Saturday, August 27, 2011

Closing Time: Power on the wire, John Mayberry and Kyle Blanks

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, so grab your sun block and a floppy hat and we'll start there as we pick through the Tuesday results on the sandlot. Cheese steak sold separately

?�John Mayberry has lived a busy baseball life for someone who's just 27. He was born into a baseball family (papa John was a slugging first baseman in the 1970s and 1980s), twice heard his name in the first round of an amateur draft (2002, 2005), hit a bunch of homers at Stanford University, bounced around the minors in the Texas and Philadelphia systems. And now he's getting some run with the Phillies, trying to force his way into the regular mix of the National League's best team.

The Phillies don't have a natural position fit for the 1B/OF, but Mayberry's bat is forcing the issue of late. He's gone deep six times this month (including two homers this week) along with a .359/.405/.872 slash, and for his big-league career Mayberry has 18 homers in just 262 at-bats. In a sense he's a right-handed version of Ryan Howard; big-time power, a lot of strikeouts, and a notable platoon split (not that a .795 OPS against righties is a red flag). I can't promise you that Mayberry will be in the lineup every day, but Charlie Manuel isn't going to sit him while he's hot. Hop on the rotary phone and dial up Mayberry RFD; he's unowned in 96 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Vance Worley was off his game for a couple of starts, as the Dodgers hit him around and the rains trimmed his Arizona turn. He didn't have any problems at home against the Mets on Tuesday, cruising through seven superb innings (5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K) and scoring his seventh victory in 10 appearances.

You don't want to take too much from Worley's splits given that he's thrown a modest 98.1 innings, but for what it's worth there are some interesting biases at play: he's much better at home, against left-handed batters, and in night games. I like that he's got a plus score on all four of his pitches, especially with his two primary offerings (fastball, slider). He'll get an interesting couple of tests next week, working at Cincinnati (small park) and Florida (daytime baseball). At the end of the day it's hard to categorize Worley; he's a little too good for the streamer file, but not solidified enough to be a circle of trust guy. I'll probably keep him on a short leash for the rest of the year.

?�When Kyle Blanks is locked in, the size of the park doesn't matter. This guy would find the cheap seats in Yellowstone Park. The formidable Friar homered at San Francisco on Tuesday (okay, it was a shot down the line, but it still counts) and he had a couple of Petco Pokes on the weekend. Get out the post-hype sleeper journal, it's time to make another entry; Blanks was a highly-regarded commodity a year or two ago before injuries derailed the story. He's only owned in 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

? The Diamondbacks and Blue Jays made an interesting swap of disappointing keystoners, exchanging Kelly Johnson for Aaron Hill on Tuesday (the Snakes also get John McDonald in the trade). Johnson was essentially stapled to Kirk Gibson's bench for much of the month, so the move comes at a perfect time for him; you have to figure he'll play in the YYZ. Assuming the Diamondbacks give Hill a chance to be a regular, it could mean less playing time for Arcade hero Ryan Roberts. I wouldn't say I'm crazy about Johnson and Hill after this deal, but they're getting a fresh start at the right time. I was just about ready to cut bait on Johnson in the�Friends & Family League, but now I have to wait for a week or so and see what develops.

? Shin-Soo Choo finally decided to join the 2011 season, hitting a couple of homers in the Cleveland doubleheader (including a game-ending shot in the opener). Perhaps he was inspired by his newborn daughter, who also arrived Tuesday. Chris Perez (BS, win) and Brandon League (Cleveland just isn't his place) made the ninth inning interesting in the first game; the Mariners simply outslugged the Tribe in the nightcap.

Franklin Gutierrez still isn't hitting for any power, but he does have a .293 average and three steals this month and he reached base six times in Tuesday's action. Maybe he's worth a look-see in a deeper league, settling in as Seattle's No. 2 hitter. It's a shame we don't get any fantasy kick from his terrific defense. Gutierrez is under contract in just four percent of Yahoo! leagues.

? Adjust your roto calendar if you're riding with Marlins and Reds players this week. The Cincinnati at Florida series concludes on Wednesday with a doubleheader, the second game pushed ahead from Thursday. The switch was made to avoid Hurricane Irene, soon expected in the area. And the Marlins should be a little more fun down the stretch now that Logan Morrison is back with the club.

There's a fishy smell in the Florida bullpen, where Leo Nunez has been a mess all month. The latest meltdown came in Tuesday's loss to the Reds, a four-spot in the ninth. Edward Mujica makes the most sense as a saves chase there (Jack McKeon was singing his praises a month ago and Mujica's numbers are still solid), but Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn are two other options and I don't see an open-and-shut case here.

? Mike Minor didn't have his best stuff in Chicago, but his final line offers utility: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K. Alfonso Soriano clubbed a solo homer off him. Minor needs to stick in the Atlanta rotation while Tommy Hanson rehabs, so look for him to get the call Sunday at New York, a good spot.

? Phil Hughes gets the streaming call for Thursday's start against Oakland. He's been sharp in his last four turns (25.2 IP, 5 ER, 5 BB, 13 K) and the Athletics lineup isn't scaring me, even in Yankee Stadium. Hughes is ready for pickup in 54 percent of Yahoo! leagues. After Hughes, it's a tricky slate to negotiate: Edwin Jackson (at Pittsburgh) is the only other sub-50 pitcher that I'd consider for a one-game assignment. Doug Fister doesn't make sense at Tampa, and no way you dial up Andrew Miller against the Rangers in Arlington.

Ryan Vogelsong's home turn against San Diego is a no-brainer, but he's owned in about 79 percent of Yahoo! leagues. And you know my rules on Francisco Liriano; he's on probation for the rest of 2011, but can apply for reinstatement next spring.

Speed Round: With Jose Valverde getting a scheduled day off, Phil Coke recorded a working-man's save at Tampa (two innings, four baserunners, five strikeouts, 52 pitches).The lefty is a long way from Coke Zero; he's carrying a 4.36 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, along with a messy K/BB ratio. Nothing to act on, handshake chasers. ?�Cole Hamels (dead arm) went on the DL but it's going to be a short stint, as he should be back in action Monday at Cincinnati. I'll wait a turn before I use him again, the general rule for any pitcher returning from injury. ? Stephen Strasburg's next minor-league start will come at Triple-A, after a series of Single-A assignments. I don't understand why more gamers aren't trying a spec play with Strasburg ? you can still pick him up in 58 percent of Yahoo! groups. ? Frank Francisco (shoulder) is ready to pitch again, but he has no chance of playing for my teams down the stretch. When it comes to the Toronto bullpen, I do not want what I haven't got. ? Colorado put in a claim on the recently-waived Wandy Rodriguez, which gives the Astros and Rockies a brief window to try to complete a deal. Rodriguez owners would be best served if nothing happens. ? Adrian Gonzalez ended a three-week power drought, going yard twice in Arlington. ? Rod Barajas has a puny .238 average and he's barely owned in Yahoo! pools, but he has quietly collected 14 home runs, including a couple in Tuesday's laugher at St. Louis. Do whatever you want with that tidbit. ? Jonathon Niese was knocked around in Philly (10 H, 8 R) then landed on the DL with a strained rib. ? Finally, a break for Kevin Kouzmanoff. After toiling in two of the worst hitting environments in the land (San Diego, Oakland), he's been liberated to Colorado, acquired in exchange for cash, Mediterranean Avenue and one of the utilities. Can you please be patient with this guy, Jim Tracy? Kouzmanoff was a player of interest a few years back. ?�Ramon Ramirez had a chance to mark some territory for the Giants but he failed in the assignment, allowing three hits and two runs to the Padres in the ninth. Ramirez was working in a tie game at home, routine work for a closer. And the committee keeps spinning, round and round.


Mayberry and soda images courtesy Associated Press


Albert Pujols Ryan Howard David Wright Ryan Braun

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