Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Notes: Buying Byron

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


If there was one ranking people really didn’t like last week, it was placing Aaron Judge 42nd among outfielders after a 19-game span in which he hit 12 homers. And it’s understandable; not only does he have all of those homers, but he’s hitting .317 with a better-than-expected strikeout rate.

 

One of the things that made Judge a tougher call entering the year was, despite his obvious physical attributes, he wasn’t an elite power hitter in the minors. He hit 17 homers in 467 at-bats in 2014, 20 in 478 at-bats in 2015 and 19 in 352 at-bats in 2016. That’d be great for most prospects, but it always seemed like Judge should be exceeding those totals. In all, Judge had a .195 isolated slugging percentage over three minor league seasons. He’s at a crazy .455 in the majors right now.

 

I’m certainly not writing any of that off as a fluke, but I think we need to be realistic about what to expect going forward. Judge is homering on 46 percent of his flyballs right now. Even the gold standard there, Giancarlo Stanton, only homers on about 26 percent of his flyballs. Judge was at 18 percent in the minors last year and lower in previous seasons. If he were at 18 percent in the majors right now (which is still about 50 percent better than the MLB average), he’d have five homers, not 13.  Also, Judge is 6-foot-7, which isn’t going to help in the batting average department (Dave Winfield is the only player 6-foot-6 or taller to ever hit .300 in a season). He’s striking out less than I anticipated, but he’s still doing so 27 percent of the time.

 

I do buy into the idea that Judge has taken a step forward. It also helps his value that the entire Yankees lineup seems stronger than anticipated. A big reason I had Judge ranked 80th among outfielders going into the season was because I saw him batting seventh in a rather weak lineup. Now he’s batting fifth in what seems to be a very good one. Still, I think we’re probably looking at a .240ish hitter the rest of the way. Whether that comes with 20 more homers or something closer to 30, I’m not sure.

 

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American League notes

 

- In moving Joe Biagini to the rotation last week, the Blue Jays demonstrated that they’re more concerned about J.A. Happ (elbow) than they are about Roberto Osuna. Biagini is pretty intriguing in the rotation; he’s not going to be a huge strikeout guy, but he gets grounders and he’s been extra stingy with the walks so far this year. He might be of use in mixed leagues once he’s fully stretched out. I know that’s a tepid recommendation, but the Jays aren’t up to par offensively or defensively right now, cutting into the value of their starting pitchers.

 

- Byron Buxton went 3-for-4 with a double Tuesday. He started walking two weeks ago, and he’s .357/.455/.571 over his last nine games. It’s past time to grab him in any leagues in which he’s available. As of Tuesday, that was 72 percent of Yahoo Leagues.

 

- Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell is still looking for his first win after giving up four runs in five innings Monday against the hapless Royals offense. He’s sporting an adequate 3.96 ERA, but he’s completed six innings just once this season, mostly because he’s walked 22 in 36 1/3 innings. I wasn’t particularly high on Snell going in -- I had him ranked 77th among SPs -- but the strikeouts and the ability to generate soft contact were intriguing. Unfortunately, the strikeouts are down and the already poor control has regressed. He might be one bad start away from causing the Rays to make a move. I doubt they’d go to Brent Honeywell yet, though I’m really looking forward to seeing what he could do. Ryan Yarbrough and Chih-Wei Hu would be more likely to get the first crack. Alternatively, the Rays could pluck Chase Whitley out of the pen. Of the options, only Honeywell would be a recommended pickup in mixed leagues immediately. All are worth watching, though, and Whitley is worth grabbing in AL-only leagues regardless.

 

- I don’t think there’s a quick fix for Francisco Rodriguez that doesn’t involve him regaining a mile or two on his fastball. He staved off decline in his early 30s by developing an excellent changeup, but hitters have been able to lay off the change lately because they don’t have to gear up for the heater. If the Tigers let him, he could still save another 25 games with a 4.00 ERA this year, and I wouldn’t mind taking my chances of that happening, given that moving Justin Wilson into the closer’s role could just mean losing games in the eighth rather than ninth. However, Rodriguez sealed his fate by blowing leads on back-to-back days over the weekend.

 

As for Wilson, I have no idea what’s gotten into him; he’s always had good velocity for a lefty, but he’s been hitting 97 mph with regularity this year. If that keeps up, he’ll remain very effective. If not, then there’s always Shane Greene to try.

 

- With Sean Manaea about to come back, Jharel Cotton probably lost his spot in Oakland’s rotation by giving up three homers and seven runs against the Angels on Tuesday. I still see a lot to like there -- his changeup is truly impressive -- but the fastball command just hasn’t been there lately. He’ll still be interesting when his next opportunity comes, and given the durability of A’s starters, he won’t have to wait long.

 

- Sam Dyson’s velocity has improved since returning from the disabled list, and he’s allowed just two runs in 6 1/3 innings, though he’s gone the entire span without a strikeout. If he returns to 2016 form, the Rangers would have financial incentive to give him another crack at the ninth. Doing so could also boost his trade value, which seems increasingly relevant with a postseason run less likely by the day. He’d be nice to have stashed away.

 

- I’m not all in on the Yankees’ Jordan Montgomery as a mixed-league starter, but after getting the Astros on Friday, he’s due to make consecutive starts against the Royals and then face the A’s. That’s a recipe for ample value over the rest of the month.

 

- Mitch Haniger (oblique) was one of the AL’s very best players before getting hurt, yet the Mariners haven’t lost a thing since plugging Ben Gamel into his spot. Gamel still doesn’t look like a very good bet to me going forward; neither his power nor his on-base ability stands out. Still, he’s probably in line for some time in left field once Haniger returns. I don’t recommend him in mixed leagues.

 

- I don’t know that the Mariners really needed to send Mike Zunino down, but it sounds like it’s a short-term move to give him an opportunity to regain his confidence at the plate. Even without any ability to hit for average, he still figures to be a decent option in two-catcher mixed leagues over the final four months.

 

 


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Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
Email :Matthew Pouliot


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