The closer madness seems to be slowing towards your basic madness so this week we have a lot of starting pitching to review.
One administrative note before we get started. I’ve switched to Sportsline ownership percentages. I believe they are more indicative of ownership levels in competitive leagues.
American League Waiver Wire
The Texas Rangers Mike Napoli is owned in virtually every league (99% ownership in Sportsline leagues). However, he’s been cold in May and could be an excellent trade target. It is not clear what the issue is for Napoli, but remember he struggled in May and June last year (hitting .206 and .179 respectively) before crushing 20 HRs over the last three months of the season. Check with the Napoli owner in your league to see how frustrated he’s become.
Jarrod Dyson was injured on Saturday for the Kansas City Royals. The injury is supposed to be minor. However, if he has to miss time uber-prospect Wil Myers may be recalled to play center. Why are talking about Myers in the catcher’s spot? Because, for some reason, Myers is eligible at catcher in Yahoo! leagues. Don’t ask my why as Myers hasn’t played catcher regularly in years. However, take advantage of this and snag Myers if you can.
Kevin Youkilis (95% ownership) has returned for the Boston Red Sox and Will Middlebrooks (71%) remains on the roster. The current plan is to have Youkilis rotate between first and third base, Middlebrooks to play third base and Adrian Gonzalez (100%) to switch to right field. It seems that Gonzalez will not play right field at Fenway so I do not see this arrangement lasting for the long term. I believe Youkilis will be dealt or Middlebrooks will be sent back to AAA. I believe Middlebrooks will be sent back to AAA at some point, but Youkilis will be allowed to walk in free agency at the end of the year.
There are a couple of deeper players in the Texas Rangers’ Mitch Moreland (47%) and Baltmore Orioles’ Nick Johnson (1%). Both are batting near the bottom of pretty powerful lineups and each has been red hot over the last couple of weeks. I think Moreland has a better shot of keeping it up for the rest of the year as I think Nick Johnson will likely see the DL at some point this year. Moreland has 20 HR power, but won’t contribute anywhere else. Johnson is an on base machine (career .400 OBP) whose power has been sapped by injuries. So, depending on your team’s needs (and league set up) either could be a good addition at the corner spot.
I hope Albert Pujols owners (100%) listened to me last week when I said to hold off on dealing him until June 1. He’s been heating up this week.
There is news from the Baltimore Orioles that second baseman Brian Roberts (15%) has begun his rehab assignment. He has just 439 PAs over the last two seasons as he has missed significant time with post-concussion symptoms. From 2004 to 2009 he averaged 691 PAs, 101 runs scored, 12 HRs, 60 RBIs, 35 SBs and a .290 batting average with a .365 OBP. Plug those numbers into your scoring system and the output will be “fantasy stud.” Those years were his 26 to 31 year old seasons so at 34 years old this year, he is a risk to provide those kind of numbers. Moreover, he could be one more concussion away from never playing baseball again. Given those parameters, I would bid on him this week and stash him for the 20-30 days he is on a rehab assignment. Even if he performs at 75% of his peak averages, he’s far better than anything you will find on the waiver wire for the rest of this season.
As I speculated last week, Orlando Hudson (6%) has signed with the Chicago White Sox. The news out of Chicago is that Hudson will be in the mix at third base as Brent Morel’s (6%) back is not getting better. Hudson’s only competition is Eduardo Escobar (0%). Escobar is a career .270/.315/.351 hitter in six minor league seasons so I do not see him as threat. Hudson also has a path to playing time should Gordon Beckham (35%) continue to flail. Beckham’s rookie season of 2009 seems like decades ago and looks to be the statistical outlier. I think Robin Ventura will give Hudson at least a month to prove his worth (or lack thereof) and he is worth the gamble.
I thought about breaking this piece up into Boston Red Sox outfielders and the rest of the American League outfielders. This week, the Red Sox lost Cody Ross (56% – originally estimated to be out six to eight weeks, but now looks like two to four) to a broken bone in his foot and Ryan Sweeney (19%) to a concussion (on the 7-day DL; no timetable for return).
Cult hero Daniel Nava (15%) has taken over as the full time left fielder. Center field looks to be a platoon of Scott Podsednik (2% – the good side of the platoon) and Marlon Byrd (8%). Nava hit the ground running again this year with a 1.091 OPS in his first 55 PAs. He has a little bit of power, but he will likely only contribute in the batting average category. He should get regular playing time until the Boston outfield gets healthier. Podsednik is a known quantity at 36 years of age. He’ll bring stolen bases to your team if he can get on base. He’s a worthwhile stopgap in AL-only leagues. Byrd will likely not get enough ABs to matter in any league.
Finally, don’t forget about Ryan Kalish (2% – and our other injured Red Sox outfielders Carl Crawford (82%)and Jacoby Ellsbury (98% – best guess on return for both players is early July)) who is recovering from shoulder surgery. Kalish is working out in extended spring training and could be back a couple of weeks before Ellsbury and Crawford. Kalish has an intriguing power and speed combo that he hasn’t been healthy enough to show at the big league level. He may only get a short time to showcase his talents this year before heading back to AAA.
The Detroit Tigers placed Austin Jackson (98%) on the DL this week due to an abdominal injury. The word out of Detroit is that it is minor, but these types of injuries are difficult to pinpoint. Jackson’s replacement is 27-year old Quintin Berry (0%) who will be making his major league debut. Berry has been installed as the full time leadoff man. He has never been able to hit enough (.249 in two AAA seasons, .258 in three AA seasons), but he has always been able to take a walk. He has a career .358 OBP in the minors and stole 19 bases in his first 39 games this year (and 42 last year). I would pick him up in AL-only leagues and see what happens with Jackson.
The Texas Rangers placed Neftali Feliz (86%) on the DL on Monday with elbow discomfort. Feliz is expected to be out until the All-Star break. Upon his return, he will likely be shifted back to the bullpen. The Rangers have announced Scott Feldman (4%) as his rotation replacement. Any pitcher in Texas is worth owning as they will likely bump into wins with that offense behind them (Robbie Ross (6%) anyone?), but Feldman may test that theory. His 2009 season looks like a clear outlier in his career. He has settled in as a low strikeout pitcher whose stuff is just not good enough to be effective at the major league level. Pass on him.
Other options for the Rangers include the nomadic Roy Oswalt (35%) and the relieving Alexi Ogando (34%). Oswalt has been linked to a variety of teams from the Rangers to the Orioles to the Cardinals. No one knows for sure where he would be willing to sign, though the conjecture has always been he wants to stay close to his home in Mississippi. Importantly, Oswalt has never pitched in the American League. He had a career low 6.0 K/9 rate last year for the Philadelphia Phillies. If he signs with the Rangers, he will get his share of wins, but I believe his ceiling would be league average in all other categories.
Ogando is a more intriguing option to me Ogando started 2011 on fire in the rotation and tired as the season progressed. He’s been nearly unhittable in a relief role this year and would need some time to convert from relieving to starting. However, I think the Rangers will go this way and we could see Ogando in the rotation by late June. I’d grab him and stash him (or use him as a reliever) in your league.
The Oakland Athletics disabled Brandon McCarthy (75%) and have replaced him with Graham Godfrey (1%). Godfrey pitched well after his demotion to AAA Sacramento. Godfrey pitched poorly prior to his demotion to Sacramento, hence the demotion. I expect very little from Godfrey in his current role though he is quite valuable on your Pacific Coast League fantasy team. McCarthy should be back soon so leave Godfrey on the free agent pile.
I mentioned the Kansas City Royals Felipe Paulino (48%) in an earlier column, but his performance this week warrants another discussion. Paulino has always had great K/9 numbers, but has been hampered by high BB/9 rates. Not this year as his BB/9 rate is down to 2.49. He’s going to run into some bumps, but I’m going to recommend him this week for some shallower leagues. He’s a must own in AL-only leagues for those strikeouts.
The New York Yankees have been a middling team all year, but it looks like Andy Pettitte (64%) may be able to help more than I anticipated. I didn’t believe he’d have much left after taking a year off. I was wrong and he’s a definite addition in AL-only leagues and in some of the shallower leagues. He had 101 Ks in 129 IP in his last year with a 3.28 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. I see his ERA closer to 3.75 with a similar WHIP for the rest of the season.
Brian Matusz (22%) has strung together a solid last five starts with only one dud (against Texas) in the lot. The Baltimore Orioles are a good baseball team and Matusz may be the key to them contending all year long. I like him in AL-only leagues, especially if you have a bench where you can slide him in and out of your lineup as needed.
Kevin Millwood (10%) has been unconscious over his last three starts including a shutout. I cannot see him continuing his otherworldly performance so leave him for others to add.
Dylan Bundy (16%) was promoted to High-A Frederick by the Baltimore Orioles. I know everyone is excited to see him move quickly. However, I do not see him contributing this year (though he could get a call up for September). He will likely be a second half contributor next year for the suddenly successful Orioles.
I mentioned Neftali Feliz in the starting pitcher portion of the column. However, his return could also have some effect on the Texas Rangers bullpen. Alexi Ogando could head back to the rotation as I noted earlier and Feliz could take his spot as the right handed setup man to Joe Nathan. Feliz would then be next in line should Joe Nathan falter in the closer’s role. Feliz is also a risk to fall victim to surgery should he not be able to recover from his injury. Continue monitoring the situation to see which way Texas decides to go.
Brandon League is out as closer for the Seattle Mariners. I believe this to be a temporary move (similar to his struggles last year). It’s not clear where the Mariners will go in the interim. Tom Wilhelmsen will likely get the first crack at closing. He started the season quickly, but has been hit around a lot in May (to the tune of a .902 OPS). Before the year started I liked James Paxton as a sneaky backup for League, but Paxton injured his knee on Friday night and isn’t an option. Looking further down the Shawn Kelley is an intriguing talent. He has little experience closing (though he was the closer at AAA this year), but has pitched relatively well in a small sample this year. I’d lean to Kelley if I had to grab a Seattle “closer” but I expect League to be back in a couple of weeks.
Rich Hill (0%) of the Boston Red Sox has three holds in the last seven days and looks ot have the lefty specialist role nailed down in Boston for now. He’s come back well from Tommy John surgery.
Boone Logan (1%) of the New York Yankees has 12 strikeouts in his last 4 2/3 innings and is a good pickup for those leagues with innings limits.
National League Waiver Wire
The Colorado Rockies placed Ramon Hernandez (21%) on the DL to deal with his hand injury. The expectation is that Wilin Rosario (17%) will get the lion’s share of the work behind the plate. Just 23 years old, Rosario hasn’t lived up to his top prospect billing yet, but there is still time. He would be a good option in two catcher leaguers or deeper one catcher leagues, but will carry a batting average risk.
Oh, and Jonathan Lucroy (84%). I may have mentioned him in prior columns.
The Arizona Diamondbacks called perennial prospect Josh Bell (7%) up from AAA and handed him the starting third base job thus moving Ryan Roberts (55%) to a utility role and Cody Ransom (7%) to the Milwaukee Brewers (via the waiver wire). Bell is an interesting player in that he kills AAA pitching, but cannot figure out major league pitching. He has struck out an incredible 81 times in 233 PAs (with 6 walks) in the majors. He’s 25 and is running out of time to figure it out. I don’t see him having any long term value and is likely not worth a claim unless you are desperate.
CBS’ Jon Heyman reported Tuesday that the New York Mets will likely give Ike Davis (58%) no more than a week in the big leagues to try to figure things out before demoting him to AAA. If he is demoted, the Mets have a plethora of candidates to fill the hole at first base. Justin Turner (1%) doesn’t hit enough and is really only viable against lefthanders. Mike Baxter (1%) has been getting regular playing time and could shift to first once Jason Bay (27%) returns from the DL. I could even see Daniel Murphy (82%) moving to first when Ruben Tejada (23%) comes off the DL.
The Colorado Rockies have been rotating a cavalcade of players through third base. From Jordan Pacheco (4%) to Jonathan Herrera (1% – now on the DL) to Chris Nelson (1% – currently on a rehab assignment), the Rockies have cornered the market on corner men flotsam and jetsam. Waiting in the wings is consensus top 50 prospect Nolan Arenado (26%). Unfortunately, for those waiting for Arenado, they will likely have to wait longer as he is not hitting enough at AA to warrant a call. Colorado will continue to muddle through with a mix of players at third base.
The Pittsburgh Pirates recalled Matt Hague (0%) from AAA and manager Clint Hurdle stated that Hague “will get a chance to string together starts at 1st and McGehee and Jones would need to be patient.” Hague is 26 years old and has a career .801 OPS in the minor leagues. There is little to get excited about, but if you need someone who will get regular playing time over the next couple of weeks, he is your man.
Early Saturday morning, reports come across the Chipper Jones (61%) would hit the DL. The player to take over for Jones is Juan Francisco (4%) who has a ton of power, but will hurt you in batting average and is a strikeout machine.
Shhh! Don’t tell Dusty Baker, but Todd Frazier (10%) is still playing third regularly. And he is hitting.
The Milwaukee Brewers are currently going with Cesar Izturis (1%) as their starting shortstop. Izturis is known for his fielding, not his hitting and shouldn’t be near your fantasy roster. The Brewers recent claim on Cody Ransom (7%) holds more intrigue for fantasy players. He’s 36 years old and has played parts of ten seasons in the major leagues. However, he’s averaged only 44 PAs per year! If Ransom is given a shot, he could provide some power as he was off to a hot start with the Diamondbacks (.922 OPS) before his release.
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ Stephen Drew (41%) had a setback on his rehab assignment and now has no timetable for return. Willie Bloomquist (9%) has been hot over the last week and should continue to get regular playing time at the top of the Arizona Diamondbacks lineup.
Ruben Tejada (23%) will likely start his rehab assignment Monday and should return in a week to ten days.
Late Friday, human Swiss army knife Jerry Hairston (1%) came off the DL and was dropped right into the starting lineup batting fifth. He could take some playing time away from Adam Kennedy (1%). Hairston will be useful in deeper leagues.
The St. Louis Cardinals are on the way to getting healthier and the first to return is likely Allen Craig (75%). He will likely cut into Matt Adams (50%) playing time (and I could see Adams being demoted to get regular playing time. He should be back in the next week to ten days.
Angel Pagan (88%) started slowly, but he is heating up for the San Francisco Giants. Those shallow league players neeed to add him this week or they will miss their chance. He’s a solid all-around player who can contribute in multiple categories.
With Chris Young’s (99%) return to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ lineup, Gerardo Parra (33%) returns to fourth outfield status. However, do not drop him as he is one of the most valuable fourth outfielders in the league. I can see a Jason Kubel (67%) injury coming anytime.
The Miami Marlins outfield got even messier this week as Austin Kearns (0%) hit the DL. It looks like the Marlins will go with Chris Coghlan (2%) in left field and Bryan Petersen (0%) in center. Coghlan’s rookie year was solid, but he hasn’t been a contributor since. Petersen strikes out a ton, but he will likely bat a bit higher in the lineup and as a result I’d take him over Coghlan.
The Milwaukee Brewers lost their second fifth starter of the year in Marco Estrada (7%). Estrada is supposed to miss 3-4 starts. The fill in will likely come from a list which includes Wily Peralta (4%), Michael Fiers (0%), Manny Parra (1%) and top prospect Tyler Thornburg (5%). There is also the standard “front office speak” regarding all options and looking outside of the organization for solutions.
Reading the tea leaves it looks like the Brewers want to keep Parra pitching in the bullpen and are not likely to tinker with their 40-man roster to get Thornburg on it so he can pitch in the big leagues. That leaves Peralta and Fiers and neither has pitched well at AAA this year. I’d bid on Fiers even though he has less of a pedigree than Peralta as Fiers has been the better pitcher at AAA. Peralta is more of a long term play and I think that Estrada won’t be gone too long so they will try Fiers and leave Estrada to develop.
I am unsure where the San Diego Padres’ Anthony Bass (55%) has come from. He’s got 51 Ks in 53 IP this year. His peripherals do not scream that this is a fluke. He was knocked around a bit Friday night by the Mets, but I can see him finishing the season close to his current 1.23 WHIP and 3.55 ERA without a ton of wins.
Chien-Ming Wang (2%) is back from the DL and
pitching in middle relief in the rotation for the Washington Nationals. He will never be a strikeout pitcher, but he could pick up some wins for the surprising Nationals.
The Cincinnati Reds have moved to a closer by committee after Sean Marshall blew a save. The head of the committee is Aroldis Chapman (92%) and he should be owned in all leagues. However, there are other valuable assets in the pen including Jose Arredondo (5% – coming back from arm surgery and striking out more than a batter per inning. Sean Marshall (46%) also should have value as he is just one year removed from being the most valuable non-closing reliever in the NL. Logan Ondrusek (3%) looks to be a bit lucky as his walk rate is too high and I’d stay away from him.
The Washington Nationals have also moved to a committee situation for closing out games. Former closer Henry Rodriguez (48%) has been demoted to middle relief and can be safely dropped in larger leagues. The right handed side of the committee is Tyler Clippard (31%) and I believe he will get the lion’s share of save chances with Sean Burnett (10% – the left handed side) picking up a couple of saves. Brad Lidge (11%) is just now getting to extended spring training so he’s probably at least two weeks away. Drew Storen (11%) is still not expected back until the All-Star break and could be a trade piece if the Nationals need something at the deadline.
And for those in really deep leagues, Juan Oviedo(1% and formerly called Leo Nunez) is traveling to the United States after being pardoned for lying about his identity. He still has an eight week suspension to serve from major league baseball, but stranger things have happened this year in the closer’s role. Heath Bell doesn’t seem to be able to get major league hitters out at all. Steve Cishek (19%) is probably the play to backup Bell at this point, but Edward Mujica (7%) will also get his chances. I have to think the Miami Marlins make up an injury to put Bell on the DL.
One last reliever is the Philadelphia Phillies Jake Diekman (0%). I don’t know who he is, but he’s got 10 Ks in 5 IP so I’d like to buy him a drink and find out a bit more.
Thanks for your time this week and drop me a comment with any questions you might have especially if you are evaluating trades at this time of year. All of my previous columns can be found here.
Chris Garosi is a contributor for District Sports Page. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. You can follow him on Twitter at