And what a busy Sunday it was. Of course, I mean the action of the field, but it was FAAB day. The bidding is always contentious and stressful each week to begin with, but with the plethora of prospects available, a greater amount of work was required. If that is where your focus lied, for at least part of the day, let’s catch up on some of the performances that made an impact:
1) At Least the Power is There
At this point in the season, it’s safe to say that the Bryce Harper we are seeing, is not the one the Phillies committed all that money to this past off-season. But how bad is it? I’m going to say, not as bad as one might think; but then again, you already knew that. Harper went 2 for 5 on Sunday, but that’s not specifically what we care about. What really matters, is that one of those hits was the ninth home run of the season for Harper. In addition to his two run homer, Harper also picked up another RBI which gave him 31 on the season. And that, there is nothing wrong with. The issue though, is that batting average as Harper is currently hitting just .235. Perhaps the even bigger problem, is that Harper’s BABIP is .316, so we can’t point to that for a positive regression. Also, Harper needs to stop pressing, as a 30.7% strikeout rate just isn’t going to be a path to success. Harper also hit .249 last season and .243 in 2016, so our batting average expectations do need to be tempered.
2) Betts Sets the Table
While he might be off last year’s pace, we can’t characterize Mookie Betts as a disappointment. Yesterday, he picked up hits in each of his three at bats, and even though he didn’t drive in a run, Betts scored each time. One of those hits, was his 12th double of the season as he raised his batting average to .298. The seven home runs and 23 RBI Betts has so far this season, again we have to remember that Boston did get off to a slow start, aren’t going to be all that impressive, he has scored 39 runs. Additionally, the fact that Betts is hitting .330 over his last 30 games also makes me feel comfortable about his ability to return first round value; as if there was truly a question.
3) Hicks Gets on the Board
When Aaron Hicks is healthy, he is a very talented outfielder. The problem though, is that he isn’t on the field enough as he works through health issues. After missing the start of the season with a back injury, Hicks returned to action four games and was promptly inserted into the top of New York’s lineup. Batting second on Sunday, Hicks went deep for the first time this season, a two run shot, while also walking twice and scoring two runs. The walks were a positive as they were his first free passes of the season, but Hicks also struck out twice. In 16 at bats, Hicks now has eight strikeouts, but I would chalk that up to early season jitters.
4) Alcantara Cruises
Initially, it looked like Noah Syndergaard was gunning for a perfect game, but it ending up being Sandy Alcantara who picked up the the victory. It was the second victory of the season for the young right-hander who looked impressive against a listless Mets’ lineup. Alcantara needed just 89 pitches to get through his complete game shutout, and the biggest takeaway for me is that he was efficient. New York managed just two hits and a walk against Alcantara who also struck out eight. With a 4.25 ERA, he isn’t a perfect pitcher, but the potential for the former prospect is there. Alcantara has just 36 strikeouts and a 1.42 WHIP, so to say he is a work in progress is an understatement, but we did see what he is capable of yesterday.
5) Verdugo Picks up Two More Hits
As far as prospects go, I feel like we have been hearing about Alex Verdugo for some time. However, playing time in the Los Angeles outfield has been hard to come by up to this point, but so far in 2019, Verdugo has emerged as a critical member of the Dodgers’ outfield. A lack of home run potential will hold Verdugo back to a degree, but it is clear he is a legitimate professional hitter. Yesterday, he went 2 for 4 with a walk to raise his average to .323. Verdugo, who doubled twice, to give himself 10 on the season, also drove in three runs which brought his total for the season to 23.
6) Bieber Dominates
That’s it. Short and sweet, there really is no better way to sum up Shane Bieber’s performance yesterday against Baltimore. While we all know how bad the Orioles are, their lineup still has their moments, but that was not yesterday afternoon. Bieber was in control all day as he cruised to a complete game shutout. The right-hander struck out 15 batters as he scattered five hits while not walking a batter to lower his ERA to 3.22. After posting a .356 BABIP last season, things have regressed nicely, maybe even a little too nice, for Bieber to .255 this season while his ground ball percentage has dropped 46.6% to 40.3%. Now this doesn’t mean I don’t like the young right-hander, as his 10.59 strikeouts and 1.99 walks per nine innings certainly are impressive, but I’m not sure how “all in” I’m currently willing to go. Although, his 3.42 xFIP does give a level of comfort.
7) Forget About the Early Struggles
If you want to talk about hype and expectations, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. certainly had them upon his promotion. I mean that is what happens when dominate your way through the minor leagues and probably should have been promoted last season. Despite all of the attention though, Guerrero struggled initially upon his debut with Toronto. However, that has turned out to be very short lived. While the batting average has yet to truly reflect this, .235 after a 2 for 4 performance yesterday, there is no need to be concerned about Guerrero. He hit his fourth home run of the season, a two run shot, in 68 at bats, and while he does have 13 strikeouts in 19 games, he also has nine walks. Guerrero is also up to 10 RBI so far this season as the third baseman is on his way to living up to, at least most, of his lofty expectations.
8) Another Win for Duffy
I must admit, I am not a Danny Duffy believer. Well, at least as anything more than a streaming option that is. While the Angels don’t have one of the deepest lineups in the American League, they do happen to have Mike Trout along with a few other weapons. And Duffy kept them at bay over six innings as he limited Los Angeles to just one run on five hits and three walks. While he did strikeout five batters while lowering his ERA to 3.45, it wasn’t the smoothest of outings, but Duffy certainly got the job done. Duffy has had some success in the past, and it might be better not to watch the actual start, but if you are in need of starting pitcher, you could do worse. Just keep in mind that while his FIP is 3.76, there is also a 4.81 xFIP lurking.
9) The Veteran Continues to Slug
When the Mariners acquired Edwin Encarnacion, the slugger was thought to just be passing through. While his situation still may change between now and the trading deadline, the veteran is proving that he hasn’t lost any power. Yesterday, Encarnacion picked up three hits, but the most important one, and what we really care about, was his 13th home run of the season. With the power production we get from Encarnacion, a .255 batting average is perfectly reasonable, as after the home run, his RBI total is now up to 33 on the season with no signs of slowing down.
10) Three Hits for Almora
I’m sorry, this not going to be exciting, but neither is dealing with injuries and filling out a lineup in deep leagues. Sometimes, you just need at bats, playing time, and solid production to fill in the gaps. And that is what Albert Almora brings you as the everyday centerfielder for the Cubs. After picking up three hits on Sunday, he is now hitting .270 for the season. Almora, who also walked, scored twice and has 19 runs scored on the season. With four home runs and 13 RBI in 126 at bats, there is limited power production, and while he might not be a true asset, Almora also isn’t a liability.