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Tuesday 28th Mar 2017

Anyone need a reliever? There were already more than a few out on the free agent market, but the non-tender deadline further opened the flood gates.

Of the current 206 players who are MLB free agents/non-tenders, 69 or a third are considered relievers. That does not include another 30 pitcher who are considered starters, many of whom may find themselves in relief or swing roles in 2011. In other words, it’s a buyer’s market if you need reliever. Joaquin Benoit’s agent deserves another pat on the back for getting their client signed prior to the non-tender deadline for sure.

While I’ll get to the detailed scouting/statistical analysis of some of the new free agents when they do sign later this off-season, let’s first talk about some of the fallout of the non-tender deadline to their former teams.

The Padres have let Tony Gwynn Jr. and Scott Hairston go while retaining Chris Denorfia and Ryan Ludwick while acquiring Cameron Maybin from the Marlins. The Padres plan to open 2011 with an outfield of Ludwick in left, Maybin in center, and a Venable/Denorfia platoon in right. The Padres’ outfield is heavily right-handed, so Hairston’s departure was far from a surprise given no place left for him to play. Meanwhile, Luis Durango is ready for the majors and is a less expensive option, with more upside too boot, than Tony Gwynn Jr. In fact, the no-power, highly plate disciplined speedster is a nice sleeper for 2011 should Maybin’s contact-making woes continue to be an issue.

Over in Oakland, Travis Buck hasd worn out his welcome. Jack Cust may be having a déjà vu experience after being non-tendered last season only to be re-signed and eventually take back a starting role and ended up second on the team in home runs while leading the team in OBP.  In the outfield, veterans will be taking over from the youngsters with a focus on contact-making and defense in the form of Coco Crisp and David DeJesus. This leaves one remaining spot and a likely competition between Conor Jackson and Ryan Sweeney. Jackson, given his lack of defensive skills, could end up a DH option too with Cust gone. Chris Carter will also be a factor in the outfield/DH situation. A strong spring by Michael Taylor, though a long shot, could also impact the opening day lineup.

As expected, the White Sox let the increasingly expensive Bobby Jenks go.  They also traded away Scott Linebrink to the Braves in another cost cutting move leaving Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos, and Chris Sale as contenders for the closer’s job. Sale may return to the minors to get a look as a starter too. Right now the job looks like Thornton’s to lose given his experience and track record – three straight seasons of 10+ K/9, sub 3.0 BB/9.

Where the White Sox are really making their splash is the free agent market, retaining A.J. Pierzynski and Alexi Ramirez while adding Adam Dunn to DH and still seeking to retain Paul Konerko. So headed into spring training the only position battle will be between Brent Morel and Mark Teahen for third base.

As for Dunn’s skills – he’s rather easy to analyze – he walks, he strikes out, or he hits a home run. A player who strikes out consistently more than a third of the time is simply not going to hit for average over an extended period. That said, he’s an extreme fly-ball hitter moving to a favorable home run hitters park and only just turned 31 years of age, so he should be challenging the 40 home run mark next year. Moving on to Pierzynski, it was believed he would be gone or marginalized by mid-season given the 10 and 5 rule and the presence of Tyler Flowers. Flowers, however, failed to impress and does not have the defensive chops to be a big league catcher. While he is patient and has 20+ home run potential, he is a right-handed hitter who strikes out quite often and is looking more and more like a wrong-side of the platoon first basemen. Pierzynski, meanwhile, continues to make very consistent contact (92% of the time). He had a disappointing season and at nearly 34 years of age, the end may be in sight. A closer analysis reveals that in 2010 he produced by far the lowest line-drive rate of his career, less than 16% when he is normally at 18% or higher. He still managed to hit .270 regardless - not bad for an off-year. There is still a good chance at a rebound given his career tendencies, despite his age.

In other news, Juan Uribe signed with the Dodgers and will become their everyday second basemen. The move displaced Ryan Theriot who was subsequently designated for assignment and dealt to the Cardinals where he will be their everyday second basemen. Uribe continues to have above average power for a middle infielder while making contact more than 80% of the time. He is a right-handed hitter who has never been noted for his plate discipline and constantly frustrating his team and his fantasy owners alike with fairly wild fluctuations in his batting average as a result of his aggressive approach. Given that  he is coming off the greatest home run season of his career, a regression is certain. There is no new skill growth here to suggest that level of production is sustainable. If you keep your expectations at .250 20 HR, then you won’t be disappointed.

Ryan Theriot isn’t sexy, but he is still valuable for fantasy players. For the Cardinals, he will provide a much needed infield improvement defensively a second base over Schumaker. Theriot makes good contact (87% of the time) and has stolen at least 20 bases each of the past four years. On the other hand, his OBP has declined each of the past three seasons and his steals have declined each of the past four.  So, Theriot who turns 31 on Tuesday could already to be past his peak. There are still enough skills here to suggest that could rebound to his pre-2010 form, but don’t pay for that hope. Keep your expectations at the 2010 price tag or less.

2010 was disaster for Javier Vazquez. He posted his lowest K/9 since 1999 and his highest BB/9 of his career. And shockingly, it could have been much worse as he posted a .276 BABIP.. Was it the pressure of pitching in NY? Was it skill and talent deterioration? Possibly a  bit of all three, but one thing that clearly stands out was Vazquez’s average fastball velocity of 88.7 mph. That is almost a 3 mph drop from where it had been for virtually the entirety of his career before 2010. He enters 2011 as a 34-year old starter with over 2600 innings on his arm. Moving to the National League on a one-year deal, to a pitcher friendly park, is a smart move for Vazquez and it is certainly possible he could revive his career there. But, given his age and the drop off in velocity, it will be difficult to justify a bid of more than $5 though at that price, it may be worth the risk.

Speaking of disasters, Jose Lopez was dealt to the Rockies by the Mariners this past week. If the deal had not come through, the Mariners would have non-tendered him. At this moment, it looks like the Rockies intend to use Lopez as a jack-of-all-trades, seeing time at second, third, and first base. The 27-year old is still an excellent contact hitter (89% of the time) and has legitimate 20+ home run power too still. However, he is not a selective hitter at the plate and has a career .297 OBP. In other words, despite his power potential, it makes it difficult to justify keeping him in the lineup given the number of outs he creates. He also has rated as a sub-par defender, best suited for first base where he would have to consistently tap into that 20+ HR power in order to play there. The move from Seattle to Colorado should help his numbers regardless given the significant change from pitcher’s park to hitter’s park. A return to the .280 20+ level given his history and youth would be far from surprising, but with Chris Nelson and Eric Young on the roster, he may have difficulty getting the at-bats to do it. The Mariners, meanwhile, acquired Chaz Roe in exchange for him. He is a former supplemental first round draft pick with two potential plus pitches, but has yet to really develop a strikeout pitch, posting a mediocre 3.0 BB/9 and 6.6 K/9 in Triple-A this past year. He could, however, be given a long look by Seattle this spring and has a chance to pick up some spot starts. His best long-term role could be in relief.

Hisa Takahashi left the Mets to join the Angels for the next two seasons. For now he is slated to appear in out of the bullpen, but he has shown the ability to start at the MLB level too. In his rookie season he produced a solid 8.4 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. One should keep in mind that playing at Citifield helped him quite a bit. He is a fly-ball pitcher who averages less than 89 mph and posted a 76% LOB rate and 8.3% HR/FB rate. While his splits suggest he can handle righties (7+ K/9, sub 4.0 BB/9), his best role is as a lefty specialist – 11.0 K/9 and 2.7 against them in 2010. Tentatively Fernando Rodney is slated to be the closer for the Angels, but Takahashi was successful when used temporarily in that role for the Mets last season and could very well win the job outright, provided the Angels don’t sign another veteran closer, this spring.

Lance Berkman will return to the National League and the outfield in 2011. He signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals and will play left field while Matt Holiday slides over to right. This leaves a bit of a conundrum with youngsters Colby Rasmus and John Jay vying for playing time in center field. Both are coming off solid seasons and it is possible that one could be dealt to make way for the other. It is also possible that Jay will be used a fourth outfielder/plus (spelling Berkman in the late innings). Berkman will be 35 to start 2011. On the good side, the high level of plate discipline that has served him so well over the course of his career remains – high walk rates and relatively low strikeout rates for a player with his power skills. However, Berkman posted the second lowest ISO of his career in 2010 while hitting the most ground balls, the fewest line drives, the lowest HR/FB, and producing the lowest BABIP of his career. He has also become increasingly worse against lefties over his career, batting less than .200 against them this past season and .230 the year before, so he is looking more and more like a platoon player. Can he rebound? Maybe. As I’ve said, the base skills are still there – it is more a question of whether he can remain healthy and whether the power-outage was injury/aged reduced or simply a fluke. The one thing that gives me hope for a rebound is the sudden change in line-drive/fly-ball rates. A return to his normal rates will certainly help him in both the batting average and home run production departments.

The Dodgers have elected to utilize 35-year old Rod Barajas as their primary receiver for 2011, letting Russell Martin walk. Barajas is a very known quantity – fair defender with above average power and little to no plate discipline which combined with a catcher’s speed leads to a sub .250 batting average and 15 to 20 HR given his extreme fly-ball hitting ways (over 50% of the time for his career). Last year he hit an amazing 66% of his balls in play in the air.  It also doesn’t help his batting average either when you consider around 16% of his balls in play have been infield fly outs. All that said, he is usually a draft day bargain, going under value every year due to his much maligned lack of on-base skills.

Scott Linebrink’s move to the Braves was a cost cutting move, but the White Sox will still pick up about $3,5 million of his $5 M contract. The White Sox did at least pass the entirety of Linebrink’s 2011 contract to the Braves ($5.5 Million). Despite a 4.40 ERA, Linebrink still posted an 8.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. The home runs are what always do him in. He allowed 50% of his balls in play to be fly-balls and allowed 13% of those to be turned into home runs. Moving back to the NL away from Chicago and to a pitcher’s park like Atlanta will certainly help him. Right now he has to be considered the favorite to close for the Braves given the lack of experience in the bullpen, but his long-term issues with the long-ball make him rather unsuited for a high pressure role like that. Kyle Cofield is a 23-year old right-handed starter who pitched in Double-A in 2010. A former 8th round pick, he is known for having a quality arm with multiple plus-pitch potential, but has is an unrefined product unable to throw command his pitches consistently, limiting his strikeout rate ceiling. He posted a 6.2 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 last year. His profile screams “convert me to relief!”

The Jays have let many veteran relievers walk as free agents this off-season and need to find replacements. Carlos Villanueva was the first such acquisition. He pitched better than his ERA of 4.76 would indicate, producing an 11.5 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 52.2 innings. Despite pitching exclusively in relief, he remains a four-pitch pitcher. His K/9 history has always been good, but considering he doesn’t crack 90 mph, 11+ does not seem sustainable. Like Linebrink above, he has a long history of trouble with fly-balls and giving up home runs. The Blue Jays may not have a closer currently and Villanueva is technically a candidate, but it is more likely he will continue to simply pitch in middle relief given his limitations.

Aaron Harang has to be quite pleased. Not only is he returning to his hometown, but he is moving from a homerun friendly park, to a pitcher's park. The 32-year old has always been a fly-ball pitcher and owns a career 11% HR/FB and 41% fly-ball rate to go along with his career 7.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. If this had happend 3 or four years ago, this would be huge news and having fantasy owners everywhere salivating. But it is not. Harang has battled some injury issues in recent seasons and is coming off the worst strikeout/command season of his career. In fact, he hasn't started over 30 games since 2007. It will be interesting to see where Harang's draft day price falls. In some leagues there may be some overexuberance given the ballpark shift and his price could be driven up into the teens. Given a .346 BABIP last season and a better , there will be some positive regression in Harang's favor that should improve his ERA and WHIP. All that said, it is difficult to project more than 25 starts for him right now.

Happy Thanksgiving all! Now that you’re done filling up on Turkey and stuffing, hopefully I can sate your appetite for analysis of some of the more recent transactions.

Over in Detroit, Victor Martinez agreed to a contract that will keep him in Detroit through 2014. Martinez will turn 32 this December, but the fact that their intent is to utilize him primarily as a DH, catching a once or twice a week at most, should help to minimize the wear and tear on a post-prime catcher’s body. Alex Avila, meanwhile, will receive the bulk of the duty behind the plate. Gerald Laird was already set to depart as a free agent and had not been offered arbitration either, so he will not be returning to the fold.

Martinez showed the least patient approach of his career in 2010, but the overall combination did not greatly affect his offensive game, expect for posting his lowest OBP since 2003. What he did instead of drawing walks, was make contact nearly 90% of the time while increasing his FB rate (and reducing his line drive rate) by nearly 7% to post his third highest isolated power of his career. These changes, however, are quite out of context with the last several seasons of his career and a regression to that approach/where the ball is typically hit is more than likely.  Keep in mind that is far from a bad thing – OBP leaguers will certainly be happy and he still has the contact/power skill-set to keep hitting .300 20+ HR. Just keep in the back of your head that if he continues to hit fewer line-drives and if his ground-ball rate should ever rise while his fly-ball rates sinks, his batting average could plummet precipitously given his well below-average speed. Just look closely at Justin Morneau’s career to see what I am talking about.

Martinez owners, meanwhile, should not be too concerned about the move from Fenway to Detroit as Fenway has actually been a worse home run hitter’s park the last three seasons.

The Dodgers signed Jon Garland to a one-year deal with a vesting option for 2012 on Friday. How quickly he signed is a bit surprising considering he remains durable, post a 3.47 ERA, and produce the highest strikeout rate of his career. One would have expected based on those numbers, he might have been able to parlay multiple-years and suitors.  Looking over his career, the change that allowed him to increase his strikeouts may have come  change in his pitch selection. He threw by far the lowest percentage of fastballs of his career as well as the fewest changeups while increasing his usage of his cut-fastball and curve. On the negative side of things he also posted by far the highest full-season BB/9 of his  at nearly 4.0. A decline in BB/9 of course is to be expected when you have a 5% drop in fastballs, your easiest pitch to throw for strikes. So despite making improvements in his strikeouts and keeping his ERA low, he is unlikely to be able to maintain the gains he made.  Considering the sub-4.00 ERA also came with a 76% left-on-base rate and .267 BABIP, Garland is likely to return to the 4+ ERA range in 2011. His best attribute remains his durability.

In other Dodgers' news, Scott Podsednik and Rod Barajas were not offered salary arbitration and will become free agents. Barajas will likely be forced to sign as a back-up, while Podsednik, after a successful comeback season as a starter in KC may try and find a role with more playing time than the Dodgers had to offer.  Pods' OBP skills are still mediocre, but he makes consistent contact and above average speed, using it to his advantage by keeping the ball on the ground half the time and converting 8% of his ground balls into hits. Though he will be turning 35 prior to the start of next season, he has enough skills and talent to repeat his 2010 performance, given the opportunity.  Vicente Padilla was also not offered salary arbitration and will become a free agent too.  Despite suffering from a bulging disc in his neck, Padilla still average over 92 mph on his fastball, posted a sub 2.5 BB/9 and 7+ K/9 and turned in a 4.06 ERA. His consistency and especially his durability are both questionable, but there is clearly enough talent here for some team to give him a look as a minor league invitee.

In far lesser news, Zach Duke who had been designated for assignment by the Pirates earlier this week, ended up being traded for a player to be named to the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The 27-year old left-hander made 29 starts and continued to show pretty control, though not as good as in the past, with a 2.9 BB/9. A 66% LOB rate, 13%+ HR/FB, and .321 BABIP can be held to account for much of his near 6.00 ERA, but it still makes him an upper 4's ERA pitcher. To make a return to the lower 4's he will a) have to get better bullpen support b) get better defense behind him c) get his BB/9 back down to the low 2's - a ground-ball pitcher like him needs to be precise with his command to succeed.  Some improvement is likely given his history and his age, but do not expect much more than a typical Jon Garland season from him.

The Giants, meanwhile, have elected to keep some parts of their championship squad intact by bringing back Aubrey Huff. His return muddles the depth charts a bit as Brandon Belt is ready to get a big-league trial while Huff's best position is first base as is Pablo Sandoval's. At this time it appears that Sandoval will be utilized at third base while either Huff or Belt will play the outfield while the other play's first. I would not be surprised to see some flip-flopping throughout the season. Huff is coming off perhaps his highest disciplined season of his career, walking nearly 13% of the time while continuing to make consistent contact at just under 84% of the time. While Huff has consistently made contact over the course of his career, the quality of it has varied quite a bit as his line drive rates have fluctuated up and down over the years and with it his batting average and his power, making him one of the more frustrating hitters to project out there. At 34-years of age his best seasons are likely behind him. Some regression across the board will most likely occur.  Pay for a .270 18 HR season and you should be satisfied with your investment and perhaps nicely rewarded.  If you find yourself paying for more, consider yourself warned.

The Twins won the posting bid for Tsuyoshi Nishioka. He is a 26-year old shortstop who is coming off of a season in which he hit .346 with 11 home runs and 22 steals while posting a .423 OBP. He is known for his plate discipline and above-average defensive skills too. The Twins will have to decide, if they can sign him, whether to retain J.J. Hardy or Orlando Hudson and which position to play Nishioka at. I would not expect much in the power department beyond the high single digits. He is at least first entering his prime seasons and has room for improvement. I'd keep my bidding expectations at the .280 8 HR, 20 steal mark for now as a base with the idea that he could do more, but I'll await seeing more scouting reports  before I raise my expectations.

Here is a list of some other players not offered salary arbitration (all would have likely accepted it to the financial chagrin of their respective former teams) - Kevin Millwood, Koji Uehara, Orlando Cabrera, Jason Varitek, Dan Wheeler, Carlos Pena, Willy Aybar, Mariano Rivera, Lance Berkman, Andy Pettitte and Kerry Wood.  The departure of Pena from Tampa leaves Dan Johnson, who hit .198 (despite very good underlying skills) as the highest player on their depth charts. Were I them, I'd give Johnson a chance, but I suspect they will bring someone else or shuffle other players on the roster around instead. Rivera will certainly return to the Yanks and Pettitte will return or retire. Varitek may have played his last game for the Red Sox whose catching job is wide open beyond the likes of Saltalamacchia. Millwood would be best served by moving to a pitcher-friendly NL park. He could actually have value there. Uehara and Wheeler could both still quite nice deals from their new clubs. In fact, it would not be a bad idea for some team looking for a lefty specialist and righty specialist setup men to snap up the two as a pair. Orlando Cabrera's skills are not all that diminished, but this was the fewest plate appearances he has seen in a single-season since the 200 season. At 36 and with two successive seasons of a sub .320 OBP, he may have to settle for a back-up job for the first time in his career.

And we’re off. The World Series is over and the Hot Stove League is already underway. Before I start taking a look at what is going on right now, I’ll offer my congratulations to my dad’s former favorite team, the San Francisco Giants, on their first victory since they ceased to be his favorite team. My dad has been a Mets’ fan since the day they were announced. However, his favorite ballplayer of all time still remains Willie Mays to this day. I, myself, was hoping for the matchup that occurred. I love an underdog and like to give hope to the long-suffering.

Speaking of hope, that is what the Hot Stove League is all about - giving hope, true and false alike, to all fans. So today and over the next few posts I am going to take a look at the various gaps teams have on their rosters and where they hope may spring from.

Today, let’s take a peek at the Phillies and Mets.

The Phillies will absolutely letting Jayson Werth depart as a free agent with Dominic Brown more than ready to take over. In fact, this was a 100% likely scenario heading into the season because of Brown’s presence. Raul Ibanez’s $11.5 million dollar salary is the other barrier Werth and his retention. The result will be Ibanez getting another chance to start and perhaps being required to platoon with Ben Francisco. Right now, even though Ibanez is 38-years old I would not be at all surprised by a slight rebound when one considers that his fly-ball rate was the lowest it has been since 2005 and looks fairly out of place in the context of his recent career and actually his 9.3% HR/FB rate is rather consistent, though still a shade below, his 2007 and 2008 performances. You don’t need me to tell you that 2009 was a fluke in the power department for him. Still, a low-twenties home run renaissance is quite believable.

Moving on, the other holes on the Phillies’ roster will be in the bullpen with J.C. Romero, Chad Durbin, and Jose Contreras all free agents. That is essentially the Phillies’ middle relief corp, leaving them with their closer and top setup man in Lidge/Madson. David Herndon and Antonio Bastardo are two pitchers who may both be asked to step up, but the Philies seem quite likely to return a few of these veterans back to their team. Given the will be losing only Werth on offense and none of their starting pitching, they will be buyers in strengthening their pen. Both Durbin and Contreras flourished in strict relief roles, posting solid K/9 and showing solid control too and will be asking for pay increases, but none of the three relievers are young and are unlikely to get multi-year contracts.

The Phillies are also a bit weak in bench depth and given the injuries to Utley, Polanco, and Rollins in 2010, it would be far from surprising to see them add another bench player with a bat to go along with Wilson Valdez’s glove given that Ross Gload is pretty limited in terms of position flexibility.

The Mets, meanwhile, are first restructuring from top to bottom and will first be hiring a manager within the next two to three weeks. Meanwhile, the Mets are not expected to be big players in the free agent market with significant contracts already filling up their budget, most notably one more year of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. The two free agents on the Mets roster that they will have to replace or resign are lefty swingman Hisa Takahashi who after getting a extension to negotiate, was unable to agree to terms, so he will be moving on. It is understandable that the Mets are allowing him to do so as giving a multi-year contract to a soon to be 36-year old is not a high priority move, even though he is indeed coming off a successful season. Pedro Feliciano, he of the rubber-arm, is likely resigning. He has thrown in no fewer than 86 games over the past three seasons and while normally I would be raising a huge red flag, he has over that same period thrown just 175 innings or less than 60 IP a year. That’s not exactly heavy usage, though one has to wonder how often he was up in the bullpen getting ready only not to be used too. Francisco Rodriguez will be returning as the team’s closer next year, much to their chagrin, but other than that and the possible return of Feliciano, the Mets will have to once again try Bobby Parnell, Ryota Igrashi, and Sean Green (non-tender candidate). Other than that they have utilized a cast of minor league veterans, so do not be surprised if the Mets go out and sign a few lower-priced veterans to fill some of the middle innings and perhaps even some of the later innings with no ready young arms ready to make the move to the MLB pen for them.

Moving to the lineup, the Mets will be returning the same roster, only with perhaps everyone healthy to start the year with Bay, Beltran, and Pagan in the outfield, and Davis, Castillo, Reyes, and Wright in the infield. The Mets could eat Castillo’s contract, but it is more likely they will suffer for a while longer before cutting him loose somewhere mid-season if he does not rebound. A .259 batting average on balls in play, still maintaining some speed skills, and still displaying the excellent batting eye he has always had says there is a fair chance he can, but being the third worst rated defender over the past three seasons according to the new Bill James Handbook cannot be too endearing to ground-ball pitchers like Mike Pelfrey.

Speaking of starting pitching, Santana’s return date is uncertain, leaving Pelfrey and the much improved Jonathon Niese as the only two definite rotation members. Former Tennessee Volunteer, R.A. Dickey turned in an excellent season, but is now a free agent with an actual MLB-level price tag as opposed to a non-roster invitee he has been for most of his career after posting a 5.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, and 55% ground-ball rate. While a 2.84 ERA is certainly not sustainable, those are still sub-4.00 ERA skills. Dillon Gee could get a well deserved shot. While his stuff is nothing special, he commands all of  pitches well and throws strikes consistently. Technically the Mets still have John Maine and Oliver Perez. The Mets will try not to use the latter unless his once 90+ mph velocity show up again and Maine is very likely to be non-tendered. So the Mets have an injured ace and several starts who would be number four or five starters on a true contending team. Given that, perhaps the Mets will make a veteran addition or two, but as a team not likely to make a big push during the off-season, it does not seem likely that they will spend money to get what they really need –#2 or more long-term #1 starter. It is more likely that they would chase that in mid-season if they found themselves really in the hunt. To revamp both the Mets bullpen and rotation would take more than they are probably willing to spend for the beginning of 2011.

This is it. Today and the next day or two are the final transaction periods for most weekly transaction leagues. And with that, this will be the final Diamond Exchange for the regular season. With that, this is your last chance to be a hawk in keeper leagues, looking for potential waiver claims and FAAB pick-ups to stash away. Do not let that opportunity pass you by.

This week has seen a few intriuging call-ups in the prospect arena, particulary in the AL. Kyle Drabek has taken a spot in the rotation and will be a target of keeper-leaguers and non-alike while Jake McGee, Eric Sogard, and Dan Cortes may not play enough to warrant interest this season and as such could be nice cheap pick-ups non-contending, but active keeper-leaguers. To those who dump but who still pay attention go the spoils.


As we move into the last few weeks of the season I decided to revamp the formatting of this piece a little. I’m still going team by team, but figured an old-school organization of each team by type of transaction was more appropriate than all the different abbreviations. This week there were a few interesting prospects recalled, but few will actually get significant playing time given the playoff status of their respective teams.

It is the week before one of the busiest transaction periods – the September first call-up period. What that means for this week’s demotions, provided they were optioned as opposed to outrighted or designated for assignment, to the minors is one thing – see you all in a few days. Those players will be back in some minimal capacity for the rest of the season for their respective clubs in just a little bit.

The big news of the weak though were the injuries to Stephen Strasburg and Mike Leake – the perils of young pitchers. While Leak will almost certainly be shut down for the season and Strasburg will miss all of 2010, there is hope and the Nationals can at least point to the pitcher replacing him – fellow former top prospect and Tommy John veteran, Jordan Zimmermann. In 40 innings between three levels, Zimmerannn struck out 31 and walked just 6. The walk rate is the key given that it is the elbow we are focusing upon. A healthy elbow means a pitcher can control his pitches. While his first start of the season was not the greatest, he did show good velocity and walked only one batter. National fans will have to cross their fingers and be patient, but that one-two Strasburg/Zimmermann combo may yet be a dominant reality.

Arizona Diamondbacks
8/24:
Bobby Crosby (REL), Ryan Roberts (REC)

This is simply a change-up of utility players. Bobby Crosby may be versatile, but back injuries have ruined his career and he has essentially been a non-fantasy factor since 2004.  He will be 31-years of age to start next season and may have difficulty making a MLB roster with a career .236 .304 .372 line. Ryan Roberts is only a few months younger than Crosby, but has yet to have much of a MLB career. Nevertheless, he has consistently shown mid-teens per season home run power and above average plate discipline in the minors. In fact, in 2009, he hit .279 .367 .416 for the Diamondbacks in 305 at-bats. The issue is not his bat, it is that although he is has been utilized at a multitude of positions, he is best suited to second base. Still, he deserves another shot, and would not be a bad option for the Diamondbacks should Kelly Johnson move on after the season, but given his “journeyman status”, that is unlikely to occur.

Atlanta Braves

8/27: Craig Kimbrel (REC), Mike Minor (OPT)

Minor will be back when rosters expand. He is still the teams’ number five starter, but keep in mind that he has already thrown 133 innings on the season and the Braves will be keeping a close eye on how many more innings he throws. Do not be surprised if it is another 15 to 20 innings. The flame-throwing Kimbrel is up once again with the Braves and should stay for the rest of the season. As I’ve discussed a few times in the past, Kimbrel has nasty closer-worthy stuff with a triple-digit fastball and plus slider and posted a 12.8 K/9 in Triple-A this season. Where the pitch is actually going is the issue – 5.8 BB/9 makes it difficult for the Braves to use him in high leverage situations.

Baltimore Orioles

8/27: Jim Johnson (ACT), Jason Berken (60DL), Armando Gabino (OPT)

Jim Johnson rehabbed his way back from an elbow injury and thus far has avoided Tommy John surgery. He will go back to pitching in middle relief, but has pitched just 13 innings in the minors since he was disabled and it will be interesting to see whether his elbow will hold up or not. Call me a skeptic.

Boston Red Sox

8/24: Dusty Brown (OPT), Kevin Cash (ACT) 8/28: Hideki Okajima (ACT), Michael Bowden (OPT)

Not too much to note here as Cash takes over as the Red Sox’s primary back-up catcher while Varitek is still out. Okajima will resume his left-handed specialist role while Michael Bowden is likely to rejoin the Red Sox’s pen on Tuesday.

Chicago Cubs

8/23: Geovany Soto (ACT), Sam Fuld (OPT), Welington Castillo (OPT), Micah Hoffpauir (REC) 8/24: Justin Berg (OPT), Scott Maine (REC)

Soto resumed his job as the primary catcher. Maine, 25, was a called up to pitch in middle relief. He has been used as a long-reliever in Triple-A and does not profile as a loogy. He has actually had success against righties and lefties alike, actually holding righties to a .207 batting average against. In fact he has thrown 30.2 innings against righties and only 11.1 against lefties this year and over his career has displayed better control against righties than lefties. Regardless, his long-term role is middle relief at best and more likely Triple-A roster filler. Micah Hoffpauir has had a nice season in Triple-A hitting 22 home runs and making contact 83% of the time. Still, the Cubs are still going with Xavier Nady as their primary first basemen even though he is a right-handed hitter and there is an opportunity here to create a pretty good platoon situation. At 30-years old, however, Hoffapauir is simply viewed as Triple-A roster filler/bench player material. Fuld, Castillo, and Berg should all return this coming week.

Chicago White Sox

8/25: Lucas Harrell (REC), Erick Threets (ACT), Matt Thornton (15DLretro8/28), J.J. Putz (15DL)

The White Sox’s much vaunted bullpen picked a fantastic time to implode. While the injuries to neither Thornton nor Putz are serious, they will both miss at least two weeks of action. Sergio Santos and Scott Linebrink will have to pick up the slack. These injuries help to strengthen Jenk’s hold on the closer job too. Erick Threets, meanwhile, could be out for the season due to an elbow injury that could still ultimately lead to Tommy John surgery. Lucas Harrell has been used as a starter for his entire minor league career, but I suspect his future is where he is being utilized now by the White Sox – relief. He is someone who lacks a third pitch and has a lively fastball and might benefit from a smaller pitch selection/lesser workload. His line in Triple-A is rather unimpressive with a 5.5 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9, but did at least keep the ball on the ground nearly 50% of the time.

Cincinnati Reds

8/24: Jim Edmonds (15DL), Jordan Smith (OPT), Sam LeCure (REC), Chris Valaika (REC), 8/25: Micah Owings (OUT) 8/27: Mike Leake (15DLretro8/25), Juan Francisco (REC)

Mike Leake is out with a tired shoulder. He has thrown 138.1 innings in his professional debut. Given his poor second half, the Reds do not want him to run the risk of a potential long-term injury and could conceivably shut him down for the rest of the year to rest. Aaron Harang is expected to take his rotation spot when they activate him from the DL. Chris Valaika is seeing some playing time with Brandon Phillips day to day. He is a fair contact hitter with gap power, but is an aggressive hitter who has walked just barely over 4% of the time in two seasons at Triple-A. He is limited defensively and does not profile well as a utility player, though he does have a better bat than the average utility player.

Colorado Rockies

8/24: Brad Hawpe (REL) 8/26: Franklin Morales (rec), Greg Smith (OUT), 8/27: Manuel Corpas (15DLretro8/26), Samuel Deduno (REC)

Hawpe got his walking players opening up playing time for Seth Smith and Spilborghs who will platoon in right field. Manny Corpas is done for the season and may have a torn UCL which in turn could mean Tommy John surgery. Franklin Morales replaces him in the bullpen, but he continues to have no clue where his pitches are going, posting a 5.6 BB/9 in Triple-A. Avoid him.

Detroit Tigers
8/23:
Enrique Gonzalez (DFA), Casper Wells (REC)

Wells will serve as a fifth outfielder for Detroit. Wells has decent tools in the power/speed department, but as a right-handed hitter who strikes out over a quarter of the time he is unlikely to be anything more than a platoon player at the MLB level.

Florida Marlins

8/23: Cody Ross (WV), Cameron Maybin (REC)

Cody Ross was arbitration eligible and the Marlins were unlikely to tender him a contract, thus they figured they would try to get something in return for him, even if it is only cash. Maybin will get yet another chance to claim the centerfield job. His perfoamnce in Triple-A has been encouraging – striking out less than 20% of the time while hitting .338 .407 .508. Making contact is the key for Maybin who has struck out nearly a third of the time for the Marlins this season. Like Casper Wells, unless he makes some major improvements to his approach at the plate, he could end up Triple-roster filler or a platoon player despite tremendous tools. The question now is can he can translate minor league improvements  to the Majors? At least he is still just 23-years old.

Houston Astros

8/25: Matt Downs (WC/OPT)

Triple-A roster filler. He will be up in September as a utility man.

Los Angeles Angels

8/22: Jordan Walden (PUR), Maicer Izturis (15DL) 8/27: Brian Fuentes (TRD) 8/28: Rich Thompson (ACT)

I covered Walden extensively in this past week’s “The Prospector”. The trade of Fuentes does push him up the depth charts a bit by default, but Fernando Rodney is the closer for now and possibly for 2011 too, but keep in mind that Rodney has had a farm from stellear season despite his sub 4.00 ERA. He has actually posted the worst K/9 (6.5) of his career and has made no improvements in his control, posting a 4.7 BB/9. He is particularly bad against lefties, posting a 5.6 BB/9. It is more likely the Angels’ 2011 closer is not currently in the organization. Thompson replaces Fuentes in the pen. He is a 25-year old left-hand specialist reliever who has struck out 30 batters in 29.2 innings at Triple-A.

Los Angeles Dodgers

8/22: Jeff Weaver (ACT), Travis Schlichting (15DL), Rod Barajas (WC) 8/24: A.J. Ellis (OPT)

Barajas is now the primary catcher for the Dodgers and there is little change in value to be found here as he moves from one pitcher’s park to another. While he has 20+ homerun power still, his lack of plate discipline and streakiness at the plate make him an unreliable option and a non-option for those who cannot afford a batting average sink. Jeff Weaver returned from his knee injury to pitching back in middle relief.  The 33-year old has not been an option for fantasy purposes since 2005.

Milwaukee Brewers

8/23: David Riske (REL), 8/24: Carlos Gomez (ACT)

Carlos Gomez has returned to the Brewers roster to find himself without a starting position as Lorenzo Cain, unsurprisingly, has usurped the centerfield job. Gomez has now failed in opportunities with three organizations to assert himself as an everyday player. He continues to show a lack of discipline at the plate and continues to strikeout a quarter of the time or more despite having limited power. His fairly high fly-ball percentages also help to reduce the impact of his plus speed, instead creating more fly outs rather than opportunities to run balls out. It is unlikely he will get an opportunity to start again next year.

Minnesota Twins
8/25:
Ron Mahay (60DL), Randy Flores (WC) 8/26: Anthony Slama (OPT) 8/28: Brian Fuentes (ACQ), Glen Perkins (OPT)

Brian Fuentes owners now know how Jon Rauch owners feel. Fuentes will be utilized as a setup man, but does it does not appear he will be limited to specialist work given the claim of long-time loogy Randy Flores to the team (at the temporary expense of Glen Perkins). He could potentially vulture a few saves from Capps if the opposing lineup is left-handed heavy. Anthony Slama will be back on Tuesday to pitch out of the bullpen.

New York Mets

8/22: Rod Barajas (WV), Jesus Feliciano (REC) 8/27: Luis Hernandez (REC), Jesus Feliciano (OPT)

The Mets saved a wee bit of cash by allowing Barajas to be claimed off waivers and also serves to give Josh Thole a chance to play every day. I still consider Thole a Paul Lo Duca type as a journeyman not noted for his defense, but a battler at the plate who makes very consistent contact and who is capable of hitting for average. His lack of power and the fact that he is a catcher (read lack of speed) may diminish his long-term batting average abilities. In other words if he had good speed he could hit .300, but as a catcher a .260 to .280 would be a more appropriate long-term expectation. Luis Hernandez was recalled as a result of Reyes being day to day with a strained oblique and will be utilized in a utility role.

New York Yankees

8/22: Ivan Nova (REC)

Ivan Nova has at least temporarily replaced Javy Vazquez in the rotation for the Yankees. The 23-year old has had a very solid season in Triple-A posting a 7.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB.9 while keeping the ball on the ground 52% of the time. He is not considered a high-end prospect and may be overmatched in the Majors in the long, profiling as a back-end of the rotation starter due to fringy secondary stuff.

Oakland Athletics

8/22: Andrew Bailey (ACT), Ross Wolf (OPT) 8/24: Matt Carson (REC), Travis Buck (OPT), 8/26: Matt Watson (ACT/OUT)

Bailey resumed his job as the A’s closer while the A’s continued their continuous carousel of outfield options. Carson is back up once again to play against the occasional lefty. Buck will be back up in September as will Wolf.

Pittsburgh Pirates

8/23: Jeff Clement (15DLretro8/21), Justin Thomas (REC) 8/25: Ross Ohlendorf (15DLretro8/24), Brian Burres (REC) 8/28: Justin Thomas (OPT), Charlie Morton (REC)

Jeff Clement will miss the next two weeks due to irritation in his left knee. He was being utilized as a back-up regardless and at 27 years of age has likely gotten his last chance to be an everyday player barring a complete reemergence of his bat in the minors next season. Ohlendorf will miss at least two weeks with a sore shoulder. Given the Pirates’ status in the standings, they could just as easily shut him down for the season to make sure he is well rested and does not further injure himself. Charlie Morton will replace him in the rotation.

San Diego Padres

8/28: Jerry Hairston Jr. (15DL), Luis Durango (OPT), Luis Perdomo (REC), Everth Cabrera (REC

Jerry Hairston Jr. could miss more than the minimum amount of time due to an elbow strain. The acquisition of Miguel Tejada had already greatly diminished Hairston’s playing time Cabrera, who is replacing him on the roster, cannot expect to see much playing time either as the back-up to both Tejada and Eckstein. Durango will return next week. Perdomo is a journeyman reliever who will serve as an extra arm in the pen.

San Francisco Giants

8/23: Cody Ross (WC), Matt Downs (DFA), Guillermo Mota (15DL)

Cody Ross’s playing time will be diminished as he will have to fight Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen, Aaron Rowand, Andres Torres, and Nate Schierholtz for playing time. The acquisition is a bit bizarre as it still leaves just Torres and Schierholtz as the only options who can bat left-handed, so Ross’s playing time could be extremely limited. Ross’s is having an almost identical season to his last two seasons across the board. The only difference is the power production as Ross has gone from hitting fly balls well over 40% of the time to just 33% of the time and putting the ball on the ground 45% of the time. Given the context of his career, 2010 could actually be a fluke and a complete return to his 2009 levels could be in the cards for 2011, provided someone gives him the opportunity to do that.

Tampa Bay Rays

8/24: Wade Davis (ACT), Mike Ekstrom (OPT) 8/25: Jeff Niemann (ACT), Dale Thayer (OPT) 8/27: Brad Hawpe (SGN)

Davis and Niemann have both returned to the Rays’ rotation though both Eckstrom and Thayer should return to relief roles in a few days. Brad Hawpe will get a few days in the minors and could be brought up just prior to the September first to insure he is post-season eligible. Hawpe failed to produce with the Rockies, but his plate discipline skills remain identical to those he has produced throughout his career, walking 12% of the time and striking out just over a quarter of the time. The major issue has been the 8%+ drop-off in home runs on fly-balls and is likely due in part to injuries suffered this season (rib cage/quadriceps). The batting average actually strikes me as a realistic one for him to remain at now that he is outside of Coors Field. If he joins the Rays the primary losers in terms of playing time are likely to be Matt Joyce and Dan Johnson.

Texas Rangers

8/23: Rich Harden (ACT), Scott Feldman (15DLretro8/22), Matt Treanor (ACT), Taylor Teagarden (OPT) 8/25: Alex Cora (PUR), Joaquin Arias (DFA) 8/28: Frank Francisco (15DL), Derek Holland (REC)

Frank Francisco will miss at least two weeks with a strained/inflamed oblique. Derek Holland was recalled to replace him on the roster, but will have to pitch out of the pen given the lack of available rotation spots. Holland has had a solid season posting a 7.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in the minors and had some positive glimmers in the majors before going down with an injury. If available in your AL only keeper league this may be an opportunity to pick him up cheaply given his minimal role at the moment. He still has a fair chance of being in the rotation to start 2011.

Toronto Blue Jays

8/28: Mike McCoy (REC), Edwin Encarnacion (15DL)

Encarnacion will miss the next two weeks with a sore wrist meaning Bautista will have to move back over to third opening up full time playing time for both Lewis and Snider in the corner outfield spots. McCoy will serve as back-up around the diamond. I’ve mentioned him in previous editions of the Diamond Exchange. He remains a highly discipline contact hitter with above average speed and it would be interesting to see him win a full time utility job with the Jays next year. He would make a decent last pick in deep AL only leagues given his talents and skills.

Washington Nationals

8/24: Stephen Strasburg (15DLretro8/22), Collin Balester (REC) 8/26: Collin Balester (OPT),  Jordan Zimmermann

 

As mentioned above, Strasburg will miss the rest of the season and is unlikely to pitch in the majors again until sometime in 2012. Jordan Zimmermann made his return and is an interesting target for keeper leagues, but one cannot expect him to be a major factor down the stretch for fantasy purposes given that he must now readjust to pitching at the MLB level and quite frankly pitching altogether after an extended layoff.

 

Key:

15DL - Placed on 15-day DL

60DL - Placed on or moved to 60-day DL

ACQ – Acquired via trade

ACT - Activated from the DL

BRVA – Activated from bereavement List

BRVL – Placed on bereavement List

DFA - Designated for assignment

OPT – Optioned to the minors

OUT – Sent outright to the minors

PUR- Contract purchased from the minors
REC - Recalled from the minors

REL – Released
RET – Retired

RST – Restricted List
SGA – Signed to MLB contract

SGM – Signed to minor league contract

SUS - Suspended

TR – Traded

WV– Placed on waivers

WC – Claimed off waivers

 

I'll be out in the wilderness for the next week-plus. The next Diamond Exchange will appear on August 28th though we may have some tidbits included in "The Prospector for the 24th. In the meantime, you'll see much of the key transactions covered in our other content!

Now that the trade deadline has passed, this week's theme has been veterans being cleared from MLB rosters for youngsters to get a shot at everyday play. The highlights include the Cubs' Thomas Diamond, the Indians' Mike Brantley, and the Royals Kila Ka'aihue, not to mention the not-so-young Dan Johnson of the Rays.

Arizona Diamondbacks
8/1:
Cole Gillespie (OPT) 8/3: Juan Gutierrez (15DL), 8/4: Tony Abreu (OPT), Rafael Rodriguez (REC)

Gillespie lost his roster spot due to the acquisition of Ryan Church and Abreu due to the acquisition of Bobby Crosby. The move affords the Diamondbacks the ability to let Gillespie and Abreu to play every day in the minors while veterans such as Crosby and Church can sit in the bench and play sporadically. Gutierrez, meanwhile, is out with shoulder inflammation and will miss at least two weeks of action as a result. AT th moment, it looks like he will miss more than the minimum amount of time leaving Aaron Heilman as remaining closing option at the moment. Heilman’s been pitching above his head with an 81% LOB rate and a three-year trend of declining strikeout skills as well as a 7.2% HR/FB rate despite allowing the most fly-balls of his career at 46% of the time. He is not a viable long-term option unless he starts to show some signs of the pitcher he was from 2005 to 2007. Rafael Rodriguez, recently acquired from the Angels in the Dan Haren deal, has temporarily replaced Gutierrez in the pen.

Atlanta Braves
8/2:
Martin Prado (15DLretro7/31), Diory Hernandez (REC), 8/5: Kris Medlen(15DL), Brent Clevlen (OUT), Cristhian Martinez (REC) 8/7: Kenshin Kawakami (OPT), Mike Minor (REC)

Martin Prado is out with a fractured right pinkie and is likely to miss more than two weeks as a result. The injury won’t require surgery, but it is affecting his ability to grip the bat. Omar Infante has stepped in as the primary second basemen in Prado’s absence and Diory Hernandez has been recalled to serve as a utility infielder/outfielder for further depth purposes. Infante is a good contact hitter, but by no means is his .344 batting average sustainable given a .398 BABIP and his career norms (.313 BABIP), but he should still be able to hit for decent average the rest of the way and can provide the occasional stolen base as well.

The Braves received further bad news as Kris Medlen has a partial tear of his UCL. While they have not immediately sent him for Tommy John surgery, that will be the likely outcome, rendering him a non-factor for 2011. Martinez was recalled as a temporary replacement/extra arm for the bullpen until Medlen’s rotation spot comes up again. Medlen had translated his minor league skills to the Majors this year, posting a sub 2.0 BB/9 and solid 6.9 K/9. Medlen was a solid sleeper heading into this seaon losing both his rookie status and some of his visibility since the Braves had utilized him mostly in relief last year. When he returns he will once again be a potential bargain.

Top prospect and 2009 first round pick Mike Minor has gotten the call to replace Medlen in the rotation. I detailed him back in early July here. Since then his strikeout rates have translated better than I expected to the upper levels, maintaining a 10+ K/9. I still do not expect him to be a strikeout artist at the MLB level over the course of his career, but I do think he has the ability to be a number two or three starter, who can eat innings and keep his ERA under 4.00 given his arsennal of solid average to plus pitches and ability to control them.

Baltimore Orioles
8/1:
Troy Patton (REC), 8/5: David Hernandez (15DL), Armando Gabino (REC)

David Hernandez will miss at least two weeks with a grade 2 sprain of his ankle and Armando Gabino has replaced him in the bullpen and Troy Patton was recalled earlier to pitch in long relief/mop-up role earlier in the week too. Patton, you may recall, was the principle pitching prospect the Orioles received when they traded Miguel Tejada away, the first time that is. The 25-year old has since battled his way back from a torn labrum, but has not been all that impressive. Just prior to the trade and to the injury it had been noted that his K/9 had not been translating well to each promotion through the minors. He still has good control of his pitches, but has managed just a 5.2 K/9 at Triple-A and posted a 4.80 ERA. He now appears to be a borderline major leaguer. Gabino is a nearly 27-year old right-hander who has been primarily a reliever throughout his minor league career (207 games with just 22 starts). In Triple-A this season he has posted a 2.4 BB/9 and 8.0 K/9 with a 2.12 ERA and  60% ground-ball rate. In other words, he is getting rewarded for good work, but could still have a future as a middle reliever for the Orioles. It should be noted that his minor league K/9 over his career has been far more mediocre than it has this season, posting in the 5’s on multiple occasions and this year could be an anomaly.

Boston Red Sox
8/2:
Daniel Nava (REC), Mike Cameron (15DLretro7/31) 8/3: Kevin Youkilis (15DL), Mike Lowell (ACT) 8/4: Jacoby Ellsbury (ACT), Daniel Nava (OPT) 8/7: Hideki Okajima (15DL), Felix Doubront (REC), Carlos Delgado (SGN)

Just as the Red Sox finally get their leadoff hitter back, they lose their prime runner provider for the season as well as the player (Mike Cameron) they had hoped to be their everyday center fielder. Instead Cameron has managed just 162 at-bats. Mike Lowell’s return, at least, was timely as he will now be utilized as the primary first basemen after being on the disabled list or the bench for most of the season. The 36-year old still has his plate discipline well intact, making contact roughly 84% of the time and walking over 10% of the time, so his .216 batting average is quite likely to improve when given a .219 BABIP and the lowest line-drive rate he has posted of his career at just 17%. Cameron’s injury gives Ryan Kalish a longer stay as he was originally going to be the player optioned to Triple-A upon Ellsbury’s return. Instead he will platoon with Darnell McDonald in left field.

For those of you, who can pick up minor leaguers, note that Carlos Delgado is now one. While how long it will take for him to get ready for recall remains to be seen, the Red Sox were clearly impressed (desperate?) enough with his tryout this weekend to give him a try. If healthy, he and Lowell could be a very effective platoon at first.

Chicago Cubs
8/2:
Carlos Silva (15DL), Casey Coleman (REC), Thomas Diamond (REC) 8/3: Mitch Atkins (REC), Brian Schlitter (OPT)

The move of note here is the recall of Thomas Diamond. The former top Ranger’s prospect has reemerged and entered the Cubs’ rotation to replace the departed Ted Lilly. In his debut he struck out 10 and walked 3 in six innings. Diamond had undergone Tommy John Surgery in 2008 and then time due to an ankle injury last season. He does not throw quite as hard as he once did and his control and command still aren’t the best (3.8 BB/9), but he does have slightly better refined secondary pitches now at 27 years of age. He looks like a number four or five starter long-term, but is worth considering in NL only leagues.

Chicago White Sox
8/3
: Erick Threets (15DLretro7/31), Carlos Torres (REC) 8/4: Carlos Torres (OPT), Chris Sale (REC)

Chris Sale has made quite the quick progress having only been drafted by the White Sox in June. The 21-year old lefty was moved to the bullpen as soon as he was signed and pitched in a total of 11 minor leagues games, 7 of them in Triple-A where posted a 21.3 K/9, albeit with a 5.7 BB/9. A starter in college with a good enough assortment to stay in that role, the White Sox  could eventually move him back to it, but will let him adjust to the majors first by pitching in middle relief. He’ll only be of value to keeper leaguers for now.

Cincinnati Reds
8/2:
Russ Springer (REC), Carlos Fisher (OPT) 8/3: Orlando Cabrera (15DL), Juan Francisco (REC) 8/7: Russ Springer (15DLretro8/5), Carlos Fisher (REC)

Cabrera will miss the next two to three weeks with a strained oblique with Paul Janish and Miguel Cairo seeing time at shortstop in his absence. Strikeout king Juan Francisco will back-up at third base.

Cleveland Indsians
8/1:
Jeanmar Gomez (REC), 8/3: David Huff (REC), Lou Marson (REC), Travis Hafner (15DLretro7/29), Carlos Santana (15DL) 8/5: Wes Hodges (WC/OPT) 8/6: Jensen Lewis (OPT), Drew Sutton (WC/OPT), Michael Brantley (REC)

As expected with the trade of Austin Kearns, Michael Brantley was recalled as soon as he was eligible. He batted leadoff and played centerfield on Saturday. He still has excellent speed, has gap power, and advanced plat discipline. This will be his chance to see if he can claim an everyday job. Carlos Santana will miss the rest of the season as he undergoes surgery to repair his left knee – a high lcl strain. He should be ready in time for spring training.  Lou Marson and Carlos Gimenez will split time behind the plate for the rest of the season. Marson was hitting just .202 for Triple-A Columbus.

Detroit Tigers
8/4:
Brandon Inge (ACT), Danny Worth (15DL)

Brandon Inge returned ahead of schedule and is back in the starting lineup at third base while Jhonny Peralta has been moved over to his old position of shortstop. Worth will miss two weeks with a bruised heel, but will be a utility man upon his return.

Kansas City Royals
8/1:
Robinson Tejeda (15DLretro7/30), Kila Ka’aihue (REC), 8/2: Jeff Howell (TRD)8/5: Jose Guillen (DFA), Phil Humber (PUR)

Kila Ka’aihue has finally gotten the call (see the Prospector for more on him) and while he sat on the bench a few days,  Jose Guillen’s departure (possibly to the Giants) has gotten him into the lineup and in the cleanup spot while playing first base. For more on Ka’aihue, check here. He will finally get a chance to make a case for sticking in the majors and being an everyday player and therefore may get some aggressive bids his way if available in AL only leagues.

Former third overall draft pick Phil Humber has gotten recalled from Triple-A and will pitch out of the bullpen. He is still not the pitcher he was when the Mets drafted him though his control is much improved to the tune of a 1.5 BB/9. The plus fastball/hammer curve/plus change combo just isn’t there and he lacks a true MLB strikeout pitch.

Los Angeles Angels
8/3:
Bobby Cassevah (OPT), Peter Bourjos (REC) 8/4: Anthony Ortega (OPT) 8/7: Rich Thompson (15DL), Scott Kazmir (ACT)

Peter Bourjos has taken over the primary centerfield job and pushed Torii Hunter to right and Bobby Abreu to left leaving Juan Rivera and his struggling bat/sub-par defense in a very part-time/bench role. Bourjos is a definite target in AL only and in mixed league play too. He has good all around tools, well regarded for his defense, above average speed (27 steals in 32 attempts) , and is not a typical speedster having hit 13 home runs already this season. While these talents are too hard to ignore, long-term I am not 100% convinced he is the real deal. First off he is not a selective hitter, walking just 5% of the time. Furthermore, he hits grounders over 50% of the time in the minros and fly-balls less than 30% of the time. That strikes me as a single-digits per season home run hitter and his 13 home runs seems a bit fluky. On the positive side at least, he is not a platoon player and has been able to hit righties as well as lefties fairly well over the course of his career.  Long-term I am seeing someone who might hit for average and hit enough home runs and steals to earn double-digits in dollar-value and will be able to stay in the lineup due to superior defense, but not necessarily be a good run scorer. He strikes me as a better lower-end of the lineup hitter than an upper one.

Scott Kazmir returned to the rotation and threw five solid innings. His season has been so up and down, however, that it is difficult to recommend activating him. Remember that 5.9 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9!

Los Angeles Dodgers
8/1:
Travis Schlichting (OPT), 8/3: Ramon Troncoso (REC), Jeff Weaver (15DL) 8/4: Reed Johnson (ACT), Russell Martin (15DL), Xavier Paul (OPT), A.J. Ellis (REC)

Reed Johnson replaces Paul on the roster as a back-up outfielder. He could spell Podsednik on days against left-handers. Russell Martin is out for the season with a potential career threatening injury – a right hip fracture and a torn labrum. It is possible he could avoid surgery, but does not look likely and he could miss time next season too. Brad Ausmus has been thrust into a starting catching role as a result of this so do not be surprised to see the Dodgers try to acquire another catcher, if they can get one to clear waivers, that is. Jeff Weaver will miss two weeks due to tendonitis in his left knee. Ramon Troncoso has replaced him in middle relief. Troncoso had shown solid skills with the Dodgers earlier this season, but a 15% HR/FB killed his ERA and cost the Dodgers a few games and caused his demotion. He is actually a dominant ground-ball pitcher and should be able to rebound.

Milwaukee Brewers
8/6:
Lorenzo Cain (REC), Carlos Gomez (15DLretro8/1)

Gomez will miss at least two weeks, if not more, due to a concussion. Cain had been called up earlier this season, but I suspected he would be recalled, though not for injury replacement purposes, to claim a starting job before the season was out. For more on Cain, check my previous Diamond Exchange here.

New York Mets
8/7:
Jesus Feliciano (OPT), Alex Cora (REL), Ruben Tejada (REC), Fernando Martinez (REC)

It looks like the Mets think it is September with these two call-ups, but alas it’s only August. Tejada has shown a good glove and is an upgrade to Castillo defensively, but his offensive game is not there yet from a plate discipline or physical development standpoint. The 20-year old makes OK contact, but is not very selective, lacks power and speed. He may physically develop a bit more punch as he matures, but right now he looks like a utility guy and would benefit more by staying in the minors for consistent playing time.  Martinez, at least, will get fairly consistent playing time as the left-handed half of the right-field platoon while Jason Bay remains out with concussion symptoms. The 21-year old has had another disappointing and injury –prone season, batting just .257 with a .307 OBP. Now the obligatory reminder that most players his age might still be in A+ ball, but one would like to still see some more skills progression. On the positive side, he continues to show more and more power, hitting a career high twelve home runs in just 247 at-bats.  He’ll get enough playing time to warrant pick-up in NL only leagues, but of course, is likely already taken in most keeper leagues.

Philadelphia Phillies
8/3:
Ryan Howard (15DLretro8/2), John Mayberry (REC) 8/5: Cody Ransom (DFA)

Howard is only expected to miss the minimum amount of time with a sprained ankle. Howard owner’s can take a sigh of relief as this is not the dreaded “high ankle sprain”. Mike Sweeney and Ross Gload are seeing action at first base in his absence.

Pittsburgh Pirates
8/1:
Justin Thomas (REC) 8/4: Chan Ho Park (WC), Chris Resop (WC) 8/6: Justin Thomas (OPT), Erik Katz (OPT), Ryan Doumit (REC)

The Pirates made a pair of interesting bullpen-related waiver claims picking up Park who has posted a solid 7.5 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 again this season. A 15% HR/FB and a 40% fly-ball rate have done quite a bit of damage. Park has long had difficulty with the long-ball and moving to a less home-run friendly stadium should help him out. Chris Resop has had a nice season in Triple-A (2.09 ERA with a 10+ K/9 and 3.5 BB/9) as a starter for the Richmond, but he responded by getting immediately injured when a clause in his contract necessitated his recall. Resop has had a long history of having a good fastball and curve, but has never been able to command his pitches well enough to stick at the MLB level. He may get a try as a starter by the Pirates, but for now will pitch in middle relief with a chance to push for a job in next year’s pen.

Ryan Doumit was activated from the disabled list, but Chris Snyder got the start on Saturday with Doumit merely pinch-hitting. He will have to share time at catcher, first, and in right field for the remainder of the season. So Milledge, Jones, and Snyder owners should take note of this.

San Diego Padres
8/1:
Oscar Salazar (15DLretro7/30), 8/5: Quinton Berry (OUT) 8/7: Ryan Webb (OPT), Mike Adams (ACT)

Mike Adams will resume his top setup role for the Padres. It is a shame he is so oft-injured as he constantly displays closer-worthy ability when he is healthy enough to pitch. He has followed up strongly on his 2009 campaign by posting a 10+ K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. The combination of Heath Bell, Luke Gregorson, Adams, Joe Thatcher, and Edwin Mujica has been simply dominant. The reason the Padres are as competitive as they have been is because of this group. Adams’ one weakness is are his fly-ball rates, but pitching in Petco helps greatly to nullify its impact.

San Francisco Giants
8/2:
Ryan Rohlinger (OPT) 8/5: Todd Wellemeyer (ACT), Denny Bautista (DFA)

Wellemeyer’s rotation spot since injuring his quadriceps has disappeared. He will now pitch in long relief, picking up the occasional spot start. His 5.4 BB/9 this season has not made him a high-priority target for pick-up regardless.

Tampa Bay Rays
8/2:
Andy Sonnastine (15DLretro7/23), Jeremy Hellickson (REC/OPT) 8/3: Dan Johnson (PUR) 8/4: Mike Foli (ACQ) 8/6: Carlos Pena (15DLretro8/1), Dale Thayer (REC)

Jeremy Hellickson’s MLB debut was impressive, but it was simply a spot start due to the need for another starter. However, the Rays may simply not be able to keep him down for much longer should Wade Davis or others struggle. Worst case scenario will have Hellickson working out of the pen in September in much the same role as Price did when he made his MLB debut. So, actually, do not be surprised to see him recalled on August 31st so that he is eligible for the post-season roster.

I had mentioned Dan Johnson a few weeks ago in the prospector as a pontential call-up. Yes, he is far from a prospect, but this is a guy who has always shown good OBP skills, power skills, and glove skills, but failed into short-term opportunities with the A’s several seasons back and then found himself playing in Japan. In Triple-A this season he had a .303 .430 .624 line with more walks than strikeouts and 30 home runs. Carlos Pena’s plantar faciitis has sent him to the disabled list and Johnson received a start at first on Saturday which will not help keep his FAAB price low, hitting a home run while going 2 for 2 with 2 walks and 4 RBI. Pena hopes to return quickly, but plantar fasciitis can be tricky and he could be out longer than expected. Johnson could still see plenty of action even if Pena returns given the competition at DH is Willy Aybar and Matt Joyce.

Toronto Blue Jays
8/5:
John Buck (15DL), 8/6: J.P. Arencibia ( REC) 8/6: Jesse Litsch (15DL),8/7: Brad Mills (REC)
Ultimately John Buck did not get traded at the deadline as had been hinted at. In fact, the Jays have made very little splash in the trade market. J.P. Arencibia is still getting the call after July 31st even without Buck’s trade given his placement on the disablement. For more on Arencibia, you can see my “Prospector”  from the 27th though his 2 home run debut will certainly drive up his FAAB price if he remains available. He should receive the majority of the playing time, though he could sit against some tougher right-handed pitchers. Buck had a laceration on his thumb and received three stitches and should be back in two weeks time.

Jesse Litsch is done for the season and may not be ready for the start of spring training as he will undergo surgery to repair a tear his labrum in his right hip. Brad Mills, who had a nice spot start recently, will take over Litsch’s spot. Mills is a 25 year old lefty who has had a soild, but unspectacular minor league career, consistently posting BB/9’s in the low to mid 3’s and has posted K/9’s in the upper 7’s each of his past two seasons in Triple-A. He profiles as a fourth or fifth starter type especially as someone who has had a 40% FB rate this season and a 38% rate for his career, so the best he will be is likely a mid 4’s ERA, inning eater type, which is worthy enough for AL only play. He can pitch better than he did on Saturday.

Washington Nationals
8/1: Jordan Zimmermann (OPT), John Lannan (REC), 8/2: Tyler Walker (60DL), Justin Maxwell (REC) 8/6:
Nyjer Morgan (15DLretro8/4), J.D. Martin (60DL)

Jordan Zimmerman n came off the 60-day DL, but is still continuing on his return from Tommy John Surgery and he was at  end of his eligible rehab period, thus he was activated and optioned to Triple-A to continue to receive more work until he is again promoted in September. Keep him in mind as a potential grab and stash for NL only keeper leaguers for 2011. John Lannan returned to the rotation, taking the spot of Stephen Strasburg in a continuing theme of the Nationals wisely protecting their young pitchers. Lannan was unimpressive in 7 Double-A starts, posting a 6.2 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. He remains a soft-tossing left-hander who is neither a dominant ground-ball pitcher nor strike-thrower. To succeed in the majors he will have to completely replicate the Double-A BB/9 he posted. Keep in mind that even there his ERA was over 4.00 and also that Strasburg is slated to return this coming Tuesday. Nyjer Morgan will miss two weeks due to a strained hip flexor. Roger Bernadina, Willie Harris, and Justin Maxwell could all see time in centerfield as a result. Mike Morse (.365 BABIP) has been seeing regular playing time too.

This week I will be utilizing a different format for the Diamond Exchange. For those of you are long-time readers, you are sure to recognize it. I’ll be focusing on just the trades and a few key call-ups. If you have any questions on any of the other transactions of the past week, please utilize the commenting section below or our message board.

It’s the calm before the storm. Rumors are rampant, but nothing dramatic has yet to occur. This week, however, has been quite good for teams awaiting the return of prominent injured players with Brian Roberts, Shin-Soo Choo, Yovanni Gallardo, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Nate McLouth, Luke Scott, Mike Gonzalez, Ryan Ludwick, Kevin Millwood, Shaun Marcum, and Luis Castillo amongst others all returning to the active duty.

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