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Notes: New Jays Ready To Fly

by Matthew Pouliot
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

It wasn’t Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but the Jays did promote two of their top prospects this week, calling up catcher Danny Jansen and right-hander Sean Reid-Foley to make their major league debuts.

 

Because Russell Martin had been performing better, I was growing less optimistic about Jansen getting the call this year. However, with Yangervis Solarte joining Josh Donaldson on the DL, the Jays opted to put Martin at third and give Jansen a shot. There’s an awful lot to like about Jansen’s game. To go along with decent pop, he’s sported an 89/85 K/BB ratio in 784 plate appearances since the beginning of last year, giving him a .396 OBP. On defense, he gets positive reviews aside from his arm, which is a bit below average. He looks like he’ll be a nice long-term regular, and while playing time could be an issue over the rest of this season, he’s still worth a try in two-catcher mixed leagues.

 

Reid-Foley has had an up-and-down minor league career since the Jays took him 49th overall in 2014, but this year looks like a breakthrough; he had a 146/47 K/BB ratio with just eight homers allowed in 126 2/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A. It helps that his fastball has ticked up some and is now typically in the 92-96 mph range. He also has two legitimate breaking balls and an adequate changeup. It’s the arsenal of a No. 3 starter or maybe a No. 2 if his command continues to improve. He should be a streaming option down the stretch here.

 

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American League notes      

 

- The Jays could also have room for another outfielder soon if they can find a taker for Curtis Granderson. Of the candidates, the oft-injured Dalton Pompey has played best of late in Triple-A, hitting .269/.341/.429 with eight steals in 34 games. Top prospect Anthony Alford has been a bust this year, hitting .224/.297/.330, and Billy McKinney has come in at .204/.283/.389 in 17 games since arriving in the J.A. Happ trade (he was at .226/.299/.495 for Scranton prior to the deal). The least interesting but most reliable option is Dwight Smith Jr. He’s struggled in the minors the last couple of months, but he has hit .255/.350/.471 in 51 major league at-bats this year. I still think the Jays would like to take a look at Pompey in order to see if he’ll be worth keeping on the 40-man roster this winter.

 

- So much for the idea that Ken Giles’ five-run meltdown in a tie game against the Red Sox last week would delay his ascension to the closer’s role in Toronto; he pitched perfect innings for saves both Sunday and Tuesday. It’s clear the job is now his to lose.

 

- The Twins lack an obvious option for the ninth after sending Fernando Rodney to the A’s. It wasn’t supposed to be this way; Addison Reed looked like something of a bargain for them after signing a two-year deal last winter, and 2017 rookie surprise Trevor Hildenberger continued to succeed during the first half of this year. Unfortunately, Reed has been a major disappointment with his velocity down a tick, and Hildenberger has given up 16 runs in the last month. Even though he had given up homers in three straight appearances, Hildenberger got the first save chance following the Rodney trade and converted it, though not before giving up another homer and two runs in total. He had a cleaner inning in another three-run game Tuesday, so Hildenberger is clearly the favorite for saves right now. It’d be great to see Trevor May get into the mix, though he’s still being eased back in after Tommy John. Hildenberger might keep the job the rest of the way, but he’s more of a seventh-inning guy for 2019 and beyond.

 

- Logan Morrison opted for season-ending hip surgery, putting Tyler Austin in position to get an extended look in Minnesota. My feeling is that better bets than Austin have been available on the waiver wire this year. The former Yankee has obvious power, but he’s pretty much hopeless against right-handers with quality breaking balls. There’s always the chance he’ll go on enough of a homer binge to be of use in deeper mixed leagues the rest of the way, but I’d bet against him.

 

- I wrote about Taylor Ward and included him in the rankings last week despite not really expecting him to get the call because of his rough defense, but the Angels decided to promote him and give him a shot at third base. Ward, a 2015 first-round pick, was a catcher until moving to the hot corner this year and busting out offensively; he hit .345/.453/.520 in 42 games at Double-A Mobile and .352/.442/.537 in 60 games for Triple-A Salt Lake. No one should expect him to keep hitting for average like that in the majors, but he possesses some power and he was 18-for-21 stealing bases in the minors this year. He also should have catcher eligibility in most formats, so I prefer him to Jansen, mostly because he should have the opportunity for more playing time. There’s no one standing in his way at third base.

 

- Robinson Cano played first base in his first game back from an 80-game PED suspension on Tuesday. I’m not sure if he’s a bigger upgrade there than he is from the hobbled Dee Gordon at second, but he’ll almost certainly help at both spots. Ryon Healy’s limited mixed-league value is most likely gone now. Gordon is a much more difficult drop when it’s still entirely possible that he’ll get closer to 100 percent and swipe 8-10 bases in September. It’d be better to have him on the bench than in a starting lineup at the moment, but dropping him entirely would be a mistake.

 

- Adam Jones using his no-trade protection to void a deadline deal threw a bit of a wrench into the Orioles’ plans, but they still went ahead and called up Cedric Mullens to play center field last week, moving Jones to right field in the process. Mullens was a nice find for the Orioles in the 13th round of the 2015 draft. He hasn’t produced the kind of big numbers since that would get him a ton of notice as a top prospect, but he’s always been solid and he has the tools to continue to grow. What makes him interesting in fantasy leagues is that he was 21-for-22 stealing bases between Double- and Triple-A this season. He was caught on his first steal attempt for the Orioles, but the team has nothing to lose in continuing to give him the green light. My guess is that he falls short of mixed-league value, but with so few sources of steals available, it’d a good idea to keep an eye on him.

 

- For that reason, assuming steals are a priority, I would give Delino DeShields Jr. one more chance in mixed leagues right now.

 

- The Rays are playing games with Austin Meadows’ service time. I wonder if they’re also sitting C.J. Cron so frequently in part to try to hold down his arbitration salary this winter. They’ve made Ji-Man Choi a lineup fixture against righties, even though he doesn’t possess all that much power and has nothing to offer on defense. Cron, meanwhile, hasn’t started consecutive games in 10 days. Cron is the team’s leader in home runs, doubles, RBI and runs scored this year. He has a 118 OPS+. There’s no argument for using him as a platoon player when he has a .775 OPS against righties this year and a career mark of .772 against them (which, oddly enough, is better than his .738 mark versus lefties). Of course, he’s no star, and as cheap as first basemen/DHs can be these days, it could make a big difference in the Rays’ choice to retain him whether he makes $4 million or $6 million in arbitration next year. Still, sitting an arbitration-eligible player as a means to hold down is salary would be a truly shameful tactic. Cron was a modest mixed-league asset for four months this year, but with the Rays using him like this, he has to be dropped.

 

- Kyle Tucker wasn’t supposed to be back with the Astros before September, but then George Springer and Jake Marisnick weren’t supposed to land on the DL within a few days of each other. Tucker has started two of the Astros’ four games since returning to the roster, but since it looks like Springer will return from his sprained thumb on Friday, there’s little reason to take another chance on Tucker in fantasy leagues.

 

National League notes

 

- The Marlins didn’t want to pay Justin Bour in the neighborhood of $5 million next year, so they pretty much gave him away to the Phillies for a modest prospect in 22-year-old left-hander McKenzie Mills. Of course, the move wrecked Bour’s fantasy value. It would have been great for him to get a chance to play regularly against right-handers in Philadelphia, but for better or worse, the Phillies are going to stick with Carlos Santana there. The Marlins will use Derek Dietrich at first, which is better for their defense since it gets him out of the outfield. Too bad that their current outfield options beyond Brian Anderson (who should be playing third base anyway) are hideous. They now have veteran minor leaguers Rafael Ortega and Isaac Galloway up alongside overmatched 22-year-old Magneuris Sierra. Meanwhile, Austin Dean remains in Triple-A despite having run circles around all of those guys offensively (their OPSs for New Orleans this year are .876 for Dean, .779 for Ortega, .744 for Galloway and .628 for Sierra). There won’t be much fantasy value to be had here, but Ortega could have a little if he keeps playing against right-handers and running (he has three steals in six games so far).

 

- The Cardinals announced that Carlos Martinez would rejoin the team as a reliever, which would seem to make him droppable in mixed leagues. There is the possibility of saves, but it will make more sense to use him in close games for a couple of innings at a time than to save him for the ninth in the Bud Norris role.

 

While the Martinez decision answers one question about the rotation, the Cardinals still have Adam Wainwright (elbow) on a rehab assignment and Michael Wacha (oblique) apparently set to begin one next week. Wainwright would likely be a downgrade on the current group, but the Cardinals will still probably give him a try anyway, maybe at John Gant’s expense.

 

- Joe Musgrove, one of my favorite picks for this year before he hurt his shoulder in the spring, is still unowned in a bunch of leagues despite four straight quality starts. He’s gone really heavy with the slider lately, while simultaneously cutting back on his changeup, and it seems to be paying off. He should remain an asset the rest of the way.

 

- After losing Kenley Jansen to an irregular heartbeat, the Dodgers shifted both Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling to the pen. It’ll probably be a short-term switch for Stripling, just until someone else gets hurt again. Maeda, though, should get a chance to close games before Jansen gets back. Hyun-Jin Ryu will go back into the rotation after missing 3 ½ months with a groin injury. He did stellar work before going down, and while I wouldn’t want to bet heavily on him down the stretch here, he’s worth a try in mixed leagues.

 

- Matt Kemp owners probably need to move on at this point. A rebound is hardly impossible, but given all of the Dodgers’ options, there just isn’t much reason for the team to play him against right-handers.

 

- It’s probably not going to mean much for this year, but that was an encouraging debut from Touki Toussaint against the Marlins on Monday. Because of subpar control and questions about his stamina, Toussaint was starting to get looked at a reliever by some. However, because he’s been around so long, it’s easy to forget that he’s just 22 years old. His curveball is a top-notch strikeout pitch, and his upside remains intact. He still has a ways to go in the control department, but he’s gotten a little better this year. Especially given the success the Braves have had with similar talents in Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb, Toussaint could be quite the sleeper next season. That said, it probably should be noted that the breakouts of Folty and Newcomb came at ages 26 and 25, respectively.

 

- With his curveball back, Corey Knebel looked really good Tuesday in his second appearance since being temporarily pulled from the closer’s role. If he can do that a couple of more times, he’ll probably get another chance in the ninth in short order. At the moment, Jeremy Jeffress looks like the man in the Milwaukee pen.

Matthew Pouliot

Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of NBC Sports Edge and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.