Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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NL Notes: Free Belt!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


June rankings coming up next week.

National League Notes

- I'm not buying into the notion that Eli Whiteside can be an adequate regular for the Giants with Buster Posey down. I ran through some possible alternatives over at HardballTalk last week. The Giants say they're not shopping yet, but they will, and I think there's a pretty good chance they'll come away with Ivan Rodriguez, even if it doesn't happen for a month or so.

- True to his word, manager Bruce Bochy hasn't started Brandon Belt in either game since his recall. Belt hit a robust .337/.470/.525 in 101 at-bats after his demotion to Triple-A Fresno, but the Giants had no plans to call him up until Posey's injury left them desperate for offense and they still aren't ready to sacrifice defense to plug him back in as a regular. A Belt-Pat Burrell platoon in left field would likely be pretty productive, but the Giants are getting nice results from Nate Schierholtz in right field and they're not ready to send Cody Ross to the bench. Frankly, I think Ross is overrated and using him strictly against lefties is something the team needs to consider. It might happen if the club begins to struggle, but probably not while the team is in first place.

- Brandon Crawford hit a grand slam in his major league debut Friday, but since he's a left-handed hitter, the Giants put him right back on the bench against southpaw Randy Wolf on Saturday. Crawford will play against righties and have a bit of value in NL-only leagues while Mike Fontenot is out. If he produces, the Giants shouldn't be afraid to stick with him.

- This certainly looks like the right time to trade for Dan Uggla. I never bought into the notion that his outstanding career numbers at Turner Field were going to lead to a great first year with the Braves, but there also wasn't any reason to expect this kind of decline. He should be good for about 20 homers and 70 RBI over the final two-thirds of the season. He's more of a .250 hitter than the guy who batted .287 last year, but he's a top-10 second baseman.

- Tim Hudson (back) will come off the disabled list and make two starts this week, so get him active in all formats.

- The Braves don't expect Jason Heyward (shoulder) to return when eligible Saturday. Eric Hinske and Jordan Schafer should remain nice plays in NL-only leagues.

- Vicente Padilla (forearm) is slated to return from the DL this week and go right back into the mix for saves in the Dodger pen. No one else has stepped up in his absence. Keep a close eye on Rubby De La Rosa, though. He throws 95-98 mph, and I was surprised by just how good his changeup is. He might turn into a strong candidate for saves in a month or so, depending on what happens with Jonathan Broxton (elbow).

- Jose Lopez actually hit .319 (15-for-47) over his final three weeks with the Rockies, but the team gave up on him anyway. It's not as though it was coming with any power at all. Eric Young Jr., his replacement on the roster, would be worth using in mixed leagues if given regular playing time, and he has started three games in a row, the last two over Jonathan Herrera at second base. Those in need of steals can give him a try. Herrera appears likely to revert to being nearly worthless in NL-only leagues.

- With Ian Stewart on the shelf at Triple-A Colorado Springs due to a pulled hamstring, Ty Wigginton is going to receive at least a couple of weeks of regular playing time at third for the Rockies. Too bad the Rockies play on the road for the next week and a half or he might be an option in mixed leagues.

- Juan Nicasio impressed against the Cardinals in his audition for Jorge De La Rosa's rotation spot. Or at least I assume he did, considering that FOX didn't want me see the game. He started out throwing 95-97 mph before losing a bit of velocity as the evening went along. Nicasio doesn't have a top-notch secondary pitch, but above average command of such a good fastball could lead to some more strong outings before the league figures him out. His long-term future may be in the pen. With Aaron Cook coming back this week, the Rockies will have to choose between Nicasio and Clayton Mortensen as their fifth starter.

- There's not much to be said about Jaime Garcia's nightmare outing Saturday, in which he was charged with 11 earned runs and had his ERA jump from 1.93 to 3.28. It sure would have been nice had Tony La Russa gotten him out of there before he could be charged with five runs in the fourth, but he was trying to save the pen.

- Eduardo Sanchez got the Cardinals' last save, but that's only because Fernando Salas had worked the previous three days. Salas is still the obvious favorite for saves there.

- The Mets' R.A. Dickey is going to try to pitch with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. NL-only leaguers can keep him active and see what happens. If he struggles with the injury and ends up on the DL, then Chris Schwinden will likely take his rotation spot. D.J. Carrasco has been stretched out as a starter in Triple-A, but he's sporting a 4.94 ERA to Schwinden's 2.36 mark.

- David Wright (back) and Ike Davis (ankle) both look like long shots to come off the DL before the end of the week.

- It sounds like the Phillies will keep Domonic Brown around after Shane Victorino (hamstring) comes off the DL on Friday. He's going to get a chance to turn Ben Francisco back into a fourth outfielder.

- The Cubs needed Rodrigo Lopez before they combined to go 3-13 in games started by Casey Coleman, James Russell and Doug Davis. Obviously, he's nothing special -- he led the NL in losses last year for good reason -- but he will do a better job of keeping the team in games than the alternatives did. He'll start in Matt Garza's place in Monday and likely keep a rotation spot in place of Davis if Garza returns from a bruised elbow next weekend as hoped. He's not worth picking up in NL-only leagues.

- It'd sure be nice to see Aramis Ramirez start pulling some balls with authority. He's hitting a respectable .280, but he has just one homer. Hamstring tenderness has limited him during the last week, yet that hardly deserves the brunt of the blame. I'm far from an expert, but I do think he's lost some bat speed. While I'm not confident enough to suggest dropping him in mixed leagues, I am seriously concerned.

- With Reed Johnson (back) joining Marlon Byrd (eye) on the disabled list, the Cubs are down to Tony Campana in center field. They decided against bringing back Tyler Colvin to replace Johnson, opting for Brad Snyder instead. Brett Jackson, who might have been another possibility, remains on the DL in Double-A with a finger injury. Campana will be a decent one- or two-week play in NL-only leagues.

- Brandon Wood is homerless in 52 at-bats with the Pirates, and the team has been giving Steve Pearce more time at third base as a result. It makes one wonder if they might put Wood on waivers once Pedro Alvarez (quad) comes off the disabled list. They'll probably just drop Pedro Ciriaco instead, but Wood isn't doing them any good so far.

- I'm still not a believer in Kevin Correia at all. His success has come with just 30 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings, and while he was the first National Leaguer to seven victories, he's pitching worse than teammate Paul Maholm, the first National Leaguer to seven losses. His luck is going to run out soon.

- The Padres said Chris Denorfia would be their right fielder after they demoted Will Venable last week, but Blake Tekotte, taking advantage of a minor injury to Cameron Maybin, really impressed in his first start Friday, collecting a triple and a double, and could be in line for considerable playing time against right-handers. He's a left-handed hitter, while all three of San Diego's starting outfielders are righties, and he was batting .305/.431/.568 in 95 at-bats against righties in Double-A. I'm not confident that he has a future as a regular, but he wouldn't be a bad pickup in NL-only leagues right now. That he has some speed -- he was 14-for-16 stealing bases for San Antonio -- is a big plus.

- Eric Patterson and Alberto Gonzalez are also hanging around, but it looks like the Padres would prefer to see Logan Forsythe step up and become their second baseman while Orlando Hudson (groin) is out. Forsythe was hitting .270/.388/.459 with five homers and three steals in 111 at-bats for Triple-A Tuscon before his callup last week. He's not a great defender, so he's going to have to hit in order to justify his place in the lineup. My guess is that the Padres would prove better off with Patterson starting against righties and Forsythe playing versus lefties.

- Adam LaRoche isn't ready for season-ending shoulder surgery yet, but it seems likely he'll go that route sooner or later. At least Mike Morse is finally giving the Nationals some production at first base. Ideally, former top prospect Chris Marrero would step it up in Triple-A and turn himself into an option by midseason. He's hitting a modest .274/.333/.394 at the moment, though.

- It turned out that a sore elbow was the cause of Tom Gorzelanny's recent struggles. He went on the DL Friday, and Cuban defector Yunesky Maya will come up to start in his place. The Nationals have plenty of spare rotation candidates in Maya, Ross Detwiler, Brad Meyers, Craig Stammen, J.D. Martin and Tom Milone. None of them are sure things, but the quantity of options will make it easier for them to part with Gorzelanny and Jason Marquis in July.

- Casey McGehee still isn't hitting, and he could have cost the Brewers a win Saturday with his seventh error of the season. He's batting .251/.312/.369, and though he's getting the enviable assignment of hitting behind Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, he has fewer RBI (in 78 more at-bats) than Jonathan Lucroy. Unfortunately, there's no one for the Brewers to replace him with. Mat Gamel is hitting .309/.382/.489 in Triple-A, but the team has given up on him as a third baseman; he's continued to get all of his playing time at first base even with McGehee slumping. Taylor Green is something of a prospect, but at .240/.347/.413 in Triple-A, he's not putting any pressure on McGehee. The Brewers are probably stuck with him. Given all of the teams with a need, it's going to be costly to come up with a third baseman in a trade thus summer.

- Zach Duke, who shut out the Astros for seven innings on Saturday, probably won't have many starts to match his Diamondbacks debut. Hopefully he'll solidify the fifth spot in Arizona's rotation, but it's doubtful that he'll prove to have value in NL-only leagues.

- Juan Miranda is suddenly sporting a 900 OPS after his two-homer game Friday, and it looks like he'll get a chance to play everyday at first base, considering that he's off to a hot start against lefties and Xavier Nady hasn't done much of anything yet. I don't expect that Miranda will end up turning into a solid mixed-league first baseman, but stranger things have happened.

- The Astros didn't name Jeff Keppinger their second baseman after he came off the DL on Wednesday, but he deserves a chance to win the job away from Bill Hall, who is probably better off in a utility role. Third baseman Chris Johnson has been a little more productive this month, so he's probably safe.

- Top prospect Jordan Lyles will step into Houston's rotation this week in place of the injured Wandy Rodriguez (elbow). After a rough first couple of weeks, Lyles had turned in quality starts in six of his last seven outings for Triple-A Oklahoma City. Overall, he was 3-3 with a 3.20 ERA and a 41/16 K/BB ratio in 59 IP. That's not a great strikeout rate for a modest flyball pitcher, but Lyles is awfully young at 20 and he has plenty of room to improve. Right now, I'd say he's a fourth starter. NL-only leaguers shouldn't break the bank to add him, but he's certainly worth a pickup if he comes free of charge.

- J.R. Towles' value should get a nice boost with Humberto Quintero (ankle) on the DL for the next two weeks.

- The Marlins probably won't be activating Josh Johnson (shoulder) on Wednesday as originally hoped. Expect him back next week.

- It looked like the Reds had a ton of rotation depth going into the season, but now they're dipping into the minor league system for veteran Chad Reineke after Homer Bailey went back on the DL with another shoulder injury. The 29-year-old Reineke had a nice 2.52 ERA in 53 2/3 innings for Louisville, but he's a two-pitch pitcher with a mediocre fastball. Expect little.

- After six days off, Jonny Gomes went 4-for-5 in his return to the lineup Saturday, raising his average from .168 to .191. That's all the excuse manager Dusty Baker needs to give him the next several starts in left field, and if Gomes gets hot, he could always go back to having some value in mixed leagues.

- Bronson Arroyo's ERA is all of the way up to 5.74 after he gave up five runs in three innings Saturday against the Braves. Of course, it was his previous start, in which he allowed nine runs to the Phillies, that was the even bigger problem. But Arroyo has always had more horrible days than one expects from a quality starter. When the breaking balls aren't working, he can't simply fall back on the fastball and hope for the best. I don't think we're witnessing Arroyo falling apart; he should rebound and post an ERA right around 4.00 over the rest of the season. That said, he never looked like a very good bet in mixed leagues this year.


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 at matthewpouliot.
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