PT TOMORROW: NL West—J. Urias news could alter rotation plans for LA

Los Angeles Dodgers

Though currently atop the NL West standings, the Dodgers received some unfortunate news this week when it was revealed that Julio Urias (LHP, LA) was arrested for suspicion of domestic battery, as discussed here by Jock Thompson. Urias had made four starts as a member of the rotation to begin the season, but has been working out of the bullpen (five appearances) for the last few weeks. The expected scenario—of Urias reentering the rotation at some point in the season—could be in doubt, which if nothing else solidifies Ross Stripling (RHP, LA) as the next up in the event of an injury.

It’s too early to fully assess the fallout of the news, but missing Urias for an extended period of time could also open up innings for Caleb Ferguson (LHP, LA), who got the nod (51 pitches) when the team needed a spot starter in mid-April. Ferguson has been recovering from an oblique injury in recent weeks, but is expected back this weekend. Across two seasons at the MLB level, Ferguson owns a 3.48 ERA, 10.6 Dom (12% SwK) and 2.9 Ctl (60% FpK) in 62 innings.

Dustin May (RHP, LA) could also become an option at some point this year, although he might be brought up to work out of the bullpen—in much the same way Ferguson was last year and Walker Buehler (RHP, LA) before that. May has never pitched above Double-A, but he is currently flashing impressive stuff, with a 3.41 ERA and 40/11 K/BB in 31.3 IP for AA-Tulsa. He was ranked as the team’s #4 prospect and received a 9D rating in the Minor League Baseball Analyst, where he was noted as having “the size and stuff to be an impact #2 starter.”

Also of note is the fact that the team’s #10 prospect, Mitchell White (RHP, LA), was recently promoted to Triple-A. White had some durability and command concerns entering the season, but he’s gotten off to a strong start, with a 2.10 ERA and 37/7 K/BB for AA-Tulsa.

 

San Francisco Giants 

The Giants continued their active ways when it comes to roster turnover, claiming Aaron Altherr (OF, SF) off waivers this past weekend.

Altherr, 28, had spent his entire career with the Phillies, earning some buzz at various points based on stretches of power/speed production that he’s never quite been able to sustain over a full season. On the plus side, he’s hit 36 HR and stolen 21 bases in 984 MLB at-bats, and has proved capable of playing all three outfield positions. But the biggest issue for Altherr has been contact rate, which bottomed out at 63% and led to a demotion midway through last year. Nonetheless, he’s just a year removed from his 72% ct% in 2017, a year in which he hit .272 (.269 xBA) with 19 HR and 5 SB. He was off to a dreadful start (1-for-29, 9/1 K/BB) this year, so he’ll look to get a fresh start with his new organization.

For now, Altherr figures to serve as a backup outfielder, with recently promoted Mac Williamson (OF, SF) getting more-or-less one last shot to prove he can stick at the big league level. Prior to his call-up on May 7, Williamson was hitting .378 with 9 HR and 22 RBI in 23 games, and has gotten off to a decent start (5-for-24, 1 HR, 6 RBI) in his first 6 games this season while typically hitting 5th in the order—which could change once Buster Posey (C, SF) returns from his concussion-related absence.

The other avenues for Altherr to gain playing time would at the expense of either Steven Duggar (OF, SF) or Kevin Pillar (OF, SF). Duggar could make sense as a possible platoon partner, but he is one of the few prospects in the organization and has been heating up of late, with four multi-hit games since the beginning of May. Pillar, while he has cooled off after the scorching start to his Giants tenure, is still contributing with the glove while enduring some bad luck in the hit-rate department (23%).

 

San Diego Padres 

The crowded Padres outfield has had a somewhat consistent look in the last week or so, with Hunter Renfroe (OF, SD) forcing his way into the lineup thanks to his undeniable power and some recent clutch performances. Renfroe really emerged during the second half of last season, with 22 HR in just 264 at-bats, posting a career-best 74% ct% during that time. And so far this year (116 AB), his skills look strikingly similar to that 2H stretch, with a 6% bb%, 72% ct% and 44% FB%. He may be a longshot to reach the “UP: .270-40-100” mentioned in the Baseball Forecaster, but he could nevertheless be in for a productive year, especially if he sees an uptick from his current 23% h%. 

Renfroe’s increased playing time has led to Wil Myers (OF, SD) seeing more time in center field, where he’s started 14 of his 32 games to open the year. Myers has been striking out at a career-high rate (61% ct%), but his playing time shouldn’t be in jeopardy, and he continues to find ways to provide value (7 HR, 4 SB) from a fantasy standpoint.

This biggest PT loser with this new configuration has been Manuel Margot (OF, SD), who’s played exclusively center field so far this season. Margot’s bb% has continued to slip, now sitting at just 2%, and he’s hitting the ball in the air at what would be a career-high 47%. Those looking for a silver lining could point to his perfect 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts, an improvement after his unsightly 11-for-21 performance on the bases last season.

The team also has Alex Dickerson (OF, SD) on the roster. Dickerson once flashed intriguing skills (9% bb%, 83% ct%, 105 xPX) while popping 10 HR in 253 at-bats back in 2016, but injuries have kept him out of action in recent years. With just 2 hits in 11 at-bats since his May 3 activation, he figures to be a bench piece unless/until things change.

On the injury front, Franchy Cordero (OF, SD) continues his recovery from an elbow strain that has sidelined him since April 6. He’s begun swinging a bat, but so far the progress is slow in the making. When healthy, Cordero still owns an intriguing power/speed skill set, although his path to fantasy relevance remains cloudy for 2019.

 

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have faced an almost-comical stretch of left-handed pitching lately, with their last game against a right-handed starter coming way back on May 5. This has led to some interesting developments in terms of the starting lineup, including the shifting of prized offseason acquisition Daniel Murphy (1B/2B, COL) to the bench for five of those seven games against LHP. Murphy missed almost a month with a finger injury, and then sat out May 2nd and 3rd with back tightness. There’s been no mention of him still feeling the effects of the back injury, but it’s also worth noting that he owns a career .279 BA against LHP and hasn't typically been viewed as a platoon bat.

Manning 1B in Murphy’s stead has been Mark Reynolds (1B, COL), the 35-year-old who signed a one-year deal with the team this offseason. Always known for his power, Reynolds has hit 4 HR in 77 at-bats and owns an impressive 167 xPX. He’s taking walks (14% bb%), but a dreadful 58% ct% suggests his .195 BA isn’t necessarily due for improvement. While he figures to retreat to the bench vs. RHP, the team currently seems intent on finding ways to get him in the lineup vs. LHP, where he has consistently hit in the heart of the order.

If Reynolds’s contact woes become too much of a liability and the team continues to shield Murphy from LHP, one option could be to move Ian Desmond (1B/OF, COL) back to first base. This scenario hasn’t been mentioned as a possibility, but could be interesting given the emergence of Raimel Tapia (OF, COL), who has regularly found himself in the lineup and currently owns a .298/.336/.596 line with 5 HR and 1 SB.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks 

Opening Day first baseman Jake Lamb (3B, ARI) has been on the shelf since April 5th with a quad strain, although he’s been moving closer to a return—now reportedly pain-free and eyeing a rehab stint before long.

Lamb missed most of last year with a shoulder injury, so there were some concerns entering the year as to whether he’d be able to recapture the form he displayed in 2017—when he smashed 30 HR with 105 RBI in 536 AB. Prior to this year’s quad injury, he’d started to get looks at 3B to make room for Christian Walker’s (1B, ARI) then-hot bat, so it will be interesting to see how he fits into the mix upon activation from the IL.

As of now, the playing time sounds like it will be spread around fairly evenly, with manager Torey Lovullo indicating that Walker, Wilmer Flores (1B/2B, ARI), and Eduardo Escobar (3B/SS, ARI) would each see an extra day of rest here and there.

For Walker’s part, he has continued hitting the ball with authority, as evidenced by a 179 xPX and 146 HctX. As noted by Brandon Kruse here, however, the lofty .300 BA he owned at the beginning of May was a bit uncharacteristic and perhaps unsustainable given his history of mediocre plate skills. So far in May, he’s seen his bb% drop from 11% to 8% and ct% drop from 66% to 61%. These are admittedly small samples, but worth noting when assessing how much leash Walker might have in the lineup.

Flores, who is already splitting time at 2B, has been serviceable if unspectacular, hitting .270 (.268 xBA) with 2 HR and 14 RBI in his first 122 AB. Escobar, on the other hand, has been firmly stationed near the top of the batting order while handling defensive duties at the hot corner. Escobar can play other positions around the infield though, so the team will have the ability to move him around when Lamb earns starts at 3B.


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