10 Important Stories from 04/26/19 Box Scores: Struggling Starters To Sell?, Are We Buying These Warming Hitters & More

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What got the debuts of a trio of top prospects yesterday, with differing results:

  • Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 1-4 (though he was thrust right into the middle of the lineup, hitting fifth)
  • Carter Kieboom – 1-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R (the HR was a game-tying shot in the eighth inning, though he did strikeout twice)
  • Justus Sheffield – 3.0 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 3 K (he piggy-backed Yusei Kikuchi, who only threw 1.0 inning as the Mariners look to limit his workload)

Meanwhile Jacob deGrom returned from the DL and struggled yet again, allowing 5 ER on 5 H and 3 BB, striking out 7, over 4.0 IP against the Brewers.  Chris Archer was another starter who struggled, allowing 6 ER on 6 H and 3 BB, striking out 3, over 4.0 IP.  What else happened on the field that we need to know about?  Let’s take a look:

1) Is it time to sell high on Matt Strahm…
He settled for a no decision, as he couldn’t outpitch Max Scherzer (7.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 10 K), but that doesn’t take away from the performance.  Strahm went 6.0 strong innings allowing 2 ER on 4 H and 0 BB, striking out 8.  While it was an impressive strikeout total, there were just 6 swinging strikes on the night and he only owned a 5.66 K/9 entering the day.  There’s more upside than that, though it’s a concerning mark all the same.  Couple that with a 53.0% Hard% and 34.8% groundball rate (5 groundballs vs. 5 fly balls yesterday) and there are ample reasons for concern.  While the results have been there, the risk far outweighs the reward.  Now is the perfect time to sell, especially in redraft formats.

2) A strong bounce back from Jerad Eickhoff…
Obviously we discount the struggles in his previous start a little bit, since it came in Coors Field (4 ER over 6.0 IP), but in that vein we need to discount yesterday’s recovery since it came against the Marlins.  That said 7.0 shutout innings is impressive, allowing 2 H and 1 BB while striking out 6.  Since returning he has 20 K vs. 5 BB over 17.0 IP, an impressive ratio and one that can continue (8.25 K/9 vs. 2.57 BB/9 for his career entering the day).  He’s never been a groundball specialist, but his 47.8% entering the day (6 groundballs vs. 8 fly balls yesterday) would be enough for a productive pitcher.  It’s likely that he’s more of a streaming option and may not hold down a spot in the rotation long-term, given the young alternatives the team has, but while he’s showing the skills he’s worth utilizing.  Just be prepared to cut bait and move on once necessary.

3) Is Marcus Stroman “back” to being a Top 20 starter…
Taking on Oakland he was dominant yet again, tossing 7.0 shutout innings allowing 1 H and 2 BB, striking out 7.  He was generating enough swings and misses, with 16 swinging strikes, and now has at least 5 strikeouts in all six of his starts (36 K over 37.2 IP).  Having entered the day with a 10.5% SwStr%, if he can maintain this type of mark when coupled with a potentially elite groundball rate (56.0% entering the day) the upside is tremendous.  His control has been spotty at times this season, though he’s now walked 2 batters or fewer in four of his six outings so it’s not a significant concern.  The key to his success is going to be his strikeout rate, and as long as he continues at this rate the production will be there.  Maybe he’s not quite Top 20, but he’s at worst a SP3 and a pitcher worth owning (and keeping).

4) Will Tyler Flowers earn more playing time…
He’s sharing the catching duties with Brian McCann, but could he emerge as the lead catcher?  He certainly had a big day yesterday, going 4-4 with 2 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R, putting him at .378 with 3 HR and 4 RBI over 45 AB to open the season.  Of course McCann is hitting .294 with 1 HR and 8 RBI himself, while Flowers entered the day struggling to make regular contact (34.8% strikeout rate) and benefitting from a bloated .500 BABIP.  Sure there’s a little bit of pop in his bat, but don’t get overly excited by one big day.  There’s value in two-catcher formats, but he’s never going to play every day and there’s a good chance that he takes a significant step backwards.  It was a great day, but don’t get overly excited.

5) A complete implosion from Carlos Rodon…
Granted the White Sox and Tigers combined to hit 9 HR and score 23 runs, but does that give Rodon and his struggles a pass?  It shouldn’t, as he allowed 8 ER on 9 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, over 3.0 IP.  He now owns a 4.94 ERA and 1.39 WHIP on the year, and while he has had the strikeout pitch working (40 K) he’s walked 15 batters over 31.0 IP.  Home runs also hadn’t been an issue entering the day, though he was tattooed for 3 HR yesterday (including Miguel Cabrera’s first of the season, as he went 4-6 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R).  It also seemed like it was just a matter of time before home runs became an issue, considering the 41.4% groundball rate entering the day.  Poor control and potential home run issues?  The red flags were there, especially when you start to add in a .257 BABIP.  Strikeouts are nice, but it’s simply not enough. 

6) Another disappointing performance from Miles Mikolas…
Taking on the Reds at home he allowed 4 ER on 6 H and 1 BB, striking out 4, over 5.0 IP.  The surprising number is the 3 HR he allowed, despite generating 7 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls.  It’s the second time he’s allowed 3 HR in a start this season, and has now allowed 8 HR over 34.0 IP on the season.  Considering his 48.0% groundball rate entering the year, and having posted a 0.72 HR/9 last season, that number screams of an aberration and it’s something we’d expect him to improve.  While he may never generate enough strikeouts to make him elite (despite our hope of a step forward), an improvement in his HR allowed with his elite control will at least make him a usable option (especially when his 67.7% strand rate entering the day improves).  For now he’s more of a pitcher to stash, but don’t write him off yet.

7) Should we give up on Kyle Hendricks…
Coming off his best start of the season (7.0 shutout innings) there were high hopes for Hendricks, especially taking on the same Arizona lineup.  Unfortunately this one turned out to be the exact opposite, as the Diamondbacks extracted a bit of revenge and torched him for 7 ER on 10 H and 1 BB, striking out 3, over 5.0 IP.  He’s now thrown 5.0 innings or fewer in four of his five starts, with 4 K or fewer in four of five as well.  Throw in a regression in his control (3.10 BB/9 entering the day) and his groundball stuff (41.0% entering the day, 7 groundballs vs. 5 fly balls yesterday) and it’s not a surprise that he’s struggled.  Does that mean that he can’t turn it back around?  Of course not, and there’s enough optimism to think that he’ll get there (.387 BABIP, 67.1% strand rate, 37.5% Hard% entering the day).  We wouldn’t give up on him completely quite yet, instead stashing him to see if he can figure it out.

8) Nomar Mazara is showing signs of turning things around…
He went 3-5 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R yesterday, giving him a modest four-game hitting streak (8-18, 3 HR, 7 RBI and 3 R).  Obviously it’s a small sample size, but he’s only struck out twice during this streak and still owns a .500 SLG overall (5 HR and 19 RBI, despite a .244 AVG).  He entered the day with an 18.6% strikeout rate (though an 11.5% SwStr% does give a slight cause for concern) and a .228 BABIP (a 49.2% Hard% tells us that a huge rebound is coming).  He does continue to drive the ball into the ground a little bit too much (50.8% groundball rate entering the day), though it’s clear that he’s starting to put things together.  The upside is there and he should continue to improve, so if someone gave up on him grab him now (though it should already be too late).

9) Another big day for Luke Voit…
He went 3-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R yesterday, extending his hitting streak to 13 games as he’s raised his average from .184 to .276.  He’s been even better of his past four games (9-17, 3 HR, 6 RBI) and he’s hit four home runs in his past five games.  Suddenly with 8 HR and 22 RBI he’s trying to convince us that last season’s surge is the real Luke Voit.  Is it, or is he just a player who can get scorching hot at a moment’s notice?  Even as he’s been going well he’s struggled with strikeouts (28 K overall) as he owns a 14.2% SwStr%.  You can also argue that he’ll be prone to the shift (21.5% Oppo%) and isn’t going to maintain his current 33.3% HR/FB.  Obviously ride him while he’s going well, but we’d still be cautious moving forward.  There’s a good chance that he falls on hard times once again, and we wouldn’t be opposed to trying to cash in via a trade.

10) Should Collin McHugh remain in our plans…
Taking on the Indians he allowed 3 ER on 4 H and 2 BB, striking out 9, over 5.2 IP so it clearly wasn’t a terrible performance.  He was touched up for 3 HR, and he’s now allowed 5 HR over his past two starts.  Considering his 34.6% groundball rate, which matches last year’s mark, it’s an obvious concern.  He still has maintained his strikeouts (10.41 K/9) and control (2.81 BB/9), but the risk of home runs coupled with a .237 BABIP (despite a 35.8% Hard%) shows that there is ample risk moving forward.  He should be a solid option and there’s obvious value, but don’t be surprised if there are some struggles as well.  In other words he’s more of a mid-to-back end starter as opposed to a can’t miss ace.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

9 COMMENTS

  1. Hi professor.
    Thanks for the great work. I read your articles all the time. Was curious how you’d rank these players

    Eric Thames
    David Fletcher
    Franmil Reyes
    Cole Tucker
    Amed Rosario

    And then

    Zach Eiflin
    Felix Hernandez
    Wade Miley

    • First off thanks for the support!

      I’d go:

      1) Reyes
      2) Rosario
      3) Tucker
      4) Thames
      5) Fletcher

      Then I’d go

      1) Eflin
      2) Miley
      3) Hernandez

  2. Hi Professor,

    In a 5-category, 15-team dynasty league, I need to drop one of these guys: Luis Rengifo (acquired for much needed steals), Corbin Burnes or Ian Happ? Happ is not exactly tearing up AAA. What would you advise?

    • I was concerned about Pollock entering the year, and it’s not that I love Verdugo but if he’s hitting he’s going to play

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