Fantasy baseball mailbag: Alvarez could power Pirates, but will he?

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Here are the answers to some of the questions that I have recently received at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

What's your take on Pedro Alvarez now that he's back?-- @TrillaTrav

Alvarez, the second selection in the 2008 amateur draft, hit 16 homers with 64 RBI in 95 games with the Pirates last season. Heading into this year nearly every fantasy expert had Alvarez in their Top 10, and even those who didn't admitted Alvarez clearly could reach that level. He simply hasn't. Alvarez has hit .211, posted a .289 OBP and is sporting a sickly .305 SLG (his OBP last year was .326). Alvarez ended up injured and demoted. In 18 games on the farm, though, he hit .325 with a .439 OBP and .538 SLG, leading to a recall with the Pirates.

Alvarez has the ability to hit 30 homers while driving in 100, a rate that he was playing at last season in the second half (13 homers, 53 RBI over his last 71 games). He'll need to cut his K-rate down, as its over 30 percent this year, to reach that level of success. With all the problems at third base this season, Alvarez is well worth taking a shot on in mixed leagues. There's always a chance that he'll recapture the success he had last season in the second half -- he certainly has the talent to do it.

What's your take on Alex Cobb. Is he just fill in or does he have long term value?-- @mercier_five

Cobb is part of a current six-man rotation with the Rays. I think the choice to go in that direction is a terrible one, but it's the way it is in Florida right now. The biggest concern I have with Cobb is his catastrophic K/9 drop. Well over a K per inning guy at Double and Triple-A the past two years, he's currently at 5.14 through seven big league starts. His BB/9 rate is also worse than the league average as well at 3.43. So how is he having success? It's all on grounders as 56 of the batted balls put in play off him have been rug burners. He's much more Derek Lowe and Fausto Carmona than he is James Shields.

As for his long-term value, Cobb, a fourth-round draft pick in 2006, has risen through the minors on the Rays' pitching plan. As we've seen before, that often leads to a lot of success. Cobb was a strikeout per inning arm in the minors, but he's failed to keep that up in the bigs. The hope is that he doesn't turn into Wade Davis, who has followed the same regression. As a big league starter he's likely to settle into the No. 4 role on a good team, a decision that means he will be hard pressed to ever be a difference maker at the big-league level.

Drop Jemile Weeks for Desmond Jennings?-- @jbpowellal

Weeks has provided the A's with a spark on offense. He's hitting a strong .307 through his first 40 games, and he has used his speed to swipe 10 bags. He has little powe, as he hasn't gone deep once and his slugging percentage is a poor .405, but he slaps the ball and runs. One part of his game he hasn't flashed yet is his patience at the dish with a current 4.6 walk rate that is about a third of the number he posted at Triple-A this year. It would be nice to see him put a few more balls on the ground; his 40 percent ground ball rate isn't great, but, overall, this has been a good start to his career.

Jennings is a better talent than Weeks and can do a few more things at the plate. Jennings, surprisingly, showed some power at Triple-A this year with 12 homers in 89 games, while flashing elite speed. He has also done a solid job throughout his minor league career at getting on base (his OBP in over 500 minor league games is .380). He's up with the Rays, finally, and he has looked phenomenal in a couple of games. The real question at this point is can he stay healthy?

Many will argue that Weeks is the preferred option because of his position (second base). I'm still going in the other direction even though Jennings plays a position that's filled with talent (outfield) because he is just so talented.

IF Heath Bell gets traded, do I drop any of these for Mike Adams ? Izzy, Axford, Marmol, Perez, Santos?-- @hedmohave

Last week I broke down the outlook of Mike Adams in the July 19 Mailbag piece. Let me put it this way -- his skills are superb, sublime, scintillating in fact. He deserves to be rostered in all but the smallest leagues right now, even as a setup man. If he ends up the closer for the Padres, his value would skyrocket. As for the other arms, here are some thoughts.

Jason Isringhausen: Give him credit for his comeback. The Mets appear intent to sit on him and let him mentor Bobby Parnell, leaving Izzy as the Mets' closer. He hasn't thrown 40 innings since '08, didn't pitch in the majors last season and is 39 years old. He also is giving up a huge 53 percent fly ball rate while his 1.88 K/BB ratio is terrible.

John Axford: Good for the Brewers for doing the right thing, i.e. leaving Axford in the ninth and using Francisco Rodriguez as the setup man. Axford continues to impress with a K/9 rate of 11.27, which, when combined with a 54 percent ground ball rate, shows him to be ideally suited to long-term success as a closer.

Carlos Marmol: The Cubs' righty had a brutal week, but since then he's back on track with four scoreless outings. Owner of a devastating arsenal, Marmol is striking out more than 11 batters per nine innings and is back as the closer. It usually is a bumpy ride, but the results are usually solid. If his BABIP of .324 regresses back to career norms (.254), he would be in line for a strong finish.

Chris Perez: He has been struggling a bit all season despite converting 22 of 24 save chances. A strikeout per inning arm, Perez has seen that number dip to 5.80 this season, which doesn't bode well for someone sporting a 4.54 BB/9 mark.. That regression has been on full display the last two weeks as his ERA has gone from 2.23 to 3.03 over four outings.

Sergio Santos: He's being used cautiously by Ozzie Guillen, who has limited Santos to one-inning stints in his last five games despite allowing not a single hit and just one walk. He has been strong all year (3.07 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 12.07 K/9) and remains the arm to own in Chicago, even with the odd usage.

Would I drop any of these arms to add Adams if the deal goes down? I wouldn't even wait that long. I'd make the move to add Adams right now at the expense if Isringhausen.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at