This Monday brought with it a reduced slate of games, but that doesn’t mean we were without exciting action. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that caught our attention:
1) Just What the Astros Needed
With the way Houston has been hitting, the games kind of just take care of themselves. Their offensive firepower shouldn’t exactly be a surprise, but there were some doubts about the pitching entering the season. Corbin Martin has already replaced Colin McHugh in the rotation, but if he keeps on pitching the way he did on Monday, Brad Peacock’s spot should be safe. Houston kept things conservative with the right-hander last night and they got him out of there after he allowed one run over five innings of work. Peacock did need 88 pitches to get through the outing, but he was never really in trouble. Detroit managed just three hits off Peacock, but the problem is that he allowed four walks. After striking out three batters last night, Peacock is up to 8.65 per nine innings while walking just under three batters. Peacock’s 4.01 ERA fits pretty perfectly between his FIP and xFIP, and the more he continues to lean on his slider, the more success he should have after picking up his fourth victory of the season last night.
2) Diaz Taking Advantage of the Situation
When the Astros acquired Aledmys Diaz this off-season, we knew that he was going to get regular playing time. Houston hasn’t been shy about using Diaz across the diamond, but it has taken him some time to find his groove. Now, with Jose Altuve sidelined for the next 10 days while he recuperates from a hamstring injury, Diaz will receive regular playing time at second base. While that certainly helps from a temporary perspective, it is also a positive development for the remainder of the season as Diaz’s playing time will not disappear upon Altuve’s return. Last night, Diaz went deep for the fourth time this season (he also hit a grand slam over the weekend). We have seen some power from Diaz in the past, and after a two hit effort on Monday, he is currently hitting .247 with 18 RBI.
3) La Stella Goes Deep, Again
I’ll admit it, I’m just as confused as you are. Who knew that Tommy La Stella would become a fantasy asset in 12-team leagues this season? Granted, a large part of it is that there is the opportunity with the Angels, but the career utility player is certainly taking advantage of it. Last night, La Stella hit his 10th home run of the season as part of a three hit effort. He is now hitting a very solid .272 with 24 RBI, and while I wouldn’t put stock in this pace continuing, we also have to take La Stella seriously. Entering this season, La Stella had 10 career home runs in 398 games, and he has already matched that total through 36 games this season. While we can talk about the ball being juiced and the fact that it is a very home run focused game so far this season, it is still an impressive performance nonetheless.
4) Ohtani Gets on the Board
It will be interesting to see how the season progresses for Shohei Ohtani as he works to rehab from Tommy John surgery, but things are going well for the DH. Slotted right behind Mike Trout in the Angels’ batting order, Ohtani went deep for the first time this season on Monday. He has made it through six games and 24 bats so far in 2019, and after last night’s 2 for 3 effort (with two walks) he is hitting .250 with five RBI. This is on the heels of a 22 home run debut last season in 104 games. The only real caveat here, is to watch when he takes time off hitting to concentrate on his pitching elbow.
5) Lopez Picks up Another Victory
That 5.58 ERA, even after last night, certainly doesn’t do Reynaldo Lopez any favors, but we should be at least paying attention to him. The right-hander picked up his third victory of the season on Monday with 7.2 innings of one run ball. Lopez limited the Indians to just two hits and two walks while striking out six. After allowing 14 runs in his first two starts, Lopez has allowed a total of 13 runs in his last six starts which includes one the six runs he gave up to Boston in one of those outings. Walks are a problem for the right-hander, 4.14 per nine innings, but he also strikes out 9.54 batters. I would like to see Lopez with a ground ball rate of more than 30%, but it is hard to argue with his general success. Lopez is one of those pitchers who we are always expecting more from, but what is clear, is that he is best used as a streaming option.
6) Three More Hits for Moncada
This isn’t the first these sentiments have been echoed in this space, but we Yoan Moncada is who we thought he was. Both playing third base and batting second have appeared to agree with Moncada so far in 2019. After picking up three hits last night, most importantly including two solo home runs, Moncada is how hitting .289 with 28 RBI on the season. Yes, he is still striking out 26.9% of the time, but he also has an 8% walk rate to go along with his .239 ISO. Yes, Moncada’s BABIP is .356, but he does bring speed to the table and with his power stats, along with 29 runs, we can live with a .250 batting average. Moncada needs to just become more efficient on the base paths, as while he has four stolen bases, he also has been caught three times.
7) Hernandez Continues His Success
If you look at Cesar Hernandez, you would think he is more of a top of the order hitter. But with all of the additions Philadelphia made this off-season, when the Phillies are full strength, Hernandez finds himself batting sixth. However, there is no need for concern, as that appears to be agreeing with the second baseman. Not exactly known for his power, Hernandez hit his fourth home run of the season (a two run shot) on Monday. Hernandez went 2 for 3 with a walk as he pushed his batting average up to .306 on the season with 17 RBI. He scored each of the three times he reached base, which brought his run total up to 22. The second baseman has also stolen three bases so far in 2019, so he gives you some level of production in each of the five categories and is a nice complementary player.
8) Don’t Forget About Me
It was hard to get off to a better start to the season than Christian Walker did. It seemed like the first baseman was driving in a run and reaching base in just about every at bat, and he was doing so with exceptional batted ball metrics. However, Walker has slowed down, and including last night’s two hit performance, he is hitting just .220 in his last 15 games. The power production has also been essentially non-existent as the home run Walker hit last night, is his only one in that stretch. Walker, who has eight home runs and 17 RBI on the season, also added his 15th double as he brought his batting average up to .292. This was an extreme correction to a very successful early season start, but that doesn’t mean we should send him packing in all formats.
9) It Could Have Been Worse for Ray
Robbie Ray did pick up his third victory of the season on Monday, but things could have gone in another direction. The left-hander did limit Pittsburgh to just two runs, one earned, but he also scattered six hits and two walks while striking out six. Ray needed 94 pitches, 60 strikes, to get through his five innings of work as his ERA now sits at 3.14 for the season. Even with the 4.62 batters Ray walks per nine innings, his xFIP sits at 3.77, so while you don’t get length each time out there, he is still a pretty good option. The fact that he strikes out 11.62 batters per nine innings also helps.
10) We Had a Power Sighting in Oakland
While the A’s ultimately lost last night, it was a good sign to see two of their power hitters go deep. Matt Olson, who was sidelined for most of the season with a hand injury and returned about week ago, hit his second home run of 2019. When a player misses time with a hand injury, there is always the concern that is power will take even longer to come back, so it was encouraging to see Olson turn on a pitch and send it over the right field wall. While he is hitting just .219, the hope is that he continues to show that power production. Additionally, Khris Davis has gone close to a month without a home run, so the fact that both of his hits last night were long balls, 12 overall, was certainly a positive development.