Hannahan Becoming a Mannahan
Every year we see young players emerge to become studs, turning from boys into men. Most look for this primarily from high-profile minor league call ups, with Mike Moustakas and Desmond Jennings being this year's examples of young players everyone is waiting on to become grownups. But there are other guys that can come out of nowhere to emerge as studs and get regular playing time as the season progresses. The question with young, unproven talent of course is 'can they keep it up?' but they do provide upside, and taking risks on upside is what wins championships.
The first-place Indians' offense has been on fire lately, and while Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Shoo Choo and Carlos Santana have been receiving most of the attention, their third baseman deserves credit as well. Over his last nine games, Jack Hannahan has batted .355 and driven in seven runs, including a game in which he blasted two solo home runs. He had a nine-game hit streak as well which came to an end on Saturday, but his hot bat and everyday spot in the lineup makes him a must-own in AL-only leagues.
Brandon Wood is getting some lineup-love from his new team in Pittsburgh. He started all three games of a home-series against the Giants last week at shortstop, and while manager Clint Hurdle has refused to say that he has passed Ronnie Cedeno on the depth chart at the position, a change could come soon as Cedeno is only batting .192 and Wood has played well so far. Even if the former top prospect doesn't knock Cedeno out of the starting lineup immediately, he has received playing time at other positions and Hurdle even mentioned he would play Wood at all four infield positions, giving him the possibility of some major position-eligibility benefits. Keep an eye on him moving forward and if he can pick up a starting gig he will be worth an addition.
Angels catcher Hank Conger was a surprise to make the majors to start the season. A month later, he's been getting regular playing time after batting .273 with two home runs and nine RBI in just 44 at-bats. Manager Mike Scioscia refused to call him the starter, but he has been far outperforming Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson behind the plate. If he can keep it up, he could force his way up the official depth chart, something that seemed highly unlikely just a month ago.
Travis Snider was sent back to minors this week after a horrid start to the season. The Blue Jays outfielder was projected by many as a nice power option late in mixed leagues after belting 14 home runs in just under 300 at-bats last season. He has been a pretty major bust so far in 2011 though, hitting just one home run in the first 25 games of the season and posting an ugly 23/10 strikeout-to-walk rate that has resulted in a .184 batting average. He clearly needs to make some adjustments to his swing and will hopefully come back having done just that, as he is way too talented to be playing this poorly. Juan Rivera has replaced Snider in left field and has been batting fifth in the lineup, and as a .279 lifetime hitter with 20-plus home run potential he is worth an immediate pickup in AL-only leagues.
In other Blue Jays lineup news, with Aaron Hill and Jayson Nix currently on the disabled list, John McDonald has been getting a majority of the playing time at second base. He has only batted .245 up to this point but he could provide some pop and most importantly, multi-position eligibility at third, second, and shortstop. He is on the radar in AL-only leagues for those in need of a temporary replacement at those positions.
In one of the least-sexy platoons in the baseball universe, Casey Kotchman and Dan Johnson have been splitting time at first base for the Rays, with Kotchman playing versus righties and Johnson against lefties. That should change soon, as Kotchman has been tearing the cover off the ball at a .341 clip and hit his first home run last Thursday while Johnson is batting a pathetic .141. Look for Kotchman to take over full-time duties at first with Johnson going to the bench or batting as the designated hitter. Kotchman is worth a pickup in AL-only leagues but remember, this is Casey Kotchman we're talking about here, so temper expectations if you choose to grab him.