By Rob Leibowitz
This week's transactions have brought about a few stash and save opportunities. Prospects like the Oakland Athletics' Sonny Gray and the Cleveland Indians' Danny Salazar received call-ups to the majors. Neither pitcher is intended to spend significant time on the MLB roster for now. In fact, most fantasy leaguers may not even be able to initiate a stash and save maneuver on Salazar. The Indians are likely to option him back to the minors immediately following the game so they can add some bullpen help and Salazar could get his next turn, albeit in the minor league rotation.
Colorful lot of A's prospects
Gray has re-emerged as a top prospect. The righty struggled mightily in Double-A and Triple-A after coming on the prospect radar in 2011. Gray struggled so mightily, in fact, that his strikeout rate dropped by more than two full points, resulting in his jettison from dynasty teams and/or not being targeted for minor league rosters on draft day. Fortunately, Gray's issues were not injury-related and more of a pitch refinement, command and style adjustment that the righty has now made. The result has been a 9.4 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 that now has him back on track as a potential middle- to upper-rotation candidate for the A's. For now, Gray is pitching in middle relief, meaning he may not have much value in redraft leagues, but he's a valuable asset in keeper leagues for contending teams as trade leverage and, of course, as talent to stockpile for teams that are dumping.
Salazar, 23, had a very impressive MLB debut on Thursday, allowing just three base runners and striking out seven. The 6-footer had emerged as one of the better arms in the Indians' system last year and must now be considered ahead of Trevor Bauer. Not only because of last night's performance, but for his sheer dominance at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels, where he commanded three plus-caliber pitches well (sub 3.0 BB/9 at both stops) while striking out 13.6 and 10.4 batters per nine innings at each level, respectively. Salazar may not have a MLB rotation spot, especially with Zach McAllister expected to return after the All-Star break, but it may not be long afterwards that he claims a spot for good.
Moving back to the A's: As had been anticipated for a few months, the club finally cut bait on part of their middle infield platoon situation by designating Adam Rosales for assignment and shifting Jed Lowrie full time to shortstop while bringing up prospect Grant Green. Green just won PCL player of the month honors and has produced a very solid .318/.374/.500 slash thus far. Although still a fairly aggressive right-handed hitter, Green has made some progress in improving his contact-making skills while maintaining above-average power skills, for a second baseman, with 11 homers.
Green is not a high-ceiling prospect, but if he can translate his contact/pop skills to the majors, a .270s, 15-HR season could be a reasonable baseline projection for him in 2014. However, this is not a "go grab him" moment for contenders. The A's have opted to ease Green in by having him form the wrong side of the platoon, meaning that for now, Green will face only lefties as he adjusts to the majors. While this makes sense for Green's development in real baseball terms, it certainly does not help fantasy leaguers, redraft leaguers in particular. As a result of this situation, it makes Green a stash and save pickup, not a "play now" pickup.
The Boston Red Sox's Jackie Bradley, though likely rostered in most keeper/dynasty leagues, presents another stash and save opportunity. The lefty hitter was recalled earlier this week when Jacoby Ellsbury was day-to-day. Bradley had won the opening day left field job only to press at the plate and get demoted. Bradley has rediscovered his stroke at Pawtucket, batting .297/.393/.530 while displaying both speed and power in his bat as well as a highly disciplined approach. For now, the Daniel Nava-Jonny Gomes platoon in left is not going anywhere as long as it produces with the Sox in first place. Bradley, instead, is more likely to push for a 2014 starting job, especially if the Red Sox allow Ellsbury to walk as a free agent. Bradley would be a natural fit for the center-field job.
Finally, some quick thoughts on the pitchers the Miami Marlins acquired in exchange for Ricky Nolasco. All three are fairly middling prospects, but this isn't surprising since the Marlins' main concern was unloading cash and getting the Los Angeles Dodgers to take on the rest of Nolasco's remaining contract (nearly $6M). Had the Marlins been willing to shoulder some of the contract, their haul might've been prettier.
Angel Sanchez, 23, had only just made it back to A+ ball after spending most of the season in Class A ball. While Sanchez has a quality arm and multiple pitches with plus potential, he struggles with throwing quality strikes and has been regularly hit hard in the minors, posting a 4.88 ERA in low A ball. At his last three stops, Sanchez has had left-on-base rates hovering around the 60% mark despite showing an ability to miss bats. A conversion to relief may be in order.
Josh Wall was converted to a relief role in 2011 and even served as the Dodgers' Triple-A closer in 2012, accumulating 28 saves. Wall throws fairly hard and mainly utilizes a fastball-slider combo that has him profiling best as a right-handed specialist reliever. He should be up at some point this season with the Marlins but at the moment does not look like a MLB saves threat.
Steven Ames, 25, is more journeyman than prospect and had only just made his Triple-A debut this season. His stuff is decent but nothing special, making him profile best in middle relief. When pitching his best, Ames is a strike-zone pounder who can post a sub-2.0 BB/9.
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