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The Wheelhouse: 30 Teams, 30 Thoughts - August Edition

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

This time around, I had to split the column by league due to unusual schedule events - weddings on back-to-back weekends paired with some extra time contributed toward getting folks ready for their football drafts in the remaining days leading into Week 1.

With that, let's begin with the National League.

The Mets did everything within reason to limit the strain on Matt Harvey's elbow. Sometimes, the UCL just tears. Of course, there are few examples of players avoiding Tommy John surgery by going the rehab-only route and Adam Wainwright is the most prominent. After being diagnosed with a partially torn UCL in June of 2004, Wainwright went on to pitch in the Arizona Fall League in October that same year. As for Harvey, the Mets would probably get one month out of him in 2014 if he had surgery today anyway, so a wait-and-see approach is not as ridiculous as you might think, especially since the team is unlikely to contend next season even if Harvey were completely healthy.

For one-year leagues with limited bench spots, or no DL spots, Jason Heyward is probably a drop at this point. Even if he makes the short end of the initial four-to-six week timetable, the best-case scenario looks like a 10-game push from Heyward at the end of the regular season. If he requires the longer end of the window (reasonable, given his typically slower recovery from injuries as Jeff Stotts pointed out on Tuesday's edition of RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today), those holding out hope of 10 games might get zero. Over his final 25 games before suffering the injury, Heyward was hitting .337/.408/.598 with six homers, 16 RBI and a 9:16 BB:K over 103 plate appearances, perhaps indicative of the big step forward many owners were anticipating when they drafted him in March.

Let's say you're playing in the NFBC Main Event in 2014 and you're picking third overall (a 5 x 5 mixed league with 15 teams) Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout are gone as the first two picks (choose whichever order you would like, the point is you can't have either one of them). Does Bryce Harper enter the conversation as a potential No. 3 overall pick? Is Clayton Kershaw a consideration in that spot?

I'm not even sure this is surprising anymore, but Jose Fernandez will be a top-10 starting pitcher for me in 2014. The question is - will the ADP force a selection that high? Fernandez feels like a player that won't offer much profit potential in industry leagues, but his dominance has not been given the proper attention this season. Of qualified starters, only Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Matt Harvey have a lower WHIP than the 1.00 Fernandez has returned in his rookie season. Amazingly, he made just 11 High-A starts, and skipped Double-A and Triple-A entirely. The team context will remain suspect, but that is offset by the benefit of getting to pitch half of his games in the spacious confines of Marlins Park.

He has plenty of flaws - including a 8:36 BB:K in his last 99 at-bats but Darin Ruf's nine homers in August rank third to Miguel Cabera (11) and Alfonso Soriano (10). Ruf has started 34 of the last 35 games for the Phillies entering play Friday night. The reverse platoon splits that Ruf has displayed this season at the big league level do not following his historical splits as a minor leaguer.

As many of you noticed, Joey Votto checked in at No. 6 overall in the final Top-200 rankings for the 2013 season. Even if Todd Frazier proves to be inept in front of Votto just as the Reds' other options have been to this point, things cannot get worse from an RBI opportunity standpoint. Further, Votto's value continues to come in the form of a high average, plenty of runs scored and power his 20 HR are only three fewer than Mike Trout and four fewer than Robinson Cano. More reasonably, Votto might compare to Adrian Beltre from a rotisserie standpoint since neither player offers much in the steals category, rankings are more about what we expect a player to do in the future, not merely a re-hashing of what they have already provided.

With Norichika Aoki's affordable $1.5 million 2014 option and Ryan Braun back from his suspension, where does Khris Davis fit into the Brewers' plans next season? Perhaps an offseason position switch to first base is on the horizon? Changing organizational plans over 102 plate appearances doesn't happen, but Davis has done everything in his power to this point to prove he belongs in the conversation for a spot in 2014 by hitting .311/.382/.667 with eight homers, two steals and a 7:21 BB:K over 42 games in Milwaukee this season.

The group of prospects that the Cubs are sending to the Arizona Fall League exceeds the upside in some teams' entire farm systems. This year's crop includes Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora (taxi squad) and Arodys Vizcaino, among many others. Bryant, who was selected second overall in the first-year player draft in June, has adjusted well to pro ball thus far with a 16-for-50 mark including four homers and 11 RBI over his first 14 games at High-A Daytona after toting an 1.108 OPS after 18 games with rookie-level Boise.

Was there a stretch before the All-Star break where some owners were wondering if the league had caught up to Shelby Miller? Since July 1, Miller has held the opposition to a .234/.313/.400 line while carrying a 50:19 K:BB and 3.13 ERA over his last nine starts. The blemish recently has been gopheritis, as he's allowed eight homers during that span after giving up that same number over his first 16 starts this season. Of course, Miller had a clunker Friday night in Pittsburgh before the completion of this piece.

After seeing Gerrit Cole first hand on the Fourth of July in a home start against the Phillies, I was having doubts about his rotisserie value for the second half of the season, despite the fact that he had held his own (3.94) over his first five big league starts. During that span, Cole had 16 strikeouts in 29.2 innings, while surrendering 34 hits. Growing pains seemed to be immediate. In his nine starts since July 4th, Cole has carried a 45:13 K:BB, 3.72 ERA while opponents have carried a .251/.297/.374 line against him. In a playoff scenario, Cole would almost certainly be leaned on should the Bucs find themselves in the National League Divisional Series in October.

The D-Backs are six games behind the Reds entering Labor Day weekend for the second Wild Card spot. General manager Kevin Towers has made very bold decisions at the helm over the past calendar year, and it might be fair to wonder if he's in danger of being replaced after the 2014 season (the organization has club options available on his contract for 2015 and 2016). Worth noting at this time, is that Martin Prado trails Justin Upton in fWAR (2.8-2.0) heading into the final month of the season, but Prado has rebounded from a slow start by hitting .345/.399/.537 with seven homers, 45 RBI and a 20:13 BB:K over his last 50 games (a 23-homer, 146-RBI pace over 162 games).

Obligatory Yasiel Puig update: Over past 30 days, Puig is hitting .295/.387/.514 with four homers, eight RBI, one steal and a 15:25 BB:K (105 at-bats). He's still Bernie Pleskoff's top-overall pick for 2014 drafts (leaving the window open a little longer for a change of heart, but I doubt it's coming), but will the typical price to acquire Puig fall more in line with this level of production?

We have long been afraid of relying on pitchers forced to make half of their starts at Coors Field, but Jhoulys Chacin is trending toward the Circle of Trust (3.71 ERA at home, 2.19 on the road) with his recent performance. Over the past 13 starts, he's averaged just under seven innings per start, while carrying a 61:24 K:BB, 2.02 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 89 innings. Perhaps the strikeout ceiling isn't much higher than this, but Chacin's ability to keep the ball on the ground along with a career-best 2.6 BB/9 should at least lead you to reconsider your view of him heading into 2014.

Player A: .278/.354/.477, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 5 SB
Player B: .295/.346/.443, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 10 SB

For one reason or another, they will always be reasonable comps in my mind. Player A is Brandon Belt, and Player B is Eric Hosmer. A pair of young, left-handed hitting first baseman in home parks where it's difficult to hit for power, both Belt and Hosmer have seemingly rallied to make a push toward hitting their 2013 projections. They also serve as a reminder of the importance of adjusting expectations when the league-wide offensive production is down. Consider that the MLB line of .254/.318/.398 yields the lowest OPS (.716) since 1992.

Chase Headley has been abysmal this year, but it's easy to wonder if he's been playing through injuries for a significant share of the season. After suffering a thumb injury late in spring training, did Headley's power dry up because he never returned to 100 percent? More recently, a back injury has kept him out of the lineup, while the production across the board resembles his pre-2012 breakout more than anything else. Even the steals have dried up, however, and Headley's average sits at .240 - 28 points below his career mark (.268). Less contact is partially the culprit, as he's striking out at a 25.3% rate - his highest since 2008. Depending on how much the price is discounted in the spring, Headley could be a viable rebound target as a .280, 15-15 campaign should still be within his skill set even if we never see anything along the lines of his 2012 season again.

In case you missed it, we have a new RotoWire baseball podcast called Short Hops that I host with Bernie Pleskoff. You can check out the latest (fifth) episode here and subscribe via iTunes.

Have a question you would like to hear answered on the podcast? Fire it my way @DerekVanRiper.

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