Fantasy Focus is a regular MiLB.com feature in which we use a Minor League perspective to give you the edge in your fantasy league. Have a fantasy question? Tweet it to @MiLB or @AshMarshallMLB with the hashtag #fantasyfocus.
In this week's Fantasy Focus, we look at why the Red Sox should give serious consideration to utilizing Xander Bogaerts at third base and why Asher Wojciechowski could give the Astros a boost much like Jarred Cosart did earlier this year.
There's also your roundup of the notable Minor League rehabs, including the ongoing rehab of Curtis Granderson and the upcoming ones of B.J. Upton and Jonathan Niese.
Under the Radar
Asher Wojciechowski, now 23, was a first-round pick by Toronto in 2010 who had lost some of his luster after putting up a 4.70 ERA at Class A Advanced Dunedin in 2011 and then repeating the level with a 3.57 ERA midway through last year.
The Blue Jays elected to include him in the deal that sent Francisco Cordero and Ben Francisco, among others, to Houston in return for J.A Happ, David Carpenter and Brandon Lyon. Since the change of scenery, the right-hander has been exceptional.
He stormed into Double-A Corpus Christi and posted a 2.06 ERA in 43 2/3 innings to close last season, striking out 34 and walking 13. Back with the Hooks to begin this year, he went 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA in just six appearances before the Astros promoted him to Triple-A Oklahoma City. There, he's gone 6-4 with a 2.83 ERA in 98 2/3 innings, striking out 73 and walking 33.
Houston's already given Jarred Cosart a shot this year, one he's taken advantage of. If they give a look to Wojciechowski, he could similarly provide a shot in the arm to a team in need of pitching.
Will He Stick?
It's tough not to read between the lines on this one. Cody Asche -- the Phillies' No. 7 prospect -- was called up to the Majors on Tuesday after going deep for Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Monday. As noted by MiLB.com's Jake Seiner, the third baseman has been improving month-by-month, capped by a .330 average with a .978 OPS and seven homers this month prior to the call-up. Of course, the Michael Young trade rumors have been hot and heavy lately, so it's tough to imagine that the Phillies aren't calling up Asche with the idea of him replacing Young.
The 23-year-old has improved his stock this season, and that's especially been the case lately. But color us slightly pessimistic that he'll hit the ground running when he makes his Major League debut on Wednesday. His struggles in his first look at Triple-A pitching (.264/.327/.356 line in April) seem to be a grounded expectation of what's to come in the next few weeks in the Majors. There are better third-base options out there right now if you need one.
Rehabs of Note
Curtis Granderson has been on the 60-day DL since fracturing the knuckle of his pinky finger on his left hand against Tampa Bay on May 24.
He underwent minor surgery at the end of May when doctors inserted a pin in his hand, and he started taking swings again in mid June.
Granderson, who has appeared in five Triple-A games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and four other Class A Advanced contests with Tampa, is currently rehabbing with Double-A Trenton.
Granderson is hitting .250 in eight big league games for the Yankees and is could rejoin the team this weekend in San Diego. He's an obvious start once he's back in the lineup.
Sidelined for almost seven weeks with a strained right adductor muscle, Braves outfielder B.J. Upton is expected to start a rehab spell with the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves over the next couple days.
MLB.com reported that Upton hit off a tee last week and then began jogging exercises, his first on-field activity since landing on the DL.
Upton was batting .177 with eight homers and 23 runs scored with Atlanta prior to his injury.
Jonathan Niese is a couple weeks away from returning to the New York Mets, but there is a legitimate expectation that the southpaw will see some Major League games before the end of the year.
Recovering from a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder, Niese tossed two innings for the Mets' Gulf Coast League affiliate on June 27. MLB.com reported Niese may start for Class A Advanced St. Lucie next week.
Niese -- the team's Opening Day starter -- is 3-6 with a 4.32 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 77 innings this year.
For now the #WhiteSox have assigned Avisail Garcia to Triple-A Charlotte. Probably won't be long before we see him though.- Dan Hayes (@DanHayesCSN) July 31, 2013
We're going with more of a rumor-based "Stock Up" selection this week. The Red Sox have been looking for help at third base over the past couple of weeks with Jose Iglesias slumping recently (and now moving along to Detroit in the Jake Peavy trade). With the Trade Deadline coming this afternoon, they are obviously looking at external options, most notably Michael Young with the Phillies. But of course, teams always consider internal options, and Xander Bogaerts -- Boston's top prospect -- tops the list there.
The 20-year-old infielder -- the youngest position player in the International League -- owns a .279/.380/.483 slash line with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 41 games since being called up to Triple-A Pawtucket. He's certainly provided some promising pop for the PawSox, and the usual shortstop has played five games at the hot corner, the latest coming Monday. That's a sign he's caught the attention of the parent club.
"I think Xander's doing everything that he can to tell us when he's ready to come to the big leagues. Whether that's this week or next month, that's still in the debate or in the conversation," Red Sox manager John Farrell told MLB.com. "But he's an exciting young player, I think we're all looking forward to the day that he begins his career, not knowing when that's going to be."
MLB.com's No. 6 overall prospect has been on the radar for years, but it seems he might be as close now to the Majors as ever before. If he's not owned in keeper leagues, he certainly should be by now. All other leagues should keep an eye on the transaction list because if/when the Red Sox call up their top prospect, expect him to hit the ground running.
A's No. 4 prospect Sonny Gray made a pair of relief appearances with the A's earlier this month and impressed by not allowing a run over four innings. Unfortunately, he finds himself here for the two starts he's made for Triple-A Sacramento since returning to the Minors.
He's allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 13 hits in 9 2/3 innings over those two starts for the River Cats. The 23-year-old right-hander's six earned runs allowed on Monday were by far a season high and inflated his PCL ERA from 3.02 to 3.38 in that one start alone.
His recent struggles may not hurt his prospect stock, but it's likely that the A's would like to see some better results before they consider a return to the big leagues, if they don't trade him for Major League starting pitching help. Because of all that, Gray is best avoided for now.
Transaction to note
Grant Green's been covered in this space before, but after a five-game stint in Oakland that saw the second baseman go 0-for-15 and make three errors, he was sent back to Triple-A Sacramento and, it was safe to assume, he wasn't likely to be heard from again this season.
But the A's cut ties with the 25-year-old on Tuesday night, sending the former USC star back down the coast to the Los Angeles Angels in a deal for Alberto Callaspo.
One of the big things in Green's favor should be his positional eligibility, especially for an AL-only team (or perhaps a very deep mixed league). If the Angels, fairly well behind in the AL West race and likely to be giving extended looks to younger players, do so with Green, the .325/.379/.500 line he had in 87 games with the River Cats just might translate a little bit to a team that can afford to be a bit more patient.
Keep an Eye On
Gregory Polanco has caught the most eyes as the Pirates outfield prospect to watch, but keep paying attention to Alex Dickerson. The Bucs' No. 14 prospect has hit to a .417/.446/.708 slash line with six homers and 26 RBIs in 24 games with Double-A Altoona this month, much improved from the .185/.241/.346 and .264/.312/.417 lines he put up in April and May respectively.
Dickerson notably struggled at the outset for Class A Advanced Bradenton last season as well before turning it on in the later months and eventually taking Florida State League Player of the Year honors. It's tough to expect another piece of hardware for the first baseman-turned-right fielder this season, but this offensive uptick is certainly worthy of your attention.
A Wild, Wild, Whine
Ed. note: This section is on the lighter side of fantasy baseball, where staff writer Danny Wild bemoans his continued bad fortune as a fantasy owner. Shoot him an email if you can relate, or maybe some fantasy advice would be more appropriate.
There's been a lot of talk lately here at MiLB.com about whether me releasing Pedro Alvarez on May 10, when he was batting .193, was the right move at the time. Since then, he's hitting .273 and -- somehow -- leads the National League with 27 home runs. Would having him and his strikeouts have me out of last place by now? I doubt it. Still frustrating. He went from being notoriously streaky on a weekly basis to an All-Star.
I guess really the only "excitement" with my team at this point is seeing which of my players will be traded (or suspended) in the Majors. Angels infielder Howie Kendrick has been rumored to be on the market, with the Royals, of all teams, shopping for a second baseman.
Justin Morneau, hitting a robust .264, might head to Baltimore. I have a hold on Manny Ramirez, who evidently is not in the Rangers' plans this summer. With the Dodgers signing Brian Wilson, it only raises the probability that Kenley Jansen loses saves.
And the impending Biogenesis suspensions will probably mean Jhonny Peralta is done and I can hand the keys back to Jimmy Rollins and his pathetic numbers.
None of this matters since my team -- if you haven't been keeping score at home -- has been in last place every single day of this season.