10 Important Stories from 06/08/19 Box Scores: What To Make Of The Surprises (Sampson, Jones), Should We Buy The Breakouts (Valdez, Giolito) & More

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Steven Matz was able to avoid first inning trouble, for a change, and delivered a strong start against the Rockies allowing 3 R (2 earned) on 6 H and 2 BB, striking out 10, over 6.0 IP to earn the W.  Max Scherzer did what he does, tossing 7.0 shutout innings (6 H, 1 BB, 9 K) to defeat the Padres.  Shohei Ohtani continued to show how much value he holds, even when he’s unable to pitch, going 3-5 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 3 R.  What else happened on the field that we need to know about?  Let’s take a look:

1) Is it finally time to believe in Lucas Giolito’s ascent as an ace…
Taking on the Royals he tossed 7.2 shutout innings allowing 3 H and 2 BB, striking out 11, to improve to 9-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over 75.0 IP.  He was on point yesterday, generating 22 swinging strikes, and entered the day with an impressive 10.43 K/9 (courtesy of a 13.3% SwStr%) and 2.67 BB/9.  There has been a little bit of luck (.256 BABIP), but the bigger potential concern comes from his 36.3% groundball rate (before generating just 4 groundballs vs. 8 fly balls yesterday) and 0.53 HR/9.  As we’ve mentioned before he continues to increase the usage of his changeup (24.6% entering the day), and that helps to back up the improved strikeout rate and generally improvement in his production.  That said, what we do know is that the home runs should rise and with it there will be a small step backwards.  That doesn’t mean to go running for the hills or that he’s a must sell, just be prepared for it.

2) Nick Pivetta appears to finally be living up to his preseason hype…
Taking on the Reds he tossed an absolute gem, allowing 1 ER on 6 H and 0 BB, striking out 6, en route to a complete game victory.  He was getting swings and misses (15) and generating groundballs (11 groundballs vs. 8 fly balls) and has been stellar in three starts since returning from Triple-A (4 ER over 20.0 IP).  Even while he was in the minors he had been struggling with his control (4.86 BB/9 over 37.0 IP), but he has 2 BB vs. 21 K in these 20.0 IP and if he can maintain that there’s little reason to think that he can’t continue posting these types of results.  He has been generating enough groundballs (45.6% entering the day in the Majors) and getting enough swings and misses in order to buy in.  He may never be an ace, but there’s more than enough to make him a Top 25-30 type starter and a must use most of the time he takes the mound.

3) In his first start of ’19 Framber Valdez twirls an impressive outing…
Of course it came against the Orioles so we have to take it with at least a small grain of salt.  That said he allowed 1 ER on 5 H and 0 BB, striking out 7, over 7.0 IP though he had to settle for a no decision as Andrew Cashner managed to match him (6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 3 K).  Valdez was a groundball machine in this one, generating 12 groundballs vs. 2 fly balls, though he had just 11 swinging strikes.  He’s always been known as a groundball pitcher, and he should have at least some success as long as he can continue to find the strike zone.  That had been an issue in the Majors (5.29 BB/9 over 63.0 IP), and while he had been better in the minor leagues he had never been known as a control pitcher (3.4 BB/9).  There’s at least a little bit to buy into, though we wouldn’t go too crazy considering his rotation spot is no guarantee.  Ride him while he’s going well, but don’t get too attached.

4) Oscar Mercado continues to show just how high his upside is…
He went 2-4 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R, and he’s now hitting .300 with 3 HR, 7 RBI, 17 R and 2 SB.  While speed is supposed to be his biggest asset, both of his stolen bases have come in one game (and that came 10 games ago).  While that’s a little bit disappointing today, it also tells us that his value might only increase as time goes by.  That’s not to say that he can keep up this average, despite hitting the ball extremely hard (43.1% Hard% entering the day), as he’s been far too pull heavy (17.6% Oppo%) and his approach hasn’t been ideal (11.9% SwStr%, 31.7% O-Swing%).  He has cut things down slightly, with 4 K over his last 20 AB, and his 11.4% walk rate at Triple-A prior to his recall shows there’s a little bit more potential.  He brings enough power and plenty of speed, making him well worth owning.

5) Has Trevor Richards finally turned a corner…
Taking on the Braves he pitched well, though in a losing effort (he was outpitched by Julio Teheran, who tossed 6.0 shutout innings allowing 2 H and 1 BB, striking out 5), as he allowed 1 ER on 2 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, over 7.0 IP.  He’s now allowed 1 ER or less in four straight starts, though outside of strikeouts (he entered the day with an 8.55 K/9) what skill does he bring to the table?  He entered the day with a 4.07 BB/9, after a 3.85 BB/9 over 126.1 IP last season, and a 35.6% groundball rate (6 groundballs vs. 9 fly balls yesterday) leading to a 1.36 HR/9.  Throw in a 40.7% Hard%, as well as a .244 BABIP and 83.1% strand rate, and it’s harder and harder to believe.  Despite the strong stretch, don’t buy into it as a “breakout” as of today.

6) Is there reason to believe in David Price…
After the Red Sox got blown up in the first game of the double header (they lost 9-1 behind a gem from Ryan Yarbrough, who allowed 1 ER on 4 H and 0 BB, striking out 7, over 7.2 IP) David Price starred in game number two.  Going 6.0 innings he allowed 1 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 10, over 6.0 IP and now is 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP over 60.0 IP.  He’s shown strikeouts (69) and control (14), entering the day with a 12.1% SwStr% (he had 16 swinging strikes yesterday) and an improved groundball rate (44.2%, before 5 groundballs vs. 3 fly balls yesterday).  He hasn’t been overly lucky (.280 BABIP, 80.1% strand rate) and while there could be a little bit more of a home run issue (1.17 HR/9) there’s enough to at least make him a viable option in all formats.

7) Has the Rangers’ Adrian Sampson become a viable, under-the-radar, buy…
Taking on the A’s in the second game of a double header Sampson was stellar, with a complete game victory.  He allowed 1 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 7, making one small mistake (a home run to Mark Canha) and now owns a 3.72 ERA and 1.33 WHIP over 67.2 IP.  While he did strikeout 11 batters in his previous start, overall he has 53 K over 67.2 IP and hasn’t shown much upside (10.1% SwStr%) despite spending a lot of time in the bullpen (he’s made 14 appearances, but 7 starts).  Sure the control has been tremendous, with a 1.86 BB/9 (1.79 over 95.1 IP in the Majors), but that’s about the only skill he’s displayed (37.1% groundball rate).  Lack of strikeouts coupled with home run issues, especially for an American League pitcher?  Just add in a 45.4% Hard% and he becomes an easy hard pass.

8) Corey Seager continues to prove that there’s value in his bat…
After a slow start (he was hitting .238 as recently as May 28) Seager has come to life, including going 4-5 with 4 RBI yesterday.  He’s currently on a six-game hitting streak (12-26, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 3 R), and suddenly is hitting a respectable .270 with 8 HR and 38 RBI over 226 AB.  Throw in 20 doubles and a 40.4% Hard% (and just a .312 BABIP) and there’s a lot of reason for optimism.  That said there is some reason for concern in regards to his strikeout rate, as he owns an 11.9% SwStr% and 19.4% strikeout rate, and a little bit too much fly ball to his approach (43.3%, compared to a career 32.2% mark).  Is that enough to ignore him?  Obviously not, though it’s enough to limit his outlook slightly.  Maybe he’s not an elite option, but he’s a solid one that will hold significant value moving forward.

9) The Angels rocked Yusei Kikuchi…
After having a start skipped Kikuchie clearly didn’t have it on Saturday night, allowing 7 R (6 earned) on 9 H and 3 BB, striking out 1.  The took him deep three times, which is a bit of a surprise considering he generated 7 groundballs vs. 3 fly balls on the day, though it’s been a consistent issue for him this season (1.79 HR/9, with a 45.2% groundball rate).  The bigger concern is that he’s struggled to generate strikeouts, with a 6.53 K/9 courtesy of an 8.1% SwStr% and 24.9% O-Swing%, as we would’ve expected him to perform better than that due to a bit of an unfamiliarity.  You can argue that there’s a little bit more upside (.301 BABIP, 67.2% strand rate), though it’s not going to blow you away.  In shallower formats he’s tough to trust and in deeper league he’s more of a matchup play as opposed to someone you want to trust.

10) Does JaCoby Jones’ big day warrant our attention…
He went 3-5 with 2 HR, 5 RBI and 2 R, including take Kyle Gibson deep (who finished allowing 5 ER on 8 H and 2 BB, striking out 8, over 5.0 IP).  Jones is now hitting .250 with 8 HR and 20 RBI, 18 R and 6 SB over 160 AB, showing enough power and speed that would at least make him intriguing.  At the same time, while the approach still isn’t tremendous it is actually improved in both his SwStr% (12.7% compared to a 15.0% career mark) and O-Swing% (32.7% compared to a 36.2% career mark).  That gives hope that he can improve his 30.2% strikeout rate, and while he may be a bit too pull heavy (20.4% Oppo%) he’s hitting the ball extremely hard (43.5%) and he may be able to maintain the power (20.0% HR/FB).  He’s not a can’t miss option, but in deeper formats he could prove well worth the gamble.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference

6 COMMENTS

  1. Been offered Tatis Jr. and Benintendi for Vlad in a 5×5 keeper league. Tempting offer but Vlad’s upside seems too high to take the deal. Thoughts?

    • That’s extremely tempting, but Vlad could be a Top 5 player by this time next year. I love Benintendi but the ceiling simply isn’t that high so I’d stay the course.

  2. Prof.,
    1. Two quick questions:
    At this point would you rather have Valdez or Duplantier?
    2. With Covey hurt, do you agree Despaigne seems to be best bet over Cease. Add him?
    T

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