Arizona, which looked like the team to beat for the first few weeks of the season, is scuffling badly as the month of May draws to a close. The club has dropped five straight games to slip to 30-25, allowing the middling Los Angeles Dodgers to slowly trim the division lead down to 2.5 games. Hell, even the woeful Washington Nationals took one from the D-Backs Friday; this, after the club was swept by the San Francisco Giants. Yes, the Giants.
The news got worse this week when Eric Byrnes was diagnosed with strained hamstrings in both legs. There’s real doubt now whether he’ll be able to come off the DL – the first such stint of his career – when eligible on June 11. After his big 2007, Byrnes has never been able to get going this year. He hurt his left hammy in Spring Training, and the right hammy injury resulted from him overcompensating. The team will shut him down completely for the next week or so to see if rest helps. At this point, in a shallower leagues, you’re probably best off dumping Byrnes and seeking an alternative.
Reliever Brandon Medders, who’s numbers have gotten worse each year since his impressive rookie showing in 2005, was DFAed last week with Doug Davis returning to the team. Medders cleared waivers, and will attempt to get his career back on track at Triple-A.
After his very fine power-speed explosion as a rookie in 2007, Chris Young has slipped this season in both departments. The good news is, he’s getting on base more often, and that’s leading to way more runs. He’s also been far more productive, so while owners are probably moaning about his lack of steals (he’s actually on pace for more homers this year, but his overall slugging is down), more runs and ribbies is helping to ease the pain. Overall, I’d say Young is making progress this season, but I would still love to see him get his BA someplace where it won’t be killing us, say, even up just the .250 range.
Jeff Salazar has benefited the most from Byrnes’ injury. While he’s not hitting quite as well as last year, he’s also become more patient, and I think that will pay off in time. He’s starting against righties in Byrnes’ absence, while Chris Burke gets the call vs. lefties. At this point, Salazar is someone to watch in NL-only leagues.
Burke, meanwhile, has been a complete waste of space. He has all of three extra-base hits in 86 plate appearances this season. Do you need to hear more? After enjoying somewhat of a breakout in 2006, it’s been downhill for Burke, and if he doesn’t get his act together soon, I’d suggest that he’ll find himself out of a job entirely.
As it is, there’s talk that Chad Tracy may see some action in left field as well as the club tries to find ways to keep his, Conor Jackson’s and Mark Reynolds’ bats in the lineup. Tracy, you may recall, played right field down the stretch in 2005 as the team needed to get Tony Clark action at first base to keep his potent bat in the lineup. So I’d keep an eye on Tracy. Not only is he hitting extremely well since his return this week, especially in the power department, but he has a chance to be one of those super-sub types, perhaps qualifying at third base, first base and the outfield. That would make him a very attractive waiver wire target in NL-only leagues.
After a sluggish start, Randy Johnson is really coming around. He’s 3-0, 3.19 with 34 Ks against just five walks in 31 IP this month. In his last start, the Big Unit tied Roger Clemens for second place on the all-time strikeout list. Hey, just 1,042 more punchouts to match Nolan Ryan.
Juan Cruz’s lack of control is skewing his results this year, but how about those 13.5 Ks per nine innings he’s averaging? If you can suck up that WHIP, he’s a nice target for a deep NL-only league that tracks holds.
What’s wrong with Brandon Webb? Two straight losses? What a stiff! Cut the bum. Uh, yeah. Okay, so he is human after all. I love the fact that he’s improved his control after issuing more walks than usual in 2007. So he’s hit a bit of a rough patch. Big freaking deal. This dude is holding righties to a .186 BAA. Think about that for a second. Webb will look to reverse his mini-skid against the Nats Saturday night. Smart money’s on that happening.
Believe it or not he’s still available in some shallower leagues out there, shocking news as Orlando Hudson is enjoying a career year. He’s on pace for a career high in dingers, is getting on base at a higher rate than ever before and has improved his strike zone judgment to career-best levels. My one and only complaint about him continues to be the relative lack of steals for such a speedy guy. I’ve never understood why the O-Dog wasn’t a more prolific base stealer. Last year, he reached double digits for just the first time in his career, and unless he starts running more very soon, he won’t repeat that feat this year.
If Edgar Gonzalez continues to struggle – he’s actually been worse out of the pen than he was in the rotation – the club may want to have a look at Connor Robertson, the other pitcher acquired alongside Dan Haren in the big trade this winter. The 26-year-old righty has five wins out of the Tucson bullpen while holding opponents to a .229 BA and averaging almost a strikeout per inning. He got roughed up Friday night, but had been on a nice groove before that.
While Miguel Montero’s role this year has become more of a clear-cut backup to Chris Snyder, it’s worth noting that he has caught Randy Johnson’s last seven starts. Montero hasn’t really done anything to deserve losing PT; in fact, he’s continued to get better each year. While he’s failed to go yard after smacking ten dingers last season, Montero is still displaying gap power and is batting .300. In my books, that deserves more PT, but unless Snyder, who is also enjoying a career year, gets hurt or goes into the tank (in fact, the exact opposite is happening, as Snyder is blazing this month after a sluggish start), I can’t see Montero having any value. Perhaps he’ll be trade bait at the deadline, as ‘Zona is sure to be a buyer this season.
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