Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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NL Team-by-Team Notes

Monday, April 14, 2008


Sunday's AL notes can be found on the sidebar. I'm going to post the Top 150 Prospects column on Wednesday.

At least one of my World Series teams is off to a good start (the Indians were the other). Mark Reynolds has made Diamondbacks fans forget Chad…umm… whatever his name was, Justin Upton is looking like a star at least one or two years earlier than expected and the starting pitchers have a 2.54 ERA headed into Randy Johnson's return Monday. The only regular off to a poor start is Chris Snyder, and since he had a monster spring, that's not much of a concern. Last-game relief is an issue. I still don't think Jose Valverde will prove to be a huge loss, but Tony Pena has yet to step up and prove that he should overtake Brandon Lyon. The Diamondbacks should be hoping it works out that way. If it doesn't, they'll be in the market for a closer in July. Giving top prospect Max Scherzer a look in relief before then could be an option.

National League Notes

Arizona - Chad Tracy (knee) is still obviously weeks away, and the Diamondbacks certainly have no need to rush him now. When he does return, it will probably be as a bench player initially, assuming that the streaky Reynolds doesn't fall off entirely. … Miguel Montero (thumb) could be back this week, but he'll only play once or twice per week unless Snyder's slump lingers. There won't be any radical changes in the short term. … Johnson surely won't be at his best initially, but with the Giants and back-to-back starts against the Padres first up on the schedule, he should be activated in most formats. Only mixed leaguers with exceptional pitching staffs can afford to leave him reserved.

Atlanta - No one should be concerned about Mark Teixeira's slow start. He's always had subpar Aprils. In fact, his 778 OPS is more than 100 points lower than his mark from every other month. His home totals have also increased with each month of the season, peaking in September. … The one Braves hitter to be worried about is Kelly Johnson, mostly because of his sore knee. He'll play as long as he's able, but if he doesn't start doing a better job of getting on base, he'll probably be dropped in the order, with Mark Kotsay moving up. He's not 100 percent, and he's probably not going to be as long as he keeps playing on the knee. … It took barely more than a week for the Braves' most injury-prone pitchers to land on the DL. Mike Hampton was hurt warming up for his first start, and since Chuck James appeared anything but ready in his season debut last week, Jo-Jo Reyes could get the call this week. It's possible they'll need both Reyes and Buddy Carlyle if the hamstring injury Tom Glavine suffered Sunday is serious. … Rafael Soriano's sore elbow shifted Peter Moylan into the closer's role. Moylan should be more than adequate there for as long as he's needed. However, if Soriano goes down again later this year, then it could very well be Mike Gonzalez chosen to take over.

Chicago - Ted Lilly and Rich Hill are supposed to be healthy, but the results haven't been there so far for the Cubs' two lefty starters. Lilly's velocity has been down while he's amassed a 9.95 ERA through three starts. If it's a dead-arm phase, as the Cubs have suggested, then it should be about over by now. It'll be time to start getting anxious if he fails to bounce back this week. … Hill's command problems date back to the beginning of the spring, and the Cubs have weighed replacing him with either Jon Lieber or Sean Marshall. It appears to be a mechanical issue for him. He'll likely resume having value in mixed leagues soon, but he's too risky to play right now. … Poor Felix Pie sat out the series against the Phillies. Since starting the first four games of the year, he's been in the lineup just twice, and in one of those games, he was removed in a double-switch after three innings. If this is what Lou Piniella thinks of him, then the Cubs should just send him down and call up Matt Murton. Or simply trade him. Endlessly jerking him around isn't helping anyone. … Kosuke Fukudome's big three-run game-tying homer in the ninth inning on Opening Day may have created unrealistic expectations from Cubs fans. He's pretty good, but it doesn't look like he'll hit more than 18-20 homers this season.

Cincinnati - While Scott Hatteberg was the Opening Day first baseman, Joey Votto has seen the bulk of the action since. It figures to be hard for either player to get hot while sharing at-bats, but at least it's become clear that the job is available for Votto to win. He'll probably separate himself from the veteran eventually. … Edwin Encarnacion's two key homers have kept him in the lineup even though he's hitting .179 and playing very shaky defense. He's another player who has the worst OPS of his career in April (though this is just his third April as a big leaguer). He does have 10 walks already, so he's been anything but an automatic out. Still, those walks only further his case so much. It would be interesting to see how he'd fare as a No. 2 hitter once Alex Gonzalez comes back and takes time away from Jeff Keppinger. Of course, if Encarnacion isn't hitting better by then, then Keppinger will start taking at-bats away from him. … Even after his "poor" outing Sunday, Johnny Cueto has a 24/1 K/BB ratio. That's the kind of figure that should keep him owned in mixed leagues even if he turns in a couple of more mediocre performances this month.

Colorado - Troy Tulowitzki still doesn't have an RBI and is just one or two more weeks away from being a nice buy-low candidate. Like the rest of the Rockies, he's had to deal with poor hitting conditions, especially in the team's limited time at Coors Field. Only Matt Holliday has overcome them to hit above his career averages. Tulo also would like to face some lefties soon. He hit them quite a bit better than righties last year, but he has just two official at-bats versus southpaws this season. … The struggles of Jeff Francis are of greater concern. He's given up six homers already. His fastball is down a couple of mph, and his curve doesn't have the same break as it did last year. Again, it could be a dead-arm issue. That's what the Rockies have to be hoping for. I'm definitely a little worried.


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Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
Email :Matthew Pouliot



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