PT TOMORROW: AL East—De Leon working his way back to TAM

Tampa Bay Rays

With his second straight scoreless three-inning appearance at AAA-Durham May 15 — this one with five strikeouts — Jose De Leon (RHP, TAM) should be creeping back onto fantasy owners’ radar screens.

De Leon underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2018 after being hampered by a lat strain and forearm tightness in 2017. However, back in 2016, De Leon looked like he was on the cusp of making a mark in the majors, posting a 111/20 K/BB ratio in 86.1 IP for AAA-Oklahoma in the Dodger system in 2016. De Leon did struggle in 17 IP in Los Angeles (12 ER, 5 HR) before being shipped to Tampa in the offseason for Logan Forsythe (2B, TEX).

What role the Rays have in mind for De Leon remains to be seen, but he is on track to beat Tyler Glasnow (RHP, TAM) onto the active roster, so a spot start or two cannot be completely ruled out, especially since Tampa has to this point been a bit coy as to how exactly they intend to cover for Glasnow’s absence.

At a minimum, De Leon should compete with Ryan Yarbrough (LHP, TAM) to join the Rays’ stable of “bulk inning” relievers headed by Yonny Chirinos (RHP, TAM) and Jalen Beeks (LHP, TAM). As Yarbrough last year (16 wins) and Chirinos this year (5 wins) have proven, such a role is not without its fantasy value.

 

Baltimore Orioles

A situation that bears watching in Baltimore is the diminished velocity Dylan Bundy (RHP, BAL) displayed in his May 11 start. In that start, Albert Pujols (1B, LAA) launched a pair of home runs on fastballs that did not crack 90 mph, and by the fifth inning — Bundy’s last on the day — he was only hitting 87, prompting mound visits by his pitching coach and catcher.

After the game, Bundy insisted that his arm is fine, pointing to the fact that his last two pitches to Mike Trout (OF, LAA) were clocked at 91.8 mph, which is around where Bundy has worked the past few seasons, albeit with moderate success at best.

Still, the outing perhaps puts a slight damper on skills analyst Stephen Nickrand’s inclusion of Bundy in his list of “early deep league targets."

As has been well documented here and elsewhere, there are not a ton of great options waiting in the wings in Baltimore if Bundy is concealing an injury or just needs a breather.

In addition to Gabriel Ynoa (RHP, BAL), who has been rocked since being mentioned in this space last week (7 ER in 2.1 IP across two appearances), the Orioles also have in their bullpen Yefry Ramirez (RHP, BAL).

Ramirez had given up a total of 3 ER in 18 IP over four starts at AAA-Norfolk before joining the Orioles bullpen on April 29. However, he has yet to have a clean relief appearance in the majors

At AAA-Norfolk, 24-year-old Keegan Akin (RHP, BAL) is off to perhaps the best start with a 3.60 ERA and 45/16 K/BB through eight starts (40 IP). Given that this is Akin’s first exposure to Triple-A, the Orioles would probably prefer to have him continue his development for a little longer before making his major league debut.

Meanwhile, there was recently some mildly encouraging news about Alex Cobb (RHP, BAL) being close to resuming his rehabilitation from a back injury. But between Dan Straily (RHP, BAL) (7.16 xERA, minus-20 BPV) and David Hess (RHP, BAL) (5.44 xERA), there is no shortage of candidates for Cobb to supplant.

 

Boston Red Sox

From World Series MVP to the waiver wire in the span of a couple of months? Perhaps such an extreme fate does not await Steve Pearce (1B, BOS), but as Chad Jennings of The Athletic detailed recently, the Red Sox struggles against left-handed pitchers have persisted even as the team has climbed back into contention in the AL East after a dismal start, and at least some of the blame can be laid at the feet of Pearce and fellow RHB Eduardo Nunez (2B, BOS).

It is thus reasonable to speculate what will happen once Dustin Pedroia (2B, BOS) and Brock Holt (2B, BOS) are healthy enough to rejoin the Red Sox active roster.

Pedroia was expected to restart his rehabilitation assignment at AAA-Pawtucket May 17, though he may take the entire 20 days to ensure that his knee is going to hold up.

Now that Michael Chavis (2B, BOS) has put something of a stranglehold on the Red Sox second base job, it would seem that once he returns, Pedroia might be best suited to serve as only an occasional starter and right-handed bat off the bench — in other words, a role not unlike the one envisioned for Pearce and/or Nunez entering the season.

Pearce and Nunez have roughly the same salary, but Nunez’s defensive versatility — and the faint signs of life coming from his bat of late — may give him the edge to retain his roster spot, if it comes to that. However, Holt’s ability to play all over the diamond may also mitigate the defensive versatility factor.  

Indeed, if the Red Sox plan to maintain a three-man bench, both Pearce and Nunez could be at risk. If Chavis is, in fact, up for good, as most seem to believe, none of the other players on the roster with remaining minor league options appear to be candidates for demotion.

In theory, Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, BOS) might be the closest, given his continued offensive struggles. But between his defensive prowess and veteran stature, AAA-Pawtucket does not seem to be a likely destination for Bradley.

 

New York Yankees

The decision by Miguel Andujar (3B, NYY) to undergo season-ending surgery could not have come to a surprise to anyone who had been monitoring his status. As analyst Matt Dodge noted, Giovanny Urshela (3B, NYY) has a nice run of playing time set before him now, at least until Troy Tulowitzki (SS, NYY) or Didi Gregorius (SS, NYY), who is reportedly nearing appearances in extended spring training games, can make it back onto the field.

While there has been scant news about Tulowitzki resuming his rehabilitation since aggravating his calf earlier this month, it is perhaps mildly encouraging that, needing to clear a spot on their 40-man roster for Kendrys Morales (DH, NYY), the Yankees opted to move Jonathan Loaisiga (RHP, NYY) to the 60-day injured list and not Tulowitzki.

Thairo Estrada (2B, NYY) may also see a few more at-bats with Andujar out of the picture. Estrada has shown a surprising bit of pop in his first 31 AB of the season, and he has a bit of speed as well, though as Matthew St. Germain noted in his Daily Call-Ups write-up, whether he can translate into stolen bases is another matter.

Behind Estrada, the Yankees do have some depth in the minor leagues, not only Breyvic Valera (2B, NYY), as Dodge noted, but veteran Bradley Miller (2B, NYY). While Valera is of little interest to fantasy owners, given his offensive limitations, Miller does have a 30-HR season on his resume from the not-too-distant past (2016) and, at 29 years old, could potentially tap into those skills again, if the opportunity presents itself.

At AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Miller has been something of a three-true-outcome player, with 4 HR, 11 walks and 23 strikeouts in his first 75 plate appearances.

Meanwhile, the acquisition of Morales may be a signal that Greg Bird (1B, NYY) will not be returning any time soon, something manager Aaron Boone essentially confirmed recently, saying that Bird’s recovery from plantar fasciitis was “going slow.”

Morales may see steady playing time at DH in the short run, though he will eventually get squeezed once Giancarlo Stanton (DH, NYY) and Aaron Judge (OF, NYY), which in each case still looks to be a ways off.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays outfield — outside of Randal Grichuk (OF, TOR), perhaps — continues to be a morass of mediocrity. Toronto recently shuttled Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR) out to AAA-Buffalo and Jonathan Davis (OF, TOR) in, and the near-term plan seems to be to give Davis steady time in center field, with Grichuk shifting to right and left field being covered by a platoon of Billy McKinney (OF, TOR) and Brandon Drury (3B, TOR).

But through his first four games, Davis was 0-for-14 with five strikeouts, which perhaps portends another shakeup in this mix before too long.

The Jays seem disinclined at the moment to call up Cavan Biggio (2B, TOR), and if and when he arrives, it may be as a second baseman, given that Eric Sogard (2B, TOR) unsurprisingly seems to be cooling off (seven hits in last 47 at-bats through May 16) after a torrid initial stretch with the Blue Jays (17-for-41, 3 HR).

While it looked at one point that Lourdes Gurriel (2B, TOR) could be an option to return to Toronto as an outfield-leaning super-utility player, his bat has also cooled of late (5-for-33 in last eight games).

Beyond Gurriel at AAA-Buffalo, Anthony Alford (OF, TOR) is still scuffling with a season-long line of .186/.270/.354, though he currently has a modest five-game hitting streak.

Ben Revere (OF, TOR) has also begun playing for the Bisons, and while his first handful of at-bats have been uneventful, it is not hard to imagine the Jays grasping at Revere’s veteran stability if the 31-year-old shows he has anything left in the tank whatsoever.

When Revere was last seen in the majors in 2017, his contact and speed skills were intact. However, that was before he missed all but 40 games of the Triple-A season in 2018 with a broken foot, so there may be less upside to mined here, despite the relatively clear path to a playing time opportunity.

 


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