Ryan Hanigan (C-CIN) – Hanigan was 1-for-2 with a walk Sunday after not starting the previous two days after a 3-for-3 effort. Hanigan is now batting a fine .338/.428/.404 in 126 at-bats with a very impressive 12:22 K:BB (1.83 EYE). With Joey Votto back and raking at first base, Dusty Baker can’t use Ramon Hernandez at first, leaving the .252/.333/.368 hitting Hernandez as the team’s #1 catcher. The Reds can buy out Hernandez’s $8.5 million contract next year for $1 million, so if the 40-40 Reds decide later this month that it’s time to look towards 2010, Hanigan’s value could improve. Hanigan is already 28, so his window is short, but it’s hard to argue he’s NOT an upgrade offensively to Hernandez right now.
Jonathan Broxton (SP-LAD) – Broxton looks unhittable in close to 90% of his appearances, though the day he was named to his first All-Star game, things just fell apart. The Dodgers won the game 7-6 on James Loney’s go-ahead homer in the 13th inning Sunday in San Diego, but with Billingsley cruising into the ninth with a 6-1 lead having thrown less than 90 pitches, a win appeared inevitable. Billingsley though allowed a HR and double before surrendering to Broxton who promptly recorded out #1, walked Scott Hairston, and struck out Adrian Gonzalez. Then game this sequence: RBI single, BB, RBI BB, 2-run single / throw out at third base. It was ugly for Broxton, who managed to throw just half of his 38 pitches for strikes. He didn’t pitch on Saturday, and though he is better at home and in night games, there is no real explanation here. Broxton’s fastball checked in at 92-100 on Sunday, so there’s no fear of an injury. After the game, Broxton said simply, “I didn’t have it”. I’m inclined to believe him.
Ricky Nolasco (SP-FLA) – Nolasco continues to be the Nolasco we got used to last year, evening his record at 6-6 after holding the punchless Pirates to three hits over eight shutout innings on Sunday. Nolasco walked two and struck out 12, leaving him 4-1 with a 1.4 ERA and 45:7 K:BB in 41 innings since returning from a quick Triple-A stint on June 7. Nolasco’s last three starts have come against the Pirates, Nationals, and Orioles, which can’t hurt, but I still think it’s safe to say “he’s back”. Nolasco’s recent exploits have dropped his ERA from 9.07 to 5.42 and for the year, it’s hard to argue with an 82:20 K:BB in 84 2/3 innings, so predicting anything other than a strong second half for Nolasco appears unwise.
John Baker (C-FLA) – Baker was 2-for-4 with an RBI double Sunday, leaving him at .251/.329/.424 in 191 at-bats as the Marlins’ primary catcher this season. Baker is off to a good start this month, going 5-for-12 with three doubles and a homer in three games, a good thing considering he batted just .184 in June and could have started losing more than just at-bats versus lefties to Ronny Paulino. Fortunately for Baker and his fantasy owners, Paulino is in a 3-for-27 skid himself. Baker’s contact rate (73%) isn’t ideal, but he’s a solid #2 catcher with the power he’s showing.
Kyle Blanks (OF-SD) – Sunday’s trade involving Scott Hairston to the A’s had some implications beyond Hairston cutting into the playing time of Oakland’s current slate of outfielders. Of course finances likely played a large role, as Hairston was actually making seven figures this year ($1.25 million – too pricey for the Padres) and as he was batting .299/.358/.533 this year, he stood to be in line for a nice raise in arbitration for 2009. Anyway, Padres bashing aside, this frees up time for Blanks and perhaps Will Venable to share time in the outfield with Chase Headley and Tony Gwynn Jr. Considering Venable is batting just .135/..238/.216, look for Blanks to be the biggest beneficiary though Blanks is batting just .182 himself. Blanks though has far more upside than Venable and with the Padres firmly looking towards 2010 (realistically probably 2012), look for Blanks’ playing time to increase. The only caveats here are that Brian Giles should be back from a knee injury after the All-Star break and neither Blanks nor Headley would be an ideal fit defensively in right field. This also takes away any doubt that Gwynn is the everyday CF, though with a .374 OBP, there should be no doubt regardless.
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