by Ray Kuhn
As we head into the fourth of July, strangely not every team is playing, all 30 teams were in action last night. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that caught our eye from a busy day around the league:
1) A Debut in Chicago
Thanks a rain out on Tuesday, the Tigers and White Sox faced off in a double-header yesterday, and in the first game of the day, Dylan Cease made his major league debut. It wasn’t a spectacular performance from the rookie, but in flashes, we did see what Cease is capable of as he picked up his first major league victory. After posting a 2.40 ERA in 124 innings last season, in both Double-A and Triple-A, Cease’s ERA upon his promotion from Triple-A this season was 4.48 with a WHIP of 1.57. Of course, we know that the right-hander is better than that, as the velocity and tool set is there. In 354.1 minor league innings, Cease has 450 strikeouts, and with six strikeouts in five innings of work yesterday, we saw that he is capable of overpowering opposing hitters. At the same time, the rookie also worked around four hits and four walks as he allowed three runs. The skill set is there, and the results will come, but regardless of that, the strikeouts will prove to be an asset as he works to find his consistency and footing at the major league level.
2) Strasburg Dominates
When Stephen Strasburg made his debut back in 2011, his start last night is what was envisioned. Quite simply, the Marlins never had a chance against Strasburg as he struck out 14 batters in 7.1 shutout innings while allowing just two hits and two walks. It was the 10th victory of the season for Strasburg who continues to impress in 2019 as he brought his ERA down to 3.64. For the season, Strasburg is striking out 10.68 batters per nine innings while walking just 2.24. The main thing for the right-hander though, is that he has remained healthy all season, and just made his 18th start of 2019. Of course, now that we said that, he will likely find his way to the Injured List, but for the most part, Strasburg has been consistent, for the most part, all season.
3) Melky Keeps on Hitting
The easy thing to do here, would be to just copy and paste any other note about Josh Bell that we have used so far this season, but what else is knew, the first baseman hit another home run on Wednesday. The first baseman now sits at 26 home runs and 80 RBI on the season, but the player who hit behind him in the order isn’t doing too bad either. Now, nobody is going to come close to comparing Melky Cabrera to Bell, or say that their value is anywhere close to the same, but the Pittsburgh outfielder can be a useful depth option in deeper leagues. On Wednesday, Cabrera hit his fifth home run of the season as he finished a triple shy of the cycle. After two RBI last night, he is at just 29 on the season, and he certainly isn’t going to be compared to a run producer. But, with a .314 batting average, you can’t simply just ignore him either.
4) Gray Continues His Strong Season
With his 2018 struggles completely behind him, Sonny Gray continues to fit right in with the Reds. The right-hander picked up his fifth victory of the season as he shut the Brewers out over eight innings on Wednesday. Milwaukee managed just four hits and one walk off the right-hander as he struck out 12 batters to lower his ERA to 3.59. Throughout this season, Gray has consistently kept the Reds in the game, and the worst he has done, is allow four runs on two separate occasions. In 90.1 innings this season, Gray has struck out 103 batters, and with a 1.18 WHIP, the base paths haven’t been especially crowded. We have seen Gray’s ground ball rate jump to 55.8% this season, and quite frankly, he just looks a lot more comfortable on the mound and it is carrying through to his results.
5) Another Home Run for Nunez
The .241 batting average is going to place a clear limit on Renato Nunez’s value, but the Orioles’ slugger has proven to have some value so far in 2019. Baltimore’s lack of other options have provided plenty of opportunities so far this season, and one of them is Nunez in the clean-up spot. Wednesday saw Nunez hit his 19th home run of the season, and the three run shot gave him 47 RBI on the season. For someone who was widely available on the waiver wire at the start of 2019, that is a pretty good pace halfway through the season, and as long as you can deal with the batting average, Nunez is a solid source of power production.
6) A Solid Start for Wilson
Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for Bryse Wilson at the major league level so far this season, but the right-hander did turn things around yesterday against the Phillies. The talent is there, but even though he did pick up the victory, his long term outlook as a starting pitcher is still up for debate. On Wednesday, Wilson gave up two runs over six innings on five hits and two walks while striking out five. That brought Wilson’s ERA down to 6.14. The sample size, 14.2 innings, is still quite small, but it’s clear that Wilson needs to limit the walks and home runs. I wouldn’t go all in just yet on Wilson, but instead just keep him on your radar.
7) Two More Home Runs for Trout
With the explosion of home runs and breakout performances this season, Mike Trout almost flies under the radar. I say almost, because he is clearly the best player in baseball, but he is also getting a run for his money from Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger, among others. Trout just quietly goes out and consistently produces, and that was on display last night. The Angels’ outfielder went deep twice, and that gave him 24 home runs on the season. With a three run and a solo shot, Trout is now up to 61 RBI on the season while batting .296. It was a good sign though, as even including last night, Trout is hitting just .192 in his last seven games, but lets be honest, no one was truly worried about the outfielder, as all he does, is continue to be productive.
8) Clevinger Bounces Back
Things couldn’t have been any worse for Mike Clevinger in his last start against the Orioles, and it’s not exactly productive for fantasy owners to remember how bad he truly was. But not to worry, the right-hander did bounce back in a good way against the Royals on Wednesday. Clevinger threw six shutout innings as he picked up his second victory of the season, his season has been interrupted by injury, while scattering just four hits and not walking a batter. He struck out nine batters while lowering his ERA to 4.44. The sample size of work from Clevinger is very small so far this season, 24.1 innings, but his 2.22 FIP and 2.36 xFIP should help fantasy owners feel better.
9) Garver Continues to Hit
Mitch Garver doesn’t play everyday, Jason Castro has also been impressive this season, but we shouldn’t hold that against him from a fantasy perspective. And, I wouldn’t even say that, in daily leagues, you need to roster two catchers, as when he is in the lineup, Garver gives you enough production. Batting second last night, the catcher went 2 for 6 with two RBI to raise his average to .286. In 147 at bats so far this season, he had a stint on the Injured List, Garver has 12 home runs and 34 RBI, along with 30 runs scored. Even at 300 at bats, Garver will still finish ahead of the majority of catchers if he continues on that pace.
10) Bellinger Sends Everyone Home Happy
Cody Bellinger had already went deep once last night, not exactly surprising, but then in 10th inning, he took matters into his own hands. Bellinger ended things with his second home run of the game as he continues to more than make up for the struggles he had last season. Both of Bellinger’s hits last night were solo home runs, and he now has 29 on the season along with 70 RBI. Along with a .345 batting average, Bellinger has put himself squarely in the running for MVP with his performance over the first half of the season, and with a .362 ISO, his power is off the charts.