It is still too early to scoreboard watch or to say that we have true pennant races, but the action is starting to heat up. That is especially true in the National League where it seems like half the team are in the Wild Card mix. But at any rate, the result, is a lot of exciting baseball. And then we get to the fantasy implications. Let’s jump into some of the performances that caught our attention from a busy Sunday:
1) Mancini Continues His Solid Season
Trey Mancini isn’t a true power hitter, but he has proven himself to be a capable run producer out of the second spot of Baltimore’s lineup. The outfielder had a solid 2 for 5 day at the plate on Sunday as he brought his average up to .280 on the season. Included in that was Mancini’s 25th double of the season as he drove in two runs which gave him 62 RBI on the season. With 26 home runs so far this season, alright maybe Mancini is a little more of a power hitter than we are giving him credit for (at least under current conditions), he has already surpassed the 24 he hit in each of the last two seasons. Mancini is also poised to set a new career high in RBI which would pass the 78 runs he drove in two years ago. At an exit velocity of 90.1 miles per hour and a 42% hard hit rate, Mancini is making solid contact, while sporting a 22.3 line drive rate (up from 18.9% a year ago).
2) Will the Trade Benefit Him?
After bursting onto the scene last season with 35 home runs and 108 RBI, it is safe to say that Jesus Aguilar has taken a step back. The first baseman ultimately fell out of favor in Milwaukee losing playing time to Eric Thames, and now he calls Tampa Bay home. Yesterday was Aguilar’s first start for the Rays’, it did come with a left-hander on the mound, and he produced at the plate. While Aguilar went 2 for 4 at the plate, to raise his average to .236, it is worth noting that his home run did come with a right-hander on the mound. It was just Aguilar’s ninth home run on the season, along with 36 RBI (after two on Sunday), as he clearly is having a down year. However, we do know that Aguilar can hit, so this is a situation to monitor; especially in leagues with daily roster moves.
3) Finish What You Start
Whether is name is Shane or Justin, it is hard to argue with the pitching performance we saw out of Cleveland on Sunday. Shane Bieber picked up another complete game, third on the season, as he limited the Angels to just two runs on five hits. Bieber did allow a home run, but he didn’t walk a batter while striking out eight and lowering his ERA to 3.31. Overall, it’s hard to ask for much more from Bieber as he is striking out close to 11 batters per nine innings while walking just 1.81. And with a 3.16 FIP and 3.17 xFIP, it is also clear that there is nothing wrong any aspect of the right-hander’s game, and that is a large part of why the Indians felt comfortable moving Trevor Bauer.
4) He Looks Like a Different Pitcher
We are now up to five straight starts of seven innings for Noah Syndergaard, and in that span (35.1 innings), the right-hander has allowed just seven runs overall while striking out 39 batters. All it took, while aside from Syndergaard having the talent, was a slight adjustment to how he was throwing his slider, and the right-hander was back to his dominating ways. Yesterday, Syndergaard picked up his eight victory of the season as he scattered just three hits and a walk while allowing one run and seeing his ERA drop to 3.96 for the season. It was an interesting start for Syndergaard in the sense that the Mets got him a big league, and instead he just pitched to contact while only striking out three batters. You have to like his recent body of work, and with a 3.44 FIP, there is the suggestion that more success is on its way.
5) History in Houston
For the fourth straight season, and ninth overall, Justin Verlander has surpassed the 200 strikeout mark, and there is still plenty of baseball left to be played. Not only did he strike out 10 batters in six plus innings, Kyle Seager led off the seventh inning with a home run before Verlander was pulled, but the right-hander also picked up his 15th victory of the season. With wins from starting pitchers not exactly an easy request, Verlander provides a welcome respite from that. Overall, Verlander has a 2.68 ERA, and despite his age, he is far from showing signs of slowing down. At least for the remainder of this season, you can feel free to invest in Verlander as one of the better top of the rotation options there is.
6) Heyward Continues a Solid Season
Welcome to 2019. I mean, how else can we really, rationally, reconcile what we are seeing from Jason Heyward. Yesterday, the lead-off hitter went deep for the 17th time this season for the third highest total of his career, and the most since he hit 27 in 2012. If you are thinking this is too good to be true, it certainly is as Heyward’s fly ball percentage has essentially has remained unchanged while his home run to fly ball rate has jumped from 6.2% to 16.2%. The home run was part of a 2 for 5 effort from Heyward who is batting .276 for the season with 48 RBI out of the lead-off spot while also scoring 52 runs. It isn’t elite, but it also is better than we have come to expect from the Cubs’ outfielder, and it warrants our attention; if it hasn’t already.
7) Santana Just Keeps on Hitting
All we needed was one more chance, and at age 28, Danny Santana is getting a true chance to show what he can do at the major league level and in an everyday role. The fact that Santana has seen regular playing time across the outfield, and at first and second base (with six games at shortstop sprinkled in), hasn’t seemed to effect his bat, as all that matters is that the fact that he is getting consistent at bats. Yesterday, Santana continued to show why he has to be considered to have at least some role in Texas’ future plans as went 2 for 5 with two runs scored and two RBI. Santana is now hitting .325 on the season after he added his 17th home run on Sunday which also brought his RBI total for the season to 49. Factor in the 12 stolen bases Santana has so far this year, and we are close to a five category contributor. Over the past 30 games though, things have really picked up for Santana as he is hitting .350 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI.
8) Make the Hits Count
Nolan Arenado is as dependable as it gets, and that was once again on display yesterday. The third baseman was 2 for 4 on the afternoon to bring his average up to .305 on the season, with both his hits leaving the park. Overall, after the two solo shots, Arenado is up to 24 home runs and 83 RBI on the season, and it might be the most boring, first round production there is. The third baseman really just flies under the radar while producing on a consistent basis as he is set up for his fifth straight season of over 30 home runs and 100 RBI.
9) Jones Drives in Four
While there have been some peaks and valleys to Adam Jones’ season, the overall production has been there. And that is especially true considering the price it cost to acquire Jones at the start of the season. Yesterday, the outfielder came through once again with four RBI as part for a 3 for 4 effort which included two doubles (23 overall). On the season, Jones is now hitting .270 with 51 RBI as a vital part of the middle of Arizona’s lineup as they push towards the wild card. We do have to note though, that while he does have 13 home runs on the season, Jones hasn’t done deep once in his last 30 games, and he has just 10 RBI over that stretch (which includes today). Rotate Jones in as your fourth or fifth outfielder depending on the match-up, and you won’t disappointed, but I wouldn’t go further than that.
10) Muncy Cleans Things Up
Finishing up a four hit effort a triple shy of the cycle, Max Muncy continued to do what he does, and that is hit. Muncy is hitting a respectable .265 on the season, but when you factor in his 27 home runs, it’s hard to find much fault in his performance. After driving in three runs on Sunday, Muncy is up to 74 RBI on the season as he is in prime position to surpass his career high marks from last year of 35 home runs and 79 RBI.