Last Call on Carson Smith (and other notes from 6/6/15)

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After being scored upon in 9 of his last 13 appearances and collecting 2 blown saves and 2 losses in the process,  Fernando Rodney was not the arm called upon on Saturday evening to protect a lead in the 9th inning for the Mariners.  Instead, manager Lloyd McClendon turned to the youngster Carson Smith who had no issues with a clean inning of work with one strikeout to earn the first save of his career.

I have been singing this tune for weeks now as reported in detail on May 23 in “BLOW-PEN Report:  Fernando Rodney and His Broken Arrow,” and even before that I issued some tidbits on the situation.  Rodney just has been horrible this season and it was only a matter of time before Smith was given a chance to close out a game.  However, unlike the situations in Miami and Texas that I also reported on in the BLOW-PEN Report before those closer situations changed, I think that Rodney will get a chance to try and prove himself again.  The fact that McClendon stuck with Rodney for so long in his time of struggle suggests to me that he really prefers Rodney as his closer and/or does not think that Smith is prepared to be thrusted into that role full-time in just his first full season in the Majors.  And as I suggested in the BLOW-PEN Report, it could be a case of Rodney tipping his pitches, which is something that would be fixable if that’s what the ultimate issue is.  But whether or not Rodney does work out the kinks to earn his manager’s trust back is certainly far from likelihood.

For now, I think that Rodney will see one of the next save opportunities and if he does well then he will continue to see more until he blows another.  But obviously Smith needs to be picked up in all league formats as he has very dominant stuff to be very successful as a Major League closer.  If not right now, then Smith should assume the role as closer for the Mariners later this summer when Rodney could possibly get traded if the Mariners are not in contention, or the beginning of next year.  So for keeper and dynasty leagues, he should have been grabbed a while ago.

Smith currently has a 1.08 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, and 29 K/5 BB in 25 IP.

Let’s check out the rest of Saturday’s slate.

Bryce Harper – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Harper has slowed just a tad from his torrid pace, but still is strong with a .333 AVG, 19 HR, and 46 RBI after going yard on Saturday.  He’s done a great job all season long despite missing key players around him such as Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth, and with slumping guys like Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman.  He is carrying this offense, and though it seems like it’s taken him a while to come around, remember that he is only 22 years old.

Joe Ross – 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K with the L.  Joe is the younger brother of Tyson Ross, and Tyson, who pitched the previous night, actually was in attendance for his little brother’s MLB debut.  In 2011, Joe was a 1st round pick by his brother’s team, the Padres, but he was sent over to the Nationals this past off-season.  He got the call up despite never having pitched at AAA and he held his own for the most part on Saturday.  In AA this season, he has a 2.81 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 54 K/12 BB in 51.1 IP, so it would appear that he does carry some nice potential.  He might get some additional starts while Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister are sidelined, so he may be worth a stream in the right matchup and for dynasty leagues he is surely a target.

Jorge Soler – Soler landed on the DL a couple days ago with an ankle injury, but he is expected to be back the day that he is eligible.  Soler is not living up to expectations this season with just a .265 AVG, 4 HR, and 19 RBI in 49 games.  He also has been striking out a bunch at 32.2%, which is something that I’ve been noting.  Perhaps with the time off, he will be able to clear his head and work on his plate approach.

Jason Hammel – 8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K with the W.  Hammel worked around two solo HR to turn in yet another strong outing as he continues his great season.  Check out “U Can’t Touch This, Hammel Time!” for more information on why I think that his success is sustainable.

Pedro Strop – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K with the SV.  Hector Rondon began the 9th inning in a save opportunity for the Cubs, but he was pulled after walking the leadoff hitter.  There appeared to be no apparent injury to Rondon, so the fact that he had such a short leash in this game is very significant.  Strop closed out games last season for the Cubs and he may be in line for more chances as manager Joe Maddon could be in the process of rearranging his bullpen.  However, as I have stated before, Maddon has been known to do some interesting things with his bullpens in the past, so this could also mean nothing at all.  If Rondon is going to eventually get the boot, Travis Wood as a lefty has to also be considered as a dark horse for saves in some situations.

Jose Reyes – 2 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 R, 3 SB, 1 BB.  It never fails that after I bash a player that he then goes on to have a big game the next day.  Reyes swiped three bags on Saturday to bring his season total to 7 in 27 games.

Edwin Encarnacion – 1 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K.  Encarnacion appeared to be very uncomfortable after some of the swings he took on Saturday as he kept grabbing his shoulder.  He stayed in the game, but was eventually pinch hit for.  Then we come to find out that after the game he received a cortisone shot for his shoulder.  His teammate Jose Bautista has been dealing with a shoulder injury as well, so it must be something contagious!  An ailing shoulder could be an explanation for Encar’s poor production of late, so hopefully some days off and the cortisone shot will help him get back on track.

Drew Hutchison – 6.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K with the W.  For the first time since after his first start of the season, Hutchison has his ERA below 5.00.  It’s been a long time coming but he’s getting back on track.  He is now 5-1 with a 4.91 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 59 K/17 BB in 69.2 IP.

Yordano Ventura – 3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K with the L.  “Ace” Ventura — who is not really an ace — continues to deal with over a 1 MPH loss in velocity on his fastball this season.  He had an injury scare last season with his arm, so this could be a case of him flaming out.  I’ve said it before, I didn’t like him coming into the year, and he is doing nothing to suppress those thoughts as he got knocked around by the Rangers on Saturday.  Hope for the best if you have him, but prepare for the worst.

Matt Garza – 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K with the W.  A fine outing for Garza and he now sits with a 5.09 ERA.  He started out last season terribly as well before finishing the season with a 3.64 ERA.  So there is hope for a turnaround, but don’t get too excited.

Brian Dozier – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R.  Bull Dozier-ing.  He’s not on the same 20/20 pace this season because he only has 3 SB, but with 11 HR and 47 runs scored in 54 games, there’s no complaints here.  He’s scoring runs 56% of the time that he’s on base, which is just an outrageous rate though.  So he’ll tail off in that area soon, but he’ll still be one of the top second baseman no matter what.

Nori Aoki – 3 for 3, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB.  The guy just doesn’t strikeout with just a 7.2% strikeout rate, so it’s no wonder that he’s finally enjoying a season where he’s hitting over .300 at .324.  He’s also chipping in nicely in the SB department.  Aoki is an underrated player and fantasy asset.

Hanley Ramirez – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R.  Hanley turned it up a notch and has his AVG back up to a much more respectable .272.  He’s obviously a top shortstop when he’s healthy, but next season he’s going to lose a whole lot of fantasy value when he’s no longer eligible at SS.

Joe Kelly – 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the W.  Kelly turned in a good one on Saturday as he must be feeling the pressure of rookie Eduardo Rodriguez and his stellar performance.  Rodriguez though clearly has the better outlook going forward and Kelly has got to show a lot more if he wants to stick around in the rotation.

Danny Salazar – 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K with the W.  Back on track after being bothered by a minor injury to his finger the last couple of starts.  Expect more domination from Salazar going forward.

Matt Kemp – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB.  Kemp finally busted out of his slump on Saturday, but we have to remember that it is only one game.  So let’s see how he does in the next few games.  Nonetheless, it is a very encouraging sign.  He’s now batting .256 with 2 HR — hardly what the Padres imagined when they traded for him, but the Dodgers have to be smiling about Kemp’s struggles and the emergence of Joc Pederson in Kemp’s place.

Yonder Alonso – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R.  If Alonso hadn’t had a DL stint then he could very well be on his way to a breakout season.  Currently he is hitting .363 with 2 HR and 16 RBI in 30 games, but what’s most impressive is that he currently has more walks than strikeouts.  He’s showing some maturation as a hitter and if he can start taking advantage of Petco Park like his teammates have then he will be a very underrated option at first base.  *Fun fact: Alonso and Manny Machado are brothers-in-law.

Andrew Cashner – 5.2 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 5 BB, 2 K.  Whoops, well that’s now two straight games that he’s been hit hard, but in this one he didn’t rack up double digit K’s to go with the beating.  This surely isn’t what I had hoped for when I recommended Cashner as a buy option and then subsequently trading for him myself.  His great strikeout rate though still suggests that he has better days ahead of him if he can avoid the DL.

Wilin Rosario – 3 for 5, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 1 K.  Rosario has been a forgotten man behind the plate in Colorado, but he’s collecting at-bats while getting some action at first base alongside Ben Paulsen in the absence of Justin Morneau.  Rosario has always crushed the ball on his home turf, like most Rockies players, so he is a great streaming option at catcher or for DFS anytime he is playing at home.  He hit 2 HR in Saturday’s game to boost his season line to .311 AVG, 4 HR, and 12 RBI in 33 games.

Cameron Maybin – 2 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB.  Maybin keeps on getting on base and stealing 2nd.

Julio Teheran – 7.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K.  I have documented Teheran’s struggles this season, which stem from falling behind batters early in the count and then issuing a lot of walks.  After his last start I said that this start against Pittsburgh should probably be better for him as the Pirates are not a patient hitting team, and it ended up being only his second start this season where he did not walk a batter.  He was cruising along for the most part, but came a little unraveled in the 8th inning.  It was still an encouraging start and he now sits with a 4.87 ERA and 1.45 WHIP.  His next start against the Padres also projects as a good spot for him to limit the walks and continue a turnaround to his season.

Gregory Polanco – 3 for 4, 2 RBI, 1 R.  Polanco was back in the leadoff spot again for the second straight game, but this time Josh Harrison was in the lineup also.  So Polanco may have earned his leadoff spot back, but probably only against righties as he is not hitting lefties worth a lick this season.

David Price – 9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 11 K with the W.  Price went the distance to improve to 5-2 with a 2.70 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 74 K/20 BB in 83.1 IP.  This is what the Tigers needed to stop an 8-game slide.  It also helped the Tigers that they were facing a lefty in John Danks since they are struggling so much versus right-handed pitching.

Garrett Richards – 0.2 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 1 K with the L.  Richards was going to be hard pressed to duplicate last season’s success, but after Saturday’s beat down by the Yankees, he has a 4.14 ERA and 1.31 WHIP while also seeing a big decrease in his strikeout and a big increase in walks.  His command and control have just not been there and he also is experiencing almost a 1 MPH decrease in his fastball velocity.  The big jump in velocity last year was one of the primary reasons for his success, so it’s no surprise that he is more of a mediocre pitcher so far this season with the drop in velocity.  He should have better days ahead of him, but I would not consider him a strong buy candidate.

Yasiel Puig – 1 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K.  Puig finally made his return from the DL after missing 6 weeks with a hamstring injury.  Puig’s return could mean for a decrease in playing time for Alex Guerrero as Andre Ethier figures to shift from right field to left field and Puig will resume his regular right field duties.  However, Guerrero should still at the least be in there against left-handed pitching since Ethier doesn’t hit lefties well.

Clayton Kershaw – 8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K with the W.  That’s now two dominant outings in the last three games for Kershaw, with a solid game at Coors Field sandwiched in between.  So it looks safe to say that Kershaw is over his early season hiccups and he is now 5-3 with a 3.36 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 101 K/19 BB in 80.1 IP.

Jake Lamb – 0 for 1, 1 K.  Lamb made his return from the DL and made a pinch hit appearance late in the game.  However, he should resume third base duties for the D-Backs in at least a platoon role versus righties (and maybe more).  That is unless he begins to struggle a lot at the plate, then Yasmany Tomas will begin to steal more playing time away from him there.

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