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Notes: Gorman, Kirby, McMahon and More

Nolan Gorman

Nolan Gorman

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals demoted Paul DeJong on Tuesday, but it wasn’t to give Nolan Gorman a shot. Instead, Kramer Robertson was promoted for what figures to be a short stint with Edmundo Sosa due to return from the COVID-19 IL later this week. It seemed like the right time to try Gorman, but he has cooled off recently, hitting .222/.276/.370 in his first seven games this month (he came in at .338/.390/.811 with 11 homers in April). Once he heats back up again, the Cardinals are going to have to take a look at his bat. In the meantime, Sosa, who outplayed DeJong last year, figures to be installed at shortstop. It isn’t slated to happen, but it’d be interesting to see what Brendan Donovan could do against righties. Donovan probably doesn’t possess mixed-league upside, but he has a nice all-around offensive game and likely would be of use in deeper formats if he could secure a platoon role.

As for DeJong, he was still adequate, if below average, the previous two years, but his combination of tons of flyballs and subpar exit velocities has left him with no hope of being of use in the current environment. He either needs to go back to the drawing board and aim for more of a line-drive approach or lobby MLB for a bouncier baseball.

National League notes

- From the on-base skills to the likelihood of above average power to the plus speed that allows him to play center, there’s a lot to like about Alek Thomas the player. I’m not as sold on him as a mixed-league outfielder in 2022. For one thing, he’s a poor basestealer in spite of his speed, getting thrown out on 22 of his 53 attempts the last three seasons. He also hits a lot of groundballs at the moment, which should lead to pedestrian power numbers initially. He could help the Diamondbacks right away, but I don’t know that he’ll do the same for fantasy teams.

- That Arizona was so quick to promote Thomas has some wondering if Corbin Carroll might also get the call at some point. Carroll, one of the game’s best prospects, is hitting .313/.448/.667 with nine homers and eight steals in 125 plate appearances for Double-A Amarillo. It’s an especially impressive start given that he’s coming off shoulder surgery that limited him to seven games last year. I doubt we’ll see Carroll in the near future, but perhaps the Diamondbacks will try him after the All-Star break if he continues hitting about as well as anyone in the minors. Given that he’s still so young, that he hardly played the last two years and that the Diamondbacks are going nowhere this year, I suspect it’s more likely that we won’t see him until 2023. I’d like to be wrong, though.

- Returning from a shoulder injury the Reds never really provided much detail about, Luis Castillo gave up three runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Brewers on Monday. Discouraging was that his velocity was down about 2.5 mph on all of his pitches. Maybe he’ll get stronger, but he’s already spent as much time building back up as most pitchers did this spring. Between the lack of velocity and the poor supporting cast in Cincinnati, it doesn’t look great for him proving useful in mixed leagues in the near future.

- Pretty much everyone wants Max Meyer in the Marlins’ rotation in place of Elieser Hernandez, and it’s quite possible that it would be an upgrade for Miami. Hernandez, though, is in the running for the game’s unluckiest starter to date, at least according to Statcast. So far in 2022, there have 48% as many homers as barrels across the league, but Hernandez has given up eight barrels and eight homers. Statcast gives him an expected ERA of 3.80, far lower than his actual 6.37 mark. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Meyer can do, and I wouldn’t complain if the Marlins made the switch. I don’t think Hernandez should be given up on, though.

- My big complaint with Ryan McMahon last year was that he wasn’t pulling the ball enough; he had the seventh-lowest pull rate among batting-title qualifiers then, coming in at 30.6%. He’s doing much better there now; he’s currently sporting a 44.6% pull rate that’s the 44th highest among the 174 batting-title qualifiers. It hasn’t actually helped him much or at all, but it should come. While he’s homered only twice, McMahon has eight barrels already. His average exit velocity is as high as it’s ever been. His strikeout rate is up, but his contact rate is a little better than his career average. If not for the dead baseball, we might be talking about his strong start right now.

- Ryan Pepiot will make his major league debut Wednesday after posting a 2.05 ERA and a 36/12 K/BB ratio in 26 1/3 innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City. The 24-year-old righty has perhaps the best changeup in the minors and backs it up with a legit fastball, but he’s always had issues with control and his slider is below average. He should be a solid starter even without the ability to work deep into games, but in a loaded Dodgers organization, he might instead wind up in the bullpen for the long haul. I think he’d be worth taking a chance on in mixed leagues if it looked like he’d have a full-time rotation spot, but that’s probably not going to happen right away.

- I got some questions about placing MacKenzie Gore just 92nd among SPs in last week’s rankings, and I wasn’t thrilled with it, either. Still, the Padres have seven starters with Mike Clevinger back and Blake Snell (groin) due to be activated next time through, and Gore is the only one of the bunch with options. The Padres could send Nick Martinez to the bullpen and carry on with a six-man rotation in order to keep Gore in the majors, but I’m not so confident that’ll be the play. If Gore does stick in the majors, he’s a mixed-league guy for sure.

- The tanking Nationals sent down the guy with the lowest ERA in their pen, Andres Machado, prior to Tuesday’s game and saw the guy who replaced him, Carl Edwards Jr., give up three runs in an inning and take a loss on his first night up. That’s not really what I wanted to write about here... I just thought it was funny. Less funny is that Luis Garcia is still in Triple-A while Alcides Escobar remains the team’s starting shortstop. Garcia is hitting 352/.417/.629 for Rochester. He’s probably going to wind up at second base for the long haul, but he’s still mostly playing shortstop right now. With Escobar having lost range, it’s not even clear that the switch would be a defensive downgrade for the Nationals, and it’d obviously be an upgrade offensively. If they were trying to win, the move would have come already.

- The Marlins got Dylan Floro back on Tuesday after an absence due to a shoulder problem, but his velocity was down about 2 mph from last year and he gave up three runs in his inning. Diamondbacks hitters swung at 15 of his 25 pitches and missed just once, coming up with four hits in the process. Unless it was just a bad day that he’s able to shake off, it doesn’t look like he’ll return to the closer’s role anytime soon. That’s good news for Anthony Bender, even though he’s been a disappointment to date.

- When the Reds gave Lucas Sims a save chance in his second appearance back from the IL, it seemed to answer the question of who their closer was. Since then, though, Sims hasn’t been held back in hope of late leads, which is probably a smart call given the lack of those opportunities in Cincinnati. On Tuesday, he was brought into a close game during the sixth and got five outs to help give the Reds a chance to win (they didn’t, though). If the Reds want to structure Sims’ workload some in an effort to keep him healthy, it could mean that he won’t have any fantasy value for now. Jeff Hoffman and Hunter Strickland might be in the picture for saves.

American League notes

- I wish I had placed George Kirby higher than 151st in last week’s SP rankings, but I didn’t think the Mariners would promote him nearly so quickly. He was impressive in his debut against the Rays, using mostly his fastball and slider to strike out seven in six scoreless innings. He has a quality curve, too, and command has never been any sort of issue for him. His only weakness is that his fastball is rather straight, which could make him prone to giving up homers to lefties. Still, that’s less of an issue in this current environment, and Safeco will help a bit, too. A bigger problem for the short term is that he threw just 68 innings last year and has never topped 111 innings in his career. It’s hard to imagine the Mariners leaving him in the rotation to make 25 starts. For these next couple of months anyway, he’s probably a top-50 SP.

- It was pretty stunning that the Mariners converted Matt Brash to a relief role upon demoting him to Triple-A. Brash struggled mightily in his five major league starts and obviously warranted sending down, but he’s too talented to be sentenced to the pen already, and while it’s not at all necessary that the move become permanent, it’s going to be more difficult to return him to the rotation next year if he’s a 25-year-old who has never topped 100 innings as a pro. Why not let him work on his control as a starter in Triple-A for a couple of more months and then shift him to the pen? It’s not like those relief conversions take much time.

- Amed Rosario’s .240/.295/.279 line isn’t much to look at and it’s disappointing (though not particularly unusual) that he’s gone three weeks without attempting a steal, but I still believe he’s going to wind up contributing in mixed leagues. Statcast thinks he’s hitting about as well as ever, giving him an expected average of .284 and slugging of .412. It helps a bunch that he’s striking out just 14% of the time. He just hasn’t been well-rewarded for all the contact he’s making, even though he’s hitting the ball about as hard as usual. His luck should change.

- One can’t help but feel bad for Edward Olivares, who, after being glued to the bench initially this season, was finally getting a real chance in Kansas City and was taking advantage by hitting .371/.421/.486 in 38 plate appearances. Unfortunately, he’s due to miss the next month and a half with a strained quad. That opens the door for Kyle Isbel to seize the right-field job, though he still has to contend with the Royals’ unhealthy Ryan O’Hearn fascination. The biggest beneficiary right now might be MJ Melendez. I didn’t think Melendez would offer short-term fantasy value when he was called up on May 1 to replace Cam Gallagher, but with Carlos Santana and Olivares getting hurt, he’s playing quite a bit and looking good.

- Mitch Garver went on the IL on Tuesday with a sprained flexor tendon, though it seems like he’s been hurt longer than just that. Recalled to Texas in his place was Sam Huff, who will back up Jonah Heim behind the plate and hopefully see some time at DH. Huff was batting .260/.349/.575 with seven homers in 19 games for Triple-A Round Rock. He’s going to strike out too much to maintain a solid average in the majors, but with his power and catcher eligibility, he’s an option in two-catcher mixed leagues (just probably not as good one as Melendez).

- As the person writing up most Grapefruit League games for the site, I remember Akil Baddoo turning in a great spring. Looking back, though, he did have an 11/1 K/BB ratio to go along with the four homers then. Baddoo was penciled in as the Tigers’ leadoff man against righties and likely starter against lefties as well, only to have his role change just prior to Opening Day because of the Austin Meadows acquisition. Suddenly, he was batting seventh and ninth instead of first versus righties, and he wound up making just two starts against lefties before being demoted to Triple-A on Monday. It’s a necessary refresh for an obviously talented player. I don’t know if Baddoo will ever hit lefties enough to reach stardom, but he’s going to produce against righties. Hopefully, he’ll be back in 3-4 weeks and make a strong case for a return to the top of the lineup.

- Perhaps he should replace Robbie Grossman, who has followed up his 23-homer, 20-steal season in 2021 by hitting .231/.357/.275 with no homers and one steal in 112 plate appearances to begin 2022. The OBP is nice, but it’s the product of an inflated .350 BABIP (career .307) that’s in no way backed up by his declining exit velocity numbers. I was down on Grossman this year in part because of the spike in his strikeout rate last year. His K rate has gone from 18% in both 2018 and 2019 to 20% in 2020, 23% in 2021 and 29% so far this year. He’ll probably get somewhat better, but I don’t believe he’ll go back to being useful in mixed leagues, and in six weeks or so, the Tigers’ best outfield might feature Meadows, Baddoo and Riley Greene.

- Many weren’t pleased about the Twins’ decision to trade Taylor Rogers for Chris Paddack this spring, but I thought it was worth a try, given that Paddack still has some obvious long-term upside (even if I didn’t like him much for 2022). Unfortunately, Paddack suffered a setback with his damaged right elbow and might need surgery. It’s too bad, since Paddack had added a couple of new wrinkles this year and was succeeding even with his velocity down. Even if he needs Tommy John, I think his long-term outlook might be more promising now than it was a year ago.

- Rays infielder-outfielder Vidal Brujan got the call Tuesday for the second time this year, but it might be another short-term stint with Manuel Margot banged up. I believe he’ll have mixed-league value at some point during the season, but I wouldn’t count on it happening this month.