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MLB Barometer: Blocking the Plate

Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne

Kevin has worked for Rotowire just under a decade and has covered basketball, baseball and football. A glutton for punishment, he roots for his hometown Bills, Sabres and the New York Yankees. He hosts the RotoWire SiriusXM show every Wednesday and Friday and you can follow him on Twitter @KCPayne26.

Upgrades:

Eric Young Jr., 2B, COL - The Rockies quickly pulled the plug on the Jose Lopez experiment and after they DFA'd him, Young was called up from Triple-A. In all fairness to Lopez, I thought they gave up on him far too quickly. Heading into the weekend, Dexter Fowler was hitting .239, Troy Tulowitzki .246 and Carlos Gonzalez .253 so it's not like the rest of the team was on fire at the plate. While Lopez was hitting only .208, he was doing better during the month of May with regular playing time (something he didn't get in April) and was hitting .273 for the month. 125 at-bats just doesn't seem like enough of a chance for a guy the team went out and traded for in the offseason. Let's get back to Young. He was killing it at Triple-A with a .462 OBP, 17 steals (one CS) and a 27:32 K:BB ratio. Young has been immediately put in the leadoff spot while Dexter Fowler has been demoted to a lower spot in the lineup for time being. I listed Young as a 2B since he'll obviously have more value there but look for him to see a lot of time in the outfield. I'm putting in a very aggressive FAAB bid on him in a league I need steals in and I suggest you do the same if you face the same predicament.

Michael Morse, OF, WAS - We constantly preach around here to not put too much stock in spring training numbers. Morse might be one of the few exceptions to the rule, as he's been on fire at the plate. He's hit safely in six straight games which includes a four-game home run streak. Jim Riggleman has him batting in the middle of the lineup which should produce good RBI opportunities going forward. The 33:4 K:BB ratio is his only red flag so the .287 batting average likely won't last. Over the last two seasons Morse now has 21 home runs in 388 at-bats so there's no reason to think he can't eclipse the 20 home run mark this season. Given that Adam LaRoche is dealing with a shoulder injury that could shut him down at any point, Morse should receive regular playing time even with Laynce Nix swinging a hot bat. Morse was on the waiver wire in most of my standard 12-team leagues so go grab him is you need power numbers.

Brandon Belt, 1B, SF - Given that Bruce Bochy has publicly stated that Belt will mainly be used off the bench and with double switches, it's kind of hard to justify an upgrade here. Stay with me. First, he's up and since Triple-A numbers don't count towards fantasy he's at least in a place to make a contribution. I think it's a matter of time before we see a big enough slump out of the three-headed "Hufurrelloss" (none of which are hitting over .233)  that Belt gets regular playing time. Belt is another player who didn't get enough of a chance to start the season while Cody Ross was out, getting only 60 plate appearances before being sent down. While at Triple-A he posted a .995 OPS and showed a lot of patience at the plate with 27 walks in 132 plate appearances. Belt also can run, stealing five bases between the two levels this season. Belt will get the start on Sunday, with Bochy running him out against a hot Yovani Gallardo. I think it'll be a matter of time (or injury) before Belt gets 4-5 starts a week.

Brett Lawrie, 3B, TOR - No, he hasn't been called up yet and remains with the Las Vegas 51s. Keeping in mind the pro-hitter's environment that is Sin City, Lawrie's 14 home runs, a .350 batting average and 11 stolen bases are still very impressive. If you haven't been following the third base position for the Blue Jays, they've gone 0-for-39 over their last 12 games (Edwin Encarnacion 0-4, Jayson Nix 0-20 and John McDonald 0-15). Given those struggles, what did the Blue Jays do first thing Sunday morning after church? They called up Mike McCoy, which made a lot of sense after Lawrie hit two more home runs Saturday. Realistically, this is the smart move by Toronto, who is delaying the arbitration clock on Lawrie. That time is quickly approaching; look for Lawrie to be up within the next two weeks which means now is the time to stash him on your bench.

Felipe Paulino, P, KC - Here's my dark horse pick of the week. Paulino came into Friday's game and was effective, taking over for Nathan Adcock, who was throwing batting practice to the Rangers. Paulino threw 4.1 scoreless innings which was impressive considering the way the Rangers have hit at home as of late. Paulino was rewarded with Adcock's spot in the rotation and makes for an interesting add in AL-only leagues. Paulino has a career 8.08 K/9 rate but at times struggles with his control as his career 3.84 BB/9 indicates. Moving to Kansas City will be a big boost to his value as Kauffman Stadium ranks as one of the better pitcher's parks in the American League. If Paulino can harness his control, he could put together a solid season with the upstart bats of the Royals backing him up.

Injuries:

Buster Posey, C, SF - In case you haven't heard, Posey suffered a devastating injury blocking home plate, which will likely cost him the rest of this season. Let me use this space to say I believe there shouldn't be any change to the rule about catchers blocking the plate. They're fully aware of what can happen by blocking the plate and make a volitional choice to put themselves in harm's way. There have been comparisons to protecting quarterbacks and to me that's comparing apples and oranges. A quarterback does not have choice of stepping aside and allowing the defender to pass by whereas a catcher does. Seldom does a baseball player heading towards home have any malice in bowling over the catcher; a defensive football player is looking to hit the quarterback as hard as possible. The argument that high school and other amateur baseball leagues mandate sliding at home is flimsy. I'm fine with keeping those rules intact since they are not players being paid big money to play the game. We are talking about professional baseball players who know ahead of time the inherent risk of playing the game and the rules. Buster Posey could have stepped aside as other catchers have done in the past and tried to dive and apply the bag instead of blocking the plate. I think this issue has come to the forefront since we are talking about Buster Posey, centerpiece of the reigning World Champions. Be honest here. Did you know that Humberto Quintero suffered an ankle injury in a similar play blocking the plate on Friday night? I'm guessing for the most part the answer is "no" since it was Humberto Quintero and not a superstar (with all due respect to Mr. Quintero). I'd love to hear some rebuttal if you disagree with me, hit up the comments section.

Humberto Quintero, C, HOU - I'll give him a repeat mention here as I want to note that J.R. Towles will get the lion's share of playing time with Quintero out. Towles doesn't jump out as anything special but he's got a 10:9 K:BB ratio over 74 at-bats with two home runs. Check to see if Towles is an upgrade over your #2 catcher since he will be the regular catcher for the Astros over the next two weeks.

Joe Nathan, P, MIN - I'd love to hear of a season when one team was so riddled by injuries as the Twins have. It's looking more and more likely that this will be a lost season for Nathan, who many hoped saw as a value pick heading into this year given his drop in ADP. However, ineffectiveness and now an injury to his surgically repaired elbow make it a long shot he'll have much fantasy value this season.

Check Status:

Andrew Bailey, P, OAK - Bailey has proclaimed himself ready to return to the A's after four stellar minor league appearances. This week has been something of a soap opera in the Oakland bullpen and my guess is some stability would be welcomed. The team activated Bailey Sunday, but he isn't assured the closing role immediately upon his return. I'd keep him benched for the week but look for him to resume closing duties as soon as next week.

Seth Smith, OF, COL - As a Smith owner it crushed me that he was not part of the Jaime Garcia flogging Saturday, sitting out with a tweaked groin. The injury should not land him on the DL but will give him the day-to-day label. Smith has made some strides at the plate this season and has improved his home/away splits. Last season he did much better at Coors with a .937 OPS but struggled on the road with a .633 OPS. This season he's still doing better at home (.994 OPS) but has improved on the road (.819 OPS). With his playing time uncertain and a road trip to pitcher-friendly parks on tap for this week, it's probably best to bench him for another option for the upcoming scoring period.

Matt Garza, P, CHI - Garza lands in this section for the second week in a row after being placed on the DL with shoulder/elbow soreness. He admitted before the stint that if it were later in the season, he would pitch through it. As it is right now, he's slated to come off the DL and start Friday against the Cardinals. Personally, I'd keep him benched based on the uncertainty of how long he'll go in the game and based on the tough matchup. Just be ready to activate him for next week.

Downgrades:

Frank Francisco, P, TOR - I'd be really surprised if Francisco sees a save opportunity anytime soon after blowing his second consecutive save Saturday. He's now given up six earned runs over his last four appearances (2.2 innings) and has an overall 6.59 ERA with a 1.61 WHIP. The stats that really stick out for Francisco are the 5.39 BB/9 and 2.63 HR/9 which are higher than career norms. Other than that his velocity, K rate and BABIP are all in line with his usual numbers. This means that he's missing his spots and when he makes a mistake he's catching too much of the plate. Until he improves his location, you can't expect he'll be in line for saves or help with peripheral stats.

Rafael Furcal, SS, LA - It now appears that Furcal came off the DL too soon from a thumb injury as his performance at the plate shows. Since being activated he's gone 3-for-26 (.115) with five strikeout and no walks. He'll get things going sooner or later but for now you've got to bench him until he shows signs of life with the bat.

You can follow on Twitter: @KCPayne26