Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Notes: Colome's Collapse

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


It’s not too early to say I was wrong about Gerrit Cole. There seemed like good reason for skepticism even beyond last year’s big home run spike; he’d always had league-average swinging-strike rates and he’d usually given up quite a few baserunners despite pitching in a good situation in Pittsburgh. Sure, Houston is a pitcher’s park, but it’s one that yields a lot of homers and he’d have to face AL lineups. The Astros, though, have changed Cole’s mix, and he seems like a far better pitcher because of it. Gone is the sinker, and in its place are more high fastballs and sliders. The result through two starts is a swinging-strike rate of 19.6%, twice as high as where he is typically. That’s not sustainable, and he will give up some homers since he’s likely to be more of a flyball pitcher now. Still, I’d rank him in the 18-22 range among SPs going forward (I had him 39th in the preseason).

 

American League notes

 

- So much for the Angels’ pitching depth: J.C. Ramirez just joined Matt Shoemaker (forearm) and Andrew Heaney (elbow) on the disabled list and will require Tommy John surgery. The Angels are about to get Heaney back, which is very good news, but there’s no telling when Shoemaker might return. I was semi-fond of Ramirez after the leap forward he took in 2017, but this was always the risk with him, as he was originally diagnosed with UCL damage last year. Jaime Barria will make his major league debut when he starts Wednesday; he’s an interesting prospect with very good control, but it’s hard to imagine that he’s ready to start in the majors right now. We’ll likely see Nick Tropeano later this week, and he’s worth adding in AL-only leagues.

 

- Ian Kinsler (groin) is set to rejoin the Angels on Thursday, pushing Zack Cozart back to third base. With Shohei Ohtani in line for more DH time than expected, Luis Valbuena figures to lose at-bats. It’s not like the Angels are going to bench Albert Pujols.

 

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- With three homers and six steals in his first 10 games, Tim Anderson has been a huge plus in fantasy leagues thus far. The power surge looks like it’s for real; he’s focused on hitting fly balls and his exit velocity is much improved. He’s also perfectly capable of swiping 30-plus bases, so he might well be a top-10 fantasy shortstop. I doubt he’s going to hit for average, though; his contact numbers have gone from bad to horrible with him swinging for the fences, and as long as that holds true, it probably won’t make much sense for the White Sox to move him up in the order. Fortunately, he can be a quality fantasy shortstop while still being a mediocre major leaguer.

 

- I wouldn’t read very much into the Orioles’ surprise promotion of Hunter Harvey on Monday; they needed a rested arm and their options on the 40-man were very limited. Harvey has thrown a total of 31 innings the last three seasons and has yet to pitch above A-ball; he looked good this spring, but he’s still very much a raw talent and it’s more important that he simply get through this season healthy than that he contribute anything at the major league level.

 

- Alex Cobb will make his Orioles debut Saturday against the Red Sox. I’m not expecting him to be of much use in mixed leagues. Mike Wright Jr. is likely getting sent to the pen, as the Orioles are going to give Chris Tillman a little while longer to show he’s still a major league pitcher (the early returns are very bleak indeed).

 

- If Randal Grichuk had been in line to lose some playing time because of his slow start, he just got saved by Kendrys Morales’ hamstring injury. The Jays gave Steve Pearce his first start against a right-hander over Grichuk on Monday and he responded with a homer, but with Morales out, the Jays can use both for the next 10 days before making any decisions on how they want to sort out the at-bats. I still like Grichuk in mixed leagues, so if he was dropped in yours, it’s worth taking a shot. That said, if Grichuk continues to struggle, then Teoscar Hernandez could come up in a few weeks and he’d also have a really good chance of being useful in mixed leagues.

 

- Aaron Sanchez’s much-improved changeup has me quite a bit more optimistic about him than I was going into the spring. Both his swinging-strike and his groundball rates are up.

 

- Alex Colome was at his best in 2016, when he was throwing his fastball slightly more than his cutter. Last year, he threw his cutter two-thirds of the time and went from striking out 31 percent of the batters he faced to 21 percent. This year, he’s throwing his cutter four-fifths of the time and he’s struck out just one of the 25 batters he’s faced. One would think he’d notice the trend. Colome’s cutter is fine, but it’s not a rival for Kenley Jansen’s. For one, he throws it 89 mph, unlike 94 mph or so for Jansen. He needs to get back to giving hitters something else to think about. Fortunately for him, the Rays have no one they want to step into the closer’s role. Sergio Romo would likely be the short-term replacement if the club is forced to make a move. Jose Alvarado is the team’s most talented reliever, but he’s probably not ready for that kind of responsibility yet.

 

- Thanks to some ugly outfield play from J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts is down for a couple of weeks with an ankle injury that could have turned out considerably worse. Eduardo Nunez’s knee still seems to have him somewhat limited, so rather than ask him to move, the Red Sox should just live with Tzu-Wei Lin’s weak bat at shortstop while Bogaerts is out.

 

- The Indians’ Tyler Naquin should get the chance to start in right field against right-handers while Lonnie Chisenhall (calf) sits out the next 4-6 weeks. He’s probably not a shallow mixed-league kind of guy, but he’s an option in deeper leagues. While he was a non-factor last year, he hit .296 with 14 homers in 321 at-bats as a rookie in 2016.

 

- Jurickson Profar should be playing left field over Ryan Rua for the Rangers, but instead he’ll get a look at second base after Rougned Odor suffered a hamstring strain Monday. Mixed-league value doesn’t seem particularly likely; he’s not a basestealer and he just hasn’t demonstrated much power lately.

 

- Mallex Smith seems like a good bet in mixed leagues while Brad Miller is sidelined by a groin strain. C.J. Cron is also looking at additional at-bats against righties.

 

- Boog Powell’s knee injury opens the door for Dustin Fowler in Oakland, but the A’s are going to want to see Fowler put up some numbers in Triple-A before giving him a chance. That’s good news for Trayce Thompson, who didn’t originally seem long for Oakland’s roster after being claimed on waivers from the Yankees last week. Thompson makes for a solid add in AL-only leagues.

 


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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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