With the 2014 MLB All-Star Break occurring this week, you get a chance to reassess your squad and make any changes if need be. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, it is imperative for managers to remain active and continue to make moves to bolster your team. Despite being in the bottom half of the standings, remember that most formats still have another seven or eight weeks to go before the playoffs begin, so use that to your advantage! Don’t throw in the towel while the last playoff spots are still up for grabs; push as hard as you can for those final selections!
If you are truly out of contention, though, (especially for those of you in a keeper format) then it may be a smart time to start stashing prospects. Several players who will likely have an impact upon the 2015 season haven’t been recalled yet, so rather than waiting until next year to acquire their services, grab them now while you can! This would include (but is not limited to the following):
Kris Bryant, 3B (Chicago Cubs) – Words can’t express how disappointed I was when I heard Theo Epstein confirm that he would hold Bryant back in 2014. I completely understand that going from Double-A to the majors in a season would be a big adjustment, but he continues to prove that he is the best power-hitting prospect in all of baseball. Bryant hit .355 with 22 HRs, 57 RBI and 8 SBs at Double-A Tennessee, and has kept up the pace so far at Triple-A Iowa, hitting .365 with 7 HRs, 19 RBI and 2 SBs. He is a great combination of power, speed and average. The Cubs system is absolutely loaded, but there is little doubt he is their best prospect.
Francisco Lindor, SS (Cleveland Indians) – I’m not as high on Lindor as others are because of his lack of power. But as a switch-hitter on a club rumored to being open to trading the player blocking him (in this case, Asdrubal Cabrera), he is certainly worth mentioning. So far at Double-A Akron he is batting .272 line with 6 HRs, 43 RBI and 20 SBs. Again, the numbers aren’t eye-popping, but his path to playing time will be cleared if Cabrera is dealt.
Archie Bradley, SP (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Many experts speculated that Bradley would have an impact this year, but it appears less likely by the day that he will see anything more than a cup of coffee in 2014. While recovering from a flexor strain in his pitching elbow, he has put up decent numbers in Double-A, but has struggled mightily at Triple-A Reno in the Pacific Coast League. He is still worth holding onto long-term, but his value for the remainder of this season is somewhat limited.
Jonathan Gray, SP (Colorado Rockies) – Along with Bradley, Gray is one of the best pitchers in the minor leagues. I’m usually hard-pressed to recommend adding someone who will pitch half of his games in Coors Field, but if anyone can live up to the hype, it would be Gray. He has pitched well this season in Double-A Tulsa and put up a 3.77 ERA and 1.18 WHIP while striking out nearly a batter per inning. Still just 22 years old, the Rockies may continue to give him more seasoning to start their 2015 campaign, but in front of that potent offense he should rack up some serious wins once recalled.
Joc Pederson, OF (Los Angeles Dodgers) – For most teams, Pederson would already be up in the majors without hesitation, but given the Dodgers glut of overpriced middle aged outfielders, he is a victim of poor circumstance. Sure, his numbers have been inflated somewhat because he’s playing in the hitter-friendly PCL, but a 1.005 OPS with 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases is nothing to sneeze at. This is a top-notch prospect. If the Dodgers opt to trade away Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford (Yasiel Puig isn’t going anywhere) then Pederson will have an instant impact.
For those of you still contending in 2014 and wanting to make some impact moves this week, here are my recommendations:
Kolten Wong, 2B (St.Louis Cardinals) – Many remember Wong for his base running blunder in last year’s playoffs, but since being recalled on July 7th, he has been fantastic. His display of power is somewhat curious since he is known more for being an average hitter than a slugger (his career high in home runs is 10 last season at Triple-A and he has hit five in the past eight games), but since he possesses the ability to contribute across the board, he is quite a valuable addition. Mark Ellis and Daniel Descalso aren’t going to offer much competition at the position, so his at bats will continue.
Chris Carter, 1B/OF (Houston Astros) – At this point, we know what Chris Carter is. He remains a low-average slugger who will go on hot streaks that make him valuable in deeper mixed leagues and mono formats. Since the beginning of July he has been on fire (.333 AVG with 6 HRs, 10 RBI) bringing his season totals to .205 AVG with 19 HRs and 40 RBI. His extremely low .OBP (.281) will hinder his overall production, but he remains widely available will benefit moving forward from a much improved surrounding lineup.
Arismendy Alcantra, 2B/SS (Chicago Cubs) – Compared to other top prospects in the Cubs organization such as Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and now Addison Russell, Alcantra was one of the lower rungs on the totem pole. However, since Darwin Barney was away for several days on the paternity leave list, he may very well have won the job. Since being promoted, Alcantra has hit .389 with 3 RBI and a stolen base, but more importantly, he was just promoted to the leadoff position. His minor league numbers peg him as a high-average player who has moderate power and speed but needs to improve his eye (he had a 22.7 percent strikeout rate at Triple-A before being promoted).
Jacob deGrom, SP (New York Mets) – Is his last name difficult to spell? Slightly. Does he need to get a haircut? Absolutely. But, is he a good pitcher? Indeed he is. deGrom has quietly put up very good numbers for the Metropolitans in 2014. I was surprised to see his 2014 line at 3.38 ERA and 1.37 WHIP while nearly striking out a batter per inning. More importantly, he has been on a roll of late, stringing along four quality starts in his past five outings, while striking out 27 batters in the last 19 innings. His ownership has been on the rise, but he is still available in far too many leagues.
Chase Headley, 3B (San Diego Padres) – The Padres are rumored to be on the verge of a fire sale before the month of July ends, and teams like the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays have been mentioned as possible landing spots. The mention of Headley’s name isn’t due to his production this year, in fact he has been dreadful (.229 AVG with 7 HRs and 29 RBI), but the grass is greener anywhere but San Diego at this point. Since given an epidural injection on June 20th to manage a herniated disc in his back and going back to an old grip, he has been tremendous. Before he officially moves to another team, scoop him up in leagues while he is available prior to the trading deadline.
Justin Ruggiano, OF (Chicago Cubs) – Ruggiano has enjoyed tremendous success recently, and although his numbers pale in comparison to last season’s, he still remains an intriguing power-speed combination. He hasn’t run much this season due to a nagging hamstring injury, but with the All-Star break here, he may get enough rest to have a strong rebound for the second half of 2014.
Grady Sizemore, OF (Philadelphia Philles) – Sure, the comeback trail ended abruptly in Boston after he cooled down earlier this season, but with the Phillies struggling mightily and 10 games back in the NL East, he may fall into more playing time should the club opt to move Dominic Brown, Ben Revere or Marlon Byrd. He batted just .216 with two home runs and a .612 OPS in 205 plate appearances for Boston, but in mono formats where at bats are at a premium, he could be just the ticket.
Robert Refsnyder, 2B (New York Yankees) – With the Bronx Bombers currently failing to live up to their namesake and wallowing around the .500 mark, general manager Brian Cashman has hinted that Refsnyder may be called up shortly. He is currently hitting .333 with 11 HR, 43 RBI and 8 SB between Double-A/Triple-A, and would be a shot in the arm for this team. Although he currently qualifies at second base, it has been reported that he would play in the outfield, and the dual-eligibility would only increase his value.
Brad Boxberger, RP (Tampa Bay Rays) – This may be a complete gamble given Joe Maddon’s propensity to use the committee approach at the back end of his bullpen, but if anyone could grab the role permanently, it would be Boxberger. In almost 37 innings pitched this season he owns a 2.45 ERA and 0.87 WHIP with a K% over 13. He has been used recently as a setup man even recorded a save back on 7/2, and I feel that the opportunities are coming. Stash him while you can.