Avery, Herrera offer promise of speed at inexpensive prices
Xavier Avery had 5 homers and 8 steals in AAA this year before call-up
Elian Herrera has stolen 30 bases in each of last four minor-league seasons
Christian Friedrich one of two pitchers to strikeout seven in first three starts
Speed and young southpaws are the themes of this week's look at some of major league baseball's lesser-known talents.
Desperate to bolster paltry contributions from the leadoff spot, the Orioles recalled the speedy outfielder from Triple A Norfolk to replace Nolan Reimold, who is on the disabled list with a bulging disk in his neck. Unorthodox as a leadoff hitter, Reimold has power but limited stolen base (1) and on-base (. 333) potential, but because other Orioles placed in the spot were batting a measly .128/.167/.221 he got the job. Avery, on the other hand, is a classic burner who batted .273/.373/.469 with five home runs and eight steals in the International League. Those five home runs in 33 games are a new addition to Avery's repertoire, surpassing his entire 2011 output of four while batting .259/.324/.343 at Double A Bowie. Riding that hot streak, Buck Showalter penciled him into action immediately upon his call-up. After going hitless in his big league debut versus the Rays, he touched up the Yankees Monday for a double, triple and his first big league RBI. As a left-handed swinger, Avery, 22, is in prime position to make a permanent home for himself at Camden Yards with a good showing in this big league audition. His speed and keeper possibilities make him someone for AL-only owners to grab immediately, and for mixed leaguers in search of cheap speed from a fifth outfielder to consider.
How bad has it been for the Twins this season? Until this past week no Minnesota starting pitcher had exited a game having not allowed a run during his outing. We're not talking about complete game shutouts, we mean no Twins starter had shut out an opponent for any length of start, something that the other 29 big league clubs have done 104 times. Enter Diamond, the former Rule 5 selection from the Braves who blanked both the Angels and Blue Jays over seven innings each in his first two big league starts of 2012, allowing a combined 10 base runners while also striking out 10 en route to picking up 20 percent of Minnesota's wins for the year thus far. He started the year off strong at Triple A Rochester, where he went 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in his first six starts. But don't forget he's the same pitcher who, in seven starts last season, went 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA, so there's a bit of risk. For now it's not a bad idea to ride the hot streak and pick him up for his start this week against the struggling Brewers offense at Miller Park.
The Dodgers have baseball's best record, but with a quarter of Don Mattingly's starting lineup on the DL, including Matt Kemp, the men in blue will need to find creative ways to score runs. One of those ways is to ramp up the running game, and with third baseman Juan Uribe on the shelf with a sore wrist, Herrera, a jack-of-all-trades who has played second, third, short, left and center this year, gets a chance to jump-start his big league career with semi-regular reps at third base. A member of the Dodgers organization since '06, Herrera, 27, has left his mark on the base paths throughout his minor league career, stealing at least 30 bases in each of the last four seasons. In 28 games this season for Triple A Albuquerque, Herrera stole nine. Not known for power, Herrera, a switch-hitter, was well on his way toward a career high in home runs having hit ... TWO ... for the Isotopes (his high is five in '08). But nine doubles, four triples and a .358 batting average, good for sixth in the PCL, had his slugging percentage at a healthy .550 and OPS at .931. Although he's not a top prospect, Herrera has the ability to stick with the big club as a super utility man, and with his speed would be a fantasy asset making him a short-term risk with long-term potential.
Its safe to say that Friedrich's first taste of life with the Rockies has been sweet. In a combined 13 innings against division rivals San Diego and San Francisco, the '08 first rounder struck out 17 batters, allowing just two earned runs, two walks and 11 hits while earning his first major league win. Should he strike out seven or more batters in his next start against the Mariners, he'll become just the second pitcher this millennium with at least seven Ks in each of his first three big league starts. The other is Washington's Stephen Strasburg, who managed to do it in each of his first five outings. The strikeouts are a throwback of sorts for the 24-year-old southpaw who hadn't struck out a batter per inning over the past two-plus seasons yet was dominant in '08-09, when his K/9 rate exceeded 12. Take this early success with a grain of salt as it came against two of baseball's weaker hitting teams, but with a third on the horizon, he's worth a strong look in NL-only leagues and for mixed-league owners looking for a spot starter.