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.

Adams homers in 16th to lift Cardinals over Dodgers 4-3

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ST. LOUIS — Matt Adams homered in the 16th inning to lead the Cardinals to a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night for St. Louis’ season-best fifth straight victory.

It was the second consecutive game that the Cardinals won in their final at-bat. They beat the Padres on Thursday after scoring a run in the ninth inning.

Adams homer came with one out off Bud Norris (5-9), who gave up six runs as a starter in an 8-1 loss at Washington on Wednesday.

Seth Maness (1-2) picked up the win with a scoreless inning of relief for St. Louis, which was playing its longest game of the season.

Jedd Gyorko hit a two-out homer off closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth to tie the game 3-3.

Justin Turner and Howie Kendrick homered for the Dodgers. Los Angeles has lost four of six. The red-hot Turner has seven homers and 17 RBI this month. He hit two homers in a 6-3 win over Washington on Thursday.

Turner blasted his career-high 18th homer of the season off Seung Hwan Oh in the ninth to break a 2-2 tie.

Corey Seager had four hits and drove in the first run of the game. He had hit in seven successive at-bats before flying out in the ninth.

Kendrick’s solo shot in the sixth tied the game 2-2. He has hit in 14 successive games trying Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the longest current streak in the majors.

Los Angeles starter Brandon McCarthy allowed one hit and two runs over 6 1-3 innings, the longest of his four starts this season. He left with leg cramps. McCarthy struck out four and walked three.

St. Louis starter Michael Wacha allowed two runs on 10 hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked one.

Dodgers reliever Adam Liberatore recorded his 28th successive scoreless outing by retiring two of four batters in the seventh. He has not allowed a run in 41 of 42 appearances this season.

Minor League Players’ Wage Suit against Major League Baseball suffers a huge setback

The judge's gavel is seen in court room 422 of the New York Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street February 3, 2012. REUTERS/Chip East
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A judge handed minor leaguers looking to hold Major League Baseball liable for underpaying and exploiting them a huge setback today, ruling that the case cannot go forward as a class action. Minor leaguers who want to sue over their pay and treatment still can, but they’ll have to do it individually. The ruling saps the minor leaguers of their leverage, as Major League Baseball would likely be able to fend off individual cases which, by themselves, might only amount to several thousand dollars per claim.

The background: in 2014, former Miami Marlins player Aaron Senne sued Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, and three major league clubs claiming that minor leaguers are underpaid and exploited in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. He was later joined by former Royals minor leaguer Michael Liberto and Giants farmhand Oliver Odle. Eventually others joined and the suit had been expanded to 22 teams as defendants.

The upshot of the case is that, while the minor league season lasts only part of the year, players are required to do all sorts of things outside of merely playing games for which they are not compensated. Training, meetings, appearances and the like. When all of that time is added up, the players claim, their already low salaries are effectively far below minimum wage in violation of the law. Major League Baseball has countered this by claiming that minor leaguers are basically part time seasonal workers — like landscapers and pool boys — who are not subject to federal labor laws.

Last year the judge gave the case conditional certification, allowing the players to try to establish that it should go forward as a class action. This would streamline the case from the plaintiffs’ perspective and give them the power of collective action by asserting hundreds or more similar cases into one proceeding. The judge’s ruling today, however, was that the cases really weren’t factually similar and thus collective action was not appropriate because figuring out how many hours each player worked and what was required of him varied too greatly among the players.

From his order:

“The difficulties associated with determining what activities constitute ‘work’ in the context of winter training are compounded by the fact that there appear to be no official records documenting these activities. Because it may be impossible to determine from official records the types of conditioning activities in which the players engaged, membership in the state classes based on winter training would depend largely upon the players’ ability to remember, with a reasonable amount of detail, what they did during the off-season (often for multiple years and for many, several years in the past) to stay fit.”

The judge said that, in light of this, each case would be unique and would require “individualized inquiries” to find damages and liability. That phrase –“individualized inquiries” — constitutes magic words which sink would-be class actions. If a company overcharges all of its customers by $8 due to an error repeated a million times, it’s easy to look at one set of facts and judge them together. If you had to look at a million different wrongs, that’s no class action. And so it is not a class action for the players.

As many courts who have dealt with these sorts of cases have noted, for many plaintiffs, a class action is the only practical method of adjudicating Fair Labor Standards Act cases because individual plaintiffs are frequently unable to bear the costs of separate trials. They are, by definition, (allegedly) exploited workers. They’re not going to be able to pay legal costs and fight off a multi-billion dollar business in order to collect the few thousand dollars they were underpaid. At the same time, however, the defendants have rights too and, if the facts of each players’ treatment truly differ (e.g. the Yankees make their minor leaguers do more than the Brewers do) it’s not fair to bind one defendant’s defense to the acts of another.

So, where does this leave the players? Not dead. Not yet, at least. Their claims have not been dismissed on the merits. They have only been denied the right to act collectively. The individual plaintiffs can now file separate lawsuits against their former employers and Major League Baseball under the same theories. It would be harder to land a big blow in such a scenario, but if enough do, it could end up being death by a thousand cuts for the clubs and the league. Their legal fees might go up and, eventually, if they lose enough of these cases, more might be filed. There are a lot of former minor leaguers, after all, and once there’s some blood in the water, more of them — and their lawyers — may enter the frenzy. Decertification is certainly a win for the league right now, but it’s not necessarily a permanent win.

There are likewise some other quasi-collective forms this case could take such as multi-district litigation in which the cases, while individual, are coordinated in a loose fashion. That could lead to some efficiencies for suing players even if it’s not as robust as a class action.

We’ve written quite a bit about minor league pay and treatment in this space by now, so you probably know where we stand on it. We believe that minor leaguers are exploited and underpaid and we believe that Major League Baseball has been happy to exploit and underpay them for some time. Ultimately we believe that this state of affairs cannot and will not persist and that eventually, somehow, baseball will either see fit to pay its workers fairly or, more likely, will be forced to do so by a court or by collective bargaining of some fashion.

Today, however, was a big setback for the minor leaguers. Today’s ruling will give Major League Baseball and its clubs more time and more comfort in which to underpay them. There’s no doubt about it.