PLAYING TIME: Seasons of Bautista, Ortiz in jeopardy

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Bautista lands back on DL, joined by Cooper

Fantasy owners did not have much time to enjoy the return of Jose Bautista (OF, TOR), as the outfielder exited only his second game off the disabled list August 25 after aggravating his troublesome left wrist. At this point, owners would probably be best served not to expect any further production from Bautista this season, which will leave them pleasantly surprised if it comes.

Given that the team did not immediately recall Anthony Gose (OF, TOR), the primary beneficiary of Bautista's absence is likely to be Moises Sierra (OF, TOR), who from outward appearances has held his own in his first 60 MLB ABs. But Sierra's .283 BA has been built in part on a 36% h%, and his 0.13 Eye and 73% ct% suggest he may be a greater BA risk than it appears at first glance.

Bautista's injury should also further solidify the playing time of Rajai Davis (OF, TOR), as the Blue Jays' in-season deals of OFers Travis Snider (OF, PIT) and Eric Thames (OF, SEA) have left them with a severe shortage of corner outfielders to flank Colby Rasmus (OF, TOR). Unless the Blue Jays decide to look at younger players in September, Davis should see regular playing time and be a premium SB source for owners down the stretch. Despite what appear to be declining speed skills (Spd 112), the Blue Jays seem inclined to give him the green light any chance they get (66% SBO%).

There may also be some OF that come available for utility man Mike McCoy (IF/OF, TOR), though his offensive skills, beyond the occasional stolen base, have long since proven to be of little interest to fantasy owners.

Joining Bautista on the disabled list Sunday was David Cooper (1B, TOR), who is dealing with an upper back/neck injury. Before succumbing to the injury, Cooper had been performing about as expected: a decent BA (despite a 3% bb% and 0.18 Eye, thanks to an 84% ct%) with around league-average power.

With Cooper out, the Jays will again swap into the lineup Adam Lind (DH, TOR), who was activated from the DL after dealing with a back issue of his own. Lind had gone 6-for-11 (.545) with a HR in a brief three-game rehabilitation assignment for Double-A New Hampshire before the need for his services arose. Fantasy owners should expect nowhere near that type of average from Lind at the major-league level (xBA .232), though he could provide a bit of power if the back injury is truly behind him.

Red Sox mull shutting down Ortiz

Speaking of sluggers re-aggravating previous injuries, the Red Sox announced that David Ortiz (DH, BOS) might be shut down due to continued issues with his Achilles tendon, which flared up after Ortiz collected two hits and two RBI in his August 24 return to the lineup. Such a move would certainly make sense after the team waved the white flag with its blockbuster trade with the Dodgers, which could have the side benefit of freeing up money to allow Ortiz to finish his career in Boston. Ortiz's skills this season indicate that he has plenty left in the tank (.320 xBA, 174 PX), making such an investment an a 36-year old a bit more reasonable than it might otherwise be.

In Ortiz's absence, many of his ABs are likely to go to Mauro Gomez (1B, BOS) and Ryan Lavarnway (C, BOS), currently the team's backups at 1B and C behind James Loney (1B, BOS) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C, BOS), respectively. Not unlike the Jays' Moises Sierra (above), Gomez has a BA enhanced by a high hit rate (41%) through 44 ABs. And like Sierra, Gomez has struggled with his plate skills (4% bb%, 0.18 Eye) in his first MLB exposure. He has, however, shown good power in the minors, with 24 HRs in 387 ABs for Triple-A Pawtucket this season.

Lavarnway's power, meanwhile, has gone AWOL. After hitting 32 HRs in 435 combined ABs in Double-A and Triple-A in 2011, his total fell to 8 in 319 ABs for Triple-A Pawtucket this season. He has looked a bit lost since rejoining the Red Sox in mid-August, hitting .178 through 45 ABs, also with little power. Nonetheless, unless the power outage is indicative of a hidden injury, Lavarnway is likely to see plenty of playing time down the stretch as the Red Sox assess his role for 2013.

Orioles acquire Saunders

The Orioles added a veteran presence to their inexperienced rotation as they try to remain in the playoff hunt in Joe Saunders (LHP, BAL). Saunders had struggled mightily in his most recent start (3.2 IP, 9 ER) but otherwise has posted a respectable 4.17 xERA, 75 BPV and 62%/14% DOM/DIS. Saunders, who was last under 1.0 HR/9 in 2007, may, however, find Camden Yards not to his liking (+11% RH HR, +22% LH HR).

Saunders' arrival means that a handful of other young pitchers will battle for the team's fifth starter role until Jason Hammel (RHP, BAL), who is scheduled to throw a simulated game Monday then head out on a rehab assignment, is ready to return to the rotation. Having recently jettisoned the ineffective Tommy Hunter (RHP, BAL) to the minors, the Orioles have gotten PQS-5 outings from both Steve Johnson (RHP, BAL) and Zach Britton (LHP, BAL) in recent days.

Nonetheless, press reports suggest Johnson will not get another turn in the rotation, despite a 23/6 K/BB ratio in his first 17 major-league innings and two PQS-5 starts to his credit. Britton, meanwhile, has a mini-streak of two PQS-DOM starts of his own after some rough outings immediately following his mid-July recall.

The Orioles also recalled Jake Arrieta (RHP, BAL) to replace, at least temporarily, the player they traded to acquire Saunders, Matt Lindstrom (RHP, ARI). Despite being a former starter whose skills suggested he deserved much better results than he received earlier this season (3.74 xERA, 82 BPV), Arrieta is expected to fill a relief role for now.

AL short takes

Koji Uehara (RHP, TEX) has rejoined the Rangers bullpen after being out since June 9. On another team, a pitcher like Uehara might be a dark-horse candidate for saves, but in a deep bullpen like Texas', he is no closer than fourth in line for such a role. Nonetheless, if healthy, he should be a reasonable bet to provide a handful of good innings down the stretch and perhaps vulture a win or two. To make room, the Rangers demoted Tanner Scheppers (RHP, TEX), who showed good skills (8.1 Dom, 3.8 Cmd, 110 BPV) in his first tour of the majors, his numbers hurt by a 16% HR/F...

Monday will be the final day of the three-day suspension imposed on Alfredo Aceves (RHP, BOS), which the pitcher incurred for "conduct detrimental to the team" after an exchange in manager Bobby Valentine's office after the team's August 24 game, in which Andrew Bailey (RHP, BOS) was left in to close, something he did successfully. There has been no formal announcement of a change at the back of the Red Sox bullpen. By the same token, Aceves surely did not endear himself to his manager with his ill-timed tirade, which came on the heels of Aceves yielding five runs in an inning in a loss to the Angels the night before. Those in tight saves races may want to make a preemptive strike to acquire Bailey before the dust completely settles...

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Saunders trade locks in Skaggs' rotation spot

The trade of Joe Saunders (LHP, BAL) to the Orioles will ensure a regular turn in the Diamondbacks rotation for Tyler Skaggs (LHP, ARI). Skaggs was effectively wild in his major-league debut August 22 (6.3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 4 K), though as noted by BaseballHQ.com minor-league analyst Jeremy Deloney in Daily Call-Ups, control had been less of an issue en route to the majors than it had been for Skaggs' teammate, Trevor Bauer (RHP, ARI), who was unable to rein in the walks during a four-start trial earlier this season.

Given what Deloney described as Skaggs' "high floor," the 9C prospect is a reasonable gamble for those in need of wins and Ks down the stretch, despite his youth and inexperience.

In the Saunders deal, the Diamondbacks also added bullpen depth in the form of Matt Lindstrom (RHP, ARI), who brings decent skills to the role (3.72 xERA, 82 BPV), but not to the level that would pose a threat to closer J.J. Putz (RHP, ARI) or his primary setup man, David Hernandez (RHP, ARI), despite Lindstrom's previous late-inning experience.

NL short takes

The Mets on August 26 recalled Lucas Duda (OF, NYM) and immediately inserted him in LF. The 2012 Baseball Forecaster warned of Duda's "PT and regression risk," which has since come to pass. As his xPX suggested he might, Duda struggled to keep his power much above league average (PX 104), and his 69% ct% and .225 xBA indicate that he was somewhat lucky to keep his BA above .240. Nonetheless, Duda may play quite a bit down the stretch, particularly if the Mets are successful in moving an outfielder, something they seemed intent on doing by placing Scott Hairston (OF, NYM) and Andres Torres (OF, NYM) on waivers...

Jose Tabata (OF, PIT) is currently dealing with a groin strain, an injury that currently is not expected to prompt a DL stint. In the short run, Tabata's injury has moved Garrett Jones (1B, PIT) into the outfield, opening up 1B playing time for Gaby Sanchez (1B, PIT) and Jeff Clement (1B, PIT). Were Tabata to be sidelined longer, however, it might open the door for the recall of Alex Presley (OF, PIT), who has been swinging a hot bat at Triple-A Indianapolis of late (14-for-38, .368 BA, .478 OBP over his last 10 games)...


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