Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Notes: Almost Torres Time?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


National League notes

 

- Ian Happ survived Jason Heyward’s return from the DL, as his performance really left the Cubs with no other choice. Still, I can’t imagine the team will stick with the current setup for too long; there just aren’t enough at-bats for Happ, Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jon Jay to go around. One temporary measure could be to send Almora to Triple-A; his performance has been fine, but if the Cubs want to give Happ significant time in center, then it makes sense to get Almora regular at-bats in the minors. From a performance standpoint, Kyle Schwarber is the player most deserving of the demotion. The Cubs figure to remain patient there, though, and for good reason. That’s why I think Happ is still likely to return to Triple-A for a spell, whether it happens in a week or two or four.

 

- The Braves had the right idea in taking a chance on Matt Adams with Freddie Freeman (wrist) out for at least two months, but there’s no certainty that Adams will prove any better of a stopgap than James Loney would have been. Adams is a .250/.301/.436 hitter in 528 at-bats since the beginning of 2015, and he’s not exactly slick around the bag at first base. I think he’s a better hitter than that given regular playing time, but I wouldn’t drop anyone of significance to pick him up in a 12-team mixed league. It’d be one thing if the Braves’ new home was playing as a big offensive park, but that isn’t the case so far (Braves pitchers have fared worse at home, while hitters have done about the same home and away). I don’t believe he’ll crack the top-300 in next week’s rankings.

 

- Joe Ross returned to the majors Tuesday and was as effective as hoped in throwing eight innings of one-run ball to beat the Mariners. Still, it was discouraging just how much his velocity dipped as the outing went on. He started out throwing 92-96 mph, as he does when he’s at his best, but he often slipped below 90 mph in the latter stages of the start (it wasn’t a big pitch count, either; he ended up at 101). I want to believe in Ross -- he was one of my favorite pitching picks this year -- but with the way his velocity has fluctuated, I’m not particularly confident in him at the moment. He should be owned in all mixed leagues because of his upside, but he still needs to be watched closely.

 

- I wasn’t impressed by how Phillies manager Pete Mackanin handled his bullpen earlier this year, and I don’t like how he’s juggled his lineup of late. I understand the frustration with Odubel Herrera, who just isn’t having good at-bats, but lumping Maikel Franco in with Herrera while Franco is doing pretty much everything you’d like from plate discipline, flyball/groundball and exit velocity standpoints is a mistake. Sitting Michael Saunders against right-handers makes no sense. Batting Freddy Galvis second has never ever been a good idea. If it were my call, I’d stay the course with the Phillies’ current starting eight. Rhys Hoskins has been great in Triple-A, but Tommy Joseph has been the Phillies’ best hitter of late and neither can play anywhere other than first. Calling up Roman Quinn as a part-time outfielder could be an option, but while he’s been better lately, he’s still hitting a modest .276/.347/.362 with 46 strikeouts in 152 at-bats in Triple-A; I’d rather leave him down there for at least a few more weeks. The Phillies should get Howie Kendrick (oblique) back in a couple of weeks, with will help some.

 

- The Phillies also have to be frustrated by Vince Velasquez’s performance, though I don’t imagine the solution is moving him to the bullpen. Maybe that’s where Velasquez will ultimately show he belongs, but if that’s the case, it can happen next year, when the Phillies are hopefully ready to compete for at least a wild card spot. Velasquez has struck out 45 in 43 2/3 innings this season. His command has regressed, but that’d be a bigger long-term concern if he hadn’t already shown last year that he can limit the walks to three per nine innings. The biggest problem is that he’s allowed nine homers in 43 2/3 innings, but that could be something of a mirage; he’s actually greatly improved his groundball rate this year after opening his career as an extreme flyball pitcher. I’m not recommending grabbing him in mixed leagues in which he’s available, partly because he’s still such an injury risk, but I do expect significant improvement.

 

- The Padres will have Dinelson Lamet make his major league debut Thursday after he went 3-2 with a 3.23 ERA and a 50/20 K/BB ratio in 39 innings for Triple-A El Paso. I was considering Lamet more of a relief prospect than a starter, but with his groundball rate up and his changeup coming along, he’s definitely worthy of a look in the rotation. I’d be surprised if he’s ready now; his poor walk rate should only be a bigger issue in the majors than it was in the PCL. Still, he’s one to watch; he can rack up swings and misses with both his heater and his slider.

 

- I wish the Dodgers would have shown more patience with Julio Urias rather than sending him down after two bad starts, but their crowded rotation situation gives them too much flexibility for comfort in situations like that. Urias is well worth holding on to in mixed leagues; it’s not like Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu figure to stay healthy for any length of time.

 

- The good news is that Jose Peraza is up to .288/.325/.438 during the month of May, most of which he’s spent as a No. 7 hitter. The bad is that he’s no longer doing much running; Peraza was 7-for-8 stealing bases in April, but he’s just 2-for-3 this month, even though he’s already been on base more times in May. Separating Billy Hamilton and Peraza at the top of the order was the right move for the Reds, but Peraza isn’t going to have much fantasy value unless he does a whole bunch of running and he doesn’t want to risk the caught stealing with the eighth and ninth spots coming up behind him; the last thing the Reds want is the pitcher leading off the next inning when it could be Hamilton instead. One just has to hope that Peraza keeps hitting and inches his way back up the lineup.

 

- After a slow start, Giants prospect Austin Slater is hitting .338/.410/.500 for Triple-A Sacramento this month. With Hunter Pence (hamstring) on the DL and Denard Span banged up again, a promotion seems appropriate. Pence could be back in 7-10 days, but my feeling is that the Giants would be better off with Slater in left and Eduardo Nunez at third than they are with Nunez in left and Christian Arroyo at third. Of course, even if they wanted to stick with Arroyo, they could just turn Nunez into the utilityman he really should be anyway. All of that said, I wouldn’t expect immediate mixed-league value if Slater were to get the call. He’s not going to be good for a bunch of homers or steals.

 

- Something Mets fans might not have noticed with Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring) due back next week: Curtis Granderson (.220/.309/.492) is outhitting Jay Bruce (.197/.284/.423) this month. Michael Conforto isn’t going anywhere, so things are about to get interesting in the Mets outfield. Granderson is probably the better option than Bruce, given the difference in defense, but because Bruce had an outstanding April and Granderson had an awful first month, Bruce figures to keep playing regularly initially.

 

- Steven Matz (elbow) gave up five runs over four innings in his rehab start for Triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday, making it unlikely that he’ll be activated Sunday. The Mets were probably going to give him that additional rehab start even if Tuesday’s outing hadn’t gone so poorly. Matz can’t be counted on at this point, but the upside makes him worth owning in all formats.

 

- I wrote about Andrew McCutchen last week, so I’m not going to add much more here. Still, let it be known that, even as his average dipped to .200 on Tuesday night, he’s 37th in MLB in hard-hit rate, right in between Travis Shaw and Jedd Gyorko, according to Inside Edge data presented by ESPN’s Mark Simon. I don’t want to oversell that -- Joe Mauer is 33rd -- but it’s a reason to retain some faith.

  

 

List No. 2: Pitchers most likely to be traded before the deadline

 

1. David Robertson (RP White Sox)

2. Jose Quintana (SP White Sox)

3. Joakim Soria (RP Royals)

4. Tony Watson (RP Pirates)

5. Jeremy Hellickson (SP Phillies)

6. Jason Vargas (SP Royals)

7. Ryan Madson (RP Athletics)

8. Alex Cobb (SP Rays)

9. A.J. Ramos (RP Marlins)

10. Gerrit Cole (SP Pirates)

 

Yu Darvish and Kelvin Herrera are two of the most intriguing names out there, but I’m not sure the odds favor a deal in either case. The Rangers have come alive in the AL West, and Herrera, unlike most of the rest of the Royals’ veterans, is signed for 2018.

 

Cole is also a tough call. As with Mark Melancon last year, the Pirates will be open to moving Watson even if they still have postseason aspirations in July. I assume that he’s a goner. They do have Cole under control for one final year in 2018, though, so there won’t be any pressure to trade him.

 

The Rays thus far are hanging tough in the AL East, but even if that continues to be the case, I imagine they’ll deal a starter. Cobb, a free agent at season’s end, would be the obvious option. If they fall back at all, then it’s quite possible they’ll deal two starters, increasing the likelihood of a Chris Archer blockbuster.

 

I didn’t list any Padres. Trevor Cahill would have made the cut, but then he got hurt. Jhoulys Chacin seems like a good bet to go, and they’ll probably deal one of their lefty relievers, either Brad Hand or Ryan Buchter. Hand would likely net the biggest return of the bunch.



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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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Notes: Almost Torres Time?
May 24

Matthew Pouliot lists some trade candidates and offers up thoughts on Gleyber Torres, Dinelson Lamet and Joe Ross in the Strike Zone.

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