It is not necessarily the best time to be a Phillies fan, what with the no shot at the playoffs and Ryan Howard getting paid forever and whatnot. But there is some help on the horizon, at least if you ask ottoneu players.
Two of the top three most auctioned players right now are in the Philly system, with an Astro in between them. We’ll take a look at Cuban pitching prospect Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Double-A 3B Maikel Franco and presumptive Astro closer Jose Cisnero.
I am, by not means, a prospect expert, and so when I judge prospects, I turn to a handful of internet-based sources that I find to be generally reliable, and I look at the numbers. So when a defects from Cuba and signs with an MLB club, my analysis gets all fuzzy. No one ever knows what to expect with a Cuban player, but when you add in a multi-year absence from the game, the picture gets even hazier.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez just signed a 6-year, $49 million with the Phillies, and that deal could turn into a 7-year, $60 million deal if all goes well. The 26-year-old finally successfully defected after multiple attempts, and those attempts took their toll, as he was banned from the game in Cuba and has barely played in the past couple years.
But that did not stop the Phillies from putting a lot of money into Gonzalez, and it has not stopped ottoneu players from starting up the auction machine as soon as he signed.* And with the Phillies throwing more money at Gonzalez than the Dodgers did at Puig, it isn’t hard to understand the excitement. However, it is worth noting that the average salary Gonzalez will draw (just over $8 million), is less than what Jeremy Guthrie got from the Royals and just more than Joe Blanton got from the Angels. So the big contract does not mean they think they got an ace.
*A quick note that players are only eligible for ottoneu once they have signed a professional contract – college players, for example, are not eligible. The Cuban leagues are not technically professional leagues. While the Cuban National Series is sometimes referred to as the Cuban counterpart to MLB, the players represent their provinces and are considered amateurs. As a result, while you can go out and grab the next big star in Japan, you cannot add a Cuban player to your ottoneu roster until he signs in another league.
But, by all accounts, Gonzalez is an in-his-prime SP with a multi-pitch repertoire that could translate well and should earn him a rotation spot in Philadelphia for 2014 if not sooner. And if that is the case, he is certainly worth taking a flyer on, in ottoneu leagues. The problem is, I have a feeling he will sign for far more than I am willing to gamble on him. The reality is that if he pitches well (even only in the minors) this year, he could be well worth keeping at $10-$12 in 2014, and teams in the bottom of the 2013 standings should be happy to clear space for a guy who could pay instant returns. You pay him $10 this year, he pitches well, you could have a steal. He doesn’t pitch well, you cut him loose in the off-season.
If you are in the hunt, there is a chance he could throw this year, but I am certainly not cutting useful players to get enough cap room for a shot at a couple solid September starts – not at the expense of hurting my depth elsewhere. For $3? Sure, why not. And therein lies the rub for teams that are competing – I’d say drop $3-$4 on Gonzalez if you can, but I am going to tell teams below you in the standings to spend $6-$8 or more, if they have the cap room, for a lotto ticket.
The other Phillie on the list is Franco, a 3B who has been absolutely destroying Double-A pitching since his promotion earlier this year. Franco struggled adjusting to pro-ball, but had a great start in High-A this year and has been even better since moving up, posting a .407/.607 OBP/SLG with seven HR in just 33 games. There are some BABIP concerns, as he is sitting at .388, but Franco has controlled the zone decently (just an 8.6% K% although the 2.9% BB% is not ideal). At just 20-years-old (for at least another 3-4 weeks), Franco is moving up efficiently and is facing legitimate competition. I would watch both his luck on balls in play and his ability to make contact at such a high rate moving forward, but he is worth owning as a 3B who could impact your team 12-24 months from now.
Finally, we move away from the Philadelphia system and look at Jose Cisnero, who is more popular than Franco but less popular than Gonzalez at the moment. I’d have to imagine this is largely driven by the 5×5 leagues, since newly appointed closers feel like the prettiest girl at the dance. with Jose Veras moving North to Detroit, Cisnero seems the most likely candidate to close out the five games the Astros are likely to win the rest of the way (I kid, Astros fans – you are actually on pace for another 19-20 wins this year).
With 60 RP spots per league and 30 MLB closers (at most), if you are in a league where Cisnero is available and you are chasing saves, you should be bidding or starting an auction on him right now. But in other formats, he is not nearly as attractive. A 3.48 ERA and 1.48 WHIP with less than a K/IP is not overly exciting in 4×4 leagues, and in Points leagues he is averaging under five pts/IP, which would be maybe ok for a SP but is pretty bad for a RP. The saves will help. If you assume an extra 2 pts/IP the rest of the way (same performance, 40% of this innings result in a save), you are looking at nearly 7 pts/IP the rest of the way. If he can get the saves:innings ratio even higher, the upside could be even better. Having said that, I am not rushing out to add the guy.