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Strike Zone

Notes: Edward Cabrera, Matt Barnes and more

by Matthew Pouliot
Updated On: August 26, 2021, 1:04 am ET

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Alex Bregman was originally expected to miss a month with a quad strain, but it turned into two and some change and there are still questions about whether he’s truly healthy now as he returns to Houston’s lineup Wednesday. One imagines he’ll get frequent days off with the Astros secure in their position in the AL West, cutting into his fantasy value some. He never did play more than two days in a row on his rehab assignment.

With Bregman back, it will be interesting to see just how often Dusty Baker works Aledmys Diaz into the mix. Diaz has hit .337/.368/.525 in 24 games since coming off the DL in late July, and he’s performed as well as either Bregman or Yuli Gurriel on the season. That said, he figures to cease being useful in mixed leagues unless another infielder gets hurt.


American League notes


- Matt Barnes has given up 10 runs in 4 1/3 innings over his last eight appearances and certainly isn’t assured Boston’s next save chance at this point. Fatigue leading to a breakdown in command is the popular diagnosis here, but he’s really no stranger to stretches like this. It’s why he’s never done better than a 3.65 ERA in a season despite some exceptional strikeout rates. Barnes should get past this and resume getting the saves for the Red Sox, but in the meantime, Adam Ottavino could steal a few.


- That Jarren Duran had contact issues in the majors was no surprise, and since he wasn’t at all likely to get past them while receiving sporadic playing time, the decision to demote him with Christian Arroyo back healthy was the right call. After all, Arroyo has been quite good in his 52 games and Kiké Hernandez been much more valuable in center than he has at second base. Duran still seems like a really good bet for 2022, even if he doesn’t get penciled in initially.


- It took a little longer than anticipated, but the Orioles are going to give Jahmai Jones a crack at the second base job down the stretch here. If Jones were a better defender, this probably would have happened a couple of months ago, but Jones, who started off his pro career as an outfielder and who continues to play left on occasion, is shaky at second. He’d also faded offensively after a hot start; he had a .935 minor league OPS through the end of June, but he came in at just .749 in July and .512 in 19 games in August. He did have 10 steals for Norfolk, but given the way he’s tailed off, there’s probably no mixed-league value to be had here.


- After the Orioles cut Maikel Franco on Monday, I saw a couple of different people saying how that signing didn’t work out for the team, which is crazy. The Orioles’ goal this year was to lose any many games as possible for as little money as possible. Franco had come in at -1.3 WAR while making just $800,000. That’s an awesome return for Baltimore. I do feel bad for Franco, though. He was a nice surprise with the Royals in the abbreviated 2020, but he might have to go to Asia for a starting job next year.


- It took losing a bunch of players to the COVID-IL, but the Rangers called up Leody Taveras on Tuesday and put him right into the leadoff spot against the Indians. Taveras was hitting .245/.343/.475 with 17 homers and 13 steals in Triple-A. That’s not really all that impressive, but it was his first stint at the level after he split 2019 between high-A and Double-A and played in the majors last year. Taveras is still just 22 (23 next month), and he’s a strong enough defender in center field that he shouldn’t need to be all that good offensively to be a useful regular. Perhaps the Rangers will send him back down once their IL situation resolves itself, but I think it’d make more sense to keep him in center field for the rest of the season. If he keeps hitting leadoff -- which probably isn’t the best idea, even if Rangers leadoff men have a horrible .276 OBP for the year anyway -- he could help mixed-league teams in need of steals.

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National League notes


- 23-year-old Edward Cabrera is getting the call from the Marlins after posting a 2.93 ERA and a 92/25 K/BB in 61 1/3 innings in the minors this year. His strikeout ability with his fastball and slider should help make up for some control difficulties and allow him to succeed in short order, though I doubt he’ll be pitching deep into games right away. He probably won’t be an every-week play in mixed leagues down the stretch, but he’s a streaming option now and definitely a name to know for 2022.


- Especially if Jack Flaherty (shoulder) lands back on the IL and probably even if not, it’d seem to be time for the Cardinals to give Matthew Liberatore a try. The 21-year-old has pitched seven innings in three straight starts, allowing a total of six runs and posting a 20/3 K/BB ratio during that span. He has a 4.56 ERA overall, mostly because he’s allowed 17 homers in 93 innings, but he hasn’t had as many issues there lately. While he wouldn’t dominate in the majors, he’d almost have to be an upgrade over Jon Lester.


- There was some talk about Ian Anderson potentially rejoining the Braves as a reliever after he struggled some in his first two Triple-A rehab starts, but he should avoid that fate after striking out 15 and allowing just one run over 9 1/3 innings in his last two outings. I’m happy to see Touki Toussaint experiencing success in the rotation, but neither he nor Drew Smyly is as good of a bet as Anderson the rest of the way. Unfortunately, Anderson will likely be going up against the Giants in his return start if he’s penciled in Sunday as expected, so it might be a good idea to keep him reserved initially.


- Alec Bohm’s defensive problems at third base are an issue that’s not going away, so I don’t blame the Phillies for sending him down. I am still baffled that he never was able to get it going offensively. Bohm hits too many grounders, but he hits them awfully hard and he was sporting some of the best exit velocity numbers in the league. It seems like he should have been adequate at worst, but there he was hitting .245/.302/.342 in 407 plate appearances. Here’s hoping that Bohm figures it out in the offseason much like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did last winter. Bohm obviously isn’t the same kind of talent as Guerrero, but he would seem to have All-Star hitting ability if he can keep the ball off the ground.


- It’s arguable, but I’d say Didi Gregorius has been even more of a liability for the Phillies than Bohm was. Fortunately, Freddy Galvis (quad) is five games into his rehab assignment in Triple-A and should be ready to come off the IL. He’s the Phillies’ best option at shortstop right now, though I have doubts Joe Girardi will do the smart thing and give him the bulk of the starts.


- Now that he’s full stretched out, I expect that Ranger Suarez will be of quite a bit of use in mixed leagues the rest of the way. It helps that the Phillies have a pretty kind schedule.


- The Pirates had to give Michael Chavis a look before season’s end, but I didn’t think that’d require sending down both Rodolfo Castro and Hoy Park. They simply had to stick with Kevin Newman and Colin Moran, for reasons. Admittedly, Newman has finally heated up of late, but with over 1,200 plate appearances and a .260/.304/.359 line under his belt, he’s shown what he is and that’s not good enough to be a starting shortstop. Moran seems like an obvious non-tender candidate; he can do some work against righties, but not enough to make up for his shortcomings on defense and versus lefties. Putting Moran and Chavis on the same side of the infield, which the Pirates did both Monday and Tuesday, is asking for trouble, and while I don’t expect that Chavis will hit enough to turn into a regular first baseman, it’s probably a more likely scenario than him turning into a quality starter at second. Chavis could lead off against lefties, making him a sneaky DFS play on those days, but he shouldn’t offer mixed-league value.


- It’s a shame Gregory Polanco going on the waiver wire made such news when there was no way he’d be claimed and the Pirates apparently had no intention of releasing him. A few years ago, all kinds of veterans would go on waivers in August to set up the possibility of trades once they cleared waivers. With the waiver trade deadline going away, though, that’s no longer a thing. A team can still put a player on waivers in the hopes that someone will take his contract, but they can’t get or give anything in return to make it happen. That’s why there was never any chance Polanco would be claimed. If that was the entire commitment, maybe there’s a slight (very slight) chance someone would have taken on the approximately $2.3 million he was owed over the rest of the year. However, the fact that he’s still owed a $3 million buyout for 2022 guaranteed that he’d go unclaimed.


- I know we’ve gone through this before, but I do like Ian Happ for the rest of the season. He seems to have gotten things turned around of late, hitting three homers and three doubles in his last eight starts. His average exit velocity this month is 91.1 mph, which is his high mark since May and June of 2018.