There are two huge stories in the baseball world this Monday. The Diamondbacks are calling up the next great strikeout hurler while the Red Sox shipped out of town one of the faces of their franchise.
BAUER TO GET CALL
Trevor Bauer will make his big league debut in a few days for the Diamondbacks. In fact, he’ll start this Thursday against the Braves due to the injury to Joe Saunders (strained shoulder). Here are the facts with Bauer.
He is 11-1 with a 2.23 ERA in 16 starts at Double and Triple A.
He leads all minor league hurlers with 116 strikeouts.
Does this mean he will have success immediately?
“Is he ready? How do you know?” manager Kirk Gibson said. “There are certain things he does great. We all know he has great stuff. His last two starts, he has had 100 pitches in five innings.‚ÄĚ
That last point is one I’d like to hit on again (as I did a few weeks ago). The stuff is outstanding, no one doubts that, but he’s nowhere near efficient with his pitches now, and just like Gibson said, there have been times where he has failed to go deep into games because of a rapidly increasing pitch count (it should also be noted that the club has tried to keep his pitch count under 100 in each game, and there is some thought as well that the club might limit his overall innings this seasonas well). In eight starts at Double-A Bauer walked 4.84 batters per nine innings, and in seven starts at Triple-A that number was 4.29. If he’s walking four and a half batters per nine in the big leagues, success may be more difficult to attain.
Before we go too nuts here, one little bit of addedc perspective. The D’backs have a full rotation when Saunders is healthy. Given that he’s likely to be back before the All-Star break, what will the team do at that point? Will they run with six starters? Highly unlikely. Will the demote Saunders to the bullpen? It’s certainly possible given that Bauer has better stuff and an appreciably higher upside, but don’t overlook a few salient facts. (1) Saunders has made 174 big league appearance and they have all been starts. (2) Saunders is no great shakes, but over his last 46 starts he has a 3.62 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, not set the world on fire numbers but also not awful. (3) There is always a chance that the club could demote Bauer for some more seasoning. Look, I know you don’t want to hear that after you’ve been sitting on Bauer for months, but it’s still possible, especially if he has a couple of rough outings.
I think Bauer should be added in pretty much every format out there on the off chance that he hits the ground running and dominates like he has been in the minors. At the same time, I’m not certain that he will be able to live up to expectations (see Matt Moore this year with the Rays).
YOUKILIS DEALT TO WHITE SOX
The Kevin Youkilis era in Boston is over. Here’s the deal that went down on Sunday.
Red Sox receive: Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge
White Sox receive: Kevin Youkilis and $5.5 million
Obviously the Red Sox just felt it was time to move on from Youkilis with Middlebrooks proving his worth on the field and Youkilis looking pretty lost (he’s hit .163 since June 2nd). Stewart and Lillibridge are nothing more than AL only options, that didn’t change with the trade, but what about Youkilis? You cam here for my thoughts, so you’re going to get them.
The deal from Boston to Chicago is not a magic elixir that will lead to success. Do I think the move will have a beneficial impact on Youkilis’ psyche? I absolutely think that is possible. At the same time I can’t quantify that. Who’s to say that he won’t put more pressure on himself to prove that the Red Sox made a mistake or to prove to the White Sox that he is still an elite level player (I hate to invoke his name here, sorry all, but remember what Adam Dunn did last season in his first year in Chicago)? There’s no way anyone can know (I’ve already seen so many people banking on Youkilis being an All-Star caliber player tomorrow simply because of the trade, and that’s sheer folly). I’m also not convinced that Youkilis is totally healthy anyway, and that isn’t going to change just cause his jersey will have a different color on it.
This brings up the main point of contention with Youkilis. Is he merely in a slump? Is he hurt? Has he someone lost his skills overnight?
Youkilis has always known how to work the strike zone. In addition to being a .287 career hitter, his OBP sits at an impressive .388 as he is no stranger to the walk. There shouldn’t be a reason that at 33 years of age he’s lost his strike zone judgment. For his career Youkilis owns a 12.4 percent walk rate. That number has been at least 13 percent each of the past three years as well. This season, it’s down at 8.5 percent, the worst mark he’s ever had. He’s compounded that oddity by also striking out more frequently than ever before with a 23.6 percent K-rate (career 18.3 percent). As a result his 0.36 BB/K mark is about 50 percent of his normal (0.68). I have to think that all of this improves as it’s totally out of line with his career.
I am concerned by the massive ground ball increase he’s show this year. A lifetime 36 percent ground ball fella, that mark has shot up to 50 percent this year, an unheard of level for a player who had never been to even 42 percent in any of his seasons. I’d have to think this is a sample size issue with Youkilis, but it is also possible that he’s been dragging the bat through the strike zone a bit either because of age or injury, and that has contributed to the trend. I kind of discount that though given that his line drive rate is less than a percentage point off his normal pace while his HR/F ratios is actually a point above his normal rate.
So let’s talk brass tacks here.
Youkilis, in this correspondents opinion, still has the talent to be a high level producer at the big league level. There are certainly some warning signs and concerns with how has performed in his 165 plate appearances this year so it’s not all sugarplums and lollipops. There’s also the fact that, after playing in an average of 143 games a season from 2007-2009, that he appeared in an average of just 111 games the past two years and just 42 of the 72 games the Red Sox have played this season. That’s obviously a trend that should, at bare minimum, raise some eyebrows. Still, I’m a believer. I was recently called out on Twitter for my continued support of Youkilis but the facts as I see them lead me to that conclusion. To summarize, I don’t think the move to Chicago will all of a sudden transform Youkilis into his All-Star self, but I’m also not willing to let him waste away on the waiver-wire because I truly believe that he has within him the talent to be a top-10 fantasy third baseman the rest of the way, even if the risk of him doing is pretty darn high.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray’s baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.