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MLB Barometer: Why Manny?

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He's also in the FSWA Hall of Fame. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

MLB Barometer


Homer Bailey, P, CIN - Has Bailey turned the corner, or are we basking too much in the glow of a start against the Pirates? On one hand, he has four quality starts in a row and eight in the last nine starts and has kept his walk rate below 3.0 walks per nine innings. On the other hand, he's by no means been dominant (45 strikeouts in 62.2 innings), and his component stats haven't significantly improved. He hasn't been especially lucky, either, though, with a .301 BABIP heading into last Tuesday night's start against the Pirates and a 75 percent strand rate. He gets two home starts this week, against the Pirates and the Tigers.

Collin Cowgill, OF, OAK- This might be better filed under "check status," with Manny Ramirez due up soon with the A's. But Cowgill's recent performance at the plate underscores how silly it was for the A's to sign Ramirez in the first place. What's the purpose to sign him? To sell tickets? To try to flip him for a prospect a month from now? Both seem like dubious propositions at best. Cowgill is 12-for-31 since May 26 and has started six of the last seven games. They struck gold with Josh Reddick already - they need to keep playing Cowgill to see if there's anything there, or if he's just a fourth-outfielder type. But between Reddick, Coco Crisp, Seth Smith, the return of Yoenis Cespedes and now Ramirez, there's no room to play Cowgill regularly. Jonny Gomes theoretically still exists with the A's too, though I wouldn't be surprised if the axe falls on him when they activate Manny - something has to give, beyond just Daric Barton getting sent down. Manny's leg tightness might defer that decision for a while.

Lonnie Chisenhall / Matt LaPorta, 1B, CLE- Chisenhall and LaPorta both were sent down after dreadful spring training sessions, but have performed at Triple-A Columbus before their call-up last week. But fundamental flaws remain for both. Chisenhall's batting eye was a huge problem in spring training and it wasn't much better at Columbus, as he walked just four times in 111 at-bats. When you're hitting .324 and slugging .541 that sort of thing tends to get overlooked, but at the big league level, he could get exposed pretty quickly once again. There's real talent here, but until he controls the strike zone better, batting average is going to be an issue. LaPorta's long-term status is uncertain - he was called up to replace Johnny Damon while the latter was on his paternity leave. But Casey Kotchman hasn't hit, and you can only go so long with the "he saves us so many runs with his defense" line when said corner infielder has a sub-.600 OPS. Unlike Chisenhall, LaPorta was controlling the strike zone while raking at Triple-A. I like his chances for success in the short-term better than Chisenhall.

Fernando Martinez / Brett Wallace- The Astros called up post-hype prospects Martinez and Wallace this week in response to injuries to Travis Buck and Carlos Lee. Remarkably, Martinez is just 23 years old after getting cast off by the Mets. His career path is a good illustration of the dangers of promoting a player before he's ready, be it to the majors or even to the high minors. Martinez was up to Double-A by the ripe young age of 18, then played 44 games in Triple-A as a 20-year old before the Mets promoted him to the majors. Injuries played a part, but he was also overmatched. The Mets gave up on him in order to ink Scott Hairston this winter, a somewhat lukewarm prize, especially because Martinez wasn't yet out of options. Martinez still might not make an impact, but he was also hitting .319/.374/.532 at Triple-A Oklahoma City and should get decent time in right field while he's up. Wallace's turn at the major league level might be more temporary, as he's up to fill Carlos Lee's spot while Lee is on the DL. His numbers at Oklahoma City haven't been all that inspiring - .259/.322/.470 with a 12:49 BB:K ratio and 10 homers. The improved power is nice, though, and it appears that the Astros will use him significantly at first base while Lee is out.

Matt Moore - Moore is starting to heat up, with five straight appearances allowing three or fewer earned runs. For all the concern about his command issues, he has struck out 62 batters in 62.2 innings. The wins will come, and the command is getting better too. We were spoiled by his debut last year and wanted to see immediate results this spring. We have to remember that he had a truncated spring training thanks to an abdominal strain, plus most rookies have a fairly turbulent start. The buying window is starting to close.

Wilin Rosario - Rosario has taken advantage of Ramon Hernandez's injury and a nice stretch of the schedule and is laying the groundwork for taking over more of the playing time behind the plate even after Hernandez returns. Ironically, the one thing that might hurt him is that the Rockies have been winning lately - the longer they're convinced they have a chance, the slower they might be to move to the younger players. Rosario's power is legit and accentuated by playing in Colorado, but the two stolen bases he got last week are just a happy bonus. Like Chisenhall, Rosario remains an unfinished product - with a 5 percent walk rate and 70 percent contact rate, he's going to be a big batting average risk. But usually at the catcher slot you have to make a tradeoff anyhow, especially in two-catcher leagues.

Caution/Check Status:

Alex Avila, C, DET - Avila is dealing with hamstring tightness after leaving Thursday's game after injuring his nose on a foul tip off his mask. This on the heels of persistent knee trouble towards the end of last season. Avila's numbers are down after he posted an .895 OPS last season, though he had been trending upward ever so slightly in the last week before his latest injuries. The Tigers badly miss Austin Jackson at the top of the order, but they also miss the production from others like Avila and Ryan Raburn, who was sent down, and now Andy Dirks, who is out with a sore Achilles. The Tigers were off Monday and Avila is supposed to be ready to return Tuesday against the Indians.

Santiago Casilla, P, SF - Casilla bruised his tibia Friday night and was unable to finish his appearance and then couldn't pitch Saturday. As of this writing he's supposed to avoid the DL, and he's started to throw off flat ground. Meanwhile, a combination of Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt have replaced him (thank the Cubs for creating multiple save opportunities for the Giants over their four-game series), and manager Bruce Bochy said that he's also comfortable using Clay Hensley there if needed.

Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B, TOR - Encarnacion got nailed on the forearm or wrist by a Dan Bard pitch Sunday and had to leave the game. As always, caution is advised with hand/wrist/arm injuries for hitters.

Doug Fister, P, DET - Fister's trip to the DL this time with his sore left side is only expected to last the minimum 15 days, but given that this is the second occurrence of the injury, watch his recovery process closely. Casey Crosby has replaced Fister in the meantime.

Dustin Pedroia 2B, BOS - Pedroia has avoided the DL so far with his thumb injury and came close to appearing Saturday when Mike Aviles got a little banged up. The Red Sox were off Monday and will examine him then to see if he needs to go on the DL or otherwise will be available to play. Owners are in weekly leagues are in a tough spot here - we've already lost a week of at-bats, with the injury acting up Monday. The off-day worked against those that had to decide whether to bench him for the week Monday, though Pedroia has been adamant that he would play, albeit with a special brace. Add in the type of injury, and the possibility that even if he plays he won't be able to hit the ball with authority, and I think I'm benching him in leagues where that is possible.

J.J. Putz, P, AZ - Putz missed a save opportunity last week due to a sore neck, but later converted a save Saturday. But we might as well look at his overall numbers while we're here. Putz has a 6.00 ERA despite a 20:4 K:BB ratio in 18 innings, thanks to giving up four homers and a .356 BABIP. The latter stat screams small sample size bias, but that's what we always have to work with when discussing short relievers - there's no such thing as a proper sample size when looking in-season. Putz typically doesn't have problems with the long ball, so that's a bit of a red flag. His fastball velocity isn't that far off from last year, and his walk rate is constant. My best guess is that we'll look at his numbers at the end of the season and not see too much difference from previous years.


Dan Bard - Bard's disastrous outing Sunday against the Blue Jays (five walks and two HBP's in 1.2 innings) has the Red Sox contemplating whether to skip his next start, reviving the issue whether Bard belongs in the rotation or the bullpen. Frankly, this shouldn't have come as a surprise to the Red Sox. Just look at his minor league numbers as a starter - his overall line this year falls right in line with that. This was always going to be a long-term conversion process, akin to the growing pains that the Blue Jays had to deal with (and are still dealing with) Brandon Morrow's development. The question then becomes can the Red Sox have the stomach for it? Is it possible for a team in that market, with those expectations, to demonstrate patience? For that matter, is the payoff worth it? At any rate, it shouldn't come on your watch, especially now that Alfredo Aceves is pretty established as the closer, giving Bard no place to go for you to get positive fantasy value from him.

Joe Blanton - File Blanton in the "dead to me" category after five consecutive starts with five runs or more allowed. You can still spot him against the weaker sisters of the NL (and there are a lot of them - Cubs, Padres, Pirates come to mind), but he's not reliable enough to use on a regular basis, even in two-start weeks. He has struggled consistently once he gets to the middle innings, blowing multiple leads during this five-game stretch.

Jorge De La Rosa - Another setback for De La Rosa has clouded his immediate future. The problem with pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery is that we get spoiled by the success stories, and expect others coming back to experience the same results. De La Rosa's fits and starts are actually pretty normal, but because the Rockies felt an urgency in bringing him back, it looks much worse than it is. However, keep in mind that most pitchers coming back from this surgery take a while to regain their command. Command has never been De La Rosa's strength to begin with. Walks will happen here, in bunches, if-and-when he makes it off the DL. The chances of him providing anything useful for you before September seem low.

Bryan LaHair - It's great when our sleeper guy jumps out to a great start, rewarding your initial faith in him. But regression is a nasty character, punishing those outlier starts mercilessly when it's time. With a 67 percent contact rate, LaHair's batting average has always been doomed to collapse, and along with it the power was destined to drop too. With him carrying a 13 percent walk rate, LaHair is no Chris Shelton, but he's getting tougher and tougher to use in a mixed league format. He's been sitting against nearly every lefty that the Cubs face, and the playing time situation could get even worse once the Cubs call up Anthony Rizzo, though that move now appears to be coming later than we initially expected. The overall slash line looks great (.312/.395/.578), but the underlying factors (including a still wildly inflated .409 BABIP) make it imperative for you to cash in on his start while you still can.