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Behind the Numbers: Moves for the Home Stretch

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

This week's BTN will consist of two parts. First, by my count, there are 20 teams with at least some level of hope for a 2014 playoff spot. For the other 12, we'll look at some potential moves that could have significant fantasy impact should the GMs agree with my suggestions. Second, while we all wait to see the debuts of Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, I'll look at some other lesser-known prospects who could help as early as this season.

Red Sox: Promote OF/2B Mookie Betts and play him

Why the Red Sox would promote Betts, not play him and then send him back to Triple-A is beyond me. Looking at the Red Sox outfield, there certainly is room for his skills. Yeonis Cespedes has left field, but Jackie Bradley is batting .211 with one home run in 367 PA, and while Brock Holt is a good story, he's not the future in right. Betts, meanwhile, destroyed both Double-A (.355/.443/.551) and Triple-A (.333/.421/.516) pitching this year, and he's already swiped 32 bases while posting an impressive 59:48 BB:K. He needs to be back up pronto.

Rays: Let Brad Boxberger close

With a 1.38 ERA, 12.1 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 with no home runs in 52 innings, Jake McGee has been an elite closer. With a 2.02 ERA, 14.5 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9, Boxberger has been an elite set-up man. There's certainly a case for an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach in terms of the roles of the two, but I would like to see how Boxberger would do as a closer. Either way, there's still a ton of value in his strikeouts, and the fact he's allowed a meager 24 hits in 49 innings.

White Sox: Give 3B Matt Davidson one more shot

Davidson has already flopped in the big leagues once this year, and he's batting .204/.288/.379 for Triple-A Charlotte, but the White Sox need to see this year if he's going to be part of their future. Conor Gillaspie is doing a solid job at third, but Gillaspie has just four home runs in 373 PA. The White Sox could consider Davidson in the outfield or at DH, but regardless, he should get one more shot. Davidson is batting .303 in his first nine games this month, so perhaps he's turning things around a bit.

Minnesota: Promote RHP Alex Meyer

This one is a no-brainer despite Meyer's last Triple-A outing (2 IP, 4 ER). He's certainly better than Yohan Pino, currently in the rotation, and could be the third-best starter in the entire organization. Meyer has a 10.4 K/9 and 3.32 ERA in Triple-A, though his control (4.5 BB/9) obviously needs to improve. Meyer had a 1.77 ERA in the seven starts prior to his last outing, and considering he's likely going to be a big part of the 2015 team, giving him a taste of big league hitters now makes too much sense.

Houston: Play OF Domingo Santana every day

The early returns are not pretty: 18 PA, 14 K, 1 BB, 0 Hits. Santana, though, has received just one start since his recall on Aug. 3 (second MLB stint), so what does the club expect given the highly sporadic playing time? Santana, 22 last week, had hit .292/.375/.469 with 14 homers and six stolen bases for Triple-A Oklahoma this year. He possesses the potential for 25-30 home runs and double-digit steals and should hit in the .280s as he matures and learns the strike zone. Santana has struck out in 28.7 percent of his Triple-A PA, so he's far from a finished product, but either play the guy or send him down.



Texas: Promote INF Luis Sardinas to play 2B; move Rougned Odor to the outfield

With Jurickson Profar (shoulder) returning next year, the infield will be even more crowded, so we'll soon see either position changes or trades. Perhaps both. Odor, batting .254/.296/.379 for the Rangers this season, has done little to cement his status as the 2015 starting second baseman, so why not look at Sardinas on a more extended basis? If the Rangers want to keep Odor on the 25-man roster, put him in the outfield, where there few, if any established long-term solutions (Shin-Soo Choo looks to be a DH). Sardinas hit .288/.329/.318 in 26 games for the Rangers earlier this season, and though he has no power whatsoever, he has a good glove and has shown 30-steals ability in the minors.

Philadelphia: Trade everyone possible and promote Maikel Franco

I still can't fathom that Ruben Amaro pulled Marlon Byrd off of waivers after an unknown team put in a claim. Byrd is having an OK season at .270/.320/.473, but he's owed $8.5 million next year and isn't going to be part of the organization's next championship team. Anyway, promoting top prospect Maikel Franco should be the team's next step in addition to selling off spare parts now and in the winter. Franco hit just .230/.285/.364 prior to the All-Star break, but since then he's batting a more robust .302/.320/.479. Franco was much better last year (.320 with 32 HR), but he doesn't turn 22 until later this month, so the upside remains quite high. May as well bring him up and give Phillies fans something to cheer about.

New York Mets: Promote C Kevin Plawecki and consider moving Travis d'Arnaud to 1B/OF

D'Arnaud is actually a decent defensive catcher despite always being known more for his bat, but the Mets need to use this time to determine 2015 roles for each. D'Arnaud is batting just .226/.293/.383 in 288 PA for the Mets overall, though he's been a bit better recently. Plawecki, meanwhile, is batting .298/.357/.458 between Double-A and Triple-A, including just 36 strikeouts in 312 at-bats. Plawecki has struggled a bit with Triple-A pitching (.227 in 88 at-bats) after destroying the preceding level, so a promotion now may be a bit premature. Still, he's 23 and will be a future regular for someone, so perhaps the Mets give him a look in September.

Chicago Cubs: Quit messing around - we want some Kris Bryant

Going back to last year, in what is basically a full season (155 games), Bryant is batting .338/.434/.684 with 47 home runs and 16 stolen bases. He's simply THE GUY for whom fantasy owners are saving their FAAB budgets. So why is he not up? Is it one of the following reasons?:

Slumping lately? No. Bryant is batting .333 with three homers in 10 games this month.

Crazy platoon splits? No. The right-handed hitting Bryant is batting .328 against RHP.

Head case? No. By all accounts, he's level-headed.

Already have a stud at third base? No, not really. Luis Valbuena is hitting .237/.324/.417.

Cubs already have enough offense? Ha, just kidding.

Because he's not on the 40-man roster? Maybe, but you could easily DFA someone like Brett Jackson.

Because I have him in multiple leagues and need his bat? That's probably it.

I do think he'll be up no later than next month, but the Cubs aren't risking early arbitration or putting off free agency a year by bringing him up now. Promoting Bryant, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell would bring an excitement to Wrigley Field not seen since the Bartman years.

San Diego: Try Kevin Quackenbush at closer

Joaquin Benoit is signed through 2015, but his $8 million salary for a small-market club is going to have his name front and center in offseason trade talks. Benoit is almost-certain (in my mind at least) to be moved, so why not give a possible future closer a look this year? Quackenbush has a 2.48 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, and though he's not the obvious successor to Benoit (Dale Thayer?), he could still be the future.

Arizona: Promote RHP Archie Bradley and stop playing Mark Trumbo at 1B

With Paul Goldschmidt done for the year after that HBP, the Dbacks have used Trumbo at first base. That's easily the best defensive alignment, but is it the best planning for the future? Goldschmidt is the franchise player, so assuming Trumbo remains with Arizona, he will have to play left field. With Arizona out of the 2014 playoff hunt, he needs to be working on his OF defense NOW. And with the emergence of players like David Peralta and A.J. Pollock, seeing Trumbo traded this winter would not be a surprise. But if the Dbacks keep Trumbo around, he should be in the outfield working on his defense.

As for Archie Bradley, injuries have limited him to 15 starts this year, so he's far from a lock to make his debut in 2014. Bradley, though, looked pretty good in his last minor league outing, posting a 6:1 K:BB in seven innings while allowing three runs. He's probably in line for a cameo at best, but that may be determined by his next start for Double-A Mobile.

Colorado: Put Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler in the rotation STAT

Gray has had his ups and downs, but as last year's No. 3 overall pick, he's the most talented pitcher in the organization, and that includes the big league club. It's time to give him a look. Butler has allowed nine runs in 16 innings over three starts since returning from nearly eight weeks on the DL, but the Rockies have little to lose by putting him in the rotation immediately. These guys would give the team a fighting chance this year while both would gain valuable experience to leverage for 2015.

THE PROSPECTS

As Kris Bryant continues to tear the cover off the ball in Triple-A, the fantasy world awaits what should be his imminent arrival in Chicago. The Cubs, however, have given no indication that they plan on promoting Bryant, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell any time soon, though Soler probably is the next up behind the recently promoted Javier Baez. Beyond the big names, there are a handful of lesser-known prospects who could make an impact in the near term.

Here are 10 prospects flying a bit under the radar:

Aaron Blair (SP-ARI)

The 22-year-old Blair has already been promoted twice this year, and there could be one or two more promotions to come. In four starts at the Double-A level, Blair has a 3.09 ERA, giving him a 4.04 mark overall. More important, Blair's ratios are outstanding - 10.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 overall. Blair was drafted out of college just last year, but at 6-foot-5 and a listed 230, he's shown excellent strikeout potential at each level and is about as polished as they come. Archie Bradley is the big name in the Arizona system, but Blair could beat him to the big leagues, perhaps as early as this season.

Teoscar Hernandez (OF-HOU)

Hernandez isn't quite ready for the big leagues, but after batting .294/.376/.550 with 17 homers and 31 stolen bases for High-A Lancaster, Hernandez was promoted to Double-A earlier this month. More than 50 percent of his hits went for extra bases in High-A, and in his six games at the Double-A level, Hernandez has already homered twice. He'll likely become a fixture alongside George Springer sometime in 2015, but the Astros could take a look at the 21 year-old Dominican as early as this September.

Christian Binford (SP-KC)

The Royals have had an awful time developing young pitching, as they've either been hurt (Kyle Zimmer, Danny Duffy, Jake Lamb, etc.), or they wound up flourishing in other organizations (Jake Odorizzi). Yordano Ventura may be an exception, but so could Binford. He's not a hard thrower, but Binford is 6-7, and at 21, there's plenty of time to add a couple mph to a fastball that sits primarily in the 89-91 range. With that upside comes eye-popping 2014 numbers, including a 122:17 K:BB in 124.2 innings. Binford is missing fewer bats since his promotion to Double-A, but at worst, he's looking at a 2015 debut and a nice career as a back-end of the rotation starter. If he can add a bit more velocity to his frame, the potential for more is certainly there. The Royals have a full rotation, but they are trying to make the playoffs, so if the brass feel Binford can help, we could see him in Kansas City this year.

Justin Nicolino (SP-MIA)

Nicolino is a bit more well-known than others on this list, but he's flown a bit under the radar this year, as more attention has been focused on the Marlins' top prospect, Andrew Heaney. Also, Nicolino has a bit of a limited ceiling given his low strikeout rate - 3.9 K/9 for Double-A Jacksonville. Nicolino is your prototypical Tom Glavine starter kit: left-handed, tops out about 91 mph with the fastball and has excellent control (1.2 BB/9). The Marlins have never had a problem promoting pitchers from Double-A to the big leagues, and that may very well happen with Nicolino this year. He'll keep hitters off balance and have some good outings, but there will be the occasional blowup in which his location is off. Nicolino did not allow a run in his previous three starts (20 innings) for Jacksonville, so perhaps the Marlins will give him a look while he's hot.

Lane Adams (OF-KC)

Adams probably isn't going to have any value this year given the presence of Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson, but he's a sleeper to keep in mind for next season. For Double-A Northwest Arkansas, the 24 year-old is batting .275/.359/.465 with 11 home runs. What makes him interesting are the 31 stolen bases and that he's cut his strikeout rate to 18.6 percent from last year's 20.6 percent. Adams hasn't received a lot of prospect attention, but he's shown good improvement this year in a tough jump to Double-A, and since the end of May, Adams is batting .319. One to watch.

Cheslor Cuthbert (1B/3B)

Cuthbert has been playing mostly first base recently, and that position looks to be blocked by Josh Willingham and eventually Eric Hosmer (hand - September return). Still, Cuthbert could potentially return to third base, and with Mike Moustakas batting .201 after multiple chances, it's worth a shot. Cuthbert is 10-for-26 since his promotion to Triple-A, and for the year is a combined .283/.346/.425. He's just 21, so there's plenty of more room for development, but at this point, a dead man would be an upgrade over Moustakas.

Enny Romero (SP-TB)

Romero isn't a finished product, but he may very well be the best pitching prospect the Rays have. Romero has struggled to a 5.01 ERA in 21 starts for Triple-A Durham, but he has a live arm, and in his last start, Romero allowed just one hit over six innings. The Rays should give him a look in September.

Robert Refsnyder (2B-NYY)

Meet the new Robinson Cano. Refsnyder has had a breakout season for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, batting .322/.389/.517 with 14 homers and eight steals between the two upper minor league levels. Refsnyder also had a .413 OBP last year, so this isn't coming completely out of nowhere. Look for Refsnyder to get a look soon and compete for the starting second-base job next spring. The Yankees need to start infusing their roster with a little youth, and Refsnyder would be a good start.

Gary Brown (OF-SF)

Here's a blast from the past. Brown, a former top-50 overall prospect, turns 26 next month, but he's still toiling away for Triple-A Fresno, batting .269/.326/.389 with nine home runs and 30 stolen bases. The Giants have seen Brown's prospect status decline since his huge 2011 season, but Brown is still on the team's radar and he could get a look later this year.

Christian Walker (1B-BAL)

The Orioles have Chris Davis and Steve Pearce manning first base and DH, but with Davis having an off year and Pearce being less than established, perhaps the opportunity will be there for Walker this year. He's batting .301/.374/.513 with 24 homers for Triple-A Norfolk, showing improved and plate discipline compared to a year ago. Walker is a former fourth-round pick (2012), and at 23, his future appears bright. He's batting .353 in his last 10 games, so perhaps it's time to give him a look.