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Closing Time: The Case for Henderson Alvarez

Hooking a Marlin
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Johnny Fish and the Fins (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Before we take a look back at Monday's stuff, let's peek ahead to the Wednesday streamers. I want an excuse to talk about Henderson Alvarez, one of the more interesting pitchers in the National League.

Alvarez is only owned in 38 percent of Yahoo leagues (it would be lower if he weren't pitching Wednesday at Philly), and I can see why. A modest 61 strikeouts in 94.1 innings won't move the needle. And although the Marlins are a competitive group this year, it's not a sexy, media-friendly team. The networks don't come running to the fish tank.

Nonetheless, Alvarez carries a 2.39 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, ratios that are ownable in just about any mixed league. He's been an extreme ground-ball pitcher his entire career (53.4 percent this year), and at least his walk and strikeout rates are both moving in the right direction (3.4 whiffs for every free pass). And it's not like Henderson doesn't have decent stuff: his average fastball is 93.7 mph, and he has decent off-speed offerings (most notably an improved change-up, which helps against lefties).

Alvarez is pitching over his head this month (0.98 ERA, 1.12 WHIP), no one disputes that. But keep in mind he posted a 3.16 ERA in May and a 2.73 number in April, and his fielding-independent ERA is a solid 3.01. He's been good all year. His last start in 2013? A stream-legendary no-hitter, the type of thing that swings fantasy championships. The Marlins have a nice rotation fixture here, even if it's not a true No. 1 candidate.

Push him over 50 percent, gamers, so we can move onto the next guy. Cool? Cool. 

 Who is this Steve Pearce guy, and what's he doing batting second for the Orioles?

We're looking at a journeyman here, a 31-year-old who's bounced from the Pirates to the Astros to the Yankees to the Orioles. A .252/.328/.403 career line doesn't sound like much, but he reached base 36 percent of the time last year (over 44 games) and he's rocking a .338/.396/.566 slash this season, with six homers and a couple of bags over 122 at-bats. That's why Pearce is batting second in Baltimore these days, not Manny Machado.

And why shouldn't Buck Showalter use Pearce in the No. 2 slot? Pearce is on a 15-for-44 run in that assignment, with eight walks and a couple of homers. Maybe he falls back into the Colabello Vortex at some point over the summer, but I'll roll with Pearce so long as the Orioles keep playing him. You can jump on board in most leagues - he currently trades at nine percent in Yahoo. He also carries two positions of eligibility (first base, outfield).

• A home date against the hapless Padres didn't do much for Matt Cain (7.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 7 K). In the roto circles we call that a Verlander; a long, somewhat-effective outing that collapses late. To be fair, it's not like the Giants did Cain any favors - they didn't score at all against Odrisamer Despaigne and two relievers.

The Theatre of Cain continues on the weekend, when he hosts Cincinnati. The first chance you get a chance to sell, I recommend it. If I were shuffling pitchers at this moment, I'd have Cain in the $9-12 range. Hopefully he's not your problem. (If you'd like further Cain discussion, we examined him here and here in the last week.)

• Although the White Sox don't have an obvious replacement, you have to assume the Ronald Belisario reign of terror will be over soon. Belisario gave away Monday's game, allowing a three-run homer to Chris Davis in the ninth inning. Crabcakes for everyone (but no gelato; Baltimore is surprisingly devoid of good gelato). 

Even when Belisario converts, it's a white-knuckle ride. He's allowed runs in four of his seven saves, and he's blown four opportunities. His 5.50 ERA is a shade unlucky (opposed by a 1.25 WHIP), but I don't want this guy on any of my rosters. Too volatile. 

See anyone you like in this bullpen? Daniel Webb and Jake Petricka walk too many guys, same goes for Zach Putnam. Javy Guerra hasn't been bad since joining the club in late May, and he was a closer in LA a few years ago. Maybe he'll develop into an ownable commodity again. Or perhaps this is a situation we best avoid. 

Speed Round: No idea where it came from, but Logan Morrison went 4-for-4 with a couple of homers as the Mariners spanked Boston. Seattle now has the second-best run differential in all of baseball. Buyers at the deadline? . . . Devin Mesoraco's grand slam carried Cincinnati, and it was part of a five-run meltdown from Hector Rondon. Paging Neil Ramirez to a white courtesy phone . . . Marcus Stroman has been good in four of his five starts, including Monday's gem against New York (8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K). He faces the White Sox (and Sale) and the Athletics over the next two turns . . . Jarrod Dyson rapped out three hits and grabbed a couple of bags as the Royals knocked expatriate Zack Greinke around. If only we had any clue when this stuff was coming from Dyson. He's hitting .305 with 12 steals, free in 99 percent of Yahoo . . . Yanks lefty CC Sabathia threw 34 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday. I'll assume he left the game trailing 6-0 . . . For some reason, Eric Hosmer can't hit fastballs this year. Is that a deal breaker for you? He still loves those ground balls, though . . . If you want to talk yourself into Joe Mauer, here's some interesting data from the Numberfire chaps. He's been a little unlucky this year. (I'd still take Mesoraco in a vacuum, but it's your living room carpet - and your team) . . . If you're into podcasts, I guested on the Baseball HQ one this week, talking baseball with engaging Canadian Patrick Davitt. Give it a listen . . . No one wants to watch the Rays hit, unless it's against a high-school girl with a dancing knuckleball. Good stuff. Feeling inspired, I'm streaming Jeff Locke under the catwalk Tuesday night. 

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