It would have been nice to have some afternoon baseball on Thursday, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, after watching essentially the first quarter (at most) of pre-season football, it was on to pennant race baseball last night. Granted it might be a little early to formerly refer to it as a pennant race, whether in the MLB or your fantasy league, but that is where we are currently at. Let’s take a look at some of the performances of note:
1) Sale Was Dealing
We expect better out of our aces, but it really has been a true up and down season for Chris Sale. And that might be putting it mildly for the left-hander. Let’s start with the good, though. Despite his struggles this season, at least Sale is striking out opposing hitters, as with his 13 strikeouts on Thursday, he has, once again, surpassed 200 for the season. While the Angels’ lineup isn’t the best in the league, they still have Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Justin Upton (even though he is batting .208 on the year), but this was easily the best start of the season for Sale. All the Angels managed off him was two hits, a single and a double, while he didn’t walk a batter. The eight shutout innings brought his ERA down to 4.41, and it was just Sale’s sixth victory of the season. With a 5.95 ERA in his last seven starts, including last night, it’s clear something isn’t going right for Sale despite the 206 strikeouts in 140.2 innings and his WHIP of just 1.09. It’s a broken record, but with a 3.35 FIP and 2.97 xFIP, Sale just has to be better on a consistent basis. Although the 1.41 home runs per nine innings certainly don’t help.
2) Berti is Staking a Claim
Entering this season, Jon Berti had just four major league games under his belt, with the Blue Jays in 2018, as he was a career minor leaguer dating back to 2011. Never considered a top prospect, Berti has also been a stolen base threat, with that being the extent of his fantasy upside. However, since his promotion about a month ago, all Berti has done, is take advantage of his opportunity. Batting lead-off, the injury to Miguel Rojas should give him even more playing time, Berti went 3 for 5 on Thursday with two RBI and two runs scored. In 102 plate appearances, Berti is now batting .301, but his .382 BABIP should send you looking elsewhere despite his 17 runs scored. As far as free agents go, Berti is likely at the top of the list as far as recent performance goes, but that doesn’t mean he has all of a sudden become fantasy relevant.
3) Anderson Continues to Show Power
I feel like this has been a common refrain as of late with Brian Anderson, but the outfielder is now up to seven home runs over his last 15 games. With his two home runs last night, Anderson is now up to 20 on the season after hitting just 11 in all of 2018. Anderson, who is firmly entrenched in the number three spot of the batting order for Miami (whatever that is worth), went 3 for 4 with three RBI on Thursday, as he brought his batting average up to .252 on the season. The struggling Marlins’ lineup has Anderson limited to 58 RBI on the season, he drove in 65 runs last year, but he is a solid option to fill out the back end of your outfield. In reality, Anderson doesn’t do much to stand out of the crowd, but the consistent production and at bats are there.
4) A Winning Machine
I know a common thought is that you can’t always project wins, but sometimes there are situations where that is the case. One player for whom this has been the case in 2019, is Domingo German. Despite a short stint on the Injured List, German picked up his 15th victory of the season on Thursday, and that is a skill set that can’t be overlooked. It wasn’t the smoothest or most efficient of starts, but the right-hander did enough to get the job done. German benefits both from run support and a strong bullpen behind him, but you can do worse than five innings of four run ball (three earned). Of course, you want to see an ERA better than 4.05, but German has 117 strikeouts in 109 innings with a WHIP of just 1.12. With stats like that, we can live with the ERA, as all things considered, it really isn’t that bad.
5) Bichette Makes History
We know that Bo Bichette is a top prospect with a track record of success who was promoted amidst high expectations, but what he is doing, is even beyond that. Last night, Bichette made history as he became the first player, overall not just rookie, to hit a double in nine straight games. While continuing his streak, Bichette also went deep for the fourth time this season, in 49 at bats, as he drove in three runs overall. The shortstop is now batting .408 in his brief major league career, as so far, he has picked up steam upon his promotion to the big leagues. Seeing top prospects come up to the major leagues and making things look easy has become common place, but there has to be at least a little adjustment there at some point, right?
6) Dozier Shows off the Power
Sometimes all young players need is consistency when it comes to playing time and a role, and in the case of Hunter Dozier, it has worked for the former first round pick so far this season. Dozier did appear in 102 games with the Royals last year, but the power he showed in minor leagues didn’t translate, in fact none of his offensive ability did, as he hit just .229 with 11 home runs and 34 RBI. This year has been a different story for Dozier though, as after his two home runs last night, he is up to 20 on the season with 63 RBI in 349 at bats. Dozier, who is batting .284 has truly made strides at the plate this season. He is generating an exit velocity of 92 miles per hour with a 16.9 degree launch angle and a 43.6% hard hit rate. There is no reason not to expect this level of production to continue.
7) Lucroy Doesn’t Waste Any Time
The Angels welcomed Jonathan Lucroy back from his concussion by designating him for assignment, but the catcher was promptly picked up by the Cubs. Last night was Lucroy’s first game with his new team, and went 3 for 5 with two RBI. It hasn’t been the best of season’s for Lucroy when healthy as he is hitting just .249 with 32 RBI, but he does have a track record of being at least a solid option behind the plate. Now from a fantasy perspective, I’m not sure how much this really moves the needle, well other than in NL-only leagues, but Lucroy’s early success is at least worth keeping an eye on.
8) Ramirez Continues to Work His Way Back
By the end of the season, we might forget how badly Jose Ramirez struggled to start the 2019 campaign. Now, those owners who sold low on Ramirez and missed out on his resurgence aren’t going to feel the same way, but by the end of the season, the third baseman is in solid position to at least do a decent job of righting the ship. Last night, Ramirez went 2 for 3 with a walk in a big win for the Indians over the Twins. He is now hitting .248 on the season, but that includes a .336 mark over his last 30 games, and as you compress the time frame, Ramirez’s batting average only gets higher. He also picked up his 29th double of the season last night while driving in three runs which brought his RBI total for the year up to 63. The biggest problem for Ramirez as far as matching last season’s totals, is that he is a long way off from the 105 runs he drove in last year, but with 32 RBI in his last 30 games, the pace is closing fast. We just aren’t going to see the 39 home runs he hit last year or the 29 from two years ago, as Ramirez is currently at just 16. Overall though, if you held Ramirez all season, things could ultimately have been worse.
9) Mad Bum Cruises
Wherever he pitches next year, Madison Bumgarner is re-establishing himself as an ace. Last night, the left-hander picked up his seventh victory of the season against the Phillies as he threw seven shutout innings. Philadelphia managed just one hit and one walk off the economical left-hander, as with just three strikeouts, he pitched to contact. Bumgarner’s ERA now sits at 3.74 for the season with a 1.13 WHIP, and while he is not in the top tier of elite fantasy starters, the left-hander is close.
10) What More Can We Say
There comes a point with Fernando Tatis where we have to just trust our eyes. Quite simply, Tatis is talented. Very talented in fact. Let’s just forget about his .417 BABIP, although ever rational bone tells us that it is due for regression, and the same goes for his 32.4% fly ball rate. Instead, let’s just focus on how good of a player Tatis and how well he has performed this season. Yes, he likely won’t carry this pace through his career, but who knows, as we haven’t seen many other rookies like Tatis, and baseball is played on the field, not in a statistical database. At any rate, Tatis continued his success last night as he went 2 for 5 from the lead-off spot with two runs scored, and two RBI, while hitting his 22nd home run of the season. In 313 at bats, Tatis is now hitting .326 with 60 runs scored and 51 RBI while also throwing in 14 stolen bases. Enjoy it, and remember that if anything with Tatis production is going to fall, it likely will be the batting average. But at that point, what he gives you in the other four categories is still enough to make him a top player.