Matthew Pouliot

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AL Notes: Feliz's Royal Pain

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Tigers likely would have been more patient with Scott Sizemore had he possessed a better glove at second base. His track record suggests that he's going to hit -- he's batting .315/.392/.487 in 170 career games in Triple-A -- but his glove at second base has always been shaky and it doesn't look like that's going to change.

The A's highly value defense these days, as evidenced by their decision to spend $6 million to bring back Mark Ellis to play second, so Sizemore may struggle to make inroads at his usual position. The hot corner, though, is ripe for the picking, and Sizemore does have a bit of experience there: he made 11 starts there in Triple-A last year and four more with the Tigers.

Besides, the A's already have an heir apparent at second base: Jemile Weeks is batting .322/.412/.454 while playing the position exclusively at Triple-A Sacramento this year. They lack a third baseman of the future (though they did give a 16-year-old named Renato Nunez a big bonus last year). Longtime prospect Adrian Cardenas has seen some time there in Triple-A this year, but he's mostly played the outfield and served as a DH.

Sizemore isn't necessarily the answer either, but he's worth a shot with the way that Kevin Kouzmanoff and Andy LaRoche have played this year. I still expect him to turn into a nice .280 hitter with 30-double power. He'll take over as Sacramento's third baseman for now, and if he adjusts well, he could be back in the majors in a couple of weeks.

American League Notes

- The Tigers traded Sizemore even though they have no idea when they might get Carlos Guillen back from knee surgery. He was shut down from baseball activities last week, so there would no longer seem to be any chance of him returning before the All-Star break. The Tigers called up Danny Worth to replace Sizemore and can mix and match him, Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn at second base. Worth, who was hitting .270/.341/.443 with three homers and four steals in Triple-A, could get a chance to win the job outright, so AL-only leaguers in need of an infielder can pick him up. If Worth fails, then Will Rhymes might get another look in a month or so.

- Andy Oliver will make his season debut Saturday evening against the Red Sox after posting a 3.31 ERA and a 49/20 K/BB ratio in 51 2/3 innings for Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers are downplaying the idea that Oliver could remain in the rotation after Phil Coke returns from his bruised ankle, and Coke has done nothing to deserve losing his rotation spot, even if he does have a 1-5 record (his ERA stands at 3.81). Oliver is due a long look at some point, though, and he should have some value in AL-only leagues when it happens.

- After Jon Rauch got the job done against the White Sox on Friday night, Frank Francisco blew his second straight save opportunity on Saturday. Rauch hit a skid of his own earlier this month, but he might be back as the favorite for saves in the Toronto pen as a result of Francisco's struggles. Manager John Farrell said after Francisco's previous blown save Tuesday that he was still the man, but Francisco has given up runs in six of his 11 appearances this month and three of the last four.

- I'm not sure it's fair to say that Neftali Feliz is struggling, not when he has a 1.50 ERA. However, the 9/14 K/BB ratio in 18 innings is stunning, especially in light of his 71/18 mark in 69 1/3 innings a year ago. His velocity has been fine, but he hasn't found his curveball since coming off the disabled list. I imagine it's just a matter of time until he figures it out. At least he's not going to have to worry about the Royals again for a while.

- Joakim Soria, on the other hand, hasn't had his best stuff at any point during the season, and it led to another blown save last week against the Orioles. I still think he'll be effective enough to keep his job as Kansas City's closer, but I doubt he'll return to 2010 form anytime soon. He looks like a pretty average reliever right now.

- Anyone still holding on to Mike Aviles in a mixed league? He's gone three weeks without a homer or a steal after fast starts in both categories, and he's been so putrid against right-handers (.188/.217/.327 in 101 at-bats) that the Royals appear better off using Chris Getz over him 70 percent of the time.

- With Howie Kendrick (hamstring) joining Vernon Wells (groin) on the disabled list, the Angels have plenty of at-bats available for the newly signed Russell Branyan at the moment. It's uncertain whether that will last, but he should have some short-term value in AL-only leagues. If Branyan hits, then it's possible he'll supplant Mark Trumbo against right-handers when Kendrick and Wells return. The Angels would prefer to keep Trumbo at first base, though. Alberto Callaspo also has some extra value while Kendrick is out.

- Things are messier than ever in Minnesota after the Twins revealed following Friday's game that Francisco Liriano was getting scratched from his Saturday start with a sore shoulder, that Joe Nathan was nursing a sore elbow and might need to go on the DL and that Jim Thome was battling a sore shoulder that might require a cortisone shot. The hope is that Liriano will miss just the one start, but don't count on it. He needs to be reserved. Nathan hasn't put himself in position to capitalize on Matt Capps' struggles, so it wouldn't be the worst thing if he needs to take a couple of weeks off. Thome can be left active in AL-only leagues in the hopes that he'll only need a couple of days off.

- At least Joe Mauer (legs) and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (leg) seem to be making some real progress. Neither figures to return this week, but there's a chance that both are 10-14 days out. Nishioka is the better bet to meet that timetable.

- Kevin Slowey is on the DL with an abdominal strain that may or may not exist. A trade seems to be the only answer there. If he goes to another big ballpark, he could yet be useful in mixed leagues this season. But given his tendency to allow a bunch of long flyballs, so much hinges on the ballpark with him.

- While the struggles of Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter have gotten a ton of attention, it's Nick Swisher's power outage that has taken the biggest toll on the Yankee offense. He's slugging .290, compared to .357 for Posada and .318 for Jeter. Last year, Swisher traded walks for singles: he batted .288, 26 points higher than his previous career high, but he lost 39 walks from his 2009 total. This year, the walks are back, but the singles and homers are gone. It looks like a huge fluke: his strikeout rate is the same as always and he actually has a career-best line-drive rate. The Yankees aren't going to make any changes -- they lead the AL in runs scored even with three regulars having off years -- and Swisher is worth hanging on to in mixed leagues.

- Orioles manager Buck Showalter had the right idea when he indicated going into spring training that Koji Uehara would probably be the team's closer. Uehara got hurt and missed most of the spring, so the job went to Kevin Gregg instead. But Uehara has been healthy since the start of the year, and he's outpitching Gregg at the moment. I don't think Showalter wants to make the switch; Uehara has big-time durability issues and removing Gregg from the role, only to return him to ninth-inning duties a few weeks down the line, would undermine his confidence. Still, another blown save or two might force Showalter's hand.

- Nolan Reimold didn't do much of anything in Triple-A for six weeks, but he's quickly made a case for serving as the Orioles' primary left fielder until Derrek Lee (oblique) gets back. He could have considerable fantasy value if Luke Scott's troublesome shoulder eventually shuts him down. Scott hasn't been very productive of late, and if he's not 100 percent, the Orioles may well be better off with Reimold starting over him, considering that Reimold is better defensively.

- Brian Matusz (intercostal) is likely to be activated to make his season debut against the Mariners on Wednesday. AL-only leaguers will want him active, and there are worse plays in mixed leagues.

- With a .185/.274/.215 line in 65 at-bats during May, Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan is back hitting a lot more like one would expect him to hit. Lonnie Chisenhall is batting .309/.375/.489 for Triple-A Columbus this month, so the Indians could be tempted to make a switch in early June. A straight platoon might work: Chisenhall is a left-handed batter and Hannahan is batting .324/.390/.568 in 37 at-bats against southpaws this season.

- Tampa Bay's Reid Brignac has gone four straight days without a start since coming off the bereavement list Wednesday. I don't understand why the Rays haven't chosen to ship him to Triple-A and give him regular playing time for a couple of weeks. He's going to hit, but he's not going to escape his slump from the bench. Perhaps the move will come when Elliot Johnson (knee) returns from the DL.

- Oakland's Andrew Bailey is set to come off the DL this week, but manager Bob Geren said he wouldn't be inserted into the closer's role immediately. It still figures to happen soon. Grant Balfour may pick up another save or two first, but Brian Fuentes can be dropped in mixed leagues.

- Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso were very impressive in their season debuts after stepping into the A's rotation last week. I recommended Moscoso in AL-only leagues, but I was wary of Outman given his control issues in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. I do like Outman's upside, and he could post a sub-4.00 ERA for Oakland if he throws strikes. He's worth grabbing now.

- Juan Pierre's 10-game hitting streak has him off the hot seat in Chicago, for better or worse. He's even back running again now, so he can be picked up in any mixed leagues in which he was dropped.

- Fortunately, Gordon Beckham avoided a serious eye injury when he was hit in the face by a thrown ball Friday. He's aiming to rejoin the White Sox lineup on Monday.

- Injuries to J.D. Drew (hamstring) and Darnell McDonald (quad) are getting Josh Reddick a look in Boston. Reddick had upped his walk rate and his power production in Triple-A this year, though it came with a modest .244 average. The audition of sorts comes at a good time for him. He's one of Boston's best remaining pieces of trade bait, but he's also a legitimate candidate to take over as the team's right fielder next year with Drew set to become a free agent. Ryan Kalish entered the season as the heir apparent there, but he's down with a shoulder injury and Reddick may well have the greater offensive upside of the two. All that doesn't necessarily make him worth picking up in AL-only leagues now -- Drew is expected back Sunday -- but he might have some value if one of Boston's starting outfielders lands on the DL.

- John Lackey (elbow) is slated to come off the DL to face the A's on Sunday. That's a very favorable matchup, but AL-only leaguers with alternatives will probably want to keep him reserved anyway.

- Adam Lind might be back in the Blue Jays lineup on Friday, but it's not enough of a sure thing to make him a worthy play in AL-only leagues. Eric Thames has at least a few more days left to make an impression before the Jays have to decide who to demote.

- Magglio Ordonez is about ready to play after missing two weeks with right ankle weakness, but the Tigers are going to send him to the minors to get some at-bats before they activate him. Keep him reserved.

- The Mariners are giving Carlos Peguero a chance to take over as the left fielder against right-handers, but with a .196/.226/.373 line through 51 at-bats, he's not making much of a case for the job. He's struck out 17 times and walked just twice. He's also quite a downgrade from Michael Saunders defensively. It's hard to blame the Mariners for giving him a look, given that Saunders has had his chances and failed miserably. He does have very impressive power. Saunders, though, is probably the better option anyway, simply because of his glove.

- Julio Borbon (hamstring) is making steady progress and could rejoin the Texas lineup towards the end of the week. After six weeks as a regular, it looks like David Murphy will soon return to being a fourth outfielder. He's struggled anyway, having hit .228/.301/.335 on the year.

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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