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So, the big story of the week is that MLB is going to start enforcing a rule that already existed with the same punishment that, umm, already existed. Getting rid of sticky stuff on baseballs will have a real impact on the game, but trying to figure out all of the ramifications ahead of time is a good way to give oneself a headache. Most likely, several really good pitchers will be significantly worse over the rest of the year. Many of this year’s nicer surprises will also fade. In some cases, that will be the lack of sticky stuff. In others, it was just going to happen anyway. It’s certainly not always going to be black and white. Just look at the reactions to what happened when Shane Bieber’s stuff dipped Sunday before it was announced the next day that he was going on the IL with a shoulder injury.
I would be pretty nervous right now if I were counting on Trevor Bauer to lead my pitching staff the rest of the way. Same goes with Gerrit Cole and Yu Darvish, though not quite to the same degree. Of course, the spin rate leaderboards are littered with the game’s very best pitchers. I assume most have been getting at least a little help, whether that’s the old sunscreen and rosin combination or the more weaponized substances. If that largely stops now, and I expect it will, then the majority of pitchers rostered in fantasy leagues are probably going to lose a little something. Of course, it becomes less of a big deal if Cole’s ERA goes up half a run if the league as a whole sees ERAs go up by a quarter run.
For now, I’m just kind of in wait and see mode. I wouldn’t panic trade Bauer, but I think I would take my chances if someone wanted to offer me a Freddie Freeman or Bo Bichette for him. In general, a good pitching-for-hitting trade makes additional sense right now, since we presumably have a better idea of what the hitter is going to offer over the rest of the year than we do the pitcher. In a few weeks, we’ll have a better sense of what pitchers have been more and less effected by the rule enforcement and who is worth targeting in trades. Perhaps there’s logic in trying to trade for effective low-spin pitchers now (Hyun-Jin Ryu, Aaron Nola, Kyle Hendricks and Ian Anderson are some of the most notable names there), but I wouldn’t go far down into that well. After all, it wasn’t just the big power hitters using steroids, and it’s not just the high-spin pitchers getting their Spider Tack on.
American League notes
- Tyler Glasnow, who was pitching like a legitimate Cy Young candidate, has a partially torn UCL that he’s blaming on going cold turkey off sunscreen and rosin. It might not be the last of that kind of thing as pitchers try to adapt their grips to slipperier baseballs. Glasnow is hoping to avoid surgery and return late in the year. The injury could open the door for Luis Patino to get another shot. He just allowed one hit over five scoreless innings in his last start for Triple-A Durham. 25-year-old Joe Ryan is also interesting; he has a 4.21 ERA at Durham, but that comes with a 36/7 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. Brent Honeywell has mostly been relieving in the majors, so he isn’t an option right now. Shane Baz might be in a few weeks; he was just bumped up to Triple-A after posting a 2.48 ERA and a crazy 49/2 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings in Double-A. Either Patino or Ryan would be interesting in deeper mixed leagues if called up to start.
- Bieber’s injury leaves the Indians rotation with Aaron Civale and nothing much else. They limited Jean Carlos Mejia to 55 pitches on Monday and Cal Quantrill to 60 pitches on Tuesday to keep them available in a flexible four-man rotation for the moment. Eli Morgan is also in that mix, and Triston McKenzie will likely rejoin it soon enough. It seems like an ugly situation, but if anyone can make it work out, it’s Cleveland.
- The Indians are getting some stunning results from Bobby Bradley, who is hitting .440 in the majors after coming in at .196 in Triple-A. Bradley outhit Jake Bauers in spring training, but he didn’t get the first base job then because he had options and Bauers didn’t. The gig is his against right-handers now, and he should easily do better than Bauers did. That said, hitting for average is going to be a problem in the long run, and he’ll probably struggle against left-handers. He’s not likely to last as a mixed-league corner infielder.
- Nick Solak, Nick Lowe and Willie Calhoun have all had their moments this year, but few of them have come lately. Adolis Garcia is fading, too, having hit .234/.250/.277 so far this month. He’s been stuck on 16 homers since May 26. Not coincidentally, that’s about the same time the Rangers started swooning, and they’ve currently lost 15 of their last 18 games. I still think it’s worth sticking with Solak in mixed leagues, though it’s very discouraging just how often he’s been swinging and missing. It helps that second base is a tough position this year, and Solak offers some stolen base ability. Lowe’s a fringy option right now, and Calhoun needs to pick it back up before he’ll again be worth considering in mixed leagues. As for Garcia, the power and speed should keep him useful for as long as he’s playing regularly. His batting average will continue to drop, though.
- A mid-June arrival for Matt Manning in Detroit didn’t seem like much of a stretch a few months ago, but he’s getting promoted to make his major league debut Thursday in spite of a hideous 8.07 ERA for Triple-A Toledo. He has a 36/10 K/BB ratio in 32 1/3 innings, but he’s given up 11 homers despite often working in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. AAA-East hitters slugged a whopping .766 against him in his four road starts, compared to .441 in his three home starts. Manning is one of the game’s top pitching prospects, but it doesn’t seem like he’s ready right now.
- Committing to Jake Rogers and Eric Haase as their catching tandem was the right move for the Tigers, and the team obviously didn’t think it’d be able to flip Wilson Ramos for much of a prospect later this season. As a result, Ramos was designated for assignment on Tuesday. Toronto might be a nice short-term fit for Ramos, but most of the other teams in need of catching help probably won’t want a 33-year-old with defensive issues.
- Leaving Houston’s Luis Garcia out of the SP rankings a couple of weeks ago was a bad call on my part, but part of the reasoning there was that he was likely due for a bullpen stint at some point. That could come soon now that Lance McCullers Jr. is back from the IL. The 24-year-old Garcia has never thrown more than 109 innings in a season, and he’s sitting at 63 right now. The Astros are hoping to play well into October, and they’re going to take that into account in how they continue to handle Garcia and Cristian Javier.
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National League notes
- The Marlins should have called up Jesus Sanchez weeks ago, but they finally made the move Tuesday with Corey Dickerson landing on the IL due to a foot injury. Sanchez had cooled off some in Triple-A after his ridiculous start, but he was hitting .349/.400/.643 with nine homers in 33 games overall. Because he’s slowed down some and he’s not really promised much in Miami, he doesn’t need to be grabbed in mixed leagues right away. He offers plenty of power potential, though, and it’d be a good thing for the Marlins if he proved to be an upgrade over Adam Duvall in the long run.
- The Nationals showed admirable restraint early on with the Josh Bell-Ryan Zimmerman situation at first base, but even though Bell has steadily improved since a dreadful start, he’s been on the bench in three of the least four games, including once against a righty. Bell is hitting .290/.347/.516 since May 13. He needs to be playing pretty regularly if the Nationals want him to keep putting up strong results. There’s still ample mixed-league potential here, but the situation is just too frustrating.
- It was another bad sign for Carter Kieboom that the Nationals opted to promote Luis Garcia after putting Starlin Castro on the restricted list Wednesday morning. Garcia was outproducing Kieboom in Triple-A, coming in at .270/.336/.478 in 128 plate appearances. Kieboom has rallied after a slow start, but he hasn’t shown much power while hitting .231/.397/.352 in 116 plate appearances.
- Wil Myers had 14 doubles, two triples and 15 homers in 55 games last year. He has seven doubles, no triples and six homers in 58 games this season. His average exit velocity has plummeted in a year in which it’s gone up for most, and Statcast thinks he’s actually been rather lucky to have his current .243/.320/.381 line. He’s hitting in the middle of a quality (though underachieving) lineup and he can still steal a base, so he can’t be dropped in mixed leagues. However, nothing that he’s done this year suggests that he’s going to bounce back in the power department.
- Pirates closer Richard Rodriguez is as likely as any player in the game to be dealt before the trade deadline, and the move could come quite a bit earlier if the right offer comes along. Unfortunately, no one else in the Pirates bullpen has stepped up as a clear No. 2 behind Rodriguez, but at the moment, David Bednar looks like he’d be a better option to assume the closer’s role than Kyle Crick. While Crick has managed a nice 2.04 ERA in 17 2/3 innings, he has a 15/12 K/BB ratio and his velocity is still down 2-3 mph from where it was a couple of years ago. He’s probably going to begin to struggle at some point. Bednar is throwing 95-99 mph and has a 32/8 K/BB ratio in 24 innings. He’s worth stashing away in deep leagues.
- Jonathan India’s surge has probably settled the matter of what the Reds are going to do with their infield after Mike Moustakas returns, which means going back to the original plan of Eugenio Suarez at shortstop and Moustakas at third. I thought Suarez might settle in offensively after returning to his old spot, but that hasn’t really happened, and it’s not like Kyle Farmer offers much at shortstop. India has to stay in the lineup, and he’s a fine mixed-league play while hitting leadoff. He’s batting .341/.482/.568 in June.
- The Rockies have made Yonathan Daza an outfield fixture of late, and he had three more hits Tuesday to raise his average to .325 in 182 plate appearances. Daza doesn’t offer much power and he hasn’t been a big basestealer in recent seasons (he’s 2-for-2 this year), so his fantasy upside is quite limited. Still, he’s worth using while the Rockies are at home. Until something changes, it looks like Garrett Hampson is going to be useless in mixed leagues. Almost all of his production this year has come against lefties, and he’s started taking a seat versus righties as a result.
- Matt Beaty should have some short-term mixed league with both Max Muncy (oblique) and Cody Bellinger (hamstring) on the IL for the Dodgers. He doesn’t have as much power as one would like from a first baseman/corner outfielder, but he makes contact and he can certainly drive in runs in the middle of the Dodgers lineup.