This is why we play the game. Not to be too dramatic, but we are now at the part of the season where each hit, RBI, and run scored means something in the standings. I know we have plenty of baseball left to be played, and it can be exhausting, but I now can’t help myself when it comes to checking, and re-checking, the live standings throughout the day in the majority of my leagues. And in case you are wondering, both Cody Bellinger and Pete Alonso went deep, once again, on Thursday.
Under that guise, let’s jump into some of the performances of note from a busier than normal Thursday around the league:
1) Smith Does His Job
What good is a stolen base threat if he doesn’t run. Well, for starters, the good thing about Mallex Smith is that, while he doesn’t offer up any power, he is a career .265 hitter. That isn’t going to win any fantasy championships, but at least it isn’t a liability either. After going 3 for 4 on Thursday though, Smith is hitting just .238 on the season, although in his last seven games, that mark jumps to .347. With Seattle rebuilding though, Smith will get the chance to remain not only in the lineup for the rest of the season, batting lead-off as well. What we are really after though is the stolen bases, and yesterday, Smith came through with two more to bring his total for the season up to 34. With just 55 runs scored in 404 at bats, Smith is more of a one dimensional player so far in 2019, but at least the stolen base production is there and he isn’t really hurting you elsewhere even if you are forgiven for looking for more.
2) Alfaro Goes Nuts
All around, it was just a crazy game in Miami on Thursday. Not only did the Marlins beat the Dodgers, but they put up 13 runs on the day, with five of those coming against Walker Buehler in five innings of work. And maybe this isn’t so surprising, but the Marlins did it with the benefit of a home run. Three of those runs were driven in by their catcher, Jorge Alfaro, who is having a solid campaign in what it is his first true season of consistent, everyday playing time. Known for his bat coming up through the minor leagues, Alfaro has been slow getting going, as he is now hitting .259 on the season after going 3 for 3 with a walk on Thursday. Included in that, was Alfaro’s 10th double of the season, as he is now up to 40 RBI. There are still better catchers out there, but Alfaro is worth at least keeping an eye on.
3) A Grand Ending in Philadelphia
With a new hitting coach in the dugout, Bryce Harper made his one hit of the night on Thursday count. In fact, it came on the last pitch of the game, as Harper sent Phillies’ fans happy with a grand slam. It was his 25th home run of the season which also brought his RBI total up to 87. For someone who is receiving criticism for having a down season, that is still a stat line that the majority of hitters would be perfectly happy with. Now, that isn’t to say Harper shouldn’t be producing, or can be, producing at a higher level, because that is the case (especially in the age of home runs), but he hasn’t been a complete disappointment either. Of course too, we do want to see the batting average be higher than .253. In what we hope is a sign of things to come, Harper is hitting .320 in his last seven games with five home runs and 10 RBI as he tries to show that he is still an elite player.
4) I’ll Take Those Five Innings
Any time you see your pitcher only make it through five innings, you are allowed to question it, but in the case of Sonny Gray, there aren’t many that will have issue with his start on Thursday. Well, as long as aren’t in a quality start league, as he did pick up his eighth victory of the season. Gray only made it through five innings, because he needed 97 pitches to do so. The right-hander was never in trouble though as he limited the Cardinals to just one hit and three walks. More importantly, Gray struck out 10 batters on the night as he brought his ERA down to 2.98. On the season, Gray is striking out 10.45 batters per nine innings while pitching to a FIP of 3.40 and generating a 52.6% ground ball rate. It is safe to say that the move to Cincinnati has worked out pretty well for Gray and his fantasy owners.
5) Santana Shows off the Power
We should start with the disclaimer, that even though it counts just the same in the fantasy standings, Carlos Santana’s second home run of the night came off a position player; Mike Ford. That is what happens when your team puts up 14 runs in the first seven innings of a game, and Santana certainly took advantage. Always known as a solid hitter, Santana has played a large and critical role in the middle of the order for Cleveland as they surged to the top of the AL Central. The first baseman went 3 for 5 with a walk last night as he brought his average up to .290 on the season. More known as an OBP threat, this is, by far, the best batting average of Santana’s career (a .250 hitter) and a far cry from the .229 he hit for the Phillies last year. With 29 home runs, Santana is also quickly approaching his career high 34 home runs, and the same can be said of his 75 RBI, as he has just 13 more to go. It’s easy to overlook Santana at the first base position, but he is proving this season that there is still a lot to offer in his bat.
6) Rosario Continues to Produce
Now in the lead-off spot on a temporary bases with Jeff McNeill sidelined, Amed Rosario just continues to produce. He has sufficiently moved himself up out of the bottom of the order, and he was most recently batting second. On Thursday, Rosario had a five hit effort as he has become, and was, a critical part of the Mets’ success. As he went 5 for 6 to bring his batting average for the season all the way up to .289, Rosario finished a home run shy of the cycle. With 24 doubles and seven triples on the season, Rosario has been an extra base hit threat so far in 2019, as he also has 12 home runs. With all of his hits, Rosario only drove in one run though (50 RBI on the season), but he did score four times as Pete Alonso had an equally successful day with career highs of five hits and six RBI. Rosario, who also has 14 stolen bases on the season has truly developed into a legitimate fantasy contributor at the shortstop position.
7) Arraez Keeps on Hitting
With performances like this, it is becoming clear that Minnesota has found their second baseman. All Luis Arraez has done since his promotion is hit, and that continued last night. Arraez went 3 for 5 on the night with his third home run of the season as his batting average continues to climb; now to .355. This shouldn’t exactly be a surprise though as the 22-year old is a career .331 hitter in the minor leagues. In the power department though, well and speed, Arraez is lacking, as after three RBI last night, he has 19 for the season in 186 at bats. Getting on base though has proven to benefit Arraez as he is up to 34 runs scored on the season. With his contact skills and ability to get on base, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a little more power come in time, but regardless, you can’t ignore that batting average.
8) D-Rod is Back
After posting a 2.81 ERA in his debut last season, 2019 hasn’t gone as smoothly for Dereck Rodriguez. Last night, Rodriguez made his second start of August and just his third start since May 10th, he did appear in a few games out of relief as well but none since June 30th, and he made a case for sticking around. Rodriguez picked up his fifth victory of the season with seven shutout innings over Arizona on Thursday as he scattered just three hits and a walk while striking out four. The right-hander’s ERA dropped from 5.32 to 4.79, but I’m not sure how much I really would read into one start. Rodriguez’s WHIP is still 1.39, and he only strikes out 5.80 batters per nine innings so that limits his value. Also, while he was having his success last season, his FIP was 3.74 with an xFIP of 4.56, so if anything, Rodriguez is more of a streaming option, at best.
9) It Was a Matt Show
In general, it was home run derby last night in Oakland, as four players hit two home runs each and there were 10 home runs in total; five each. For the A’s, both Matt Chapman and Matt Olson went deep twice (hence the corny headline at the top of this blurb). On the season, Olson is up to 25 home runs and 58 RBI as he tries to prove that hand injuries and any concern about them is overrated. Chapman wants people to remember that he is almost as good at the plate as he is in the field, as he is up to 29 home runs and 69 RBI for the season. Each of these corner infielders are critical to Oakland’s success, and they can sometimes get overlooked. Neither of speed, and with each batting .260, their value is more closely tied to the power categories though.
10) Trout Has a Perfect Day
I feel like Mike Trout doesn’t get enough potential, because everyone takes him for granted. Trout is simply the best player in the game, both fantasy and reality, and all he does is, is quietly go about his business. Last night, that certainly was the case as he went 4 for 4 with a walk in the Angels’ victory. That included a solo home run, as Trout is now at 40 home runs and 93 RBI on the season along with his .298 batting. There really is nothing more to say here, other than just a small reminder to appreciate Trout and not to lose sight of how great he is.