Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Notes: Saves Up For Grabs

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


A bad week would never doom a hitter or a starting pitcher as good at his job as Sam Dyson has been. Still, it’s easy to understand why teams can’t let closers work through issues in the ninth inning. The Rangers clearly need to back off Dyson a bit after his third horrendous outing of the year on Tuesday. Blowing a three-run lead in the ninth to the Angels actually lowered his ERA from 36.00 to 33.00.

 

So, that leaves two matters for Dyson owners. First, will he turn things around over the next couple of weeks? I think so. His velocity has been down about 1-1.5 mph, but that still leaves him at 92-96 mph. He seemed to start pitching angry to Mike Trout during Tuesday’s game, with five straight fastballs right at 96 mph. That’s as hard as he’s consistently thrown at any point in his career. I think he’s losing a little sink to try to generate extra velocity, and that sink is far more important to his fortunes than an extra two mph. Still, Dyson says he’s healthy and I imagine he’ll get this worked through.

 

The other matter is whether he’ll get his job back if/when he resumes pitching up to his ability. That’s Jeff Banister’s call, of course. It will also probably have a lot to do with how Matt Bush, the obvious alternative given Jeremy Jeffress’s struggles, responds to pitching in the ninth. I suspect he’ll be fine; he has elite stuff and command hasn’t been any sort of issue for him since he arrived in the majors. My guess is that Dyson does reclaim the job at some point, but in the meantime, Bush is worth owning in all formats.

 

Editor’s Note: Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Baseball: Get in the game and create or join a league today.

 

American League notes

 

- Because of the potential for injuries, I’m always nervous to rank a catcher as high as I did Gary Sanchez this year. Sanchez, though, suffered his biceps strain while at the plate, and now he’s due to miss about a month. Sanchez was a durable player throughout his minor league career; he missed a few weeks last year with a non-displaced fracture in his thumb sustained while catching, but it didn’t prevent him from playing in 124 games. Hopefully, this one will go down as a fluke and he’ll be back with the Yankees in the second week of May. In the meantime, Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka will catch. It’d be interesting to see what Higashioka could do -- a late-bloomer, he hit .276/.337/.511 with 21 homers as a 26-year-old in Double- and Triple-A last year -- but Romine figures to get most of the starts.

 

- The Yankees have opted for left-hander Jordan Montgomery as their fifth starter after he opened some eyes with a 3.20 ERA and a 17/3 K/BB ratio in 19 2/3 innings this spring. I don’t expect big strikeout numbers in the majors, but he has enough on his fastball and changeup to succeed at the bottom of the rotation right away. Mixed-league value isn’t particularly likely, not with him pitching in Yankee Stadium and the AL East. Still, he should be of use in AL-only leagues.

 

- I wasn’t expecting Drew Pomeranz to look like that Tuesday, just a week after some thought his entire season was in doubt. Not only was the lefty effective against the Orioles, but he touched 95 mph with his fastball, working comfortably at 90-94 mph. He’s certainly worth grabbing in any mixed leagues in which he was dropped.

 

- The A’s shouldn’t have needed that one bad regular-season start to realize that Jesse Hahn was a better rotation option than Raul Alcantara, but at least we’re there now. Alcantara’s future, if he has one, is in relief. I don’t completely trust Hahn, as he still hasn’t figured out just how to harness the velocity spike that’s seen him throw 95 mph consistently (he averaged 91 mph with his fastball when he came up and went 7-4 with a 3.07 ERA for the Padres in 2014). The problem isn’t the heater; it’s that he’s throwing everything else harder, too, and his curve and changeup don’t react quite the same as they used to. He’s a work in progress, but he has a whole lot of upside. He needs to be owned in AL-only leagues, and he’ll be worth watching in mixed leagues.

 

- Sean Doolittle was credited with Oakland’s second save of the season after pitching a scoreless ninth Monday against the Royals. It was their first save chance since Santiago Casilla was picked over Doolittle and Ryan Madson on Opening Day. So, manager Bob Melvin is staying true to his word about playing matchups early on. I still think Casilla rates as his preferred choice in the ninth for now, making him the favorite for saves, but there’s going to be more uncertainty here for a while longer.

 

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- Collin McHugh (elbow) will miss at least a couple of months, giving Joe Musgrove a long leash in Houston. He’ll be a solid matchup play in mixed leagues. I’m sure many want to see what Chris Devenski can do in the rotation after he struck out seven in each of his first two relief appearances, and I’m right there, too. Still, the Astros seemed pretty insistent this spring that they think he’s more valuable in the pen, and it should be noted that he was awfully valuable in both of his appearances to date. I suspect that even if the Astros were to lose another starter to injury, they’d put Brad Peacock in the rotation and leave Devenski right where he is.

 

- Adrian Beltre’s setback with his calf will provide Joey Gallo with more of a chance to establish himself in Texas. Gallo is just 4-for-23 through seven games, but he has two homers and seven RBI. He’s also lopped a big chunk off his absurd swinging-strike rate. I don’t want to judge much based on seven games, but if Gallo can start striking out at a Chris Davis/Chris Carter rate, instead of the obscene pace of the past, the homers and walks will be there to make him a decent regular. He’s a better use of a bench spot in mixed leagues now. If he performs, the Rangers can stick him in left field and at DH after Beltre returns.

 

- Bruce Rondon’s weight was up, his velocity was down and he gave up a run an inning this spring. Brad Ausmus responded by handing him the primary setup role in the Tigers’ bullpen anyway, then sat back and watched as he contributed to blowing two leads against the Red Sox over the weekend. At that point, he immediately went from Ausmus’s second most trusted reliever to Toledo Mud Hen (it’ll be the fifth season in which he’s spent time in Triple-A). The good news for Rondon is that his velocity is mostly back after some alarming appearances this spring. The Tigers still badly want him to be a key piece of their pen, so he’ll be returning in a couple of weeks if he pitches well in Toledo. In the meantime, we get to see if the Tigers’ new top relief prospect, Joe Jimenez, is ready to contribute. He fanned six in two innings in his official spring appearances and also pitched three scoreless innings for Puerto Rico in the WBC. He had a 78/17 K/BB ratio in 53 2/3 innings at three levels last year. The hope is that he eventually overtakes Rondon as the heir apparent to Francisco Rodriguez’s job.

 

- I wonder how long the Royals will stick with Raul Mondesi at second base. He had a great spring, but he was horribly overmatched in the majors last year and he hasn’t been much better this time around, going 3-for-21 with an 8/0 K/BB ratio in seven games. He’s also been rough defensively. Whit Merrifield, a far superior player last year (and a guy I projected to beat Mondesi by 80 points of OPS this year), has opened up 5-for-16 with two homers in Triple-A. The Royals would help themselves by making the switch.

 

- Byron Buxton, who was so impressive in spring training that Twins manager Paul Molitor couldn’t help but bat him third, was removed for a pinch-hitter after striking out three more times Tuesday. He’s 2-for-29 with a 17/1 K/BB ratio to date. Fortunately, Buxton’s superior defense should earn him plenty of leeway during his slump; he simply doesn’t need to be very good offensively to be a useful player and the Twins’ best option in center. There’s no way he’s this bad, anyway. I don’t think he’ll hit much better than .250 the rest of the way, but he’ll get enough homers and steals to be of use in mixed leagues.

 

- Any chance of a quick callup for ByungHo Park vanished when he was placed on the DL at Triple-A Rochester due to a hamstring injury. He was 6-for-16 with three doubles in four games before going down.

 

- The Mariners will take a downgrade at shortstop while Jean Segura (hamstring) is out, with Taylor Motter assuming the role for at least the next week and a half. The injury should benefit Jarrod Dyson, who figures to lead off against right-handers until Segura returns. It makes him worth picking up in mixed leagues in which he’s available. If he can get hot, he could stay at the top of the lineup once Segura’s back.

 

- Encouraging is that Carlos Carrasco has shaken off his spring elbow issue and opened up with a couple of nice outings. I was fairly concerned a few weeks ago, but his command is right there and his velocity is down only a tad, which could be explained by the time off leaving him with a little less arm strength than usual. His velocity typically gets a little better as the year goes on, anyway.

 

List #1: Favorite players owned in less than 25% of Yahoo Leagues

 

1. C.J. Cron (1B Angels) - 25%

2. Brandon McCarthy (SP Dodgers) - 12%

3. Jorge Soler (OF Royals) - 19%

4. Sean Doolittle (RP Athletics) - 14%

5. Kevin Pillar (OF Blue Jays) - 12%

6. Shin-Soo Choo (OF Rangers) - 13%

7. Devin Mesoraco (C Reds) - 6%

8. Joey Gallo (3B Rangers) - 10%

9. Mike Montgomery (SP-RP Cubs) - 15%

10. Patrick Corbin (SP Diamondbacks) - 5%

 

I’m carrying this ranking over from last week. Graduating from the first list are No. 1 Chris Owings and No. 8 Howie Kendrick, but Cron, who fell to the 25% threshold, steps in as a new No. 1. I hate that he’s already received three days off, even with Luis Valbuena absent from the Angels, but if the team just leaves him alone, he should prove to be one of its top producers all year long. Maybe someone reminds Mike Scioscia that Cron actually had the club’s second-highest OPS last year.

 

Also added are Doolittle, Gallo and Corbin. Corbin just missed the first time around after impressing me this spring. His slider seems sharper than it did last year, and it can’t hurt that the team around him is a little better.

 


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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 @matthewpouliot.
Email :Matthew Pouliot



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