10 Important Stories From 07/24/20 Box Scores: Surprising Opening Day Stars (Waiver Candidates) & More

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We’ve waited a long time for this, but the 2020 season finally got underway (and we hope that everyone has stayed safe and healthy throughout these trying times). Shane Bieber dominated the Royals, tossing 6.0 shutout innings allowing 4 H and 1 BB while striking out 14 (courtesy of 21 swinging strikes). Max Kepler slugged a pair of home runs, finishing the day 2-5 with 2 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R. Matt Olson delivered the biggest hit of the day, with an extra innings walkoff grand slam (he went 2-4 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 1 R). What else happened on the field? Let’s take a look:

1) Yoenis Cespedes steals the spotlight from the aces…

When it comes to deGrom we’ve grown accustomed to him not getting any run support (though being limited to 5.0 innings and 72 pitches due to back issues didn’t help his cause in terms of getting a W).  Michael Soroka is coming off an impressive rookie season and matched deGrom, throwing 6.0 shutout innings allowing 4 H and 0 BB, striking out 3.  However, despite the impressive pitcher’s duel it was Cespedes who is going to get the attention as he was the DH for the Mets and delivered the big blow.  He finished the day going 1-3 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R, driving in the only run of the game.  Cespedes’ injury issues have been well documented over the past two years, but the introduction of the DH could be a game changed for him allowing him to focus just on the bat and hopefully stay healthy.

2) Kyle Hendricks twirls a complete game gem…

All we heard leading into Opening Day from a lot of teams is that pitchers would be limited in terms of innings/pitch count.  However if someone wanted to be efficient with their bullets…  And that’s just what Hendricks did, with a complete game shutout against the Brewers allowing 3 H and 0 BB, striking out 9 (courtesy of an impressive 19 swinging strikes).  Almost as impressive is his 12 groundballs vs. 6 flyballs, and the fact that he needed just 103 pitches.  were a little bit skeptical of Hendricks over the long-term, given his generally limited strikeout rate and potential home run issues, but days like this quickly make you forget those concerns.  It’s only one start, but it definitely is a good way to kick things off.

3) Could Cavan Biggio emerge as one of the elite…

He provided the big blow for the Blue Jays, finishing the day going 2-5 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R.  There’s no questioning his upside, but we also can’t ignore that he struck out 3 times on the night.  That wasn’t a problem last season, when he posted an 8.7% SwStr% and 15.8% O-Swing%, so for now we’ll chalk it up to a one game aberration.  The home run should be the focus, and hitting second with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. right behind him should only continue to give him good pitches to hit.

4) Sandy Alcantara outpitches Aaron Nola…

Who would’ve expected that…  It’s not that Nola was completely awful, though it certainly wasn’t an ace-like performance against the Marlins:

  • Aaron Nola – 5.1 IP, 4 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K
  • Sandy Alcantara – 6.2 IP, 2 R (1 ER), 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K

Alcantara made one big mistake, a home run to Didi Gregorius (2-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R).  It was a great overall performance, generating 14 swinging strikes and more groundballs (7) than flyballs (5).  While he did post a 3.88 ERA last season, his 6.89 K/9, 3.69 BB/9 and 44.6% groundball rate wouldn’t have indicated a buying opportunity. It’s just one start, but his velocity was up (96.9 mph) and he was throwing his changeup more (19.5%). We’ll have to monitor both of those things, but there’s enough here to consider.

5) Jose Peraza contributes to Boston’s outburst…

Obviously when you score 13 runs on 17 hits there are going to be a lot of contributors, and you can point to people like Kevin Pillar (3-5, 3 RBI, 1 R) or Jackie Bradley (3-4, 2 RBI, 3 R). Instead the focus should go to Peraza, who wasn’t guaranteed a starting job entering Spring Training or Summer Camp. He played his way into the role and delivered big on Opening Day, as he went 4-5 with 2 RBI and 2 R. While he struggled in ’19, let’s not forget that he isn’t far removed from hitting .288 with 14 HR and 23 SB for the Reds in 2018. While he isn’t likely to be that good, the upside is there to produce power and speed. While he hit 9th yesterday, it also wouldn’t be shocking to see him moved towards the top of the lineup.

6) German Marquez gets off to a strong start…

He ultimately took the loss, but it’s only because Lance Lynn was just slightly better:

  • German Marquez – 5.2 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 6 K
  • Lance Lynn – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 9 K

Marquez looked like he was on the verge of being a must use fantasy option, but he stumbled in ’19 to the tune of a 4.76 ERA as home runs (1.50 HR/9) and poor luck (68.0% strand rate) plagued him. Obviously it’s just one start and we’ll have to wait and see how he fares in Coors Field, but it’s promising all the same (especially as he generated 15 swinging strikes).

 7) A terrible start for Lucas Giolito…

It’s not like Jose Berrios (4.0 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 1 K) was any better, as the matchup between two young pitchers fizzled. For Giolito, he allowed 7 ER on 6 H and 3 BB, striking out 3, over 3.2 IP as he allowed a pair of home runs. While he showed better control in ’19, let’s not forget that he struggled in his rookie year (4.67 BB/9) while home runs have been an issue throughout his MLB career (1.46 HR/9 over 420.1 IP). If both of those things are going to be prevalent he’s going to struggle. He has proven that he can generate swings and misses, which helps, and the key may be to get his slider usage up quickly (5.0% on Opening Day, compared to 14.7% in ’19). Watch him closely.

8) Eric Hosmer delives a big day…

There were a lot of contributors for the Padres, from Chris Paddack (6.0 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 4 K) to Tommy Pham (1-3, 1 RBI, 2 R, 2 SB). However it was Hosmer who delivered the most noteworthy day, going 3-4 with 6 RBI (including a pair of doubles). There have generally been questions about his power and we’ve seen his SwStr% rise over the past few years (13.4% in ’19). It’s not to say that he can’t be a productive option, but it’s just one game and it doesn’t make us ignore the potential negatives. Let’s see where things go from here.

9) Ross Stripling steps up and delivers… 

Stripling got the opportunity to start after David Price opted out of the 2020 season. In his first start he delivered, allowing 1 ER on 4 H and 0 BB, striking out 7, over 7.0 IP to deliver a W against the Giants (while Max Muncy paced the offense, going 3-4 with 2 HR, 2 RBI and 3 R). There has never been a question about Stripling’s potential, it’s been more about the chances he’ll get. With Price out and Clayton Kershaw injured, he’s locked into the rotation and should get his opportunity to prove he can thrive.

10) Andrew Heaney shows his potential value, maybe…

Heaney was pulled after 67 pitches after dealing with some back issues recently, but he showed off his upside against the A’s. Going 4.2 IP Heaney allowed 1 ER on 2 H and 0 BB, striking out 6, though he settled for a no decision. As long as he’s keeping the ball in the ballpark he should have success, though that’s something that will have to be watched closely. The run he did allow came courtesy of the long ball and he generated 0 groundballs vs. 8 flyballs on the night. There’s value, but there’s also risk depending on the matchup/locale.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

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