The Wire Troll: The Butler Did It
With Tim McLeod off at a family funeral (our condolences to his family), RotoRob takes over the Troll again this week.
Damaso Marte, Pittsburgh, RP: This week’s top candidate in the revolving door we have come to know as the “closer” comes from the Steel City. Although his K rate has slipped since 2007, the 33-year-old southpaw has still been fairly dominant, with 44 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings this year. Marte’s ERA is currently at 3.54 and he’s issued just 11 free passes. The injury to closer Matt Capps that has opened the door for Marte is bursitis and internal rotation deficit in his right shoulder. We’re looking at a two month minimum and may possibly have seen the end of Capps this season, so Marte has been among the week’s most popular plucks.
Reid Brignac, Tampa Bay, SS: Brignac, our 29th-ranked prospect heading into the season, was enjoying a fairly solid debut season at Triple-A, batting .265 BA with seven homers and 38 RBI. His 69 strikeouts to 21 walks and an OPS of just 743, however, suggests to me that Brignac may still require some seasoning. Maybe he’s really ready, but either way an injury to Jason Bartlett is providing this 22-year-old with an opportunity. While Brignac looked to be on the fast track two seasons ago, he’s slipped a bit as he’s gotten closer to the finish line. We obviously still really like this kid’s chances of blossoming into a stud SS in time, so keeper league owners need to pay attention. But as for those looking for help today, just deep AL-only league owners need pay attention at this time, especially since the Rays also recalled Ben Zobrist, who looks like he’ll share PT with the youngster.
Masahide Kobayashi, Cleveland, RP: Way back in mid-May, we mentioned Kobayashi for the first time and made the observation that Manager Eric Wedge would be returning Joe Borowski to the closer role upon his return from the DL. But the larger question was for how long? How about until July 3 to be exact? Borowski simply could not get the job done and the Indians have decided to cut him and move forward. Kobayashi certainly has the background to handle the job, with seven consecutive years with 20 or more saves in Japan before heading to North America this year. Grab him in all formats, but keep an eye on the Rafaels: Perez and Betancourt.
Billy Butler, Kansas City, 1B: Demoted at the end of May, Butler didn’t exactly go down to Triple-A Omaha and pout, batting .337 with six doubles, five homers and 14 walks in 26 games. Brought back up last weekend, Butler has been inconsistence since then, going 6-for-21, but with a couple of big games thrown in there. Still just 22, Butler will rake over the long haul, I’m confident. I’d recommend him in all formats at this time, with a particular emphasis in keeper and AL-only leagues.
J.A. Happ, Philadelphia, SP: Happ, who first gained prominence when he was named a Rising Star in the AFL in 2006, has been recalled from the Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs to replace the struggling Brett Myers, sent down until he learns to keep the ball in the park. Happ, a 25-year-old lefty, had shown tremendous progress at Triple-A this year, going 5-6 with a 3.54 ERA, with a much improved groundball rate. In 101 2/3 IP, he’s giving up just 91 hits (11 homers), while fanning a very impressive 104. In his first start against the Mets, the 2004 third round pick allowed just three hits and two runs in 4 2/3 innings, but he walked four. He is guaranteed at least one more start prior to the All Star break, and is someone to definitely consider in NL-only leagues and obviously in keeper formats.
J.R. Towles, Houston, C: Well, we dissed him when he was down, so it’s only fair to send some kudos his way as Towles turned things around at Triple-A Round Rock (.279 in 19 games and 61 at bats, with 15 runs, five homers, 11 RBI and an impressive .380 OBP). This recovery prompted the ‘Stros to give the kid another shot (he flopped at the beginning of the year, you’ll recall) when Humberto Quintero went down with an injury last week. Towles has recorded hits in two of the three games since his recall, including a double and two RBI. Baby steps, for sure, but this 24-year-old has tremendous offensive potential so he needs to be picked up in NL-only and definitely in keeper leagues.
Brett Gardner, New York Yankees, OF: Gardner was originally called up originally to replace Hideki Matsui (knee), but with Johnny Damon also banged up, there’s a chance for him to get some decent PT with the Yankees. Okay, he’s really struggled since his recall (1-for-16), but this 24-year-old has taken huge strides forward at Triple-A this year and has true top-of-the-order skills, so is someone worth considering in keeper formats or for AL-only league owners seeking some speed. In 80 games at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year, Gardner has scored 59 runs, has 11 doubles, 10 triples, 61 walks, 34 steals and an 841 OPS. Like I said, he’s a burner, and has already shown flashes of it with a couple of steals for the Yanks.
Josh Johnson, Florida Marlins, SP: If you’re seeking some under-the-radar pitching help, take a peek at Johnson. He tossed eight scoreless innings in his last rehab start Friday for Double-A Carolina and is expected to come off the DL and perhaps start Friday for the Fish. The 24-year-old southpaw is coming off Tommy John surgery that cost him virtually the entire 2007 season, but let’s not forget those numbers from his very solid 2006 season: a 3.10 ERA with a 1.30 WHIP and 133 Ks in 157 IP. Johnson is a solid grab in NL-only leagues and should be added to rosters in deep NL-only leagues. Do remember, of course, that he’s coming off TJS so temper your expectations, but at the very least, do yourself a favour and consider him as an option.