Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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When Wil They Get The Call?

Monday, April 15, 2013

The deadline passed last week allowing rookies to be called up and still not qualify for free agency until after 2019. Now, that only applies to guys who didn't already collect service time last year, so Jurickson Profar and Dylan Bundy would have to wait longer anyway. But Oscar Taveras, Gerrit Cole and Billy Hamilton could all come up now and not be free agents for seven years.


Of course, none of those guys were called up last week. Neither was the top prospect some thought might be added: Tampa Bay's Wil Myers. The Rays are struggling offensively and could definitely use a boost. Myers, though, is off to a modest .294/.395/.353 start in 34 at-bats in Triple-A. That's a nice OBP, but he's yet to homer and he has fanned 10 times. Brandon Guyer, on the other hand, is hitting .290/.405/.645 with three homers in 31 at-bats for Durham. If the Rays decided to call up an outfielder, it's quite possible they'd choose Guyer instead. I thought he should have been the pick when Luke Scott went down, but Shelley Duncan was added instead.


Instead of the callups, there's been more talk about whether a couple of young outfielders will get sent down: Jackie Bradley Jr. and Aaron Hicks have both seen their strong springs fail to carry over through the first two weeks. It now seems like a foregone conclusion that Bradley will be demoted when David Ortiz comes off the DL, something that could happen in the next few days. While Bradley is hitting just .107, I wouldn't say he's been overmatched. I don't think the Red Sox will hesitate to give him another opportunity in a month or two if the situation warrants.


Unlike Bradley and the Red Sox, Hicks was really being counted on by the Twins. But also unlike Bradley, he has appeared truly overwhelmed at times, what with his 20 strikeouts in 43 at-bats. My feeling has always been that everybody deserves three weeks before any changes, and for now, it looks like Hicks will get the one more week to turn it around. There is the added wrinkle of Oswaldo Arcia getting called up with Wilkin Ramirez on paternity leave. If Arcia impresses, the Twins would have the option of keeping him and demoting Hicks when Ramirez rejoins the roster. However, Arcia's inability to play center makes that unlikely. Should Hicks lose his job, it'd more likely be Clete Thomas or Joe Benson who replaces him on the roster, with Darin Mastroianni getting most of the starts in center. One more week seems fair.


AL Notes


- Frankly, I think the Blue Jays would be crazy to put Brett Lawrie at second base with Jose Reyes out. Take an injury-prone player and put him in harm's way by making him turn double plays? Shift him back to a position he wasn't very good at in the first place? Weaken the defense by putting Lawrie at second and Jose Bautista at third, all so Rajai Davis and Casper Wells can get more at-bats? I don't see a whole lot of upside there.


And none of that helps the Jays at shortstop. The big problem here is that the Jays have been disappointed by both Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis so far. Certainly, neither is a great option at shortstop. I prefer Bonifacio, but it seems like most see Izturis as the better option. The Jays have made it perfectly obvious they'd rather not use either there by playing Munenori Kawasaki the last two days. Izturis started at second both days, while Bonifacio started in the outfield and batted first.


The Jays will try to trade for a shortstop, but there aren't any great options available. They asked about Atlanta's Tyler Pastornicky. Fellow Brave Paul Janish would make a ton of sense if he were healthy, but it appears he's still a few weeks away as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery. The Reds' Jason Donald is available, but he doesn't have great range at short. Houston's Ronny Cedeno is handicapped by being Ronny Cedeno. Colorado's Jonathan Herrera would work as a stopgap if the Rockies are willing to give him up.


In the meantime, well, the light-hitting Kawasaki has very, very little fantasy value. Bonifacio's value would seem to take a big jump with Reyes out, but he's been pretty terrible so far and if the Jays do decide to put Lawrie at second, Bonifacio could lose a lot of playing time. Bonifacio is going to have to heat up right away if he's going to be a mixed-league starter while Reyes is out. Izturis will only have increased value if he moves to short, and the Jays don't want to move him to short. Davis will be a worthy mixed-league starter if Lawrie moves to second. As for Wells, he's probably going to be limited to starting mostly against lefties, leaving him with modest AL-only value.


- Josh Johnson dipping from 93 mph in his first start to 90 mph in his second was probably cold weather related, but he hasn't been sharp either time out. I'm blaming the slider; he hasn't had good feel for it yet and has compensated by throwing more fastballs. It's certainly disappointing after his very strong spring, but it's not panic time.


- It's safe to say the Royals won't have the same kind of patience with Jeff Francoeur this year that they showed last year. While they lack any alternatives in the minors, they do have the option of playing Jarrod Dyson in center and Lorenzo Cain in right, which they did Sunday. Eventually, they may trade for a right fielder. In the meantime, Dyson's speed will give him fantasy value even if he plays just a couple of times per week.


- Jarrod Parker's velocity is fine. He's still getting swings and misses at a pretty good rate. And yet here he is with a 10.80 ERA and an even more ridiculous 2.66 WHIP after three starts. He's allowed 23 hits, walked eight and struck out just four in 11 2/3 innings. The defense behind him has been pretty terrible in the parts of two starts that I've seen, but that doesn't account for all that much of his struggles. I also don't think decisions like intentionally walking Prince Fielder in the first inning of a game helps matters. Still, tiny piece of the puzzle. Parker's decision to trade four-seamers for two-seamers looks like a bad one. Really, though, this seems mostly about command. While an injury can't be ruled out, I think he's fixable and I wouldn't drop him yet.


- I had five Red Sox relievers projected with better ERAs than Joel Hanrahan this year, but I put Hanrahan down for 35 saves anyway. I still think he'll finish right around there, though he's off to a brutal start with three homers and five walks allowed in 4 2/3 innings. His little hamstring problem, whether it exists or not, will likely buy him some time to turn it around in a couple of non-save situations. That makes Andrew Bailey worth playing in all formats this week. Still, I believe Hanrahan will be right back in the closer's role next week. It's the spot that suits him best, as his high walk rate would make it tough to bring him in earlier in games with men on base.


- Besides calling up Guyer, the Rays could think about adding shortstop Hak-Ju Lee if Yunel Escobar's offensive troubles continue. Lee is hitting .412/.512/.647 with five steals in six attempts for Triple-A Durham. The Rays like Escobar's defense, so I don't think any such change is going to happen in April. The Guyer addition should come first.


- The Twins are playing Pedro Florimon at shortstop for his glove, so who would have thought he'd have three errors and a .458 OBP through eight games? Florimon's bat figures to fade quickly, and I expect we'll see 24-year-old Eduardo Escobar get a look as the Twins' primary shortstop before too long.


- The White Sox decided to do without Brent Morel and Carlos Sanchez after Gordon Beckham (hamate) went down, so Conor Gillaspie, as the team's primary third baseman, has some AL value now. If a change comes later, it might be for Sanchez. Jeff Keppinger just isn't very good defensively at second base, and the White Sox are probably better off with him at third.


- It doesn't sound like Michael Bourn (hand) will play much or at all this week. Ryan Raburn stands to get some extra at-bats, but the Indians should give Carlos Santana some DH time, making things easier on his sore left thumb. That'd put Nick Swisher in right field and Drew Stubbs in center.


-Houston's Jose Veras finally got a save chance Saturday and promptly blew it. He's allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings on the young season, and the Astros could quickly revert to a closer-by-committee situation should he continue to struggle. I was pretty surprised Houston didn't pick up David Aardsma after the Yankees let him go (he signed a minor league deal with the Marlins). They don't have anyone besides Veras likely to step up and seize the job, so AL-only leaguers can refrain from speculating on replacements. Maybe another veteran will fall into their laps later.


- The Angels' Garrett Richards makes for a decent enough play in AL-only leagues with Jered Weaver (left elbow) out, but he doesn't figure to make an impact in mixed leagues.


- The Mariners are going to have to make some choices soon with Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley all off to horrible starts. Smoak's approach has been decent enough that it's probably worth giving him a couple of more weeks, but Montero isn't hitting anything hard and Ackley seems completely lost at the plate after revamping his swing. If they don't turn it around this week, I could see a case for demoting both and turning to prospects Mike Zunino and Nick Franklin. Zunino has already racked up 18 RBI to go along with his 1.170 OPS in 33 at-bats for Triple-A Tacoma. Franklin isn't that hot, but he's batting .350/.381/.400 in 20 at-bats after missing time with the flu.


- Tigers manager Jim Leyland ruled Joaquin Benoit out of the closing mix over the winter, but it took only a week of regular-season games for Leyland to realize he was the best choice for the job. Not that Benoit is an ideal selection; he's been far too homer-prone lately. Still, he's durable and he doesn't have Phil Coke's platoon splits. He should last for a bit. I wouldn't be surprised if Jose Valverde gets a shot next month.


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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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