Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Notes: Brewers Go Young

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


The first-place Brewers decided the future is now in promoting Josh Hader on Friday and Lewis Brinson a day later. They weren’t moves forced by injuries or regulars losing their jobs. The Brewers just wanted to see if their top prospects were ready to help them make a run this year, and, in both cases, the timing seemed right.

 

Hader was called up as a reliever, which was disappointing only because his performance at Triple-A Colorado Springs dictated it. What was surprising was that the Brewers declined to introduce him to the pen in the minors; all of his appearances at Colorado Springs were starts and he went 3-4 with a 5.37 ERA and a 51/31 K/BB ratio in 52 innings. Of course, Colorado Springs is a notoriously difficult environment for pitchers. Still, Hader fared little better in his road starts. Command has always been Hader’s issue, and unless he can take a step forward there, he might find himself in the pen for the long haul. He would be a huge weapon there, though, with his mid-90s fastball and excellent slider. If he throws strikes, he could become a setup man in short order. I’m not sure he’ll be ready for the rotation at any point of this season.

 

Brinson was hitting .312/.397/.503 as Hader’s teammate. His performance was shaped by the rather extreme environment at Colorado Springs; he was hitting .382/.457/.551 at home and .238/.333/.452 on the road. He had fanned 45 times in 45 games and gone 7-for-12 stealing bases. The Brewers can play him in left field now and decide whether to have him replace the slumping Keon Broxton in center after Ryan Braun (calf) comes off the disabled list. I think they’ll give him that look in center -- as interesting as Broxton is for fantasy purposes, he seems like an awfully fringy regular for the Brewers -- but I’m not optimistic that Brinson is ready to play regularly in the majors. He’s not a particularly polished player; he’s plenty fast, but he doesn’t take great routes in center and he’s not as effective of a basestealer as he should be. He’s not overly aggressive at the plate, but he will chase while down in the count. There’s All-Star ability here and it might click for him sooner than I expect, but I think he’s still a ways away. While I wouldn’t dissuade people from stashing him away in mixed leagues -- he’s in a good lineup in a great offensive park -- my guess is that he won’t become an asset until next year. As for Broxton, unless he can string together a very good few days this week, he’ll be one to drop in mixed leagues once Braun is activated.

 

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American League notes

 

- Lance McCullers wasn’t throwing 190 innings this season anyway, so his DL stint due to lower back discomfort could end up being a good thing, assuming it doesn’t turn out to be a serious problem. McCullers might be the AL’s most talented pitcher, but he was also one of its biggest injury risks after missing time early with shoulder soreness and later with an elbow strain last year. The Astros have enough of a cushion to be cautious and likely will be, given their aspirations. Really, they might have a better chance in October if McCullers saves his strength and doesn’t throw another pitch until August. At 76 2/3 innings already, he’s just 12 innings shy of his 2016 total. He did throw 164 innings in 2015, but his next highest total since being drafted is 105. I don’t really think they’ll hold him out that long if he overcomes the back soreness in short order, but I imagine they will do their best to manage his innings going forward.

 

- The A’s have both Jaycob Brugman and Matt Olson up to try to give their beleaguered outfield a lift. There’s more of an opportunity right now for Brugman, since he can play center field and Rajai Davis has been a disaster. Brugman, though, is a 25-year-old who has posted an .800 OPS only once in the minors, that in A-ball in 2014. He was at .288/.373/.364 in Triple-A, which was a nice step forward from his previous OBPs. He doesn’t have the stolen base ability to be of much interest in fantasy leagues, but he should prove better than Rajai against right-handers. Davis no longer has anything to offer in mixed leagues. Olson deserves a long look, but he can’t get one right now because the A’s are still hoping their Matt Joyce and Trevor Plouffe signings will pay off. Olson, 23, was hitting .286/.376/.582 with 15 homers in 50 games in Triple-A. He’s not ready to hit for average in the majors and I don’t think he has any mixed-league upside this year, but I’d prefer for the A’s to play him (UPDATE: Olson was sent down Wednesday because the A's are pretty much hopeless).

 

- Trey Mancini had already turned into a lineup fixture, so Chris Davis’s at-bats will mostly go to Hyun-Soo Kim and Joey Rickard while he sits out the next few weeks due to a strained oblique. I’ve been skeptical about Mancini lasting as a mixed-league asset, but he’s a better bet now that he’ll be hitting higher in the order.

 

- It seemed like an improved Masahiro Tanaka on Monday, not one who simply took advantage of a weak Angels lineup. Interestingly, a full 75 percent of his pitches were splitters and sliders; usually, it’s right around 50 percent. My complaint last week was that everything he was throwing was knee-height. That wasn’t the case as much Monday; he tickled the bottom of the strike zone occasionally, but he didn’t live there.

 

- Alen Hanson was a shoo-in for the Pirates roster this spring because he was out of options, but with Josh Harrison and Adam Frazier playing so well, there just wasn’t a significant role for him on the club. The Pirates dropped him, and the White Sox claimed the longtime prospect last week. Hanson, a Baseball America Top 100 prospect in both 2013 and 2014, showed only an average bat in his two years in Triple-A, hitting .265/.316/.388 with 71 steals in 227 games for Indianapolis. He no longer projects as a major league regular, but he’s learning more positions and he should have enough bat to last as a utilityman. The steal potential makes him worth grabbing in deeper AL-only leagues. The White Sox will have Yoan Moncada coming up at some point, but they still figure to trade Todd Frazier and maybe Melky Cabrera, meaning there should be ample at-bats available in the second half.

 

- Nate Jones had a setback in his recovery from a sore elbow, which has definite fantasy ramifications with David Robertson still very likely to be traded away from the White Sox. A healthy Jones is the obvious heir to Robertson’s spot -- he has a 2.49 ERA and a 122/27 K/BB ratio in 101 1/3 innings since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2015 -- but now it seems quite possible that Jones won’t be ready when Robertson departs. If that’s the case, closing duties would presumably fall to Tommy Kahnle, who has miraculously found some control to go along with his top-flight stuff this year. The former Rockie has a 43/6 K/BB ratio to go along with his 1.48 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. He doesn’t have to be picked up in mixed leagues right now, but he should be grabbed as soon as there’s any hint that a Roberson deal is imminent.

 

- Devon Travis having “clean-up” surgery on his knee Tuesday was hardly the worst possible news. Players can return from such a procedure within four weeks, though the Jays will probably be more cautious with their oft-injured second baseman. As much as I like Travis, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth waiting around for him in mixed leagues.

 

- The Rays’ Jacob Faria was saved from being one-and-done in the rotation by Matt Andriese’s hip injury. I feel bad for Andriese, who was enjoying a mini-breakout, but Faria is mixed-league worthy now that he should get every opportunity to stick in the majors. Faria might walk a few too many to be consistently excellent, but I like what I see from both his slider and his changeup.

 

- There’s not much reason for me to endorse Mallex Smith at this point; if he wasn’t snatched up in your league immediately upon the news that Kevin Kiermaier (hip) would miss two months, he almost certainly was after homering and stealing three bases in his first game back in the majors Friday. Smith isn’t going to show much power, but he’s probably the best bet for steals in the AL for as long as he plays regularly.

 

- Detroit’s Buck Farmer had some excited after striking out 16 in 13 scoreless innings between his first two starts, but the air came out of those sails when he gave up six runs and nine hits in 2 1/3 innings against Arizona on Tuesday. Farmer has traded four-seamers for two-seamers in his return to the majors, but it hasn’t resulted in grounders thus far. I’m pretty pessimistic that he’ll be of use in mixed leagues.

 

- CC Sabathia is expected to land on the DL after injuring his leg Tuesday, potentially opening the door for Chance Adams to get a look. Adams, a 2015 fifth-round pick, has cruised through the minors, going 12-1 with a 1.72 ERA in Double-A the last two years and now 3-2 with a 2.52 ERA in six Triple-A starts. He’s not overwhelming in terms of stuff and Yankee Stadium will limit his ERA upside, but he’s pretty interesting anyway. I wouldn’t drop a quality starter for him in a mixed league if he’s called up, but if he can be stashed away at a minimal cost, it’d be worth it.

 

- Josh Reddick's concussion resulted in a promotion for Derek Fisher on Wednesday. I've been excited about this possibility since Fisher went a ridiculous 11-for-11 stealing bases in 42 at-bats this spring (he also hit .310/434/.524). Unfortunately, Fisher wasn't quite so outrageous in the steal department in Triple-A, going 13-for-23 in 60 games. That low success rate might have the Astros curbing his aggressiveness in the majors. Still, Fisher's bat is intriguing and he figures to get significant playing time while Reddick is out. I like the idea of taking a shot on him.

 

- I wanted the Royals to bring Matt Strahm along as a starter this spring. Abruptly moving him to the rotation like they're doing this week greatly increases the chances of injury, in my opinion. Still, Strahm is awfully intriguing. He has three major league pitches, maybe four if he gets back to throwing his changeup regularly, and he's given up a total of 26 hits in 44 innings as a major leaguer. It'll probably take a little while before he's mixed-league ready as a starter. but it's possible he'll be of use after the break. I think he can be a top-50 SP next year.

 


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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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