Some really tough news for Mets fans this week with the news that Matt Harvey could be headed for Tommy John surgery. We'll touch on that, a trade and other roster moves in this week's edition of Bats and Balls.
Who is going to "replace" Matt Harvey?
If not for the dominant presence of Clayton Kershaw, Harvey would have been firmly in the running for the NL Cy Young award. That, of course, is out the window with the awful news that Harvey has a partially torn UCL in his elbow, a condition that seems to point toward the Mets' ace undergoing Tommy John surgery. Harvey has a 2.27 ERA (2nd-NL) in 26 starts this year with 191 strikeouts (1st-NL), numbers that Kershaw now appears to be a lock to lead the league in. Hopefully, he's able to avoid surgery, but that seems unlikely. As for who replaces Harvey, no one truly can, but this probably means that both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Carlos Torres will be part of the rotation. As a comp, this is like the Dodgers losing Kershaw and replacing him with Matt Magill.
On the bright side, the Mets do have one of baseball's top prospects in Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard has taken a bit step forward since arriving in the deal involving R.A. Dickey, as he has a 133:28 K:BB and 3.06 ERA between High-A and Double-A this season. He doesn't have Harvey's ceiling (few do), but if he can stay healthy and avoid being the Bill Pulsipher to Harvey's Paul Wilson, the Mets should have a bright future in their rotation. For now, though, it seems unlikely we'll see Syndergaard before mid-2014, but he is a name to keep an eye on.
What can we expect from Taijuan Walker?
Answer: a lot.
Walker is Seattle's most highly-rated pitching prospect since Felix Hernandez, and after releasing Aaron Harang, he's the top contender to start Friday against the Astros. Not a bad team to debut against, eh? The 21-year-old Walker advanced to Triple-A this year after posting a 2.46 ERA and 10.3 K/9 in the Double-A Southern League. It's been a little more bumpy (3.64 ERA) at the Triple-A level, but Walker pitches in some very hitter-friendly parks, so we'll focus more on the fact that in his last 16.1 innings, he's struck out 24 batters. The 6-foot-6 right-hander has been clocked in the upper-90s with his fastball, and his secondary stuff is reportedly improved greatly this year. Walker may be best-known at this point for being the centerpiece in the failed deal involving Justin Upton, but soon enough, he's going to be known for his results on the mound. Go ahead and add him in all but the shallowest of formats, particularly given his opponent on Friday.
Sorting out the Milwaukee outfield
We certainly didn't think that this would be a crowded outfield after Ryan Braun accepted his 65-game suspension, but that's exactly what we have. Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki would seem to be in line to play most every day, especially considering the left-handed hitter Aoki is batting .331/.370/.378 versus southpaws. That leaves Logan Schafer, Khris Davis, and Caleb Gindl fighting over left field and the scraps at the other two positions. Let's break down each plyer:
Logan Schafer - Schafer is more of a defensive specialist, as he's hitting .221 and rarely plays. He's not a credible threat to the playing time of the next two guys.
Khris Davis - Considering Davis is batting a robust .333/.409/.716 with eight home runs and two steals in just 81 at-bats, he should be considered an everyday player, and a player to roster in all formats while this streak lasts. Davis had been hitting a modest .255/.349/.473 for Triple-A Nashville to his recall, so this streak is a bit of a mirage, but he does have power and can run a bit. Expect him to play most every day.
Caleb Gindl - Gindl is on the outside looking in, but he did homer in his last start Sunday after a pinch-hit homer the day before. For the year in 83 at-bats, Gindl is batting a solid .289/.366/.494, but it's just tough to see where the playing time will come from. He probably gets two starts a week and a handful of pinch-hitting appearances.
Is this the real Brett Lawrie?
Lawrie has apparently awoken from a season-long slumber, batting .362/.400/.521 through his first 94 at-bats this month. This after missing about seven weeks with an ankle injury. Lawrie came into the month batting just .212, but he's quickly turned it around in August, even if the two home runs are a disappointment. After posting a .953 OPS in a 150 at-bat rookie season back in 2011, Lawrie appeared poised to become an All-Star. He also seemed to wind his way onto several of fantasy teams, eventually leading me to scramble for a new third baseman. So what's different about his August from his April-July?:
Health - Counting the time he was hurt but not actually on the DL, Lawrie essentially missed two months. After returning on July 13, you have to figure it took him several games to get back up to speed, and apparently that has happened.
Contact - Lawrie is really seeing the ball well, striking out in just 5 percent of his August plate appearances.
A little luck? - His BABIP for August is .368 after a .195 mark in July. We always say this is a number that eventually regresses toward .300, and that's happening.
He's running - Lawrie is just 4-for-7 in steal attempts this month, but when you consider that he had three attempts all year prior to August, this is a good sign that his legs are feeling good.
All that said, I'm bullish on Lawrie. He's healthy, hitting and has a lot of excellent bats around him in that lineup.
Is Rickie Weeks done in Milwaukee?
If Scooter Gennett can hit anywhere near his current .317/.357/.538 over extended at-bats, the answer to that question has to be a "yes." Weeks, though, is making $12 million next year, so unless the Brewers are willing to eat somewhere in the range of 80 percent of that deal, it's possible Weeks will at least start 2014 as the team's second baseman. Gennett, though, has been a revelation, blasting five homers in just 104 at-bats after tallying three all year in Triple-A. Gennett is listed at 5-10, 157, so he could probably stand to pack on a few more pounds. Even with that, he's shown excellent power, giving us some optimism that he could develop into a 20-homer hitter in a couple years. Expect Weeks (plus) cash to be shopped around this winter, but either way, expect Gennett to lead the team in at-bats by a second baseman next year.
How the deal with the Mets impacts the Pirates
Tuesday, the Pirates fortified their roster by acquiring Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the reeling Mets in exchange for a minor leaguer and a PTBNL. The Reds actually had waiver priority over the Pirates, so I'm confused why they didn't put in a claim, if no other reason than to block the Pirates from acquiring Byrd. Even so, the Reds could have used Byrd considering their primary left fielder, Ryan Ludwick, has a .686 OPS. Byrd immediately becomes the team's starting right fielder, so whose value is affected most by the move? Here are a few players:
Andrew Lambo - Lambo blasted 32 homers in the minors this season before being called up earlier this month. He's just 2-for-14 with the big club, so he'll just be a bat off the bench the rest of the. The good news for Lambo is that Byrd is only signed through this season, so he could compete for a starting job next spring.
Jose Tabata - Tabata is batting .269/.342/.403, and while there is still time considering he's just 24, he's yet to develop into the player the Pirates had hoped he would, especially in the power department. Tabata will continue to see regular at-bats until Starling Marte returns from a finger injury, but as RotoWire posted on Tuesday, Marte may not even swing a bat for two more weeks, calling into question his ability to return before the playoffs.
Travis Snider - Snider is still rehabbing a toe injury, but he should be up when rosters expand next month. It's tough to see him getting enough playing time to be a fantasy factor this year.
Travis d'Arnaud - D'Arnaud was probably already the primary catcher, but Buck's departure removes that one shred of doubt. Anthony Recker will back up d'Arnaud, but Recker is a 29-year-old batting .193, so his at-bats will be kept to a minimum.
Eric Young Jr. - Young was given the day off against the lefty Alex Wood on Monday, but he should play fairly regularly. Young's numbers are modest, including a .311 OBP and two homers in over 400 PA, but 29 steals is 29 steals, and he's still seeing at-bats at the top of the lineup.
Juan Lagares - Lagares has a .293 OBP without a lot of power, but it's possible he could see a few more at-bats. He's still only to be rostered in fairly deep formats despite the fact he's receiving fairly regular playing time.
Andrew Brown - Brown may see a little more playing time, but he's probably more likely to continue to see most of his at-bats versus lefties.
Jason Kubel gets designated for assignment
Kubel was batting just .220/.288/.324, but it was still surprising to see Arizona cut him loose given his $7.5 million salary and the 30 homers he tallied last year. Still, the drop-off was severe, and with Arizona unlikely to mount a charge against the Dodgers, the organization is taking a look at other players. With Cody Ross done for the year with a hip injury, the Diamondbacks have close to $16 million in dead money in their outfield. So who's left and who could see a value change as a result of this news? Let's look at a few players:
Adam Eaton/Gerardo Parra/A.J. Pollock - This should be your starting outfield. Eaton is the most intriguing of the trio. Eaton is 8-for-23 in his last five games with just two strikeouts in that span to match his stolen base total. He's up to .260/.343/.370, and there appears to be top-of-the-order skills in abundance here. Eaton has yet to exhibit much in the way of power, but the ability is there to be a .300/.370/.425 type of guy with plenty of stolen bases.
Tony Campana - With Matt Davidson failing to distinguish himself (.412 OPS in 30 PA's) in his brief run at third base, that means Martin Prado shifts back to third, with Campana becoming the fourth outfielder. Campana has actually started the past four games, so perhaps he's going to be playing more than we think. He entered Tuesday's action batting .345/.457/.414 in 35 PA and has already swiped five bases. Campana looks to be one of the fastest guys in the game, but you know what they say, right? You can't steal first base. Campana did have a .354 OBP for Triple-A Reno, but you and I could probably fare OK at the plate in that hitting environment. As a big leaguer, Campana's OBP is just .299 and considering he has little power, he only has value if he can continue to get on base. It appears that Arizona may give him a long look, so if you need steals, he's an option.
My top-10 pitchers and hitters for 2014
By next week, Bats and Balls will start to look more toward 2014. Sure, we'll focus on some players to help you down the stretch, but in keeper leagues, if you're like me, you're starting to position your team for the future if you're not looking at winning in 2013. In that vein, here's a few thoughts on how my 2014 draft board might be shaping up:
1. Mike Trout (LAA) - There may not be a more obvious No. 1/2 in recent times. Edge here goes to Trout for his youth and SB ability.
2. Miguel Cabrera (DET) - May be the "safest" fantasy pick ever.
3. Andrew McCutchen (PIT) - Has really turned it on in recent weeks.
4. Joey Votto (CIN) - A pure professional hitter. You know what you're getting here.
5. Robinson Cano (NYY for now) - I suspect he'll stay a Yankee, but the Dodgers will be in the mix.
6. Bryce Harper (WAS) - Walke rate has improved from 9.4 to 12.9 percent, and when you are 20 years old with a .888 OPS and that's considered a relative disappointment, you have a bright future.
7. Chris Davis (BAL) - Tough to see him repeating, but I don't see a Brady Anderson situation here either. Remember, he did have 33 homers in 2012.
8. Carlos Gonzalez (COL) - As long as he doesn't move to a less hitter-friendly park, CarGo should continue to be a second-round pick.
9. Evan Longoria (TB) - As long as he's healthy (and he has been this year), Longoria is one of the better and more consistent players in the game.
10. Ryan Braun (MIL) - End of round two in a 12-team mixed league? Yeah I'm biting.
1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) - Pretty obvious one here.
2. Felix Hernandez (SEA) - Have we seen his best? Maybe, but I see it being a very slow decline.
3. Yu Darvish (TEX) - No starter is close to his 12.1 K/9, so if you want to put him No. 2, I'm OK with that.
4. Max Scherzer (DET) - He's not always going to win 95 percent of his first 20 decisions, but Scherzer has always missed bats.
5. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) - Don't see him being 6-9 in late-August next year.
6. David Price (TB) - Not as good this year, but still has plenty of good years ahead of him, likely with a team that can afford his soon-to-be mega contract.
7. Jose Fernandez (MIA) - I still don't like the decision to have him start the season with the team, but he's the only reason I tune into Marlins games.
8. Justin Verlander (DET) - Velocity down a bit, but he's still not falling out of my top-10.
9. Adam Wainwright (STL) - Has a higher WAR than Kershaw, but that doesn't mean I'm drafting him ahead of the LA ace.
10. Madison Bumgarner (SF) - Steady and reliable, with another step forward left in him.