The week started off exactly the way we like it. Not only was it a busy day of action around the league, but everything was in the evening. That meant there was plenty of time to toss around various lineup decisions and to gather as much information as possible. Whether or not it was, or will turn out to be, the right decision, is certainly a different story. All we can do, is take it one game at a time, so let’s take a look at some of the performances of note from last evening’s action:
1) Tanaka Cruises to Victory
Seeing an American League East game be the first of the slate to go final is a rare occurrence, but it was the case in the Bronx on Monday. That is because Masahiro Tanaka never gave Tampa Bay a chance to get anything going offensively, as the three runs the Yankees scored for him, was more than enough. The right-hander limited the Rays to just three base runners, two singles and a walk, as he needed 111 pitches, 76 strikes, to pick up the complete game shutout. It was the fifth victory of the season for Tanaka who, in the process, lowered his ERA to 3.23. For the most part, it has been smooth sailing for Tanaka so far this season, but that is especially the case over his last seven starts, as he has a 2.70 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP while striking out 44 batters against just six walks, in 46.2 innings of work. All Tanaka needs to do, is continue to stay healthy the rest of the season.
2) Welcome Back, Justin
A few months ago, fantasy owners felt comfortable penciling in Justin Upton for another solid campaign of 25-30 home runs and 80-90 RBI. Instead, a toe injury claimed more than two and a half months of the outfielder’s season, and he didn’t make his season debut, until last night. The good news, is that Upton quite simply didn’t miss a beat. Inserted into the cleanup spot of the Angels’ order, Upton went 2 for 4 with a walk on Monday. More importantly, he wasted no time in hitting his first home run of the season (a solo shot). There’s no reason not to think the reliable veteran won’t pick up right where he left off, and you should treat him as such.
3) Albies Comes Through from the Bottom of the Lineup
Ozzie Albies has batted all across the lineup so far this season, and he has spent the most time in either the first or the eighth spot of the order. Despite hitting in front of the pitcher, Albies has had success batting eighth, as he was hitting .385 in 16 games prior to last night. The second baseman went 3 for 5 with four RBI on Monday while hitting his 11th home run of the season. Albies has struggled at times this season, but his batting average is up to .286 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI. It’s easy to forget about the second baseman now that the Braves moved him down in the order, but it is clear that it hasn’t negatively impacted his performance and production.
4) Porcello Shuts Down the Twins
Following along with Rick Porcello on a start to start basis could be frustrating at times, but the right-hander is often at least a solid and dependable option. That was the case last night as Porcello shut the Twins out over seven innings to pick up his fifth victory of the season. Minnesota managed just four hits and one walk off Porcello as he struck out eight to lower his ERA to 4.31. With 7.60 strikeouts and 2.57 walks per nine innings, the best we really can say about Porcello is that he is a quality option who is averaging just under six innings per start. If you need innings and are hunting wins, the right-hander is worth a look, but there is nothing to overboard about here.
5) Another Victory for Castillo
We are now up to seven victories on the season for Luis Castillo, against just one loss, after he defeated the Astros on Monday. The right-hander allowed two runs on two hits, but he was forced to navigate trouble of his own creation. That is what happens, when you walk six batters. The fact that Castillo did strike out seven did help, and that is how things generally go for the right-hander. So far this season, Castillo is striking out over 10 batters per nine innings, while also walking 4.52. It goes without saying, that the walks are a problem, that Castillo and his 2.26 ERA have yet to really be impacted by yet. Not only is Castillo proficient at striking batters out, he also has a 56.9% ground ball rate while giving up a hard hit rate of just 33%. While his .235 BABIP is slated to go up, the lack of both contact and quality contact against Castillo do both work in his favor. After limping to a 4.30 ERA last season, he is in a lot better shape so far in 2019, and his 3.55 FIP also reflects that.
6) Mikolas Does What He is Supposed to
At this point, we know exactly what Miles Mikolas brings to the table. And as long as you build around and acknowledge that, all should be well. The right-hander picked up his fifth victory of the season on Monday, against the Marlins, with little trouble. Mikolas scattered six hits while not walking a batter, and striking out four. Entering the evening, this was the best case scenario from the right-hander, and he delivered without issue while lowering his ERA to 4.48. Granted it was the Marlins, but as Mikolas looks to get past his early season struggles, the window to buy low might be coming to a close. Just keep in mind, that you aren’t going to get strikeouts from the right-hander, but with a 4.11 xFIP, things appear to be moving in the right direction.
7) Another Strong Start for Lynn
If you are skeptical, and really just writing off Lance Lynn, you weren’t wrong, but at this point, that sentiment needs to be past tense. The right-hander picked up his eighth victory of the season against Cleveland on Monday with seven strong innings of one run ball. A Francisco Lindor solo homer was the lone damage against Lynn who scattered five other hits while not walking a batter and striking out nine to lower his ERA to 4.16. For as good as Lynn has been the season, striking out 9.87 batters per nine innings, along with just 2.32 walks, his 3.01 FIP (3.87 xFIP), says that he can be even better. I am certainly late to the party, but with Lynn’s fastball sitting in the mid-90s, he truly is a viable rotation option.
8) Another Win for Fiers
On the surface, streaming your starting pitchers in match-ups in which they have a clear advantage, is a good and prudent strategy. But with the way pitching has gone so far this season, it’s not exactly breaking news to say it hasn’t proven to be effective at all times. Last night, that was not the case though as Mike Fiers, making his first of two starts for the week, came through with his seventh victory of the season. The right-hander, who has been a serviceable option all season, limited Baltimore to two runs (neither of which were earned) over 6.2 innings of work while scattering just three hits and two walks. Not an overpowering pitcher, Fiers struck out four while lowering his ERA to 4.28. Nothing spectacular, but exactly what fantasy owners were looking for off the waiver wire.
9) Another Strong Start for Lucchesi
After posting a 5.96 ERA in April, Joey Lucchesi has used each start, except for one, to improve his ERA. That trend continued last night, as with seven shutout innings against the Brewers, the left-hander’s ERA now sits at 3.74 which is the lowest it has been since his second start of the season. Lucchesi was able to limit a tough Milwaukee lineup, albeit tougher at home than on the road where they were, to just three hits and three walks while striking out five and picking up his sixth victory of the season. Lucchesi is striking out close to a batter an inning while limiting the walks (2.61 per nine innings) and running with a 50.2% ground ball rate. While you aren’t going to get spectacular results from Lucchesi, he isn’t going to leave you disappointed either as he continues to post a sub-4.00 ERA in just his second year as a major league starter.
10) Soler Drives in Two More
At this point, I think it is safe to say that Jorge Soler has found his role. A few seasons ago, there was a solid amount of buzz and expectations surrounding Soler as a Cubs’ prospect, but he has yet to really live up to any of that. But what we are seeing so far in 2019, is a true indication of what we should expect him to be capable of going forward. And that is a solid run producer who will struggle with both the batting average and strikeouts, and where he hits in the order will depend on how good of a team he is on. Playing for the Royals, means that Soler is slotted in as the clean-up hitter, and after driving in two runs on Monday, he is living up to that role. Soler is currently up to 51 RBI on the season, as he made his one hit of the night count; his 19th home run of the year.