Seattle looked like a surprise team in early April but crash landed soon after that. The team has already opened the trade window, shipping Jay Bruce to Philly and liquidating Edwin Encarnacion to New York. The pitching staff has been abysmal. More trades are likely to follow, as the team accepts a punted season and a new rebuilding plan.
But there are some positive stories here. Mallex Smith has rebounded nicely from an early demotion. And cornerman Daniel Vogelbach looks like a keeper, freed from the Cubs gridlock and finally settling into a regular gig.
Vogelback’s been a streaky sort all year, no denying that. He was a monster in the first month (1.241 OPS), then slumped in May (.187 average). June has been a rebound month, with a .298/.461/.491 slash and three homers. For the season he’s walked 51 times against 60 strikeouts — anytime you see that ratio close to 1, you probably have a useful bat on your hands. And a .543 slugging percentage will play in any format.
Generally we try not to push the “pickup” angle once players get over 50 percent in Yahoo, but Vogelbach is only a shade past that, at 56 percent. That’s a number that should push forward. He’s especially useful if you can focus on the platoon advantage — he’s slashing .293/.437/.629 against righties. And it is a right-handed world, after all. Be ready with that DFS button.
Ten of Seattle’s next 12 opponents are sending a right-handed pitcher to the mound, so it’s a Vogelbach-friendly schedule (even with Verlander and Cole looming). Sometimes, these non-prospects who rake in the minors just need an opportunity to play. Seattle’s pitching is comically awful and the defense is the worst in the majors, but at least the offense kicks up its heels now and again.
Buzzy prospect Zac Gallen gets the call
If you have time for just one baseball scout on Thursday’s schedule, check out the Miami at St. Louis match. The Marlins are recalling touted pitcher Zac Gallen, and his snappy Triple-A resume makes an impression.
Gallen came to Miami in the Marcell Ozuna deal a year ago, and he struggled at Triple-A New Orleans last season. But the story has flipped this year — 1.77 ERA, 0.71 WHIP. He’s struck out 112 batters and walked just 17 over 91.1 innings — and this is the notorious Pacific Coast League we’re talking about, where every batter is practically in scoring position. Rookie pitchers come with no guarantees, of course, but Gallen has the whiff of plausible upside. In many formats, he’s worth an immediate addition on spec, alone.
Opening pitch is set for 7:15 pm ET. Cagey veteran Adam Wainwright throws for St. Louis; it should be a fascinating contrast in styles.
Injuries open doors for Cubs, Dodgers
The Cubs are also playing the recall game Thursday, summoning Adbert Alzolay from Triple-A Iowa. He’s posted a 3.09 ERA and 0.94 WHIP for the year, with six walks against 46 strikeouts. Things have been particularly easy over the last five turns: 1.93 ERA, three walks, 40 whiffs.
Chicago has a rotation slot to fill with Kyle Hendricks injured. Alzolay isn’t going to start Thursday’s game against the Mets, but he’s expected to follow Tyler Chatwood’s likely “opener” role. It’s not always easy to see these secondary appearances of length coming ahead of time, but perhaps Alzolay is worth keeping tabs on. That walk/strikeout rate in the minors makes you weak in the knees.
The Los Angeles rotation needs shuffling as well, with Rich Hill (forearm) leaving Wednesday’s start and ticketed for the IL. Ross Stripling has been steady as a swingman (3.21 ERA, 1.15 WHIP), averaging around a strikeout per inning. When his curveball is snapping, he’s a delight to watch.
The only thing that makes me concerned about the entire LA starting staff is the lack of urgency. The Dodgers have a 10-game lead in the NL West and can keep October in mind with most of their decisions. If anyone good on this staff hits a tiny bump in the road, a short disabled stint seems likely. It helps that the Dodgers pitching depth is as good as anyone’s in the NL.
Nonetheless, there’s a buying opportunity here. Stripling should be audited in all leagues, if available to you.