Friday, June 24, 2011

Gearing Up: A.L Week 13, June 27-July 3

Rising Up

Rich Harden (3% owned last week; 8% this week)
Harden just started a rehab assignment for the A's and his first start went very well. He threw 42 pitches, and it sounds like the plan is for Harden to join the A's rotation when he's ready. Given his checkered injury history, you should keep your expectations low. However, keep Erik Bedard's stellar performance this year in mind. 50-60 strong innings from Harden are still plenty valuable if you're in a tight race.

Daric Barton's demotion and Josh Willingham's injury give Carter an opportunity to stick with the A's and hopefully show off his 30+ HR power potential. Carter is definitely a post-hype prospect; his poor stint with the A's last year knocked him down most lists (though Baseball Prospectus was still high on him entering 2011). I'm concerned that the power might only be 20-25 HR instead of 30+ and that Carter won't walk quite enough to make up for the bad batting averages. He's definitely reaching the make-or-break period of his career at Age 24 and could wind up looking a lot more like Jack Cust or Russell Branyan than the pre-2011 Adam Dunn.

Back from the Minors/DL
Mark Ellis (hamstring)
When I saw that the A's had activated Ellis, I wondered where he would possibly play since Jemile Weeks is white-hot. Then, presto! The A's stuck him at first base. I suspect the A's are going to try to use Ellis in a utility role and I also suspect he's a trade candidate. There's no guarantee that he's going to start again for Oakland or anywhere else the rest of the season.

Inge is likely to get his job back at 3B, though it's possible that the Tigers ease him in and give Don Kelly some starts at third in the short-term as well. Inge probably is going to have to perform if he wants the job back on a full-time basis. At 34, he's at an age where players with his skill set sometimes simply fall off of a cliff. Activate him if you have a part-timer in his slot, but I hope you're shooting to improve your team with a dump deal if you have Inge.

Joe Nathan (elbow)
Nathan looks like a future play at this point if you're trolling for saves. If you're simply looking for a middle reliever, definitely keep Nathan on reserve as long as you can and see how he looks in a few Major League games before adding him to your roster.

Jake Peavy (groin)
Most analysts are wondering if Peavy will hold up this year, but I'm wondering more about how good he'll be. His FIP in his first three starts: 1.77, 1.32, 2.77. In his last three: 4.39, 6.60, 5.35. It would be easy to look at Peavy's overall ERA/xFIP differential and assume he's going to improve, but he's trending in the wrong direction. His velocity is down this year and I'm not convinced at this point that Peavy's going to put up anything better than a 4.00 ERA.

Ryan Perry (minors)
Back-to-back bad outings in late May led to Perry's demotion. He was solid at Toledo and should be OK for Detroit in a middle relief role. Leave him on reserve for a week and see how he does before activating.

Eric Thames (minors)
The Blue Jays finally decided they couldn't live with Jayson Nix's poor production at third base and have decided to move Jose Bautista there from the outfield. It looks like Thames will battle Juan Rivera and Edwin Encarnacion for playing time. Thames was hitting very well at AAA Las Vegas, although his power wasn't as prodigious as one might hope for in such a hitting-friendly environment. He's definitely worth a flier, though he might not play every day from the outset and could very well be in an open competition for playing time.

Possible Waiver Claims
Crain keeps getting waived in my league. I don't know why; he's a solid set-up man in a 12-team A.L.-only league that should be owned. He and Matt Thornton seem to be alternating in the eighth inning behind Sergio Santos and Crain might be a better bet than Thornton to take over if something happened to Santos.

Coming into 2011, there seemed to be a lot of "Jeff Francis is a sleeper in deep leagues" group think that I just didn't get. Francis now has a career 4.77 ERA and 4.38 xFIP across what cannot be dismissed as a small sample size. To be somewhat fair, Francis' problems this year are exacerbated by diminished velocity on his fastball and a K/9 rate that leaves him pretty vulnerable to batted ball variability. Francis is still a fringy option even in deep leagues, and at best looks to me like a match up play.

I like Furbush and he's done very well in his rookie season in a relief role. His strand rate is ridiculous, and hitters have made him pay for mistakes. He still has some time in his first run through the league, and his funky delivery should buy him some time at or close to this level before the inevitable regression kicks in.

Jones has been a solid part-timer against lefties, but is a non-entity against righties this year and is hardly getting enough playing time to make him worth rostering.

I warned you about Mitch Talbot, and he justified my lack of faith by getting creamed by the Tigers. He was better in his last outing against the Rockies but I still don't like him going forward.

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