Closing Time: Searching for Matt Kemp

Scott Pianowski
May 28, 2013

The Dodgers scored a come-from-behind victory over the Angels on Monday, but there's always some leftover angst at Chavez Ravine. Peripheral darling Zack Greinke didn't get out of the fifth inning (10 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K), and then there's the ongoing saga of center fielder Matt Kemp (0-for-5, four strikeouts). Slotted fifth overall in the Yahoo! game before the season, Kemp currently sits No. 281 on the overall rankings based on performance to date (.253-21-2-17-7).

Kemp had offseason surgery to his left shoulder after the 2012 season, and as this excellent Peter Gammons piece outlines, the lead shoulder is an integral part of hitting. Kemp hasn't complained during his extended slump, but you get the idea he's playing through mechanical problems at minimum and perhaps shoulder discomfort at maximum. When a player like Kemp is 100 percent, you're never going to see a .333 slugging percentage over 49 games. His walk and strikeouts rates (6.9 and 28.4 percent, respectively) are both moving in the wrong direction.

So what's a fantasy owner to do? If I owned Kemp and could flip him right now for a solid OF2 option, someone like Shin-Soo Choo or Allen Craig (even with his pop absence), I'd probably do it in a second. If an opponent came with an offer of Hunter Pence or Nick Markakis, I'd have to at least think about it. Is Starling Marte enough for Kemp? Norichika Aoki? Discuss your buying and selling plans for Kemp in the comments.

Things appear cleaner in the LA bullpen for now, where Brandon League has five straight appearances without allowing an earned run. He worked around a single Monday and picked up his second save in three days, entering after Kenley Jansen's uneventful eighth (1 H, 0 R). Everyone recognizes the pitcher with the elite stuff here - Jansen, obviously - but League has the closer contract and the Dodgers would prefer he takes the ninth and runs with it. The club is probably better off having Jansen in a more flexible role, anyway.

• Yasmani Grandal was a useful fantasy catcher in over the second half of 2012, posting a .299/.414/.427 line over 50 games (four homers, 30 RBIs). And now he's back to give a little more credibility to the middle of the Padres lineup.

Grandal was slapped with a 50-game PED suspension back in November; time has been served, let's get back to playing ball. Grandal had a nine-game practice run at Triple-A Tucson, posting a .306/.342/.389 line. The pop isn't there yet but a solid average and batting eye always plays in our games. You'll find Grandal available in 93 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

The Rockies aren't playing their best baseball at the moment, on a three-game losing streak that includes Monday's marathon loss at Houston. But help is coming around the corner: Colorado returns to Coors Field on Wednesday, starting a glorious stretch where it plays 15-of-18 games at home. If you had designs on trading for a major Rockies bat, now is the time to push it through.

As you probably heard on Monday, Vinnie Pestano is going to get the first look as Cleveland's temporary closer while Chris Perez (shoulder) is on the disabled list. The 2011-2012 version of Pestano could have easily taken this assignment and run with it, but you have to wonder if Pestano's elbow is healthy enough to get batters out right now. If Pestano has any kind of a hiccup, the Indians have a cast of thousands ready to step in (Joe Smith, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Ricky Vaughn).

Bottom line, Pestano is first in line but I can't imagine the leash is very long. Let's be sure to watch the first save chance closely. Momentum and possession of the baton is everything when bullpens become shuffled.

It was nice to have a return to normalcy with the Pittsburgh-Detroit matchup, not that Justin Verlander pitched that much better than Francisco Liriano. Nonetheless, the 7-7-3-3-2-13 line is what you expect from Verlander, while Liriano (5 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K) was knocked around by the AL's best offense. Liriano returns home on the weekend, but Cincinnati is a nasty matchup, too.

The Cardinals have a rich history when it comes to pitching prospects and decisions, and their latest arm might be ready to drop this week. Right-hander Michael Wacha was scratched from his Triple-A turn, presumably so he can work the Thursday start against Kansas City. The appointment isn't official yet, but all the dots seem to connect here.

Wacha ranked a Top 85 prospect with Baseball America and before the season and he's been sharp through nine starts in the minors this year, albeit without a dominant strikeout rate (52.2 IP, 2.05 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 15 BB, 34 K). The way the Royals are scuffling on offense these days, this looks like a fun plug-and-play if you're in a frisky mood. Wacha is currently owned in about one-quarter of Yahoo! leagues.

Can we welcome Daniel Straily back in the circle of trust? He posted a smooth six innings against the Giants, albeit it was a pitch-to-contact story (4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, nine fly-ball outs). Straily earned more cred in his previous win, those gorgeous seven bagels in Arlington. Two starts against the unthreatening White Sox are next on the docket, one home and one road. The Oakland righty is owned in a modest 11 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

• Mike Leake used to be just a guy who stood in the way of our Tony Cingrani dreams, but he's been pitching rather well for a while now. Leake's strong 7.1-inning appearance from Monday gets extra cred for being against the visiting Indians (5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K). With a K/BB ratio at three and a 3.02 ERA (I know, and a suspicious 1.31 WHIP), it's time to push Leake into the streamer pool. Feel like taking a shot on the weekend at Pittsburgh? You can do just that in 81 percent of Yahoo! leagues.