10 Important Stories From 07/29/20 Box Scores: Which Debut Matters Most (Pearson/Javier), Emerging Youngsters To Target & More

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After a dominant 2020 debut Kyle Hendriks struggled against the Reds, allowing 6 ER on 7 H and 2 BB over 4.1 IP. It was more of the same for Jacob deGrom, who delivered a strong start against the Red Sox (6.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 4 K) but didn’t get support and walked away with a no decision. Edwin Rios delivered a go-ahead HR in the 14th inning, sending the Dodgers to victory (he went 1-2 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R). What else happened on the field that we need to know about? Let’s take a look:

1) Has German Marquez rediscovered his form…

It’s easy to forget that Marquez looked to have broken out in 2018 (3.77 ERA) considering how far he falloff last season (4.76 ERA). Obviously calling Coors Field home is always going to work against him, but even as he struggled last season he continued to show all of the skills we look for:

  • Strikeouts – 9.05 K/9
  • Control – 1.81 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 49.0%

Home runs (1.50 HR/9) and poor luck (68.0% strand rate) were the issues, but they haven’t been thus far. Taking on the A’s he allowed 1 ER (and it did come courtesy of a HR) on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 8, over 6.0 IP as he was generating swings and misses (12 swinging strikes) and groundballs (8 groundballs vs. 2 flyballs). Consider him a good target in all formats.

2) Nate Pearson shines in MLB debut…

Taking on Max Scherzer and the Nationals is never an easy task, but in your MLB debut? There’s no questioning Pearson’s upside, though it was a bit of a surprise that he managed to match him in his debut. Pearson tossed 5.0 shutout innings allowing 2 H and 2 BB, striking out 5, as he generated 14 swinging strikes and threw 48 of 75 pitches for strikes.

In 101.2 IP across three levels in the minors in ’19 he posted a 2.30 ERA behind a 10.53 K/9, 2.39 BB/9 and 39.5% groundball rate. Obviously there could be home run issues, especially as he adjusts to the highest level, though you need to make contact in order for that to be an issue. Don’t be surprised if he’s a must use in 2021, though for now consider him a plug and play option as there will be highs and lows.

3) Has Zach Plesac emerged as a must own…

He was spectacular against the White Sox, outshining a nearly equally impressive Lucas Giolito (6.0 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 K). Making his 2020 debut Plesac tossed 8.0 shutout innings allowing 3 H and 0 BB, striking out 11. He generated a highly impressive 20 swinging strikes, and while he struggled in that regards in the Majors last season (9.5% SwStr%) that wasn’t the case during his minor league career. It’s important, especially with the potential for home runs to be an issue (even yesterday he generated 5 groundballs vs. 8 flyballs). That said his ability to miss bats and strong control should help to limit the damage. While he’s not a can’t miss, he’s worth rolling the dice on. Consider him a must own in most formats.

4) Is it too soon to give up on Matt Boyd…

The hope was that Boyd would bounce back after a rough ’20 debut (4 ER over 5.0 IP against the Reds). Unfortunately it was much of the same, this time against the Royals, as he allowed 4 ER on 9 H and 0 BB, striking out 6, over 5.0 IP. At least he didn’t allow a home run this time? Still he wasn’t generating many groundballs (2 groundballs vs. 7 flyballs), and that’s going to be a significant issue down the road. If he can maintain the strikeouts and control than he could overcome it, but is that something we’re willing to depend on?

5) Has Sonny Gray emerged as a true ace…

Dominating Detroit is one thing, but Gray followed it up with an equally impressive performance against the Cubs. Going 6.2 innings he allowed 2 R (0 earned) on 1 H and 1 BB, striking out 11. Not only are those surface numbers impressive, he also generated 7 groundballs vs. 3 flyballs. Groundballs have never been a question, but in the early going he’s backing up the improved strikeout rate he showed in ’19 (10.52 K/9). At this point it’s hard to argue against Gray.

6) Can Cristian Javier followup on his impressive debut…

The Dodgers are never an easy matchup, but Javier thrived in his MLB debut. Going 5.2 IP he allowed 1 ER on 2 H and 1 BB, striking out 8, as he made one mistake (a HR to Corey Seager, who finished 1-5 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R). Interestingly Javier wasn’t missing a significant number of bats (10 swinging strikes), nor was he generating groundballs (3 groundballs vs. 6 flyballs). He pitched across three levels of the minors in ’19, and while there were some impressive moments the underlying numbers do show reason for hesitation:

  • Strikeouts – 13.46 K/9 (16.9% SwStr%)
  • Control – 4.67 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 28.4%

Sure he should be able to miss bats, but will he continue to harness it inside the strike zone and can he keep the ball in the ballpark? Time will tell, and he’s worth stashing to find out, but for now he’s high risk, high reward. In the sprint known as 2020, that may not be a gamble worth using.

7) Brandon Woodruff completely stymies the Pirates…

He allowed 0 R on 1 H and 1 BB, striking out 10, over 6.1 IP to earn the W. It was highly impressive, as the performance came courtesy of 20 swinging strikes and 6 groundballs vs. 3 flyballs. Over his first 11.1 IP this season he now has 15 K vs. 2 BB, while also generating groundballs at an extremely high level (13 groundballs vs. 4 flyballs). We all know that’s the type of skillset we are always looking for, and with a strong offense behind him could ultimately lead to a monster season. He was seen as a high upside starter entering the season, and things just keep getting more and more impressive.

8) Should we care about Daniel Ponce de Leon’s strikeout total…

In terms of strikeouts it was an impressive outing against the Twins, as he had 8 K over 3.2 IP. Unfortunately that number, when coupled with 3 BB, limited him to 3.2 IP as he allowed 2 H and 3 ER. He was pulled from the start after 85 pitches, so it’s not like the Cardinals had a quick hook. Let’s not overlook the control problems he had in 2019, whether it was at Triple-A (4.59 BB/9) or the Majors (4.81 BB/9), as well as a SwStr% that doesn’t justify this type of mark (11.1% SwStr% in ’19, though only 10 swinging strikes yesterday). Throw in a non-elite groundball rate (35.6% at Triple-A) and the answer is no, we shouldn’t care. He’s a streaming option, but that’s about it.

9) Has Mike Yastrzemski truly broken out…

It’s easy to overlook Yastrzemski, but he’s quietly emerged for the Giants. Hitting atop the lineup yesterday he went 3-5 with 2 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R, including a walkoff shot. He’s now hitting .409 on the season, a year after he hit .272 with 21 HR over 411 PA. There is a little bit of strikeout concerns, after he posted an 11.5% SwStr%, though he stayed within the strike zone (29.2% O-Swing%) and repeatedly hit the ball hard (43.3% Hard%). Maybe the knock is him potentially being a platoon player? Considering he owns a career .330 AVG with 4 HR over 88 AB, that’s clearly not a concern. He has value in all formats and is a must own.

10) Is J.P. Crawford finally emerging…

Hitting atop the Mariners’ lineup Crawford went 2-3 with 2 RBI and 2 R. He’s now hitting .368 with 2 RBI and 5 R on the season, and while he has yet to hit a HR he has added 1 double and 2 triples. Even more impressive is his 1 K vs. 7 BB to open the year, further solidifying what has generally been a strong approach (he owns a career 8.3% SwStr% and 22.2% O-Swing%). The problem is, can he bring enough power or speed? He had 7 HR vs. 5 SB over 396 PA last season and has yet to deliver in either category in 2020, so the ceiling may not be overly high. That doesn’t mean he should be ignored, just know he’s not a difference maker until he starts showing something in those categories.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

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