Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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When Wil They Get The Call?

Monday, April 15, 2013

NL Notes


- Evan Gattis forced the Braves to change their minds about not playing him at first base with Freddie Freeman out. He's hitting .324 with four homers and 10 RBI in 34 at-bats to date, and it's not too early to start thinking about how he's going to fit once Brian McCann (shoulder) comes off the DL. Really, if McCann plays like he did last year, the Braves would be better off with Gattis behind the plate. McCann, though, might be better now that he's supposedly healthy. If McCann hits, then you're left with Gattis catching against some lefties and maybe playing once a week in the outfield. It might be worth giving Gattis some grounders at third base in that scenario, but it's hardly likely that he'd prove playable there. For now, Gattis has one more week as a catcher-first baseman until Freeman returns. McCann appears to be at least two weeks away.


- Johnny Cueto's lat strain figures to get Tony Cingrani into the Reds' rotation for at least a couple of weeks, with a full-time spot a possibility if he outpitches Mike Leake. I'm skeptical how Cingrani's stuff will translate, but his awesome minor league numbers have carried over into Triple-A, where he has a 26/2 K/BB ratio and a flawless ERA in 14 1/3 innings. He is very deceptive, which will give him an advantage his first time around the league. He's worth grabbing in all NL-only leagues, and mixed leaguers should watch him closely.


- Billy Hamilton isn't putting much pressure on the Reds to make a move, as he's off to a .256/.293/.359 start at Louisville. If he gets hot before Chris Heisey does, the Reds could speed up his timetable. However, they seem content to let things play out a while longer. I'm thinking Hamilton's shot comes in mid-May.


- Jim Henderson is the closest thing the Brewers have to a closer at the moment, even if he did work with the team down 3-0 in the eighth inning Sunday. Burke Badenhop ended up with the save in that one after the Brewers rallied and won in extras, but Badenhop is definitely more of a middle guy and probably won't get any additional save opps sent his way.


- In Chicago, James Russell is probably the favorite for saves this week with Kyuji Fujikawa (forearm) on the DL. Shawn Camp got the save chance on Sunday, only to give up a game-tying homer in the ninth and then allow three more runs in the 10th. Three straight scoreless innings from Carlos Marmol won't return him to the fold just yet.


- Then there are the Cardinals, who saw both Trevor Rosenthal and Mitchell Boggs struggle again Sunday. Fernando Salas, who might have been third in line for saves, has also struggled. If someone else had stepped up, maybe the Cardinals would be ready to make a change away from Boggs. As is, I think they'll stick with him. While he's already taken two blown saves and a loss, he's pitched scoreless innings in four of his seven appearances. He still figures to prove adequate until either Jason Motte (elbow) comes back or Rosenthal makes it absolutely clear that he's ready for a shot.


- Maybe it was a somewhat better Roy Halladay on the mound Sunday, but much of the credit for his success has to go to a dreadful Marlins lineup, minus Giancarlo Stanton, that missed quite a few hittable pitches. Halladay showed better command, which qualifies as progress. But there wasn't enough movement on his sinker to suggest that the Halladay of old is on the way back.


- As for Stanton, I am rather worried already. The Marlins have been even worse than expected, and no one behind Stanton in the order shows signs of stepping up. Worse, the team is bad in a way that's going to result in a more 3-1 losses than 7-3 losses. If the Marlins are down by four or five runs, what's the harm in going after Stanton with no one in the seventh inning? But those close games are just going to get him pitched around more frequently. At this point, I don't think I'd count on Stanton being a top-10 fantasy outfielder this year.


- Jose Fernandez certainly hasn't looked intimidated while making the jump from A ball to the majors. I'd say it's a shame his teammates aren't better, but if they were, he'd still be in Double-A right now. After two starts, Fernandez is 0-0 with a 0.82 ERA, He may turn into a sell-high candidate later, particularly since we already know he's only going to pitch for five months. I expect he'll run into a few growing pains anyway, but I've been really impressed with his control. There was no doubting his stuff.


- Tim Lincecum's line Sunday didn't look like much (4 ER in 5 IP), but after the first-inning barrage in which he walked the leadoff man and gave up a pair of two-run homers, he went 4 1/3 innings walking none and allowing just three singles. It's not saying a whole lot, but I think it was his most encouraging start to date, simply because he was able to put his fastball where he wanted it.


- Also, I'm still high on Edwin Jackson despite his latest poor start Sunday. With 20 strikeouts and no homers allowed so far, it's mostly singles and an unusually high number of walks that's left him with a 6.06 ERA. He's still worth playing in mixed leagues. For one thing, the Cubs defense is about to get a lot better with Darwin Barney returning.


- If I reranked the starters now, Matt Harvey would likely crack the top 20. His command will probably waver here and there and I doubt he'll rack up the innings total he'd need to challenge for Cy Young honors, but there isn't anything fluky about his start.


- John Buck, on the other hand... well, I'm not buying that one. It's great news for the Mets, though, since he might now have some trade value once Travis d'Arnaud is ready to come up in late May or June.


- Chris Capuano should be treated as a spot starter in mixed leagues now that he's back in the Dodger rotation, courtesy of Zack Greinke's broken collarbone. I was surprised the Dodgers didn't give Ted Lilly the job, considering that he's been overly patient with the team thus far. Ideally, he'll get a trade in the very near future. He's no lock to be an above average starter following shoulder surgery, but he's worth a shot.


- Carlos Gomez's nine spring training walks in 41 at-bats apparently weren't a sign of things to come. In 42 regular-season at-bats, he has no walks, no homers, no steals, two RBI and three runs scored. And, unfortunately, he still looks better at the plate than Rickie Weeks right now. The Brewers' offensive slump is likely to linger.


- Last week I wrote that the Pirates just needed to pick someone, anyone, from the group of Gaby Sanchez, Travis Snider and Jose Tabata and stick with him for a couple of weeks. My preference was Tabata get that look, but it was Snider instead and he's doing well with it so far, going 7-for-16 with three doubles last week. Snider hasn't shown any home run power since arriving in Pittsburgh, so his fantasy upside seems fairly limited. Still, he has some value in NL-only leagues at the moment.


- Even though Russell Martin is 2-for-31 and Michael McKenry hit two homers Sunday, it seems doubtful the Pirates will start divvying up playing time behind the plate much differently. It's not like the Pirates didn't know going in that McKenry might prove to be the superior hitter; he had 50 points of OPS on Martin last year. Still, McKenry started just two of the team's first 12 games. The Pirates aren't going to suddenly cut the playing time of one of their biggest free agent additions ever.


- It appears that the Padres will waste no time in activating Chase Headley (thumb) this week. Jedd Gyorko hasn't done much of anything yet, but he figures to get a lengthy look as the primary second baseman with Headley back at third.


- Jesus Guzman got the start in left field for the Padres on Sunday, but Kyle Blanks makes for a decent one-week play in NL-only leagues with Carlos Quentin serving his eight-game suspension.

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 at matthewpouliot.
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