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I thought Willy Adames would prove too valuable to the Rays to trade this year, even if it meant breaking in Wander Franco at another position for the short term. Obviously, things changed there. That Adames got off to a rough start offensively, hitting just .197/.254/.371 through 41 games, was obviously an important factor. But it also forced the issue that Franco, Vidal Brujan and Taylor Walls were all off to excellent starts in Triple-A. Plus, the success that Joey Wendle was enjoying as the team’s best hitter to date made Adames increasing increasingly expendable. So, off he went to Milwaukee on Friday, with the Rays also giving up Trevor Richards and getting relievers J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen in return.
I love the deal for Milwaukee. Adames overachieved some offensively last year with his .388 BABIP leading to a .259/.332/.481 line, but he’s a fine defender with ample pop and a decent walk rate and he’s just 25 years old. Also, the ballpark switch could do him a lot of good. Adames hit just .217 with 16 homers in 622 career plate appearances at Tropicana Field, compared to .292 with 27 homers in 644 plate appearances elsewhere. I’m hardly going all in on those numbers, but I do think the move to Milwaukee will help some, especially in the power department. Furthermore, he should hit higher in the lineup than he typically did in Tampa Bay. I expect that he’ll be quite useful in mixed leagues the rest of the way.
Of course, it’s easy to see why the Rays made the deal, too. They had three infielders beating down the door, and while third base seemed to be a position primed for an upgrade a couple of months ago, that was no longer the case with Wendle playing out of his mind. That the Rays chose to promote Walls first was no surprise. He was outhitting Franco in Triple-A, and he’s the better defender, too. Still, what made it the obvious call was that Franco would have been in line for Super-Two eligibility after 2023 had he been called up last week and remained in the majors (assuming that Super-Two arbitration is still a thing in the next CBA). That danger will pass by mid-June, at which point a Franco promotion becomes much more realistic.
In the meantime, the Rays will see what they have in the 24-year-old Walls. His upside is in question because of his limited power potential, but he has a plus glove and he should offer enough offensively to make it as a long-term regular. It just won’t be in Tampa Bay. He’s strictly an AL-only guy right now.
Franco, of course, should be rather useful in mixed leagues once he gets the call, though I’m not quite as optimistic about his short-term value as some seem to be; he’ll do a little bit of everything, but I doubt he’ll overwhelm in any category this year. I think Brujan has more to offer if he gets a shot to play regularly, but while he might beat Franco to the majors, he could be a utilityman initially.
American League notes
- As for the players the Rays got in the Adames trade, Feyereisen went right into a key role in the team’s pen, while Rasmussen was sent to Triple-A initially. Feyereisen’s fastball and slider are both solidly average, and he has a terrific changeup that he uses to finish hitters off. He should be helpful in a late-inning role, and while it’s unlikely that he’ll take over as the Rays’ primary closer, he could offer some mixed-league value if the team continues to mix and match in the ninth. Rasmussen has a 95-99 mph fastball, and he’s struck out 46 in 32 1/3 innings for the Brewers the last two years. The problem there is that control remains a big issue for him. He might prove more valuable than Feyereisen in the long run, but it’s doubtful that he’ll be a difference maker this year.
- Alek Manoah, the 11th overall pick in the 2019 draft, will make his major league debut Wednesday against the Yankees after allowing just one run and striking out 27 over 18 innings in three starts for Triple-A Buffalo. That’s a tough first assignment, but Manoah is definitely worthy of a pickup in mixed leagues. Both his 93-96 mph fastball and excellent slider can generate swings and misses, and his control has been very good in Triple-A. It’d be nice if he had a better changeup, but perhaps that will come with time. What would hold him back for fantasy purposes is if the Blue Jays don’t want to risk having him make 20 starts over the rest of the season. They’re probably going to need that from him, though. They will likely try to get him as much extra rest as possible in between starts.
- Fortunately for Manoah and the rest of Toronto’s pitchers, the Jays are done playing in Dunedin for now. The team’s spring training home was a big-time hitter’s park; Jays hitters currently have an OPS 181 points higher in home games than on the road and Jays pitchers have an OPS against that’s 61 points higher in home games. The Jays will now play their home games in Buffalo, which also rates as a hitter’s park but not to the same degree. It’s not a bad time to sell high on Marcus Semien. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will probably miss Dunedin most of all -- he hit .410/.521/.897 with 11 homers in 21 games there -- but he still needs to be valued as a top-10 player for trade purposes.
- A week ago, I argued that Brandon Marsh would get the call from the Angels before Jo Adell. Adell didn’t directly respond to me, but he did go on to hit six homers in his next five games, giving him 10 in 18 games for the year. Adell is still striking out plenty -- 29 times in 86 plate appearances, to be exact -- but with Taylor Ward looking playable in center field, there’s a case for the Angels to bring up Adell to man right. Marsh, meanwhile, missed a couple of games last week and went 2-for-16 in the four games in which he did play.
- The Indians turned to their hottest hitter at Triple-A Columbus after Franmil Reyes went down with a strained oblique, picking Owen Miller over Daniel Johnson, Bradley Zimmer and Bobby Bradley. It was probably the right call given the options, but it’s a huge downgrade for a team that was already having trouble scoring runs. The 24-year-old Miller was hitting .406/.457/.609 in 16 minor league games and is a solid enough infield prospect, but he’s probably not going to produce enough to help in mixed leagues. It’d help the Indians a bunch if Johnson could step up and take over in right field, allowing the team to use Josh Naylor at either first or DH.
- Danny Santana has started all four games since getting called up by the Red Sox, making him well worth using in mixed leagues. He’s far from an ideal option as a starting center fielder for a major league team, but he can put up fantasy numbers, especially in a lineup as strong as Boston’s. For the Red Sox, perhaps the best thing that’ll come of this experiment is that it’s putting Kiké Hernandez back at second base, which is where he offers his most value. Jarren Duran, who is hitting .278/.366/.625, could get a shot in center in a few weeks, turning Santana into more of a utilityman.
- Yeah, Hansel Robles was worth picking up everywhere after getting some looks over Taylor Rogers in the ninth inning for the Twins, but Rogers is still easily the better bet of those two. What Robles has going for him is that he’s allowed just one homer and nine hits in 20 2/3 innings, but he has the worst hard-hit rate of his career, he’s given up five barrels and he’s walked 13. I wouldn’t expect any long-term value there.
- Kendall Graveman’s injury opened the closer’s role back up in Seattle, and both Keynan Middleton and Rafael Montero have earned saves this week. Middleton was one of my favorite save sleepers going into the year, but his velocity was well down early on. It’s come back some sense, but he’s still been quite inconsistent there, and given that he’s a flyball pitcher and rather walk-prone, he doesn’t seem like a very good bet at the moment. I’d rather have Montero rostered for now. It’s also worth keeping an eye on J.T. Chargois, who is going very heavy with the slider this year and is getting results thus far.
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National League notes
- It took Keston Hiura just nine games in Triple-A to convince the Brewers to give him another chance. Now, he was incredibly successful in those nine games, hitting .438/.526/.906 with three homers, but even then, he struck out in 34% of his plate appearances. The Brewers figure it’ll be worth living with all of the strikeouts if his power is back. I’m not so sure that’ll be the case, but he’ll probably play better than Daniel Vogelbach has to this point. The potential for homers and steals makes him worth playing again in shallow leagues. If he hits .230, which is possible though far from a given, he’ll probably prove helpful.
- Unfortunately for the suddenly scorching Josh Fuentes, the Rockies got Brendan Rodgers back from the injured list on Friday. Rodgers has started three of the team’s five games since returning, going 4-for-11. Given that Rodgers has had durability issues since debuting in the majors, frequent rest is probably a good thing for him. However, he needs to be viewed as a regular on a Rockies club that’s going nowhere. Eventually, the Rockies are going to trade Trevor Story and install Rodgers at short and Ryan McMahon at second, opening up third base again. Until then (and still most likely afterwards), Fuentes really needs to be a backup. Rodgers will probably take a little while to really get going, but he could prove very valuable if he remains healthy.
- Matt Duffy is on the IL with a back strain and Nico Hoerner seems likely to join him after leaving Tuesday’s game with a hamstring strain, so the Cubs’ David Bote shouldn’t have to worry about playing time for the next couple of weeks. I still think there’s quite a bit to like here, even if Bote is hitting just .188/.264/.293 for the season. He’s actually striking out less than ever, and he continues to hit the ball pretty hard. Last week I mentioned that Tommy Pham was the league’s second unluckiest hitter, according to Statcast, behind only Matt Carpenter. Well, Pham’s luck evened out a bit recently, so Bote is now in that second spot behind the still untouchable Carpenter. I’m not saying he’s a must-grab guy in mixed leagues at this point, but those in need of help at second or third should consider him.
- I’m keeping the faith in Alec Bohm, too. He was more unlucky than bad in April, and while I don’t think that’s so much the case in a month of May in which he’s grounded into nine double plays, he’s still hitting the ball too hard to stay down like this all season. Bohm is tied for 20th in MLB with 64 balls hit 95 mph or harder. Too many of those have been hit on the ground to make him a top run producer, but more still should have gone for hits. The Phillies are staying patient, and they’ll probably be rewarded in the end. He should have some value as a corner-infield option in mixed leagues the rest of the way.
- It’s hard to believe that the Marlins still haven’t found a spot for Jesus Sanchez with Starling Marte (ribs) absent and none of their outfielders hitting particularly well. Sanchez has slowed down a little in Triple-A, but he’s still batting an incredible .449/.479/.884 in 73 plate appearances. He’s crushing both righties and lefties. Marte should be back next week or perhaps this weekend, but even so, Sanchez still could provide a boost while seeing time at both outfield corners. The Marlins are 26th in runs per game this month and could use the help.
- Tuesday’s game gave Reds manager David Bell a chance to show exactly how he wanted to use a fully rested bullpen in a close game. Tyler Mahle was strong for 5 1/3 innings, and then Tejay Antone was nearly perfect for 2 2/3 innings, facing the minimum eight batters. Bell then had to decide between Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims in the ninth. He picked Garrett, but he had Sims ready, and he went on to make the switch with two outs after Garrett gave up a solo homer to Josh Bell with one out (if not for the three-batter rule, Garrett probably would have been gone after the homer). That was the first run Garrett had given up in a month and no one else reached, so it would have been nice to have seen Bell show a little faith in him. However, since none of the Reds’ top three relievers had pitched in four days, Bell was especially aggressive. Given that Sims has struggled of late and also occasionally joined Antone in being used as a multi-inning guy, Garrett is starting to look like the better bet at the moment. Antone, though, rates as the most valuable reliever in the pen.
- Drew Waters was making a case for taking over in center field for the Braves a week ago, and now he might have a new path to the majors in light of Marcell Ozuna’s hand injury suffered Tuesday. It’s too bad then that Waters is currently in a 1-for-18 slump that’s dropped his OPS from 1.013 to .796. Waters is a fascinating long-term fantasy prospect because of his power potential and speed, but strikeouts are a problem for him and it’s unlikely that he’ll be ready to hit for average in the majors anytime soon. At this point, it seems unlikely that the Braves would promote him over Abraham Almonte or Travis Demeritte if they did call up an outfielder.