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MLB Barometer: Selling Off Soriano

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:

Brent Lillibridge, 2B, CHI - Not only has Lillibridge been one of the few bright spots for the White Sox offense, he has more home runs (7) than teammate Adam Dunn (5). While there isn't a lot of pedigree here, sometimes players don't develop until their late 20s - think Casey McGehee or Nelson Cruz. Lillibridge did steal a bunch of bases in the minors, so the five steals is not a fluke. I don't see a 20/20 season for him but if you're looking for second base help and can temper your expectations in the power numbers, five more home runs and 10 stolen bases are certainly within reach.

Dillon Gee, P, NYM - I attended the game last year when Gee set the record for strikeouts with the Buffalo Bisons. Over the course of last season, he averaged more than a strikeout per inning with the Mets' Triple-A affiliate. This season he's been nothing short of spectacular, running his record to 6-0 Saturday night. He holds a 3.33 ERA with a 1.111 WHIP and features four solid pitches - a low 90s fastball, a change-up, curve and slider to keep batters off balance. He's likely available in most standard leagues and is worth streaming in when he takes the mound in pitcher-friendly Citi Field.

Jason Bourgeois, OF, HOU - I loved Bourgeois as he came out as a huge surprise for the Astros batting .407 with 12 steals in only 54 at-bats. Before a strained oblique landed him on the DL, he was in a race with teammate Michael Bourn to see who could lead the team in steals. What enamors me with Bourgeois is his ability to make contact, striking out only four times (7.4%) before landing on the DL. In real baseball terms he's a plus defender in the outfield given his range and in some fantasy leagues he qualifies at second base. Look for Houston to give him plenty of playing time now that he's healthy and Bill Hall is no longer with the team.

Endy Chavez, OF, TEX - Chavez has played well enough that the Rangers have opted to send Julio Borbon down to Triple-A to get regular at-bats while Chavez patrols center field in Arlington. Chavez is 20-for-46 (.435) since his call-up to go with two home runs and three stolen bases. Borbon has yet to prove he's anything more than a quad-A player to this point and the Rangers might want to think about dealing him for bullpen help should Chavez prove he can sustain even three-quarters of his production. The weather is only going to get hotter as the season goes on and Chavez should have plenty of opportunity to rack up the runs and stolen bases batting leadoff for one of the better hitting lineups in baseball.

Desmond Jennings, OF, TB - If you follow any of my work here on the site, you know that I cover the Rays and have a tendency to focus on their team whenever I write. Last week I discussed Brett Lawrie as a candidate to get called up and produce right away for the Blue Jays. After receiving a scare by getting hit on the hand with a pitch earlier in the week, it looks like Lawrie will be up and ready to go soon north of the border. I'd rank him as the top call-up for this season and not too far behind I'd put Jennings. The reality is Sam Fuld has turned back into a pumpkin and the left field spot is there for the taking. Jennings' .271 average isn't eye-popping but he's getting on base at a .374 clip for Triple-A Durham. While he only has 10 steals, he's added some power this season going yard eight times in only 207 at-bats. This is especially impressive considering Durham isn't in the PCL and is considered more of a pitcher's park. Another Rays note - Matthew Moore will not be up anytime soon and I'd look for him to make a fantasy impact around this time next year at the earliest. Back to Jennings, look for him to be up in the next couple of weeks and grab him if you're lagging behind in the steals department.

Ben Revere, OF, MIN - With both Jason Kubel and Jim Thome landing on the DL, Revere is looking like he'll be an everyday player for the Twins over the next two weeks. The Twins have won all three games since he was recalled with Revere going 5-for-12 with a stolen base. He doesn't have much power but Revere has plenty of speed. He's had three seasons in the minors with at least 36 steals and was 8-for-10 at Triple-A for steals before his call-up. The deep league/AL-only caveat applies here unless you're desperate in standard leagues.

J.J. Hardy, SS, BAL - Hardy has heated up at the plate as the weather has gotten warmer, raising his average from .219 on May 24 to .272 after Saturday's game. He's homered twice in the last three games and appears to be injury-free. Last year Target Field suppressed his power, limiting him to only six homers in 340 at-bats. With the Brewers, he had seasons of 24 and 26 home runs so getting to 20 this year is a realistic expectation. If he continues to hit look for him to move up in the lineup given the Orioles offensive woes to start the season.

Injuries:

Alfonso Soriano, OF, CHI - Death, taxes and Soriano won't play more than 140 games this year. This should not be surprising news since Soriano has only averaged 124 games played over the last previous three seasons. When he plays, he's proven to be one of the better power hitters in the game recording nine straight seasons of at least 20 home runs. The problem now is he'll start to decline on the wrong side of 35 and has the injury-prone label. The 12 home runs this season are nice but a career-high 27.7 % strikeout rate coupled with a 3.2% walk rate makes the impending decline look like it's here. An .822 OPS is nothing special for a left fielder who no longer steals bases and if I own him (I actually do) I'd try and peddle him once he comes off the DL.

Brandon Belt, 1B, SF - I can't think back to a worse example of how to manage a young prospect in your organization than Belt. He starts the season with the big club, then gets sent down. Then he comes back up but only in part time duty. Now Belt is on the DL since suffering a hairline fracture in his wrist after getting hit with a pitch. Look for him to be out for a minimum of four weeks.

Rafael Furcal, SS, LA - Furcal landed on the DL for the second time this season, an oblique injury the culprit this time. He didn't sound too optimistic about his return, stating he could be out for a month. Jamey Carroll will likely see the bulk of playing time with Furcal out.

Check Status:

Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA - Ramirez missed his fifth consecutive game Saturday and while his back injury has been diagnosed with a case of inflammation, a trip to the DL could happen soon. Friday Ramirez cut short a session in the pool which doesn't sound good since water therapy is one of the easier ways to rehab. Look for Emilio Bonifacio (Mr. April, 2009) to pick up the playing time in Hanley's absence.

Matt Garza, P, CHI - After it looked like Garza would return to the rotation a few days ago, his return was pushed back to Monday (tomorrow). He'll face a tall task in getting the Cardinals his first game back and hasn't pitched since May 17th which likely means he'll be on a pitch count. If everything goes well, he will be in line for two starts this week but the second will be in Philadelphia. Based on his matchups and health concerns, it's probably best to keep him benched for the upcoming scoring period.

Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI - Rollins left Saturday's game after fouling a pitch off his knee. He tried to stay in the game but was eventually replaced and was seen limping after. Right now he's considered day-to-day and the team is labeling the injury as just a contusion (a fancy word for a bruise). Don't be surprised if he sits out the next few days while he allows the injury to heal.

Downgrades:

Luke Hochevar, P, KC - Hochevar has been bombed over his last two starts, giving up 11 earned runs over 12 innings. Over the month of May he sported a 14:15 K:BB ratio which doesn't instill any confidence going forward. Once a top prospect, it wouldn't be surprising to see him lose his spot in the rotation by the end of the month.

Garrett Jones, OF, PIT - Despite the Pirates putting Jones in a platoon to protect his numbers vs. left-handed pitchers, he's struggled at the plate so far this season. He's only batting .226 and while his six homers aren't terrible, the .736 OPS is. Jones' problem appears to be pitch recognition as he's taking a lot more pitches as evidenced by a six percent increase in walks and strikeouts. With prospect Alex Presley raking at Triple-A (.339 BA, eight homers, 13 steals) and Xavier Paul hitting right now in Pittsburgh, Jones' playing time could be in jeopardy.

You can follow me on Twitter @KCPayne26

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