Big days for Papi and Adam Jones, bad days for the Royals and fans of position players pitching.
The Monday Takeaway
On Sunday, the Red Sox hung a career-worst nine hits and six runs on Royals starter Yordano Ventura. On Monday, they treated Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison with similar disregard. But while Boston’s assault on Kansas City pitching ended when Ventura hit the showers, the Sox had no such mercy on Toronto’s mop-up man.
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Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Cubs outfielder Rock Shoulders and Blue Jays righty Taylor Cole.
Hitter of the Night: Rock Shoulders, LF, Cubs (Daytona, A+): 2-2, 2 R, HR, 2 BB.
Shoulders has struggled in the Florida State League this season against pitchers with a more advanced plan to attack the holes in his swing. Still, the power is very much intact, and his home run on Monday got out of the park before Shoulders had even left the batter’s box. He’s patient and looks for his pitch to hit, but he can be exploited on the inner half and struggles with decent breaking stuff once he’s behind in the count. He’s also not a left fielder, though he’s playing there some of the time. A massively built human being with some of the strongest legs I’ve ever seen, Shoulders will have to make adjustments quickly to continue to get at-bats in a stacked Cubs farm system, but his power potential remains enticing.
Pitcher of the Night: Taylor Cole, RHP, Blue Jays (Dunedin, A+): 6 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 12 K.
Maybe this will be the start that gets Cole out of the Florida State League. At 24, he’s old for his level, but his strikeout numbers have spiked this season to almost double his career norms. He’s also throwing a ton more strikes. He doesn’t have a power fastball or overpowering secondary stuff, so his strikeout totals may be a bit of an aberration, but he’s kept them up all season, so there’s something there. It’s time to find out if he can carry it over at the next step.
The Indians' second sacker hasn't lived up to expectations in 2014, but is a turnaround in store?
Prior to the season, the upper fantasy echelon of the second base position appeared to be a rather precarious investment. Robinson Cano inked a mega-contract with Seattle, which made many fantasy owners nervous that his power numbers would spiral down the drain. Dustin Pedroia saw his power production drop precipitously in 2013 and had finally found himself on the wrong side of 30. Ian Kinsler compiled rather pedestrian (for him) numbers a year ago and was transitioning that performance to a more pitcher-friendly environment in Detroit.
The traditional fantasy stalwarts at second base were vulnerable. It seemed a changing of the guard could occur and other guys could step into the limelight—and in some ways, that’s exactly what has happened with Dee Gordon, Jose Altuve, and Anthony Rendon asserting their fantasy dominance in the first half of the 2014 season. After the season, perhaps we must re-evaluate who can now be labeled as “elite” at the position.
A look at the upcoming AL-vs-NL and NL-vs-AL matchups, and how they might affect teams' lineups.
Please note that in the “DH” column, the player listed is the player that has been added or removed from the lineup, not necessarily the player in the DH slot. For example, if the Phillies move Dominic Brown to DH and put Tony Gwynn Jr. in the OF, then I will list Gwynn Jr. in the “DH” column because he is the player who is gaining at-bats.
Updates on Michael Taylor, Victor Arano, Daniel Norris, and others.
Michael Taylor, OF, Nationals (Double-A Harrisburg)
Lost beside the incandescence of his Futures Game contemporaries, Taylor was a silent star in the pre-game batting practice, showing easy plus power with explosive hips and hands. It’s hard to champion any hitter after Gallo ruined our perception of power with his cage conquest, but I absolutely loved the way Taylor generated his pop, despite a body that doesn’t identify itself as a middle-of-the-order threat; Taylor is quite narrow in the hips and long, the body of an athlete but not the body commonly associated with a 23-year-old baseball player. Since being selected in the sixth round in the 2009 draft, Taylor has flashed tantalizing tools accompanied by maddening inconsistencies and on-the-field utility. But he has taken a big step forward so far in 2014, driving the ball with more authority and hanging in against arm-side pitching. The swing-and-miss is still a concern, and I don’t project Taylor to be a plus hit utility player at the major-league level. But if he can make enough contact to put the power and the speed into the game, his overall profile will play as a regular—and perhaps a first division impact talent if he can continue to refine at the plate. –Jason Parks
A shift-happy Baltimore squad unveils a new approach against the Athletics' switch-hitting leadoff hitter.
At the end of May, I introduced the idea that some teams were going from playing nearly straightaway to using a full overshift once they got two strikes on certain pull-heavy, bunt-threat lefties. The idea was that teams would probably prefer to implement a full overshift earlier in the count, but were hindered by the hitter’s ability to bunt for a base hit. This was inspired by the Orioles using a two-strike overshift numerous times against Michael Bourn, and the Pirates doing it a couple of times against both Denard Span and Danny Espinosa.
Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.
I wrote about the fantasy angle on the Huston Street trade here. There are a few ancillary angles we can talk about regarding the Padres bullpen, however, as they are left with Joaquin Benoit, Dale Thayer, Kevin Quackenbush, and someone I figured would make a run at the job in Alex Torres. Thayer and Quackenbush are clearly in front of the erratic Torres. I’ve long thought Torres had closer stuff but not closer command. It’s holding true to this point.
A look at the moves buyers might make and the fantasy impact they'd have.
Two weeks ago, I looked at the potential sellers at the major league trade deadline. Today, I will take a look at potential buyers.
The same caveats from my last article apply. What I have compiled for our readers is a helpful, at-a-glance look at the potential trade market this month, particularly from the vantage point of teams that might be adding players. It is not meant to be an all-encompassing guide; it is possible some rumored targets are not listed below. Since this is a fantasy article, I will focus on fantasy impact but if you are a non-fantasy player and a Baseball Prospectus reader I hope this article proves useful to you as well.
Notes on prospects who stood out this weekend, including Addison Russell, Hunter Harvey, and Archie Bradley.
Friday, July 18
James Ramsey, OF, Cardinals (Springfield, AA): 2-4, R, HR, BB, K. As though the Cardinals needed more well-developed hitting prospects, they are beginning to see yet another former first-round pick develop into something on which they can rely. Ramsey, once thought to be more of a fourth outfielder, is seeing his power production increase in Double-A this season without any diminishing effects on the rest of his offensive output.