As we enjoy a busy weekend of nice weather (hopefully and with apologies and best wishes to the mid-west as they deal with tornadoes), barbecues, picnics, and baseball, it is important to remember and keep in mind the true meaning of Memorial Day. For that, we give thanks, as there was an exciting day of baseball to enjoy on Sunday. Let’s take a look at some of the performances of not from a busy day around the league:
1) Biggio Gets on the Board
After going hitless with a few strikeouts to begin his career, Cavan Biggio got right on track yesterday. Part of Toronto’s youth movement, Biggio is poised to be the second baseman of the future, and that is even more clear with the move of Lourdes Gurriel to the outfield. It was a solo shot for Biggio who went 3 for 4 on the day with two RBI as he also picked up his first career hit. Until last season, Biggio was lightly regarded as far as prospects go, but it’s hard to argue with the performance as he hit .252 with 26 home runs and 99 RBI last season in Double-A. Prior to his promotion, Biggio was hitting .307 with six home runs in Triple-A, and despite the power surge last season, I would expect more like 15-20 home runs. It is a good sign though, that we know the ability is there, and it was a nice sign to see Biggio get on the board yesterday.
2) Beeks Picks up the Victory
With Tampa Bay, and other teams as well, we have to remember that we really care about who the main pitcher is going to be, not the opener. The fact that Jalen Beeks doesn’t start games for Tampa Bay hasn’t slowed him down in terms of production as Beeks picked up his fourth victory of the season yesterday. In 4.2 innings of work, Beeks limited the weak hitting Indians to just two hits and three walks while striking out three. It shouldn’t really a surprise that Tampa Bay has shown the ability to get the most of Beeks in the time that he has spent with them. The big thing for Beeks this season has been limiting the long ball, 0.22 per nine innings, as he has a home run to fly ball rate of just 2.6%. However, Beeks’ 4.34 xFIP is waiting for that to “correct” itself. As far as pitch mix, the one difference I do see in Beeks, is that he is leaning on his change-up a lot more than he previously did and that is leading to success.
3) Wheeler Makes Up for a Slow Start
After a Nick Castellanos solo homer in the first inning and then a two RBI single in third, it looked like Zack Wheeler might not be too long for yesterday afternoon. Instead, Wheeler pitched into the eighth inning for the first time all season while picking up his fourth victory of the season. After he allowed those three runs, the right-hander cruised until the eighth inning when he left with two runners on base. Overall, it was just what the Mets needed as Wheeler scattered five hits while allowing just one walk to go along with eight strikeouts. With a 4.63 ERA, Wheeler is still working off his early season struggles; while aside from a blip when he allowed six runs to the Nationals 10 days ago. If you are looking for a repeat of last season, Wheeler’s 3.20 FIP and 10 strikeouts per nine innings certainly point to that.
4) Dozier Drives in Two
If Carter Kieboom had found success upon his promotion, this likely would be a different conversation, but Brian Dozier has been given ample time to turn his season around. With a 3 for 5 effort on Sunday, Dozier drove in two runs to bring his total for the season to 15, but he is still hitting just .213. One game doesn’t make a season, but Dozier does have a track record of success, so there is nothing wrong with wanting to believe in him. It is clear that Dozier has slipped over the past two seasons, and while his barrel rate is consistent with 2018, it is about two percentage points lower than it was in the two years prior. Each of Dozier’s other stat cast metrics, while they don’t jump off the page at you, are at least consistent with we have seen from as of late. What does concern me though, and will keep me away, is that Dozier’s strikeout rate is up to 27% this season from the 20% it previously has been.
5) A Perfect Day for Turner
We are never going to complain when a hitter goes 5 for 5 with a walk, but it was a very interesting afternoon for Justin Turner. The Dodgers scored 11 runs on Sunday, and none of them were driven in by one of the third baseman’s five singles. On the brighter side, Turner did score three runs and bring his batting average up to .304. Yesterday not withstanding, Turner is once again a dependable run producer in the middle of the Dodgers’ lineup with 23 RBI in 171 at bats. There likely will be another injury to deal with as the season progresses, but Turner is a nice bat to target.
6) Kepler Goes Deep Again
It is now the third straight game with a home run for Max Kepler as the lead-off hitter continues to take the next step for the Twins. It was a three run homer for Kepler, 12 for the season, who also added his 12th double of the season while driving in four runs all together on the evening to bring his total to 33 for the season. Kepler, who is hitting .276 has been having quite the week, as in his last seven games, the outfielder is hitting .500 with three home runs and 13 RBI. It is quite the jump from what we saw out of Kepler last season, .224 with 20 home runs and 58 RBI, but he also had to deal with a .236 BABIP in 2018. Kepler is doing a better job of barreling up the ball so far this season, 6.6% to 9.2%, and we have also seen his hard hit rate jump to 43.8%.
7) Woodruff Cruises to Victory
Entering the season, Brandon Woodruff didn’t get much in the way of buzz or excitement, but 2019 is turning out to be a pretty solid season for the right-hander. Woodruff picked up his seventh victory of 2019 yesterday with a dominating performance against the Phillies. Philadelphia managed just one baserunner against Woodruff in eight innings of work, a Andrew Knapp solo home run, as the outcome of the game was never in doubt. With 10 strikeouts, Woodruff’s ERA now sits at 3.22 for the season, and with a 3.11 FIP and 3.45 xFIP along with 11 strikeouts per nine innings, there is a lot to feel good about.
8) Dozier Continues to Produce
Talk about coming out of nowhere. Anybody that took a flier on Hunter Dozier late in drafts this spring, yes I can raise my hand in a few leagues, has to be pleased to this point in the season. Dozier went deep for the 11th time this season on Sunday as part of a four hit effort. Consistent playing time is agreeing with Dozier who drove in two runs, 32 overall, while also scoring twice and raising his average to .314. This shouldn’t be coming as a complete surprise, because Dozier has shown some power ability in the minor leagues. And the good news, is that everything in Dozier’s stat cast profile (exit velocity, launch angle, barrel rate, hard hit rate) says that we can expect this production to continue.
9) Heaney Makes His Return
If Andrew Heaney is available in your league, depending on the settings, he most likely shouldn’t be. After missing the start of the season due to injury, Heaney returned to action yesterday and had a strong performance in his season debut. The left-hander allowed two runs in five innings of work (both solo home runs) while walking a batter and striking out eight. Last season, in 180 innings of work, Heaney posted a 4.15 ERA while striking out 180 batters. There is no reason not to expect a repeat this season; if he remains healthy that is.
10) Suarez Continues to be a Run Producer
A slow start very much behind him, Eugenio Suarez has more than righted the ship as a continuation of last year’s success is very much in the making. Suarez drove in three more runs yesterday to bring his RBI total up to 37 overall, and after going 2 for 3 with his 11th double of the season, he is now hitting .274. Over his last 30 games, things have really come together for Suarez as he hitting .303 with nine home runs and 28 RBI.