Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Notes: The Giolito Edition

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Credit where it’s due: Lucas Giolito has looked better than I expected since getting his promotion to the majors last month. An easy schedule has helped some, but he got the Astros on Tuesday and managed to hold them to two runs in 6 2/3 innings. It should be noted the Giolito’s FIP is about twice as high as his 2.58 ERA, mostly because he’s given up seven homers in 38 1/3 innings. Overall, he’s allowed 14 homers in 60 innings as a major leaguer, which is very problematic. Still, his changeup is legit and he’s been able to keep hitters guessing while staying ahead in the count. If his fastball comes back some, he might yet fulfill his potential, and even if it doesn’t, his prospects seem brighter than they did a few months ago. I still won’t have him as a mixed-league SP next year unless his velocity is improved next spring.

 

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American League notes

 

- It’s been all sunshine and roses for Byron Buxton of late, but even while he’s hit .315/.361/.607 with 11 homers and 10 steals in the second half, he has a 48/11 K/BB ratio in 186 plate appearances. He’s going to be a rather tough call in the projections this winter. His revamped swing mechanics have paid huge dividends when it comes to power, but I’m not yet sold on his ability to hit for average. Really, though, what I worry about as much as anything is durability. The mostly healthy season and excellent finish are going to drive his price sky high next spring, but he’s had his share of leg and hand/wrist injuries as a pro and, with the way he throws his body around, there’d seem to be a good chance that’ll continue. In spite of his 30 HR-30 SB potential, I probably won’t have him as a top-10 outfielder next spring. Top 20 is a lock, though.

 

 - One can use selective endpoints to make most every player look rather inconsistent. Still, it’s pretty amazing what kind of roller coaster Jose Ramirez has been on to amass his .314/.367/.576 line this year:

 

First 24 games: .330/.388/.593

Next 36 games: .244/.303/.374

Next 34 games: .409/.456/.774

Next 31 games: .202/.256/.306

Last 16 games: .452/.493/1.081

 

When Ramirez was fading last month, it looked like 2017 would go down as just a marginal improvement over his fine All-Star campaign from 2016. Instead, he’s solidified himself as an MVP candidate by hitting nine homers in his last 15 games. That’s more homers than he hit in 180 major league games from 2013-15. He had eight in 564 at-bats those three seasons, 11 in 565 at-bats last year and 27 in 545 at-bats so far this year. I don’t see how he can get better than this, but, then, I didn’t expect him to get better than what he was in 2016.

 

- At this point, is it even worth giving Jose Bautista a one-year, $5 million contract for next season? He hasn’t just been bad this year, but he’s been a massive liability after factoring in his defense. Even his offense has merely amounted to an 80 OPS+. He’s still walking plenty (80 in 644 plate appearances), but his power has fallen way off; his isolated slugging percentage -- never less than .239 from 2010-2015 -- has fallen to .217 in 2016 and .167 this year. His contact rate has dropped off a cliff. He wasn’t much of an asset last year, either, and he turns 37 this winter. I never want to say never, but he seems like a pretty big long shot to bounce back.

 

- Dylan Bundy’s final out in a rough game Monday against the Red Sox put him at 169 2/3 innings for the year, exactly 60 more than where he finished 2016. The Orioles said after the game that they had no plans to shut him down, but I would hope that’s going to change unless they can somehow pick up a couple of games in the wild card chase before his next start. They’re big long shots at the moment, and while there’s no way they can shut Bundy down before they’re truly out of the race, that should be the absolute first thing they do once they admit it’s over. Bundy long ago since entered unprecedented territory, and he’s had just one good month in the last four.

 

- Lance McCullers, who last pitched for the Astros on Sept. 6, is set to start Sunday against the Angels, giving him two starts to show whether he can be a part of the postseason rotation or not. It’s probably going to be a tough call. The Astros could have considered shifting him to the pen, ala David Price, but his problem right now is that his arm is struggling to bounce back after his outings and there’s just no way of knowing whether that would be more or less of an issue working in relief. At this point, I don’t think the Astros are counting on him.

 

McCullers’ aches have been a boon for Brad Peacock, who probably would have been shifted to the pen last week if McCullers’ arm proved sound. As much of a weapon as Peacock could potentially be in relief, he should get the call to start over Collin McHugh next month if McCullers can’t go.

 

 

National League notes

 

- Since the Brewers simply left Aaron Wilkerson at Double-A all season long -- even as he was going 11-4 with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.075 WHIP -- I figured they viewed the 28-year-old as a non-entity, someone incapable of helping the major league club. As it turns out, though, he was called up Friday and he’ll get to make his first major league start Wednesday against the Pirates. Wilkerson is a neat story; he went undrafted after an excellent career at small Cumberland University and required Tommy John surgery before signing with an indy team at age 24. The Red Sox inked him a year later, and he put up fine numbers in their system before going to the Brewers in the Aaron Hill deal in 2016. I’m not sure any of his pitches is going to generate enough swings and misses to make him an adequate major league starter, but he’s certainly earned his opportunity.

 

- They didn’t have a whole lot of choice, but the Giants have already stated that they’re picking up Matt Moore’s $9 million option for 2018, even as he leads the NL in losses and runs allowed. Really, though, even as extremely disappointing as Moore has been, there aren’t going to be any better bets out there for $9 million this winter. As a lefty with a 92-mph fastball and two quality secondary pitches, Moore should be an above average starter. He’s never been great at getting outs with his fastball, though, and ramping up the use of his cutter has proved to be a disaster thus far. Either he or pitching coach Dave Righetti needs to figure out something else for him, but ditching the cutter and simply throwing more curves and changes would be a nice start. Maybe it’d lead to more walks, but the hits are the bigger concern at the moment.

 

- Hunter Renfroe rejoined the Padres on Monday and, in his very first at-bat, gave the team a three-run homer than tripled Jabari Blash’s RBI count in 44 at-bats this month. Of course, sending down Renfroe had nothing to do with helping the major league team win games this year. He should be a lineup fixture the rest of the way.

 

- Another Padres move was to give Christian Villanueva the briefest of late-season looks after he hit .296/.369/.528 with 20 homers in 398 at-bats for Triple-A El Paso. That’s not a great line, considering the very friendly environment at El Paso (he hit .266/.348/.458 with seven homers on the road), but it was a pretty good showing after he missed all of 2016 due to a fractured fibula. Most likely, Villanueva is going to fall a bit short of being a quality regular at third base… though that’s not always a deal breaker when it comes to the Padres. He’s getting 13 days to show that he’s worth keeping on the 40-man this winter, so it’s only fair that the Padres let him start most every game. Alas, he wasn’t in Tuesday’s lineup, because we don’t already know what Cory Spangenberg can do.

 

- The Cardinals opted to bring Adam Wainwright (elbow) back from the disabled list as a reliever and leave Jack Flaherty in the rotation, even though Flaherty has already thrown more innings than expected this year and hasn’t shown much of anything since getting the call. After Flaherty pitched just two innings Tuesday, it’s possible John Gant could get a look as his replacement. Under other circumstances, I’d rather like Gant as a very late addition in mixed leagues. However, after spending the last few weeks working out of the pen, it seems unlikely that he’d get the chance to go five or more innings in a start.

 

- With the Reds shutting down most of their interesting arms, this would seem to be prime time to finally give Cody Reed another chance in the rotation after last year’s big flop. Instead, he’s made three relief appearances totaling 2 1/3 innings this month. Unfortunately, he spent a little time on the DL at Triple-A Louisville last month and didn’t get all of the way back stretched out, though he did start and throw three scoreless innings in each of his two final appearances before being recalled. Reed still has one of the organization’s best arms; he’s a left-hander capable of firing mid-90s fastballs and late-breaking sliders. Control has turned into a bigger problem, and it’s not a good sign that he walked 61 in 106 1/3 innings in Triple-A this year. Still, it’s too soon to give up on him as a starter. I’m just afraid that’s what the Reds will do after declining to give him an opportunity this month.



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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