Notes: Sale, Baddoo, Bednar and More

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Wander Franco’s broken hamate bone ranks right up there with the most crushing injuries of the season; not only is it likely to result in at least a six-week absence, but it’ll likely sap into his power some when he does return, especially when he’s hitting left-handed. Perhaps he’ll be his normal self in September, but given the potential for reduced effectiveness, he’s droppable in shallow leagues at this point.

The Rays will likely mostly live with Taylor Walls at short while Franco is out. Unfortunately, Walls just hasn’t hit at all, but he does offer better defense than Vidal Bruján, who also hasn’t hit (and who, for some reason, has yet to play in a week since being demoted to Triple-A). Xavier Edwards has been performing well for Durham, hitting .324/.390/.479 in 36 games, and he’s back playing some shortstop after being limited to second and third base since the beginning of last year. Still, it’s probably not worth it for the Rays to take the hit defensively there.

American League notes

- While I’d really like to see what Jonathan Aranda could do for the Rays, I’m guessing he’ll be sent down when Brandon Lowe (back) comes off the IL this weekend. Aranda just isn’t an option at shortstop, and he’s below average at second and third. The bat is intriguing, though. In nine at-bats for the Rays, he’s had five hard-hit balls and just one strikeout. Unfortunately, seven of his eight balls in play were on the ground and the one that wasn’t -- a 390-foot barrel to center -- turned into an out.

- Chris Sale averaged 95.1 mph with his fastball in his season debut Tuesday against the Rays, his high-water mark since Apr. 16, 2019 against the Yankees. His velocity has long tended to fluctuate more than that of most pitchers, so perhaps it won’t stick around. But it does go along with him saying he feels stronger now than he has in years. If he can stay healthy -- and it is a big if at this point -- he seems poised to be a major difference maker in the second half.

- Akil Baddoo is back with the Tigers after hitting .438/.526/.750 with three homers in his final 13 games for Triple-A Toledo. The bad news there is that it’s probably going to cost Victor Reyes more playing time than Robbie Grossman. Reyes has quietly hit .295/.318/.381 in 110 plate appearances, and Statcast thinks he should be doing quite a bit better, giving him a .475 xSLG. Grossman, meanwhile, has seen his strikeout rate skyrocket to 30% this year, and he’s batting just .206/.307/.277 in 277 plate appearances. He deserves to lose his gig, but he probably won’t right now, since the Tigers can hope he’ll get hot and generate a little trade value prior to the deadline. As for Baddoo, he should have left field pretty much to himself, as it doesn’t appear that Austin Meadows will be returning in the near future. There’s the chance of some mixed-league value, but overcoming the miserable performance of the hitters around him will be difficult. He seems like a wait-and-see guy.

- I liked the Royals’ pickup of Drew Waters, Andrew Hoffmann and CJ Alexander from the Braves for the 35th pick in the draft. As a potential fourth starter, Hoffmann could make the deal worth it himself, but Waters still might materialize as something in a new organization. He’s actually rather reminiscent of the guy he might soon replace in Kansas City, Michael A. Taylor. Taylor has been an inconsistent major leaguer, but he’s stuck around and made a solid career for himself while striking out 30% of the time. Waters is always going to have contact problems, too, and his power hasn’t materialized as hoped, though there’s still time there. He’d be a liability if asked to take over in the event of a Taylor trade this year, but he has some long-term fantasy potential.

- With a .412/.500/.706 line and eight RBI in six games, Nolan Jones couldn’t be off to much better of a start for the Guardians. Because Jones missed the first two months and there with three outfielders performing well for Triple-A Columbus, I didn’t include him in the July rankings, which was a big mistake. He caught fire in the final few days of June and he’s kept it going in the majors, racking up four barrels already. Jones has always struck out a bunch, but it’s partly because he’s so patient at the plate. He does a nice job fighting off breaking balls from lefties, and he shouldn’t be limited to platoon duty by the Guardians. I don’t know that the batting average will be solid enough to give him lasting value in mixed leagues this year, but he’s worth riding for now.

- The Guardians also gave Alex Call the call for the first time. He was part of that stellar Columbus outfield, hitting .283/.418/.504 with a 48/48 K/BB ratio in 293 plate appearances and splitting time between all three spots. The Guardians would lose quite a bit defensively by playing him over Myles Straw in center field, and since they’re both right-handed hitters, there’s not really a good way to share playing time. It’d make sense to perhaps sit Straw and start Call when a groundball pitcher is on the mound, but the Guardians don’t really have any of those. Most likely, Call’s role will be pretty limited for now.

- The Rangers brought Sam Huff back to the majors when Mitch Garver (thumb) was shut down for the season on Monday. If they start giving him frequent starts at DH, he could be interesting as a second catcher in two-catcher mixed leagues. I had thought the Rangers might leave Huff in the minors to catch regularly for now and try Yohel Pozo instead, but Pozo in on the temporarily inactive list in Triple-A.

- If the Orioles want to actually make a run at a postseason berth here, they’re probably going to need to bring up DL Hall right after the break. Hall pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings for Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday, and he’s allowed just one run with a 30/6 K/BB ratio over 15 2/3 innings in his last three starts. The lefty isn’t ready to work deep into games in the majors, but he’d seem to be capable of contributing now.

- The Mariners’ fight suspensions have gotten Dylan Moore regular playing time lately, and, incredibly, he has a .718 OPS (110 OPS+) in spite of a .187 batting average. I don’t know that it’ll all work out in the end, but at this point, there’s a good argument for the Mariners playing Moore over Adam Frazier, and if that happens, lasting mixed-league value is very possible. He has 11 steals in his 156 plate appearances this season, and 32 in 533 plate appearances since the beginning of last year.

- Paul Sewald is just fine, but it’s worth wondering if Andrés Muñoz might take over as the favorite for saves in the Seattle pen in the second half. He’s been ridiculous lately, striking out 28 of the 46 batters he’s faced in his last 11 appearances. He’s allowed no earned runs during that span, and his FIP is -0.42. He needs to be rostered in mixed leagues.

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National League notes

- The Padres initially brought up Brett Rooker following Jurickson Profar’s scary head injury, but they reversed course Tuesday and opted to give 23-year-old Esteury Ruiz a chance. Ruiz is one of the breakout stars of the 2022 minor league season, hitting .333/.467/.560 with 13 homers and 60 steals in 77 games between Double- and Triple-A. He collected two soft singles in his major league debut against the Rockies, but he was caught stealing on his lone attempt. Ruiz should be well worth using in shallow leagues for as long as he has a fairly regular spot in the Padres outfield, and even if he turns into a backup, his speed would still give him value in deeper formats. Ideally, he’ll hit enough to force the Padres to keep playing him throughout the second half. My guess is that it won’t happen, but his fantasy upside is too enormous to leave him available on the waiver wire.

- I suspect that Robinson Canó will be a downgrade both offensively and defensively from Orlando Arcia at second base for the Braves, but we’ll see. Cano was hitting .333/.375/.479 in 104 plate appearances for the Padres’ Triple-A club, though that’s in a nice environment for offense and his 21% strikeout rate was far higher that what he’s typically done in the majors. He did hit a ball 112 mph in his Braves debut, so that’s something. He never topped 109 mph in 77 plate appearances for the Mets and Padres earlier this season.

- The Pirates are indicating that they won’t trade David Bednar, which fits into their long history of refusing to sell high and then later trading players for 20 cents on the dollar. Bednar is pretty great right now and might bring the most in return of any reliever potentially available, but there’s simply no telling what he’ll be in a year or two. It seems like a no-brainer to take advantage of his current market. If they change their minds, Wil Crowe is probably next in line for saves, though Yerry De Los Santos has emerged as an intriguing alternative. De Los Santos has posted a strong groundball rate with his mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider, and he’s always been good about avoiding walks, as well.

- I keep seeing calls for the Mets to promote Mark Vientos to take over as their DH, but while the 22-year-old Vientos has 15 homers in Triple-A, they come with a .255 average and a 32% strikeout rate. Granted that some of that was an awful April -- he’s hitting .287 since the beginning of May -- but it just wouldn’t seem to translate well to the majors. Maybe next year.

- Keston Hiura just started four straight games and is hitting a strong .238/.354/.451 for the Brewers, so it was quite a surprise to see him get sent down Wednesday morning. Still, his ridiculous 44% strikeout rate suggested that .800 OPS wasn’t going to stick around, and he’s looked shaky as a novice outfielder, something he can work on in Triple-A for the next couple of weeks.

- Even with C.J. Cron hurting and Kris Bryant absent, the Rockies are having Elehuris Montero play once every three or four days, which seems like an insane way to use a whiff-prone, 23-year-old power hitter. I don’t think Montero is ready for prime time, but I know this isn’t the way to find out. Even with Cron healthy, the Rockies still have the DH spot available if they want to use him more frequently. Montero has struck out in 15 of his 35 plate appearances as a major leaguer, but when he has made contact, he’s hit the ball an average of 94 mph, and he was batting .327/.395/.563 with 13 homers in 239 plate appearances in Triple-A. Montero is out of options next year, so the Rockies need to figure out whether he should be in their plans. That’s not happening as is.

- Next week’s All-Star break column will be my way-too-early 2023 rankings.