Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Notes: Middling Mazara

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


It’s the last week of the season, but not the finale for the Strike Zone. I’ll be back next Tuesday with my MVPs/LVPs and then do three weeks of projection review columns and a ranking of free agents before shutting it down for the winter to focus on the draft guide. Before that, though, here’s one last (rather brief) notes column for 2017. Thank you for reading!

 

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American League notes

 

- Two years in, it’s still tough to figure out what to make of Nomar Mazara. He’s two RBI away from reaching the century mark as a 22-year-old, but so much of that is simply a function of batting third for two-thirds of the season. He has a .755 OPS. He came in at .739 last year. There’s nothing wrong with those marks, given his age, but how much room for growth is there? Mazara simply isn’t that good of an athlete. His defense is well below average, and he offers little speed on the basepaths. He’s not going to get more explosive with age. There’s a lot to like about his swing. He’s always been polished for his age. Still, his profile is of a guy who is likely to peak young and the lack of growth as a sophomore is a concern. Maybe he turns out to be Kendrys Morales (minus the switch-hitting) and that’s fine, but it’s not an All-Star. It’d also be a disappointment given the hype from when he entered the league. I think some will predict a breakout next year, but I won’t be one of them.

 

- Mike Clevinger is 11-4 with a 2.84 ERA and 11 homers allowed in 21 starts this season. Josh Tomlin is 9-9 with a 5.11 ERA and 22 homers allowed in 25 starts this season. Guess which one of those the Indians are going to rely on to start games in October. I’d be sweating the decision if I were them; Tomlin seems reliable because of his experience and his ability to throw strikes, but because he surrenders so many homers, games can get away from him quickly. Part of the reasoning behind the decision to start Tomlin is that Clevinger can be a weapon out of the pen, whereas Tomlin isn’t really an option in that role. Maybe it will work out; the Indians have made plenty of good calls these last two years. I’d just rather have taken my chances with Clevinger in Game 4.

 

- After 20 homers in 38 games, only a hamstring injury could shut down A’s rookie Matt Olson. The power didn’t come out of left field; he hit 41 homers in A-ball in 2014 and was at 23 in 294 at-bats in Triple-A this year before getting the call. The on-base skills are still in questions. He did fine there as a rookie, batting .259 with a .352 OBP. His 60 strikeouts in 216 plate appearances weren’t terribly excessive. I’m not sold on his ability to hit for average in the majors, but I probably will project him to finish with 35 homers next season. Still, he’s in a poor run and RBI situation in Oakland, and I’m not sure 35 homers will be enough to place him among my top 20 first basemen. On the plus side, an A’s lineup with Olson and Matt Chapman will be quite a bit more interesting than what they brought into this year.

 

- Teoscar Hernandez, acquired from the Astros in the Francisco Liriano deal, is giving the Blue Jays reason to believe they’ll need to add just one starting corner outfielder this winter, rather than two. With a pair of bombs on Tuesday, he has seven homers and six doubles in just 73 at-bats for Toronto this month. He wasn’t a huge power guy in the minors, topping out at 21 homers in 2014. He had 18 in 400 at-bats for his two Triple-A teams this year. Statistically, he’s always been more solid than spectacular everywhere. Likewise, his tools mostly grade out as average to above average. I don’t think there’s All-Star ability here, but it makes a lot of sense for the Jays to commit to him in right and use their limited resources to upgrade elsewhere. For instance, they definitely need to do better than Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera in left field. Anthony Alford could eventually be the answer there, but not yet.

 

National League notes

 

- There’s obvious reason for concern with Jake Arrieta following a poor performance Tuesday after which he indicated that his hamstring still hasn’t completely healed. The Cubs already have little idea whether good Jon Lester will show up in October. It’d seem to be imperative that Arrieta have another postseason like last year’s if the club is going to make a deep run. On Tuesday, at least, the stuff simply wasn’t there.

 

- Bryce Harper came off the disabled list Tuesday and played four innings against the Phillies, going 0-for-2 with a walk. He’d be on a minor league rehab assignment if it were any other month of the season, so the Nationals will continue to tread carefully and probably give him at least one and maybe two days completely off this week. There are just two goals here: he experiences no setbacks with his knee and he regains his timing at the plate.

 

- In Harper’s absence, Victor Robles became a surprise callup and now looks like a legitimate contender for a spot on the postseason roster. If he doesn’t get one, it’s probably because he isn’t a honed pinch-running weapon; the speed is there, but it’d be hard to ask him to judge the pickoff moves and potentially steal bases against pitchers he’s never seen. He’s been really impressive since getting the call, though. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of power at age 20, but he hits the ball pretty hard. While there isn't going to be any room for him in the Nationals' outfield at the beginning of next year, the talent is there for him to force his way into the picture in the first half.

 

- Like most, I was really curious how Starling Marte would perform after returning from his steroid suspension. The answer is “meh.” He’s hit .270 with five homers, 21 RBI and 38 runs scored in 59 games. The important thing from a fantasy standpoint is that he’s gone 17-for-19 stealing bases. Because of the 80-game ban, he should be a decent value pick next spring for the first time in a few years. I haven’t been high enough on him to land him in any leagues since he emerged as a stud in 2013, in part because I’ve never expected big run and RBI numbers from him. I don’t think he’ll be much worse of a bet for 2018 than he was for 2017, when I had him 34th overall in my top 300. The difference is that next year, he should be available in the third and maybe fourth rounds of mixed leagues.

 

- Scott Schebler hit his 30th homer Tuesday. He now has 30 points of OPS on Adam Duvall (.804-.774) this season. Still, Duvall, an excellent defensive left fielder, has been the more valuable player overall for the Reds. The comparisons wouldn’t really matter if the two could continue to co-exist as starting corner outfielders, but it’d certainly be for the best if Jesse Winker gets a chance to start next year in left or right with the way he’s hit in 42 games as a rookie (.286/.365/.518 with seven homers in 112 at-bats). The best-case scenario would be for the Reds to trade either Duvall or Schebler for some pitching help, but with power likely to come rather cheap this winter, there might not be much of a market for either, even with their salaries barely above the major league minimum. A platoon wouldn’t seem fair, especially to Duvall, a right-handed hitter who would see his playing time shrivel, but the Reds might end up going that route anyway.



Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
Email :Matthew Pouliot



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