Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Notes: Billy Hamilton Sliding

Sunday, April 20, 2014


It's a trade that should have gotten done at least three months ago, but Ike Davis is finally a Pirate, getting shipped off in return for a lesser relief prospect in Zack Thornton and a player to be named. The Mets gambled that Davis would increase his trade value this spring and lost, but at least they've moved on. The Pirates, on the other hand, played this well, declining to acquiesce to the Mets' loftier demands over the winter and still getting their guy just three weeks into the season. It's expected that the player to be named will be a bigger talent than Thornton, but he still won't be a top prospect.

 

In choosing Lucas Duda over Davis, the Mets picked stability over upside. Davis is a more talented hitter and a far better defender than Duda, but he's also been maddeningly inconsistent as a major leaguer. Duda should prove perfectly solid offensively while starting against righties. He's probably not going to be a mixed-league guy unless he can force his way into the lineup against lefties, too, but he should finish with 20-25 homers even while sitting 25 percent of the time.

 

Pittsburgh is far from an ideal situation for Davis, though it sure beats what was going on in New York. He's going from a pretty good home run ballpark for left-handed hitters to a pretty bad one in PNC. He's also going to continue to sit against lefties, with Gaby Sanchez drawing the assignment over him. Davis looked good in his limited action this spring, and he wasn't off to a bad start for the Mets (5-for-24, walkoff grand slam, 4/6 K/BB). I looked at Davis as a mixed-league sleeper before the Mets decided to sit him, but he has a lower fantasy ceiling now, and unless we're talking 14- or 16-team mixed leagues, I don't see much reason to grab him.

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AL Notes

 

- The Astros budged on George Springer, perhaps to avoid a grievance. Having already done that, they might as well promote Jon Singleton to play first base and drop Marc Krauss. Despite striking out 23 times in 17 games, Singleton is hitting .343/.439/.757 with seven homers for Triple-A Oklahoma City. He's not as good of a prospect as Springer, fantasy or otherwise, but he should be an upgrade for Houston. I wouldn't rush to grab him in a 10-team mixed league if he is called up. Given 400 at-bats over the rest of the season, he could hit 20 homers. However, I'd expect a sub-.250 average to go along with it.

 

Springer, obviously, should be long gone in mixed leagues. Like Singleton, he's an iffy bet to hit for average in the majors. Unlike Singleton, he's an excellent basestealer, which should give him considerable value even if he fails to live up to offensive potential initially.

 

- We don't think of contract extensions for young players having much in the way of fantasy ramifications, but Sean Doolittle's certainly could. The left-hander decided to take a reported $14 million guaranteed from the A's, which wasn't a bad idea given his status as a setup man; setup men don't do anywhere near as well as closers in arbitration. However, now that he is locked up, the A's no longer have nearly as much financial disincentive to keeping him out of the closer's role. Doolittle will get undisclosed bonuses down the line based on games finished, but it's safe to say they won't add up to what he would have earned in arbitration as a 30-save guy.

 

Now that the A's have cost assurance with Doolittle, he looks like the better long-term bet for saves than Ryan Cook, sending Cook's stock spiraling downwards. I expect that we'll see Jim Johnson back in the closer's role for the A's in short order, but if he falters again, Doolittle, who has split save chances with Luke Gregerson lately, should get every opportunity to win the job outright. Doolittle is Oakland's most talented reliever, and saving him for the ninth would be easier if Eric O'Flaherty pulls off a successful return from Tommy John surgery in June.

 

- Manny Machado (knee) is probably 7-10 days away from coming off the disabled list, barring a setback. The Orioles will then have to decide between Jonathan Schoop's offense or Ryan Flaherty's defense in choosing someone to split time with Steve Lombardozzi at second base. Schoop is hitting .280 with seven extra-base hits, but he also has a 15/0 K/BB ratio in 50 at-bats and he's committed three of the Orioles' four errors on the season. Flaherty is hitting just .179/.238/.231 in his 39 at-bats. Lombardozzi also factors into the decision. The Orioles seem to like him a lot; he's played more than Schoop or Flaherty so far, even though he's hit a modest .286/.298/.321. If the Orioles want to keep playing Lombardozzi frequently, it'd make more sense to send down Schoop and let him start every day. Frankly, I think Lombardozzi is a 25th man and it'd be for the best if he fades into the background once Machado returns.

 

- The Mariners still haven't figured what works for them up and down the lineup, and they added to the confusion by calling up Nick Franklin last week. Franklin has since started one game at second, one game at short and one at DH. There's talk about trying him in the outfield, but he wasn't given any time there in Triple-A. In fact, the one inning he played at third base last week was his first anywhere other than second or short as a pro. I'd be on board with giving Franklin a shot as an outfielder if he had any experience there at all. As is, letting him try to figure it out in the majors seems like a lousy idea. The Mariners could give him more time at short over the struggling Brad Miller, but that's an even worse idea. The problem is that the Mariners have quite a few interesting pieces... they just don't mesh too well. Which is part of the reason Franklin was being shopped this spring.

 

Personally, I'm sticking with Miller in mixed leagues. I'm also not giving up on Kyle Seager, even though he's been terribly unimpressive to date. Franklin is worth trying in AL-only leagues, but he should be a part-timer unless he shows he can be useful in the outfield.

 

- It wouldn't exactly be fair for the Indians to give up on Carlos Carrasco after just three starts, but Trevor Bauer looks like the far better option as a fifth starter with the way he's throwing now. Not only was he strong in his spot start for the Indians (2 R, 1 ER, 8 K in 6 IP), but he has a 0.75 ERA and an 18/3 K/BB ratio in his two Triple-A outings. With his velocity back up and his command seemingly coming along, Bauer will be worth taking a chance on in mixed leagues once he gets the call. I still think Carrasco could be an asset at the back of Cleveland's rotation, too, just not at Bauer's expense.

 

- Kole Calhoun's ankle injury has left the Angels awfully shorthanded in the outfield, with J.B. Shuck, Brennan Boesch and Collin Cowgill splitting time between two spots. Boesch may be the best bet of the trio to serve as everyday guy; even though he's a left-handed hitter, he's hit lefties (.761 OPS) better than righties (.722) in his 1,419 major league at-bats. He's worth a try in AL-only leagues. Neither Calhoun nor Josh Hamilton (thumb) figures to return for at least a month.

 

- After excelling in his spot start Sunday against the Rays, Vidal Nuno should be in line to serve as the replacement for the injured Ivan Nova (elbow) in the Yankees rotation. I think that has a legitimate shot of turning into an upgrade anyway. Nuno isn't going to overpower anyone with his fastball, but he's capable of throwing strikes with his slider and then putting hitters away with his curve. He'll give up too many homers to post a sterling ERA, but he should be a nice asset in AL-only leagues, assuming that the gig is his.

 

- David Robertson (groin) is expected to come off the DL on Tuesday. Shawn Kelley will concede the closer's role and return to eighth-inning duty.

 

- The Red Sox should get Shane Victorino (hamstring) back on Wednesday or Friday. The slumping Daniel Nava, hitting just .136/.239/.271 in 59 at-bats for the season, seems the likely candidate to be bumped from the roster. Jackie Bradley Jr. has cooled off, but his top-notch defense in center field gives him a lot of value to the Red Sox and he still should prove to be a solid hitter.

 

- The Red Sox could also activate Will Middlebrooks (calf) on Friday, at which point Brock Holt will return to the minors.

 

- Toronto's Sergio Santos provided quite a scare when he walked three and threw three run-scoring wild pitches Thursday against the Twins, but he was able to rebound most of the way on Friday, pitching a scoreless inning (despite two walks) for his fifth save in six chances. Barring further meltdowns, he'll be the Jays' closer for at least another three weeks following Casey Janssen's recent setback with his back. If Santos does lose the strike zone again, the Jays would probably go to a committee that includes Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar and Neil Wagner. Unfortunately, Delabar has been very shaky, too, walking five and giving up four runs in 6 1/3 innings.

 

- Adam Lind will miss at least a couple of weeks with a sore back, giving Juan Francisco some value in AL-only leagues. He should start against righties.

 

- For those getting excited about Elvis Andrus's early theft spree (9 SB in 11 attempts), it's worth noting his career steals month by month: 36, 33, 34, 23, 21, 27. A full 59 percent of his steals have come in the first three months of the season, even though he's actually played a few more games over the second three months. It's great that he's running so much right now, but he might be a sell-high candidate come June.

 

- Gordon Beckham (oblique) is expected back from the DL on Friday. Marcus Semien is probably going to be sent down by the White Sox to make room. Semien has definitely shown flashes of talent this season -- such as when he went 4-for-6 with a triple on Sunday -- but he's also hit .222 and struck out 23 times in 18 games.

 

- The Twins picked up Sam Fuld on Sunday and will probably give him a significant role in the outfield despite his obvious deficiencies. Playing him in center field against righties and Aaron Hicks versus lefties is one possibility. Fuld is awfully limited in what he can do offensively, but he could have some AL-only value anyway. Hicks may return to Triple-A soon if he can't put together a hot streak.

 

- While the Twins aren't giving up on Phil Hughes, there's no good reason to remain terribly patient with Kevin Correia (5.47 ERA, 12 Ks in 24 2/3 IP) or Mike Pelfrey (7.98 ERA, 7/12 K/BB in 14 2/3 IP). Samuel Deduno deserved a rotation spot out of spring training and currently has a 2.53 ERA in relief. The Twins also have Trevor May (2.93 ERA, 16/3 K/BB in 15 1/3 IP) and Kris Johnson (3.94 ERA, 14/4 K/BB in 16 IP) in Triple-A awaiting opportunities. Top prospect Alex Meyer will get his look eventually, but one of the older pitchers figures to get the first shot.

 

- Liking Oakland's Tommy Milone (vs. Texas, at Houston) and Cleveland's Zack McAllister (vs. Kansas City, at San Francisco) as mixed-league spot starters this week.

 

- The Tigers have former Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez tearing it up to the tune of 10 homers in 65 at-bats for Triple-A Toledo, but with Rajai Davis playing well in left, there wouldn't be much for him to do if he's called up. That's the problem the Tigers already ran into with Tyler Collins, who made the team with his surprising spring, only to get all of 14 at-bats before being sent down. Martinez is a better hitter than Collins, but he's also right-handed, just like Davis is. I'm not sure he's much of an AL-only-league sleeper as is. Too bad the Astros didn't keep him, though.

 

- Here is where I explore the fantasy ramifications of the Tigers releasing Alex Gonzalez:

 

 

 

NL Notes

 

- It's just not looking good for Billy Hamilton, even after his three hits Saturday. He's currently batting .213 with a 15/3 K/BB ratio in 61 at-bats. He's hitting the ball in the air too much, and he's thus far legged out just one infield single. The infield singles and reaching on errors are going to have to be a big part of his game because he's never going to find the outfield gaps with a lot of regularity. I'm thinking he probably needs some more time in the minors to work on his swing. The Reds, though, aren't in love with their alternatives. Chris Heisey is stretched in center field, and Roger Bernadina is 2-for-18 with nine strikeouts (and four walks) after his strong spring. My suspicion is that the Reds would be better off using Bernadina against righties and Heisey against lefties anyway (with Heisey also seeing significant action in left). But it's probably worth giving Hamilton a couple of more weeks to make improvements before trying the change.  

 

- Jose Valverde is done as the Mets' closer for now, mostly because he couldn't stop being Jose Valverde. For some reason, the team has decided to keep him anyway, even though he's not likely to stop being Jose Valverde, and Jose Valverde isn't a major leaguer if he isn't a closer. I mean, really, what are they expecting? That Jose Valverde is going to turn the corner and start bailing them out of bases-loaded jams in the seventh inning? He's Jose Valverde.

 

So, Kyle Farnsworth is the Mets' newest stopgap in the role. The 37-year-old didn't even make the team this spring with his velocity down, but since being called up, he's allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings. Farnsworth's velocity is better now than it was in March, but it's still well down from where it was three years ago. According to Fangraphs data, his average fastball has gone from 94.7 mph in 2011 to 93.2 to 92.6 to 91.5 so far this year. That doesn't sound like closer material to me.

 

Ideally, the Mets will land free agent Joel Hanrahan, who is expected to start taking offers this week. If not, the sleeper on the roster remains 26-year-old Gonzalez Germen. Germen hasn't been a gigantic strikeout guy up to this point in his major league career (43 in 45 1/3 IP), but he has the swing-and-miss rate to suggest it could happen (15.1%, including 16.8% this year. To put that in some perspective, Craig Kimbrel is at 15.8% in his career). Farnsworth is worth picking up in fantasy leagues, but it could be another very bumpy ride.

 

- I'm not feeling overly stressed about the Kimbrel stuff just yet. He said his previously sore shoulder wasn't a factor in Saturday's mess, and his stuff has been just fine; he's struck out 13 of the 28 batters he's faced. Kimbrel owners should take on David Carpenter as insurance, but it's not time to sell low.

 

- Dan Uggla had a couple of big homers to lead the Braves past the Phillies a week ago, but he's been pretty worthless offensively otherwise and he's up to five errors already after two miscues on Sunday. The Braves need to consider turning second base over to Tommy La Stella if Uggla continues to struggle on both sides of the ball. La Stella wouldn't be much of a fantasy asset if it happens -- he totaled just five homers and eight steals in 303 minor league at-bats last season -- but his OBP and superior glove would be of more use to the Braves than Uggla's occasional long ball. Right now, La Stella is hitting .295/.370/.318 with no homers or steals in 44 at-bats in Triple-A.

 

- After allowing two runs in six innings for Triple-A Gwinnett in his final rehab start, Mike Minor (shoulder) will make his season debut Saturday against the Reds. It should be safe to activate him right away.

 

- The Cardinals weren't going to slide Carlos Martinez into the rotation to replace the injured Joe Kelly (hamstring); that's not happening for at least a month if it even happens at all. Instead, left-hander Tyler Lyons will get the nod. Lyons struggled this spring in his bid for a rotation spot, but he's gone 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA and an 18/5 K/BB ratio in 19 starts for Triple-A Memphis. He's a long-term No. 4 starter even if the Cardinals never find him a permanent spot in their rotation, and he's worth the short-term grab in NL-only leagues.

 

- The last week didn't lead to much clarity in the Cubs' closing situation. One thing that is for sure: Jose Veras won't be regaining the job in the near future. Pitching for the first time since his second blown save cost him the role on April 11, Veras gave up two homers and three runs on Sunday. The Cubs won just once last week, that by four runs. Still, it could be telling that Hector Rondon pitched the seventh and eighth innings in that game (allowing two runs, one of which was unearned) and Pedro Strop worked the ninth. It looked like Rondon might be the short-term favorite for saves in Veras's place, but now that appears to have swung back Strop.

 

- I'm not digging these Diamondbacks panic moves at all. They turned two-fifths of their rotation last week, sending Trevor Cahill and Randall Delgado to the pen and replacing them with Josh Collmenter from the pen and Mike Bolsinger from Triple-A. Collmenter is very valuable in relief, but he doesn't have the varied arsenal to get through major league lineups three times per night. As for Bolsinger... well, he's no Archie Bradley, that's for sure. Bolsinger worked in the 87-90 mph range with his fastball while getting roughed up by the Dodgers on Saturday. Since Cahill has looked good in his two relief appearances, he could get his spot back quickly. It never should have been taken away from him in the first place. Bradley should eventually get the other slot. The Diamondbacks would love to wait until June to promote him, but at this rate, it figures to happen in early May.

 

- The Pirates' Jason Grilli isn't exactly getting lit up with his 4.50 ERA, but he gave up his second homer and took his third blown save on Sunday, tying Matt Lindstrom for the major league lead in blown saves. It's one more blown save than he had in 35 chances last year. Meanwhile, Mark Melancon has maintained his 2013 success, posting a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings and going 7-for-7 in hold chances. Grilli is probably safe for now, but it'd be for the best if he doesn't blow any additional chances this week.

 

- The Padres need to find a lineup and stick with it, because this constant shuffling guys in and out isn't working. Would you believe that Alexi Amarista is the only player on the team to start the last six consecutive games? And he started at four different positions in that span. Yonder Alonso sat out two of the last four games. Catcher and the outfield corners have been revolving doors. Meanwhile, Kyle Blanks, who seemed like the best choice to fill in for Carlos Quentin before getting farmed out, is hitting .267/.400/.600 with four homers in Triple-A. No one in San Diego has four homers. The only guy with three, Xavier Nady, also happens to have exactly three RBI. Cameron Maybin (biceps) could return in a week, but then, he's just 5-for-26 on his rehab assignment and is far from a sure thing to help the offense. I'd still like to see Blanks up, but if not, then Chris Denorfia should be a fixture somewhere in that outfield. And the Padres should either let Alonso (preferably) or Tommy Medica play regularly at first base rather than continue the game of musical chairs.

 

- Nick Hundley got just his fourth start of the year Sunday and went 2-for-4 with a homer. Through 19 games, the Padres have started Yasmani Grandal behind the plate eight times and Rene Rivera seven times, leaving Hundley with little to do. Obviously, Grandal will play more the further removed from ACL surgery he becomes, so a Hundley trade would seem best for all parties.

 

- Get ready for the return of Cole Hamels (biceps) on Wednesday. He should be active in all formats.

 

- The Brewers' Wily Peralta makes for a nice mixed-league spot starter this week with home outings against the Padres and Cubs. The Cubs' Jason Hammel, who is set to face the Diamondbacks and then be Peralta's opponent in Milwaukee on Sunday, is a pretty good choice in deeper leagues.



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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