Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Notes: Hoping For Hoskins

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


The Royals finally decided to do something about Alex Gordon on Tuesday, sending him to the bench for at least a couple of days. It was overdue. On a pure WAR basis, the terribleness of Gordon’s deal will never compare to that of Pablo Sandoval’s or some others on a worst contracts of all-time list. Still, Gordon’s deal might rate as the most damaging to any franchise by the time it’s done. Playing him regularly throughout 2017 could cost them a spot in the postseason and the $20 million per year he’s owed in 2018 and 2019 is money they’d much rather give to Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas or Lorenzo Cain. Even with his defensive numbers bouncing back some this year, he’s been worth 0.4 rWAR. He’s hitting .197/.286/.294 in 390 plate appearances, which would rate as one of the very the worst lines for a regular left fielder in the history of baseball.

 

When the Royals acquired Melky Cabrera at the deadline, they might as well have announced to the world that they were writing off Jorge Soler for 2017. Soler, though, is hitting .301/.420/.586 with 15 homers in 50 games for Triple-A Omaha. He was truly bad in the majors, but it was in barely one-quarter of the plate appearances that Gordon has received (he hit .154/.245/.275 in 102 PA). I don’t expect that the Royals will give him another shot at Gordon’s expense, but they probably will go with Jorge Bonifacio more frequently. I’m not a big Bonifacio fan, but he has nearly 200 points of OPS on Gordon at the moment (he’s batting .256/.327/.438 in 342 PA). The Royals can’t simply give away three lineup spots every night, which is what they’ve been doing with Salvador Perez is on the DL.

 

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American League notes

 

- Blake Snell’s second stint in the rotation this year was more encouraging than his first, but the Rays sent him down again to make room for the returning Jake Odorizzi. As it turned out, he received a reprieve Tuesday, when Alex Cobb landed on the DL due to turf toe. Snell’s challenging schedule has included five road starts in his six outings since his original return from Triple-A, the last two being the hardest assignments in the AL right now: at New York and at Houston (he allowed six runs total in 9 1/3 innings). For a split second after the news of Snell’s demotion, there was some hope that top prospect Brett Honeywell would come up and take his place. Instead, the Rays are giving Austin Pruitt a longer look. Pruitt also got the Yankee-Astros combo after entering the rotation in Odorizzi’s place and allowed five runs and three homers in 11 1/3 innings. Fortunately for him, all of those runs came against the Yankees and his 6 1/3 scoreless against Houston carried the day. I don’t have particularly high expectations for Pruitt; he displays very good control, but his stuff is below average. He’s just an AL-only guy.

 

As for Odorizzi, he’s been a tough guy to trust in mixed leagues lately. His 6-4 record and 4.47 ERA aren’t so bad, but he’s given up 23 homers in 95 innings, leaving him with a 5.74 FIP. Rays pitchers get the advantage of working in a pitcher’s park in front of a typically strong defense, though the disadvantage is that they face the toughest schedule in the league. Odorizzi will get the Red Sox in his return from a back strain Wednesday, but after that, he’s looking at Toronto, Seattle, St. Louis and Kansas City over the rest of the month. That’s rather favorable. If he throws well Wednesday, he’d make for an intriguing pickup in leagues in which’s available.

 

- I watched a couple of Felix Hernandez’s starts last month and truly believed he was rounding into form; his pitches seemed to have more action than in April or really at any point of 2016. Unfortunately, his shoulder couldn’t take it and now he’s back on the DL due to bursitis. That’s not a terrible diagnosis, and he could be back as soon as rosters expand. I wouldn’t want to have to count on him returning to form right away, though.

 

- Filling in for Hernandez is the newly acquired Marco Gonzales, who gave up five runs in four innings versus the Royals in his Mariners debut Sunday. Gonzales is in a pretty great situation in Seattle, in that he’s a flyball pitcher with a great defensive outfield in a ballpark that suppresses homers. Even so, I don’t think a sub-4.00 ERA is on the way. AL-only leaguers should use him, but mixed leaguers can do better.

 

- The Mariners got their first base upgrade, acquiring free agent-to-be Yonder Alonso from the A’s for Boog Powell. Danny Valencia can now settle into the backup role for which he’s better suited. Alonso rates as a pretty fringy play in mixed leagues; he’s been back to his old ways for almost two months now, hitting .213 with five homers in his last 43 games (36 starts). How much of that is natural regression and how much is due to the physical issues he’s dealt with is tough to tell, but even though he’s in a better lineup now, I wouldn’t call him a top-15 1B for the rest of the season.

 

- Powell is an old school A’s prospect, both figuratively and literally, since he was drafted by the A’s in 2002 before being sent to Tampa Bay in the Ben Zobrist deal two years later. He’s all OBP -- he’s come in at .391 in 417 minor league games -- without much power or speed or really anything else to recommend him. He also has a steroid bust in his history, though even with the assistance, he’s totaled 15 homers as a pro. He’s probably a fourth or fifth outfielder going forward, but given Oakland’s lack of quality options, he’ll get a look as a regular, perhaps before season’s end.

 

- Roberto Osuna’s velocity is down and he’s gotten roughed up a few times recently (though the latest blown save wasn’t as bad as it looked in the box score). If the Jays had anyone else worth trying, they might have opted to give him a break from the closer’s role. However, Joe Biagini is back getting stretched out in Triple-A and no one else seems like a quality replacement. Osuna pitched a perfect ninth for a save Tuesday against the Yankees. I hope he gets it back, but if he blows another chance right off, then the Jays might have to go to a committee. In that case, I’d like Danny Barnes over Ryan Tepera.

 

- The Tigers gave Jeimer Candelario a one-day callup Tuesday with Jose Iglesias on the bereavement list. I’m not sure the team has decided how best to work in Candelario this year. The Tigers don’t seem to be prepping Nicholas Castellanos for a move to the outfield, yet Candelario has played only third base in six games for Triple-A Toledo since arriving in the Justin Wilson-Alex Avila trade. Sitting Victor Martinez and going with Miguel Cabrera at DH and Castellanos at first might be the Tigers’ best option right now, not that I expect they’ll be quick to take it.

 

- Reynaldo Lopez will finally get his spot in the White Sox rotation and start Friday against the Royals. His last couple of Triple-A outings weren’t as strong as the previous bunch, but he still has a 2.70 ERA and a 63/15 K/BB ratio in 46 2/3 innings since the end of June. Some have been skeptical about Lopez as a starter because his fastball is straight and his changeup isn’t a great third pitch, but he can touch 98 mph and his curveball makes him tough when he’s ahead in the count. His command is spotty. As bad as the White Sox are, I don’t think Lopez is worthy of an immediate flier in mixed leagues, though he’s worth watching.

 

- Keone Kela seemed to be putting himself in position for save chances in the Texas pen with 3 2/3 scoreless innings since returning from injury (he had turned in 14 straight scoreless appearances overall), but he landed back on the DL because of renewed shoulder soreness Tuesday. It looks like Alex Claudio will remain the favorite for saves for now, though the Rangers have Jose Leclerc waiting in the wings and Matt Bush throwing better again.

 

- Especially now that Yunel Escobar (intercostal) is on the disabled list, C.J. Cron is worth trying in deeper mixed leagues. He’ll play first base regularly, with Luis Valbuena moving to third. Cron is hitting .280/.333/.560 with four homers in 50 at-bats since the Angels brought him back from the minors. He was hitting seventh Tuesday, but he should be the team’s cleanup man.

 


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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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