The unofficial start to summer is here. I cleaned out my wife’s flower and herb garden yesterday, it’s a garden that spans the entire length of the back border of my yard under my neighbor’s stockade fence. I also cut the grass and I pulled the cover off the pool after a winter that caused me to have to loosen the tension on the cover and let it fall in to save the pool from glacial catastrophe. Yep, it is a mess in there. But initial searches with a skimmer have not turned up any dead mammals or live reptiles (unless you count the perpetually horny tree frogs that come back every year and try to populate my pool cover with tadpoles). Try pumping the water off your cover when your daughter has already seen the cute little tad poles. Last year, I was late getting the cover off, so Dad was out there catching tadpoles with the skimmer so we could take them to the nearby pond to set them free (I mean feed them to the ducks). I vowed I’d never again let the grass grow, so to speak, on taking off the pool cover so this year I nabbed it early. It also seems a little early that trade rumors are already picking up steam. The rumors are especially loud this season. Maybe teams are trying to get a jump on adding a potential impact player before the other teams they are competing with get that cover off the pool and are ready to dive in.
In keeping with the theme that my fellow MLFS writers have been exploring the past week, I want to talk about big deals that will help shape the AL East race. When I say big deals, I mean a few things: Potential big trades, emerging pitchers stepping up their game, and some impact players are nearing a return from injury which may help to alter the balance of power in the East (Matt Moore, Jose Reyes). My colleague Bryan Luhrs spent a good amount of time discussing potential Troy Tulowitski trades, so I won’t go in-depth there, but since several of the potential trade partners are in the AL East, I’ll give my opinions on those potential destinations.
First, Happy Birthday Yogi Berra, who turned 90 this week. There is always time for a good Yogiism or two. And, farewell to BB King who passed this week. Amazingly, he was still performing blues right to the end. He will be missed.
Trivia Question: How many walks has Michael Pineda given up in his 51.2 innings pitched so far this season? Read to find out.
New York Yankees:
Last week, I spoke about Michael Pineda. He followed up his 1 run, 16 strikeout, zero walk win last Sunday with a five inning 5 run clunker that raised his ERA from 2.72 to 3.31. As disappointing as that start was, I think it was just a speed bump. He is now 5-1 with a 3.31 ERA, 1.103 WHIP, and 55 K in 51 IP. More importantly, he has only given up three (yup, 3) walks in his 51.2 innings pitched. Last week, I mentioned that I believe he is finally living up to the ACE tag that was bestowed upon him many years ago.
His rookie season in 2011 showed us his true potential. His 9-10 record and 3.71 ERA did not tell the whole story; he was electric. He was lights-out while maintaining a strikeout per inning rate through his 170+ rookie innings. The Yanks traded promising catcher prospect Jesus Montero to an offense starved Seattle team for Pineda. Early returns were horrible on both sides as Montero battled with weight, work ethic and an overall lack of production, and Pineda ended up needing major surgery that kept him out for all of 2012 & 2013. Pineda had become a myth, much like the myth that was Francisco Liriano for many years after teasing us with greatness for one glorious rookie run until injuries derailed the train before he could reprise that rookie season.
Then in 2014, he made his way back to the Yanks rotation in time to make 13 starts and he certainly made the most of the opportunity. He pitched to a 1.89 ERA and .825 WHIP in 56 IP with 59 K’s and only 7 walks. His walk rate in that legendary rookie season was about 3 walks per 9, he reduced that to .8 walks per 9 in 2014 and in 2015 he sits at .5. It appears he used the time off to refine his command. His strikeout to walk rates in his 3 major league seasons are 3.15, 8.43, and 18.33 in 2015. The K rate has not changed much in that time. He also cut his HR per 9 IP rate in half from his rookie season. It feels like the Yanks traded for an ace pitcher at mid-season in 2014, but they didn’t have to give anything up to get him. He was already there.
As it stands now, the Yanks potential healthy rotation of Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Nate Eovaldi and whoever pitches in the 5th spot (Adam Warren, Chris Capuano, etc) is easily the best and most dominant staff in the AL East in 2015. There are huge question marks with Tanaka and Sabathia to be sure, but I’d rather have that potential fire power in my holster than your average replacement level starter. Tanaka was cleared to start a rehab assignment next week and should be back in early June.
I’d also have to give Cy Young consideration to both Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances at this point. They still have not given up an earned run all season and have been dominant thus far.
There are some pitching rumors on the trade front in the Big Apple. They are reportedly looking for a SP, but not an ace like Hamels. I’d expect them to grab one from Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, Mike Leake, or Dan Haren. The Yanks could open the vaults at any time and try to land Hamels or Johnny Cueto or maybe even Scott Kazmir; all of whom are rumored to be available. Where they may fall short is a lack of blue chip prospects that might leave them short compared to other offers around the league.
What about Troy Tulowitski? – I say go for it. The rumor I heard was Aaron Judge and Luis Severino for Tulo. Yes, those are the two best Yankee prospects, but so what? What are the odds that either of them will ever be as good as Tulo will be for the next five or so years as long as he stays healthy. I don’t think Didi Gregorious will be a stumbling block for the Yanks to pull this off. However, the Yanks say they are trying to cut back on exorbitant contracts for aging stars. Hah Hah Hah!!
Tamp Bay Rays:
I’ve mentioned Chris Archer the past few weeks as the new Ace of the Rays, and i’ll go one step further and call him a Cy Young contender. Ok, wait, back up a minute. He’ll put up Ace-like numbers, but he may still be too immature to actually be the Ace of a staff yet. He’s posted quality ERA and WHIP numbers the past 2
seasons and has kicked it up another notch this season with a 2.59 ERA and a WHIP of 1.027. Right now, he is posting the best hit, walk, strikeout and HR ratios of his career, which support his best ERA and WHIP of his career as well. Jake Odorizzi is holding his own as the #2 starter behind Archer, and the Rays should get Matt Moore back soon as well. But, Archer holds the key to possible contention in 2015. Those three pitchers plus Alex Cobb gave the Rays enough confidence to move David Price when they did. Unfortunately, Cobb and Price trade returnee Drew Smyly are lost to injury for the rest of 2015 leaving Nate Karns, Alex Colome and others to try to hold down the back-end of the rotation so the Rays can contend.
There are currently no significant trade rumors to report for the Rays… Yet.
The current AL Cy Young race probably looks like this so far in 2015:
2. Sonny Gray, Oak
3. Michael Pineda, NYY
4. Chris Archer. TB
5. Dallas Keuchel, Hou
6. Andrew Miller, NYY
7. Delin Betances, NYY
8. Jake Odorizzi, TB
9. Scott Kazmir, OAK
10. Corey Kluber, Cle
Boston Red Sox:
Rick Porcello & Clay Buchholz are starting to pitch well consistently like we knew they could. Both are now ownable in most fantasy formats, but neither is ready to don the Ace mantle just yet. Justin Masterson added insult to injury, literally, going on the DL with “Arm Fatigue”. I have that too from a full weekend of yard work, but I have to go to work tomorrow anyway. Joe Kelly & Wade Miley are both pitching better in their past two starts than they were prior to that when they helped the Sox to a league worst ERA. Even if the cream rises all the way to the top, neither Rick Porcello nor Clay Buchholz would inspire confidence in a big-game situation.
The above tale of woe is why the Red Sox are the most likely AL East team to make a big SP trade. It seems that they need to make a splash as pitchers like Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, Mike Leake, etc are barely upgrades over the current staff. Cole Hamels will command quite a haul from the Sox, but they should not have to part with their best prospects. The other good news is that Heidi Hamels can pitch too, so if Cole can’t make a start, she could step in for him.
What about Troy Tulowitski? The rumor I heard was Xander Bogaerts and a couple of pitching prospects for the Rockies’ slugger. I don’t know if the Sox would do that, but I don’t think too many other teams could top that offer. I’d be shocked if the Sox managed to trade for both Hamels and Tulo. But if they, did they would vault themselves to favorites in the East. I think trading Bogaerts for Tulo and all the cash that comes with TT would be a regrettable trade. But it could net them another World Series or two. Well, if they improved their starting pitching anyway.
Chris Tillman was supposed to be the Ace of this staff, but at 2-5, 6.34 ERA and 1.643 WHIP he is not even close. However, the trio of Ubaldo Jimenez, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez have pitched well enough to keep the O’s from falling out of contention. Between the three of them, their cumulative ERA over about 125 innings is 2.60 with a WHIP of about 1.07. Let’s face it though, this starting staff as is, is not good enough to go deep into the playoffs, let alone the regular season. They also have Kevin Gausman, who might have the best stuff of anyone on this staff. But he was left to mop-up in the bullpen and now is on the DL with shoulder tendinitis.
The Orioles do not appear to be linked with any trade rumors for a pitcher at this time, and might be trying to see if Tillman can turn his season around before shopping for pitching if they hope to contend in 2015. The O’s do have three starting pitchers in the minors who they think are ready to pitch in the majors, and their presence is the reason the O’s are not pitcher shopping. The three minor league pitchers are Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson and Zack Davis. Remember those names.
Toronto Blue Jays:
This is a scary pitching staff where the only rotation pitcher sporting an ERA under 4.00, rookie Daniel Norris, has already been optioned back to the minors and replaced by the underwhelming Marco Estrada. Mark Buehrle, pitching in what he says will be his final season, is adequate at best as an inning-eating #3 pitcher. RA Dickey is pitching horribly, giving up at least 6 runs in 3 of his past 5 starts. Drew Hutchinson & Aaron Sanchez are just trying to pitch well enough to stay in the majors. If the Jays offense can keep them in contention, they will need to bring in a starter to anchor this staff in the post season. It would be unfair to make the Jays faithful watch Dickey and Buehrle trying to win crucial games for them in September.
When asked about trading for a pitcher,Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos merely reiterated his faith in his current staff to be enough for the ballclub to contend.
What about Troy Tulowitski? The rumor I heard had Jose Reyes and some prospects going back to the Rockies, but less of the cash paid by Colorado. I don’t really understand why the Rockies would make that trade unless they had a deal to flip Reyes worked out.
Pitching grabs for next week: Bolded pitchers are two start pitchers for the week.
Mon: Aaron Sanchez vs LAA,
Tue: Nate Karns, TB @ ATL, Hutchinson, TOR vs LAA.
Wed: Michael Gonzalez vs Sea, Jake Odorizzi, TB @ ATL.
Thu: Wei-Yin Chen, Balt vs SEA, Clay Buchholz, BOS vs TEX.
Fri: Chris Archer, TB vs OAK, Michael Pineda, NYY vs TEX, Ubaldo Jimenez, Balt @ MIA, Rick Porcello, Bos vs LAA
Sat: Aaron Sanchez vs SEA, CC Sabathia @ TEX.
Sun: Chris Capuano, NYY vs Tex.