Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Notes: X On The Spot

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


From 21 homers at age 23 to eight so far at age 24, Xander Bogaerts rates as one of the AL’s bigger disappointments, even if he hasn’t been that bad of a regular for Boston. The lack of power was little more than a curiosity early on, since he hit .337 through the end of May. It’s been a much bigger issue as he’s floundered at .224 since. The Red Sox sent him to the bench for a few games at the beginning of the month, and it looked like they were all set to do it again over the weekend until an Eduardo Nunez injury gained him another reprieve.

 

I’m not sure what exactly ails Xander, though I wonder if vision is an issue. Last year, it seemed like he wore down under the grind of starting 157 games at shortstop, though he played 154 the previous season and finished better than he started. This year, he’s just struggled to hit the ball with authority, even while he was ranking among the AL’s leading hitters for average. He’s put the ball on the ground more, and he’s struck out more. He swings at bad pitches and takes those that he should be able to hit. Pitchers have taken to busting him inside since they don’t have to worry about him turning on the pitch and hitting it out.

 

It doesn’t seem all that likely that Bogaerts will finish out this season on the bench, but he’s been sitting enough now that he’s droppable in mixed leagues. Maybe that changes with Nunez out, but he still seems pretty borderline. For 2018 and beyond, I remain a believer. He’s still so young, and pure strength isn’t an issue for him. He will eventually need to move to third, a switch complicated by the fact that Rafael Devers has looked better defensively than anticipated. I wouldn’t be stunned if Bogaerts became trade bait for that reason (and the fact that he’s just two years away from free agency), though I think it’d be a mistake for Boston to go that route. Bogaerts at third and Devers at first could yet be a great corner infield situation going forward. First, though, I want Bogaerts’s eyes checked.

 

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American League notes

 

- They didn’t want to grant him the service time, but faced with mounting injuries, the Rangers called up Willie Calhoun on Tuesday. One imagines they’ll give him a chance to take over in left field with Carlos Gomez out. Playing mostly left, the 22-year-old Calhoun hit .310/.345/.566 with eight homers in 29 games for Triple-A Round Rock after arriving from the Dodgers in the Yu Darvish trade. He came in at .300/.355/.572 with 31 homers overall in the PCL. I’d be surprised if he’s not immediately one of the Rangers’ better hitters against righty pitching. Still, since he’ll probably platoon and hit low in the lineup, he’s not an immediate mixed-league pickup.

 

- With Bradley Zimmer down and Yandy Diaz playing oh so well, Jason Kipnis, currently on the DL with a hamstring strain, is finally poised to make his outfield debut. It’s been a good five years since there was frequent talk of returning Kipnis to the outfield; he was drafted as a center fielder out of Arizona State before moving to second in his first full pro season, and questions about his defense lingered throughout his time as a prospect and his first year and a half in the majors. Kipnis, though, has always gotten the job done at second, with numbers typically grading him out as average or slightly below. The move shouldn’t mean he’s done as a second baseman for 2018, but if he can play an adequate center, it’s the best way for the Indians to get him into the lineup right now. It sounds like he’ll come off the DL next week or perhaps earlier as a pinch-hitter.

 

- How much better off would the Royals be if they had shut down Kelvin Herrera last month when he started experiencing forearm pain instead of letting him pitch through it. He looks like a mop-up man now after giving up runs in all three appearances this month. Brandon Maurer’s floundering has made Scott Alexander the favorite for saves, and he got his first of three outs Tuesday against the White Sox (his other three had all been one-out saves).

 

- With Steve Pearce sitting out due to a sore back, Teoscar Hernandez is getting a chance in left field for the Jays. That’s how it should be anyway; Toronto needs to be playing Hernandez regularly, whether it’s at the expense of Pearce, Jose Bautista or Kendrys Morales. All of those vets have sub-100 OPS+s, and it’s not like any are assets in the outfield. I’m not sure Hernandez is going to be a long-term regular or just a fourth outfielder, but the tools have always been there and he managed a solid .265/.351/.490 line in Triple-A this year. He’s an option in deeper mixed leagues these last couple of weeks.

 

- I don’t understand how the A’s can’t find a single start for Renato Nunez when their everyday designated hitter has a .758 OPS. Apart from one really strong month-long stretch in May and June, Ryon Healy has been pretty awful this year, compiling a 132/20 K/BB ratio along with his 101 OPS+. I’m not saying they should give up on him forever, but he shouldn’t be a lineup fixture when the A’s need to figure out if Nunez belongs in their plans for 2018. The 23-year-old Nunez hit .249/.319/.518 with 32 homers in Triple-A, which is a whole lot better than Healy did in Double-A at the same age. My guess is that Nunez falls a little short of being a quality major league regular, but he’s earned a look. What he’s gotten is two at-bats so far this month.

 

- Clint Frazier (oblique) made his first appearance in over a month Tuesday, going 0-for-2 against the Rays before being replaced by Jacoby Ellsbury in the Yankees outfield. Barring an injury to another outfielder, I don’t imagine we’ll see Frazier get too many more starts. Ellsbury has a .940 OPS over the last month, and Frazier was really struggling in his last three weeks before getting hurt.

 

National League notes

 

- Jimmy Nelson’s season-ending shoulder surgery was a brutal blow for this year’s feel-good team in the NL, and just as is seemed Matt Garza was being pushed out of Milwaukee’s rotation, he’ll be counted on to make big starts down the stretch alongside Brandon Woodruff and Brent Suter. There seemed like some optimism last month that Junior Guerra might be able to put himself back into the mix after allowing four runs over 23 2/3 innings for Triple-A Colorado Springs, but he’s given up homers in two of his three relief appearances since returning from the minors. The Brewers apparently don’t believe Taylor Jungmann can help; he hasn’t even gotten a callup yet despite going 9-2 with a 2.59 ERA for Colorado Springer. It’s Garza or bust, which probably means bust.

 

As an aside, the Brewers’ three biggest pitching injuries this year all came due to hitting. Nelson was hurt diving back into first base, Guerra went down on Opening Day because of a strained calf sustained running out a bunt and Chase Anderson missed nearly two months because of an oblique strain suffered on a swing. One would think the league would have their vote for switching to the DH.

 

- Tyler Glasnow’s much anticipated return to the majors will come Wednesday against the Brewers. It’s a rather tough assignment, especially with the game being in Milwaukee. Still, he’s worth a try in mixed leagues. I think we’ll see a different Glasnow this time around. He was awesome in Triple-A last year, too, but that came with 10.8 K and 5.0 BB per nine innings. This time, he finished at 13.5 K and 3.1 BB per nine in his 15 starts. Besides the predicted lack of control, Glasnow just didn’t get nearly as many swings and misses as expected in his horrid major league stint this year. However, his curve is in better shape now than it was then, and he seems much better set up to pitch ahead in the count more frequently. I’m almost hoping he’s not too good now, just because he’s going to be one of my favorite picks in drafts next spring.

 

- Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t possibly have picked a better time to find his stroke for the Rockies. Now they just need Ian Desmond to do the same. Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra have had some moments this year, but their Coors-inflated numbers have been sinking; Reynolds is at .231/.317/.432 since the beginning of July and Parra has come in at .258/.304/.367 in his last 32 games. Still, Desmond is doing nothing and the Rockies haven’t given Ryan McMahon or Raimel Tapia much of a chance to overtake one of the veterans. With the starting pitching (Jon Gray excepted) beginning to fade, the Rockies probably can’t win in October with such mediocre production from so many lineup spots. I wish they’d try to catch lightning in a bottle with McMahon at first.

 

- Kyle Schwarber is still hitting a fine .244/.336/.538 since his recall in early July, but before getting penciled in Tuesday, he was held out of the lineup in three straight games, including two against right-handers. He isn’t particularly hot of late, but his OPS has been holding steady in the.750s, even as he struggles to collect any singles at all. One would think the Cubs need his bat in there, even if it costs them a little defense. I’d still hold on to him in mixed leagues in the hopes that he can put a little run together that forces the Cubs to consider him a regular again.

 

- It appears that Jeurys Familia won’t reclaim the Mets’ closing gig before the end of the year. Typically a guy who averages 97-98 mph with his fastball, Familia has only occasionally sat at 95 mph in seven appearances since returning from a blood clot in his shoulder. Working a second consecutive day for the first time on Sunday, he was more often at 93-94 mph and gave up two runs to take a loss. He’ll probably get it back next year, but it’s starting to look safe to write him off for the rest of September.

 

- Watching the Mets for a little while Tuesday, it occurred to me that Juan Lagares is currently their best healthy position player. I mean, I’ve always been a Lagares fan, but that… well, it’s just not good. Dominic Smith is starting to swing the bat better, though. He could finish pretty strong.

 

- Henderson Alvarez will make his Phillies rotation debut Sunday against the A’s after posting a 2.84 ERA in three starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Before that, he was working in the independent Atlantic League and sporting a 3.09 ERA in 32 innings. Overall, he struck out just 21 in his 52 innings, which wouldn’t seem to bode well for him, even if he’s always been more about grounders than strikeouts. His velocity is mostly back, according to reports, and it’s nice to see that he’s getting a shot. I just wouldn’t expect immediate success.

 

- Jabari Blash is hitting .197/.319/.311 in 61 at-bats since the Padres sent down Hunter Renfroe last month. But I’m not really sure what the positive outcome was there for San Diego anyway. 



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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