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The Wheelhouse: 30 Teams, 30 Thoughts - May Edition

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

St. Louis - Why doesn't Shelby Miller get the same attention as Matt Harvey?

Miller - 5-3, 1.74 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 65:12 K:BB (9.8 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9)
Harvey - 5-0, 1.93 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 74:17 K:BB (9.5 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9)

I would be willing to wager in this flimsy and constantly changing trade market, you would often be able to get Miller while giving up less than you would for Harvey. Team context matters over the course of the season as well, and if the skills are equal (or very close to it), Miller definitely over Harvey in that regard.

Pittsburgh - Jason Grilli might be the sequel to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but he is well on his way to getting a paragraph in the introduction to Ron Shandler's 2014 Baseball Forecaster. Are you more concerned about his skill set (14.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9), or the Pirates' chances of hanging around to avoid selling pieces at the trade deadline in July.

Cincinnati - Obligatory Billy Hamilton update: Entering play Friday, he's carrying a five-game hitting streak with four multi-hit efforts during that span. Seeing 155 stolen bases in a season stat line is still jarring, and while he's nowhere close to that pace now, a 24-for-28 mark despite a .304 OBP through 43 games at Triple-A Louisville is still impressive. Barring an injury to Shin-Soo Choo, it's hard to envision a scenario where he's up before rosters expand in September, but he could be a difference maker in many formats even if his role is primarily that of a pinch-runner in his first taste of the big leagues.

Milwaukee - Still trying to figure out how to value Carlos Gomez? Over the last two weeks, he's gone 13-for-53 (.245) with six RBI and two steals while carrying a 2:18 BB:K and striking out in more than one-third of his at-bats. More importantly, his plate discipline this season (23.6 K% and 4.6 BB%) is in line with last season and his career norms overall (22.4%, 5.0%), and the .405 BABIP is under the .325 average. He was clearly underrated after narrowly missing the 20-homer, 40-steal mark last season despite receiving just 452 plate appearances, and it may even be fair to say that Gomez is now a poor (roto) man's Adam Jones given their respective ISO marks, with more stability coming from Jones' higher contact rate.

Chicago - Welington Castillo has a 2:38 BB:K over 133 at-bats this season, but considering his minor league track record, there should be movement in a positive direction on that front. With the pop he showed in the minors, better days should be ahead in the home-run department as well, especially now that the weather is heating up in the midwest. Given the choice between Castillo and back to earth John Buck, I'd take Castillo. Of course, if you're in a league that is shallow enough to offer Yasmani Grandal, he's a better option than both.

Cleveland - A lot has been made of the teams fantasy owners should stream against (Miami, Houston, even Washington lately...), but fewer pixels are dedicated to lineups and teams to avoid. The Indians appear to be one of them thanks to a league-best .795 OPS through 46 games. With upcoming series against the Reds and Rays, Homer Bailey and Alex Cobb owners should weigh their alternatives carefully next week while Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo, Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Hellickson are starters I want to avoid. It's business as usual for Mat Latos in the vast majority of formats. **Bonus** Saturday, June 1st is Albert Belle Bobblehead Day at Progressive Field.

Detroit - Torii Hunter hasn't homered since April 13th and is hitting .259/.317/.313 with 12 RBI over the last 30 days entering Friday. The lineup position and team context remain very favorable, but if the increasing groundball rate (currently a career-high 55.7%) is any indication, the power gone for good. Not surprisingly, his ISO is down for the fourth straight season (.208, .183, .167, .139, .099). He'll still carry value because of the hitters around him, but temper the expectations accordingly.

Kansas City - His first go-round with the Royals this season wasn't great, but Will Smith is quietly impressing at Triple-A Omaha this season. It's tough for any pitcher to put up good numbers in the Pacific Coast League, but Smith's 2.93 ERA and 55:15 K:BB (two homers allowed) over 46 innings stands out a bit more when you consider that he's just 23 years old. At the very least, he should be on the radar in AL-only formats should an injury create a spot or if the Royals deem Luis Mendoza or Wade Davis inadequate.

Chicago - Hopefully, arm soreness (this time his shoulder, instead of his elbow) isn't a regular May habit for Chris Sale. The good news so far, is that the White Sox haven't scheduled him for an MRI. Prior to experiencing the discomfort, Sale had a filthy five-start stretch featuring a 38:9 K:BB and just 20 hits allowed in 38 innings (1.18 ERA, 0.76 WHIP). As of Friday afternoon, Sale said he still expects to return to the rotation for his next scheduled start Tuesday against the Cubs.

Minnesota - Admittedly, Bernie Pleskoff has soured my desire to target Kyle Gibson, but the sorry state of the Twins rotation should have him up in the big leagues by this time next month after the projected Super Two deadline has passed. Over the last two seasons at Triple-A, Gibson has a 56:15 K:BB over his last 11 starts (59.1 innings). Even if he's more of a mid-rotation starter than an ace-type, the issue with Gibson this season will be his workload as the Twins are planning on limiting him to 130-140 innings. He's already thrown 52.2 at Rochester, and with another couple of turns there before a potential promotion, he may be limited to 60-70 innings with the Twins this season. No thanks.

Atlanta - Ranking B.J. Upton for the rest of the season is borderline impossible. Discard the nightmare that has been the first 42 games, is he rebounding back to something in the neighborhood of being a top-40 outfielder? Top-60? Is he still better than Drew Stubbs? Are they the same guy? Express your thoughts on this matter in the comments below.

Washington - Anthony Rendon has moved back to second base at Double-A Harrisburg, where his season line now sits at .330/.476/.625 with a 30:23 BB:K. This pleases Kent Dorfman, but Nats fans are probably wondering why Danny Espinosa is still playing despite a torn rotator cuff and now a broken bone in his wrist. The results have been brutal (.163/.196/.291), and there has to be a change on the horizon. Rendon's limited appearances at Harrisburg this week are the byproduct of dental issues, rather than a more serious ailment.

Philadelphia - I have not profited from Chase Utley's production this season, and while it's encouraging that the injury (oblique) that landed him on the disabled list isn't knee-related, there are still lingering concerns about the degenerative nature of his knee problems once he gets back in two-to-four weeks, especially as a 34-year-old playing a very demanding defensive position. Even with better health, Utley would have likely been a borderline Hall of Fame candidate at the end of his career, but when it's all said and done, he might be a roto HOF guy and we'll always have the classic letter written to Utley from Mac on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:

Dear Chase,

I feel like I can call you Chase because you and me are so alike. I'd like to meet you one day, it would be great to have a catch. I know I can't throw as fast as you but I think you'd be impressed with my speed. I love your hair, you run fast. Did you have a good relationship with your father? Me neither. These are all things we can talk about and more. I know you have no been getting my letters because I know you would write back if you did. I hope you write back this time, and we can become good friends. I am sure our relationship would be a real homerun!


New York - Zack Wheeler's AC joint seems to be just fine and a big league debut could come June 12, or as part of a doubleheader June 18. ROTS I'd rank the rookies as follows: Kevin Gausman, Wheeler, Jose Fernandez. If Tony Cingrani is back by then, he'd slot in after Gausman just ahead of Wheeler for this season only.

Miami - The Marlins are dead last in team OPS at .599 through 47 games - 54 points below Washington in 29th. Stream everyone and everything against them. They really are that bad.

New York - David Phelps never posted a BB/9 above 2.4 in his minor league stops, but he's issuing 3.5 BB/9 as a big leaguer. If he can shave the down the free passes, Phelps has more upside than you might think as evidenced by his 142 strikeouts in 142 innings over the last two seasons.

Boston - When you re-calibrate for Clay Buchholz's first 10 starts (73:27 K:BB in 72.2 innings, 1.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) where does he end up among starting pitchers the rest of the way?

Baltimore - Kevin Gausman should be up for good. A plus fastball and plus-plus changeup are a good foundation for an arsenal, and he showed good command considering the circumstances Thursday. If Dylan Bundy's elbow woes (flexor mass tightness) end up being a small bump in the road, the O's will have an elite duo atop their rotation sooner rather than later.

Tampa Bay - Sorry, Joe Maddon. I don't believe you that Fernando Rodney is still your closer.

Toronto - How exactly will Melky Cabrera's hamstrings get better if he's playing every day, with half of those games coming on turf?

San Francisco - Remember the flu bug that slowed Brandon Belt during the first week of the season? Since April 10, he's hitting .281/.350/.488 (.838 OPS) with six homers and 22 RBI. Over 500 at-bats, that translates to 25 homers and 92 RBI. It's about time...

Arizona - A second opinion from Dr. James Andrews is on tap for Adam Eaton. Hopefully, he'll be ready to roll in 2014, because this whole situation feels like surgery delayed rather than surgery avoided. A.J. Pollock and Gerardo Parra will continue to benefit from Eaton's absence.

Colorado - On the topic of streaming, the Rockies have been much better on the road this season and rank fourth with a team OPS of .753 outside of Coors Field. Individually, continue to salt to taste for weekly lineup changes.

San Diego - As noted above, Yasmani Grandal could return as soon as May 28. For those in weekly leagues, it may be wise to wait an additional lineup period before activating him as Grandal has been dealing with a pair of inflamed tendons on his left side. Once he's back, Grandal should be treated as a top-10 catcher going forward.

Los Angeles - As Jay Jaffe put it in a recent article for Sports Illustrated, Don Mattingly is likely the fall guy for the debacle in Los Angeles. With an ownership group that has bottomless pockets, does it even matter if Ned Colletti just signed a long-term extension with the Dodgers? Making a change in the front office will have a much more positive impact on the franchise than canning Mattingly, but the latter will likely happen long before the former is seriously considered.

Texas - Better numbers at the end of the season, Derek Holland or Mike Minor? How about Derek Holland v. R.A. Dickey?

Oakland - Brandon Moss is actually drawing more walks this season, but his .247/.351/.425 line seems about right considering that he whiffs 30.0% of the time and has to play half of his games in the cheap stuff from a short URL stadium in Oakland.

Seattle - Don't completely write of Jesus Montero yet. Check out this week's edition of Charging the Mound for an explanation.

Los Angeles - I expected Mike Trout to go through more of an adjustment phase this season. He's done a lot to erase those concerns in the first two months. If I were drafting today, Trout would be second only to Miguel Cabrera on my board.

Houston - For a team deep into rebuilding mode, the focus has to stay on the farm. George Springer has been very impressive at Double-A Corpus Christi, hitting .296/.407/.604 (1.011 OPS) with 13 homers and 15 steals over 43 games. He's striking out in more than a third of his at-bats, but his ability to draw walks should lead to four-category value once he arrives in the big leagues. Springer is hardly a secret as a former first-round pick (2011), but it's a marked improvement over his 22-game stretch at the same level last season (.219/.288/.342, 6:25 BB:K in 73 at-bats).