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Mound Musings: The Tradewinds Continue to Blow

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

For more than 25 years, pitching guru Brad "Bogfella" Johnson has provided insightful evaluation and analysis of pitchers to a wide variety of fantasy baseball websites, webcasts and radio broadcasts. He joined RotoWire in 2011 with his popular Bogfella's Notebook.

There have been some major deals involving some intriguing arms. I love this time of year because a change of scenery can be a huge boost to the value of a pitcher struggling to survive in his old haunts. Yes, itís true, a deal can also be a ticket to oblivion, but those instances are usually just as noteworthy in the fantasy scheme of things. Interestingly, going from a contender to a rebuilding team isnít always a bad thing, and going from a disaster to the penthouse in the division standings while normally a good thing, can be problematic as well. We looked at some early movement a couple weeks ago, and itís again time to see who went where, what it means, and maybe speculate on who might still be in play. Letís see how changes in latitudes might impact the arms involved so far:

Jake Peavy to San Francisco:

Peavy certainly enjoyed some success on the west coast and in the National League when he was with the Padres, so you could try to make a case for a rebirth now that he has joined the Giants. Unfortunately, that was a different Peavy, a few years and a few injuries ago. He may have had the renaissance a couple of years ago with the White Sox, but now he is struggling far too often to be suggesting his best is right around the corner. Last season was a disappointment, and this season has been worse.

The average velocity on his fastball has now dipped slightly below 90 mph, and more concerning, he frequently has to try harder to get it that high. Basically, he is sometimes overthrowing and his control is suffering Ė his walk rate (3.34/9) is higher than it has ever been in his major league career, and his strikeout rate (7.26/9) continues to wither away. Add to that more solid contact when hitters get the bat on the ball, and Peavy becomes a volatile item when on the hill.

I will say that this doesnít necessarily mean the end for Peavy. While he has labored through multiple injuries, and does put a lot of effort into every pitch, he is still just 33 years old, so he may have a reasonable number of quality innings left. I just donít think weíll see many of them over the last couple months of this season. Peavy is that power-pitcher in transition; heís a wily veteran with a lot of mound savvy, so itís possible he will successfully navigate that transition from pure power-arm, to a more cerebral pitcher. But that doesnít happen overnight. I expect him to be better in San Francisco than he was in Boston, but I donít anticipate miracles.

Justin Masterson to St. Louis:

Masterson, at age 29, has had lots of opportunities to prove himself in the Indiansí organization, and while he has shown flashes of higher-tier ability, he has yet to grab the golden ring. Perhaps a change in scenery will be just what he needs. He has been rehabbing a minor knee injury, but is ready to return and the Cardinals have already indicated he will start Saturday.

This season has been worse than previous years for Masterson, who is 4-6 with an ugly 1.65 WHIP and an equally unappealing 5.51 ERA over 98 innings. Last season he put together a solid campaign with a much improved strikeout rate, and a very solid 1.20 WHIP and a 3.45 ERA. Things were looking up. He has always been pretty good at keeping the ball in the park, inducing groundballs, and throwing strikes, but his velocity fell off a cliff this year (just 89 mph compared to the 91-92 mph he normally generates) and the hits allowed and walks spiked. Itís possible some nagging injuries contributed but the Cardinals must be confident he is healthy now.

Masterson is a very talented arm, there is no question about that. His major handicap throughout his career has been the lack of a weapon to keep left-handed hitters honest. If the Cardinals can come up with a fix for that shortcoming, his value could skyrocket. Given the track record of his new team, Iíd be very tempted to take a chance.

Felix Doubront to Chicago (NL):

The Red Sox apparently soured on his potential to help them, and shuffled him off to the Cubs. The southpaw has had his moments, both good and bad, over the past couple seasons, but Boston lost patience and confidence in him and it looks like he might be harboring some of those same doubts. There is rebuilding to do here for sure.

Heís not a bad flyer for the Cubs, who are again rebuilding in the hopes that they can assemble a capable complement to the exceptionally talented players coming along in their loaded farm system. Heís only 26, and as I mentioned, there have been some encouraging stretches, just not nearly enough of them. Like many young lefties, command comes and goes with Doubront. He gives out too many free passes, and when he puts men on base, he is one of those guys that makes a bad mistake out over the plate at the most inopportune time.

Doubrontís stat line in 17 games, 10 of them starts, for 2014 (2-4, 1.60 WHIP, 6.07 ERA) clearly makes him a ďbuy-lowĒ candidate. His declining velocity Ė down four consecutive years from 93.4 mph in 2011 to 89.7 mph this year Ė and his even weaker walk-rate and hit-rate make him a huge gamble in fantasy terms. Iíll pass on him until I see something to suggest heís headed in the other direction.

Liam Hendriks to Kansas City:

Some might wonder if Hendriks moving to the Royals is particularly newsworthy. In fact, it appears he will actually begin his tenure with his new team at Triple-A Omaha. However, there may be some hints that suggest time in the Kansas City rotation could be in his future. Veteran Bruce Chen is just a placeholder, and they wonít want to overstress Yordano Ventura, so there are innings to be had, making Hendriks a more viable option as the season winds down. Of course the question is: can he provide the Royals with some quality innings, and can he do the same for a fantasy owner?

At first glance, the answer would seem to be a resounding no. He was a disaster in Minnesota over 16 starts in 2012, he was even worse last year, and three spot-starts for Toronto prior to the trade this year werenít especially encouraging. That said, he wasnít the same pitcher he has been in the minor leagues. Letís start with 33 home runs and 50 walks in 169 major league innings. This year at Triple-A Buffalo he allowed six home runs and walked seven in 108 innings. Those are in line with his minor league career stats. He is normally a master of control and doesnít serve up batting practice pitches.

Hendriks is not overpowering Ė his fastball sits 90-91 mph Ė and major league hitters will be more selective, refusing to swing at a lot of borderline pitches, but he could potentially be a serviceable back-of-the-rotation starter if he finds the rhythm he has displayed in the minor leagues. Perhaps it will click with his new organization.

Keeping vigil while teams continue to test the trade waters:

At deadline for this article, there were still plenty of trade rumors circulating. For example, the Padres are probably quite prepared to hang onto Ian Kennedy, but if someone makes them a generous offer, that could change. The Red Sox continue to shop pretty much their entire pitching staff, including Jon Lester and John Lackey, so expect one or more of them to move. The Phillies still have names in play, and other teams are also testing the waters so itís almost a certainty that there will be more deals. Iíll be updating in the comments below when other deals occur, so stay tuned!

Some Notable Rotation Ramblings:

ē An MRI revealed no structural damage in Matt Cainís elbow, but he is scheduled to see Dr. James Andrews, so there is still plenty of reason for concern. He hasnít been right all season, so something is likely lingering, and when the name "Andrews" enters the conversation, red lights and sirens go along with it.

ē Michael Pineda is progressing in his rehab and might be back with the Yankees fairly soon. Pitchers with his upside arenít often available at this point in the season and he could have a positive impact when he returns. If you need an arm for the stretch drive, he is certainly a candidate.

ē Itís been nearly a month now and Homer Bailey continues to pitch like he is capable of pitching. I am mentioning it here so he can drink the potion and go from Dr. Bailey to Mr. Hyde as he usually does when I talk about how impressive he can be. If he ever locks it in, wow.

ē The Blue Jays have to be excited about the performance of Marcus Stroman. Since moving into the rotation, he is 7-2 with a 2.12 ERA and hasnít shown any signs of slowing down. He can still tend to nibble a bit too much at times, but as his confidence grows, that could become a non-factor.

ē The Metsí Zack Wheeler just turned in his sixth consecutive quality start, and while he hasnít quite become the overpowering force that many predicted, there is still time for that to happen. The best part for Mets fans is the anticipation of him joining Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard in a potent rotation.

ē Jason Hammel is 0-4 with a 9.53 ERA since joining Oaklandís rotation. Even that cavernous ballpark isnít enough to make a fringe-pitcher a standout. He still has the opportunity to take a turn every five days, but the sands are quickly running through the hourglass, and he needs a big performance very soon.

Endgame Odyssey:

Itís safe to say Huston Street is the closer for the Angels, with Joe Smith now back in a set-up role. Street has a superb track record and while he isnít the prototypical closer, he has consistently gotten the job done. Barring an injury or long stretch of ineffectiveness he should be the guy Ö The Tigers are in a bit of a quandary. They acquired Joakim Soria and would probably like to see him closing (although he was torched just the other night), but you donít remove a future Hall-of-Fame closer like Joe Nathan without good (and recent) reason. As long as Nathan avoids blow-ups, heíll get the call, but Soria looms in the wings Ö With Soria gone in Texas there were a few names tossed around, but the obvious Neftali Feliz has stepped into the end game gig and will likely remain there if he provides at least adequate reliability Ö Kyuji Fujikawa will probably be back with the Cubs in early August and I think heíll get a shot at closing before the end of the month. He might be worth a flyer Ö In Houston, Chad Qualls has been absolutely ripped in his last two appearances. He probably pitched well enough before these flameouts to buy himself a little leash, but they may consider other alternatives if this continues. Unfortunately, the cupboard is pretty bare Ö Jacob Petricka has done a solid job since stepping into the closerís role with the White Sox, but Matt Lindstrom should be returning in the next week or two and will probably get a shot at recapturing his job at some point. It should be noted, the Nate Jones watch is officially over as he has now undergone Tommy John surgery and will likely miss most or all of 2015 Ö After a couple of shaky outings by Rafael Soriano, the Nationals handed the ball to their former closer Drew Storen in the ninth inning Wednesday. It was explained away as a break from a heavy workload, so donít read too much into it Ė at least not yet.

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