Daily Dose: Second-half sleepers

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While the baseball world pauses for the All-Star break, here are a
dozen players with more second-half upside than their under-the-radar
status suggests …

John Bowker – Getting a much-deserved second chance in San Francisco
after hitting .322/.416/.550 at Triple-A and .307/.363/.523 at
Double-A. He’s not going to smack 30 homers and at 25 years old Bowker
is never going to be a star, but he should be able to hit .275 or so
with 20-homer power and solid on-base skills. Playing time will be an
issue, but he started three of the Giants’ last four games.

Alexi Casilla – Casilla flunked his way to the minors by hitting
.180, but earned a trip back to Minnesota by batting .340 at Triple-A
and Ron Gardenhire’s fetish for speedy, light-hitting middle infielders
all but guarantees that he’ll be in the No. 2 spot again before long.
Casilla has hit just .248/.299/.318 in 197 career games, but swiping 20
bases and being caught just three times gives him fantasy value.

Brett Cecil – Had five Quality Starts mixed in with three brutal
outings in his first eight turns in the Blue Jays’ rotation, but the
22-year-old rookie could show more consistency in the second half.
Cecil had a 3.15 ERA and 217/71 K/BB ratio in 217 innings as a minor
leaguer and should settle in as a good mid-rotation guy if he can do a
decent job keeping the ball in the ballpark.

Matt Diaz – Probably won’t get the playing time that he deserves
even with Jeff Francoeur now out of the picture, but will at least see
starts against left-handers and could work his way into the lineup
against right-handers too if Ryan Church or Garret Anderson go down.
Diaz hit .301/.375/.462 in the first half to give him a .315/.354/.457
line in four seasons with the Braves.

Edwin Encarnacion – After batting just .127 in April he spent all of
May and June on the sidelines with a fractured wrist, but Encarnacion
has posted an .840 OPS while starting nine straight games since
returning two weeks ago and faces little competition for playing time
at third base. He hit .272/.351/.458 from 2006-2008 and still has some
room to grow at the age of 26.

Jake Fox – Fox has hit .313/.356/.550 through 90 trips to the plate
with the Cubs while finally getting his first extended shot at the age
of 26. He hit .318/.384/.650 at Triple-A, so he’ll keep producing if
the Cubs keep playing him and Lou Piniella has found different ways to
get him into the lineup. Fox may even see some time behind the plate
with Geovany Soto on the disabled list.

Chad Gaudin – Has gone just 4-7 with a 5.03 ERA since signing with
the Padres, but just four of his 14 starts have come at
pitcher-friendly Petco Park and with 85 strikeouts in 82.1 innings
Gaudin has the potential to slice his ERA by quite a bit if his control
improves. He has a 3.31 ERA and 39/13 K/BB ratio in 32.2 innings spread
over his last five starts.

Jonny Gomes – He hit .311/.400/.556 in the first half while playing
almost strictly against left-handers, but could be pushed into extended
duty with Jay Bruce lost for the next two months. Gomes has shown a big
platoon split during his career, so that may not be such a great thing,
but he’s still managed 20 homers and 10 steals per 500 plate
appearances against righties along with mashing lefties.

Scott Hairston – Started in center field for the last five games of
the first half and has big-time offensive potential after hitting
.270/.330/.520 in pitcher-friendly San Diego. Oakland isn’t a whole lot
friendlier for batters, but Hairston has 25-homer power with 10-steal
speed and could get a chance to play nearly every day in the second
half.

Matt LaPorta – Made his major-league debut in May, but played
sporadically for three weeks and has been stuck at Triple-A ever since
despite batting .309 with 11 homers, 29 total extra-base hits, and a
.925 OPS in 63 games there. I’m not sure what the Indians are waiting
for at this point, because LaPorta is already 24 years old and has hit
at every level, so expect to see him in the second half.

Carl Pavano – A brutal first start skews his overall numbers,
because Pavano is 8-6 with a 4.42 ERA and 76/17 K/BB ratio in 106
innings since his Indians debut. That stretch includes seven Quality
Starts in his last 10 outings and his fastball is back in the low-90s
after often residing in the high-80s with the Yankees. He’ll never live
down his time in New York, but Pavano is once again a solid starter.

Chris Tillman – As if Adam Jones and George Sherrill aren’t enough
the Orioles’ haul for Erik Bedard also included Tillman, who’s on the
verge of the majors after posting a 2.50 ERA and 88/22 K/BB ratio in
86.1 innings at Triple-A. Tillman has always racked up tons of
strikeouts with 426 in 388 innings, but he’s also made major strides
with his control recently and at 21 years old looks like a future ace.

Ruben Amaro is workin’ out and gettin’ ready to coach first base

Ruben Amaro Jr.
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One of the weirder stories of the offseason was Ruben Amaro going from the Phillies front office to the Red Sox, where he’ll coach first base. That kind of transition is almost unheard of but it’s happening with old Rube.

Today Pete Abraham of the Globe has a story about how Amaro is preparing for the role. And how, while it may look weird on paper, the move actually makes a lot more sense than you might suspect given the Red Sox’ coaching staff and Amaro’s own background. It’s good stuff. Go check it out.

On a personal note, it serves as a signal to me to keep my eyes peeled for reports about Amaro from Fort Myers once camp gets started:

Amaro has been working out in recent weeks with his nephew Andrew, a Phillies prospect, to get ready for throwing batting practice and hitting fungoes.

Could we be so lucky as to get the first-ever Best Shape of His Life report for a coach? God, I hope so!

It’s pretty stupid that athletes can’t endorse beer

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner celebrates after pitching the Giants to a 8-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League wild card game in Pittsburgh Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) ORG XMIT: PAGP102
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One of the more amusing things to spin out of the Super Bowl were Peyton Manning’s little Budweiser endorsements in his postgame interviews. It was hilarious, really, to see him shoehorn in references to going and cracking a crisp cool Budweiser multiple times. It was more hilarious when a Budweiser representative tweeted that Manning was not paid to do that. Of course, Manning owns an interest in alcohol distributorships so talking about The King of Beers was in his best financial interest all the same.

After that happened people asked whether or not Manning would face discipline about this from the NFL, as players are not allowed to endorse alcoholic beverages. This seemed crazy to me. I had no idea that they were actually banned from doing so. Then I realized that, huh, I can’t for the life of me remember seeing beer commercials with active athletes, so I guess maybe it’s not so crazy. Ken Rosenthal later tweeted that Major League Baseball has a similar ban in place. No alcohol endorsements for ballplayers.

Why?

I mean, I can fully anticipate why the leagues would say athletes can’t do it. Think of the children! Role models! Messages about fitness! All that jazz. I suspect a more significant reason is that the leagues and their partners — mostly Anheuser-Busch/InBev — would prefer not to allow high-profile athletes to shill for a competitor. How bad would it look for Alex Rodriguez to do spots for Arrogant Bastard Ale when there are Budweiser signs hanging in 81% of the league’s ballparks? Actually, such ads would look WONDERFUL, but you know what I mean here.

That aside, it does strike me as crazy hypocritical that the leagues can rake in as much as they do from these companies while prohibiting players from getting in on the action. If it is kids they’re worried about, how can they deny that they endorse beer to children every bit as effectively and possibly more so than any one athlete can by virtue of putting it alongside the brands that are the NFL and MLB? Personally I don’t put much stock in a think-of-the-children argument when it comes to beer — it’s everywhere already and everyone does a good job of pushing the “drink responsibly” message — but if those are the leagues’ terms, they probably need to ask themselves how much of a distinction any one athlete and the entire league endorsing this stuff really is.

That aside, sports and beer — often sponsored by active players — have a long, long history together:

Musial

And the picture at the top of this post certainly shows us that Major League Baseball has no issues whatsoever in having its players endorse Budweiser in a practical sense.

Why can’t they get paid for doing it?

The Orioles signed Rafael Palmeiro’s son

Rafael Palmeiro
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Last summer we posted about Rafael Palmeiro coming out of retirement to play for the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters. The reason: to play a game with his boy Patrick. In that game the elder Palmeiro went 2-for-4 with an RBI, a walk, and a run scored. His son, who is now 26, went 2-for-4 with a grand slam.

Did that serve as an audition for Patrick? Possibly, as Jon Meloi of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles just signed him to a minor league deal.

As Meloi notes, it’s certainly just an organizational depth move, as Patrick is no prospect. And it’s actually likely something of a coincidence that it’s the Orioles who signed him, as Palmeiro doesn’t have any real contacts with the Orioles baseball operations people, all of whom are different folks now than back in his day.

This may not be the last of the Palmeiros, by the way. Peter Gammons tweeted this morning that Patrick’s younger brother, Preston, is a first baseman at North Carolina State who could be drafted this june. Gammons says he has a swing “remarkably similar to dad.”

Diamondbacks, A.J. Pollock avoid arbitration with two-year contract

Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock drives in two runs against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
AP Photo/Gary Landers
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Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.

Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.