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Charging the Mound: The Super Two Madness

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He's also in the FSWA Hall of Fame. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, May 8, 2014 8:23pm
To: Christopher Liss
Subject: Charging

We're at that point in the season where some teams are taking stock of where they're at and deciding to make significant changes, usually in the form of calling up prospects to take over from a player that's not contributing enough. The Rangers' call-up of Rougned Odor inspired this topic, but you can see it with the Angels too, calling up C.J. Cron. The Astros beat everyone by calling up George Springer, who is starting to come around and just hit his first homer. That one is a little different, though - the decision to send him down in the first place reeked of saving costs, and his promotion was so quick that it seemed preplanned.

The obvious question is who's next? Is it Gregory Polanco, whom the Pirates desperately need right now? Is it Oscar Taveras, who is healthy again and tearing it up while the Cardinals outfielders languish? Or maybe is it your guy Andrew Heaney? Maybe tonight's start for Jacob Turner is a big one that is for his spot in the rotation. At least we know that the Marlins will promote a pitcher whenever they feel he's ready, rather than let finances dictate the decision. I don't think that the Cardinals are driven by finances here, either, actually, but the charge could very well stick with the Pirates.

At 14-20, is it still way too early to allow the Pirates to justify this as a financial decision? This is a team that made the playoffs last year, surprising many by the amplitude of their improvement. Many would argue that a regression should have been expected, especially after they botched the A.J. Burnett contract and didn't sign any major free agents over the offseason. They did trade for Ike Davis, at least - I don't know if it'll work out, but it's exactly the type of move they should be making. But they're already 7.5 games behind the Brewers, sitting in fourth place in the NL Central. They don't want to lose the attendance bump that they gained from last year, but could they justifiably think that it'll come back if they win in 2015.

By the way, if you're a baseball team that wants to hide bad injury news, tonight would be one helluva night to do it. My Twitter feed is just jammed with draft talk ... so boring. Politics has a maxim to always release bad news on a Friday afternoon, when the news cycle is at its slowest. Multiply that by a factor of at least 100 times that with this.

So we speculated on our video about taking three prospects (still in the minors) versus the field in making the biggest impact in their rookie season. Which three prospects would you take, and what sort of odds would you need to take them versus the field? I feel like this is something actionable. Let's make it so.

-----Original Message-----
From: Christopher Liss
Sent: Thursday, May 8, 2014 9:22pm
To: Jeff Erickson
Subject: Re: Charging

I don't know if Heaney is my guy other than I barely lost out on Trevor Bauer (another prospect we omitted in our video), and Heaney was my backup. Now I'm stuck with him on an NFBC roster with a lot of injuries, and I might have to drop him rather than field a partial lineup like I did this week. That said, the upside is clear, and while I'm not sure Fernandez's promotion is a good guideline (after all, how could they see him pitch in spring training and *not* promote him), typically it seems teams are less worried about service time with pitchers. If your pitcher survives long enough for that to be a problem, it's a good thing. So Heaney should be up soon if he keeps dominating in Double-A, especially if the Marlins continue to hang around .500 and Jacob Turner struggles. Then again, we're getting close enough to the Super 2 deadline that teams might just give it the extra couple weeks. 

It's obvious the Pirates are waiting for the Super 2 on Polanco. It'll be embarrassing if they do it the day after, so maybe it'll be the week after. If they promote him sooner, they've wasted all this production and only got a few weeks in while squandering the savings. I'm not defending it, by the way. The savings these teams reap from waiting on these guys who are clearly ready comes out of the players' pockets. And it's at the expense of the fans, their organization and the quality of play in major-league baseball. When you make your home more energy efficient, your savings is truly a win - it comes out of the pocket of a public utility, and it conserves a scarce resource. This savings is the opposite - an inefficient way to allocate talent that takes from the employees to enrich the owner. And this is a sport without soaring cable revenues and no salary cap. Fans should be more upset. 

If I had to pick three impact prospects currently in the minors, e.g., Springer is ineligible, I'd say Bauer, Gregory Polanco and Oscar Taveras. I'd probably take about 3:2 vs. the field on those three. Others I could see are Heaney, Jonathan Singleton and Taijuan Walker, Noah Syndergaard and Javier Baez. But Jurickson Profar isn't in the minors, Archie Bradley and Byron Buxton got derailed by injuries and Miguel Sano and Jameson Taillon are out for the year. I suppose even Kolton Wong (if he gets called back up soon) has a chance. Anyone I'm missing?

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff Erickson
Sent: Friday, May 9, 2014 11:41am
To: Christopher Liss
Subject: Re: Charging

To that end, Jacob Turner's good outing in San Diego last night couldn't have helped. Of course we can discount for park and opponent, and he only struck out four, so it's not as if he dominated. But it won't accelerate the timetable, to say the least.

My understanding of the Super 2 status issue is that there's not a hard deadline date, but rather it's a percentage of all the players called up in a given season. So it might even be worse news for Polanco - they have methods of tracking all the callups that are not fully available to us, but they might wish to take a couple of weeks beyond what is necessary just to make sure. At any rate, it's reprehensible. I wish more outlets shined the light on this issue to demonstrate just how much teams make the decision based on their bottom line rather than what's the most competitive thing to do.

Between this, blackout rules that can be exceptionally outrageous (check out what constitutes a team's territory in Las Vegas - I believe four different teams claim it as "their territory") and prevent you from watching games, the Time Warner issue with the Dodgers and now MLBAM & Apple conspiring to boot certain team-related podcasts off iTunes, once again baseball has proven to be especially unfriendly to its own base. The game still thrives despite this anti-marketing, but it's in spite of itself.

Your list is pretty thorough - about the only guy I'd add is one that was up last year - Kevin Gausman. But he's walked a bunch of guys early on and doesn't seem especially close to a callup. Makiel Franco is finally starting to hit at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the Phillies' system - his overall numbers still stink so it may take awhile.

The Cards' GM John Mozeliak just said that Oscar Taveras isn't being considered for a promotion right now because he needs to work on his defense in center field. I'm actually encouraged by this note, however. I had thought that Taveras was really a right fielder, and maybe he still is, but that they're considering him for center field actually makes it more plausible that he gets an earlier callup, as it will be a lot easier to displace Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay than it will be to take out Allen Craig in right field (either directly, or by moving him to first and moving out Matt Adams). So there's still some hope. The Cardinals just sent down Randal Grichuk after a brief trial, so that's one small step in the right direction.

The other problem with speculating on all these prospects is that they actually have to play once they get there. Ron Washington buried Jurickson Profar after his callup last year, and he's already said that Odor will play four-to-five times a week, rather than every day. Kolten Wong got sent down after what, three weeks? Ryne Sandberg didn't take much time to chain Cody Asche to the bench (though to his credit he's playing Asche more now), giving playing time to the likes of Freddy Galvis and Jayson Nix - talk about wasting at-bats.

The other great part about this time of year is that we've now had a little over a month of minor league play, meaning we can start identifying possible breakout prospects. Two guys I'm keeping my eye on are Ben Lively for the Reds, and Joey Gallo for the Rangers. Have you had any chance to identify a couple of breakout guys?

-----Original Message-----
From: Christopher Liss
Sent: Friday, May 9, 2014 2:34pm
To: Jeff Erickson
Subject: Re: Charging

One other guy we didn't mention is Alex Guerrero who's crushing it but is blocked by Dee Gordon and Juan Uribe. Go back in time 12 months and consider the likelihood of someone writing that last sentence not in jest. But it's true. Gordon and Uribe are too good right now. 

The craziest part of the Super 2 nonsense is the owners get away with it. That the team saves money really just means this really rich guy isn't fielding the best team so he can have even more money. Fans should run him out of town. And if you can't afford to own a baseball team - and I'm not talking about buying Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols but just putting the best of your own home-grown guys on the field - then you need to sell it. There may be some shame in joining the "I'm-not-rich-enough-to-afford-a-major-league-baseball-team-club," but you can take comfort in that it's got seven billion members.

I have no idea what prospects are climbing the ladder. If they're not going to help me this year, then I'll research those in February and March in preparation for the Staff Keeper league.