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“65 Mustangs” Opportunity Knocks In the AL East For the 2nd Half. But which pitchers can I trust?

Phew! Are you in the middle of trade negotiations yet? I made two trades in one league already, one in another and am knee deep in trade talks now in a third. If your league is anything like the ones I play in, and you want to either beef up for the pennant race or re-stock for next season, what are you waiting for? Mid-season trades are like closer runs during a draft. Once you see the trades start, expect them to fall like dominoes. If you want in, you should be talking to the active “players” right now. Every league has that 50% of owners who are players that either love to trade or are always active when it counts. If you jump in when they are done you may be too late, unless you are the bargain basement kind of buyer.

If you found this article, I imagine you believe yourself to be a contender. You were surely active during the pre-draft portion of the off-season, and you know you need to be even more active now. This is the time of year, perhaps the last time, that one can make meaningful difference making moves that will vault you deep into the money pit.

Opportunity knocks both for the teams that are trading, and for the level of player you might be able to add or trade for when the timing is right. Players have gotten hurt and while most will be back before the fantasy season is over, some may linger on the DL longer than we thought. There is opportunity now for some players to step up and fill the holes. The hardest part is knowing which players will shine, but timing is also important. If you get those players before they establish value, they will come at a discount. In much the same way, players who slumped in the first half or are coming back from injury, could make for some interesting trade targets as well, especially for non keepers on your league’s teams that are out of the race. As always, some useful players may be on your league’s waiver wire as teams cut-bait with players they don’t think will help them in the near future. Don’t just look at the first 20 players on your wire, scroll man! There may be a lot more than you think on page two.

Of course, I can’t help you find the opportunities in your league. But, we can identify some players who may be reaching for the knocker on your door. We’ll discuss hitters, but the focus here is on what’s going on in the AL East pitching staffs. Opportunity knocks for teams in the AL East as well. Some results from Sunday’s games are not in yet but Tampa, New York, Toronto and Baltimore are all within about a game of each other at the top. I still think Tampa will be the first to drop out, but the other three teams could go down to the wire.

New York Yankees: 41-35

Opportunity Knocks – Ivan Nova, SP came back from his right of passage Tommy John Surgery this week and pitched as well as could be hoped for. He pitched 6.2 innings giving up 3 hits, 2 walks and no runs against the Phillys on Wednesday. He only had one strikeout, and sure it was the Phils, but the K’s will come back and those same Phils beat the snot out of CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda the two prior nights. We know that Nova’s career was trending in the right direction before he got hurt, and we also know that today’s Tommy John surgery delays but seldom changes that same trajectory. Nova will not contend for a Cy Young anytime soon, but he can help many a team down the stretch. The problem is that something has to give.

But who can I trust? – Adam Warren, SP  would be the most likely guy to move to the pen with Nova back in the fold. But, he has been pitching quite well lately himself. In fact, his 3.59 ERA leads all Yankee starters in 2015 and his 1.198 WHIP is second to only Tanaka. Over the past month, he is the only SP with an ERA under 4.00 (3.09) and a WHIP under 1.20 (1.13).

CC Sabathia, SP is the pitcher faring the worst, not just this month but for about two seasons now. He is the guy with the biggest, fattest contract though, and the Yanks ace for years, so it would be a delicate fete to move him to the pen. Plus, the belief is that Warren would be the better reliever anyway.

Nathan Eovaldi, SP has been inconsistent, but shows flashes of brilliance and has seemingly turned a corner of late, going 2-0 with only 2 runs in each of his last two starts following up his worst start of the season two weeks ago when it seemed every SP I owned gave up 8 runs in less than an inning pitched. Eovaldi needs to pitch, so unless the Yanks want to risk optioning him to the minors, he is staying put in the rotation.

We know Masahiro Tanaka, SP & Michael Pineda, SP are not moving from the rotation, unless, well, you know. However, neither is pitching all that great lately himself. Tanaka is coming off his worse two starts of the season, where he gave up 11 runs in 10 innings and his 4 BB’s were 2 more than he had in five prior starts combined. Until the Yanks camp says otherwise we have to assume nothing is wrong and he just had two bad starts. Pineda pitched very well today ( 2 R in 8 IP, no walks and 8 K’s) after his worst start (8 R in 3.1 IP) of the season. Prior to that he was very inconsistent, alternating between magnificent and mediocre. So, what can we do?

Masahiro Tanaka – HOLD and ride his arm. If you are risk averse and can get him cheap, BUY. I would not sell unless the reward was far greater than any perceived risk.

Michael Pineda – STRONG BUY if it is not too late after today. He is an ace in the making.

Nathan Eovaldi – HOLD. Keep using him the way you would otherwise (at home).                                                                                                                                                                               

Ivan Nova – MUST PICK UP      nova spacenova girl(Why can’t I find the right Nova Picture?)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Adam Warren – HOLD. Keep using him the way you would otherwise but i would not trade for him and I doubt you can sell him very high.

CC Sabathia – Unless something changes he is a STRONG DROP.

Opportunity Knocks – Dellin Betances, RP has done well enough as the closer in Miller’s absence. His only real blip was 4 runs in a non-save situation. I think he keeps the job as I have said all year, but I was wrong the first time around, and Miller is throwing. HOLD – If you own him, keep him. If you can get him added to a trade, BUY but only do it if you can live with him being a set up man extraordinaire. Don’t sell unless you can get closer value. He is a stud.

Andrew Miller, RP is a STRONG BUY since he’ll be dynamite in any role and unless your league does not reward middle relievers he should be a stud down the stretch.

Chasen Shreve RP & Justin Wilson RP would make great PICK UP candidates. They have both excelled as set up men both before and after Miller got hurt.

Opportunity Knocks – Chris Young, OF -STRONG PICK UP again as he is on fire and playing every day with Ellsbury out. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF is starting a rehab this week and should be back soon. The window to get him as a STRONG BUY is closing fast. All the Yanks core hitters are mashing, Gardner, Tex, A-Rod, McCaan, Beltran but I would not be lured into buying high on any of them.

Toronto Blue Jays: 41-36

Opportunity Knocks – Marco Estrada, SP has seized his opportunity to start again and is a man on a mission. He has pitched well since being inserted in the rotation but has only given up 1 run in his last two starts, the most recent falling a few outs short of a no hitter. Estrada has been around long enough so we know what he is, so don’t BUY but keep using him while he is hot, at home or in good match-ups on the road.Marco-Estrada

But who can I trust? – There is no clear ace on this team or anyone I would call a BUY candidate, however you can never underestimate a veteran staff in the stretch run. I’d continue to use Mark Buerhle, SP who is having one of his best seasons and RA Dickey, SP when the match-up is good. Drew Hutchinson, SP is still inconsistent but is the keeper of the bunch long term. I’m happily using Buehrle and Estrada with confidence in many leagues.

But who can I trust in the Pen? In the past two weeks, three guys have saves. Brett Cecil, RP is the most likely one to be the odd man out as he has had two separate opportunities to seize the job but hasn’t.  Roberto Osuna, RP & Steve Delabar, RP each have one of the past two saves, Osuna the most recent. The Jays want the youngster Osuna to be the closer, and he has the stuff, but Delabar makes for good insurance. I would not trade for either unless they were an add on to a trade.

Opportunity Knocks – Devon Travis, 2B was activated this past week. He moved right back into the Jays lineup and hopefully yours too. It might not be too late to get him in a deal, especially if a team already replaced him with a good 2B. BUY, but now or never. Chris Colabello, 1B/OF has certainly proved that last season was no fluke even though with less power so far, but he is hitting .337 in nearly 200 AB. I’ve already seen people SELL on him, and if you can get a proven starting player, go for it. Other wise, ride the wave. Kevin Pillar, OF is a strong PICK UP if you need R, SB or average as he is playing regularly. Interestingly, all three players are available in 30% of leagues. Go look. If you had designs on

SELLING Russell Martin, C you better do it soon as he is falling back to earth quickly.

Tampa Bay Rays: 42-35 (How are they still here?)

Opportunity Knocks – Matt Moore, SP will likely make his first start in two years this week. Trade for him now before he throws a good game, and he will. STRONG BUY! Jake Odorizzi, SP is also on re-hab and due back soon. He was nearly as good as Archer before getting hurt. STRONG BUY, and he’ll be cheaper than Moore.

But who can I trust? – Chris Archer, SP is still garnering Cy votes but you’ll have to pay dearly for him. Nate Karns, SP is pitching well and earned his spot in the rotation & Erasmo Ramirez, SP should make his next start and stay in the rotation after a minor injury. I would strongly urge you to PICK THEM UP and use them when the match-up is right. Barring setbacks Matt Andriese, SP who has held his own, will be the odd man out and land in the bullpen as a long man.

But who can I trust in the Pen? I give up. I’m just losing my touch handicapping closers. Two weeks ago I predicted Jake McGee, RP had reclaimed his closer role, but I was wrong. Brad Boxberger, RP is the closer until he fails. Then McGee will take over. I’m not playing with words, I predict that is what will happen but I don’t know when. If you own Boxberger, BUY McGee. If you own neither, STAY AWAY.

Opportunity Knocks – Marc Krauss, 1B has been told he is the man at 1B. Grab him now (PICK UP) before he goes all Logan Forsythe, 2B on you.  I poo poo’ed Forsythe here weeks ago, but I have to admit he is worth using at 2B now. Strong PICK UP but I doubt he has much trade value.

But who can I trust? – I hope you bought low on Evan Longoria, 3B like I did. Maybe you still can. BUY. Steven Souza, OF has 14 HR and 10 SB but a low BA. Kevin Kiermaier, OF has a good BA, 8 SB but little power. If you can get anything for them I would as it can only go down from here. SELL. It is hard to predict how Tampa is going to use these two guys and Joey Butler, OF, Brandon Guyer, OF & David Dejesus, OF, but I can assure you value is dropping on all of them.longo

Baltimore Orioles: 39-34

Opportunity Knocks – Or not – Kevin Gausman, SP finally got a start on June 20th for the O’s in Toronto giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk in 5 innings at what is a hitters park against a good hitting team. But the Gausman era had not started yet. He was optioned to the minors after that game. He will finally get another start this Thursday July 2nd at home vs Tex. If Bud Norris continues to struggle or anyone gets hurt Gausman could stick in the rotation. The kid has stuff, but now needs opportunity. BUY if the value is there.

But who can I trust? – Ubaldo Jimenez, SP & Wei Yin Chen, SP continue to pitch to good results. Both pitchers still have ERA’s near 3.00 and a K rate of about one per inning. Jimenez has been hit by the walk bug of late giving up 6 in one game but has won 4 starts in a row and is Baltimore’s clear cut ace. Miguel Gonzalez, SP was still pitching fairly well when he landed on the DL with a groin strain. He came back after the 15 days and gave up 4 runs in a win vs Boston on Thursday. Continue to use him as you did before. Chris Tillman, SP & Bud Norris, SP are still far too inconsistent to use with any confidence. Norris stats don’t look so bad of late but the 5 runs he gave up in his last start don’t show up as they were all unearned. It has to be a great matchup to use either of them. I’m not targeting any of these guys right now, but if you own them, use them as you have been.

Opportunity Knocks – JJ Hardy, SS is starting to hit. You could have gotten him for nearly nothing a few weeks ago, but he still might not be too expensive, and may even still be on the wire. PICK UP (Not even 20% owned in ESPN Leagues, 38% in Fantrax). If the O’s needs pitching Hardy’s wife, Adrienne Acton Adrienne-Acton-JJ-Hardy-girlfriend-fiancee-picmight be able to help (STRONG PICK UP!) The group of Jimmy Parades, UTIL, Chris Parmalee, OF, Steve Pearce, UTIL, Travis Snider, OF and Kevin Reimold, OF are all hitting, but none have full time at bats. As I’ve said before, Buck Showalter knows how to deploy them. Do you? SELL high on any and all of them if people come knocking.

But who can I trust? – Manny Machado, 3B may have finally put it together with a good healthy first half where he slashed .305/.362/.554 and is on target for a 100 R, 30 HR, 100 RBI, 25 SB season. The past month alone he is on fire, slashing .365/.415/.562 with 9 HR and 4 SB to go with 24 each of Runs and RBI. I hope you already traded for him, and no, don’t try to sell high. HOLD.

Boston Red Sox: 34-43

Opportunity Knocks – Justin Masterson, SP finally returned to the rotation June 28th after a dreadful first half culminating in a stint in the minors. His slider was crisp but his velocity was still down though he gave up no runs with 5 k’s in a win. Good for him, but I still don’t trust him in the AL East. PICK UP and spot.

But who can I trust? – Clay Buccholz, SP, has pitched more like an ace of late tossing 7 quality starts in his past 9 games. He has a 2.5 ERA over that time and has only walked more than 2 batters in 1 of those 9 games. He is giving up too many hits still so I’d hesitate to pitch him against some of the top offenses in hitter’s parks. Otherwise he is an ownable starter now. BUY. Wade Miley, SP, has really turned his season around after his publicized fight with manager Jim Farrell tossing a quality start in his past 3 starts, winning 2 of them. He struck out 8 batters in two of those games but is still walking a few too many. I’m using him in some leagues. PICK UP. Edwardo Rodriguez, SP may have finally come back to earth having gotten shelled in 2 of his last 3 starts sandwiched around a 1 run win. Use him with caution, but hopefully you SOLD two weeks ago when I suggested you do that.  Rick Porcello, SP is unusable and on a 6 game losing streak while Joe Kelly, SP was sent to Pawtucket when Masterson came back. Cut bait on both if you own them. DROPmiley argument

Opportunity Knocks – Brock Holt, UTIL. The Red Sox lineup is a mess. You don’t need me to tell you that. But two guys may be able to help while they are playing regularly. Brock Holt is playing 2B full time during Dustin Pedroia’s DL stint which could be lengthy. He hits for average but not much power and is eligible all over the diamond. Alejandro De Aza, OF is also playing while Hanley Ramirez is out and has hit nearly .290 with 3 HR and 11 RBI in only 59 AB since being acquired from the Orioles. PICK UP  both if you need a plug and play but don’texpect a long run, especially from De Aza.

But who can I trust? – Mookie Betts, OF is one of the few Boston regulars who is healthy and hitting, going .305/.365/.516 over the past month with 3 HR and 5 SB. He looks like he belongs hitting wise but still makes some gaffe’s in the field. I’m pretty sure he is up for good now. HOLD. Xander Bogaerts, SS is slashing .343/.355/.467 over that same period with 16 RBI but very little power. If people come knocking beware that they are trying to buy low on him. HOLD. Pablo Sandoval, 3B & David Ortiz, DH are hitting respectably and reasonably healthy. If I could get value for them I’d move them in a minute. SELL before age and injury make you wish you did sooner. Finally, Blake Swihart, C is hitting well enough to be used as a catcher in most large leagues or two catcher leagues. He is owned in less than 10% of ESPN leagues. PICK UP if you need him.

Pitching Grabs for the week 6/29 to 7/04.

*Bolded pitchers are two start pitchers for this coming week.

Monday: D. Hutchison, TOR @ TB . M. Pineda, NYY vs PHI.

Tuesday: C. Archer, TB vs TOR, D. Price,  DET @ CLE, J. Samardzija, CHI @ MINCC Sabathia, NYY vs PHI, U. Jimenez, BAL @ BOS,

Wednesday: C. Sale, CHW @ MIN, J. Verlander, DET @  CLE, A. Warren, NYY vs PHI, M. Estrada, TOR @ TB.

Thursday: A. Simon, DET vs CHI

Friday:  Kevin Gausman, BAL vs CLE, A. Sanchez, DET vs CHI, M. Buehrle vs TEX, E. Volquez, KC @ OAK.

Saturday: D. Hutchison, TOR vs TEX, C. Young, KC @ OAK.

Sunday: M. Pineda, NYY @ HOU, U. Jimenez, BAL vs CLE, D. Price vs CHI.








I'm an accountant and an amateur writer of fiction and sports commentary, mostly baseball. I've been a student of the game of baseball since the Dinosaurs roamed the earth, or at least since a few years before the world knew what a designated hitter was. Otherwise, I like "antique" cars of the 60's and 70's and have been a fantasy baseball fanatic since my first draft many years ago. I live in CT with my wife Megan of 25 years, our daughter Caitlin and their (their) cats. I'm also the better looking of the two guys in the the photo.

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