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MLB Barometer: Backed Into a Corner

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:

Cory Luebke, P, SD - Luebke finds himself part of the Padres' rotation which is never a bad place to be considering the effects of Petco Park. Luebke had good results in the minors last year, holding an ERA under 3.00 and a WHIP less than 1.04 between Double-A and Triple-A. This season he's been effective in relief with a 3.23 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and over a strikeout per inning. The latter stat will be more difficult to sustain converting from a reliever to a starter but expecting something in the 6.5-7.5 K/9 range is a reasonable expectation. If nothing else you should look at streaming him in when he's at home; the Padres have the sixth best home ERA at 3.05.

Wily Mo Pena, UT, AZ - I hesitated to upgrade Pena because the Diamondbacks have only three games in the upcoming scoring period (at Oakland) where they'll need a DH. Pena is an obvious candidate to pinch-hit but will he get a start or two in left field for Arizona? His 9:0 K:BB ratio is not going to help his chance for playing time but the two home runs in 19 plate appearances (one being a game-winner) are hard to ignore. If nothing else another team, likely in the American League, could inquire about Pena's availability and give him a shot at regular at-bats at DH. Pena is only 29 and his double-slash line of .363/.439/.726 shows that he has nothing left to prove at Triple-A. I wouldn't recommend him in standard leagues until his role becomes more defined but I'd throw him on your bench if you have an open spot.

Jonathon Niese, P, NYM - I feel like Niese is one of the more underrated starting pitchers in the game. After posting a 2.97 ERA over five May starts, he's been almost as good in July with a 3.16 ERA over another five starts. He's improved his K/9 rate each month (5.94, 7.71, 8.33) while lowering his BB/9 rate (3.47, 3.25, 2.01). Saturday he held down one of the league's top offense, limiting Texas to only two earned runs over 5.2 innings in Arlington. Niese left the game with a rapid heart rate and since then all reports indicate he should be fine going forward. He's not going to be in the Cy Young discussion but is a solid consideration if you need pitching help.

Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore - Jones is one of those players you see so much upside in, yet hasn't seemed to put it all together after playing over three seasons in the majors. This is starting to look like it could be the season Jones breaks out. He's batting a career-best .291 and is on pace to hit 29 homers and drive in 100 runs. Over the last eight games (34 at-bats) he's batting .324 with four home runs and nine RBI. Only 25 and surrounded by better teammates and management, look for Jones to finish the season strong.

Injuries:

Jonathan Sanchez, P, SF - I find it always interesting when a pitcher lands on the DL when they are in a slump. Sanchez not only leads baseball in walks given up, he's been especially bad as of late. He is the owner of an 8.77 BB/9 rate in the month of June (five starts) which is actually higher than his 7.36 K/9 rate. His K/9 rate has dropped each month so a bicep injury is not unfathomable, I just find the timing interesting. Barry Zito will take his spot in the rotation while Sanchez is out.

Delmon Young, OF, MIN - Young hits the DL for the second time this season; a sprained ankle is the reason this time around. Young has put up a disappointing season to this point, hitting only two home runs, 20 RBI and batting .256 in 217 plate appearances. He still does not walk much (3.7%) and without any power numbers, he's really not a useful option in most leagues. Playing in Target Field doesn't help either as last season he had a 5:16 home/away split for home runs. The injury should not keep him out too much longer than the next couple of weeks so look for him to return just before the All-Star break. This makes Ben Revere's starting spot safe for time being while Jason Repko should see an uptick in playing time as well.

Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CLE - Choo suffered a broken thumb after getting hit by a pitch Friday night and will be out for at least six weeks. He may need surgery, which would extend that by another six weeks. Choo has not looked like the top-15 outfielder he was projected to be putting too much pressure on himself especially after his DUI arrest. Travis Buck becomes the Indian of interest to me to see a bump in playing time with Choo sidelined.

Roy Oswalt, P, PHI - Oswalt has dealt with a balky back for much of the season and it was finally bad enough for him to leave his last start after only two innings. Currently on the DL, he's expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Unfortunately, Oswalt has also discussed retiring if the problem does not get better which seems to be a possibility. For now you can only cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Check Status:

Ryan Madson, P, PHI - Word came out this week that Madson has been dealing with numbness and inflammation since injuring his hand back on May 20. While he has not officially gone on the DL, there is not a timetable for his return. At the earliest, look for him to return later this week but a DL stint should not be a surprise.

Downgrades:

Kelly Johnson, 2B, AZ - Johnson is in one of his notorious slumps, which has lasted the whole month of June. He's only hitting .160 and has only two extra base hits, both doubles, over his last 15 games (55 at-bats). Johnson can turn it around at the plate just as quickly as he goes cold but he's a candidate for your bench until he starts hitting.

Brian Matusz, P, BAL - My colleague - Bogfella - pointed out that Matusz deserved a downgrade a couple of weeks ago. I responded that while I was concerned about his velocity (down over 3 mph from last season), I needed to see more than one bad outing to downgrade him. Here we are two starts later and he's earned the downgrade. Matusz has given up 14 earned runs (11.12 ERA) over his last three starts (11.1 innings) and to no surprise has lost all three games. Buck Showalter has indicated he'll remain in the rotation for now but it's tough to see him sticking if he has another bad outing. Remember that Matusz was hurt to start the season so this is likely a case of him still getting into game shape. Unfortunately, he can't help your fantasy squad until he looks like the guy who pitched for the Orioles over the second-half of last year.

Josh Collmenter, P, AZ - After Saturday's game, when Collmenter allowed six earned runs over six innings, it appears the tomahawk-throwing pitcher may be turning back into a pumpkin. After his hot start he's come back to earth hard, allowing 14 earned runs over his last three starts (18 innings, 7.00 ERA). Besides starting at an unsustainable pace, Collmenter does not project to be even an above average starter in my opinion. While the strange delivery likely throws off batters, it's tough to have success with only an 87 mph fastball. He's also a fly ball pitcher (47%) which will not play well at Chase Field. Expect more bumps in the road going forward for Collmenter; if I was an owner I would be selling him and emphasize his overall stats to a potential buyer.

You can follow on Twitter @KCPayne26