Today’s column is on the brief side, as I’m still playing catchup after a little vacation. Instead of going team-by-team, the notes will simply be divided up by league for the rest of the season.
American League Notes
– Kris Medlen is set to take Jeremy Guthrie’s spot in Kansas City’s rotation after posting a 2.41 ERA and a 14/5 K/BB ratio in 14 1/3 innings as a reliever. His velocity has been just as good now as it was during his previous relief stints in the majors, so one would imagine he’ll throw at least as hard as a starter as he did while going 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA for the Braves in 2013. He looks like a worthy mixed-league addition to me.
– The Yankees were set to go to a six-man rotation with Michael Pineda (forearm) back, but CC Sabathia leaving Sunday’s game with a knee injury changes that, almost certainly for the better. It’s sad to write, but Sabathia was clearly the weak link of the group, even if the Yankees had won five of his last eight starts anyway. Luis Severino still looks like he’ll be worth playing in mixed leagues the rest of the way. I wouldn’t want to count on Pineda finishing the season healthy, but he’ll be worth activating in mixed leagues right away. He’s expected to face the Astros on Wednesday.
– Sean Doolittle is off the DL, and though his velocity isn’t quite there yet, it sounds like he’ll assume the closer’s role in Oakland in short order. Doolittle was throwing in the high-80s when he first tried to return from his shoulder issues in May. Now he’s more consistently in the low-90s, and while that’s still not where he should be (he averaged 94 mph with his fastball last year), it could still be enough to make him the A’s best reliever. His issues in Sunday’s appearance against the Rays had to do with command, not stuff.
– Kendall Graveman seems likely to miss a few weeks, if not the rest of the season, after leaving his start Sunday with an oblique injury. The A’s will probably go right back to Aaron Brooks in his place. Barry Zito is on the Triple-A DL with a shoulder problem. Sean Nolin would be another alternative to Brooks, but he’s also just returning from a shoulder injury and needs a couple of more minor league starts in order to get stretched out. If that happens, Nolin could be an interesting AL-only option in September.
– Junichi Tazawa could have picked up a save without a run scoring Sunday against the Royals had Xander Bogaerts, after making an excellent catch on a scorching liner, realized how far Alcides Escobar had scampered off first base. Bogaerts didn’t, and then he missed another chance to retire Escobar on the bases after the latter rounded second on a subsequent single. Of course, absolutely none of that absolves Tazawa of a dreadful performance. He allowed four runs and six hits despite a leadoff triple turning into an out when Omar Infante tried to stretch it into an inside-the-park homer. John Farrell made it pretty clear through his actions that he didn’t think Tazawa was a good fit in the ninth. Interim manager Torey Lovullo hasn’t hesitated to use him in that role, and Tazawa did pitch perfect innings for saves on both Wednesday and Thursday. Still, Sunday’s setback was a big one, potentially opening the door for another reliever to get save chances this week. What Tazawa has going for him is that none of the alternatives are pitching well at all. Jean Machi still appears to be next in line.
– The good news for the Red Sox is that everyone in the lineup, Hanley Ramirez excepted, seems to be hitting .350 this month. Travis Shaw and Jackie Bradley Jr. have 1.100+ OPSs, Rusney Castillo is at .956 and even Blake Swihart is batting .370, albeit with no homers. Castillo is still the only guy in the group I’d trust in mixed leagues the rest of the way, though Bradley is becoming more tempting by the day. The problem that is that Bradley still isn’t playing against lefties. Also, Shaw will likely sit an extra game or two this week with the Red Sox losing the DH against the Mets.
– The jerking around of Vidal Nuno figures to continue this week, as he’s likely to be sent back to the Mariners pen after holding the White Sox to one run in 6 2/3 innings Saturday. Roenis Elias is expected to go back into the rotation, so unless the Mariners decide to give Mike Montgomery a break (which wouldn’t be a bad idea with him 0-3 with a 7.22 ERA during the second half), it’s Nuno will go. Elias should have value in AL-only and deep mixed leagues.
– I don’t know what the Mariners will do about Carson Smith, but he’s not the same reliever now than he was in the first half. After he blew a save Saturday, the Mariners originally said he was unavailable on Sunday, then used him to get four outs in the seventh and eighth innings anyway. Fernando Rodney is now completely ruled out as an alternative after being designated for assignment Saturday night. Tom Wilhelmsen is the primary alternative to Smith, and he got the save Sunday against the White Sox. He’d seem to be worth grabbing in all formats.
National League Notes
– After Jose Reyes expressed displeasure with his current situation over the weekend, the Rockies could make a push to send him elsewhere this week. He’s already cleared waivers, so that’s not an issue. The $54 million he’s owed through 2017, well, that’s a different story. Plus, it’s harder to see a fit now than it was four weeks ago, what with the Mets and Cubs playing such good baseball and probably not looking to shake things up. It’d seem to leave the Yankees as the only real match among contenders, and even there, it doesn’t seem worth it to take on that much salary to upgrade from Didi Gregorius. The Rockies would have to eat at least a few million dollars per year to make it worth their while.
– Potentially giving the Rockies less incentive to make a Reyes deal is that Trevor Story isn’t exactly banging down the door like he was a month ago. He’s hit just .256/.301/.326 with no homers in 86 at-bats for Triple-A Albuquerque in August. In his first month following a promotion from Double-A, he came in at .278/.304/.620 with eight homers in 108 at-bats.
– The question of Trea Turner’s fantasy value appears to have been answered pretty conclusively with him riding the pine in each of his first three games with the Nationals. That’s true even though Yunel Escobar missed the last two games, putting Anthony Rendon at third and Danny Espinosa at second. Ian Desmond’s bat has come to life, so he won’t be doing any sitting to make room for Turner. Rendon seemed to be more vulnerable, but then he homered in back-to-back games this weekend. The Nationals still wanted to give him every chance to turn it around anyway. After all, he was one of the NL’s top 10 players last year. Turner could well be the Nationals’ shortstop on Opening Day 2016, but it looks like he’ll mostly serve as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner down the stretch.
– Aroldis Chapman is dealing with his annual bout of shoulder soreness. It never seems to turn into anything major, and the Reds don’t think it will this time, either. What does make it more worrisome this year is that we’re closing in on September and the Reds have next to nothing to play for, giving them extra incentive to exercise caution. Still, it’ll take a significant setback to get him shut down. His owners should pick up J.J. Hoover as insurance, but it still seems likely that he’ll be fine to use the rest of the way.
– No one is expecting a whole lot from David Wright as he returns from his back injury Monday. It sounds like he’ll sit at least once a series and he’s probably not going to hit for a lot of power, so I wouldn’t be in any sort of hurry to activate him in a mixed league. It’d be a modest upset if he were a top-15 third baseman the rest of the way.
– Joc Pederson hit 17 homers in the first third of the season. Now he might be droppable in mixed leagues after Don Mattingly chose to sit him against a righty on Sunday. It makes sense to bench him versus lefties, but he’s still hitting .217/.370/.466 versus righties this season. Also, for all of his struggles of late, he actually has a .413 OBP this month because he’s continued to walk so much. His defense is a big plus, too, so I don’t see how it makes any sense to hold him out versus a righty. It would be risky to drop him, but at this point, we’re looking at him contributing nothing in fantasy leagues for at least the next couple of weeks.
– The trade to the Dodgers might have been the worst-case scenario for Chase Utley’s fantasy value, just as he was stating to look like a mixed-league option again. The hope is that Howie Kendrick (hamstring) will be ready to go during the first week of September, at which point Utley will probably slide into a utility role. Most of his time could come at third base against right-handers, depending on how well Justin Turner happens to be swinging the bat. Utley would have been a better bet with any other contender he was linked to in trade talks. Barring a great next 7-10 days, it’ll probably be best to drop him once Kendrick comes off the DL.
– I was hoping the Brewers would give Domingo Santana a look in center field, since even though he’s not a natural, it makes a lot of sense to take the range downgrade there to figure out what he can do offensively over the final six weeks. Come next year, the Brewers will have to decide between Santana and Khris Davis in a corner. Davis has suddenly stepped it up with nine homers this month, so he shouldn’t have to worry about losing playing time to Santana down the stretch. Santana might have some mixed-league upside in a ballpark well suited for his power stroke. He’s a big strikeout guy, but he still hit .333/.426/.573 with 18 homers in Triple-A this year.
– The Braves wanted Hector Olivera in the majors Monday, but since he’s gone just 4-for-29 for Triple-A Gwinnett after missing a month with a hamstring injury, it looks like it will be at least a few more days before he gets the call. Overall, he’s hit .286/.340/.388 with two homers in 98 minor league at-bats this year. Once promoted, Olivera is expected to serve as the regular third baseman for the rest of the season. I’m not sure that will give him any value in mixed leagues, but he’s not a terrible use of a bench spot.
– Charlie Morton looks like an excellent streaming option this week with starts in Miami and at home against the Rockies.
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