While we are all about the here and now, yesterday was really about the future. With just four games taking place on Monday, the day was really about the MLB Draft, and with good reason. In case you missed any of the action while paying attention to your future fantasy players, let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out:
1) Lester Cruises to Victory
I keep on waiting for Jon Lester to truly take a step back this season, and it just hasn’t happened yet. Now, this isn’t a bad thing, as we don’t want anyone to struggle, but through 11 starts, the southpaw has proven to be a solid option. Lester picked up his fourth victory of the season against the Angels on Monday with seven innings of one run ball in which the traffic on the bases was kept to a minimum. Los Angeles managed just four hits and one walk off Lester who struck out six while lowering his ERA to 3.32. For the season, Lester has 56 strikeouts in 59.2 innings, so he is still a consistent source of production in that department while walking just 2.11 batters per nine innings. At this point, there is no reason not to expect Lester to continue being a reliable option in the rotation.
2) Baez Gets Back Over .300
Javier Baez isn’t going to catch anyone by surprise after the success he had last season, but so far in 2019, he is living up to the hype. With two extra base hits on Monday, his 18th double and 14th home runs of the season, Baez brought his batting average back up to .301 on the year. Baez is also now up to 37 RBI for the season, and he is finding success even with his inability to make consistent contact hanging over his head. After we saw a slight improvement in his strikeout rate last season, 25.9% (yes, that was an improvement), Baez is back up to 31.7% in 2019. We have to add a caveat though, that even though Baez’s BABIP is naturally high (.344), it is currently sitting at .399, so it’s hard to feel confident that his batting average will remain at its current level. With a .271 ISO though, we don’t have to worry about Baez’s power. While we can’t classify Baez as a disappointment, the fact that he has only stolen two bases so far this season isn’t exactly a positive. But as long as he continues to drive the ball, it’s hard to really complain about him.
3) Heyward Drives in Two
After finishing April with a .309 batting average, it was hard not to feel good about Jason Heyward. Now, while that doesn’t mean I was “all-in” on the outfielder, he was an attractive option in deeper leagues. And in case you needed a reminder of that, Heyward proceeded to then hit .186 in the month of May. However, following his two hit effort on Monday, Heyward is now working on a six game hitting streak, and he is batting .320 over his last seven games. On the season, Heyward is hitting .249, and if you needed any reminder about his lack of power, his double on Monday was just his third of the season. As I look to do that though, we have to note, that Heyward does have nine home runs so far this season, and that was a large part of his early season value as his 16.1% home run to fly ball rate is not sustainable.
4) Buehler Blows Away Arizona
I thought about using a really bad pun with Walker Buehler’s first name and the fact that he didn’t walk a batter on Monday, but ultimately decided against it. The right-hander cruised through his start against Arizona with eight innings of one run ball to pick up his sixth victory of the season. Other than a Christian Walker solo home run, Buehler limited the Diamondbacks to just one other hit as he struck out 11. The victory brought the right-hander’s ERA down to 3.69 on the season, and while it is not surprising that he is striking out a batter per inning, what impresses me the most, is the fact that he is walking just 1.58 batters per nine innings. By no means am I down on Buehler, but something to keep an eye on, is the fact that his ground ball rate dropped by nine percent compared to last year, and we have seen a similar decrease in his soft contact rate. But clearly, it hasn’t impacted Buehler’s results.
5) Maybe There’s Still Some Life in Walker
Arizona isn’t the first team to take a look at Christian Walker, but this is the first period of extended success he has had at the big league level. To say that Walker came out of the gate scorching would be an understatement, but fantasy owners who grabbed him quickly certainly weren’t complaining. It seemed like Walker was hitting a home run and picking up multiple hits each day, but it really was a small stretch of time, as he ultimately hit .287 with five home runs and 10 RBI in the month of April. Last month though, things certainly took a turn, as with just a .207 batting average and three home runs, it looked like time was up on Walker despite the elite batted ball metrics he had posted earlier in the season. However last night, as Walker went deep for the 11th time this season, he is now hitting .360 in his last seven games with three home runs. For the season, Walker’s .258 batting average does appear to be more accurate, with 11 home runs and 24 RBI, and he is an option better left to deeper leagues.
6) Reddick Settles Into the Middle of the Order
Nothing against Josh Reddick, but given the Astros’ roster, he doesn’t exactly profile as a middle of the order threat. However, with all of the injuries, that is where the outfielder currently finds himself. And all Reddick is doing, is continuing on the success he established earlier this season after improving his approach at the plate by not trying to pull everything. Reddick picked up two hits last night, including a first inning triple that plated his 20th RBI of the season as he improved his batting average to .308 on the year. While his production isn’t exactly going to be a difference maker, Reddick does fit nicely into the back end of your outfield as he also scored his 27th run of the season on Monday, and with six home runs, there is some power.
7) Valdez Impresses
At this point, Corbin Martin might not be much too longer for the the Astros’ starting rotation. Now, this is far from the last we are seeing from the right-hander, but last night he struggled to get through three innings of work. His talent level is clear, but with a 5.59 ERA, the right-hander could use a little more seasoning in Triple-A. One possibility to take Martin’s spot, is Framber Valdez. The left-hander relieved Martin last night and picked up his second victory of the season with four shutout innings of work. After having some struggles himself earlier in the season, Valdez brought his ERA down to 3.12 on the season, but most importantly, he only walked two batters while striking out three and allowing just two hits. Control is often an issue for the left-hander, and with 4.50 walks per nine innings, it is something to keep an eye on if he does move into the rotation. Regardless though, he did have an impressive performance last night.
8) Machado Makes it Count
If you are going to just have one hit on the night, you should make sure it is one everyone will remember. With Manny Machado on Monday, that was the case as he hit a grand slam. It was the 10th home run of the season for Machado, who is still in the midst of a slow start with San Diego. The third baseman (although he is filling in at shortstop) has been showing signs of life, and has 31 RBI to go along with his .251 batting average. Sure, you would like to see an OPS better than .763, but there is still a lot of baseball left to be played. With last night’s grand slam being Machado’s only home run in his last 15 games, it also doubled his RBI total and he is batting .196, this is the lowest end of his value. And after four seasons in which he hit no fewer than 33 home runs, he is simply too good a player to continue these struggles.
9) Lauer Starts the Week off Right
With two starts this week, Eric Lauer was an intriguing option, and he is moving in the right direction after last night. While he only struck out three batters, Lauer kept the Phillies off-balance all night as they managed just one run on two hits and three walks off him. The left-hander isn’t going to over power anyone as he struck out just three batters, but with five victories and a 4.18 ERA, Lauer can be a solid option. Overall, Lauer is walking just 2.37 batters per nine innings, and 4.07 FIP supports his performance as a solid streaming option with a chance for a quality start (4.53 xFIP) each time out.
10) Realmuto Drives in Two
Yes, J.T. Realmuto is not running this season, but with two stolen bases he is just about there to compared to the three he stole in 2018. So while he has some speed and he did steal 12 bases a few years ago, anything I get from Realmuto in that department is a bonus. Overall, things have gone relatively well for the catcher in his new home, but given his status as a top-2 catcher in the game, I understand wanting more. After picking up two hits on Monday, Realmuto is now hitting .265 on the season. One of those hits was a solo home run, nine on the season, and with two RBI, he is up to 35 overall. This puts Realmuto well on pace to at least match the 21 home runs and 74 RBI he picked up last season, and despite hitting just .236 in his last 15 games, he is within striking distance of last season’s .277 batting average. So to me, granted I didn’t take Realmuto early in any league, I see nothing wrong with his overall production to this point.