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Strike Zone

Team-By-Team Notes

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

The season is threatening to turn ugly quickly for the Brewers, and given that there was talk of firing Ron Roenicke after last year’s second-half letdown, one wonders how much more time he’ll get to right the ship. Frankly, I’m not seeing much else he could do with the hand he’s been dealt. I like what he’s done with the lineup, at least as far as stacking his best hitters at the top. The Brewers were foolish to pencil in Adam Lind and Scooter Gennett as full-timers when they both need platoon partners, but that’s largely a front-office failing. I can’t really speak as to how good a job he’s done of handling the pen. Maybe he’s relying too much on Jonathan Broxton, but it seems like the Brewers’ losses are on the starters, not the relievers.

 

As for those starters, I’m most worried about Wily Peralta, whose velocity is well down. There’s little reason for mixed leaguers to wait for him in the hopes it will bounce back. Kyle Lohse will probably go back to being Kyle Lohse. I don’t think there’s much to like about Matt Garza at this point. At least Jimmy Nelson’s stock is trending up and Mike Fiers’ is holding steady.

 

On offense, the Brewers are down their best player, with Carlos Gomez’s strained hamstring set to cost him a couple of weeks. Ryan Braun’s start is distressing, particularly the lack of power. Everyone was encouraged by his spring, when he hit .395 with three homers. Maybe it’s the thumb or maybe it’s the rib-cage strain he suffered on Opening Day, but the swings I’ve seen from him lately don’t seem designed to deliver more than singles. I don’t suggest trying to capitalize on his slow start by targeting him in trades.

 

American League Notes

 

Baltimore: Jonathan Schoop’s loss to a knee injury was an especially big deal with J.J. Hardy (shoulder) not progressing nearly as quickly as expected. There’s still some hope Hardy will be back in 7-10 days, but as slowly as he’s taking things, it’s worth wondering if there’s more going on than meets the eye. Until Hardy returns, both Everth Cabrera and Ryan Flaherty will play regularly. Those two had been sharing time at shortstop in Hardy’s absence, and they’ll share time at second after Hardy returns. … It seems like just 10 days ago that people were going gaga over Steve Pearce’s fast start. He’s gone 4-for-33 with no RBI and one walk since homering in his first two games, and he’s in danger of losing playing time against right-handers to Jimmy Paredes. I also wonder if we might see the Orioles sign Carlos Quentin now that he’s a free agent and available for the minimum. I don’t expect that Pearce will prove to be an asset in mixed leagues this season.

 

Boston: Shane Victorino just doesn’t look like someone who should be long for Boston. If he still excelled defensively in right field, maybe it’d be worth playing him. Victorino, though, isn’t saving runs in the field, and he’s certainly not creating them at the plate. The Red Sox won’t bail on him while Rusney Castillo (shoulder) is hurt, but even without Castillo, they still have Daniel Nava, Brock Holt and Allen Craig as alternatives in right field and Jackie Bradley Jr. continuing to play well in Triple-A. Bradley, who seemed much improved this spring, is batting .349/.404/.442 in 43 at-bats for Pawtucket.

 

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Chicago: Micah Johnson, after playing just once in a five-day span, started Saturday and Sunday and went 2-for-6 with two walks and his first steal. I think I’ve made it clear that I’m not particularly high on Johnson, but it needs to be his job without the interference of Emilio Bonifacio, Gordon Beckham and the recently demoted Carlos Sanchez. At least Beckham has his role as a platoon partner for Conor Gillaspie at third base. Bonifacio should be treated like a 25th man. If Johnson fails, then Beckham would seem to be the best choice to replace him. Sanchez has been hot in Triple-A, but that doesn’t inspire much confidence. … Carlos Rodon will debut this week as a reliever, which makes sense because he wasn’t going to be allowed to throw 180+ innings this year anyway. He’ll eventually move into the rotation, probably in place of John Danks. I don’t expect him to dominate -- he’s still rather wild and he’s in a tough situation for pitchers -- but he’s not a bad use of a roster spot in mixed leagues.

 

Cleveland: Danny Salazar got his rotation spot back even earlier than I expected, and he was strong in striking out 10 Twins in his start Saturday. He’s well worth owning in all mixed leagues. … Jose Ramirez hasn’t shown a whole lot in the early going, but Francisco Lindor probably won’t join the early-season promotion parade. Lindor is currently batting .212/.316/.364 through 10 games in Triple-A, and while that’s hardly a problem this early, he needs to bang down the door to persuade the Indians to make a switch. The team has never had any intention of promoting him prior to the Super Two “deadline” in late May anyway. … It’s past time that the Indians make Michael Bourn a No. 9 hitter and move everyone else up a spot. Ideally, James Ramsey will start hitting in Triple-A and give the Indians a viable alternative in center come June.

Detroit: Victor Martinez delivered his first extra-base hit and scored his first three runs of the season in Sunday’s rout of the White Sox. I’m not sure it’s a sign of things to come. His surgically repaired knee is clearly limiting him. It’s obvious on the basepaths, but it’s taking a toll on his power stroke as well. I don’t have any brilliant recommendations to make here; obviously, he shouldn’t be dropped in any mixed leagues and I wouldn’t simply give him away in a trade, either. However, neither would I seek him in a deal as a buy-low candidate. ... Remember, Justin Verlander didn’t have a setback. He’s just not going to throw for a little while. Sure, he’s already missed his first two projected return dates. But it isn’t a setback. And there can’t be anything seriously wrong because he won’t go for MRI to see if anything is seriously wrong. I think that settles it.

 

Houston: The Astros certainly won’t be as quick to start sitting the slumping Chris Carter as they were last year, but they have already knocked him down the lineup following a start that’s seen him go 3-for-40 with no extra-base hits, no RBI and 17 strikeouts. It’s worth staying patient with him in the hopes of oodles of homers later, but those that can bench him should bench him, particularly with the Astros playing in Seattle and Oakland this week. … That advice doesn’t go double for Evan Gattis. He’s been nearly as bad, but he’s catcher eligible and that makes a world of difference. George Springer has also struggled mightily, but I think he’s closer to figuring it out than Carter and he does offer some speed.

 

Kansas City: Instead of going to a lefty-righty Jarrod Dyson-Paulo Orlando platoon in right field with Alex Rios (hand) out for the 4-6 weeks, the Royals have decided to see if they can capitalize on Orlando’s quick start. Dyson seemed like an obvious pickup for steal-needy teams with Rios out, but not it looks like the playing time won’t be there after all. Things could change quickly if Orlando fades. It sure was awfully neat that he tripled four times in his first four major league games, but he projects as a .250 hitter with little home run power and a poor OBP. … Wade Davis will be an elite fantasy closer for the next 2-3 weeks while Greg Holland nurses a pectoral strain.

 

Los Angeles: Matt Shoemaker says he’s completely healthy. So why is he averaging 88.4 mph with his fastball when he came in at 90.5 mph as a rookie? It hasn’t stopped him from winning both of his starts and amassing a 12/1 K/BB ratio in the process, but it will almost certainly catch up to him unless he resumes throwing harder. He told MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez that he thinks it might have something to do with him dropping a bunch of weight over the winter, even though he’s put much of it back on now. There’s little to do but give it a few more weeks and see what happens.

 

Minnesota: Danny Santana probably deserves better than a .195 average for his start, but he might have gone and used up all of his luck while hitting .319 with a .405 BABIP in 405 at-bats as a rookie last year. There was never any doubt that a decline was coming, but I thought he’d still be pretty useful for fantasy purposes as the leadoff hitter in a pretty good lineup. The entire group, though, has been terribly disappointing, and Santana is more dependent on the help of his teammates than anyone. Even if he does start hitting, it already hurts that the Twins have gone from batting a patient Brian Dozier second to an aggressive Torii Hunter, reducing Santana’s opportunities to steal bases. Of course, one solution for the Twins would be to just stop hitting him leadoff and go with Dozier or Joe Mauer in that spot. If that happens, Santana could be safely dropped in mixed leagues.

 

New York: Masahiro Tanaka threw more four-seamers and threw them a tad harder Saturday, working seven scoreless innings against a Rays lineup that looked all out of sorts. Without the dynamite splitter to fall back on, Tanaka better utilized his entire arsenal and kept the Rays guessing. It’s a good sign, though I wouldn’t count on similar results against the Tigers this week. … With no fastball command, Dellin Betances has just thrown breaking ball after breaking ball in his recent outings. It’s getting him outs, but it’s still hardly an ideal way for him to pitch. He’s no closer to taking save chances away from Andrew Miller, even though his ERA remains flawless.

 

Oakland: Jesse Hahn appears worse than 50-50 to start this week because of a finger blister. Jesse Chavez would likely fill in.

 

Seattle: James Paxton used one of the most explosive fastballs from any left-hander in the league to amass a 3.04 ERA in 13 starts for the Mariners last season. He was averaging 95.6 mph with the heater down the stretch. In his first two starts of this season, he averaged 93.9. In Sunday’s outing against the Rangers, he topped out at 91 mph, averaging a bit less. That’s awfully scary from a guy who battled shoulder inflammation last summer and then had an odd forearm problem this spring (he injured both of his forearms on a fall in an agility drill in camp). It’s time to go in a different direction if you own him in a shallow mixed league. … On the other hand, I’m not so concerned about Hisashi Iwakuma’s slow start. Let’s see how he does against the Astros and Twins this week.

 

Tampa Bay: As poor as Matt Andriese and Erasmo Ramirez have looked, the Rays could justify bringing Drew Smyly (shoulder) back from his rehab assignment this week just to throw four or five innings in a start. He was up to 68 pitches in his Double-A outing Sunday, so he’s not far away. … It sure would be nice if Kevin Cash’s infatuation with batting Asdrubal Cabrera third would die. Carrera didn’t hit in 2013. He didn’t hit in 2014. He didn’t hit this spring. He’s not hitting now. It’s one thing to stick with him as a regular, but to act like he’s some sort of featured player is bizarre. At least his defense has been fine so far.

 

Texas: I’m not sure who is going to close for the Rangers after Neftali Feliz lands on the DL with forearm tightness, but I have a feeling it’s coming up. Of course, if the Rangers had quality alternatives, they wouldn’t have asked Feliz to throw 47 pitches in Sunday’s loss to the Mariners. Keone Kela is still the best bet in the pen for the long haul, but he’s not quite ready yet. Shawn Tolleson is the Rangers’ most reliable reliever, but that was true last year, too, when the team picked Feliz over him. … At least the Rangers scored some runs Sunday. I don’t have any concerns about Adrian Beltre’s slow start, and I still expect good things from Rougned Odor. Shin-Soo Choo has given me no reason for optimism, and I don’t think Leonys Martin belongs in the leadoff spot given his approach.

 

Toronto: Dalton Pompey has been increasingly shaky in the field and is still hitting just .188, though he does have a couple of early homers. He’s left the door open for the Jays to turn to Kevin Pillar in center field after Michael Saunders comes off the disabled list. Saunders, set back in his knee rehab by a hamstring injury, resumed playing for Single-A Dunedin on Sunday and could come off the DL before the end of the week. … Jose Reyes wants to play through the small fracture in his rib cage and return to the lineup Tuesday, so he can be left active in mixed leagues unless one has a really strong alternative. Devon Travis seems like the riskier play after leaving Sunday’s game with a bruised rib cage that had him in a lot of pain. Shy away. … Daniel Norris complained of a dead arm after struggling against the Braves, so it’d be nice to be able to reserve him this week.

 

National League Notes

 

Arizona: It seems the Diamondbacks called up Yasmany Tomas mostly because they didn’t have many alternatives among position players on the 40-man roster. He’s not going to start, and it’d certainly make more sense to play him regularly in Triple-A than to use him as a pinch-hitter in the majors. He’ll likely head back there soon. … Even without Tomas in the mix, the Diamondbacks are still having difficulty picking which outfielder to sit each day. A.J. Pollock is the best of the bunch, yet he’s already come off the bench three times. It’s a good thing he’s done so well when he’s played or he might be in even greater danger of losing at-bats. Mark Trumbo has to play most of the time, even though he might be the weakest link against righties. Trumbo is very likely to be traded this summer, which would open up a real job for Tomas. Ender Inciarte is off to a flukishly good start on offense and is a first-rate defender, which means he has to play until he cools off. David Peralta might be the odd man out more often than not, even though he’s off to a perfectly fine start himself. Right now, the OPSs of the Arizona outfielders are .920 (Pollock), .857 (Peralta), .806 (Inciarte) and .727 (Trumbo). That’s all versus a league OPS of .684.

 

Atlanta: I don’t know if there’s anything wrong with Alex Wood, but I don’t like the way that he’s pitching. Last year, he threw his 90-mph fastball 60 percent of the time. This year, he’s throwing it 72 percent of the time. That’s just too much for him. It seems like he’s lost faith in his changeup, and while that was never a great pitch for him in the first place, it was still important as far as keeping right-handed hitters honest. He needs that back.

 

Chicago: Jon Lester’s velocity is down some, and his case of the yips is worse than ever. The Cubs are coddling him by lining up David Ross as his personal catcher, even though it hurts the offense not starting Miguel Montero against right-handers. Plus, Montero has a better arm than Ross, which could come in handy as basestealers try to take advantage of Lester. None of this is good. But then I shouldn’t have many readers who drafted him anyway. … It was quite discouraging that no real niche was found for Arismendy Alcantara before Kris Bryant came up. Surprisingly, he still hasn’t made a single appearance in the outfield. Third base is now cut off for him, and Jonathan Herrera started all three games at second base over him in the Padres series. Jonathan Herrera! Plus, the Cubs are now prepping Addison Russell at second base in the minors. Alcantara is just 23, so if Joe Maddon thinks he’s a lesser player than Herrera, it’d make a lot more sense to send him to Triple-A than to keep him in a bit role in the majors. That might be what happens once Tommy La Stella returns from a strained oblique. I still think Alcantara is ready to contribute now and deserves the chance to play regularly, but it doesn’t look like it’s coming.

 

Cincinnati: Homer Bailey failed to impress in his season debut Saturday against the Cardinals, giving up five runs in 5 2/3 innings in his return from elbow surgery. His velocity is still down a couple of mph, and it really showed up on his splitter, which explains why he went the entire outing without a strikeout. The positive thing is that Bailey was still throwing 91-95 mph even with his velocity down (he’s typically more at 93-97 mph). He should continue to build arm strength, and he might get back to where he was. However, I’d prefer to avoid starting him in mixed leagues these next two or three weeks. … If possible, Devin Mesoraco should be reserved in mixed leagues while he continues to deal with a hip impingement. … Billy Hamilton appears to be fine after tweaking his groin Saturday. It’s a good thing, too, considering that Brennan Boesch is the Reds’ backup option in center field. That’s about as big as defensive downgrades come (though Hamilton to Skip Schumaker is likely even bigger).

 

Colorado: It’s a rare seven-game Coors Field week, which should aid some of the slumping Rockies hitters like Carlos Gonzalez and Justin Morneau. All seven games are against righties, too. Of course, that won’t help Drew Stubbs and Wilin Rosario. Stubbs, is particular, has been a complete non-factor so far against a heavily right-hander schedule for the Rockies. … Jorge De La Rosa (groin) is coming off the disabled list to face the Padres and Giants at home this week. NL-only leaguers can start him if they have him.

 

Los Angeles: Justin Turner hit .340/.404/.493 in 288 at-bats for the Dodgers last season. He made just his second start of the year Sunday and went 4-for-5 with three doubles.  And that’s why I’ve been expressing pessimism about Alex Guerrero’s situation in Los Angeles. Don’t even talk to me about Corey Seager until some of this logjam gets cleared up.

 

Miami: The Marlins have taken advantage of Jeff Mathis’s finger injury to give J.T. Realmuto a look over Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the dish. I’m not sure that’s truly an upgrade, but the Marlins soured on Salty in the first season of his three-year deal and would be more than happy to move on if someone else is willing to take on his contract. Realmuto lacks power, but he doesn’t whiff like Saltalamacchia and, at least from a fantasy perspective, his stolen base ability from the catcher spot in intriguing. He should also offer better defense once he settles in. He’ll probably continue to play more than Salty for the next 3-5 weeks while Mathis is out. The Marlins will have a tough decision to make once that happens, and unless Realmuto is running circles around Salty, there’s a good chance he’ll return to Triple-A. In the meantime, he’s an adequate No. 2 catcher in mixed leagues. … Dan Haren rates as a nice streaming option in mixed leagues this week with starts in Philadelphia and at home against the Nationals.

 

New York: The Mets probably knew going in that Travis d’Arnaud would miss a chunk of the season with some malady. It’s just really disappointing that it’s come after such a nice start at the plate and before Kevin Plawecki had another month or two in Triple-A to continue to refine his game. Plawecki is going to be the choice to replace d’Arnaud anyway, and he’ll play over Anthony Recker. He doesn’t quite have d’Arnaud’s offensive potential, and we’ve seen Mets position prospects really struggle to make the transition from the funhouse at Las Vegas to the majors. I don’t really expect a whole lot offensively from Plawecki, but he’s still a viable replacement for d’Arnaud in NL-only and two-catcher mixed leagues. I would give him the edge over Realmuto as a pickup, largely because I think he’ll play more. … The Mets confirmed that Jeurys Familia will remain their closer following Bobby Parnell’s return, assuming he hasn’t blown out his arm yet. Sunday’s appearance was his sixth in eight days, all of which resulted in saves.

 

Philadelphia: I wonder if Ryne Sandberg broke Ben Revere this spring when he started talking to him about hitting 40 doubles this year. Revere wasn’t all that far away from winning a batting title last season, finishing with a .306 average. That came with 13 doubles. He had 44 career doubles in 1,905 at-bats as a major leaguer. Sandberg wanted him to become something he so obviously wasn’t, and Revere has been a mess ever since. Maybe that has nothing to do with it; maybe it’s something else or he was destined to be a mess regardless. And it’s not like even a .300-hittingReverewas a star with his mediocre OBP and subpar defense in center field. But that Revere was still a useful player. This one is batting .167 and just found himself on the bench for three straight games before returning as a No. 8 hitter on Sunday. A trade would be best for him and the Phillies. Until something shakes loose, he can’t be used in mixed leagues. … Also, maybe Jeff Francoeur shouldn’t be batting cleanup against right-handed pitchers. Maybe.

 

Pittsburgh: Mark Melancon had his best velocity of the season Sunday, averaging 91 mph with his fastball. While that’s still not in his usual 92-96 mph range, it’s an improvement over the 88-91 mph he threw in his first few appearances of this season. I just hope it doesn’t stop there.

 

St. Louis: That Matt Adams has found himself on the bench against a couple of righties already could be considered pretty discouraging, but I don’t think it’s going to start a trend. The Cardinals’ desire to keep Mark Reynolds involved is going to be trumped by Adams’ superior performance soon enough. … Randal Grichuk’s DL stint due to a back strain doesn’t have much in the way of fantasy ramifications, except for that it gives manager Mike Matheny less incentive to rest any of his starting outfielders. Grichuk has a little NL-only value, but that’s largely because a starter ahead of him could get hurt.

 

San Diego: Jedd Gyorko’s situation scarcely improved with him going 3-for-16 with no extra-base hits and no walks over the last week. He’s in serious danger of falling into a platoon situation that would see him getting most of his starts against lefties (Gyorko has a career .767 OPS versus lefties, .641 versus righties). Yangervis Solarte would then be a full-time player as the second baseman against righties and the first baseman against lefties. … Ian Kennedy has recovered from his hamstring strain and is expected to slot back into the rotation on Saturday, displacing Odrisamer Despaigne.

 

San Francisco: The Giants didn’t make a call on whether Ryan Vogelsong or Yusmeiro Petit would be the replacement for Jake Peavy (back) in the rotation. I would think it’d be Petit -- I hope it’s Petit -- given how poorly Vogelsong has thrown so far (he’s walked nine and allowed 14 runs in 10 1/3 innings). Petit would be worth playing in mixed leagues if he does get to start. … Chris Heston’s chances of sticking in the rotation for the long haul are improving by the outing. His 89-91 mph sinker tails away from left-handed hitters, and his curve is good enough that it’s surprising he fanned just 6.5 batters per nine innings in Triple-A last year. I would have said no a week ago, but he seems worth a try in mixed leagues now.

 

Washington: Rather than keep Michael Taylor as a part-time player, the Nationals sent him down to make room for the returning Denard Span on Sunday. That’s good news for owners of Span and Jayson Werth, since manager Matt Williams won’t need to look for spots in which to start Taylor. It’s too bad for Taylor, who hit .271/.314/.500 with two homers and two steals in Span’s absence. Clearly, he’ll be the choice if a starting outfielder gets hurt again, and even if Span, Werth and Bryce Harper all stay healthy, Taylor will probably be back as a reserve in the second half after 2-3 months of playing regularly in Triple-A.

Matthew Pouliot
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.