10 Important Stories from 06/04/19 Box Scores: Which Youngsters To Buy & Which To Ignore (Smeltzer/Cooper), Veteran Opportunities & More

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Austin Riley continued his assault on MLB pitching, going 1-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 3 R.  The matchup between Madison Bumgarner (6.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 5 K) and Noah Syndergaard (6.2 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 4 K) wasn’t spectacular, but it was a good one all the same.  Hyun-Jin Ryu continued to dazzle for the Dodgers, tossing 7.0 shutout innings allowing 3 H and 0 BB, striking out 2, to improve to 9-1 with a 1.35 ERA.  What else happened on the field that we need to know about?  Let’s take a look:

1) Aaron Hicks gives us reason to believe…
He’s been among the most asked about players of late, as he continues to struggle since returning to the lineup.  He was hitting cleanup yesterday and showed why there was still value, going 2-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 2 R.  He’s now hitting .224 with 2 HR and 11 RBI over 58 AB.  The biggest concern entering the day was an increase in strikeouts (11.8% SwStr%, 27.0% strikeout rate), though it’s a small sample size and can be expected as he rounds into form after missing such a large chunk of time.  He has 1 K over his past three games (12 AB), showing signs of a turnaround, while he continues to draw walks (12.7% walk rate) and show enough of an ability to hit the ball hard (34.2% Hard%, .270 BABIP).  In other words there’s no reason to lose hope, as he should just continue to get better and better.

2) The long ball costs Devin Smeltzer against the Indians…
He was outpitched by Shane Bieber (7.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K), but regardless what really cost Smeltzer was the 4 HR he allowed (including a pair to Francisco Lindor).  He finished allowing 5 ER on 5 H and 3 BB, striking out 2, over 6.1 IP.  This comes after not allowing a home run in his first start, though this was always going to be a concern (41.4% groundball rate at Double-A, 41.3% at Triple-A prior to his recall).  That alone is going to cause concern, especially when you aren’t missing enough bats (4 swinging strikes yesterday, 15 over his two starts).  There’s overall upside potential, but there could continue to be these types of clunkers.  He’s more of a risky streaming option, at least for now, with a little bit more upside.

3) Is there still reason to believe in Miguel Cabrera…
The news of his knee issue has certainly clouded the issue, and helped to make a little bit of sense to his struggles this season.  Maybe sticking to DH duties will help him get things sorted out, and we saw it yesterday as he went 3-4 with 1 HR, 5 RBI and 1 R, with a grand slam against Blake Snell (4.1 IP, 6 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 8 K).  Obviously one home run isn’t going to cause us to forget the struggles, as he still has just 3 HR and 27 RBI on the season.  That said he entered the day with an impressive 44.1% Hard% and regardless of the physical ailment should continue to see an improvement in his HR/FB (4.4% entering the day).  He may never be the player that he used to be, but he’s also better than this.  Don’t be surprised to see him start to heat up and deliver some solid returns.

4) Garrett Cooper continues to rake, but should we buy in…
He went 4-5 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 3 R yesterday, putting him at .289 with 5 HR, 15 RBI and 18 R over 83 AB in the Majors.  Just how real are the numbers, though?  Sure he entered the day hitting the ball extremely hard (45.2% Hard%), but he was also a groundball-centric hitter (54.8%) benefitting from a 30.8% HR/FB.  Obviously the power is likely to regress, especially playing half his games in Miami, and a 36.4% O-Swing% should lead to a drop in his Hard%.  There’s always been some upside in the power department, including having hit 17 HR over 320 PA at Triple-A in ’17, so we don’t want to completely ignore the performance.  That makes him worth buying, though do so with your eyes open and be ready to part ways when things start going south.

5) Eduardo Rodriguez shows us why there’s value, but can we buy low…
Sure it was against the Royals but it was still a solid outing, with Rodriguez allowing 2 ER on 6 H and 0 BB, striking out 7, over 5.2 IP.  His one mistake was a home run to Cheslor Cuthbert (1-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R), and that was always the biggest risk facing Rodriguez (5 groundballs vs. 4 fly ball yesterday, 44.0% groundball rate entering the day).  That said he should continue to see an improvement in his luck metrics (.345 BABIP, 66.5% strand rate), especially as he continues to avoid hard contact (27.4% Hard%).  Throw in solid control (2.97 BB/9 entering the day) and show a career best swinging strike rate (12.6% SwStr% entering the day, 14 swinging strikes yesterday).  In other words it’s easy to envision these types of strong starts continuing, so if you can still buy low pull the trigger.

6) Does the home run barrage earn Pedro Severino more AB…
The assumption was that the recall of Chance Sisco would lead to Severino playing more of a backup role, though he was starting yesterday and helped to lead the way to a 12-11 victory over the Rangers (though Dwight Smith Jr. also played a sizable role, going 3-4 with 1 HR, 6 RBI and 2 R).  Severino finished 3-5 with 3 HR, 4 RBI and 3 R, putting him at .288 with 8 HR and 18 RBI over 104 AB.  Of course the bulk of his damage has come against left-handed pitching (he entered hitting .226 with 2 HR against RHP, and now has 6 HR against southpaws).  This screams of a platoon, with Sisco on the favorable side of things.  That means he’s still going to have value, but don’t let the big game alter your outlook.

7) Genesis Cabrera’s opportunity is going to quickly disappear…
Taking on the Reds he lasted just 4.2 innings allowing 4 R (3 earned) on 8 H and 2 BB, failing to record a strikeout.  Not only was there 0 K, but there were also no swinging strikes.  For a pitcher who is a flame thrower and hyped for his strikeout potential, that’s an extremely concerning number (especially after he generated just 5 swinging strikes over 3.2 IP in his first start).  There was always going to be the risk of home run issues (38.0% groundball rate over 39.2 IP at Triple-A prior to his recall) and his control is shaky at best (4.31 BB/9 prior to his recall).  His skill was supposed to be missing bats, and if he’s not doing that he’s going to be a complete disaster.  With Alex Reyes close to getting an opportunity, Cabrera’s window is quickly closing (and it definitely should be).  There’s nothing to see here.

8) Will Jay Bruce make us forget about Andrew McCutchen…
Of course not, though he did his best to yesterday by going 3-4 with 2 HR, 6 RBI and 3 R.  He was joined by Scott Kingery (2-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R), who could see an increased opportunity in centerfield if Adam Haseley (0-4) struggles.  Obviously we all know what Bruce brings to the table, and he now has 16 HR overall this season but goes with a .227 AVG and .293 OBP.  Of course there’s little reason to believe that there will be a turnaround in his average, considering his massive flyball-centric approach this season (58.7%, compared to a career mark of 43.2%) and a regression in his approach (15.5% SwStr%, 34.2% O-Swing%).  Always a home run only option, he’s taken it a step further this season.  Maybe he produces home runs playing in Philadelphia, but with power up across the game you can get it elsewhere.

9) Derek Fisher shows value at the top of the order…
It’s a spot he’s been getting an opportunity at, and he delivered yesterday going 2-4 with 1 RBI, 2 R and 1 SB.  While there was disappointment that he got the promotion over Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, he’s now hitting .281 with 1 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R and 2 SB over 32 AB in the Majors.  While there is the risk of a regression in his strikeout rate (11.4% SwStr%), it’s not a given and if he can maintain his 22.2% strikeout rate and 11.1% walk rate the potential is there to produce.  Even better is his continued ability to hit the ball with authority (37.5% Hard%) and the 20/20 potential he’s always shown coming up through the minors.  Obviously his time in the Majors is a miniscule sample size, but with the upside he’s shown before it’s enough to catch our attention.  While he’s tough to trust, there’s enough to roll the dice if you are in need and while he’s getting AB (and holding off the likes of Myles Straw).

10) How much longer can Reynaldo Lopez really last…
The White Sox spotted him a five run lead and he couldn’t even hold it, allowing 6 ER on 5 H and 4 BB, striking out 4, over 4.0 IP against the Nationals.  He allowed a pair of home runs and has now allowed 17 HR over 69.1 IP on the season.  Couple that with a 6.62 ERA and 1.67 WHIP, as well as a 4.28 BB/9, and what exactly are we buying into?  Home runs were always going to be a significant issue (28.6% groundball rate in ’19, 32.7% for his career), and he also continues to get hit extremely hard (39.2% Hard%).  Maybe he can turn things around, considering a .330 BABIP and 68.6% strand rate, and there also are some strikeouts (8.31 K/9) but that’s obviously not enough.  It’s only a matter of time before Lopez loses his rotation spot, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was pulled immediately.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

6 COMMENTS

  1. So Smeltzer – was considering him for 2 starts this week, so I watched him first start over the weekend. Yeah, he gave up zero runs, but Milwaukee hit several sharp, deep fly balls against him. That was enough to scare me off the 2 starts, and the home runs yesterday aren’t very surprising, based on that first start. Sure, maybe it’s just his first couple of starts and he’ll get better, but I wouldn’t trust him until he proves that he can keep the ball in the park (or at least consistently limit the damage).

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