Scheppers will help bolster Rangers record-setting bullpen
Two long-shot closer possibilities and a pair of longtime minor league hitters are this week's Under The Radar subjects.
Sporting the major league's lowest batting average and slugging percentage, the A's continued to throw first basemen against the wall to see who will stick, promoting the left-swinging journeyman Moss to the big club while designating freshly minted starter Kila Ka'aihue for assignment. While the transaction ticked off many in the Oakland locker room (Ka'aihue's wife was expecting the birth of twins at the time of his demotion) Moss' big league track record made it even more curious. Sure he was having a good year with Sacramento in the PCL (.286/.371/.582 with 15 home runs) but his big league profile in 254 games over parts of six seasons for the A's, Phillies, Pirates and Red Sox is not impressive (.234/.300/.382, 16 home runs). Oakland has already burned through Brandon Allen, Daric Barton and Ka'aihue at first base this season and it's highly unlikely that Moss, a converted outfielder, is the answer either, especially after watching him start off his latest big league stint by going 2-for-13. Like most of the A's hitters, he can be ignored in mixed leagues and should only be added in the most-dire situations in AL-only leagues.
Despite the loss of Neftali Feliz to the rotation and now the disabled list, the Rangers bullpen is having a historic season with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.62 and 1.00 whip, both the best in the history of bullpens. In fact, the Rangers pen's K:BB ratio is head and shoulders above the next-best, the 1994 Montreal Expos of Mel Rojas, John Wetteland and Jeff Shaw who fanned 3.41 batters for every one they allowed to reach via bases on balls. Enter Scheppers, Texas' sandwich pick in 2009 from Fresno State who was recalled to replace the disabled Derek Holland on the active roster and Alexi Ogando (now also injured) in the bullpen. Scheppers, 25, has a fastball that reaches triple-digits and throughout his brief minor league career has shown great control striking out 2.75 batters for every walk allowed. This year at Triple-A Round Rock he was even better allowing just four free passes in 29 innings of work, striking out 27 while converting nine save opportunities. He projects as a closer in the majors and while the Rangers seem set at the moment with the resurgent Joe Nathan, Feliz's possible return to relief and veteran Koji Uehara all around, events change quickly in baseball, and a power arm with control like Scheppers doesn't come around too often. He's worth a stash in keeper leagues.
There's nothing in Donovan Solano's past that makes him an attractive fantasy prospect but somehow he's playing his way into the fantasy consciousness with a strong first big league stint with the Marlins. Called up when Emilio Bonifacio went on the DL with a sprained left thumb, Solano was slated to merely provide temporary bench depth, however he's been better than anyone could've hoped. A career .260/.314/.319 in eight minor league seasons, spent mostly in the St. Louis organization, he has 10 hits in his first 22 at bats for Miami, has driven in five runs while filling in at second, short and in left, a spot at which he played exactly one minor league game. Solano, who had a strong spring batting .429 in 42 at bats and nearly made the Marlins roster in April, has impressed manager Ozzie Guillen enough that he just might stick as a utilityman even after Bonifacio returns. With no power, little speed, a part-time job at best and averages that have nowhere to go but down, he's not someone to consider for your fantasy team, but as with all good underdog stories, feel free to root for his continued success.
Already on his third team of the calendar year, having been purchased by the Indians from the Braves at the end of the spring and then claimed off of waivers by the Cubs from Cleveland, Asencio, 28, is trying to establish himself as a major league reliever. So far in Chicago he's doing a good job, buoying the North Siders pen since arriving there June 1, appearing in four games and allowing just two walks over 2 2/3 innings. The fact that the Cubs bullpen is in such tough shape that a player with as spotted a past (he was originally signed under the false name Luis Valdez) has a shot to contribute is a story unto itself, but in this case, the righthander who had 86 career saves, mainly in the Braves system, including 26 last season for Triple A Gwinnett, could very well get a chance to close games. That's an incredible thought given that as an Indian he allowed multiple runs in six of his 18 appearances and has a 5.96 ERA before being placed on waivers. The Cubs have used Rafael Dolis, Carlos Marmol, Shawn Camp and James Russell among others in saves situations, and the way he's pitching now it's only a matter of time before Asencio gets a shot. It may not be pretty, but he's someone to consider stashing if you're desperate for NL-only saves.