MLB Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 7/9/2013
If you have the Major League Baseball Extra Innings package, I recommend that you tune into Tuesday night's game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers. It is Arizona starter Ian Kennedy’s first start against Los Angeles since he was suspended 10 games for hitting Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke on June 11. Plunking Greinke led to the best brawl in MLB this season. It was the longest suspension for a pitcher since 2005. More than a few Dodgers have said that things "weren't over" afterward.
Maybe that brawl was the best thing to happen to the Dodgers. They won that game 5-3 – reliever Matt Guerrier getting the win, but he's now with the Cubs via the Carlos Marmol trade – to improve to 28-36. They are now 43-45 after Monday's series opening win.
Los Angeles thought it had a surplus of starting pitching back in the spring, but injuries have changed all that. So the team made a big move over the weekend by acquiring Ricky Nolasco from the Marlins. Not a huge surprise those teams made a deal as the Marlins know the Dodgers' farm system well after dealing Hanley Ramirez to L.A. last season. Nolasco, who grew up in southern California a Dodgers fan, will debut opposite Kennedy on Tuesday. He will replace Chris Capuano in the rotation, which should be a major upgrade.
The Dodgers have jumped to +130 to win the N.L. West, barely behind first-place Arizona (+120). With a top three of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Nolasco atop the rotation it's hard to see how Los Angeles won't win the division now.
If you want one lock, it's that Puig will win the fan voting for the final NL All-Star spot. He’s among five players in the final vote competition, with teammate Adrian Gonzalez, Washington’s Ian Desmond, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and San Francisco’s Hunter Pence.
The Diamondbacks were also trying to get Nolasco and the Dodgers' landing him could push Arizona to make a harder push for the Cubs' Matt Garza. Any package likely would have to include young lefty starter Tyler Skaggs, the Snakes' top pitching prospect. He's scheduled to start Wednesday.
The Colorado Rockies also might be forced to overpay for Garza after losing Roy Oswalt to the disabled list for at least three weeks. Colorado, which also spoke to Miami about Nolasco, is 15-30 in games started by anyone other than Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood, according to the Denver Post. That includes the disastrous outings of guys like Drew Pomeranz.
Colorado is hoping to get back All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for the start of a big series with the Dodgers on Thursday. He began his rehab assignment in Triple-A on Monday. If Tulowitzki does return Thursday it would be exactly four weeks, which was the best-case scenario when the injury occurred. Tulo has to be activated in order to play in the All-Star Game, in which he was voted a starter. Outfielder Dexter Fowler also will play Monday at Triple-A in his rehab start and could get back Thursday.
The Rockies need all the help they can get, having lost 17 of 24 games entering Monday's series opener with San Diego. The Friars are -135 series favorites.
Sell On Phillies
I expect Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. to start the fire sale any day now. Yes, the Phils are "only" 7.5 games out of the second wild-card spot, but I'm thinking Amaro's hand was forced when Ryan Howard was put on the disabled list Sunday with a knee problem. He's due an MRI on Monday and if that's major, well, the season is over. Considering the knee has been bothering Howard all season, it probably is a major issue. Howard is hitting .266 with 11 homers and 43 RBIs. Darin Ruf, who led all of the minors with 38 home runs last season, figures to get most of Howard's time at first base.
Both Chase Utley and All-Star Cliff Lee would bring back plenty in a trade. Perhaps the most likely to go is Michael Young. Reportedly 10 teams have already called about the former Ranger, and the Yankees may be at the front of the pack to have him play first base in the wake of Mark Teixeira's season-ending injury. The Phils are +2000 to win the NL East.
Milwaukee star Ryan Braun is expected to return from the disabled list on Thursday, but don't expect him on the field for long. Reports are that Major League Baseball is planning to hand down its suspensions from the Biogenesis clinic fallout right after the All-Star Break. Braun is at the top of that list. Braun has been on the disabled list since June 14 because of an inflamed nerve in his right hand.
MLB doesn't want to distract from the All-Star Game so thus will wait until shortly after. Any suspensions would definitely make the July 31 trade deadline more interesting. The Brewers, for one, probably would be even more aggressive sellers with Braun out the rest of the season.
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