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Jo Adell keeps adding on to his homer total in Triple-A, hitting four in his first six games this month to put him at 15 in 134 plate appearances for the year. That comes with a 42/6 K/BB ratio and a .264 average, so I’m not so sure he’s truly much more ready for the majors than he was a couple of months ago. However, while his approach may need to improve, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen in Triple-A while he’s homering every other game. The Angels started playing him in center over the weekend after limiting him to the corners previously, which seems like a sign that he’s going to get the call soon. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have him stashed away in mixed leagues before it happens.
American League notes
- I was disappointed that the Mariners sent down Jarred Kelenic. Of course, it’s not a big deal if he’s brought back after crushing Triple-A pitching for 2-3 weeks, but we’ll see how that works out. Many were more understanding of the move, since Kelenic’s .096/.185/.193 line was atrocious. Nothing else was nearly so bad, though. His 28.3% strikeout rate wasn’t great, but his swinging-strike rate was significantly better than the league average. His barrel and hard-hit rates weren’t much below average. He was hitting more balls in the air than on the ground. If he was striking out a ton, that’d be one thing, but there’s just nothing there to suggest that he wasn’t going to come out of this if the Mariners stuck with him. And I think they would have done that if there weren’t also some economic incentives to sending him down.
- Replacing Kelenic is Dillon Thomas, a 28-year-old getting his first look in the majors 10 years after being drafted by the Rockies. He was hitting .338/.459/.625 with Triple-A Tacoma, which is both quite impressive and way out of line with anything he’s done before. I’m not expecting much here, but since he does have pretty good speed, he could be pretty useful in fantasy leagues if he surprises. He was 4-for-5 stealing bases for the Rainiers.
- Because of his history of control issues and his unexceptional swing-and-miss ability, I was lower than most on Framber Valdez before he suffered his finger injury this spring. Valdez, though, has looked better than almost anyone would have expected in his first three starts since returning from the IL. Even though he’s faced the Padres and Red Sox, he’s struck out 22 in 18 1/3 innings and gotten 35 grounders from his 46 balls in play. It helps his cause and that of the rest of Houston’s pitchers that the Astros are one of the league’s most improved defensive teams this year; getting rid of Josh Reddick has made a big difference, Myles Straw has been very good in center and both Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve have been healthier and better up the middle. I had Valdez 56th among SPs in last week’s rankings, but I’d put him 15-20 spots higher now.
- There’s no hard-and-fast Super Two deadline for arbitration, but we’re nearing the point at which the Rays should feel safe in promoting Wander Franco and/or Vidal Brujan without having to worry about them qualifying to make more than the major league minimum in 2024 (by which point they might be the game’s top middle-infield combination). One more week should definitely do it. Franco is 12-for-26 in June, giving him a .314/.369/.551 line overall for Triple-A Durham. Brujan, on the other hand, has cooled of late, though he’s still at .303/.402/.541 for the season.
- Jarren Duran rejoined Triple-A Worcester on Tuesday after his two-week stint helping Team USA qualify for the Olympics. While I’m sure Team USA would love to have him back for the tournament in Tokyo, it sure seems like the Red Sox are going to need him before then. Kiké Hernandez is still playing center field regularly, even though he’s down to .225/.282/.376 for the season. Marwin Gonzalez is also playing far too often for a .199/.283/.307 hitter. Duran’s speed could help make him a better fantasy option than Adell once he gets the call; he’s batting .273/.364/.610 with seven homers and five steals in 19 games for Worcester.
- It’s kind of funny that the Yankees’ quest to improve their overly right-handed, overly homer-reliant lineup was to promote Chris Gittens, but it’s hard to blame them for giving it a try. Gittens was hitting .283/.486/.585 with more walks (20) than strikeouts (16) in 18 games in Triple-A. It’s going to be awfully difficult for him to hit for average in the majors with the steady diet of breaking stuff he’s going to get, but he’ll draw walks and run into a few. I still think Mike Ford is the better choice for the Yankees, but his last 150 plate appearances dating back to last year just haven’t resulted in any production. It’s baffling how he could have had seven barrels and 18 hard-hit balls in 60 at-bats this year yet just eight hits.
- Miguel Andujar is the Yankees hitter to pick up in mixed leagues. Sure, he went 85 plate appearances without a walk before finally drawing one last night, but since the Yankees have been willing to play him anyway, that’s not a bad thing in most fantasy leagues (sorry OBP leaguers). Andujar’s Statcast numbers are as good or maybe better now than they were in his near-Rookie of the Year season in 2018, and he’ll probably offer quality power production if the Yankees stick with him. I’m not sure that’s really the best thing for the team, but I’d grab him for however long it lasts.
- Eric Haase couldn’t beat out Greyson Grenier for a backup catcher gig either of the last two years, but now he’s the Tigers’ best position player. Well, not really, but he does have eight homers in 78 plate appearances. Haase always seemed to have the makings of a solid backup, but he couldn’t break through with the Indians and the Tigers only called him up last month because both Wilson Ramos and Grenier were on the IL. It’d be a lot of fun to see him keep this up; while there’s little chance that he’ll continue to hit for average, it’s really impressive how he’s stung the ball.
- Barring a setback, Byron Buxton (hip) should rejoin the Twins this weekend. Max Kepler (hamstring) is due back next week. That makes this a big few days for Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach. Kirilloff has managed to hit .266 in 69 plate appearances since returning from his wrist injury, but he hasn’t homered. Larnach has been quite a bit more productive of late, going 9-for-25 with a homer and five walks in his last nine games. The Twins could keep both youngsters initially, but since both are subpar defensively, they might choose to send one down for a spell. Kirilloff could be vulnerable until he shows that his power is back.
- Michael Fulmer’s absence has Jose Cisnero in line to share save chances with Gregory Soto in Detroit. Of course, that’s not a team with many save chances to be divvied up, so it’d be nice to see the team just rely on Soto instead. While Soto has walked 17 in 23 1/3 innings, he still hasn’t blown a lead while picking up five saves and five holds to date.
- With Cesar Valdez having fallen out of favor, the closing gig in Baltimore is wide open for Hunter Harvey. Unfortunately, after looking very good in his first appearance last Friday, Harvey’s fastball was down about 2 ½ mph when he worked again two days later. Harvey is the Orioles’ most talented reliever, but his ability to hold up for any length of time remains in serious question. At the moment, the team’s two lefties, Paul Fry and Tanner Scott, look like the favorite for saves. I’ve long been a fan of Fry, but everyone here is a pretty fringy mixed-league option at the moment.
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National League notes
- Since the power production has been there, Freddie Freeman’s subpar start hasn’t gotten as much notice as some others. Still, after a nice run in the middle of May, he’s hit .156 over his last nine games, dropping his season average back down to .229. He’s also hit just one homer in his last 16 games. With his average having dropped so severely, one might think he’s pulling the ball too often. Freeman, though, actually has the lowest pull rate of his career. He’s hitting the ball into the middle of the field much more frequently, and while that kind of thing used to produce good outcomes, it’s not nearly as effective to hit the ball up the middle as it used to be. I still expect that Freeman will get back to being his usual self. His strikeout rate is great, and Statcast thinks he’s been very unlucky.
- It took just eight games for the Brewers to again sour on Keston Hiura at first base. There’s just no quick fix there, and he’s really in the same boat as Adell; he can crush in Triple-A even with his lousy approach, so how is he supposed to improve it there? With Kolten Wong also sidelined, the Brewers are stretched thin in the infield, leaving Daniel Vogelbach, Travis Shaw and Luis Urias all starting against righties. At least Urias is hitting, and while his shortstop defense left much to be desired, he’s fine at second and third. At this point, Urias should be looked at as the regular third baseman after Wong returns, leaving Vogelbach and Shaw competing for the first base gig. A cheap upgrade at first base would be nice. C.J. Cron would make a lot of sense.
- The Padres got greedy by having him open the sixth inning, but Dinelson Lamet looked great for five innings Tuesday. His fastball velocity still hasn’t been quite what it was last year, but he’s consistently in the mid-90s anyway, and it helps the fastball that hitters have to focus so much on his slider, which is again looking like one of MLB’s best breaking balls. Whether he stays healthy is anyone’s guess, but I’m happily starting him now.
- Tony Gonsolin (shoulder) will make his season debut Wednesday against the Pirates after allowing four runs over 10 1/3 innings in three starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City. If his shoulder holds up, he should be a top-40 SP the rest of the way.
- The Giants are bringing up 25-year-old Sammy Long to start Wednesday after he posted a 1.99 ERA in six outings between Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Sacramento. In 22 2/3 innings, he’s struck out 37, walked five and surrendered no homers. It’s his big curveball that has allowed him to rack up most of the strikeouts. I’m not sure that he has enough to go with it to make it as a starting pitcher in the majors, but he’s quickly turned into quite an interesting prospect.
- Wilmer Flores should be useful in deeper mixed leagues while Evan Longoria (shoulder) is sidelined for the next month. Unlike some other Giants, he’s disappointed in the power department this year, but he’s still not striking out much and he should be able to drive in some runs while hitting in the middle of the lineup. He’d have to start hitting some homers to help in shallower leagues.
- I’m not a believer in Patrick Wisdom’s star turn. Feel free to ride him while he’s hot, but don’t take long to bail on him after a few hitless games. Wisdom has always had power, but there’s good reason that he was a career .244 hitter in the minors.
- With Josh Harrison having faded in a big way and Starlin Castro never having gotten anything going in the first place, the Nationals might have to try Carter Kieboom at third base before long. I don’t really think Kieboom is the answer, but he’s hitting .290/.476/.516 in his last nine games for Triple-A Rochester and the bar is set awfully low at this point. Calling up Luis Garcia for second base is also an option, though his two brief stints in the majors this year didn’t go very well.
- Last week was terrific for Lucas Sims, who picked up as many saves (three) for the Reds as he did while spending the first two months as a co-closer. Tejay Antone, who also had three saves between April and May, set him up all three times. It’s the first time since the very beginning of the season that it’s looked like the Reds have had a true pecking order. Still, even though Antone will likely continue to be utilized as more of a setup man for now, he should remain useful in mixed leagues.
- I’m not sure the Diamondbacks will ever have another save opportunity, but I do prefer Joakim Soria to Stefan Crichton as a closer option at this point. That’s mostly because Crichton’s velocity is down 1.5-2 mph this year, leaving him with just an 18% strikeout rate. The Diamondbacks could and should have done better than Soria when they decided to sign a cheap closer over the winter, but while he’s not what he used to be, I’d trust him over Crichton at this point.