Henderson Alvarez - Alvarez is expected to come off the DL to start Wednesday against the Braves. He has made four rehab starts in his recovery from his shoulder injury, allowing just three earned runs over 24.1 innings. Alvarez throws reasonably hard (93.3 mph average fastball in the big leagues over his career), though he's never been much of a strikeout pitcher. He'll benefit by the move from the AL East to the NL East, much as Scott Feldman has with the Cubs, if his stuff stays intact following the injury. The Marlins' rotation is considerably different than it was on Opening Day, with the return of Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Turner. As long as his initial outings don't prove disastrous, Alvarez should have a semblance of job security, as Ricky Nolasco is likely to be dealt before the trade deadline. Mixed: $3; NL: $10.
Tony Cingrani - Cingrani will go back into the Reds' rotation with Johnny Cueto hitting the DL for the third time this season. My instinct is that this current DL trip for Cueto will last longer than the minimum 15 days, given how he wasn't as effective when he came off and because of the recurring nature of the injury. Cingrani really struggled with his control Friday night when replacing the injured Cueto, walking six in his four innings of work. But bear in mind that it came just two days after pitching in Oakland, and he came on without any sort of warning. Remove that outing and he has just 11 walks in 43.1 innings. But I'm more concerned about his home run rate - 1.52/9IP is pretty scary, and pitching in Great American Ballpark isn't going to alleviate those home run tendencies. Assuming he gets a run of five-to-six starts here, I expect Cingrani to have a couple of brilliant starts and a handful of shaky ones, all part of the learning curve of a rookie pitcher. Mixed: $4; NL: $12.
Robbie Erlin - The Padres have a developmental dilemma. Their Triple-A affiliate Tucson plays in an extreme hitter-friendly ballpark, and in a hitter-friendly league in the PCL. Yet they play their major league games in an opposite ballpark in Petco. One obvious potential downfall is the possibility of overrated their hitting prospects and underrating their pitching prospects, based on the results there. But there's one other effect, I think. Pitchers like Erlin, who through most of his career had been a high-strikeout, low-walk, flyball pitcher, are disproportionately punished by the ballpark. Once they run into a few bad outings, they might be tempted to nibble more instead pounding the strike zone as they had at lower levels. That's why it's not surprising to see Erlin do better with the Padres than he has at Tucson. He draws a tough matchup in his next start, however, at Boston, as the first of two starts in a two-start road week, with the second outing coming at Washington. I still like Erlin in the long run, but I'm also treating starts in Fenway nearly equivalent to starts in Coors Field. If you make weekly moves, this two-start week is for thrill-seekers only. Mixed: $0; NL: $3.
Johnny Hellweg - Hellweg got smoked by the Pirates in his major league debut Friday, giving up seven runs (five earned) over just 1.2 innings. He came over to the Brewers as the secondary compensation in the Zack Greinke deal, along with Jean Segura. While Hellweg racked up some high strikeout rates in the minors as a reliever, control has always been a problem for him. His lowest walk-rate at any level of the minors a 4.53/9IP rate at Double-A last year, so his struggles at higher levels is entirely predictable. The Brewers are still hoping to find a rotation that works, but Hellweg doesn't appear to be part of the solution. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Taylor Jordan - Jordan wasn't on my radar coming into this season. He had just returned from Tommy John surgery and wasn't all that special when he pitched last year, posting a 4.05 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP at Low-A Hagerstown. But he's been superb in the minors this year, allowing just 10 earned runs and one homer in 90.1 innings at two levels. It's instructive of the Nats' desperation that they reached down to promote Jordan while Dan Haren is on the DL, despite just 54.1 innings at the Double-A level. But he's here now, and he'll get at least 2-to-3 more starts while Haren is out. If he performs well, it's conceivable that he could bump Ross Detwiler out of the rotation upon Haren's return. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Mike Kickham - Kickham is starting Monday in place of the injured Chad Gaudin against the Reds. His first two major leagues starts have been ugly, and his 4.81 ERA and 1.50 WHIP at Triple-A doesn't exactly imbue us with confidence. About the only thing going in his favor is that the Reds have been scuffling at the plate, and typically have a harder time against lefties. That's still not enough to encourage me to take a chance on him, even with two possible starts this week. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Ted Lilly - Lilly could be close to returning from the DL and his latest injury, pending how well his rehab start Sunday goes. Lilly has been awful when active this year, but arguably hasn't yet been healthy. Chris Capuano surprisingly has been a disaster, and this week's start at Coors Field doesn't bode especially well for him. It wouldn't be a surprise if Lilly supplants Capuano rather than Stephen Fife when he returns. Mixed: $0; NL: $5.
Drew Pomeranz - Pomeranz's numbers with the Rockies last year (4.93 ERA, 1.48 WHIP) seem less disastrous in the context of the team's season, particularly in their experiment with the starting rotation. So it was more than a little bit of a surprise that he didn't make the Opening Day roster. Then again, perhaps this was a measure of restoring the development time that he was robbed of after first arriving in the Rockies' organization in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. At any rate, Pomeranz restored some of his shiny prospect luster in Colorado Springs this season, racking up 96 strikeouts in 85.2 innings while allowing just six homers in that launching pad. It's a bit of a shame that he toils for the Rockies, where he'll never have the numbers that a pitcher of his caliber would be able to compile in a neutral environment. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Jacob Turner - Like teammate Henderson Alvarez, Turner doesn't record as many strikeouts as many would think he's capable of doing with his fastball, whiffing them at a 5.93 K/9 rate. So far the results with the Marlins have been solid, with him posting a 1.76 ERA and a .265 BABIP. How is getting it done? For starters, he's keeping the ball on the ground a lot more, with a 1.91 G:F ratio. And when hitters do elevate the ball, they're not doing much with it - he's allowed just one homer in 41 innings so far. The home ballpark in Miami doesn't hurt, but he's running a little lucky in that department. His next two starts come against the Braves, which will test his ability to keep the ball in the gym. He does have the benefit avoiding the Cardinals in the teams' upcoming series next weekend. Mixed: $6; NL: $17.
Phillippe Aumont - When Jonathan Papelbon was busy blowing another save Monday, I was asked who was next in line to close for the Phillies. It's less of a concern that Papelbon will lose his job on merit, but there's been some talk about him being available before the trade deadline, and it's always possible when you see a sudden drop in performance from a reliever that he's suffering from an injury. That talk has sort of cooled lately, but it's still a worthy question. The only problem is that there's no obvious answer, especially now that Mike Adams is out for an extended period with a biceps injury. Aumont was once thought to be a potential late-inning reliever for the organization. He came over in the Cliff Lee trade from the Mariners and once was highly regarded. But somewhere along the way, he lost his command. This year has been especially gruesome, as he's walked a combined 28 batters in 28.2 innings between Triple-A and the majors. He's still striking out batters at a high rate, but that killer walk rate almost essentially precludes him from a high-leverage role. Mixed and NL: No.
Rafael Betancourt - Betancourt is back from the DL and has reclaimed his closer's role, even with Rex Brothers filling in so ably in his absent. With the NL West so tight, it seems unlikely that Betancourt will be trade bait before the deadline. He's been dealing with the groin injury all year, so if he's fully healed, I'd expect that his 3.92 BB/9 rate will decline back to his usual levels. As colleague Gene McCaffrey often says, just don't watch him pitch if you can help it - he's painfully slow on the mound, particularly with a runner on base. Mixed: $20; NL: $50.
Santiago Casilla - Casilla's injury created a domino effect in the Giants' bullpen, making it very difficult for them to get games to Sergio Romo even when they do have a lead. Jeremy Affeldt has regressed under a higher workload, Ramon Ramirez has been waived already, and other alternatives have been found wanting. Casilla still walks a ton of hitters, but compensates for being so difficult to square up when he does get the ball in the strike zone. He'll resume primary set-up duties when he returns, which could be soon if Sunday's rehab outing goes well. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Jose Dominguez - Dominguez is the latest out of the woodwork reliever recalled by the Dodgers. He can flat out cook with gas - often hitting 100 mph on the radar. Alas, he doesn't always have a good feel for where it's going. While he's missing a ton of bats (a combined 40 strikeouts in 25.1 innings), he's also walking a high number (13 walks in that span) - a problem that usually is magnified once a young pitcher hits the majors. Still, he can't be much worse than Brandon League at this point, right? Mixed and NL: No.
Logan Ondrusek - Ondrusek is back up with the Reds' bullpen as fallout from Johnny Cueto's injury. The injuries to Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton have forced Ondrusek back into action as well. The Reds' bullpen really has dropped off from the midpoint of last season to this moment, illustrated by Ondrusek's struggles and the disappearance of Jose Arredondo. If the Reds are buyers at the trade deadline, look for them to add another bullpen arm or two. They really should do it now, with Marshall and Broxton still out. Mixed and NL: No.
Blake Parker - Closers can come from anywhere - they don't always have to be a high-pedigree guy, or even someone groomed as a closer anywhere in the course of his minor league career. That could end up being the case for Parker, a converted catcher who Dale Sveum said would be considered to close if the Cubs traded Kevin Gregg before the trade deadline. He's been solid since joining the team June 1, posting a 2.19 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 15:5 K:BB in 12.1 innings. Mixed: $1; NL: $5.
Francisco Rodriguez - Brewers manager Ron Roenicke settled on K-Rod as the team's closer going forward, clearing up the ambiguity that arose when Jim Henderson returned from the DL, leaving room for some change based on the matchups. Rodriguez is 6-for-6 in save opportunities this season and has put up a sterling 0.55 ERA and 17:3 K:BB ratio in 16.1 innings so far. The Brewers have a number of problems, but the back end of games isn't one. Mixed: $17; NL: $40.
J.J. Putz - Putz has been activated from the DL and will be re-installed as the closer right away. Between the two closers coming back from injury this week, I'm a little more apprehensive about Putz than I am Betancourt, both because the Diamondbacks got good mileage out of Heath Bell and because of the nature of Putz's injury. Usually these UCL strains don't end well in the long run. That's doubly true when the pitcher in question has a bad injury history, as Putz does. Mixed: $15; NL: $35.
Burch Smith - When we last saw Smith, he very much looked like an out-of-place rookie getting a trial-by-fire. Since then he went down to a tough pitcher's environment (see the Robbie Erlin comment) and held his own at Triple-A Tucson over five starts, posting a 2.57 ERA and 26:8 K:BB over 28 innings. Now Smith will get the opportunity to learn how to retire big league hitters in a relief capacity, presumably in low leverage situations. This is a good way to develop a potential starter, though it doesn't do much for us in the short-term. Mixed and NL: No.
Devin Mesoraco - Mesoraco is playing more often than usual thanks to Ryan Hanigan's sore ankle. Though he hit the go-ahead homer Saturday night against the Rangers, generally he hasn't done much with that added playing time. One might be tempted to give up on him, but this is the typical development path for young catchers, and emblematic of how Mesoraco performed initially at each successive level in the minors. If you're in a dynasty league, now might be a good time to inquire about his availability. The price should be pretty low, and I still think there's a reasonably high offensive ceiling. For this year, however, this playing time run (five of the last six games) isn't likely to continue, so he makes for a stopgap only in redraft leagues. Mixed: $0; NL: $2.
Wilson Ramos - Ramos (hamstring) could come off the DL as early as Thursday, July 4, ahead of his initial timetable. The Nats have gotten putrid production from Kurt Suzuki while Ramos has been out - over his last 30 days, Suzuki is hitting .169/.214/.234. The team could ease Ramos in initially, but don't be surprised if this ends up with Ramos taking the majority of playing time behind the plate, rather than the timeshare that existed at the start of the season. Mixed: $10; NL: $25.
Matt Adams - The Cardinals will remain on the road to start next week in interleague play, drawing three games against right-handed starters in Anaheim. That means more possible playing time for Adams, presuming that he's over his food poisoning that sidelined him Sunday. Adams homered twice Saturday before becoming ill. At this point, you already know about Adams' strengths and weaknesses. The interesting aspect for him is whether the team will make room for him to play regularly next season. Mixed and NL: $5.
Eric Chavez - The Diamondbacks have weathered the storm of injuries and now have most of their key players back (with Adam Eaton being the noteworthy exception), Chavez included among them. Because Aaron Hill is back at second base, Martin Prado will rarely play there now, so he's lodged at third base most of the time, squeezing Chavez's playing time. But every once in a while Hill will need a day off, or Prado will start in the outfield. Chavez won't get the regular playing time he was receiving prior to his injury. Mixed: $0; NL: $5.
Juan Francisco - With Corey Hart out for the season, suddenly Francisco has job security at first base for the rest of the season. He remains the same feast-or-famine hitter as always, but at least he'll provide the Brewers with some badly-needed power from the left side of the plate, as the team has been one of the more right-handed skewed lineups in baseball in recent memory. Mixed: $7; NL: $25.
Pedro Ciriaco - Even though Ciriaco has performed well (.295/.326/.432) in the stead of Everth Cabrera, I suspect that Logan Forsythe and not Ciriaco will get the lion's share of playing time at second base once Cabrera returns. The one stat that jumps out about Ciriaco's tenure with the Padres, however, is his four stolen bases. Manager Bud Black likes the small-ball game, so Ciriaco benefits from that. If Cabrera has any sort of setback, it could mean another five-to-10 stolen bases for Ciriaco in the near future. Mixed: $2; NL: $7.
Logan Forsythe - Jedd Gyorko's setback has left him without a definite timetable for his return. Forsythe should continue to start at second base as a result even after Everth Cabrera returns from the DL, which could happen as early as Tuesday. Forsythe isn't going to dominate any single category, but he provides a stable bat such that the playing time has some value in the counting categories. Mixed: $3; NL: $10.
Josh Harrison - If you're looking for a utility infielder that qualifies at second base but plays sparingly, Harrison is your man. With Jody Mercer emerging at shortstop, there's just not much room for Harrison to play these days. That's a good sign if you're a Pirates fan - they're too good to be spending a lot of at-bats on the likes of Harrison. Mixed and NL: No.
Cliff Pennington - Pennington has been a surprise bust with the Diamondbacks. After stealing 29, 14 and 15 bases respectively the last three seasons with the A's, it was thought that the move to Arizona would help his bat. Alas, he's tanked again, posting a .584 OPS and losing his job to Didi Gregorius at shortstop. In fact, he was very close to losing his roster spot, but Willie Bloomquist just got hurt again. So instead, Pennington will be a utility infielder, with the hope of snagging an odd stolen base here-and-there. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Julio Borbon - With Ryan Sweeney out, Borbon could be in line for more playing time in the outfield for the Cubs. If that happens, he's a good potential source for stolen bases, albeit one that often has trouble stealing first base to begin with. Instead, Brian Bogusevic might instead get more playing time in center field, as that's been the case the last four games. Bogusevic was pounding the ball at Triple-A Iowa before his promotion this week, hitting .319/.418/.512 in 304 plate appearances. Even though Borbon might have more attractive tools, give me the guy that at least has a chance to hit in Bogusevic. Borbon - Mixed: No; NL: $2; Bogusevic - Mixed: $3; NL: $11.
Sean Halton - Halton is pretty much the definition of a "Quad-A" hitter. I'm happy for him that he's getting to make a major league debut at 26 years-old, but his potential isn't bankable in all but the deepest of leagues contingent on getting a spare at-bat anywhere. He might stick for the next couple of weeks with the news that Ryan Braun won't return until after the All-Star break, but I don't think he'll start more than once or twice a week. Mixed: No; NL: $0.
Chris Heisey - We're not seeing too many #FreeChrisHeisey hashtags any longer. In fact, I'm now leading the #ImprisonChrisHeisey movement at times, at least after his bases loaded strikeout against the A's on Tuesday. Heisey tanked badly after getting a big opportunity to play with Ryan Ludwick's injury and now is relegated to being on the wrong side of a platoon. Even with the Reds hitting the road in interleague play, he has been out of the starting lineup three of the last four games. The takeaway here is that it's hard to succeed in the majors with a sub-5% walk rate and 20+% strikeout rate, especially when the player isn't getting everyday at-bats. Mixed: $0; NL: $5.
Tyler Moore - I had Moore pegged as a deeper sleeper this year in a lot of leagues, but it just hasn't worked out yet, even at Triple-A, where he's hitting just .178/.264/.356 in 53 plate appearances. It won't likely happen for us in the near future, either, as he's due to be sent back down once Bryce Harper comes back next week. But I find it difficult to quit on a guy that's twice hit 31 homers in a season in the minors, and who hit 10 homers in just 171 plate appearances last year. He's my new Chris Heisey, I guess. Mixed and NL: No for now, but watch from afar.
Scott Van Slyke - Van Slyke is back from the DL, but his ill-timed injury has cost him a big opportunity to play. Yasiel Puig is firmly ensconced in the starting lineup and Matt Kemp has returned, leaving Van Slyke hoping for a few starts against lefties when the Dodgers wish to rest Andre Ethier, and even that opportunity could dry up soon now that Carl Crawford is ready to begin his rehab assignment. Mixed: No; NL: $1.