We had an interesting day of action on Thursday, as there was winter weather in Colorado and Cleveland, history made in Detroit, and a full day (albeit an abbreviated schedule) of games. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have some performances that stood out, so let’s take a look at them:
1) A Shortened Complete Game
With weather an issue in Cleveland, the Indians got just five innings of action in against the White Sox. That allowed Carlos Carrasco to pick up a complete game shutout; of course with the disclaimer that it was a reduced workday. However, that shouldn’t discount the domination showed by the Indians’ ace. Chicago managed just two hits against Carrasco as he struck out six batters while lowering his ERA to 4.91 and picking up his third victory. Clearly we can chalk Carrasco up as a disappointment this season, but his 1.21 WHIP, while not elite, could also be a lot worse. The long ball has been an issue for Carrasco so far this season, 1.79 per nine innings, but everything else is a cause for optimism. A .354 BABIP, 3.53 FIP, and 3.17 xFIP all point to a positive regression.
2) Pujols Reaches Another Milestone
Albert Pujols is clearly not the same player he once was in the prime of his career, and that was an unquestioned top tier fantasy asset, but he’s not merely a footnote either. Yes, he’s no longer a player who should be owned in all leagues, but Pujols does still bat in the middle of the Angels’ lineup and there is still some production there. Yesterday, Pujols became the third player of all time to reach the 2,000 RBI mark as he hit his sixth home run of the season. The solo shot was Pujols’ only hit of the day as the Angels put up 13 runs, but the first baseman still deserves some recognition. On the season, it was the sixth home run and 18th RBI of the season for Pujols who is hitting .208. Last year, Pujols hit .245, and that is where we should expect him to wind up considering his BABIP is currently .192.
3) Rizzo’s Power is on Display
If Anthony Rizzo is going to continue with the power production we have seen from him to start the season, a .260 batting average is perfectly fine. That is where his average sits after a two hit effort on Thursday that included his 10th home run of the season. The two run shot brought Rizzo’s RBI total up to 29 on the season as he looks to complete his fifth straight season of 100-plus RBI. And with with the 10 home runs, Rizzo is in good position to get back over the 30 home run mark for the fourth time in that stretch. The fact that Kris Bryant hit his seventh home run of the season yesterday, 24 RBI, is a good sign both for Chicago and each of their two cornerstones.
4) Colorado Can’t Quit Him
Talking about Nolan Arenado, his three hits (including his 10th home run of the season, and three RBI (30 overall) as he brought his batting average up to .322 is just boring at this point. We know that he is elite. The same can also be said for Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story, and with Colorado scoring 12 runs, you know all three are going to be factors. At the same time, the Rockies also have young players filled with potential such as Garrett Hampson and Ryan McMahon along with veterans Daniel Murphy and Ian Desmond. But then why is Mark Reynolds batting cleanup for the Rockies? There he was on Thursday, and this means that Reynolds has to be on our radar from a fantasy perspective if you are looking for power. The first baseman was 2 for 5, .194 on the season, but he hit his fourth home run of the year (in 67 at bats) while driving in three runs to bring his RBI total up to 14. The batting average won’t be there, but the power and run production will be there as long as Colorado continues to use him.
5) Roark Cruises to Victory
Tanner Roark is never going to jump off the page at you as an exciting starting pitcher option, but at the very least, he is a streaming/depth option. The dependable right-hander picked up his third victory of the season on Thursday by doing exactly what you would expect from him. Roark threw six shutout innings while scattering three hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts. That brought Roark’s ERA down to 3.27 but his 4.44 walks per nine innings do present a red flag. For his career, Roark’s ground ball rate is 44.9%, but for the season it sits at just 34.5%. Those two factors are what leads to his 4.83 xFIP, 3.57 FIP though, and we have to continue to look at Roark as what he is. And that is a solid back end of the rotation option.
6) Happ Picks up Another Win
It hasn’t been pretty for J.A Happ this season, but the left-hander continued to take a step in the right direction on Thursday. Happ shut the Mariners out over five innings in which he limited them to just one hit and three walks while striking out seven. It was the second victory of the season for Happ who needed 94 pitches, 55 strikes, to get through the start. As an idea as to how bad things have been for Happ to begin this season, his ERA is still 4.36. However, that is what happens when you allow close to two home runs every nine innings and have a home run to fly ball rate of 16.1%. Both Happ’s FIP (5.23) and xFIP (4.94) support his struggles, but throughout his career, he has shown the ability to be a better pitcher than this. Just keep your investment to a minimal level.
7) Miley Picks up Another Victory
When the Astros signed Wade Miley this winter, the move wasn’t met with much in the way of optimism. After all, Miley just didn’t have any redeeming qualities on the back of his baseball card, but the southpaw has been a solid starting pitcher in his career. On Thursday, Miley picked up his third victory of the season with six strong innings of two run ball. While lowering his ERA to 3.18, Miley struck out seven batters as the Rangers managed just two hits and two walks off of him. Miley doesn’t strike many batters out, 5.96 per nine innings, and he has also benefited from a .241 BABIP. That directly leads to a 4.32 FIP, but opposing hitters also haven’t managed much strong contact off the left-hander who has also benefited from the Astros’ proficiency at shifts. We know all about Houston’s skills and success and maximizing pitcher’s spin rates, and so far it is working quite well for Miley.
8) Wong Drives in Two
When a team scores 17 runs, it is clear that there are going to be multiple contributors, and that was certainly the case on Thursday. In reality, we can take a look at just about all the Cardinals’ hitters, let’s take a look at Kolten Wong. The second baseman started the season off strong, but he has cooled down as of late, and is hitting .200 in his last 30 games with the numbers getting even worse as you get down to 15 and seven games. Last night, Wong went 2 for 5 with two RBI as he improved his batting average for the season bringing it up to .244. Wong is now up to six doubles and 19 RBI along with 16 runs scored and six stolen bases. If you can get past the batting average, the rest of the production could be worse and the Cardinals also appear to be committed to rolling with Wong at second base.
9) Peralta Shows off the Power
After hitting his sixth home run of the season last night, we can continue to feel good about David Peralta’s ability to repeat last season’s performance. Now that isn’t to say the outfielder is an elite power threat, but his career year of .293, 30 home runs and 87 RBI last season shouldn’t be regarded as a fluke. While he is slightly off 2018’s pace when it comes to home runs, as long as he continues to drive in runs (25 thus far) and hit for average (.316), fantasy owners would be perfectly fine with a few less home runs. Peralta looks more than comfortable batting third for Arizona.
10) Kendrick Gives Washington All They Need
Ryan Zimmerman’s injury opened up playing time for Matt Adams, but now, both first baseman are sidelined. That, among other injuries, has opened up playing time for Howie Kendrick, and the utility man is once again proving his worth. Washington’s lineup isn’t what it used to be, Juan Soto is also currently sidelined, but Kendrick is still batting cleanup for the Nationals. That, the fact that Kendrick is eligible at multiple positions, and his production, make him a viable short term option if you are looking to plug an injury created hole. Last night, Kendrick got things going with a three run homer in the first inning, and he later added a fourth RBI. On the season, in 80 at bats, he is now hitting .325 with six home runs and 21 RBI. While he likely will cool and off and/or lose playing time, Kendrick is currently a player with value in just about all leagues.