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Roto Riteup: March 22, 2013

Spring is a jerk. He (or she) is constantly running late. That is the last time I trust my weather report to a groundhog.

On today’s agenda:
1. Jordan Lyles to Triple-A
2. Mike Olt to Triple-A
3. The Brewers first base options

Jordan Lyles to Triple-A
Once upon a time in the not-so-distant past, Lyles was a fairly highly regarded prospect. He appeared in Baseball America’s Top 100 pre-2010 seasn and even cracked the Top 50 pre-2011 list. Since those excellent rankings, Lyles has reversed his course from being an up and comer to having doubts and questions surrounding him. Still just 22 years old (he actually doesn’t turn 23 until after this season ends), Lyles already has 235.1 big league innings under his belt. They have come in 94 and 141 inning stints between 2011 and last season. He sports a career 4.53 FIP and 4.11 xFIP, which given his age is quite fair. Unfortunately for Lyles, his career 5.20 ERA is something that just won’t get it done. To say that Lyle’s results have been disappointing would be fair, but how has his process been? His fastball velocity actually increased from 2011 to 2012, as per his PITCHf/x and his F-Strike% has been above average both seasons. Where it begins to go sideways for Lyles is his SwStr% and his corresponding strikeout rate. He gets a little homer happy at times too, already allowing 34 home runs in his young career — equaling a 13.5% HR/FB%. His LOB% has been below average each year as well. Despite struggles in some parts of his game. Lyles is still a solid prospect-aged player with more than a full season of major league experience to his name. As he continues to adjust to hitters and refines his slider and curve ball in the minors, I expect him to be a solid SP4 as he matures. If your league mates have given up on him (and many fantasy owners already have), maintain your faith. He’ll never get you tons of strikeouts, but he doesn’t walk many batters and his LOB% and HR/FB% should come back down to earth as well. Keep an eye on him for later in the season when the inevitable injury strikes your pitching staff. He should be able to be grabbed without much fuss in the waiver priority or without breaking your FAAB.

Mike Olt to Triple-A
Many words have been spilled regarding the Texas Rangers’ problem of too many good players and too many good prospects. Olt has found himself without guaranteed playing time with the big league club, and is thus sent down to play everyday in the minors. One could imagine him working on cutting down his strikeout rate, but at this point in his prospect trajectory he is pretty well set on being himself. Not to say that being himself is a bad thing, as his power and patience is something that every team looks for in a corner infielder. He’ll have to produce plenty of walks and power (the power is there and The Ballpark plays to his skill set very well) but a strikeout rate north of 25% is something that was only “achieved” by 16 qualified hitters last season. The league average strikeout rate last year was 19.2% for non-pitchers and Olt is well beyond that mark. In his prime seasons it isn’t hard to imagine 30+ home runs out of him with plenty of runs and RBIs along the way. For 2013, look for Olt to be brought up slightly later than other top prospects — barring an injury on the big league club — as he already has 40 PA’s to his name and the Rangers may want to tread lightly with his service time. Even still, he is worth a roster spot right now.

The Milwaukee Brewers first base situation
Tuesday afternoon Mat Gamel was placed on the 60-day disabled list to free up a roster spot for the Brewers. With Corey Hart still coming back from knee surgery and not expected to be back in the majors until mid-May at the earliest, the Brewers have pressed Alex Gonzalez into service at first base. Given that the Brewers have decreased payroll from 2012 to 2013 as attendance dropped, I would be surprised to see them go out and acquire someone, almost as surprised as seeing Alex Gonzalez start more than 10 games at first base. I personally believe that Hunter Morris needs more time in Triple-A, but his power is for real. If Morris’ timeline is accelerated to get Gonzalez out of the lineup, expect a decent amount of home runs but a lot of strikeouts. I see Morris as Mark Trumbo 2.0, so take that how you will. All things being equal, Morris should post better numbers than Gonzalez, but that doesn’t mean the Brewers will bring him up. The Brewers should be able to tread water effectively enough until Hart returns to not warrant a rash move. Keep an eye on Morris or add him to your watch list, as Gonzalez shouldn’t be blocking anyone at first base. Service time and a relatively small amount of readiness are the only things holding Morris back.