Monday, August 4, 2008

The Buzz Around the Bullpen: Can Kershaw Live Up to Expections in His Second Shot at the Bigs

Welcome back to another edition of the “Buzz Around the Bullpen”. With the passing of the trade deadline, we are coming down the stretch in what looks to be shaping up as a great playoff race. Other than the AL West, each division could potentially be decided in the final week of the season.

While some teams made news by making some deals before the deadline, I believe the real story were the teams that chose not to make a move. Amongst the teams that I feel should have made some sort of move were the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Mets. The Rays could have used another right-handed bat and the Mets could have used another quality starter. Now with the injury to Billy Wagner, the Mets are probably kicking themselves for not getting a little help in the bullpen as well. These next two months should be interesting to see which teams can distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack.

Big Hits

Eddie Kunz (RP, New York Mets): If you have no idea who this guy is, you are not alone. Chances are the rest of the owners in your league may not know either so use this as your opportunity to grab him before they do. My feelings are that Billy Wagner is done for the season. His forearm tightness is a telling sign of the dreaded tear of the ulnar collateral ligament. I have a feeling you are going to be hearing about Billy Wagner needing season-ending Tommy John surgery. If Wagner is in need of Tommy John, it will extremely interesting to see how the Mets fill their closer role. It is quite possible Kunz will be thrust immediately into that role. At Double-A this year, Kunz recorded 27 saves with an ERA of 2.79. He is owned in less than 20% o f leagues and is definitely worth a flier. The opportunity to snag a closer on a winning team is well worth dropping one of your bottom-end starters or middle relievers.

Anibal Sanchez (SP, Florida Marlins): This past week Sanchez returned to the rotation with an impressive start. It was Sanchez’s first start since recovering from shoulder surgery which kept him off the mound for the past 15 months. While Sanchez may be somewhat inconsistent because of the extended amount of time he was off, he will definitely have some fantasy value down the stretch. When he was healthy in 2006, Sanchez won 10 games in only 17 starts. As the Marlins continue to battle for a playoff spot, I look for Sanchez to step-up with some quality starts. He’s still available in over 60% of leagues and I would definitely take a chance on him. Just like Kunz, his upside is too much to ignore and he will definitely give you more than most other pitchers that are currently available on the waiver-wire.

Clayton Kershaw (SP, Los Angeles Dodgers): If you were looking to pick-up that young stud that would carry your pitching stud for the rest of the season, you probably were obsessed with Kershaw in June.. Unfortunately Kershaw struggled and was unable to come close to the expectations that most owners had for him. He was eventually sent back to the minors but was once again recalled in late July. Since his recall, Kershaw has been much more consistent. It seems as though owners are still hesitant to jump back on the bandwagon because he is still available in around 50% of leagues. There is no need to wait any longer on adding Kershaw to your roster. Like we’ve talked about with the two prior players, Kershaw’s upside is too much to pass up. He still has the potential to be dominant and he could play an integral role in the Dodgers playoff run. The saying is that “big time players make big time plays” in big games. Don’t be surprised if Kershaw’s stuff gets better when there is more on the line. If he’s still available in your league, jump all over him.

Big Miss

Ryan Franklin (RP, St. Louis Cardinals):
In case you missed it, Ryan Franklin came back down to earth in a hurry these past two weeks. Before relinquishing the closer role back to Jason Isringhausen, Franklin blew three consecutive saves. While Franklin may be able to help you out in the Holds category, his time as the closer is over.. Even if Isringhausen struggles, look for the Cards to stick with the veteran for the remainder of the season. Surprisingly, the Cards are in the middle of the race for the NL Central Division with the Brewers and Cubbies. If you have two guys that are both struggling, I would imagine they’ll go with the guy who has 293 career saves. For Franklin owners, you got your money’s worth but I believe the run is over. Franklin is the type of guy I’d be willing to drop for one of the players mentioned above.

As with any SportsJudge articles, please feel free to post any questions or comments. Until next time, keep your ears open for the Buzz Around the Bullpen.

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Matt Cohen said...

While I hope that Kunz is the closer of the future, Jerry Manuel yesterday in an interview said he doesn't want to rush Kunz and will use Heilman as the closer until Wagner returns.