Surprisingly, the Angels actually upgraded their rotation by signing pitcher Mark Mulder. Huzzah!
I gotta say, a couple of trades have disappointed me strictly because I have fewer sleepers to tout. New veteran presences will likely cut into the playing time of Atlanta pitcher Alex Wood and St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong, both sophomores and ranked prospects, and that makes me sad, yo.
Braves sign SP Gavin Floyd
I would cry buckets if I was traded from the White Sox to the Braves. Floyd may flirt with fantasy relevance, but I think the bigger impact befalls Wood’s status as a starter. Unless the Braves wanted to waste their time squeezing Floyd into the bullpen, Wood will probably return to a late-inning role until further notice — bummer news for prospect fans and anyone who saw serious flashes of talent during his short stint as a starter last year. I think the Braves’ depth chart still has Wood listed as the No. 5 starter, but I expect change soon.
Floyd’s preseason rank: Not draftworthy
Wood’s preseason rank: Late-round bench-stash at best
Cardinals sign 2B Mark Ellis
Wong’s plate discipline and speed made him a very enticing low-tier middle infielder with upside, but not anymore. He should platoon with Ellis as Matt Carpenter assumes third base duties. Bummer, man. Given Ellis’ relative competence, I doubt Wong will ever win the job outright, either, barring injury.
Ellis’ preseason rank: Irrelevant
Wong’s preseason rank: Irrelevant… for now
Yankees sign 2B Brian Roberts
This is mainly here for comic relief.
Roberts’ preseason rank: No. 2 DL slot
Speaking of second basemen, when are the Mariners going to trade Nick Franklin?
Seriously, they could get a decent return for him, given he’s under team control for a while. MAKE MOVES, PEOPLE!
- Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks is not only back — he’s BACK! Two home runs, three doubles, nine hits in 19 at-bats… The Cult of Xander Bogaerts is praying for Middlebrooks’ demise (again), but with a slow first half (bogged down by a .260ish BAbip) behind him, this could foretell a productive last two months.
- I can’t wait until Colorado Rockies outfielder Corey Dickerson earns a full-time job. He’s batting .315/.370/.517 in 89 major-league at-bats, and his minor league numbers were impressive — mouthwatering, even, when you consider he gets to call Coors Field home — batting .371 this year in Triple-A with 11 home runs in 75 games. Better yet, He hit a combined 54 home runs in 2011 and ’12. Playing time may limit his contributions this year, but I love Dickerson as a breakout candidate next year.
- Is the Bruce Chen I’m seeing the real Bruce Chen, or is it simply a mirage? It’s hard to argue with the Kansas City Royals starting pitcher’s sparkling 2.20 ERA and 1.08 WHIP through seven starts. But then something like this happens and I remember why I hated him so much last year: He’s 36 years old, he has a career 1.37 WHIP… and this is not a rebirth. The six earned runs in his latest start is vintage Chen. In short: it’s a mirage.
- St. Louis Cardinals Kolten Wong isn’t playing much, but he does have three stolen bases and has only struck out three times in 18 at-bats. It’s an incredibly small sample size, but it’s good to see him not being overmatched at the plate. He struck out only one in eight plate appearances through three minor-league seasons. I share the same sentiment about Wong as I do Dickerson; Wong will hit for less power but better average.
- Oakland Athletics starter Sonny Gray continues to not only impress, he dazzles. I understand why owners are scrambling to pick him up, but I’m hesitant: he sported an ugly 1.36 WHIP in almost 300 minor-league innings. He’s walking fewer guys in the majors than the minors, but not by a large margin. Gray was simply hittable in the minors, and here lies my hesitance as I wait for him to start to get hit around once major league hitters adjust to him. In the meantime, I can’t fault anyone for riding the hot hand. Perhaps it will be me who kicks himself when Gray proves he has made a turnaround, but his AAA results weren’t promising — not enough for me, at least. The strikeouts are nice, though.
St. Louis Cardinals pending second baseman Kolten Wong is expected to get the call today from AAA Memphis. He’s the No. 79 and 84 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America, respectively, and I’m not overly excited about him.
I don’t expect Wong to make an immediate or profound impact this year unless he can immediately uproot Daniel Descalso and force manager Mike Matheny to move Matt Carpenter over to the hot corner. Even if this move happens in 2014, I would be more than pleased as a Wong owner to get 10 homers and steals apiece out of him.
In his defense, though, he recorded consistently low strikeout rates at each level and got on base at a .369 clip in AAA, consistent with his .365 minor league OBP. I could see him turning into a less prolific Carpenter, hitting for average from the No. 2 spot and racking up a ton of runs because of he will likely be followed up by some combination of Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras.
Wong has stolen 20+ bases each of the last two years and is starting to flash more power as he develops, but I would give him until maybe 2015 to really hit his stride. I predict he’ll be a serviceable option in 2014, but as far as second-base prospects are concerned, I would rank him behind the San Diego Padres’ Jedd Gyorko, the Seattle Mariners’ Brad Miller and Nick Franklin, and the Washington Nationals’ Anthony Rendon. However, given Carpenter’s propensity to reach base and score as part of a lethal St. Louis offense, I predict Wong could have a similarly high upside, but with more speed than power.
If I’m in a rotisserie league with an auction draft, which I am, I would gladly drop $1 on Wong as a flyer — but if the four other aforementioned prospects are available at the same price come draft time, I will more readily take a chance on one of them first.
As far as 2013 is concerned, I wouldn’t bother with Wong unless he quickly makes an impact. I think Wong’s debut will look more like the debut of Texas Rangers’ Jurickson Profar rather than of Franklin.