Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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AL Notes: Homers for Hosmer?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The plan has changed, says Ozzie Guillen.

Expected to head to the bullpen, Philip Humber will instead stay in the White Sox rotation following Jake Peavy's return on Wednesday, Guillen said after watching the right-hander hold the Mariners to two runs over seven innings in a no-decision Friday.

It certainly is the fair way to do it. Humber has been the White Sox's best starter since joining the rotation, amassing a 2.65 ERA in six starts.

However, I think he's pretty clearly the worst bet of the group going forward. Humber doesn't throw very hard, he doesn't get a lot of strikeouts and he doesn't many grounders. He's always had a very good curveball and he's made some progress with his changeup, but if left in the rotation, I wouldn't expect an ERA much south of 5.00 over the rest of the season.

The White Sox have two choices if they decide to keep starting Humber; they can go to a six-man rotation or they could send Edwin Jackson to the bullpen. A couple weeks in the pen for Jackson might not be such a bad thing, but I suspect that if they do make the switch, it wouldn't last any longer than that.

American League Notes

- Eric Hosmer is the game's best first-base prospect and the Royals did the right thing in calling him up following his fantastic start at Triple-A Omaha (.439/.525/.582 in 98 AB), but I doubt the 21-year-old will turn out to be a worthy mixed-league corner guy this year. 25-homer power is on the way, but since it's not there yet, I don't expect him to be an asset in runs scored and RBI while hitting in the bottom half of the Kansas City lineup. I'm expecting something like .270-.280 with 10 homers and 60 RBI. He might surprise with a half-dozen steals.

- Unfortunately for Kila Ka'aihue, that was probably the one good chance he's ever going to get presented to him. He hit .195/.295/.317 and struck out 26 times in 82 at-bats before being sent down to make room for Hosmer. The Royals shouldn't have any further need for him, and even if Hosmer disappoints, there's a good chance they'd give Clint Robinson a try before turning back to Ka'aihue. He could end up in Japan next year.

- I don't know what's gotten into Mike Aviles. Yeah, he's a perfectly solid hitter, but with 14 extra-base hits in 93 at-bats, he's already halfway to last year's total of 27 in 424 at-bats. I say sell high. He may bat .300, but he's not likely to remain a big asset in homers and steals going forward.

- With Jeff Niemann (back) expected to miss at least three weeks, Andy Sonnanstine is going to get a chance to step into Tampa Bay's rotation. Primarily a mopup man since the beginning of 2010, Sonnanstine has a 2.19 ERA in 12 1/3 innings out of the pen this season. He hasn't gotten many strikeouts while mostly using his cutter in relief work, and he's going to have to throw more fastballs and changes to mix it up as a starter. I'm not expecting much, but since the Rays are hot and he will have a strong defense behind him, he's going to be worth trying in AL-only leagues.

- Sam Fuld's stint as one of the Rays' starting outfielders could be winding down. Eight 0-fors in his last 10 games have dropped his average from .350 to .250, and he's gone the last 11 games without so much as attempting a stolen base. I proposed a Desmond Jennings callup last week, but the Rays instead opted to try Brandon Guyer when they placed Niemann on the DL. Guyer, 25, homered in his debut Friday and then sat Saturday. I don't think he's going to be a long-term regular, but he has some power and speed and he'd likely be a decent fantasy outfielder if given a shot. AL-only leaguers should pick him up. Mixed leaguers holding on to Fuld need to give someone else a try.

- It sounded like Nelson Cruz might make it back from his latest leg injury on Saturday, but the Rangers instead placed him on the 15-day DL with a strained quad. The Rangers will go with a David Murphy-Julio Borbon-Mitch Moreland outfield this week, opening up at-bats at first base for Mike Napoli and Chris Davis. That's good news for Napoli, since the Rangers aren't going to use him at DH anymore after sending down third catcher Taylor Teagarden on Friday. Manager Ron Washington is so scared of potentially having the pitcher's spot come up in a crucial situation that he won't use his only reserve catcher as a DH.

Time will tell whether Cruz will beat Josh Hamilton back from the DL. It looks like Hamilton could return from a broken humerus during the May 23-29 homestand.

- Things were looking up for Derek Holland after Matt Harrison lost his fourth straight start Friday, but he may have cost himself a rotation spot by walking five and allowing four runs in three-plus innings against the Yankees on Saturday. Holland has 35 strikeouts and just four homers allowed in 41 2/3 innings, but his ERA stands at 5.18 anyway. Harrison is at 4.35 despite weaker peripherals. Tommy Hunter (groin) will make his next rehab start Monday and could be activated afterwards if he pitches well. It'll be interesting to see if the Rangers stand by Holland or not.

- Alexi Ogando is questionable to make his start Sunday because of a blister. Given that he'll be facing the Yankees if he does start, mixed leaguers should probably sit him down. Dave Bush would replace him if necessary.

- Jose Bautista (neck) and Aaron Hill (hamstring) are due back in Toronto's lineup on Sunday. And not a moment too soon. Jayson Nix (shin) is still a week away, so the Jays don't have to make any tough decisions yet. Nix was playing well at third base before going down, and Edwin Encarnacion has been struggling defensively in his time at the hot corner. If the Jays want to go back to Nix at third, then David Cooper, who has started off 3-for-21 as the Jays' primary DH, seems likely to return to Triple-A.

- The Blue Jays might also want to bring back Travis Snider in another week or so. He's batting .500 with three doubles and six walks in seven games since being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas.

- It just took one misstep from Jon Rauch for the Jays to go back to Frank Francisco in the closer's role. Francisco picked up saves Wednesday and Friday, and he'll probably keep closing as long as his arm holds up. Because Francisco has had so many durability issues, Rauch needs to be kept in AL-only leagues.

- The news on Joe Mauer (legs) isn't great, but the Twins could get Delmon Young back from his strained oblique towards the end of this week. That will return Rene Tosoni to the bench.

- The Twins brought up 2007 first-round pick Ben Revere after placing Jason Repko (quad) on the disabled list, but even though he was hot in Triple-A, he's started just one game so far. His stay figures to be a short one.

- The main reason Revere isn't playing is because the Twins opted to move Michael Cuddyer back to the outfield and go with Trevor Plouffe at shortstop and Alexi Casilla at second base for now. Ideally, Plouffe would hit enough to claim a starting job, making Casilla a utilityman once Tsuyoshi Nishioka returns from a broken leg at the end of the month. Plouffe won't hit for average because he strikes out too much, but he doesn't have decent pop for a middle infielder. He could be a $3-$5 player in AL-only leagues. Casilla owners should consider making the switch.

- Obviously it's not going to happen at Francisco Liriano's expense now, but I'd really like to see Kevin Slowey back in the Twins rotation. He threw 66 pitches in relief against the Red Sox on Saturday, so he's stretched out enough to make a start if the Twins want to get him into the mix this week. Perhaps they'll consider if it Nick Blackburn is lit up by Boston on Monday. Blackburn has a 4.41 ERA, but he's given up a few unearned runs, his WHIP stands at 1.56 and he's benefited from an easy schedule.

- I truly believed a bounce-back year was on the way for Nick Markakis after the Orioles finally dismissed Terry Crowley as their hitting coach. Too much flipping the ball the other way, particularly with men on base, had robbed Markakis of his early promise, and I figured a change in philosophy would do him a lot of good. Obviously, it hasn't happened yet, though he is hitting .333 with seven RBI in May after batting just .204 with six RBI in 98 at-bats last month. I want Markakis waiting for his pitch and then trying to drive it into the gap. Instead, he's just taking hacks at everything in the strike zone. As a result, he's not striking out much. However, he's also not walking and he has just four extra-base hits. I still think the talent is there, and I don't suggest dropping him in mixed leagues. However, it's hard to be optimistic about a 20-homer, 100-RBI season as is.

- Baltimore's J.J. Hardy (oblique) is expected to come off the disabled list Tuesday, putting Robert Andino back into a utility role. Mark Reynolds is still struggling, but it's doubtful we'll see Andino at third with much frequency.

- Even though I had him sixth overall and second in the AL, I wonder if I didn't underrate Jacoby Ellsbury as a fantasy outfielder. At .282/.341/.460, he's not really playing much better than expected (I had him projected at .294/.351/.418 for the season), but he's currently on pace for 20 homers, 108 runs scored, 83 RBI and 44 steals. Ironically, that's pretty much what I had Carl Crawford projected at (16 homers, 108 runs scored, 82 RBI and 38 steals).

- Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco (elbow) was only slated to make the one rehab start for Double-A Akron, but since he gave up four runs in 3 2/3 innings Friday, it's possible he'll make another. Since he's not going to be a great bet even if he is activated, AL-only leaguers will probably want to keep him reserved.

- It was depressing seeing Eric Chavez lost to a broken toe after his nice start in a reserve role. The light-hitting Ramiro Pena was recalled to replace him on the Yankees roster and shouldn't have any value while sharing reserve duties with Eduardo Nunez. Given Nunez's defensive struggles, the Yankees will probably stick with Pena or go outside of the organization for a utilityman after Chavez returns.

- Dallas Braden's setback with his shoulder will keep Tyson Ross in the Oakland rotation for the foreseeable future. Ross is a smart play in AL-only leagues, even though wins figure to be a problem.

- Andrew Bailey's return from a forearm strain is finally getting close. He's likely to begin a rehab assignment this week. If he's effective in the minors, the A's won't waste much time in putting him back into the closer's role. Brian Fuentes has been less than stellar lately, and there's the chance that Grant Balfour could pick up another save or two before Bailey is activated.

- Three straight two-hit games at the beginning of the month have given Andy LaRoche a chance to start over Kevin Kouzmanoff at third base, though he's followed it up by going just 2-for-18 since. It seems like a given that the A's will be interested if any third base help becomes available, but with so many third basemen getting hurt, it's going to be hard to come by. Ideally, LaRoche would start collecting some more singles and doubles and win the job outright. If it doesn't happen, then the injured Adam Rosales (foot) will probably get a look in June. Triple-A Sacramento's Adrian Cardenas is another option, but he'd likely be a liability with the glove.

- David Aardsma developed an arm problem just as he was finishing his rehab from hip surgery, delaying his return. Fortunately, Brandon League has been perfect in the closer's role for Seattle so far. It looks like he'll keep earning saves for at least the rest of May.

- Franklin Gutierrez (viral infection) is just 2-for-16 so far on his rehab assignment, so he could use a big weekend to ensure that he'll be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. If he continues to struggle, the Mariners will probably keep him on the farm for an additional three days. Keep him reserved.

- When Gutierrez is activated, the Mariners will have to decide whether to keep Michael Saunders or Ryan Langerhans. Langerhans, who hit three homers early last month, is down to .173/.317/.346 for the season, but Saunders has been even worse, coming in at .184/.242/.276 so far. The decision could hinge on how much the Mariners want to play Milton Bradley. Saunders needs at-bats, so if the Mariners want to stick with Bradley in left field and Jack Cust at DH, the smart move would be to send him back to Triple-A and go with Langerhans as their fourth outfielder. I'm guessing that's what they'll do. However, they might decide there are enough at-bats available to make it worth keeping Saunders up.

- Austin Jackson is still striking out a ton, but he is off to a .333 start in 24 at-bats this month. If he weren't so strong defensively, the Tigers likely would have farmed him out by now. However, the downgrade to Casper Wells and Andy Dirks in center gives them reason for extra patience.

- The Tigers did make my preferred switch last week, going from Will Rhymes to Scott Sizemore at second base. Sizemore is off to a nice start, so it looks like Ryan Raburn will get all of his playing time in the outfield for now. That's bad news for him and Brennan Boesch, since the Tigers can only play both at the same time a couple of times per week. Neither he nor Boesch rates as a very good play in mixed leagues at the moment. Sizemore has the potential to be a useful mixed-league second baseman. Depending on what happens with Carlos Guillen, Sizemore could be good for 10-12 homers and 10-12 steals the rest of the way.

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