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Lucas Giolito
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Strike Zone

Notes: Giolito’s Climb

by Matthew Pouliot

The Angels got to remake their team some Tuesday when Shohei Ohtani, Cody Allen and Zack Cozart all returned from the injured list. Shipped out to make room were Peter Bourjos (DFA’d), Chris Stratton (DFA’d) and Luis Rengifo (optioned).

The plan seems to be for Ohtani to be the everyday DH. There’s been some concern that the Angels would give him days off to account for his throwing program as he continues his rehab from Tommy John surgery, but the team said Tuesday that pitching shouldn’t be an issue until September at the earliest. The other question is whether he’ll do much basestealing at all. Ohtani is an exceptional runner and was 10-for-14 stealing bases in 367 plate appearances last year, but the Angels might not want him risking his arm on awkward slides. Ohtani is worth using right away in mixed leagues regardless, but whether he’s really a major asset this year could come down to whether he does a fair amount of running or not.

With Ohtani back, there’s just one lineup spot for Albert Pujols or Justin Bour each day. It seemed going into the year that the Angels might finally be willing to turn Pujols into a bench guy once Ohtani returned, but Bour has been a big disappointment while hitting .169/.275/.303 in 89 at-bats. Pujols is at least treading water at .224/.306/.421. He figures to get most of the playing time for now.

The Angels won’t immediately restore Allen to the closer’s role after his 10-day absence, but he should get another chance if he can string together three or four strong outings in a row. In the meantime, Hansel Robles is the choice in the ninth.

Cozart, who missed a couple of weeks with a neck strain, is 8-for-68 this year and is hitting .195 with five homers and 22 RBI in 292 at-bats since signing with the Angels prior to last year. Despite his $13 million salary, he needs to be on a short leash right now. I’m hopeful that Taylor Ward gets a long look at third base sometime this summer.

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American League notes

- That I had Trevor Bauer all the way down at 12th among SPs was the main pitching complaint from last week’s rankings. I get it, though I don’t think placing him behind just 11 other pitchers – several of whom are in considerably better league and ballpark situations for amassing fantasy value – was much of an insult. Bauer is walking more batters and giving up more flyballs this year. He was phenomenally fortunate to surrender just nine homers in 175 innings last year, and he’s back to a much more normal pace now, having allowed six homers in 53 innings. I think he’s a better bet to stay healthy than pretty much every other SP out there, but for all his study and training, I doubt he’s completely immune to arm woes. Ranking him 12th still seems right to me, though he’s up to 11th now with teammate Corey Kluber out. If he gets his walk rate back down, then he’ll pass a couple of guys.

- The Indians have been terrible offensively, but it was still impressive how Lucas Giolito shut them down for 7 1/3 innings on Tuesday night. Giolito has fanned 38 in 31 innings this season, and his walk rate and home run rate are also awfully similar to Bauer’s. The velocity spike he received in the second half of last year has mostly carried over. Control is still a big issue, so he’s not yet an every-week play in mixed leagues. He might get there, though, and that’s good news for a White Sox team stung by the loss of Carlos Rodon to an elbow injury.

- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has hit .353/.389/.647 with four homers in 17 games since the Jays decided to send him down in part to deal with his throwing problems at second base. He played second base and shortstop in his first two weeks with Buffalo, but he made his first start in left field on Sunday. If he adapts well to the new spot, it would be no surprise to see Toronto call him up to play over Billy McKinney or Teoscar Hernandez. He’s still a decent bet to offer some mixed-league value this season.

- Miguel Sano (heel) is 5-for-16 with a couple of homers in five games since beginning his rehab assignment. Marwin Gonzalez has struggled and C.J. Cron hasn’t performed a whole lot better, so Sano should get all of the playing time he can handle after coming off the disabled list. It might not result in mixed-league value at first, but he’d be nice to have stashed away.

- Collin McHugh’s bad starts have been especially bad, such as when he gave up eight runs to the Royals on Tuesday, but unless the Astros give up on him, I wouldn’t drop him in a mixed league. Don’t think they’ll be turning to top prospect Forrest Whitley, either; Whitley couldn’t even make it out of his first inning of his last outing for Triple-A Round Rock and has a 10.43 ERA through 14 2/3 innings.

- Anthony Swarzak’s setback Tuesday against the Yankees could put Rule 5 pick Brandon Brennan in line for save chances in Seattle. The 27-year-old Brennan has been a pleasant surprise with his 2.21 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings.

 

National League notes

- Caleb Smith did it again Tuesday, striking out 11 Cubs in six innings on his way to his fourth no-decision in seven starts. There isn’t much fluky about his performance, but he’s becoming a sell-high guy, if not now then in the near future. It’s mostly because Smith is a 28-year-old who has never topped 135 innings as a pro. Last year, he threw 77 1/3 innings in 16 starts before going down with a lat injury that ended his season. The strikeout rate is for real and Marlins Park really helps with his flyball tendencies, so he should remain quite valuable while healthy. However, wins are likely to be a problem and the Marlins are going to have to start monitoring his innings soon.

- How much longer do you give Brandon Nimmo if you’re the Mets? After all, it’s not just a matter of whether his bat comes around; the Mets are giving up a considerable amount of defense in center every time they use him there over Juan Lagares or Keon Broxton. That’s not Nimmo’s fault – he belongs in a corner – but it is a problem for a team that doesn’t excel with their gloves. Nimmo’s contact rate is way down, and he’s currently striking out one-third of the time. Worse, he’s not hitting the ball particularly hard when he does make contact. A stint in the minors would make some sense.

- Obviously, A.J. Pollock’s long-term absence from the Dodgers lineup should most benefit Alex Verdugo, but it’s also worth noting that Chris Taylor has now started seven straight games and Max Muncy has started getting some more playing time against lefties. I wasn’t very optimistic about Taylor’s bat this year, but he’s in a great lineup and he can steal some bases; as long as he’s playing regularly, he’ll probably have some mixed-league value.

- Even though Roman Quinn’s latest injury has cut into their outfield depth, the Phillies made the call to designate Aaron Altherr for assignment when Odubel Herrera came off the IL over the weekend. Altherr showed a whole lot of promise as a 26-year-old in 2017, hitting .272/.340/.516 with 19 homers in 372 at-bats, but he struggled mightily as a part-timer last year and he was off to a 1-for-29 start this season. It still seems likely that one of the teams out there desperate for outfield help will try him out, perhaps the Orioles or the Giants. If he lands with Baltimore, then he’ll be a deep sleeper to amass some mixed-league value.

- The Giants might be less inclined to grab Altherr after calling up Mac Williamson for one last opportunity on Tuesday. Williamson, 28, was again putting up huge numbers in Triple-A (.378/.459/.756 with 9 HR in 82 AB). He was also great there last season and in five games after being called up until he suffered a concussion and struggled the rest of the way. I’ve never seen much reason to be particularly optimistic about Williamson; the power is legit, but batting average will be an issue and he doesn’t add to his case with his defense. He’s quite possibly one of the Giants’ three best outfield options, but the occasional homer binge probably won’t give him any significant fantasy value.

- The Reds promoted Josh VanMeter after the utilityman hit .336/.431/.736 with 13 homers in 110 at-bats for Triple-A Louisville, making him easily the International League’s best hitter this season. Whether they actually have anything for him to do is unclear; he’s ridden the pine in three straight games, remaining there even with the DH available on Tuesday. It would be interesting to see if the power spike is for real; Triple-A numbers seem extra unreliable this year with the new baseballs being used, but the especially crazy stats are mostly coming out of the PCL. VanMeter can steal bases, too, so if he were to get a chance, he’d be a sleeper.

Matthew Pouliot
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.