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April 29, 2013

The Stash List

Seeing What You Want to See

by Bret Sayre

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One of the greatest things about baseball is that it provides a venue in which to be surprised by something new every day. And with that comes responsibility. Today, we live in a baseball age where there is so much information available—whether it’s statistical or visual. And, sure, we’ve gotten smarter about the game as we’ve had more available to us, but it’s on all of us to not let our pre-conceived notions dictate what we see on the field and in the box score.  

On Friday night, fellow BP Fantasy writer Mike Gianella and I attended a game between the Double-A affiliates of the Red Sox and Yankees in Trenton. I made the 75-minute trek down mostly to see two things: Xander Bogaerts hit and Matt Barnes pitch. We had a great time at the game, but as baseball is wont to do, the game showed us something we were not expecting to see. Even an act as simple as watching a minor-league game can end up staring down your expectations like Zack Greinke after hitting Carlos Quentin with a pitch. All you can do as an analyst or a fan is to take a step back and not just blindly charge the mound dripping with pre-conceived notions.

The biggest bummer of the night came right at the start, as we soon realized that Xander Bogaerts was getting the day off. Of course, despite the number-one attraction being a no-show, there was still plenty of exciting talent to see between the pitching matchup of Matt Barnes versus Nik Turley and two exciting Yankee bats in Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott. By the time the game was over, we found ourselves imprinted on not by the players we expected, but by an entirely different group altogether. Three different players treated us to impressive displays of all three aspects of the game—hitting, fielding, and pitching. These didn’t come from non-prospects either, just players who are not as well known among fans and dynasty leaguers.

At the plate: Yankees catcher JR Murphy hasn’t been the most heralded of prospects, and his performance hasn’t particularly warranted it in previous years. However, on Friday night he was the most impressive hitter on the field, making consistent hard contact and barreling two well-hit doubles off of Matt Barnes. He’s off to a fast start this year, hitting .308/.418/.569 with four homers and 12 walks versus 11 strikeouts in 17 games, and that stat line did not surprise me given how comfortable he looked at the plate.

On the field: Because the Portland uniforms look exactly like their major-league counterparts from the back, it was very natural to see a catcher wearing number 33 and looking great doing so. However, this was not Jason Varitek, it was Christian Vazquez, a 22-year old backstop from Puerto Rico. Not only did he throw out both runners who tried to steal against him (Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores), but he nearly caught Jose Pirela off of third on a backpick.

On the mound: I was sure that Matt Barnes was going to be the most impressive pitcher I saw at this game, but he absolutely was not. After five innings, Nik Turley left the game, and to be perfectly honest, I was not paying that much attention to the guy who was replacing him. After a few pitches, he caught my attention with some gas. At that point, I grabbed my program to see who this was—and that’s when I realized it was Jose Ramirez (Jason Parks’ number-three Yankee prospect) making his Double-A debut. He sat 94-95 mph (when I peeked at the scout’s gun in the row in front of us) for the next four innings, as he struck out six without allowing a run. For at least one night, I could certainly see what got Jason all hot and bothered about him.

You’re probably trying to figure out where I’m going with this anecdote at this point. Trust me, I’m getting somewhere. The stashes that we have on our bench are likely still the players we drafted, and we came into the season with certain pre-conceived notions about how they should perform or when they should get promoted. But that all goes out the window once the games start. This is about the time when you can start making informed decisions about your players and moving on when necessary. Or take advantage of other owners moving on at the wrong time.

Without any further ado, here is The Stash List, version 2.0:

The Graduates: Shaun Marcum (4), Nolan Arenado (6), Ted Lilly (21), Jose Valverde (25)

1) Jurickson Profar, SS/2B, Texas Rangers (Last week: 1)

Profar sticks in the number-one spot this week. With the Rangers winning seven of their last 10, and Mitch Moreland hitting .345/.345/.621 since I wrote about his 38 OPS+, there’s less of a chance that we see Profar (barring injury) in the next few weeks. With that said, he’s still the best prospect in baseball and the best lottery ticket for your bench.

2) Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (Last week: 2)

Myers has been hitting better of late, but the 16 strikeouts in his last 10 games balance out some of that excitement. The need is still there, so while a promotion in the near term wouldn’t surprise me, this still feels like a June 1 target to me.

3) Billy Hamilton, SS/OF, Cincinnati Reds (Last week: 3)

I understand the clamoring for Hamilton in the wake of the injuries to Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey, as it’s based in excitement for his arrival, but hitting .215 in Triple-A while still adjusting to a new position doesn’t have him on the fast track to the majors. He’s still this high on the list because he could be a game-changer for fantasy teams once he arrives.

4) Adam Eaton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (Last week: 5)

5) Brian McCann, C, Atlanta Braves (Last week: NR)

The reason McCann is on this week’s list is that he finally crossed over into the below-25-percent-owned range, which seems strange since he finally started a rehab assignment on Friday (and hit two homers in his first game with Low-A Rome). And the reason he’s number-five on the list is because of the overall depth at catcher. With that said, in a two-catcher league, he’s the top target on this list (even though he’s likely already owned). He should be back up with the Braves within the next two weeks, and although they are likely to ease him into action, he should be able to accumulate at least 350 at-bats the rest of the year.

6) Francisco Liriano, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Last week: 10)

The excitement grows as Liriano had eight strikeouts and no walks in his first Triple-A rehab start on Thursday. The Pirates seemed committed to giving him two more rehab starts before he debuts on May 10, but in light of Jonathan Sanchez’s upcoming suspension and general awfulness, they have to be tempted to call his name before then.

7) Oscar Taveras, OF, St Louis Cardinals (Last week: 7)

I was tempted to move Taveras up slightly because of the injury to Matt Adams, as this leaves him as the likely go-to guy in case of a near-term injury, but it’s nearly impossible to predict an injury in the near term anyway. He’s still number-one-waiver-claim worthy in all keeper/dynasty formats if he were to get the call.

8) Dan Straily, RHP, Oakland Athletics (Last week: 11)

Straily is still eligible for the list since he hasn’t made his start on Monday night yet as I’m writing this. If Brett Anderson requires a disabled list stint, he’ll likely get a few turns. Straily’s schedule this week isn’t great, as he gets the Angels at home and the Yankees on the road, but I will still take the over on him making 17 starts this season.

9) Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Last week: 8)

Things would be looking more promising for a Cole call up if he were throwing more strikes and Jeff Locke didn’t have a 2.83 ERA. Those two things should correct themselves during May.

10) Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets (Last week: 9)

If you’re worried about Wheeler based on the numbers he’s putting up in Las Vegas, don’t be.

11) Brandon Beachy, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Last week: 12)

12) Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners (Last week: NR)

Saunders is likely to have a short-lived stay on The Stash List, as he’s due back early this week from a shoulder injury that has cost him the last three weeks. He’s still the most underrated player who nearly had a 20-20 season in 2012.

13) Allen Webster, RHP, Boston Red Sox (Last week: NR)

Webster would have gotten the call on Sunday if John Lackey were not healthy enough to make the start. And since Lackey pitched well against the Astros, Webster will once again have to wait for an opening. For more about him, check out the Call Up we ran prior to his major-league debut.

14) Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners (Last week: 13)

15) Drew Smyly, LHP, Detroit Tigers (Last week: 14)

I’m going to get seasick if I keep moving Smyly up and down this list based on what Rick Porcello did his last time out. And the better he does out of the bullpen for the Tigers, the longer he’s likely going to have to wait for his rightful place in the rotation.

16) Erasmo Ramirez, RHP, Seattle Mariners (Last week: 17)

The Mariners really need Ramirez to get healthy so he can replace Aaron Harang in the rotation. And despite the lack of news on him, he gets a slight bump due to a decrease in competition—as Danny Hultzen has a rotator-cuff strain.

17) Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Last week: 15)

18) Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians (Last week: 16)

19) Colby Lewis, RHP, Texas Rangers (Last week: 18)

Another week, another step forward for Lewis, as he tries to make it back to the majors before May is over. He will throw around 40 pitches in an extended spring game on Monday after passing the live batting practice test.

20) Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (Last week: 20)

21) Nick Franklin, 2B/SS, Seattle Mariners (Last week: NR)

The Mariners are grasping at straws by demoting Brendan Ryan to the bench and installing Robert Andino as their starting shortstop. Franklin is likely the next straw to grasp at if this doesn’t work. The only thing working against him is that the Mariners don’t see him as a true shortstop—he’s been splitting work between both middle-infield positions again this season, playing eight games at second versus five games at short.

22) Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Colorado Rockies (Last week: NR)

Off to a dynamite start (3-0 with a 1.46 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings) before injuring his back, Chacin made it through a bullpen session unscathed on Saturday and appears to be in line to come off the disabled list to start on May 5. He clearly won’t be as great as he’s been, but then again, he does have a 309 ERA+. The deeper your league is, the more worthwhile stashing Chacin becomes.

23) Cory Luebke, LHP, San Diego Padres (Last week: 24)

24) Cameron Maybin, OF, San Diego Padres (Last week: NR)

A pre-season darling to many, Maybin had a rough start to the season before injuring his wrist a week and a half ago. Now, with his ownership dwindled to less than 25 percent, the disappointing San Diego outfielder has shrunk to stash status. If he can return before June 1, Maybin can still steal around 20 bases and potentially hit for average. Just don’t bank on that power surge, especially coming off a wrist injury.

25) Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Last week: NR)

Skaggs has now been at least pretty good in three of his four starts in Reno, but Patrick Corbin has taken the fifth starter job in Arizona and run with it. This means that no matter how well Skaggs pitches in the coming weeks, there’s likely going to need to be an injury to make room for him in the Arizona rotation. On the bright side, fellow fifth-starter competitor Randall Delgado has been brutal and is likely well behind Skaggs in case a spot does open up.

Honorable Mention: Alex Rodriguez, Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, Chris Capuano, Yasiel Puig

And finally, every other week or so, I’ll throw some potential AL-only and NL-only names at the bottom of the column (by popular demand). So, for you deep leaguers, here are a few extra names to keep an eye on:

AL-Only: Martin Perez, Zach Britton, Kyle Gibson
NL-Only: Robbie Erlin, Scott Baker, Adam Morgan

Perez is on a similar timeframe to Colby Lewis, but with Justin Grimm throwing well, he may be ticketed for Triple-A. Britton will pitch Monday night for the Orioles and could stick for at least a few turns. His 1.98 ERA is less impressive when you see he’s walked more than he’s struck out, but he’s also getting a ground-ball rate of over 70 percent. Gibson had his best outing of the young season on Saturday, and there’s no shortage of rotation spots for him to take over when Twins management feels he’s ready. Erlin is up and in a relief role; however, it could turn into a starting role quickly if Andrew Cashner gets hurt again. Baker is out of sight, out of mind right now, but even with his setback, he’s still looking at a potential June return. Morgan is another possible John Lannan replacement in Philadelphia and has more long-term upside than current fill-in Jonathan Pettibone

Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here

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