10 Important Stories from 05/07/19 Box Scores: Young Starters We’re Buying (And Others We’re Avoiding), Finding Under-the-Radar Hitters & More

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Shohei Ohtani made his long awaited return from the DL, hitting third and going 0-4 with 1 RBI and 1 BB (as well as striking out twice).  Hyun-Jim Ryu (complete game shutout allowing 4 H and 0 BB, striking out 6) and Justin Turner (4-5, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R) led the way against the Braves.  Whit Merrifield did it all against Houston, going 4-5 with 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R and 1 SB (falling a double short of the cycle).  What else happened on the field that we need to know about?  Let’s take a look:

1) Mike Fiers steals the show with a no-hitter against the Reds…
He needed 131 pitches, striking out 6 while walking 2.  It was obviously a stellar showing, though that’s a little bit of an understatement.  Of course even with this performance he owns an unsightly 5.48 ERA as home runs continue to be the story (1.57 HR/9 this season, and he’s been at 1.20 or greater since 2015).  A 42.3% groundball rate shows that it could continue to be an issue, and while his control is solid (2.54 BB/9) and there’s some slight poor luck (65.6% strand rate) his lack of strikeouts (6.65 K/9 courtesy of a 7.6% SwStr%) makes him impossible to trust.  You can’t take anything away from last night’s performance, but it’s just one outing.  Overall he’s impossible to trust.

2) Lucas Giolito’s gem against Cleveland grabs our attention, but should it…
Jefry Rodriguez tried to match him pitch for pitch but fell short, allowing 2 ER on 7 H and 3 BB, striking out 6, over 6.0 IP.  Instead it was Giolito who thrived, tossing 7.1 shutout innings allowing 3 H and 3 BB, striking out 8.  It was by far his best start of the season, having entered the day with a 5.32 ERA.  He does have 38 K over 31.0 IP overall this season, but continues to struggles with his control (15 BB) and lacks groundball stuff (he entered with a 42.6% groundball rate before 6 groundballs vs. 6 fly balls yesterday).  There had been some poor luck (.328 BABIP and 61.7% strand rate, despite a 34.4% Hard%), and a correction start isn’t unjustified.  That said can we assume that he’ll be better than his current 4.06 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, given the walks and home run risk?  It’s not likely and he’s more of a streaming option/plug and play, as opposed to someone to trust.

3) Does Giovanny Urshela deserve to stay in the Yankee lineup…
Generally known for his defense Urshela has stepped up amongst the slew of injuries plaguing the Yankees.  After going 2-4 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R yesterday he’s now hitting .360 with 2 HR and 9 RBI over 75 AB (while adding 8 doubles).  Of course he entered the day with a .393 BABIP, and a 37.3% O-Swing% brings significant questions as to whether or not he can continue to hit the ball hard (40.3% Hard%).  Over his Triple-A career (535 AB) he’s hit .275 with 13 HR, and while this has been a nice run it’s hard to envision him sticking once the Yankees get remotely healthy.  If you want to try and capitalize while he’s hitting well go for it, but don’t become infatuated and expect him to be a useful option long-term.

4) Gregory Polanco starting to show off his value…
He went 2-4 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R yesterday, putting him at .273 with 1 HR and 3 RBI over his first 11 games since returning from the IL.  It shouldn’t be a complete surprise that he struggled initially, but he now has multi-hit games in two of his past three.  We’ll have to wait and see if he can continue to get up to speed or if this is nothing more than a mini hot stretch, as he entered the day with a 21.9% Hard%, 18.9% Oppo% and 46.9% fly ball rate.  None of those numbers would support a strong BABIP and he also entered with an elevated 11.5% SwStr% (he didn’t strikeout yesterday).  There’s enough potential to believe that he can improve on his underlying metrics and produce strong results, so stay the course for now.  That said there’s also a lot of risk and the potential for him to fall flat.

5) A significant step forward from Griffin Canning…
While his first start was rather underwhelming (3 ER over 4.1 IP), his second was impressive.  Albeit against the Tigers, he went 5.1 innings allowing 2 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 7.  He generated an impressive 18 swinging strikes and it’s hard not to be impressed.  Of course strikeouts weren’t a big question as he was promoted, and it’s also notable that he’s continued to avoid issuing walks (including his time at Triple-A this season he now has 4 BB over 25.2 IP overall this season).  He was again not generating many groundballs (3 groundballs vs. 6 fly balls yesterday), and that could lead to home run issues.  Is that enough of a concern, though?  With strikeouts and the control he’s shown, as well as a likely long leash for a team that needs help in the rotation, and there’s a lot to like.  He will likely still have some bumps along the way, but he’s worth owning (at least for now).

6) Taylor Clarke pitches well, despite take a loss…
Going 6.0 innings against the Rays he allowed 2 ER on 7 H and 0 BB, generating groundball after groundball (11 groundballs vs. 3 fly balls).  Of course he only generated 2 K, courtesy of 7 swinging strikes, and that’s something that was in question (7.40 K/9 at Triple-A last season, 6.12 in five starts this season).  That alone would be a red flag, but keep in mind that the groundball rate appears to be more of an aberration (39.3% at Triple-A in ’18, 38.3% this season) and the picture gets murky.  It was an impressive start, but one that shouldn’t really grab our attention.  It was a solid start, but in the end it’s meaningless.  Don’t bother investing as the risk far outweighs the reward.

7) Freddy Peralta takes to his new role…
Instead of starting the Brewers decided to way of an opener (Adrian Houser tossed 2.0 shutout innings allowing 2 H and 1 BB while striking out 4).  Peralta, who entered the day with an 8.31 ERA, than tossed the next 5.0 innings allowing 0 R on 3 H and 2 BB, striking out 5.  It was an important performance from a player who was at risk of losing his role, though that doesn’t mean that he’s in the clear yet.  Even while he was pitching well he wasn’t generating many swinging strikes (9) nor was he a groundball machine (5 groundballs vs. 5 fly balls).  The latter has been arguably the biggest issue for Peralta this season, as he’s allowed 7 HR over 26.2 IP (he entered the day with a 28.8% groundball rate), but his control has been nothing special (12 BB).  Those two things set the stage for continued issues, and while this was a strong outing it’s impossible to dub him a must grab off of it.

8) Should we still be buying Dakota Hudson, despite the stumble…
The defense behind Hudson was part of the problem, as he was charged with just 2 ER (despite allowing 8 R overall), but he still allowed 7 H and 3 BB, striking out 3, over 5.0 innings against the Nationals.  The big blow was a grand slam from Bryce Harper (2-3, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R), and that has been a continued issue.  It’s a puzzling concern for a pitcher who continues to generate groundball after groundball (12 groundballs vs. 1 fly ball yesterday and he currently holds a 60.7% groundball rate), as he owns a 2.31 HR/9.  That’s something that should correct itself, and you also would think that a 4.63 BB/9 will improve as well (3.06 BB/9 at Triple-A last season).  Couple that with a 10.1% SwStr% (though only 3 swinging strikes yesterday) and there appears to be ample upside.  He may not be an ace, but he should be able to produce solid results moving forward.  He’s an ideal buy low for those who need help.

9) Is it time to give up on Collin McHugh…
While Danny Duffy was pitching fairly well (6.2 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 5 K) McHugh was not.  He lasted just 3.0 innings and was tagged for 8 ER on 7 H and 3 BB, striking out 3, as he allowed a pair of home runs (including a grand slam to Ryan O’Hearn).  While McHugh does have a solid 1.22 WHIP, he owns a 6.37 ERA and has allowed at least 1 HR in four straight starts (8 HR over 18.0 IP).  It’s not a huge surprise that home runs have been an issue (34.6% groundball rate last year, 39.1% this year), though a 21.4% HR/FB should improve.  Considering his 9.22 K/9 and 3.07 BB/9, as well as a 56.9% strand rate, there’s enough of a reason to believe that a turn around is coming in time.  That said the Astros need to have patience to give him time to find himself, and that is not a 100% given.  Stay the course and keep him stashed, but be prepared to move on if the Astros opt to make a change.

10) Mac Williamson returns to the Majors with a bang…
He went 2-4 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 2 R, hitting one of three home runs against Antonio Senzatela (4.2 IP, 7 ER, 8 H, 1 BB, 3 K).  Obviously Williamson’s .378 average isn’t a realistic mark (he was benefiting from a .440 BABIP), but he had added 9 HR with 22 RBI and 23 R over 98 PA.  He’s consistently shown power at the Triple-A level (55 HR over 1,013 AB), though there have been questions as to his ability to make consistent contact.  He owned a 25.5% strikeout rate this season, courtesy of a 13.3% SwStr%.  Over the course of his Triple-A career he owns a 24.1% strikeout rate courtesy of a 14.6% SwStr%, and given the number of AB it’s hard not to buy into the struggles.  While he could contribute some power, the average will remain a question as the strikeouts mount.  He deserves some attention and could be a short-term option, but don’t get overly excited.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, MILB.com

5 COMMENTS

    • Maybe slightly? There’s no doubt that he has talent, but it’s tough to trust him on a regular basis right now

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