MLB Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 6/17/2013
It's that time of year: Star prospects can now be called up where it's passed their Super 2 arbitration rights deadline. I'm not going to go into what that all entails, but it essentially means that these young players' arbitration/free-agent clocks are now delayed as long as possible. Thus, those small-market teams can call guys up now and save potentially millions of dollars in salary down the line. And one of those small-market teams is Tampa Bay, which has called up top hitting prospect Wil Myers. He will make his big-league debut in Game 1 of a doubleheader in Boston on Tuesday.
Expect Myers to play nearly every day in right field barring injury or major struggles. He was acquired in the James Shields trade this past winter and was the 2012 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year last year while hitting 37 minor-league dingers. He's generally regarded as the No. 2 hitting prospect behind the Cardinals' Oscar Tavares. The Cardinals don't really need Tavares yet because they are so good as is, but look for Tavares too if an injury occurs in the St. Louis outfield.
The Rays have gotten little production from right field, so Myers should help. He was hitting 286 with 14 home runs, 13 doubles, 29 walks and 57 RBI in 63 games for Triple-A Durham. Myers, who was pulled from Sunday's game, started slow but had turned it on of late, batting.354 with 10 homers, seven doubles and 32 RBI over his last 23 games. I'm not sure Myers is enough to lead the Rays to the AL East title, however. The Rays (36-33) are five games behind first-place Boston. The Sox are +150 division favorites on Sportsbook.ag with Tampa Bay at +500, also behind the Yankees (+350) and Orioles (+200).
Tampa Bay isn't going to win anything without David Price, who has been out since May 15 with a triceps injury. The Rays are hoping he can return in early July -- I wouldn't expect him until after the all-star break. Tampa Bay also just lost starter Alex Cobb to the DL after he was scarily hit in the head by a line drive against the Royals on Saturday.
I wrote last week on the arrival of 2011 No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole to Pittsburgh, and he's already made a big impression by winning his first two starts. He's due to return to the mound Friday night in what should be a great pitching duel against the Angels and Jered Weaver in Anaheim. Cole will no doubt be major pumped as he's from Newport Beach and went to UCLA. While the Pirates definitely look like a playoff team thanks in part to Cole, the Mets aren't going anywhere this season. But a big part of their future will be on display Tuesday as Zack Wheeler makes his big-league debut.
Wheeler, the No. 7 overall prospect on MLB.com, starts in Atlanta in the second game of a doubleheader -- he's a Georgia native. Wheeler, acquired from the Giants in July 2011 as part of the Carlos Beltran trade, was 4-2 with a 3.93 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas. That ERA doesn't sound all that great, but that Vegas park is arguably the greatest hitters' park in all of minor-league baseball. If Wheeler is as good as advertised, the Mets could be a force by next season with Matt Harvey already in place. Wheeler will be shut down a la Stephen Strasburg at around 180 combined innings later this season. Harvey was shut down similarly last year.
The Braves have the biggest division lead in baseball and are -800 on Sportsbook.ag to win the NL East. They appeared on the verge of getting even stronger as Brandon Beachy was supposed to return from the DL and start one of Tuesday's games. He had elbow-ligament replacement surgery in June last year and had made five minor-league rehab starts before suffering a setback and will not debut on Tuesday. If Beachy can get back soon, and they say it's nothing major, the Braves will be scary good. He was probably the team's best pitcher last year before getting hurt, leading the NL with a 2.00 ERA.
Atlanta is also finally getting something from B.J. Upton, who had been a massive disappointment since signing a $75 million free-agent deal. Yes, he's still hitting just .167 but has been pretty good in June, batting .250 with four homers and eight RBI entering this week. He has jumped from eighth to seventh to sixth in the batting order in the past week. Brother Justin, once the NL MVP favorite, is going the other way. He's batting just .222 with a homer and three RBI this month.
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