fantasy starting pitcher and could help immediately in four categories.

CJ Cron, 1B — LA Angels of Anaheim
I didn’t expect Cron up this early, but give him credit — there was an opportunity in Anaheim and he’s seized it. There are signs that what he’s done so far in the majors isn’t sustainable — he’s only walked twice in 68 plate appearances and his .346 BABIP is on the high side, but he’s got serious fantasy value right now, and is available in 95% of Yahoo leagues. Did you draft Prince Fielder or Allen Craig and you’re lazing around in a sticky pool of regret? Go scoop up Cron. Again, he probably won’t keep this up, but it’s not impossible that he does.

Tommy La Stella, 2B — Atlanta Braves
La Stella’s an interesting player. He’s a smallish second baseman who’s walked more than he’s struck out over the course of his pro career who doesn’t hit for much power at all. Everything about him screams “utility infielder” at me, but he’s going to get a chance at second in Atlanta this season. If you’re in a deep OBP league, he could be a valuable middle infielder or second baseman. I don’t really know what to make of him yet, but I do know this: he can’t be worse than Dan Uggla.

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    This team is better than last year and should be even better when Paxton gets back and if Walker shows he belongs. However I have to agree there are too many substandard performers who don’t deserve to be on a major league roster and some of them should have been removed before this. I agree on Smoak too, it just doesn’t look like he’s going to be worth keeping. Ackley I still hold some hope for at this point. Miller and Franklin are AAA players it seems. I’d push DJ Peterson onto the fast track and have him play some 1B.

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    Jerry, I think you’ve definitely captured how most M’s fans are feeling at the moment. Obviously the injuries to Hart and Morrison have limited what Seattle has been able to do with the lineup card, but Smoak’s a case, like you said, of having no other real alternatives. Are you going to call up Montero now, and if you do, what kind of message does it send? It was only a few months ago that it appeared he could care less about being a major leaguer. I’d like to see at least another month of hard work out of him because I don’t want to reward a player that doesn’t necessarily deserve it — PED’s and injuries aside. But, if Smoak continues to struggle there may be no option. I mean, LMC put Endy Chavez in the lineup yesterday. No knock on Chavez, he’s an alright fourth outfielder I guess and he was probably going to opt out of his deal tomorrow, but it seems like LMC has given someone like Smoak as long a leash as possible. Sure, Smoak had top prospect written all over him, but the glimmer is gone. He’s a supremely average player: 20 home runs, decent amount of RBI’s, but no average, minimal OBP, and marginal at best abilities in the field and on the bases. I’d like to think that this is his last year to prove himself, but who knows what the coaching staff is thinking right now. They may see something we don’t or are focussing their worries on the more obvious issues, ie. shortstop.

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    Jerry – I pretty much agree with everything you say. It is much too early to give up on Mller and Franklin. I think the one of the biggest problems is these young hitters are not surrounded by solid major league players. The M’s have basically tried to promote the AAA team to the bigs without having established pieces in place. Not fair, not idea, but they still have to prove themselves.

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    Watching the game yesterday was pretty depressing. The contrast between the Tigers lineup and the M’s really highlighted how shitty our situation is. We just don’t have many legitimate ML hitters.

    Take a look at last nights lineup:
    Chavez LF: .250 .250 .500
    J Jones CF: .287 .340 .391
    M Saunders RF .276 .329 .433
    J Smoak 1B .222 .298 .392
    K Seager 3B .253 .343 .456
    M Zunino C .231 .284 .435
    D Ackley DH .238 .292 .384
    N Franklin 2B .136 .204 .182
    B Miller SS .158 .234 .250

    That is PUTRID.

    You can’t win many baseball games with half the lineup with sub-700 OPS. We have only ONE regular player with a OBP over .350. Mike Saunders – with his .763 OPS, is one of our best players right now. He’s a 4th OFer on a good team. Likewise, I don’t think they need to continue with the Dustin Ackley experiment. He’s been bad for three years. Maybe a change of scenery would help him. Some team might be wiling to give him a shot at 2B. For whatever reason, its just not working for him in Seattle. Time to pull the plug.

    First base and DH are also a mess. I don’t think you can keep playing Smoak. This was his last chance, and he’s currently shitting the bed. When Morrison and Hart can play, they need to take over. And Montero should get a shot too. Smoak isn’t good. Time to pull the plug on that one, too. It sucks, since we all had big expectations for him. But you can’t keep running a guy out there with no signs of improvement. I don’t really see Hart or Morrison as long-term options at 1B/DH, so the M’s need to address both slots going forward. That leaves – gulp – Jesus Montero as our only real option within the organization. That sucks.

    Obviously, the M’s aren’t going to fix this during the season. At SS, the M’s are pretty much stuck with Franklin and Miller, and need to keep their fingers crossed that one of those two works out. And they do have Chris Taylor in AAA as Plan C.

    Likewise, they need to hope that Saunders and Jones can emerge as legitimate starters, but both are probably 4th OFers on a good team. They should probably look at add AT LEAST two OFers going forward.

    It might be easier to look at who IS looking like a long-term option. Zunino looks OK, and given his inexperience, his hitting is about as good as expected. Plus he’s a good defensive catcher. Cano is hitting, and is signed for the GDP of a small island nation, so we can pencil him in for a while. Seager is solid. I’d hoped he’d take a big step forward this year, but he’s at least a legitimate starter.

    That’s it. The M’s are looking OK at C, 2B, and 3B. Saunders or Jones could probably fill one OF spot going forward, as well as serve a role on the bench. They have two guys with talent at SS. After that, we’re pretty much screwed.

    The worst part: there isn’t much in the pipeline. We have some good position player prospects in Gabriel Guerrero, DJ Peterson, and Austin Wilson, but none of those guys are even in AA yet. It would be unrealistic to expect any to contribute before late next year.

    That leaves two OFers, 1B, and DH as GLARING holes going forward. That’s a long shopping list.

    I hate to be Debbie Downer, but this team still has a ways to go before they can be considered even a long-shot contender. They need to be adding talent in any way possible. Unfortunately, the farm system is barren from all the promotions. I hate to say this, but this is looking like another year in which the M’s will be on the outside looking in later in the season, and they would be wise to use the rest of the season to add some talent wherever they can: Int’l signings, trades, waiver claims, whatever. They have so many weaknesses right now, they can’t expect to fix this internally or through free agency. They need A LOT of help.

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    I’m also keeping an eye on Steve Piscotty of the Cards, though I doubt he will have any fantasy value this year, but he could. He would also look good in the M’s outfield.

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