Nelson Cruz - People want to lump (at least before the season) players like Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis into the same low contact, high power group, but I wasn't buying it then and I'm not buying it now. Davis is a one-trick pony while Cruz is decidedly not, and like it or not there's a big difference between striking out 25% of the time and 35% of the time. While Davis has struggled mightily aside from the occasional blast, Cruz has been hot from the start this year. He blasted his 12th homer of the year yesterday in an 11-1 loss to New York, adding his 9th double and 8th steal for good measure. He finally looks like the player we expected to see with the Mets a few years back, and the tiny steps he's making in cutting down his swing with two strikes seem to be paying dividends in the form of a lower K rate despite a lower contact rate on the whole. I really think he could be a solid late-bloomer, and would likely not be a seller.
Phil Hughes - Hughes was outstanding last night in Texas, limiting the Rangers to three doubles and a walk over eight innings, striking out six. He didn't have a ton of command on his cutter, but his fastball (90-93 mph) and curveball both looked sharp all game long. I'd be very surprised if this outing didn't buy him a few more chances, with the next one coming at Cleveland on Sunday. The upside here is still significant.
Jose Bautista - Bautista has been getting more and more playing time at the expense of highly-touted rookie Travis Snider, which is probably not a good thing for those who remember Cito Gaston's treatment of Shawn Green when he was trying to establish himself in the bigs. It was one thing to hand Snider the larger share of a platoon with Bautista (which, coincidentally, is how Green's years started in 1995-7), but another thing entirely to bench him in favor of a utility player (which, of course, Gaston did to Green in each of those seasons with Robert Perez, Jacob Brumfield, and Orlando Merced respectively). Benching a budding star when he struggles in favor of a mediocre platoon player has become one of the things I associate with Cito, so it's no surprise to see Jose Bautista batting 268/444/317 against right-handers and getting more time. It won't last forever, but it could be enough to hamper Snider's career a bit. For the time being, Snider should be benched in all formats. Bautista is still a platoon guy.
Jeff Clement - This is a hopeful up arrow, because with Kenji Johjima hitting the DL for a couple of weeks with a broken left big toe and Clement batting .444 with 7 doubles in his last ten games in AAA....these are the dots I'm connecting anyway. Knowing the Mariners, they'll be perfectly content to muddle along with Rob Johnson and Jamie Burke, but I'm hoping they'll give Clement a few weeks (or more) to prove himself at the big league level, as he has nothing left to do in Tacoma. He's worth a flyer if he does get the call, but at this time I haven't seen a press release comfirming the roster move.
Reid Brignac - The Rays are such an interesting team, because even when they suffer important injuries to average-type players like Aki Iwamura, they have a number of potential candidates to replace them at various levels of the system. Willy Aybar and Ben Zobrist are both capable of filling in at 2B, and Aybar in particular is a guy that I think has been overlooked frequently in his career. Another option is Reid Brignac, a 2nd round pick of the Rays back in 2004. Brignac has struggled quite a bit his last few seasons in the minors, but 46 extra-base hits (including 15 homers) as a 19 year old in the Midwest League illustrates his power potential fairly well, and his career minor league batting average is a reasonable .282. His strike zone judgment has been spotty, but seemed to improve significantly early this season at AAA. I'm not sure what direction the Rays are going to go, but any of the three players could be a help to your team if they start to get a significant share of playing time. This is probably going to be a watch-and-see sort of a pickup situation, but Brignac is the one with the most long-term potential.