Super 2 To You Too
We have passed mid-June, and that puts us on other side of the ledger for Super 2 arbitration eligibility. Generally, teams can soon bring up their most prized pitching prospect without setting the big payday clock in motion. For most franchises, that's a big deal and they avoid it whenever possible. From a fantasy perspective, this means the real, blue-chip pitching prospects are in play. Earlier in the season they often called up marginal arms hoping for a lightning strike, and fantasy owners had to guess whether the guy had any future. Many of the arms coming up now could scuffle a bit, but most have at least a reasonable shot at fantasy relevance. Let's take a look at who we've seen already, and who might be on the way:
Kevin Gausman (Baltimore) - He's had a few tastes, and he's seen both the good and the bad of it in the show. Those are positives. He's learning what it takes to survive at the top level. A triple-digit fastball with crisp movement isn't mandatory for that survival, but it doesn't hurt, and he has one - to go along with a full arsenal of quality secondary pitches. He's still young, he'll probably have some more scary days, but I love this guy and he should be here to stay. If he can still be had at a discount based on his early returns, go for it. He's a quick study and he's already getting a feel for success.
Marcus Stroman (Toronto) - A little shaky when he first stepped into the rotation, he seems to be getting past the debut butterflies. When you watch him the first thing you might notice, he doesn't really look like a dominating starting pitcher. At 5-foot-9 (generous I think) he's a little guy with a big arm, and a pretty high ceiling. He mixes in a heavy fastball, a cutter, a power slider, and an improving change-up, and he'll throw them at any time. He's defying the odds being so short and trying to make it as a starting pitcher but he pitches taller LOL.
Andrew Heaney (Miami) - Heaney is loaded with talent and pitches in an organization with a knack for developing young arms. He has fast-tracked, splitting time in Double-A and Triple-A this season, and compiling a 7-2 record with a 2.47 ERA between the two. Perhaps more eye-opening is the 79:15 K:BB ratio over 76.2 innings. That's impressive for a young lefty. Don't expect anything like Jose Fernandez, but he can be a fantasy help. He'll make his debut Thursday against the Mets.
Alex Meyer (Minnesota) - You just read about a smallish right-hander with a lot of upside despite his short stature. Here's the flip side. Meyer at 6-9 is at least a foot taller than Stroman and has a delivery that makes it look like he is releasing the ball as he offers to shake your hand. Not too surprising Meyer struggles with keeping all the moving parts in synch and consistently repeating his motion so that release point isn't too difficult to predict. When it happens he can be devastating and Twins opponents should get to experience that very soon. There will be some shorter outings with high pitch counts, but oh the good days!
Taijuan Walker (Seattle) - A sore shoulder slowed him down earlier this season, but he has completed his rehab assignment and is currently working through some command issues at Triple-A Tacoma in preparation for his much anticipated debut in Seattle. It shouldn't be too far off. The Mariners already have Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. One day they hope to round out their rotation with guys like Walker, James Paxton (back) and Danny Hultzen (fighting major shoulder problems). If it ever happens, yikes.
Jonathan Gray (Colorado) - It's an organization that is perennially short of pitching and which has suffered injury after injury this season to magnify that ever-present need. Enter Mr. Gray. It was already assumed he would be fast-tracked and the young arms that figured to get an earlier call - Tyler Matzek and Eddie Butler (he has already been added to their disabled list) have already made the trip. He's the prototype power pitcher so the Rockies hope the thin air won't impact his pitches, he'll just blow them by opposing hitters. He's got the arsenal, and exceptional command for such a live arm. He could make it work.
Noah Syndergaard (New York NL) - I place him a very small notch behind teammate Matt Harvey (recovering from Tommy John surgery) but a notch ahead of Zack Wheeler. That's pretty lofty company folks. Remember the Seaver/Koosman/Gooden et al days? That could be what Mets fans have to look forward to with this group. Syndergaard hurt his non-throwing shoulder earlier this year which only delayed his arrival while also eliminating concerns about him throwing too many innings this season. He's headed back to the mound, will build up his pitch counts, and probably find his way to the Big Apple in July.
Dylan Bundy (Baltimore) - Don't get me wrong, Bundy is a special prospect, I just don't think he is higher up on the food chain than a few others. He became the hype poster child when he was thrown into competition against kids he easily overmatched and allowed just five hits and two walks over 30 innings. Pretty amazing but it was a shark against minnows and not surprisingly the shark won. He hasn't pitched since 2012 after requiring Tommy John surgery, but he is rehabbing now and is expected in Baltimore sometime in the second half. He's a good one, but putting it in perspective, I'd rather have Gausman.
Archie Bradley (Arizona) - Near the top on many ranking lists, Bradley hasn't quite mastered the command necessary to fulfill the lofty expectations. At least, not yet. True, he's out right now (since April with a sore elbow) but he is expected back soon, and the injury-riddled Arizona rotation could be in his future, especially now that Bronson Arroyo (elbow) is also hurt. He could use more seasoning, but he or Andrew Chafin (also struggles with command) have to be considerations for a team running out of viable options. I think he fits better in keeper or dynasty formats at this point.
Some Notable Rotation Ramblings
• I've always liked Marco Estrada, and I knew he came with long ball baggage. I was OK with that too. But, he has now served up 23 long ones this season and the baggage is getting heavy. He's going to have to get the ball down or his rotation spot could be in jeopardy.
• Riding guys during a rough stretch is a trademark of mine. But, even I think it's time to hop off of the Justin Verlander train. His velocity is down almost 3 mph from his peak seasons, his command is spotty, and what's worse, he knows it. Right now there is nothing to grab on to.
• The Cubs would like to sign Jeff Samardzija to a long-term deal, but it would take a huge checkbook so they are also exploring possible trade scenarios. If they deal him (he is under their control this year and next), and he lands in the right place, he could instantly become a fantasy stud.
• About eight years ago I was bubbling about Scott Kazmir being one of the most exciting young arms in the game. About four years ago I waved goodbye to that exciting young arm whose career appeared to be over. I patiently waited to see if he really had made it back. OK, I'm a believer, and he added command.
• Henderson Alvarez is another of those sometimes successful pitchers who makes me nervous. Sinkerball pitchers don't generate a lot of strikeouts and they can tend to overthrow, which decreases the sink. Alvarez, however, throws his sinker at 93 mph so he probably won't throw it too hard. He's hard to figure.
• Until the Mariners get all their rotation pieces back, they will rely on guys like Cuban defector Roenis Elias. I have watched him three times now looking for the chink in his armor. He is supposed to possess shaky command, but he pounded the bottom of the zone again in the one I just watched. Decent fastball, nice breaking stuff and a so-so change but competent when he throws strikes.
Every now and then Ernesto Frieri provides us with a brilliant light show complete with a nuclear meltdown. It prompts the Angels to say Joe Smith is still available, but unless Frieri strings several blowups together he will get most save chances. ... I was a little concerned when Kenley Jansen's velocity was down at the beginning of an inning. Maybe he just wasn't completely warm since it came on as the inning progressed but I think I'll watch to be safe. ... Jake McGee picked up a save last weekend after the Rays normal closer, Grant Balfour, saved a game recording seven outs a couple of days before, and Juan Oviedo has also grabbed a save. It will continue as a committee for now, but if Balfour can provide a few more solid outings he should be back to fulltime duties soon. ... Hector Rondon has been dealing with a sore elbow, so the Cubs were perhaps auditioning Neil Ramirez for the closer's role. Ramirez has good numbers but he probably isn't the answer either. ... The Mets Jenrry Mejia has suffered through some back stiffness but he is pitching through it as their closer. I actually like Jeurys Familia a bit better in the role but he'll have to wait for his chance. ... The Giants have to be somewhat concerned with Sergio Romo. When he first took over the closer's gig there was talk of possible workload restrictions. He isn't likely in any danger just yet, but they could back down his appearances. ... In Baltimore there were always some questions regarding whether or not Zach Britton had the arsenal to pitch deep into games. He has shown he has plenty to finish them and he should continue to strengthen his grip on the closer's job. ... Glen Perkins was held out of a save scenario earlier this week due to a sore back. Nothing suggests a long-term concern.