DIVISIONAL OUTLOOK: NL East—Beachy nearing return

Atlanta Braves

Brandon Beachy (RHP, ATL) made his second minor league rehab start on May 29. He is expected to make three or four more appearances before the Braves will have to decide where he fits on the roster. Julio Teheran (RHP, ATL) would be the obvious choice to be bumped from the starting rotation, but after allowing 13 ER over his first three starts (16 IP), the 22-year-old has settled down. In his last six starts, Teheran has a 2.25 ERA, 5.0 Cmd and four quality starts in 40 IP.

As mentioned last week, 55 of Beachy’s 77 minor league appearances were as a reliever, so he has experience in that role. However, the team has given no indication that they’re considering moving him to the pen.

One option might be to trade Paul Maholm (LHP, ATL) for bullpen help. The 31-year-old is in the final year of a very reasonable contract ($6.5 million) that would make him a very appealing option to a team in need of starting pitching help.

Another option could be moving Kris Medlen (RHP, ATL) back to the bullpen, but that seems unlikely. His phenomenal 2012 campaign should have earned him the right to stick in the rotation.

It seems likely that the team will soon revert to a seven-man bullpen, so a position player, probably Reed Johnson (OF, ATL) or Gerald Laird (OF, ATL), figures to be the odd man out whenever that change is made. Luis Ayala (RHP, ATL) hopes to be ready to rejoin the team shortly. He made five minor league rehab assignments earlier this month before being sent to the team's spring training complex on May 27 for additional strength and conditioning work.


Miami Marlins

Derek Dietrich (2B, MIA) could be playing his way into a larger role. Brought up from Triple-A on May 8 to replace the injured Donovan Solano (2B, MIA), Dietrich has a .731 OPS, 3 HR, 7 RBI and 1 SB in 59 AB and has reached base in all but two of his first 16 games. Still, he’ll need to improve on his 71% ct% and 0.18 Eye going forward.

Meanwhile, Solano, who has been out of action since May 6 with an intercostal strain, is expected to begin playing in rehab games this week.  Prior to the injury, Solano had a .278/.328/.324 with 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB and -6 BPV in 108 AB.

As we warned back in February, Placido Polanco (3B, MIA) has provided next to nothing offensively so far this season. A .538 OPS, 0 HR, 7 RBI and 1 SB surely wasn’t what the team envisioned when signing the 37-year-old to a one-year, $2.5 million contract in the offseason.

Both Dietrich and Solano have played third base in the past, so it will be interesting to see how the team handles the situation at 2B and 3B once Solano returns. One would think Dietrich is in good position to see his share of action as long as he continues to produce.


New York Mets

According to multiple reports, Zack Wheeler (RHP, NYM) will soon be promoted to the big leagues. We have said before that it would be a surprise if Wheeler weren’t up by mid-June and reports suggest he could arrive around June 6-11.

Wheeler, who is ranked by BaseballHQ.com as the team’s #1 prospect with a 9C rating and the #11 prospect in MLB, has posted a 4.13 ERA, 9.1 Dom, 4.0 Ctl and 1.38 WHIP in 52.1 IP for Triple-A Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League this season. After a rough April during which the 22-year-old dealt with a bad blister on his right middle finger, he has rebounded with a 3.22 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 22.1 IP this month. Mets GM Sandy Alderson has said that Wheeler will be limited to 180-185 IP this season.

Jeremy Hefner (RHP, NYM) figures to lose his spot in the starting rotation to make room for Wheeler. Hefner hasn’t pitched badly (4.30 xERA, 1.27 WHIP, 6.5 Dom, 3.5 Ctl and 44 BPV) since stepping into the rotation after Johan Santana (LHP, NYM) was lost for the season, but he was essentially serving as a placeholder until the team was ready to promote Wheeler. He is expected to reprise his role as long reliever and “sixth starter.”


Philadelphia Phillies

Injuries to Roy Halladay (RHP, PHI) and John Lannan (LHP, PHI) have depleted the team’s starting rotation, but help could soon be on the way.

Lannan, who has been on the disabled list since April 18 with a strained quadriceps tendon in his left knee, was scheduled to throw to live hitters on May 29. Barring a setback, he could rejoin the team in the next few weeks. At that time, either Jonathan Pettibone (RHP, PHI) or Tyler Cloyd (RHP, PHI), probably Cloyd, will head back to Triple-A.

Carlos Zambrano (RHP, PHI), signed to a minor league contract earlier this month, made his first start for Single-A Clearwater on May 28. He has the ability to opt out of his contract by July 1 and the team should know by then whether or not he’ll be of any use to them.

Unless there are other injuries to the starting rotation or further issues with Lannan, the team would be better off continuing to go with youngsters such as Pettibone, Cloyd or eventually Adam Morgan (LHP, PHI) than bothering with Zambrano.


Washington Nationals

Kurt Suzuki (C, WAS) has done little to take advantage of increased playing time in the absence of Wilson Ramos (C, WAS). Suzuki has an anemic .530 OPS with 0 HR, 3 RBI and -22 BPV this month. Heading into the season, the catcher position appeared to be a strength of this team, but due in part to two stints on the disabled list for Ramos, that has not been the case (.675 OPS, 4 HR, 16 RBI, and 2 SB through the first 51 games of the season). Ramos, who was placed on the disabled list May 16 with a left hamstring strain, may be out of action until late June.

Jhonathan Solano (C, WAS) has served as a backup while Ramos has been out, but he is not an offensive minded player (.639 OPS and 22 HR in 1,879 PA over eight minor league seasons).

There is no clear in-house option that could potentially serve as an upgrade so, barring a trade, the team will have to hope Suzuki and a healthy Ramos will be enough. Ramos has actually hit pretty well in between trips to the disabled list (.745 OPS, 2 HR, 6 RBI in 48 AB) this season so it’s not as though they’re in dire straits. When at full health, the duo of Ramos and Suzuki complement one another well as Ramos is more offensive minded whereas Suzuki is very good defensively and skilled in handling pitchers.

Of course, if a few of the team’s other lineup regulars weren’t off to slow starts, the offensive production from the catcher position would probably go largely unnoticed.

Click here to subscribe

  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.