Mining for Cole in Texas (and other notes from 7/29/15)

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The next big name on the move as the trade deadline nears is set to be Cole Hamels who will be heading to the Texas Rangers along with reliever Jake Diekman in exchange for starting pitcher Matt Harrison and a barrage of prospects that includes Jorge AlfaroAlec AsherJerad EickhoffNick Williams, and Jake Thompson.

The Philadelphia Phillies were in a good position to land a package that they wanted because Hamels is not just a 2-3 month rental for the remainder of this season. Instead, he is under contract through 2018 with a vesting option for 2019, so that meant that even non-contending teams could make a run for the 31-year old lefty and that’s exactly what happened with the 3rd place Rangers landing him. However, the Rangers are just 4 games back of the second AL Wildcard spot, so perhaps they even think that they could potentially contend for a post-season berth.

Hamels moves from the hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park to another hitter friendly stadium at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. So there’s no real win or loss with the home park switch, but switching leagues from the National League to the American League should be perceived as a negative impact for Hamels’ fantasy value. His ERA, WHIP, and strikeout rate should all be expected to move in wrong directions, but that doesn’t mean that he still won’t be valuable. And there are some occasions where the NL pitcher moving to the AL doesn’t really see his stats suffer all that much, if at all.

The Rangers have had to endure a lot of injuries to their pitching staff this season, which kind of had them doomed from the get go once it was determined that their ace Yu Darvish needed to undergo Tommy John surgery before the season even began. So they likely have their sights set more on next season when Darvish hopefully returns before the All-Star break sometime. They hope that Hamels and Darvish can form a great 1-2 punch, though serious doubts should be had regarding Darvish and his control once he returns. All in all, it was a bold move for the Rangers who are starved for pitching, and Hamels will try to take the Rangers to the next level just like he did with the Phillies during the mid 2000’s when they had a great run.

Diekman, a left-handed reliever, has a poor 5.15 ERA and 1.75 WHIP this season, but he’s a power lefty that has some big time strikeout abilities and is under club control for a couple more years. He has the chance to develop into a nice bullpen piece for the Rangers if he can improve his walk rate.

Harrison should step right into the Phillies rotation, but his outlook shouldn’t really change a whole lot since he’s just rather mediocre and has been a walking injury the last two seasons. Three of the five prospects that the Phillies are receiving from the Rangers were ranked in the pre-season top 10 Rangers prospect list by Baseball America, so it appears that the Phillies did well and received a decent haul in return. But we’ll have to wait and see how they pan out. Continue reading

Rougned Bringing a Nice Odor to the Texas Air (and other notes from 6/15/15)

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With Delino DeShields landing on the DL with a hamstring injury, the Rangers had to recall someone to take his roster spot and the guy they called upon was 21-year old Rougned Odor.  If the name sounds familiar, then you may be confusing him with the 17-year old Rougned Odor that the Rangers signed to a contract this past off-season.  It sounds completely whacky only because it is.  These two individuals both of the same name, Rougned Odor, are actually brothers.  It is an extremely odd situation and even crazier that they are both within the same organization.  I really hope that some day they form a double play combination up the middle for the Rangers — that would be amusement at its finest (it doesn’t take much to amuse me).

Anyway, for real this time.  If the name Rougned Odor sounds familiar, it is because he came onto the scene last year and made a little noise as a 20-year old middle infielder with a .259 AVG, 9 HR, 48 RBI, 39 R, and 4 SB in 114 games with the Rangers.  And then he was expected to build on that performance this season in what was supposed to be his first full year in the Majors.  Odor began the season as the team’s starting second baseman, but with a triple slash of .144/.252/.233 after 29 games played, the Rangers got a huge whiff of Odor and it was not very pleasant on the olfactory senses.  So they sent him back to AAA to figure things out.

At AAA, Odor was a whole new hitter as he compiled a line of .352/.426/.639 with 5 HR, 19 RBI, 26 R, and 3 SB in 30 games.  And in addition, he even bumped up his walk rate to 9.7% and his strikeout rate was exceptional at 8.1%.  Though a small sample size, that type of strikeout rate was much better than his career 15.0% rate in the Minors, and light years ahead of the 24.3% rate that he had in his 29 game stint with the Rangers earlier this year.  So he clearly took being demoted seriously and really worked on improving upon some things that needed attention, which is now needing our attention.

Odor presumably will take over as the Rangers starting second baseman from this point forward, and it will be his job to lose once again, but with the adjustments he seemingly has made, I don’t think that he will be losing the job this time around.  Odor was slotted 6th in the order on Monday and he responded by going 3 for 3 with 2 RBI to keep his hot hitting going.  Odor is definitely a talented hitter with the capability to post a 15 HR/30 SB type of year over the course of a full season in the future.  And given that he is slotted at a shallow second base position, the type of production that he is capable of is a valuable commodity.  I definitely recommend him as a pickup in all formats.

Now let’s check out the rest of Monday’s games. Continue reading

Is the Pico de Gallo in Texas Hot or Mild?

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With Rangers third baseman and potential future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre going down with a thumb injury, the team is calling up top prospect Joey Gallo.  The 21-year old Gallo was the 8th overall selection in the 2012 draft and entered the year at #6 on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list.  Since being drafted out of high school in Las Vegas, Gallo has displayed immense power in the Minors that has only been matched during that time by Cubs third baseman and #1 on Baseball America’s prospect rankings, Kris Bryant, also a Las Vegas product (add Bryce Harper to that list and Vegas is producing some powerful hitters in recent years).  So to be in the same company as Bryant in terms of power and pedigree shows the talent of Gallo, a left-handed swinger.  But for fantasy baseball, will Gallo be a hot pickup or a mild taste for the palate?

As mentioned, like everything in Texas, Gallo’s raw power is bigger than most.  In 2013 at A-ball, he demolished 38 HR in just 106 games.  In 2014 splitting time between high-A and AA, he hit 21 HR at each level for a combined 42 HR in 126 games on the season.  And this year so far at AA once again, Gallo isn’t quite on the same monstrous pace but he has 9 HR in 34 games.  However, like a lot of power hitters out there, Gallo’s big flaw at the plate is his propensity to strikeout.  Out of all his time in the Minor League levels, he has amassed a strikeout rate of 33.9%, and this is where he lags a bit behind Bryant in terms of future outlook.  Bryant strikes out a lot himself, but at 26.5% in the Minors, Bryant was a good amount ahead of Gallo before he made his Major League debut earlier this season.

So with the high strikeout rate, Gallo has had a difficult time hitting for a good AVG with consistency as he progresses through the Rangers Minor League system.  He holds a career .268 AVG, but is currently hitting .314 at AA this season.  So perhaps he is making some strides?  Well, he likely is improving some, but the .314 AVG is also being driven by a .453 BABIP, something that is surely unsustainable at the Major League level.

Another thing to point out is that Gallo has really struggled against left-handed pitching ever since he was promoted to AA last season with a .176 AVG and 6 HR in 74 AB and a whopping 53.4% strikeout rate, compared to a .283 AVG with 24 HR in 297 AB and a 33.9% strikeout rate versus righties.  So while the HR per AB are split evenly, it is pretty clear to see that facing same-handed pitchers is a huge flaw for him at the moment.

The Rangers have been having Gallo see some time in the outfield over the last couple of weeks to give him some extra versatility and a more clear path to the Majors, and a little bit of positional flexibility never really hurts anyone.  The assumption though is that the Rangers will send Gallo back down to the Minors once Beltre is ready to return, so this does seem like a bit of a peculiar promotion.  Gallo just started learning a new position in the Minors, he has some severe contact making issues, and he is getting destroyed by left-handed pitching.  So to promote him and give him a taste of the Majors without even having played a single game at AAA yet seems like a move that can backfire on them.  He definitely has colossal power potential, but if he struggles in this stint in the Majors then that surely won’t boost his confidence.

For fantasy purposes, the flavor of this pico de Gallo is a bit mild for my taste buds as I am a spicy kind of guy.  I would not expect much at all out of Gallo for however long this stint may be nor for the rest of the season.  He might pop a few HR, but I don’t feel the AVG should be there.  However, he actually does have a favorable schedule in the next two weeks.  Opposing teams are only scheduled to start two lefties, and those are back to back games on June 3-4 with Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon taking the bump.  But other than that, there are some righties that he surely could take advantage of.

If by some chance he does succeed during this call up, I don’t even know if there would be a place on the roster for him when Beltre returns.  The Rangers already have Mitch Moreland and Prince Fielder to cover first base and DH duties, and they already have a crowded outfield situation with the emergence of Delino DeShields and return of Josh Hamilton to go along with Shin-Soo Choo  and Leonys Martin.

However, I would not say to completely avoid scooping Gallo off the waiver wire if you can spare the room.  With the top ranked prospects like this, it’s worth a flier to pick them up and take a wait and see approach if you can afford the time and roster spot to do so.  But just know what type of player that you are getting and to temper the expectations.  For keeper and dynasty leagues though, he is surely someone to target for his raw potential.

BLOW-PEN REPORT: Neftali No Es Feliz

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After being mostly a starting pitcher in the Minors, Feliz was converted to a relief pitcher upon his Major League arrival in 2009, but the transition appeared smooth for him as he developed into one of the better closers in the game in 2010 and 2011.  But for the 2012 season, the Rangers went out and signed Joe Nathan to be their closer as they shifted Feliz back into a starting pitching role.  This transition back to a starting pitcher didn’t end well as not only were the results not spectacular but Feliz also suffered a serious arm injury that required Tommy John surgery.  When Feliz rejoined the Rangers in late 2013, they changed his role yet again and put him back in the bullpen.  But ever since coming back from the procedure, Feliz’ velocity has been down significantly from where it was pre-Tommy John when he worked as a relief pitcher.  In his hey day, Feliz averaged 96.3 MPH with his fastball.  But since his return up through this season, he has been clocking in around 93.5 MPH with his heater and just not seeing the same results that he had back in 2010-11.

This past Saturday, Neftali Feliz blew the save and took the loss for the Rangers against the Indians and I had this to say about him:

“Rough go for Feliz who is not pitching very well this season and now has a 5.51 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, and is 6 for 9 in save opportunities.  It’s probably not quite time for a change in the Rangers bullpen yet, but one more game like this could do the trick.”

The following day, the Rangers had another late inning lead hosting the Indians as they were up 4-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning.  With a save situation still standing, Feliz got up in the Rangers bullpen to warm up.  But then oddly, while the game was still a 3-run differential with the save opportunity still on its way, Feliz sat down in the bullpen and Shawn Tolleson began to get loose.  The Rangers went on to tack on an insurance run in the inning to take away any potential save opportunity to begin the 9th inning and Tolleson came on to work a clean frame, allowing one hit and striking out two.  Though Tolleson technically didn’t take a save away from Feliz, it was certainly an interesting sequence of events and has to have some meaning behind it.

Here is what else I said this past Saturday after Feliz blew the save and took the loss:

“The candidates to take over would be Shawn Tolleson and Keone Kela.  Tolleson has been working the 8th inning in front of Feliz, and although his 3.86 ERA isn’t great, his 22 K/3 BB in 16.1 IP is dazzling.  The 22-year old rookie Kela owns a 2.55 ERA and has been working the 7th inning and is considered the closer of the future, but he had a fart of a game himself.  I would put Tolleson ahead of Kela for next in line due to Tolleson’s superb K/BB ratio and because of Kela’s lack of experience in the Majors.  I give permission to stash Tolleson right meow.”

At the very least, Feliz could be looking at some sort of possible injury that he dealt with while getting loose on Sunday.  Or in the most extreme of situations, one that would impact the fantasy baseball community immensely, Feliz could be out as the team’s closer due to his poor performance up to this point.  And Rangers manager Jeff Bannister went on to say there are no defined roles in the bullpen at the moment to possibly shut down any suspicion of a Feliz injury, but to confirm that there could be an imminent changing of the guard.

Well, hopefully on Saturday evening you were able to get that waiver claim in for Tolleson like I suggested, especially if you are a Feliz owner.  You really should listen to me!  Although it is entirely possible that Kela gets a chance, so he would not be a terrible grab either for those speculating on saves.