Posted: Thursday April 19, 2012 4:45PM ; Updated: Thursday April 19, 2012 4:45PM

MLB mailbag: Early results not always indicative of season ahead

Story Highlights

Justin Morneau has been hot lately but has hit only .235 over last 80 games played

Carlos Marmol's 11.73 strikeouts per nine IP rate ranks fourth all-time in baseball

Since 2006, Jose Valverde's K/9 rate has decreased in every subsequent season

By Ray Flowers, BaseballGuys.com, Special to SI.com

Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
After playing fewer than 81 games in each of the prior two seasons, Justin Morneau has four homers in his first 11 games of 2012.
After playing fewer than 81 games in each of the prior two seasons, Justin Morneau has four homers in his first 11 games of 2012.
Al Bello/Getty Images

I'm Ray Flowers, co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Each week I'll be here answering questions that have been sent to me at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

Justin Morneau just hit the wire. Drop Dexter Fowler, Kendrys Morales or Billy Butler to get him?
-- @JoshNarva

I'm cheering on Morneau as much as the next guy, but let's slow our roll here a bit. Morneau is playing defense, which is great news, and he has hit three homers in his last two games. All of that is well and good. But someone needs to mention that the last time this guy had 300 at-bats was 2009. It should also be noted that over his last 80 games, Morneau has hit .235 with eight homers and 36 RBI. I'm all for hoping he will return to being the 20-100 man he was from 2006-09, but he'll need a lot more than two strong games to convince me he is back to that level.

The obvious move would be to drop Morales. Both play first base and both are coming off injury. But think back three weeks. Is there anyone, and I mean any one of you, who drafted Morneau ahead of Morales? Are you going to let 11 games, the total each has played this season, change the opinion that you held three weeks ago?

Should I drop Carlos Marmol for Santiago Casilla, Fernando Rodney or Jim Johnson?
-- @harveynuts

More panic in the streets when it comes to closers, but I can't really blame anyone. (Did you see the crazy news that Brad Lidge is dealing with vertigo? It's seems like anything could sideline a ninth-inning arm at this point. I fully expect one of the closers in the game to go missing in the Bermuda Triangle at some point in the near future).

Quickly, my thoughts on each.

Johnson has been stable, after some spring concerns, converting all five of his save chances. His K-rate is uninspiring (5.77 per nine for his career), ditto his K/BB (2.01), but he keeps the ball on the ground (57 percent). He could offer a 2011 Brandon League-type effort if everything goes just right.

Rodney, how can I put this? He stinks. From '07-11, he's compiled 270 games worth of pitching, had an ERA of 4.42, a WHIP of 1.50 and posted a pathetic K/BB of 1.57. He wasn't league average in any of those three categories the past five years. Good luck with him holding down the ninth inning job all year.

Casilla has concerns as well, primarily his lack of pinpoint control. For more, see The On Deck Circle.

Keep Marmol. Not only does he have the longest track record of ninth-inning success among this group, he's also the most dominating option with an 11.73 K/9 mark that ranks fourth all-time. With Kerry Wood dealing with arm woes, who would the Cubs turn to -- Shawn Camp or James Russell? Please.

With RP being a crap shoot so far, does the value of Jose Valverde increase?
-- @Phastball

It depends on how you judge the value of Valverde. Is his job safe? Absolutely. Is he coming off a perfect season with 49 saves in 49 chances? Without question. At the same time, he didn't pitch near as well last season as most people assume when they look at the save conversion rate. (1) Since '06 his K/9 rate has gone down every season. Last season was the first time in his career that he struck out less than a batter per inning. (2) Never a paint-the-corner artist, Valverde has walked an average of 4.39 batters per nine innings the past two years, more than a full batter worse than the league average. (3) His career GB/FB ratio of 0.96 is less than the big league average (about 1.10), another mark against him. I'm not predicting failure from him in '12, but realize he isn't the pitcher that he was a few years ago even if he's been so impressive at converting those save chances of late.

What do you think about Tommy Milone? What's the comparable ceiling for this guy?
-- @tallen1984

Scouts like Milone, but at the same time they've always been a bit reluctant to fully push him as an elite prospect since his pure "stuff" just isn't that dominant. However, he had one of the more remarkable seasons of any minor league hurler last year when he went 12-6 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.03 WHIP over 148.1 innings at Triple A. While those are good numbers, here is the remarkable part -- he struck out more than a batter per inning, 155 in total, while walking 16 batters -- 16. That's 16 walks in 24 starts, leading to a 9.69 K/BB ratio. Amazing.

Milone knows how to pitch, but he still throws 87-88 mph, and there is no way he's going to be able to post numbers in the bigs like he did last season in the minors. The best-case scenario for him this year is something akin to what Mark Buehrle accomplished last year (13-9, 3.59 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 109 Ks).

Nolan Reimold or Matt Joyce for a fourth OF?
-- @gtrevino1975

I've been getting a ton of Reimold questions thanks to his impressive start (.341/.357/.707, four homers, eight RBI), but his success isn't shocking. In the 2012 BBGuys Draft Guide, Reimold was picked as a potential breakout performer you could grab on the cheap. If he gets daily playing time, something he has received in the early going, he could hit 25 homers and steal 15 bases (he is dealing with neck spasms and a hammy injury, though, so there are a few health woes to worry about). He may never be more than a league average type in batting average, and nothing in his K-rate, BB-rate, BABIP, GB/FB, LD-rate says he is anything but blah, but those counting numbers could be solid if he gets 500 at-bats.

The real question here is do you go with the hot start and potential of Reimold and forgive the fact that he's been lingering as a letdown for the past few years, or do you turn to Joyce, who had a nice season last year when he posted a fantasy line of .277-19-75-69-13. In essence, Joyce was the type of player last season that many "think" Reimold can be. It's not like Joyce has a long track record of success compared to Reimold, but I'm a fan of been there, done that. I had Joyce ranked a few spots ahead of Reimold in my rankings before the season started, and Reimold is bit beat up right now physically, so I'm still leaning in the direction of Joyce right now.

Mat Latos was just dropped. I have Ted Lilly, Matt Harrison and Brandon Beachy. Do I drop anyone for him?
-- @GetARealJob111

Since '07 Lilly has the fifth-best base runners per nine inning (10.40) mark of any pitcher in baseball who has thrown at least 750 innings, and he's one of just 14 pitchers who has an K/9 mark of 7.50 in four of the last five seasons, minimum 150 IP a year (he just missed making it 5-for-5 last year with his 7.38 mark).

Beachy has a stupendous arm. In 168.2 career innings he has a K/9 rate of 10.30 and a K/BB rate of 3.33. Those are elite numbers. I'm not letting a young hurler with numbers like that go.

If you do want to drop someone for Latos, and you should add Latos and not panic with his poor performance to date (0-2, 8.22 ERA, 1.89 WHIP -- it's been three starts people), drop Harrison. For more on why you should move on from Harrison see Quick Starting Pitchers.

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.

 
SI.com
Hot Topics: NBA Playoffs NHL Playoffs Chris Johnson Jameis Winston NFL Draft Michael Sam Aldon Smith
TM & © 2014 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines, your California privacy rights, and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint