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Tuesday 19th Sep 2017

Last week’s column regarding rule changes for September quasi-disabled list players evoked some further thoughts. Such a rule change is what I would term a gentleman’s rule. To put it simply, you want to win, but in what fashion?

I admit, I typically have taken the shark approach, using the rules to my advantage. If there’s a loophole, use it. If an action isn’t specifically prohibited, do it. You do whatever it takes to win, as long as it’s legal. Sometimes though, winning this way can feel a bit hollow, particularly with respect to injuries as they impact your competitors. This is applicable to just about any fantasy sport and like with the September injury rules, you want to at least give your opponent the ability to fix their roster and still compete.

So moving beyond September and just baseball to football, it is a common situation, team A loses Eddie Lacy to a concussion and he may miss a week. James Starks is coming off a good game replacing Lacy and is on the free agent wire in many, if not most leagues. You’re playing the team with Eddie Lacy the coming week and manage to grab Starks, who you can either use to improve your own roster for this week or simply to block your opponent from getting points.

On the one hand, you can say “That’s perfectly legal. Starks was up for grabs. You were quicker or put in a stronger bid and you got him fair and square.”  You can pat yourself on the back for job well done, knowing you just increased your odds of winning this coming week.

On the other hand, what is the harm that the team or teams suffering an injury get first dibs on the player’s most likely replacement? By allowing first dibs to occur, you allow things to balance, somewhat anyway. Most likely, the team getting the replacement is already suffering from likely having lost a superior player for some amount of time. Whether you are competing in fantasy football or fantasy baseball, when you do not grant “first dibs”, you may create a downward spiral whereby they lose out on a player that could have saved or at least let them tread water. Then, if they have any further injuries, the problem can become more compounded until they are quickly out of competition and might in the case of redraft leagues, become a dead team.

Some leagues might go so far as to require that if team B has team A’s backup, that they might have to engineer a trade so everyone has a healthy/competitive roster. I don’t think I could advocate such a rule. Players already rostered, at least in my humble opinion, should be sacred.

I am not 100% sold on playing with a “first dibs” rule though I might be interested in testing it out as an experiment. I am not sold because there are legitimate counter arguments to be made.

The argument that stands out the most to me is research. This may typically be more apparent in AL and NL-only baseball leagues where having a deep knowledge of the player pool is paramount, but it is certainly a factor in mixed baseball and fantasy football leagues too.

If a team loses a player to injury, they should have to at least put in the time and effort to figure out who is likely to get the playing time. If a team owner automatically gets “dibs”, then that owner does not have to do any research at all and it levels the playing field in favor of more casual owners. Part of the glory of playing fantasy sports is being able to point towards your prowess of grabbing potential keepers or key players who put you over the top. There’s nothing exciting about some team lucking its way into an organization’s next stud rookie simply because he is getting called up to replace an injured veteran. That player should be on the free market for all to acquire.

So while I believe there is room for instituting some Gentleman’s rules, there are some boundaries that perhaps should not be crossed less civility trump competitiveness and the free agent market to a degree that it takes the fun out of playing fantasy sports. It is a matter of finding that fine line.

 

Are you a Jacoby Ellsbury owner? I am, and I’m just a few points out of first place in my highly completive local keeper league and tied with my main opponent in stolen bases. But, I have been unable to activate Lorenzo Cain and his 2-plus stolen bases this week because the Red Sox haven’t placed Ellsbury on the disabled list.

Now of course, no one wants to hear me rant about my woes and the common refrain “no one cares about your fantasy but you” certainly applies, but this is an opportunity to address an old issue in keeper and non-keeper leagues alike that occurs every single September.

From a real baseball perspective, it’s a strategy. Obviously, rosters have expanded and the key personnel most likely to replace an injured player have already been brought up. Therefore, there is no reason to place a player on the disabled list unless there is a critical need. In the case of Ellsbury, who is expected to return at some yet to be determined time this year, we may be seeing a situation where the Sox do not want to risk putting him on the DL and potentially missing out on having him in the lineup should he be able to return in less than the minimum disabled list stay.

Back to the world of fantasy baseball, the common rule is unless a player is officially on the disabled list, you cannot disable them. Some may say “so what, it forces a tough decision. If you are competing for first and need stolen bases, go for it and release Ellsbury (since in most leagues it's past the trade deadline) and activate Cain or risk losing.”

On the flip side, one might say “If real MLB teams are strategizing and taking advantage of rules (the September roster expansion in this case), why shouldn’t I be afforded the same opportunity?” So while this does not help me this year in a keeper league that uses a minor league taxi squad and disabled list as my only non-active roster options, what options are available to consider for future seasons as rule changes?

Convert to a reserve roster

On the positive side, a simple reserve roster simplifies a league. If done without having a separate disabled list or minor league roster, and a simple maximum of slots (4, 6, 8, etc), then owners would have the luxury to address active roster issues like with Ellsbury above, but they may have to make tough decisions regarding other injured players and potential minor league keepers depending upon the number of slots available. Though simple, this solution has its downsides. If a team is beset by injuries and the roster size is too small, they end up having to sacrifice their keepers/trade bait and may not be able to get back on track. On the other hand, if the reserve roster size allowed is too large, then it can have potential problems, including reducing the size of the available free agent pool or creating a league of stockpilers where trades and owner interaction become less necessary.

Use a Hybrid Reserve Roster/Disabled List

This is what Tout Wars does. A 4-man reserve roster which can consist of any player whether they are in the minors or majors and an unlimited disabled list. For redraft leagues, this might be the ideal configuration. It does not penalize teams that have to deal with injuries, but provides a very limited mechanism whereby teams can speculate on a few minor leaguers during the reserve round on draft day and/or stash backups for the higher risk players on their roster, particularly in AL and NL-only leagues. The small reserve roster does indeed force an owner to make tough decisions at key points over the course of the season. For keeper leagues, this could work too, but would be on the small side of things and could penalize rebuilding teams by giving them less of an advantage/less of a reason to dump for the following season. Some leagues might prefer that type of arrangement, but it would not favor those leagues that enjoy aggressive rebuilding and “going for it” efforts via trades.

Special September Rule

This may make the most sense to me, especially as someone who does not favor reserve rosters in keeper leagues but rather a limited minor league roster and an unlimited disabled roster. I generally prefer that if a player is on an active MLB roster, they should either be a free agent, on waivers or on someone’s team and not stashed away (transaction/activation grace periods aside).

MLB baseball allows rosters to expand, so why shouldn’t fantasy leagues? If you want to be strict, let teams utilize a single reserve roster spot only available to them from September 1 on for any MLB player not formally placed on the disabled list.

If you want to get really strict, have the owner provide or show his common knowledge that a player would be on the disabled list if not for the 40-man roster expansion. This, however, since it is not tied to any official baseball act, could potentially get tricky and become a divisive issue and potentially destroy a league depending on the circumstances. It may be best just to keep it simple and unofficial, allowing any active roster player to be reserved.

Finally, one item to keep teams from possibly abusing this is that if an owner does indeed utilize the September reserve spot, then immediately after the season (before allowing trades again and after removing all players whose long-term contracts have expired), the owner should have to release a player back into the free agent pool from either their active roster or that reserve spot, making one player ineligible to be kept.

These are just some suggestions for dealing with the inevitable September injured but not disabled player limbo. I’d be happy to hear about the way your leagues handle these issues and how the configuration of reserve, disabled and minor league rosters have evolved over the years.

 

When the Twins received 28-year-old journeyman outfielder Alex Presley in return for Justin Morneau from the Pirates, a knee jerk reaction might have been that the Twins received a fourth outfielder at best for their long time, impending free agent first baseman, Justin Morneau.

While that profile might be the long-term end result, Presley has been receiving regular playing time as the Twins’ starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter all this week. The lefty has had two extended opportunities in the Majors with the Pirates, the second resulting in a .237/.279/.405 line compared to his .298/.339/.465 line in his first go around. At the MLB level, he has indeed demonstrated that there may be high single-digit power/20-plus stolen base potential. At times, Presley has also been able to translate his contact-making skills to the Majors. What has not come along has been the plate discipline. Instead, for the most part, Presley has shown himself to be overly aggressive and quite the opposite of his minor league style. For example this year, Presley produced a .298/.376/.427 line along with a 10% walk rate and 14% strikeout rate.

More than likely, the Twins will attempt to utilize both Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia in their starting outfield in 2014, but that does leave openings for competition in an organization that rarely invests much money on the free agent market, making Presley’s progress and role with the team definitely worth noting for AL-only leaguers.

Seattle Reinforcement

The Mariners, as part of their September call-ups, added lefty James Paxton to their 40-man roster. Seattle will be moving to a 6-man rotation and Paxton is scheduled to make his MLB debut this coming Saturday. Paxton appeared to be on the fast track after his 2011 season, but dealt with injuries and control problems that lowered his stock somewhat in 2012. His 2013 performance has not been all roses either as he sports a 4.45 ERA and saw his strikeout numbers drop a full point, but did at least see his control improve by a point, a much more important item. Paxton is a hard throwing lefty with a mid to upper nineties fastball and plus curve. After 28 starts at Triple-A this season, he should compete for a rotation spot next spring.

To contrast, Brandon Maurer, who was a surprise winner of a rotation spot this past spring, is also back in the Majors, but serving in a long relief capacity. Maurer was unable to right his ship after his demotion, posting a 5+ walk per nine and a 5+ ERA. There is still middle of the rotation potential here and he is someone very much in need of a fresh start/new season. It is unclear where he fits into the Mariners' long-term plans now, and as a result, he could end up trade bait.

Players to be Named Later

Two players to be named later were dealt this week. Unfortunately, neither pitcher is likely to make any significant splashes.

The Diamondbacks acquired Matt Langwell (Kubel deal) from the Indians while the Brewers acquired Michael Blazek from the Cardinals (Axford deal).

Langwell, 27, is a former 11th round draft pick out of Rice University. A journeyman reliever, Langwell has had two fairly solid back to back seasons at Triple-A for the Tribe, throwing strikes and missing some bats, though he did suffer a near 3.0 decline in the strikeout rate department from 2012 to 2013. He could see some middle relief action in Arizona or could just as easily continue to be used as an organizational player.

Michael Blazek, 24, is a former 35th round draft pick out of Arbor View High School. He made his MLB debut with the Cardinals earlier this year and is now up in the Brewers’ bullpen. Blazek is a fairly hard thrower who averages around 95 mph on his fastball. He also uses a curve, slider and a changeup. Throwing strikes, even at the minor league level, is somewhat elusive for Blazek and like Langwell, a return to Triple-A next season is the most likely outcome.

 

Many of the moves this past week involve prospects receiving or close to getting the opportunity to claim a MLB job. So its carpe diem, especially in Miami.

The Miami Marlins, armed with a 37-62 record, elected to start the arbitration clocks of their two most promising players by bringing up both Jake Marisnick and Christian Yelich. This past spring, I had included both players as potential impact prospects for the 2013 season as it was likely the Marlins might want to get both players’ respective feet wet in a low-pressure situation.

Marisnick, acquired in the massive deal with the Blue Jays late last year, has been long noted for tools, but not so much on actual production. The 22-year-old was having a solid, though unspectacular (.294/.358/.502), season in Double-A, showing his 20-20 potential with 12 HRs and 11 steals. However, the righty has still shown the same fairly aggressive approach with a strikeout rate above 20% and walk rate of less than 6%. Marisnick will be the Marlins’ starting centerfielder for now and perhaps long term. Keep in mind, however, that Marisnick may not be quite ready to make the jump from Double-A straight to the Majors and could struggle at first. Long term, I have concerns regarding his ability to be more than a wrong-side of the split platoon player, but also see him as a potential Chris Young type, though to Young’s credit, he at least is a somewhat patient hitter.

Of the two, Christian Yelich is the superior player to target. The 21-year-old has not necessarily put up the power/speed numbers of Marisnick this season, but he has shown an ability to translate his palte discipline skills to the higher levels of the Minors (.280/.365/.518). While the ball is not necessarily going out of the park, Yelich does have 46 extra base hits. Like Marisnick, Yelich’s bat is more of a centerfield bat projecting upper teens to low-twenties HR power, but 20-plus stolen base potential. Given a pretty advanced approach, I am more confident in Yelich’s ability to adjust to the Majors than Marisnick, but note that Yelich’s strikeout rates did leap upwards of 20% and another leap could further exacerbate his difficulties with making contact.

Brewers Get their Steak

Francisco Rodriguez’s strong season allowed the Brewers to pry Nick Delmonico from the Orioles this past week. Injuries have reduced the Brewers to a platoon of Juan Francisco and Sean Halton, and there is a need for organizational depth at the position. Delmonico, 21, is a ways away from helping on the MLB front, but could eventually. The lefty has enough power potential for the position and a patient approach to exploit it. That said, Delmonico has not at all dominated any level of play, hitting in the .240s in A+ ball despite power and a good approach. This may be somewhat attributable to having sub-par wheels and overall makes it somewhat difficult to see him as an everyday player.

Sticking with the Brewers, they had to recall Khris Davis from Triple-A in light of the Ryan Braun suspension. Davis was also amongst my preseason potential impact players, though the likelihood seemed little given the presence of Braun. Well, I guess that’s one way to get rid of a road block, at least temporarily. Davis continued to show a good plate approach with some pop in Triple-A this season, but failed to hit for average as he had last season. Davis does not really project to hit for a high average at the MLB level regardless, but could be an upper teens to low-twenties power hitter given the opportunity. For now, the righty will serve as the lesser portion of a platoon with Logan Schafer.

The Garza Spoils

While a player or two is yet to be named, the Cubs did hook Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards already from the Rangers in exchange for Matt Garza.

Olt was potentially an odd man out in Texas even if he had been healthy and having a good season given the middle infield depth and Adrian Beltre at third base. With Chicago, the obstacles towards playing time are substantially reduced, so the questions are reduced to health and getting his swing back. When on his game, Olt is a highly disciplined right-handed hitter with mid to upper twenties home run power. He should be able to provide good OBP numbers, but given his handedness and strikeout rates, it is possible he may be more of a .250’s to .270 hitter.

Grimm saw plenty of action earlier this year with the Rangers and plenty of ups and downs too. The nearly 25-year-old may have posted a 6+ ERA in 17 starts but still showed very solid underlying peripherals with a 6.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 against a .347 BABIP and 64% left-on-base rate, not to mention a 14% home run per fly ball rate! While Grimm has never profiled as an upper end of the rotation starter, the righty does possess three quality pitches, and a change of scenery to the NL along with more experience could turn his very young career around.

C.J. Edwards is in his first year of full-season ball and having good success, posting an 11.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. Edwards is more of a long-term project than either Olt or Grimm, who are both almost MLB ready, though Edwards does have middle of the rotation potential as well.

Injury Notes

Travis D’Arnaud is back on the field in A-ball. It will be interesting to see how quickly he can make it back to Triple-A and whether he will merit a September call-up in an attempt to perhaps claim the 2014 starting job.

Tampa Bay prospect Taylor Guerrieri underwent Tommy John surgery this past week, meaning 2014 is a loss as well. At 20 years of age, he has plenty of time to recover and still make the Majors at a young age, but figure his time frame for doing so, if he remains healthy, is now inching towards the latter half of this decade.

 Rob Leibowitz has been playing fantasy baseball for over twenty years and has been writing as an analyst for 15 years. You can find his columns “The Diamond Exchange” and “The Prospector” here at Mastersball.com. A member of Tout Wars since 2001, you can follow him on twitter at @Rob_Leibowitz.

This week’s transactions have brought about a few stash and save opportunities. Prospects like the A’s Sonny Gray and the Indians’ Danny Salazar received call-ups to the Majors. Neither pitcher is intended to spend significant time on the MLB roster for now and in fact most fantasy leaguers may not even be able to initiate a stash and save maneuver on Salazar as the Indians, as of the time of this writing, are likely to option him back to the Minors immediately following the game so they can add some bullpen help and Salazar could get his next turn, albeit in the minor league rotation.

Gray has re-emerged as a top prospect. The righty struggled mightily in Double-A and Triple-A after coming on the prospect radar in 2011. Gray struggled so mightily, in fact, his strikeout rate dropped by over two full points, resulting in his jettison from dynasty teams and/or not being targeted for minor league rosters on draft day. Fortunately, Gray’s issues were not injury-related and more of a pitch refinement/command and style adjustment that the righty has now made. The result has been a 9.4 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 that now has him back on track as a potential middle to upper end of the rotation candidate for the A’s. For now, Gray is pitching in middle relief, meaning he may not have much value in redraft leagues, but he's a valuable asset in keeper leagues for contending teams as trade leverage and, of course, as talent to stockpile for dumping teams.

Danny Salazar, 23, had a very impressive MLB debut on Thursday, allowing just three base runners and striking out seven. The 6-footer had emerged as one of the better arms in the Indians’ system last year and must now be considered ahead of Trevor Bauer, not only because of last night’s performance, but for his sheer dominance at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels, where he commanded three plus-caliber pitches well (sub 3.0 BB/9 at both stops) while striking out 13.6 and 10.4 batters per nine innings at each level, respectively. Salazar may not have a MLB rotation spot, especially with Zach McAllister expected to return after the All-Star break, but it may not be long afterwards that he claims a spot for good.

Moving back to the A’s, as has been anticipated for a few months, the club finally cut bait on part of their middle infield platoon situation by designating Adam Rosales for assignment and shifting Jed Lowrie full time to shortstop while bringing up prospect Grant Green. Green just won PCL player of the month honors and has produced a very solid .318/.374/.500 slash thus far. Although still a fairly aggressive right-handed hitter, Green has made some progress in improving his contact-making skills while maintaining above average, for a second baseman, power skills with 11 homers. Green is not a high-ceiling prospect, but if he can translate his contact/pop skills to the Majors, a .270s, 15 HR season could be a reasonable baseline projection for him in 2014. However, this is not a go grab him moment for contenders. The A’s have opted to ease Green in by having him form the wrong side of the platoon, meaning that for now, Green will face only lefties as he adjusts to the Majors. While this makes sense for Green’s development in real baseball terms, it certainly does not help fantasy leaguers, redraft leaguers in particular. As a result of this situation, it makes Green a stash and save pickup, not a play now pickup.

Jackie Bradley, though likely rostered in most keeper/dynasty leagues, presents another stash and save opportunity. The lefty was recalled earlier this week when Jacoby Ellsbury was day-to-day. Bradley had won the opening day left field job only to press at the plate and get demoted. Bradley has refound his stroke at Pawtucket, batting .297/.393/.530 while displaying both speed and power in his bat as well as a highly disciplined approach. For now, the Daniel Nava/Jonny Gomes platoon in left is not going anywhere as long as it produces with the Sox in first place. Bradley, instead, is more likely to push for a 2014 starting job, especially if the Red Sox allow Ellsbury to walk as a free agent. Bradley would be a natural fit for the centerfield job.

Finally, some quick thoughts on the pitchers the Marlins acquired in exchange for Ricky Nolasco. All three are fairly middling prospects, but this isn't surprising since the Marlins' main concern was unloading cash and getting the Dodgers to take on the rest of Nolasco’s remaining contract (nearly $6M). Had the Marlins been willing to shoulder some of the contract, their haul might’ve been prettier.

Angel Sanchez, 23, had only just made it back to A+ ball after spending most of the season in Class-A ball. While Sanchez has a quality arm and multiple pitches with plus potential, he struggles with throwing quality strikes and has been regularly hit hard in the Minors, posting a 4.88 ERA in low-A ball. At his last three stops, Sanchez has had left-on-base rates hovering around the 60% mark despite showing an ability to miss bats. A conversion to relief may be in order.

Josh Walls was converted to a relief role in 2011 and even served as the Dodgers' Triple-A closer in 2012, accumulating 28 saves. Wall throws fairly hard and mainly utilizes a fastball/slider combo that has him profile best as a right-handed specialist reliever. He should be up at some point this season with the Marlins but at the moment does not look like a MLB save-threat.

Steve Ames, 25, is more journeyman than prospect and had only just made his Triple-A debut this season. His stuff is decent, but nothing special, making him profile best in middle relief. When pitching his best, Ames is a strike zone pounder who can post a sub-2.0 BB/9.

The Diamond Exchange will be on vacation next week but will return the week of July 21st with new material.

Rob Leibowitz has been playing fantasy baseball for over twenty years and has been writing as an analyst for 15 years. You can find his columns “The Diamond Exchange” and “The Prospector” here at Mastersball.com. A member of Tout Wars since 2001, you can follow him on twitter at @Rob_Leibowitz.

The trade of Scott Feldman to the Orioles signaled the start of the march towards the July 31st deadline and with that we get back to the roots of the Diamond Exchange: Transaction Analysis. Granted this may not be that exciting a trade deadline period. As Todd pointed out the other day via twitter, there really are only eight teams out of contention (Twins, White Sox, Mariners Astros, Mets, Marlins, Cubs, and Brewers) and the pickings from those teams slim with the remaining twenty-two teams looking to add talent. Many teams may go with what they have and the trade market, therefore, could remain quite active (and perhaps more active) once we get past the non-waiver trade deadline as teams reassess their changes to claim a playoff berth.

Headliners
Consider this. Scott Feldman may be one of the players, let along best pitchers, and traded in-season in 2013. Before you open your FAAB wallets in a panic however, let’s break the former Ranger down.  Feldman, 30, has transformed a bit over the years, using his cut fastball around as often as his regular fastball while mixing in a curve. The lefty no longer utilizes a change-up, but occasionally throws in a split-finger fastball. To his credit, Feldman has become a strikeout pitcher over the past three seasons with three straight years of K/9 above the 6.0 mark all while continuing to pound the zone with frequency and doing a good job keeping the ball on the ground (over 50 percent of the time this year). While these are the makings of a solid pitcher, worthy of note in all formats of play, Feldman’s .343 ERA has been heavily fueled by a .257 BABIP. Keep in mind that with nearly the same exact skills, Feldman posted an ERA above 5.0 in 2012. However, his skills still indicate a much better pitcher than that (2012 was fueled by a 61% left-on-base rate and .318 BABIP). Expect to spend in excess of $25 to acquire Feldman, if not in excess of $40 in redraft leagues. Feldman will take a spot in the Orioles rotation ultimately at the expense of Zach Britton who is likely to lose his spot upon the return of Wei-Yin Chen from the disabled list.

Carlos Villanueva will be moving back into the Cubs’ rotation as a result. The 29-year old has had a fair season as a swing-man posting a 3.45 ERA along with a 6.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. A fly-ball pitcher, Villanueva has a long track record for giving up homers at high rates despite otherwise good skills and stuff (12.1 percent career HR/FB rate). In other words, this trait can lead to quite a bit of volatility from start to start, though to the righty’s credit, he’s only given up more than 4 ER in only one of his eight starts this season.

In exchange, the Cubs acquired Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta. Arrieta was subsequently optioned to Triple-A while Strop’s role as a middle reliever remains unchanged. Both pitchers are rather hard throwers, emphasis on “thrower”. Arietta, now 27, owns a career 4.0 BB/9 and had posted a 6.8 this year. Since the righty was a minor leaguer it has been suggested a move to the bullpen, given his frame and good fastball/slider combination, would be wise. For now Arrieta will be a Triple-A starter Strop, 28, has struck out nearly a batter per inning over his career, but walked over half that. 2012 was the first full season of his career in the Majors, posting a 2.44 ERA despite a 5.0 BB/9 rate and 83% left-on-base rate. Strop will not factor into high-leverage situations.

The Cubs swapped Carlos Marmol (and really just international signing bonus slots) to the Dodgers in exchange for Matt Guerrier. Marmol was outrighted to Triple-A immediately after being acquired where the Dodgers hope they can fix the former closer. Guerrier will pitch in his familiar role of middle relief for the Cubs. The righty has just 6 saves to his name over the 5-plus years of his career and will not be a significant factor for fantasy leaguers.

The Gimp Guide

DL - Trevor Cahill, Dexter Fowler Peter Bourjos, Josh Willingham Willie Bloomquist, Jordan Schafer, Paul Konerko, Jesse Crain, Matt Diaz, Jonny Venters

Venters and Diaz’s moves to the 60-day DL were procedural in nature as room on their organization’s 40-man rosters was needed. Josh Willingham will miss the next 4 to 6 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Willingham has had this procedure previously and this type of injury is non-career threatening and should not impact his offensive skills. However, as an already sub-par outfielder, this further pushes Willingham down the path of becoming an everyday DH. The move will allow the Twins to play both Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia, the Twins true long-term outfield, everyday.

Paul Konerko was placed on the disabled list with a lower back strain. The move was not done retroactively even though the Sox’s first basemen had missed the last several games due to the injury. In other words, the Sox want him to get all the rest he needs. It is quite possible Konerko has been dealing with this issue longer than publicly known which would explain the righty’s sudden power outage. Adam Dunn has slid over to first base in Konerko’s absence.

Trevor Cahill should return immediately following the All-Star break when he recovers from a bruised hip. A replacement has not yet been named, though the ball may continue to go to prospect Tyler Skaggs.

Peter Bourjos will miss at least two to three weeks with a fractured right wrist, pushing J.B. Shuck into the left field/leadoff spot. Shuck is a disciplined contact hitter with above average speed and is a worthwhile flier in AL only leagues.

Activated – Nolan Reimold, Edgmer Escalona Alex Avila, Jose Tabata, David Price, Bryce Harper, Aaron Hicks, Luis Ayala, Matt Tuiasosopo, Henderson Alvarez, Mike Pelfrey, Everth Cabrera, and Wilson Ramos. 

Fresh Catch of the Day

The following players were brought up to their respective club’s MLB rosters this week: Collin Cowgill, Josh Lindblom, Gonzalez German, Todd Redmond, Donovan Solano, Chaz Roe, Brett Oberholtzer, Dave Sappelt, Chris Rusin, Joey Terdoslavich, Brent Morel, Josh Phegley, Blake Tekotte, David Purcey, Danny Hayes, Greg Burke, and Dan Straily.

Collin Cowgill may share time with J.B. Shuck in left field in a platoon. Joey Terdoslavich has some impressive power, but for now will be utilized in a pinch-hitter and back-up role off the Braves’ bench. Dan Straily returned to the A’s rotation, allowing 0 runs in 7 innings and will be given every chance to hold onto it. Straily has produced a solid 7.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9, but has seen his ERA suffer as a result of a 63 percent left-on-base rate, but also owns a suppressed .263 batting average on balls in play. So while Straily’s skills suggest improvement, still keep in mind that we are talking about someone with fairly average across the board stuff and a middle-of-the-rotation at best upside.

Hitting the Bricks

The following players were optioned, released, sent outright, or DFA'd by their respective clubs:

Zach Lutz, Chien-Ming Wang, Jair Jurrjens, Bryan Holaday, Danny Valencia, Hector Ambriz, Jordan Brown, Ryan Roberts, Shawn Camp, Chris Rusin, Kyle McClellan, Jhonatan Solano, Clayton Mortensen, Jordan Danks, Hector Gimenez, Tom Koehler, Nick Hagadone, Avisail Garcia, Carlos Marmol, Stephen Vogt, P.J. Walters, Brandon Lyon, Burch Smith, Cory Gearrin and Erik Davis.

Johan Santana? Long gone. Jon Niese? On the shelf until at least after the All-Star break with a partially torn rotator cuff. The lefty is rehabbing and will not require surgery, but one has to wonder about his effectiveness for the remainder of the season and for keeper/dynasty players the possibility that Niese’s condition may further deteriorate and eventually require a surgical procedure despite his best efforts to rehab the issue. Niese’s strikeout rate has fallen to a sub 6.0 after three straight seasons of posting above a 7.0 and he has seen some minor velocity drop. Those will be key factors to watch upon his return from a shoulder injury.

Matt Harvey is atop the rotation and has emerged as the one of the top pitchers in baseball, showing not only tremendous stuff but the ability to command it at an elite level. There is no question that the Mets have found their ace and anchor, health permitting!

Beyond Harvey, Jeremy Hefner has emerged to offer the Mets some solid innings. The former Padre was a fifth round pick out of Oral Roberts University in 2007. Interestingly, the Mets had drafted Hefner twice previously in 2004 and 2005 but were unable to sign him, ultimately acquiring him via waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates in December of 2011 after a mediocre Triple-A campaign when he was the victim of 40-man roster maneuverings. Since then, Hefner has been able to translate his minor league skills to the Majors, showing good command of a four-pitch selection with his slider/cutter being his best pitch. Given a .285 batting average on balls in play as well as some ground ball pitcher tendencies, a slight upwards ERA correction could be coming. Hefner slots in nicely as a number four type long-term.

Statistically speaking, Dillon Gee is due for a more favorable correction given solid strikeout (7.8 K/9) and command skills (2.3 BB/9), a .335 batting average on balls in play and elevated home run rates. However, Gee’s stuff has always been considered average to fringy and the righty has lost over a mile per hour on his fastball and slider to boot. So again, we are talking about an innings eater/back end of the rotation type long-term.

The Mets took a chance on Shaun Marcum as the former Blue Jay returned from injury and the results have not been pretty, though there are some encouraging factors. The 31-year-old has never been a hard thrower, topping out in the high eighties, but is now averaging just 85 mph on his fastball, the lowest mark of his career. Still, since velocity was never something Marcum’s success has been about, we have seen some rather consistent career numbers in the strikeout (7.4 K/9 compared to 7.3 career) and walk (2.3 BB/9 compared to 2.7 career) departments. The primary concerning factors have been a woeful 61% left-on-base rate and career high .315 batting average on balls in play. In other words, Marcum is still displaying a skill set that suggests his ERA should be a run or more lower than what it is now. After pitching eight shutout innings on Wednesday, stick with him for now. The Mets, with the Niese injury, will be forced to, despite his up and down season, and it may be to their benefit.

The final member of the active roster rotation was the Mets’ haul for Carlos Beltran, Zack Wheeler. Wheeler has been showing his velocity, hitting the mid-nineties with regularity. The 23-year-old, however, is indeed pitching like a rookie. Wheeler’s stuff and potential is quite evident, but commanding that stuff has been an issue. There was also some talk in his second start of perhaps tipping pitches, but that remains to be seen. It would also be nice to see Wheeler utilize his changeup more often and to further develop it. While Wheeler has perhaps as much upside as Harvey, fantasy owners should note that the young righty is the most likely candidate to be demoted upon Niese’s return, barring Marcum melting down again of course.

That’s Not All

While the Mets currently have six rotation candidates, the Mets do have other young pitchers who could contribute this season. Rafael Montero is one option. The 22-year-old righty was recently promoted to Triple-A from Double-A Binghamton where he posted a 9.7 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 over 11 starts. Montero was hit fairly hard recently, but has still translated his peripherals pretty well to the higher levels with a strikeout per inning pitched. Montero is noted for having a plus fastball with excellent command as well as a slider and change that are at least solid average MLB pitches. Given that Montero has only four Triple-A starts under his belt, it is more likely that we will wait until at least September to see him, but that timetable could be sped up if the young righty dominates going forward.

Jake DeGrom was also recently promoted from Binghamton to join Montero. While not as highly touted due to his age (25), DeGrom has a good fastball and throws strikes. DeGrom could be a factor as a back end of the rotation option later this year or next season.

2014 and Beyond

Noah Syndergaard could be the Mets' top rated prospect in 2014. As a 20-year-old, Syndergaard dominated A+ ball. In 12 starts, the righty struck out more than a batter per inning while showing skills and a feel for pitching that one would expect from a much more experienced player (2.3 BB/9). Syndergaard is a harder thrower than possibly either Harvey or Wheeler and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to Double-A where he will no longer be able to simply rely on his fastball.

Cory Mazzoni has only made nine starts this season due to an early bout of elbow inflammation but is off to a good start with a 9.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. The former second-round pick has three quality pitches and could end the year in Triple-A and be a factor in 2014 if all goes well.

The past few weeks of prospect land have been dominated by the 2013 draft as well as the recent call-ups of 2012 draftees such as Mike Zunino, Michael Wacha and Kevin Gausman (who has since been demoted).

This all begs the question – how are the other 2012 draftees of note performing and will any of them be a factor for us through the remainder of the 2013 season?

On the prep side of things, we are not going to get any help this season, but it should be noted that #1 overall pick Carlos Correa is more than holding his own as an 18-year-old in full-season A-ball, showing advanced plate discipline, pop, and speed all from the shortstop position. In other words, Correa is a potential star, particularly if he remains at short.

Outfielder Byron Buxton, 19, is not holding his own. The righty is dominating at full-season A-ball, showing blazing speed (29 stolen bases in 300 plate appearances), power (8 dingers), and the ability to get on base and make contact with an overall .344/.431/.561 slash. Buxton is a potential .300/25+/30+ guy. While players like Correa and Buxton will not be helping this year and probably not next year either, they are both huge chips whose respective organizations will be inclined to move at a faster rate than one level per year.

Speaking of accelerated arrivals, Addison Russell, who was signed fairly quickly with the A’s last year and has already played at four levels of professional ball, is faring rather well for an 18-year-old in A+ ball with a .249/.332/.467 slash. A righty, Russell is striking out about a quarter of the time but he is not a hacker. If he can stay at short, he has 20-plus home run potential, though it remains to be seen if he can hit for a good enough average.

Shifting gears to the college ranks, Andrew Heaney got a late start this year with the Marlins due to a strained lat muscle but has pitched well in four starts in A+ ball with an 11+ K/9. Heaney is a hard-thrower for a lefty and has three pitches already of plus potential. He may get a promotion to Double-A later this season.

Tyler Naquin does not get Zunino’s press, but the lefty was indeed the second college hitter selected in the draft. The Indians' outfielder has been playing well in A+ ball with a .311/375/.468 slash. The plate discipline skills projected of him, however, have not been overtly apparent with a mediocre 23% strikeout rate and 8.1% walk rate. However, he did show those skills last season and has shown a bit more power than expected, so by no means write him off yet. Naquin is a potential .290s or better hitter with 15 to 20 HR per season power and 20-plus stolen base talents.

The Giants are taking a very slow path with Chris Stratton. The 6’0” right-hander is 22 years old and has made 11 starts for A-ball with a nearly 10.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. Stratton profiles as a number three type pitcher with a good fastball and slider and looks like he needs more of a challenge.

Marcus Stroman may be someone who gets a call-up this year. The 5’9” righty out of Duke served a 50-game drug suspension but is already back at Double-A. His 4.15 ERA is mostly the result of a single outing earlier in the year when he allowed seven earned runs and two homers in one inning of work. Stroman has not allowed more than two earned runs in any other start and has an overall 10.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. The former Blue Devil has three plus pitches including a change and could project as high as a #2 starter for the Jays. There has also been some speculation, however, that he could end up in relief. The Jays used him exclusively as a reliever after signing him and right now we may simply be seeing an effort to get the righty some innings after missing so much time. Regardless, Stroman is on the fast track.

James Ramsey is also on the fast track. The Cardinal has already been promoted from A+ ball to Double-A. The 23-year-old is something of a tweener in the power and speed departments but is far from one in the plate discipline department, drawing walks at high rates and making frequent contact. In A+ ball, he smoked the competition with a .361/.481/.557 line. Long-term, he could be the Cardinals' left or center fielder and could hit .300 with 15-15 or better potential. In other words, he’ll be an upgrade over Jon Jay and could give the Cards a formidable, inexpensive outfield alongside Oscar Taveras.

Supplemental first-rounder Kevin Plawecki has lived up to his billing as an offensive catcher. Plawecki has advanced contact-making/walk-drawing skills and has been hitting .314 with a .390 OBP and .494 SLG for Single-A Savannah. Plawecki has enough defensive skills to stay behind the plate, so it will be interesting to see how quickly the Mets advance him given the presence of Travis D’Arnaud, who has an even higher ceiling than Plawecki, in their system. Regardless, the former Boilermaker is dominating his current level and is in need of a promotion.

Finally we come to Travis Jankowski. The outfielder out of SUNY Stony Brook has lived up to his billing as a fairly disciplined speedster with 45 stolen bases in 298 plate appearances. The lefty, however, is devoid of power and has a .358 SLG to go along with a .288/.365 line. It will be interesting to see how Jankowski adjusts to Double-A when the Padres move him up. Speedsters of Jankowski’s ilk need to make contact in excess of 90% of the time in order to be successful at the MLB level and 82% of the time at A+ball is not likely to cut it. His speed, however, should at least keep him on your radar.

If you have any questions on prospects I have not covered, please feel free to ask as always!

Rob Leibowitz has been playing fantasy baseball for over twenty years and has been writing as an analyst for 15 years. You can find his columns “The Diamond Exchange” and “The Prospector” here at Mastersball.com. A member of Tout Wars since 2001, you can follow him on twitter at @Rob_Leibowitz.

Last week, I made note of some key hitters taken in this year’s Amateur draft, so it is time to focus on some of the pitchers.

The obvious first choice to discuss is two-time first-round pick Mark Appel, who will probably be a #1 selection in most AL-only keeper and dynasty leagues next spring. The righty is an intelligent guy with the frame to retain his plus fastball’s velocity into the late innings. He combines the fastball with a plus slider and has the makings of at least an average changeup. The Astros' MLB roster is essentially one big stop gap. Expect Appel to move through the system rather quickly and to possibly reach the Majors as soon as next year, though 2015 may be a more likely estimate depending on what level the Astros opt to start him out at.

The Rockies quickly signed Jonathan Gray, who some actually consider to be the superior to Appel. The righty has been clocked as a harder thrower than the number one overall pick and has excellent command of his fastball to go along with a nasty slider. It will be very interesting to see which of the first two arms selected ends up having the better MLB career.

In addition to Gray, the Rockies were lucky to get Alex Balog to drop to them in the second supplemental round of the draft. The righty throws a heavy sinker, spins the ball well, and has a decent changeup. He profiles best as a middle of the rotation type, but his style of pitching should in theory fit well at Coors Field.

You’ll note that there will not be many, if any, high school pitchers in this discussion given signability issues of high schoolers not taken in the first round and the likely very long haul to the Majors even if they do sign.

The two prep pitchers worth discussing are Kohl Stewart (Twins) and Trey Ball (Red Sox) as both will sign. Stewart may have the upside of the top two college pitchers in the draft and already has a pretty good feel for pitching. Ball is a towering lefty with a projectable fastball as he fills out. Ball already has a pretty good changeup to go along with it and is working on his curve. Both will begin in low-A ball and will likely move one level at a time and may not be factors at the MLB level for four or more years.

The Diamondbacks selected Jordan Shipley out of the University of Nevada. Shipley may not have the upside of a Gray or Appel and does not have the breaking pitch that either of them do, but he throws fairly hard in his own right and throws the better changeup. It is possible he’s a more complete pitcher, though he may not project as an ace as the others do.

Ryne Stenak was a potential steal by the Rays. The righty is a very hard thrower who has a change, but due to the quality of his fastball/slider combo may at some point be moved into a relief role. I would expect him to start out in the Rays' system as a starter, but don’t be surprised if at some point this changes.

The Royals made an interesting selection in the first supplemental round of the draft with Sean Manaea. The lefty profiles as a middle to upper end of the rotation type. Manaea was originally projected to go much earlier, but was not quite as effective as he had been last year, possibly due to a hip injury. When healthy, he can reach the mid-nineties, has good size and has a deep enough repertoire to generate strikeouts. Manaea could be a risky selection for the Royals, but given the Indiana State pitcher’s upside and how far he slipped, the move could be well worth the risk.

It appears Alex Gonzalez may be the most common name in baseball. The Rangers selected (and have already signed) the Oral Roberts right-hander with the 23rd overall pick in the draft. Gonzalez is a consistent strike-thrower who generates ground balls as well as swing and misses with an excellent slider.

Marco Gonzales might be the top “crafty lefty” in the draft. At 6’1” and armed with a low-nineties fastball, Gonzales is not imposing, but he gets high marks for pitchability, command and perhaps the best changeup in the draft. Gonzales may not have the ceiling other pitchers do and will not take much to reach his peak. The Cardinals are not shy about promoting their young pitchers either, so he could move through the system rapidly.

Ryan Eades, originally projected as at least a second round pick, fell to the Twins in the third round. The righty has three pitches with plus potential but comes with the caveat of someone who already once has undergone labrum surgery on his pitching shoulder (high school).

A surprise pick by the Padres was Bryan Verbitsky out of Hofstra. A reliever with a good fastball, he could move fairly quickly through their system if he can show some signs of establishing a worthwhile secondary pitch.

Jonathan Crawford was selected by the Tigers out of the University of Florida with the 20th overall pick. While the Tigers drafted him with the intention of keeping him as a starter, Crawford, who has a plus fastball/curve combo, has no breaking pitch to speak of and could be a candidate to be converted to a relief role.

Rob Leibowitz has been playing fantasy baseball for over twenty years and has been writing as an analyst for 15 years. You can find his columns “The Diamond Exchange” and “The Prospector” here at Mastersball.com. A member of Tout Wars since 2001, you can follow him on twitter at @Rob_Leibowitz.

The Rule-4 draft, as always, is the keeper leaguer’s first glance at potential minor league squad picks for the following season. In other words, the depth of the draft and where the talent ultimately lands (AL or NL), may determine how hard they wish to push in order to obtain a good draft pick. Of course, draft picks in keeper leagues come from a variety of means. Whether the simple last place team gets first minor league pick (dump as hard as you can and eschew league minimum IP and AB requirements) or the first non-money spot team (have to rebuild and somewhat still compete at the same time) gets first pick could impact your strategy.

Generally speaking, with the exception of the truly top prep-candidates, I tend to prefer to draft college players given their more rapid ascent to the Majors. This is particularly noteworthy given the tendency of keeper leaguers to go for it one year and dump the next. This way, you are either acquiring keepers while you rebuild one year and then deal the next when you make your championship run.

With all that in mind, here are some thoughts on some key position players who will be drafted this year:

Catchers
The catching class was not particularly deep this year. Reese McGuire was the top backstop selected (Pirates). The lefty is skilled enough to stick behind the plate and could develop plus power as he matures. Andrew Knapp was the top collegiate receiver taken (Phillies). The switch-hitter has the tools to be a catcher, but it is unclear whether or not he will remain there given that his main tools are on the offensive side of things. The Braves may have gotten a bit of a steal in Victor Caratini, who is a disciplined hitter with teens or better power potential.

First Base
Dominic Smith was technically the first “true” first baseman selected in the draft. The lefty has a quick bat, great swing, good approach, and possible plus power potential, but will have to stick at first base for the long-term. It will likely be a long while before he sees the Majors given the Mets' one level at a time approach with other recent prep selections. D.J. Peterson (Mariners), a third baseman in college, will likely be the first first baseman to make the Majors from this draft class. Peterson is a patient right-handed hiter with 20-plus home run per season power. The next first baseman was not selected until the 88th overall pick  (3rd round). Yellowjacket Daniel Palka is a left-handed hitter with good raw power. Given the presence of Paul Goldschmidt, however, Palka may have to move to a corner outfield spot.

Second Base
L.J. Mazilli (yes that Mazilli) was the top collegiate second baseman selected in a rather weak crop of second basemen. Granted, there were a number of shortstops selected who were ranked higher who may end up at second base in the long run. Like his dad, Mazilli projects to be able to hit for average, provide high single digits to teens power and has decent enough speed/savvy to be a double-digit stolen base threat. Mazilli is not a high-ceiling player, but for now does project as a MLB regular.

Third Base
The draft was fairly deep at third base. Two of the top talents in the draft are third basemen Kris Bryant  (Cubs) and Colin Moran (Marlins). Both players project to stay at the hot corner long-term. Bryant, a righty, has 30+ homer potential while Moran profiles more as a 20+ home run type, but is a lefty with a superior approach. I might be inclined to lean towards Moran when making my draft choice even though Bryant has a higher ceiling given Bryant’s right-handness and strikeout rates. The Yankees may have gotten a steal in Eric Jagielo when he dropped to them with the 26th pick. While Jagielo may end up at first or the outfield long-term, he has mid to upper twenties home run power to go along with a patient approach and is a left-handed bat. The A’s selection of Chris Pinder was something of a traditional A’s selection as a college player with advanced plate discipline, a good glove and gap power. The righty should be able to stick at third, but is not a high-ceiling player.

Shortstops
Hunter Dozier (Royals) perhaps plays good enough shortstop to stick at the position but may, due to his size, eventually move to the hot corner. If he can stay at short, his twenty-plus per season home run power could make him a standout. For those interested in speed, keep track of Tim Anderson. The righty is a 30+ steal threat and has gap power along with very good contact-making skills.

Outfielders
The Indians selected high schooler Clint Fraizer with the fifth overall pick. Like many early-round high school outfielders, Frazier has high-end tools and 20 HR/30 SB potential. The Pirates, meanwhile, selected Austin Meadows, who likely has greater long-term power potential compared to the 5’1l” Frazier. Frazier, however, is the less raw of the two prospects and has a greater feel for the hitting game at this point. Hunter Renfroe (Padres) was the first college outfielder selected. A righty, Renfroe has 25+ home run potential as well as at least double-digits stolen base tools. Given Renfroe’s tools, he should be amongst the first selections in any NL-only keeper league, but keep in mind that he will be playing in Petco and given his handedness/strikeout rates, a high batting average may not be a part of his game. The Reds selected centerfielder Phillip Ervin with the 27th overall pick. Given Billy Hamilton, it’s hard to see how the Reds will eventually fit the two into their outfield when both profile best as centerfielders and neither is a slugger. Ervin at least has double-digit homer potential to go along double digits, if not 20-plus stolen base potential. Ervin’s arm would play well in either right or left field.

Next week, a look at the 2013 Draft’s pitchers!

Headed into 2013, the Blue Jays added significant depth to their rotation by bringing in three respected veterans to potentially give them one of the strongest starting staffs in the American League. So much for potential.

The Blue Jays lost J.A. Happ and Josh Johnson to the disabled list and sent Ricky Romero, who they had prematurely brought up, back to the Minors. As a result, the Jays are down to a rotation of R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle. To make things worse, it was not as if Toronto’s staff was performing well prior to the injuries. Overall, as of the writing of this article, the Blue Jays have the second worst ERA in the American League as well as the second to worst starter’s ERA. So can this club turn things around? When will their injured pitchers come back from the disabled list? And what, if any, other options do the Jays have to push into their rotation?

The Injured

On the injury front, reports are mostly encouraging on both Happ and Johnson, as they are tentatively scheduled to return the first week of June. Whether or not they will be effective upon their return remains to be seen.

The Blue Jays also have Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison on the shelf. Both are returning from Tommy John surgery. Neither pitcher is even scheduled to begin anything much more than bullpen sessions by the end of May or early June. If those progress well, the duo will move into rehab assignments and go to the Minors from there. As long as the rest of the rotation gets healthy and can be somewhat effective, it’s quite possible both could remain in the Minors for the rest of the season. Hutchison, at the time of the injury, had been acclimating well to the Majors, successfully translating his strikeout and control skills. As for Drabek, I have never been sold on him being a starter. The righty, when healthy, has two plus-pitches but no off-speed pitch and mediocre at best command. If he can regain his stuff, his best bet for a MLB career may be as a reliever.

The Staff

As for the pitchers currently in the rotation, R.A. Dickey finally looked more like the R.A. Dickey from 2012 with a 10 strikeout/2 walk performance which raised his strikeout rate nearly a full point from 7.1 to 8.0. It has been widely noted that Dickey’s velocity has been down this year a few mph on his hard knuckler (averaging 74 mph rather than 77 mph last year) and it is possible a combination of that and a variety of day-to-day issues have compromised his performance in the early goings. A rebound may be coming, but keep in mind that at age 38, aches and pains may become more and more common for Dickey. If you are trying to buy low, your chance may have passed. It's also possible Dickey owners may still be trying to deal him, pointing towards his most recent performance as a selling point.

Mark Buehrle’s numbers in the early goings are actually fairly in line with his career norms from a skills perspective. The lefty’s walk rates are up slightly, but not egregiously high at all, at 2.4 BB/9. What has been happening, unfortunately, has been a case of gopheritis. Buehrle has produced a HR/9 almost twice his career norms as well as a 16.4% HR/FB rate to go along with a 6% rise in fly-ball rate over his career norms. Given no significant change in velocity or change in pitch selection, this strikes me as a short-term struggle that should correct itself given the context of Buehrle’s career. While I might not go out of my way to have Buehrle active in most formats, it is still a good buy-low moment if you are in the market for innings and a typically reasonable WHIP.

The main holdover, Brandon Morrow, has also been inconsistent but has maintained his strikeout skills. Command and control, which have always been Morrow’s primary weaknesses, have regressed slightly, though not dramatically, and overall he’s really only had two sub-par outings. In five of Morrow’s seven starts, he’s allowed three earned runs or less. Morrow was scratched from his most recent outing due to back spasms and that could easily be to blame for the former Mariner’s recent wildness. Keep an eye on this situation, as back issues can easily recur.

The Fill-Ins

Veteran right-hander Ramon Ortiz is one of the current part-timers. The former Angel will turn 40 years old next week. Throwing strikes has never been much of an issue for Ortiz. Throwing quality strikes and commanding his pitches within the zone has, as his career 1.4 HR/9 can attest. Ortiz has not been missing bats, not even in the Minors. In 27 Triple-A starts last year, Ortiz managed a 5.5 K/9. A 42% fly-ball rate and four strikeouts in 15.1 innings of work mean an adjustment is coming to the 2.35 ERA he’s sporting thus far.

Chad Jenkins is manning the fifth spot for now. The 25-year-old has been in the Majors before but lacks Triple-A experience. The righty has four pitches and decent control, but has no out pitch and produced a 4.5 K/9 at Double-A in 2012. Pass.

The upper levels of the Minors are barren. The Jays' best bets for fill-ins are journeymen Justin Germano and David Bush, both of whom have already been up in the Majors this year.

The Jays are in last place in the AL East, eight games back, and have the second-worst record in the AL overall. If Johnson and Happ can return healthy in early June and so can Jose Reyes later that month, there’s still time for a turnaround. But, they may need to reach outside of the organization once again to supplement their starting staff as there isn’t anything within it to give them the boost they need.

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