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MLB Barometer: Shut Down Warning

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:

Starlin Castro, SS, CHI - Castro is the perfect candidate you should be targeting in dynasty/keeper leagues if you've thrown in the towel and are playing for the future. It's easy to forget he just turned 21 back in March given the level of maturity he's shown at the plate. First, let's start with his BABIP. Last year's .346 BABIP was used to justify his .300 BA and some suggested that both of those numbers would regress this season. However, he's slightly improved his BABIP (.354) which suggests he'll be one of those players who (with over 1,000 PAs now) will be a high BABIP/BA guy for his career. His defense has also improved, as his 27 errors in 544 total chances from a season ago has improved to 19 errors in 552 total chances this year. During August he's caught fire, posting a 1.103 OPS that includes four home runs and a .400 batting average. Castro has been more efficient on the base paths this season as well, going 12-for-17 (71%) after going 10-for-18 (56%) last season. If there's a red flag to Castro's game it's his 4.0% walk rate. That being said, I fully expect that within a few years we're speaking of him in the same light as Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki.

Javier Vazquez, P, FLA - It's been a tale of two seasons for Vazquez, who picked up the loss Saturday night but struck out 10 without walking a batter. After the game on June 11 Vazquez had an ERA of 7.09 (through the first 13games) but has turned it around over his last 11 starts with a 2.36 ERA and a 57:13 K:BB ratio. One of the keys to his success is his fastball, which has averaged over 90 mph since his turnaround. While that doesn't sound like much, hitters were teeing off on him earlier this season when that number was in the mid-to-upper 80s. With the injuries and demotions taking place for the Marlins, it's tough to expect a lot of run support to help his win total but he should be able to maintain a stellar pace to contribute to the peripheral numbers of your fantasy staff.

Wily Mo Pena, DH, SEA - I loved this move by Seattle to get Pena since the home run leader for the Mariners is Miguel Olivo with 14, followed by the recently DL'ed Justin Smoak with 12 and then no one has double digits after that. By now you should know the book on Wily Mo; he'll strike out a ton (19:0 K:BB ratio with Arizona) but when he makes contact, look out. Even as a right-handed hitter in Safeco I could see 8+ home runs from here on out with regular playing time. Most recently Pena hit four more homers for Tacoma in 13 games and has a total of 25 home runs over 288 at-bats at Triple-A this season (1 HR per for every 8.7 at-bats). If you're desperate for power, take a shot with Wily.

Bryan Petersen, OF, FLA - Here's my darkhorse of the week and before you mock it, keep in mind I've given the same label to guys such as Blake Beavan and Mike Carp when they were first called up. Petersen should see a good amount of playing time with the surprise demotion of Logan Morrison, who was sent to Triple-A Saturday night. Morrison's jettison came as a shock to me; it's not often you see the guy who's second on a team for home runs and third in RBI being sent down. As for his .249 BA, it's not like his teammates - Mike Stanton (.259), Gaby Sanchez (.271), Hanley Ramirez (.243), John Buck (.227) or Omar Infante (.279) - were contending for a batting title. Again, this whole debacle should open the door for Petersen, who posted a 1.003 OPS at Triple-A New Orleans earlier this season. He's got some pop and can run a bit so taking a flyer on him in deeper/NL-only leagues isn't a bad idea.

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Kevin Youkilis, 3B, BOS - Youkilis once again is dealing with a stiff back which forced him out of Friday and Saturday's games with Seattle. This sounds like a case of the Red Sox being overly cautious, preserving their start 3B for the stretch run and playoffs. Youk was only hitting .209 during August (7-for-34) with eight strikeouts so some time off may help his approach at the plate. Look for him to return soon but get the occasional day off if his back continues to be an issue.

J.D. Drew, OF, BOS - Drew is working on building up endurance in his shoulder as he works towards getting back in the Red Sox lineup. The problem is that Josh Reddick has been raking in his absence and it's hard to imagine Terry Francona pulling the rookie in favor of the veteran, who was only hitting a double slash line of .219/.317/.305 before the injury. Look for Drew to be sitting more than playing once he returns.

Adam Dunn, 1B, CHI - Dunn is expected to miss a few games due to a family matter. This is purely my own speculation but could this be another case were a personal matter has affected a player's performance at the plate (think Pablo Sandoval's divorce, Magglio Ordonez's wife's cancer scare)? Details to why Dunn is out are not available, so again it's purely speculation on my part but it would make sense if something off the field has influenced his performance.

Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN - While Phillips has been nursing an elbow injury, teammate Jay Bruce has picked up the slack for the Reds offense. Phillips has been able to pinch-run (something that does not involve the elbow) but has missed the last four games with the injury. It's probably better to err on the side of caution and bench him for the upcoming scoring period until he's consistently back in the starting lineup.

Michael Cuddyer, OF, MIN - Cuddyer has been dealing with a neck injury that's sidelined him for the last two games. The injury occurred during batting practice on Friday but doesn't sound like it will keep him out long. Given his production (1.003 OPS in June, .963 OPS in July) as of late, I'd gamble on keeping him in the lineup for the upcoming week especially if he's your second baseman.

A.J. Pierzynski, C, CHI - A.J. was hit in the hand with a pitch on Saturday, which is the only way opposing pitchers were going to slow him down. X-rays came back negative which means he should make a return to the lineup in the near future. Before the plunking Pierzynski was in the middle of a tear, going 16-for-39 (.410) over 11 games in August.

Injuries:

Justin Smoak, 1B, SEA - Friday, a sharp ground ball hit by Jarrod Saltalamacchia took an errant bounce and broke Smoak's nose and made a hairline fracture of his maxilla bone as well. Smoak was already slumping (.175 BA, 0 home runs, 1 RBI in 57 ABs since the All-Star break), lost his dad to cancer earlier this season, was dealing with a thumb injury and is now out indefinitely dealing with this current predicament. Needless to say it's looking like a lost season for Smoak, who was starting to fulfill his potential back in the first half. Look for Wily Mo Pena to fill in as DH while Mike Carp takes over first base duties while Smoak is out.

Xavier Nady, 1B, ARI - Nady broke his hand Friday which in turn led to the signing of gritty veteran Lyle Overbay. Hopefully the injury ultimately leads to more playing time for rookie Paul Goldschmidt, who had a dramatic game-tying home run Thursday night that still hasn't landed.  

Derrek Lee, 1B, PIT - Lee was placed on the 15-day DL due to a broken bone in his left wrist and is expected to miss the next 2-to-4 weeks. As a Pirates fan I would wonder if this wasn't an issue before he was dealt to the team considering Lee started having a "hand" issue less than a week after being traded. Garrett Jones should see regular duty at first base until Lee returns.

Huston Street, P, COL - Rafael Betancourt will take over as the Rockies short-term closer while Huston Street deals with a triceps injury. It's worth reminding owners that need saves that an aggressive FAAB bid should be in if you're lagging behind in that category. While the injury doesn't sound serious Street is probably willing to take his time with the injury considering he'll want to be 100 percent for 2012, a contract year for the 28-year-old.

Tommy Hanson, P, ATL - Hanson was placed on the DL Sunday morning with rotator cuff tendinitis. The good news is nothing is wrong structurally and it's likely not going to be too long before Hanson is back, especially with the Braves in the middle of the Wild Card race. With Mike Minor pitching Friday, is it too crazy for me to speculate that the Braves call up Julio Teheran to make a spot start Tuesday?

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Carlos Zambrano, P, CHI - An easy call seeing how he was placed on the disqualified list and once again is threatening to retire. The truth is his stuff on the mound hasn't been good lately as evidenced by his 6.23 ERA over three July starts and his 6.61 ERA over three August starts. The crazy thing is he's been lucky; his 88.5 % strand rate in August is the best mark of any month, suggesting he's been lucky to have only a 6.61 ERA. His velocity as incrementally dropped over the last few season while his K/9 rate is almost down two from a season ago. Whether it's Father Time or he's lost the will to play the game, retirement is likely the best option for The Big Z at this point.

Michael Pineda, Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Leake, P, SEA, WAS, CIN - Here are three young, promising arms (Pineda and Zimmermann more so) who are likely to either: A) See their starts cut short due to an innings cap or B) Have their starts spread further out over the last few weeks of the season. Either way, there's a strong likelihood they won't pitch a full schedule the rest of the way. You might be able to peddle them in redraft leagues to an owner who's asleep at the wheel or think towards the future and trade for them in keeper formats from an owner looking to make a final push.

You can follow on Twitter @KCPayne26