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Friday 22nd Sep 2017

Headliners

Eric Young Jr. is perhaps the most exciting player involved in a transaction this week as a result of his recall from Triple-A to replace the injured Brad Hawpe

Headliners

Today’s biggest news in the world of transactions was the return of Ted Lilly to the Cubs’ starting rotation.

Headliners

Now I’ve never been a Chris Davis fan and I’ve consistently warned against drafting him, but even I did not expect the Rangers to say “dayenu” quite this quickly. Quite frankly it was time. Nothing has changed about his game – striking out over a third of the time and flailing at pitches outside of the strike zone over a third of the time too. Unless Justin Smoak, his replacement, falls on his face, it is possible Davis may not resurface in a significant role for the Rangers. In fact, be prepared for the possibility that he could be starting a new career as Triple-A roster filler unless he goes about restructuring his approach and pitch recognition at the plate.

Justin Smoak is what Davis is not – disciplined. Last season at three minor league stops he walked no less than 14% of the time. His strikeout rates increased with each promotion but still stayed in the low-twenties over 237 at-bats in Triple-A. This year he has walked twice as often as he has struck out (yes teeny sample size, making contact 84% of the time while walking 24% of the time and hitting .300. So there is good reason to believe Smoak will make good on his pedigree as someone who will hit for average. My one remaining question is “to what degree will he hit for power”. Last season was a disappointment in that respect with ground balls over 40% of the time and close to 50% at Triple-A while hitting fewer than 30% fly-balls. He has shown more power in the early goings this year and keep in mind that he missed significant time due to a ribcage injury which surely played a significant part in his ability to drive the ball. Provided the Rangers do not react badly to small sample sizes or get frustrated when he goes through some rookie adjustment periods, Smoak could easily be here to stay.

Fresh Catch of the Day

Luis Atilano was recalled from Triple-A to replace the injured Jason Marquis in the starting rotation. He is a 24-year old right-hander with well above-average control with a career 2.0 BB/9 through 2009. However, he also has a career 4.8 K/9 through 2009. At least he is a ground-ball pitcher, doing so approximately 49% of the time over his career too, so while he is hittable, he is not afflicted with gopheritis. He has the potential to be a useful back-end of the rotation starter, but is nothing more than an inning eater, mid to high 4’s ERA type unless he establishes a third pitch and can generate a greater amount of strikeouts.

Brennan Boesch was recalled from Triple-A as a result of Carlos Guillen’s placement on the 15-day DL. The 25-year old has excellent power, slugging 28 home runs in Double-A last season and is already off to a good start in that department with 3 in Triple-A. So why is a 25-year old with this kind of power only first reaching Triple-A this season? Well, he has this career minor league .314 OBP thing going on. As you would expect, he also strikes out quite frequently – just under a quarter of the time last season, but that is a rate that has trended upwards with each advancement in level . Heck, he was up to 30% in Triple-A already this season. Boesch will be in the starting lineup today, but the starting gig is not his – Ryan Raburn will factor heavily into this situation too. Boesch is the type of a player who could get out to a hot start, hitting home runs, but like our friend Chris Davis above, could take a downward plunge quite quickly once MLB pitchers figure him out.

Matt Carson had his contract purchased from Triple-A when Travis Buck was placed on the disabled list by the A’s. Carson is a 28-year old former Yankees’s farmhand and fifth round pick signed as a minor league free agent after the 2008 season. He’s a right-handed hitter with upper teens/low-twenties per season home run power. His plate discipline is rather mediocre, but stable, walking about 7 to 8% of the time over his career while striking out about a fifth of the time. His career minor league splits show him to be a wrong-side of the plate platoon player, batting just .256 against righties with a .312 OBP. He does his damage against lefties batting .278 with a respectable .357 and .505 line. Gabe Gross and Eric Patterson are the primary beneficiaries of Travis Bucks’s trip to the disabled list, but Carson as the sole right-hander may pick up starts against lefties.

Brett Cecil was recalled from Triple-A as a result of Brian Tallet’s placement on the disabled list. Cecil will replace him in the rotation while Tallet rests his forearm. It is possible that Cecil could claim, as the Jays’s preferred long-term solution, the job permanently but he will have to be stellar to do so. Also keep in mind that the Jays have Rzepczysnki on the disabled list too, so the odds at sticking just now are stacked against him. In his favor, he has been excellent thus far in Triple-A, striking out 11 in 11 innings while walking two and keeping the ball mostly on the ground. Cecil is noted for his plus fastball/slider combination as a former college closer and above average control. The question has been the development of his changeup and translating his control and command skills to the MLB level. He still has middle to upper end of the rotation potential and is a target, if not already taken, in AL only leagues particularly. Not worth your time in mixed competition at the moment.

Carlos Fisher was recalled from Triple-A by the Reds and will pitch in middle relief. The 27-year old right-hander is a fastball/slider reliever best suited to a right-handed specialist role. He does get a higher percentage of groundballs at 56% of the time over the course of his minor league career and that will suit him well for pitching in the Great American Ballpark. He pitched in 39 games for the Reds last season but struggled to find home plate with a 5.3 BB/9. He has shown a good deal  better in the minors, so there is some hope he may yet translate his skills and stick in the bullpen, but middle relief or setup is his peak role.

The Gimp Guide

Travis Buck was placed on the 15-day DL by the A’s and will miss the next two to three weeks with a strained right oblique.

Edwin Encarnacion was placed on the 15-day DL by the Blue Jays retroactive to the 15th with a sore right arm and is expected to return next week on the 30th.Jose Bautista had already shifted over to his original position of third base while the newly acquired Fred Lewis had taken over in right field. It is expected that Encarnacion will reclaim his job upon his return, but do not take it for granted that he will keep it. Encarnacion has a better track record overall, but both he and Bautista are right-handed hitters who fair better against lefties and can be interchangeable.

So much for moving to DH preventing injuries! Carlos Guillen was placed on the 15 –day DL by the Tigers but is expected to return from his hamstring injury in the minimum amount of time. Damon and/or Ordonez will see more appearances at DH while Ryan Raburn, Brennan Boesch, and Don Kelly get more playing time in the outfield.

J.A. Happ was placed on the 15-day DL by the Phillies and will miss at least two weeks with a flexor strain in his pitching arm. Nelson Figueroa will move into the rotation. The soft-tosser has excellent control and has a good history of generating strikeouts and is worthy of consideration as a temporary pick-up in NL only leagues. For more on Figueroa, click here.

Hong-Chih Kuo was activated from the disabled list by the Dodgers and will return to a setup role. The oft-injured lefty is  still recommended in NL only leagues given his strikeout skills, but is never someone to invest a great deal of money on given his aforementioned long and frequent injury history.

Aaron Hill was activated from the disabled list and send John McDonald back to a bench spot.

Jason Marquis was placed on the 15-day DL with loose bodies in his pitching elbow. I found the report that he only received only  a cortisone shot a bit odd. Typically this is handled through a not-at-all career threatening surgery, but I suppose the Nationals are playing a less reactionary approach at this time. He will miss at least a month and could potentially miss the rest of the season if it remains an issue beyond that.

J.C. Romero was activated from the disabled list and will resume his role as the Phillies top left-handed specialist reliever.

Brian Tallet was placed on the 15-day DL with soreness in his forearm. The Jays will let him rest and hope that solves the issue. Forearm injuries and their linkage to elbow injuries always get me nervous though, so do not be surprised if his stay ends up being for more than the minimum.

Joe Thatcher was activated from the disabled list by the Padres and will pitch in a left-handed specialist role.

Jeff Weaver was placed on the 15-day DL by the Dodgers with a back injury and will miss two weeks. It is uncertain as to whether or not he will reclaim his role as middle reliever/spot starter once he is healthy enough to return.

Hitting the Bricks

Mike Jacobs was outrighted to Triple-A meaning he actually accepted his assignment contrary to early reports. There he will sit. The odds of a future starting gig at the MLB level seem marginal.

Jai Miller was designated for assignment in order to add Matt Carson to the 40-man roster. He will have to clear waivers. As a journeyman player he is likely to do just that and still be in Triple-A.

Cesar Ramos was optioned to Triple-A by the Padres with the activation of Joe Thatcher from the disabled list. He will return if the Padres need another lefty in the bullpen or a spot starter.

Headliners

So perhaps the biggest news of this week has been the Mets’ call-up of Ike Davis to the Majors to be their everyday first basemen. They have placed him sixth in the lineup, behind Jeff Francoeur. It will be interesting to see how this fleshes out in the long run, when Beltran returns and as Davis gets experience. The Mets lineup then could potentially look like – Reyes, Castillo, Wright, Beltran, Bay, Davis, Francoeur, and Barajas which really is not that bad with the first 6 players all having some OBP skills. I suspect eventually Franceur and Davis will flip-flop in the lineup depending on whether they are facing a right-hander or a left-hander. The loser’s in this situation are of course Fernando Tatis and Frank Catalanotto who will both become full-time bench players. The biggest loser will be Daniel Murphy who stands a good chance of doing a Trevor Cahill imitation – being activated from the DL and immediately optioned to Triple-A due to a lack of roster space and playing time to accommodate him. I could easily foresee Murphy ending up trade bait.

As for Davis’s skills, first and foremost, he has legitimate 25 homerun or better per season power. He has also shown a degree of patience coming from the power-hitter school of wait for something I can swing hard at and drive. The result has been walk-rates in the low-teens and strikeout rates a quarter or more of the time. So to me the question is – how high a batting average will he be able to hit in the long run and how will he adjust to MLB breaking and off-speed pitches? To what degree will he be a platoon player?  For now I am keeping my expectations with Davis very reasonable and hope he becomes the next Adam LaRoche. His bat really profiles as more of a solid citizen/everyday type more than a star.

From a Mets historical perspective he could potentially be the best first basemen their system has ever developed. This is not saying much. Consider that the last first basemen they developed into a starter was Dave Magadan and before that you have Ed Kranepool.. You could also include John Milner into the equation but he also saw significant time in the outfield during his career. But I digress.

Fresh Catch of the Week Thus Far

Manny Acosta was recalled from Triple-A when Ryota Igrashi was placed on the 15-day DL. Acosta had been claimed off waivers from the Braves by the Mets this spring. He has always had a good arm, averaging close to 95 mph on his fastball, but his ability to locate his fastball, curve, and change has always been a problem with a 4.8 BB/9. He does generally keep the ball on the ground, so the 28-year old still has some upside if he can ever learn to really pitch. For now he will pitch in middle relief and will be sent to Triple-A as soon as Igrashi returns.

Alberto Castillo, no not the catcher of the same name but a left-handed pitcher, was recalled from Triple-A by the Orioles by the Orioles. His stay will be temporary until they need a fifth starter again, though who that will be is undetermined. Castillo is a 35-year old left-handed specialist who pitched for the Orioles in 2008 and 2009. He has pretty good control and strikeout skills using a fastball, slider, and curve combination. He is unlikely to factor into save situations.

Argenis Diaz was recalled from Triple-A by the Pirates. He is known for an above average glove, but the former Red Sox prospect has little to no power, no stolen base skills to speak of, is impatient, and strikes out far too often given the rest of his offensive package. He is up for just a cup of coffee with Bobby Crosby day to day.

Cole Gillepsie was recalled from Triple-A by the Diamondbacks when Conor Jackson was placed on the 15-day DL and will play in a back-up/pinch-hitting capacity for the time being. The 25-year old is an interesting hitter, but unfortunately with a low-ceiling. He draws walks at high rates, but strikes out slightly too often for a hitter with only doubles and mid-teens/season home run power.  I think he could be a starter or platoon player on a sub-par club, but unfortunately he lacks the power to be considered a full-time corner outfielder candidate. You can do much worse for short-term pick-ups generally speaking, but Gillespie is not likely to play very much at the moment.

Landon Powell was recalled from Triple-A with Mark Ellis hitting the disabled list supplanting Jake Fox from the back-up catcher job. Powell has decent power and is patient, but has battled weight and injury issues. Suzuki is clearly entrenched as the starter, so Powell’s playing time is likely to be minimal. It will be interesting to see if he retains a roster spot as a preferred back-up catching option when Ellis returns. He is not likely to garner much more than 150 at-bats even if he stays on the roster for the rest of the season.

Josh Reddick was recalled from Triple-A as a result of the injuries to Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury. He started last night and should get extensive playing time though he may sit against lefties in favor of Bill Hall. Reddick has 20-HR/season potential and slightly above average speed. There has been some questions with respect to his plate discipline and not being selective enough. Still, he has shown better in the lower minors and was advanced to the majors despite having minimal Triple-A experience and being just 22-years old. He is 23 now and there is still upside and plenty of room for improvement. In most keeper leagues he was likely a minor league draftee, but if available, he is at least a good short-term AL only solution.

Darnell McDonald is likely to be up for only a short while and to be sent down in a week when Ellsbury returns. McDonald is a 31-year old right-handed hitting outfielder known for his above average speed. Unfortunately the limiting factor of his career has been sub-par plate discipline and lack of contact-hitting skills despite very limited power. Also, being a right-handed hitter with that skill set leaves him very susceptible to unfavorable platoon splits. In fact he is a career .162 hitter against righties in the majors. Still, he may be a source of cheap speed over the course of the next week for those looking for some.

Rob Quinlan was brought up from Triple-A when Jeff Mathis was placed on the 15-day DL. The long-time 25th man on the roster failed to make the roster out of spring training. He can play first, third, and the outfield. He is a contact hitter who tends to keep the ball on the ground and has limited power potential. He has not had more than 200 at-bats since 2006 and at 33 years of age is unlikely to get the opportunity to top that now.

Esmerling Vasquez is up with Arizona for the second time this season. The 26-year old is a bit of a project, able to touch the upper nineties with his fastball, but has inconsistent with his control in both the minors and majors, particularly against lefties with a 5.3 BB/9 against them last season.

The Gimp Guide

Lance Berkman was activated from the disabled list and will resume his duties as the Astros’s everyday first basemen.

Russell Branyan was activated from the disabled list and started at first base with Matt LaPorta moving to left field as expected, but he sat out today’s game against the left-handed pitching Francisco Liriano. The move is considered more of a cautious move as they want to insure Branyan’s health and not overwork his back too much. Do not be surprised if he platoons a lot initially – which is probably not a bad thing considering he is a career .202 hitter against lefties. To be fair, he’s not much better against righties either .243. You know what you are going to get with Branyan – streakiness, strikeouts, and home runs. If you’re looking for batting average, you are looking in the wrong place. Batting .250 like last season is about the best you can expect for someone who strikes out consistently over 30% of the time.

Mike Cameron was placed on the 15-day DL with an abdominal strain and there is no timetable for his return. There is even a possibility that he will require surgery that could cause him to miss a month or two of action. As a result, Josh Reddick is likely to see a significant amount of playing time.

Mark Ellis was placed on the 15-day DL with a sore left hamstring. He is expected to miss only the minimum at this time. Adam Rosales has been starting in his place

Jacoby Ellsbury was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to the 12th of April and will return to action as soon as he is eligible to come off the disabled list next week.

Brian Fuentes was activated from the disabled list and has immediately resumed his role as the Angels’ closer.

Ryota Igrashi had moved into the top setup role for the Mets only to suffer a hamstring injury that will keep him sidelined for two weeks and reopens the competition for the top bridge to Rodriguez spot wide open. Francisco Nieve, Pedro Feliciano, and Jenrry Mejia will now share those duties.

Conor Jackson is yet another victim of a hamstring strain and will miss at least two weeks of action as a result. Gerardo Parra will move into a starting role as a result of the injury with Gillespie backing him up.

Jeff Mathis will miss the next six to eight weeks with a broken wrist allowing Mike Napoli to move into a starting role and  Bobby Wilson into a back-up role. Napoli owners will be quite happy after spending into the mid-teens to purchase his services only for his defensive limitations to reduce his playing time substantially. Mathis was not noted for his great power prior to the injury, but the wrist injury is likely to hinder his ability to drive the ball for much of the rest of the season even after he is cleared for baseball activity. Injuries of this nature typically take six months to fully heal and regain strength.

Hitting the Bricks

Brad Bergesen has struggled thus far this season, but was really shipped out to Triple-A due to a lack of need for a fifth starter for the next week or two. However it is possible that he may not get his spot back if Chris Tillman or Jake Arrieta outpitch him over that time period, so keep an eye on this situation as a pitcher with a higher ceiling may get promoted to the Majors.

Michael Brantley was optioned to Triple-A as a result of Russell Branyan’s activation from the disabled list. Brantley pressed at the plate and it shows in his 28% strikeout rate – well out of context with his typical contact-hitting ways. He will be back up again later this season though the timing of that will be injury and/or contention related. I still expect him to claim a regular starting spot before the season is over and for the Indians to phase some of their veterans.

Francisco Rodriguez was sent to Triple-A as expected when Brian Fuentes came off the disabled list. He will continue to serve as Triple-A roster filler and as emergency call-up.

Tobi Stoner was optioned to Triple-A by the Mets as a result of the recall of Ike Davis. He was up just as an extra arm after the 20 inning game.

In a case of horrendous timing when the Giants were forced to trade Fred Lewis due to roster and rehab assignment timing rules, Aaron Rowand has gone on the disabled list with facial fractures and a concussion with the possibility that he will require surgery, though according to reports, it does not sound like it would necessarily require a much more extended stay on the disabled list. It is also possible that they could let it heal naturally. For now keep your expectations that Rowand will miss about three weeks. The result has Eugenio Velez and Andres Torres platooning in centerfield while Matt Downs was called up from Triple-A to fill Velez’s utility role. Velez is a switch-hitter mostly noted for his above average speed and not noted for his plate discipline, walking under 6% of the time for his career, and making inconsistent contact at the plate for someone with low-single digit/per-season home run power. His two home runs already is quite out of character given his well over 50% ground-ball rates for his career. Over the small sample size of this season his fly-ball rates have been way up to 46.7%, up from his typical sub 30% rates – expect that to decline. He is a definite platoon player, despite being a switch-hitter, batting .283 against righties and just .218 against lefties. Due to his speed, if not still available, he will likely hit at least the teens in FAAB in NL only leagues. I would not go too wild considering he is a short-term starter with otherwise mediocre skills. Andres Torres is a 32-year old journeyman with some speed and power tools, has some patience, but also a career .195 batting average against righties. I actually find Matt Downs to be a more interesting player than either. The 26-year old is a right-handed hitter with low to mid-teens per season home run power and makes pretty consistent contact at over 86% of the time for his minor league career and his minor league splits indicate a player who is actually a better hitter against righties than lefties despite his handedness. Given all this information he is still regarded a utility player and as triple-A roster filler who will play sparingly.

Alex Gordon was activated from the disabled list and is back in the starting lineup at third base for the Royals as of yesterday’s game. They have placed him in a non-pressure spot of eighth in the lineup in each of his first two games.  Gordon has shown patience at the plate, but he has been a disappointment overall.  He is a platoon player and has hit just .217 against lefties and has managed an unexciting .264 batting average against righties, striking out about a quarter of the time against them. Though he is a fly-ball hitter, the raw power expected of him has yet to surface. The good news is the type of injury he is coming back from is not one that was expected negatively impact his ability to hit for average or power. Gordon has shown little in the way of skills growth during his time in the majors and this may be the last season the Royals put up with his lack of progress. To make room for Gordon on the roster Chris Getz was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained oblique. These types of injuries can often take more than the minimum two weeks to heal. Keep your expectations at about three weeks. Alberto Callaspo, who had been seeing most of the duty at third base while Gordon was out, gets a reprieve and will slide over to second base. Callaspo is a tremendous contact hitter with gap power and is a legitimate .300 hitter. Getz had been brought in to take his job to upgrade the teams’ defense, but given the team’s overall offensive skills, I still expect Callaspo at least 300 at-bats, utilized as a super-sub.

Jose Mijares was placed on the 15-day DL by the Twins retroactive to the 16th with a left elbow strain. He will miss at least two weeks as a result though no format timetable for his return has been established. His departure leaves the Twins without a left-handed specialist. Alex Burnett takes his spot on the roster and the reason the Twins did not call up a lefty was due to Burnett’s plus changeup.  The 22-year was converted to relief last season and moved quickly from A+ and AA-ball and impressed this spring. He has above average control, throws in the low-nineties, and has three pitches. He could emerge as a setup man given a chance.

Ross Ohlendorf was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to April 12th and is expected to miss just a single starter. Daniel McCutchen was recalled from triple-A and will make that start and will be sent back down immediately afterwards.

Kris Benson got through six innings in his return to the Majors yesterday allowing just two earned runs. Do not be fooled. He walked four and struck out one. Please see this edition of the DX for my thoughts on Mr. Benson.

In an intriguing move the Mets designated Mike Jacobs for assignment and will go with Frank Catalanotto and Fernando Tatis platooning at first base while calling up Tobi Stoner to pitch in long relief after Saturday’s twenty-inning affair. While playing that combination over Jacobs will improve their team OBP for the short-term the real rumor of course is that Ike Davis is soon to be recalled from Triple-A where he is hitting .357 .514 .679 to take over the everyday first base job. More on Davis once he is officially recalled. So while Stoner’s stay will be short, this is not likely to be his only call-up this season. The 25-year old has only one above average pitch in his changeup. He has good control of all his four pitches, but he lacks a strikeout pitch and is not particularly adept at keeping the ball on the ground either. Avoid him.

Adam Russell was optioned to Triple-A as expected when Chris Young’s rotation spot came up. Filling it was Wade LeBlanc who pitched well in his season debut striking out 7 in 5 innings while walking two and allowing a single earned run. He is a 25-year old “crafty” lefty who has plus control and command. He also averages around 85 mph on his fastball and is more about his secondary stuff, a cut fastball, changeup and curveball. He is a fly-ball pitcher so watch out in homerun friendly parks. He projects as a fifth starter at best and is thought of more as a quadruple-A starter now.

Fred Lewis has instantly become the most intriguing FAAB candidate for AL only leagues for this upcoming transaction period as he was dealt last night to the Blue Jays for a player to be named. The Jays, however, are planning to use him as a bench playerJeremy Reed was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Lewis on the 25-man roster while Dustin McGowan, not returning any time soon, was moved to the 60-day DL, to make room for him on the 40-man roster. It will be interesting to see how long before Lewis’s role increases. He bats left-handed and has a history of drawing walks at solid rates in both the minors and majors (10% for his career), above average speed, and low to mid-teens/season home run potential. What has held him back has been increasing ground-ball rates (holding back his power potential) and striking over a quarter of the time. Over the course of his career he has not been an extreme platoon-split player, batting .242 against lefties and .286 against righties, but does have one. A .286 .362 .443 line is nothing to sneeze at. Considering the Jays have a right-handed hitter in Jose Bautista with pretty wide career platoon splits, I think it is only a matter of time before Lewis cuts significantly in his playing time. Most mixed leaguers can probably ignore this situation for now, but AL only players should be paying serious attention. The problem will be – the price you pay in FAAB may take a long time to recoup its investment, if at all, depending on how long it takes them to realize Bautista is not an everyday player. I suspect Lewis’s FAAB price will vary quite dramatically from league to league, but I expect there to be two types of bidders – ones who hedge their FAAB bids not wanting to pay too much for someone who is a currently labeled a bench player and the other who is willing to take a risk and pay for him as if he may end up the left-handed side of a platoon with some power and good speed skills. In other words, expect to pay at least into the twenties to get him.

It is only the second week of the season and the disabled list is filling up fast. Over in Tampa Bay the Rays placed Kelly Shoppach on the disabled list retroactive to April 11th and recalled John Jaso to serve as a Dioner Navarro’s back-up.  Shoppach has a strained knee and is expected to miss only the minimum amount of time and could be ready to be activated as soon as the 25th. John Jaso, 26, has been a favorite of mine for some time due to his advanced plate discipline skills and gap power. He has a career minor league .379 OBP. His mediocre at best defensive skills have stopped him from getting a true opportunity to play and his bat is not quite good enough to start at other positions. As a result he will likely end up a journeyman/Triple-A roster filler type.

Continuing our theme, Jimmy Rollins was placed on the 15-day DL by the Phillies with a calf strain that will keep him sidelined between two and four weeks. The Phillies options at short are Juan Castro and Wilson Valdez, two players noted for their gloves, not their offense. Shane Victorino has taken Rollins’ spot atop the lineup while Juan Castro will bat 8th, so more runs scored opportunities and perhaps stolen base opportunities for Victorino owners.

Mike Gonzalez was placed on the 15-day DL by the Orioles with a shoulder strain and in retrospect probably should have begun the season in extended spring training as his velocity was noticeably down from last year (over 2 mph on his fastball). No timetable for his return has been set and owners should be prepared for him to be sidelined for greater than two weeks. Last  year’s closer, Jim Johnson, will get first crack at the closer’s job. Johnson is not noted for his strikeout skills (6.3 K/9 in 2009), but has solid control (3.0 BB/9) and ground-ball producing skills. He has yet to really prove himself as more than a right-handed specialist reliever after posting a 4.6 BB/9 and 4.7 BB/9 against lefties each of the past two seasons. Save situations against lineups that stack their lineups with lefties could get “interesting”. Fantasy owners should also note that Kam Mickolio was called up to replace Gonzalez on the roster. The right-handed power pitcher has a plus fastball/slider and average change combination that continues to make him a potential closer candidate down the road.

The Angels placed closer Brian Fuentes on the 15-day DL retroactive to April 6th with a back strain. This is not nearly as worrisome as the Gonzalez situation as Fuentes is likely to return as soon as early next week. The Angels have replaced him on the roster with another Francisco Rodriguez, though this one does not have nearly the upside of former Angels’ and current Mets’ closer. The 27-year old is a journeyman who has only once posted a K/9 above 7.0. He will be sent down as soon as Fuentes returns. Fernando Rodney is the beneficiary of this situation and will move into the closer’s role with Scot Shields serving as his primary setup man.

Roman Colon was designated for assignment and replaced by Josh Rupe on the Royals roster. Both were once highly regarded prospects. Colon’s strikeout skills are a thing of the past. He owns a career 5.9 K/9 and is a fly-ball pitcher. Rupe has yet to establish a strikeout pitch at the major league level. He keeps the ball on the ground more often than not, but a 5.1 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 for his career is not a skill set that says “sign me”. Rupe will pitch in long relief.

Chan Ho Park was placed on the 15-day DL by the Yankees with a hamstring strain which is only expected to keep him sidelined two to three weeks. Left-handed specialist Boone Logan was recalled from Triple-A to replace him on the roster. Logan’s career K/9 and BB/9 splits versus righties and lefties are pretty dramatic – 9.0 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 against lefties and 5.3 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 against righties – ouch! Park’s long-relief duties are likely to be handled by Sergio Mitre and Aceves. Logan gives the Yankees a second lefty in the pen behind Damaso Marte

 

In his latest Diamond Exchange, Rob Leibowitz discusses the Reds' call-up of Mike Leake as injuries to two of the most prominent second basemen in the Majors.

Jesus Colome had his contract purchased from Triple-A by the Mariners while outfielder Ryan Langerhans was designated for assignment. The move makes Eric Byrnes the back-up centerfielder behind Franklin Gutierrez. The Mariners already have a seven-man bullpen which means Colome will not be pitching in any high leverage situations. Instead he will be featured in long relief and mop-up duty. Despite a solid K/9 and BB/9 in 21 appearances for the Nationals and Brewers last season he still managed a 7.59 ERA, the result of a .415 BABIP and 60% left on base rate. The 32-year old still averages close to 95 mph on his fastball, but his command within the zone remains inconsistent. There is no reason at this time to consider him for pick-up.

Ramon Vazquez was given his unconditional release by the Pirates after he failed to make the opening day roster and was not claimed by any other MLB club. He had been supplanted by players with more offensive skills in Bobby Crosby and Delwyn Young. Vazquez can handle multiple infield positions and should be able to hook up within another club in near future, but his value in fantasy play is limited given the combination of limited power (1 home run in 2009) and over 20% strikeout rates. In other words with that skill set he should hit under .250. 2008 was a fluke year in which he utilized a .349 BABIP to generate a .290 batting average. Pass.

The A’s claimed outfielder Jai Miller off waivers from the Marlins and were able to option him to Triple-A. To make room for him on the 40-man roster the A’s moved Josh Outman to the 60-day DL. Since Miller is on the 40-man roster he may stand ahead of others due to the ease with which he can be called up or sent down. Miller is a 25-year old journeyman with good tools in the power/speed department. What the right-handed hitter lacks is in the execution department – 30%-plus strikeout rates in the minors. He may be good as a cheap speed source if recalled, but we are talking about a career minor league .243 .330 hitter against righties. In other words, this is a skill set that has a sub .200 batting average MLE against right-handed pitchers. Do not expect him to get much playing time if recalled. Outman underawent Tommy John surgery and is not likely to even start throwing again until the middle of this season.

 

Nelson Figueroa was claimed off waivers from the Mets by the Phillies when he was one of the final spring training cuts. Figueroa is a soft-tossing right-hander, but has enough good secondary pitches and above average command to generate solid strikeout rates. There would be many teams that he would be an adequate fifth starter for, but his tenure with the Phillies is going to be temporary with Brad Lidge, Ricky Romero, and Joe Blanton all working towards their respective returns.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia was placed on the 15-day DL due to stiffness in his upper back and right shoulder. No time table for his return has been set. Taylor Teagarden is the beneficiary as he moves from a time-share role to a starting role while veteran Matt Treanor was recalled from triple-A to serve as the back-up. Treanor is noted for his patience at the plate, but his lack of power and ability to make contact have made him a fringe major leaguer. His defensive skills are what keep him in the majors. Avoid him for fantasy baseball purposes.

In one of the first injury-related transactions of the year, Sammy Gervacio was placed on the 15-day DL with a right rotator cuff strain.  I had liked him going into the season as a potential closer in waiting particularly if he developed his secondary stuff. His fastball/slider combination had him on track to at least be a dominant right-handed specialist.  There is no time-table for his return at this time. Wilton Lopez replaces Gervacio on the roster, but not in role. Lopez is a journeyman starter noted for above average control, but does not miss bats (5.7 K/9 in Triple-A in 2009 and 4.2 during a brief MLB trial). He will pitch in mop-up situations and long-relief. Jeff Fulchino and Brandon Lyon, as they should, will pitch in the higher leverage situations.

The where will Jack Cust end up question has been answered after his surprising loss to Eric Chavez for the starting DH job. That answer? Triple-A. Why?  Well, at this stage in the season the A’s would not have been responsible for paying him the rest of his contract if he asked for his release, so rather than forego the money Cust first hoped he would be claimed off waivers. This was unlikely to occur as most teams prefer other teams to pay player’s contracts and rather they wait to be released so all they would be on the hook for was the MLB minimum. It is easier for other players with a longer history of making money to request their release, but 2010 was only the second time in Cust’s career where he would earn in excess of $1 million dollars. Knowing he might have to accept a contract worth less than half of the $2.65 million if he requested his release, he opted to stay in the A’s organization to keep the money. This is what is called – putting one’s family ahead of one’s ambitions.  Getting to the fantasy implications, Chavez will be the primary DH for Oakland, at least against right-handers while Jake Fox, who was expected to be Cust’s platoon partner too, will now be Chavez’s platoon partner. While playing DH should ostensibly keep Chavez healthier he is still someone who has not topped 500 plate appearances since 2006 and he has not hit above .250 since 2005. While limiting him to playing solely against righties might help the latter issue, this is a player who shown downward trends in both plate discipline and power skills, the two major elements of Custs’ game.  I would be rather surprised if we did not see Jack Cust in an Oakland this season. If you have the ability to stash him in AL only leagues, I would do so.

The Padres had elected to add Matt Stairs to their 40-man and 25-man roster as a pinch-hitter and back-up outifielder/first basemen. Chad Huffman was the victim, losing his spot on the 40-man roster and subsequently having to be placed on waivers due to being out of options. The Yankees swooped in and claimed him and were able to slide him back through waivers to Triple-A. The nearly 25-year old is noted for his selectivity and above average power, but is limited due to sub-par defense and to being a right-handed hitter who strikes about a quarter of the time. For teams needing a right-handed platoon player or right-handed bat off the bench, he would not be a bad option. The Yankees, however, already have a right-handed hitter on their bench and in a quasi-platoon role in Randy Winn, so if Hoffman even gets a call-up, his playing time is more than likely to be marginal.

Robert Andino was sent outright to Triple-A by the Orioles. The Julio Lugo acquisition put the writing on the wall for the all-glove/no-hit Andino. He was out options, but due to the aforementioned lack of punch at the plate, cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A where he will play in a back-up capacity. He is now off the forty-man roster so its possible that players like Justin Turner could be recalled ahead of him rather than have to remove someone else from the 40-man roster to bring Andino back up to the Majors if there is an injury.

 

So Julio Lugo has been dealt today to the Orioles today along with most of the cash to pay his salary. The Cardinals will receive a player to be named or cash considerations somewhere down the road (so consider the cash given a loan!).

So what does this move mean? Well from the Orioles side it is an obvious insurance policy move for Brian Roberts. Roberts has been playing the field and is expected to start the season on time, but his condition - a herniated disk - still makes him a risky play for 2010. 

The move also indicates the lack of satisfaction with Ty Wiggington’s defense as a second base option and Robert Andino’s as an offensive option. Lugo's presence will cost Andino a chance from making the roster, but Lugo's playing time - projected at 371 at-bats with the Cardinals, is likely coming down with Baltimore to the two-hundreds.

For the Cardinals this clears an obstacle for Felipe Lopez as both players were going to struggle to find playing time as long as both remained on the 25-man roster. Lopez fully assumes a role of the Cardinals’ super-sub and likewise could see playing time all over the diamond. Given the greater extent of flux on that roster with a rookie like Freese at third, Lopez could expect upwards of 400 plate appearances.

As for Lugo’s skills and talents, Lugo still has above average speed (9 for 9 in stolen base attempts in 2009), he just needs opportunities. For that reason alone, he suddenly becomes an interesting end-game option. He is also a fairly well-disciplined hitter who continues to walk around 10% of the time and has not struck out over 20% of the time since 2004. His frustrating 2008 season with the Red Sox, meanwhile, was an out of characteristic extreme-groundball hitting season at 60% of the time when he had been in the mid to high 40’s throughout the rest of the year. Last season he hit the other extreme, producing the lowest ground-ball rate of his career at 40% of the time. Lugo, though now 34 years of age, can still reasonably hit into the .270’s and top 20 steals given the opportunity. While that is not likely, he will have a shot at it considering Roberts injury and considering how Cesar Izturis has non topped 500 plate appearances since 2004.

Garko Finds a New Home

The Texas Rangers had been once again negotiating with the Red Sox with respect to Mike Lowel land had been considering their in-house options of Max Ramirez. Well all that is over with Garko’s claim off waivers from the Mariners. Lowell is now once again stuck in Boston and everyone’s favorite sleeper catcher, Ramirez, will head back to Triple-A and bide his time, waiting for an opportunity to show off his offensive skills. Garko is an 1B/OF and to start the season his playing time is going to be minimal with Chris Davis getting yet another opportunity, but he will serve as insurance policy for Davis whose strikeout rates continue to make him a high-risk pick and in turn could serve as a stop-gap for Justin Smoak while he gets more playing time at Triple-A.

Garko is not untalented. He is a fly-ball hitter, albeit one who has trended downwards over the past three seasons, who turns over 13% of his fly-balls into home runs. Getting out of pitchers parks and moving to Arlington could make him more interesting to own in that respect. He is also a good contact hitter, striking out just 14% of the time last season and 17.6% of the time over his career, so the ability to hit for average remains. Where Garko’s limitation remains is his handedness. He is a right-handed hitting first basemen with an unfortunate platoon split, managing a .249 .321 .392 line against them last year. Not very first basemen like of him. He did hit .308 .391 .479 against lefties however and his career splits are very similar. A smart team would use him judiciously this way and be quite satisfied with that result. End-game or reserve round in AL only leagues is the only place to take him at this time.

This past Friday evening over in Flushing, NY at Citi Field AL Tout Wars 2010 was held.

This is my tenth season in Tout Wars, but it was my first time in the AL after 9 seasons over in the NL. Tout Wars plays like a local league. We all know each other rather well and despite the fact that I have never played in the AL, I have played against most of the competitors over the years, so it was easy to slide right in and have a good time.

For those unfamiliar with Tout Wars, the one major difference I really find between Tout Wars and your local league is the pace of the auction. The pause between nominations is very limited and the pace of the auctioneer is consistent and quick too. Generally speaking there are also not a lot of bids starting at $1, with players being pushed to their projected value quite quickly. All things I appreciate a great deal. You can get a sense for this in the video of the opening on Tout which you can find here.

Onto the results:

You can find the complete AL Tout Wars rosters here. Note that there is an error on their sheet. I bought Frasor at $10, not $4 and didn’t leave any money on the table.

Jorge Posada                   14
Gerald Laird                      3
Kendry Morales                25
Kevin Kouzmanoff           16
Jose Bautista                    3
Dustin Pedroia                 26
Marco Scutaro                  16
Alex Gonzalez                   3
Bobby Abreu                     24
Torii Hunter                       23
Johnny Damon                 19
Luke Scott                           9
Jose Guillen                       7
Jim Thome                          1
Javier Vazquez                  21
Ben Sheets                         6
Joel Pineiro                         6
Mike Gonzalez                  14
Jason Frasor                     10
Jon Rauch                          10
Daniel Hudson                   1
Jeremy Guthrie                   2
Brett Cecil                           1
Kevin Millwood                 Reserve
Pat Neshek                         Reserve
Hector Rondon                 Reserve
Aaron Crow                       Reserve

So heading into AL Tout I put together a pre-draft split of $205/$55. The premise behind it was to stack my lineup, avoid some of the dregs in the lower echelons of hitting, if possible, and concentrate on the pitchers with upside in the under $10 range with one $20 slot for a closer or anchor.

Mostly this worked – Abreu, Hunter, Pedroia, Morales, Posada, Vazquez, Kouzmanoff, Scutaro were all pre-draft slot prices. Note that I try to slot on a by hitter basis, trying to avoid to assign dollars to specific positions as that can lead to confusion and reduce flexibility in readjusting your budget in mid-auction. I bring a spreadsheet of my own design to the draft and use a draft-grid/tier to look at the player pool as a whole.

While generally speaking, I was pleased with the draft, I let a few players go by when I had money slotted for them (Juan Rivera went for $13, Nick Johnson for $12, Podsednik for $12, LaPorta for $11) where I should have gotten too. Instead I landed Scott and Guillen, both under projected value, along with Thome at $1, left me with more money remaining to spend elsewhere than I had originally intended. So with it being that late in the auction, I set about targeting what remaining players still held some value. Noting both Rauch and Frasor were available and that they were favorites to land their teams’ respective closer jobs, I resolved to make sure I got both of them with only $28 remaining. Now I just have to cross my fingers and hope that they do indeed end up with the lion-share of saves and offer a potential strength to trade from in the mid-season. So my split ended up being 195/65 or 75% on hitting rather than my intended 79%.


In the reserve round I focused on pitching from two different perspectives – needed two pitchers to step in immediately (Millwood and Neshek) with Hudson going to the minors and Cecil a possible demotion candidate too. Neshek gives me a back-up of Rauch too in terms of saves. So that leaves me with Cecil, Hudson, Rondon, and Crow as all possible mid-season breakthrough rotation candidates/reinforcements.

Other fun things of note: a complete round around the table of White Sox players - just for White Sox's fan, Dean Peterson. There were also several failed attempts to start a Royals player run. At one point Charlie Wiegert of Fanball came in and asked if anyone was driving a Coca Cola truck. It was about to be towed as Citi Field is a Pepsi-facility. Alas, that truck is impounded somewhere now.

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