Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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AL Notes: Blasting Capps

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's gone from bad to much worse for Matt Capps, who blew his seventh save in 22 chances Friday and took a loss to the Royals. His ERA is up to 4.76, and he's getting booed at every appearance at Target Field. Fortunately for the Twins, Joe Nathan is pitching well of late and seems ready for another shot in the closer's role. The switch is due to come down any minute now.

I don't expect the Twins to be sellers at the trade deadline, but they may well take what they can get for Capps and Kevin Slowey. Capps' velocity is down and his strikeout rate has been awful, but some team may surrender a modest prospect for him anyway. Ideally, the Twins could get a quality reliever back to replace him in a Slowey deal. The Rockies are interested and they have the bullpen depth to part with Matt Lindstrom.

American League notes

- The Angels opted to place Peter Bourjos (hamstring) on the disabled list Friday, buying Mike Trout another week in the majors. It sounded like the 19-year-old Trout would have been sent back down had Bourjos been deemed ready to go, but the Halos played it safe with their starting center fielder. Trout is 2-for-13 through four games, so he isn't off to the kind of torrid start he needed to convince the Angels to keep him around. He's a wonderful prospect and he should contribute next year, but I'm skeptical that he'll make a fantasy impact in 2011.

- Indications are that the Angels were ready to pull the trigger on a Jeff Mathis-for-Garrett Jones trade before the Pirates backed out. Hopefully it means that they're truly ready to move on from Mathis. Hank Conger may not be an above average starting catcher just yet, but he should be by next year. In the meantime, the Angels need someone better to pair with him. Ramon Hernandez would be ideal. Rod Barajas and old friend Jose Molina might be alternatives.

- I've been expecting a resurgence from Vladimir Guerrero, but last week's hand injury, diagnosed as a slight fracture near his wrist, would seem to make that less likely. If not for his reputation, Guerrero likely would have been placed on the disabled list already. With Guerrero hurting and Luke Scott on the DL, Nolan Reimold should be a nice AL-only outfielder for at least the next couple of weeks and perhaps the entire second half.

- Given that Orioles starters have an ERA right around 7.00 over the last month, we might see Jim Johnson moved into the rotation soon. I wouldn't expect him to have a whole lot of fantasy value there, but he is deserving of the chance.

- Zach Britton, who is 0-3 with a 7.25 ERA in his last five starts, is slated to rejoin the Baltimore rotation on July 30 after a three-week breather in the minors.

- The Tigers activated Carlos Guillen on Saturday and put him right into the lineup at second base. It's really hard to imagine Guillen staying healthy while playing second, but he'll be an obvious upgrade on the alternatives until he gets dinged up. Ryan Raburn will have minimal value until Guillen returns to the disabled list.

- Austin Jackson is looking like a DL candidate with his wrist injury, which means Andy Dirks could be a solid mixed league outfielder for the rest of the month.

- The Tigers have yet to announce their fifth starter. They lined it up so that top prospect Jacob Turner could come up and pitch Wednesday in that rotation spot, but it's still highly unlikely that he'll be promoted. They may give Charlie Furbush a longer look, even though he was a bust in his two starts before the break, or they may go to left-hander Duane Below. Neither Furbush nor Below makes for much of an AL-only sleeper. It's a pretty safe assumption that the Tigers will acquire a starter at some point within the next month.

- Lorenzo Cain is tearing it up at Triple-A Omaha of late, giving the Royals more incentive to trade either Jeff Francoeur or Melky Cabrera. Cain had a .965 OPS in June and is at 1.178 so far this month, leaving him with a season line of .319/.385/.536 with 11 homers and nine steals in 304 at-bats. Expect him to have some fantasy value during the final two months.

- The Royals also remain likely to deal Wilson Betemit, though they ruined his trade value by benching him in favor of Mike Moustakas. Moustakas is hitting just .205/.247/.241 over the last month, so there's the chance the Royals could send him back to Triple-A and return Betemit to the lineup. I doubt it will shake out that way, though.

- Carl Crawford (hamstring) will rejoin the Red Sox on Monday and Jon Lester (lat) might be back as soon as Friday. Crawford's return shouldn't eliminate all of Josh Reddick's value. The Red Sox may not be ready to give up on J.D. Drew just yet, but Reddick is going to have to play at least a few times per week until Drew gets it going.

- Andrew Miller was well off with his command Friday night, but he was also hurt by key misplays from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia in both the first and second innings of the loss to Baltimore. With his velocity down, I'm not as optimistic about his chances as I was a few weeks ago. Still, I think he's worth holding on to in AL-only leagues for now.

- Things are looking up for the Twins on the injury front, at least. Scott Baker (elbow) will start Monday, Jason Kubel (foot) should be back next weekend, Denard Span (concussion) could be less than two weeks away and Justin Morneau (neck) is looking like a possibility for an early August return.

- The Twins will have to make a tough call on Ben Revere with Kubel and Span on the way back. Revere was the AL co-Rookie of the Month for June, but while he's played strong defense, he hasn't been hitting of late. Things would change in the unlikely event that Michael Cuddyer is traded, but I suspect that Revere will return to Triple-A when Span is activated.

- Bartolo Colon's hamstring strain seems to have left him with a little less zip on his fastball. Maybe his best stuff will come back the further away he gets from the injury, but it's not really something either the Yankees or fantasy owners can count on given his history. The possibility that he's done as a quality SP this season can't be discounted, and mixed leaguers shouldn't be afraid to switch him out.

- Josh Willingham has been hot since coming off the DL, and it couldn't come at a better time for Oakland as the A's get ready to sell before the deadline. My guess is that Willingham gets sent to an NL team prior to July 31. Hideki Matsui and David DeJesus could also be put up for bids, but I'm not sure anyone is going to want Matsui and DeJesus' trade value is awfully low at the moment, too. Both are possibilities for August deals.

- It sounds like the A's could give Chris Carter an extended look in left field once Willingham goes. He just flopped in a brief stint as Daric Barton's replacement at first base, but the A's need to find out whether he should be in their 2012 plans. Michael Taylor is another option if he can get hot in Triple-A, but he's hitting just .190 this month and a modest .262/.335/.435 overall.

- The A's did just shift Futures Game MVP Grant Green from shortstop to center field in Double-A, but that was a move made more with 2012 in mind. He's hitting .289/.351/.401 in the Texas League, so he still isn't likely to see the majors this year.

- Replacing Carter on Oakland's roster last week was infielder Eric Sogard. The 25-year-old earned the callup by hitting .298/.381/.410 with 13 steals and just 34 strikeouts in 315 at-bats for Triple-A Sacramento. He might be a decent regular at second if given the chance, but since the A's are happy with Jemile Weeks, it doesn't look like he'll have any fantasy value anytime soon.

- Jack Cust's time in Seattle has to be about at an end. He's barely playing and doing little besides striking out when he does. The Mariners could call up Mike Carp for another look in the DH spot. Alternatively, they're one of the two AL teams -- Baltimore being the other -- that should really think about bringing in Wily Mo Pena. As is, they're giving way too much time to Adam Kennedy, with all of the expected results.

- Kyle Seager is off to a 1-for-15 start since replacing Chone Figgins at third base for Seattle. He was a bit of a reach for the Mariners; Figgins' performance was definitely deserving of the benching, but Seager wasn't good enough for long enough to really justify the callup. Seager has a nice line-drive swing, but he's not ready to hit for power in the majors and he's probably not going to have a great OBP either. He might find his way back to Triple-A in a couple of weeks.

- The White Sox will go back to a six-man rotation when John Danks (oblique) comes off the DL on Wednesday. There was some thought that Jake Peavy might take his place there, but apparently there's nothing structurally wrong with his arm and it's just a little fatigue. He'll start Tuesday against the Royals, but he's a mediocre play in mixed leagues this week.

- The Rays' Kelly Shoppach isn't likely to suddenly start hitting for average, but he should be a fine No. 2 catcher in mixed leagues while John Jaso (oblique) is on the DL. Expect a couple of dingers.

- Back-to-back shutouts have certainly gotten Derek Holland some attention. They've also lowered his ERA from 5.10 to 4.32. The hope is that he's finally turned the corner, though given his history of inconsistency, I wouldn't bet big on him just yet. He's certainly talented enough to post an ERA in the mid-3.00s the rest of the way and he needs to be owned in mixed leagues, but I wouldn't recommend trading for him while he's riding high like this.

- Endy Chavez is starting to slow down, and Leonys Martin is making a strong statement for becoming the Rangers' next center fielder. The Cuban defector moved up to Triple-A last week after hitting .348/.435/.571 in 29 games for Double-A Frisco. He struck out just eight times in 122 at-bats against Texas League pitching. In four games for Triple-A Round Rock, he's started off 5-for-16. There's a chance that he could be a big-time asset in AL-only leagues down the stretch.

- The Jays are hoping to get Jose Bautista back from his ankle injury on Sunday or Tuesday. Obviously, he can't be reserved.

- With Bautista back at third and Eric Thames and Travis Snider playing well in the outfield corners, the Jays don't have any reason to rush Brett Lawrie back from his fractured wrist. Lawrie, who was on the verge of making his major league debut before getting hurt at the end of May, began a rehab assignment last week. He'll likely need at least another 10-14 days in the minors before he's a candidate for promotion, and the Jays might decide to wait until September to bring him up if Thames and Snider keep hitting.

- So, Jon Rauch is back as Toronto's closer. Until he blows a save. And then it'll be Frank Francisco again, at least until he blows one. One would think that a longtime pitching coach like John Farrell would have come up with a better way to run a bullpen.

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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