With pennant races in high gear, we had pretty close to a full slate of action on Thursday. Let’s jump into some of the performances of note:
1) Voit Has a Solid Day
The Yankees have an abundance of power bats, first baseman, and DH types. That has helped them maintain their high level of play so far this season despite injuries, but it has also created a playing time crunch. Luke Voit has done a good job of building on his production from last season, and he had a successful double-header on Thursday going 4 for 6 with three RBI, three runs scored, and his 20th home run of the season. Voit battled his own injury earlier this season, but when he has been in the lineup (390 at bats), the first baseman has been quite productive driving in 58 runs while scoring 65 times and batting .279. I would imagine Voit will have a clear path to playing time next season, and the fact that he gives you a solid batting average with the power works in his favor.
2) This is Why They Traded for Him
Marcus Stroman’s career with the Mets hasn’t been the smoothest one thus far, but yesterday showed why New York targeted him. While he did allow four hits and four walks in 6.1 innings, Stroman limited the damage to just one run while striking out four and picking up his eighth victory of the season. A large part of Stroman’s game is based on him forcing ground balls, and yesterday he had 10 of them without giving up a fly ball. For the season, Stroman has been solid with a 3.35 ERA, but with the Mets his ERA is 4.50 with a WHIP of 1.67 in eight starts. With 142 strikeouts in 166.2 innings, Stroman isn’t going to over power opposing hitters, and that is where his 53.9% ground ball rate comes into play.
3) Will he Reach 50?
With about two and half weeks left to the season, Jorge Soler will likely come up just short of the 50 home run mark, but that is perfectly fine. After just nine home runs last year and a career high of 12, no one will be complaining. In fact, far from it, as Soler will likely go down as one of the best late round selections in draft and hold leagues for this season. Staying healthy and remaining in the lineup on a daily basis, 147 games, has helped his cause as Soler is a few seasons late for living up to his potential. After going 2 for 4 with a home run yesterday, Soler is up to 44 home runs and 107 RBI on the season, and with 13 home runs in his last 30 games, he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. This is also what happens when you have a barrel rate of 16.9% with a 49.9% hard hit rate.
4) Wong Continues a Solid Season
Another player who you could view as a failed prospect for whom adjustments have had to be made to their expectations, is Kolten Wong. At this point, Wong is the player he is, and at 28 years old, there is nothing wrong that as he is a solid middle infield option. Yesterday, Wong went 2 for 4 with a walk while homering for the 11th time this season and adding his 25th double. Wong is batting a solid .283 on the season with 57 RBI and 59 runs scored, but that is not his most impressive stat of the year. After stealing two bases on Thursday, Wong is up to 22 stolen bases for the year.
5) Darvish Overpowers San Diego
Yu Darvish’s early season struggles appear to be a thing of the past, and he gave both his fantasy owners and the Cubs a nice boost on Thursday. The right-hander cruised through six innings of shutout baseball against San Diego to while scattering just two hits and two walks. Darvish got his ERA down to 3.97 while also picking up just his sixth victory of the season in 29 starts. With 14 strikeouts yesterday, Darvish brought his total for the season to 203 in 163.1 innings, and with a 2.55 ERA in his last seven starts, the right-hander is finishing the year strong. Health is a big factor in this, and it’s possible Darvish will be slightly undervalued or forgotten about on draft day next season, but you can’t overlook those strikeouts.
6) Betts Sets the Table
Compared to his MVP performance last season, it is a down year for Mookie Betts, but I wouldn’t call it a complete disappointment either. Last night, the outfielder went 3 for 5 with two runs scored as he brought his average up to .293. With 28 home runs, Betts is still producing in the power department, four off from last year’s total, and 78 RBI he is pretty close to where we thought he would be, but we are a far cry away from the .346 batting average of a season ago. And with 131 runs scored, Betts is two past last year’s total. The one problem though, is that he stole just his 15th base last season, and at least for this year, we aren’t seeing another 30/30 performance out of the outfielder. As far as first round picks go, this was a disappointment, but things could have been a lot worse if this is going to be a down year for Betts.
7) Musgrove Picks up the Victory
We need all the pitching we can get, and Joe Musgrove is an intriguing option. It has been an up and down season for the right-hander, yes a common thread when it comes to pitchers, but Musgrove has had some value. Last night, he got through five scoreless innings against the Giants while scattering four hits to pick up his 10th victory of the season and striking out seven. That brought Musgrove’s ERA down to 4.52 for the season along with a respectable 1.22 WHIP. One thing to like about Musgrove, and a good indicator for success, is the fact that he walks just under two batters per nine innings. It will be interesting to see if he continues to make strides next season and he is a pitching to consider as you fill out your rotation.
8) Rendon Stays in the Mix
For so long, the National League MVP race appeared to be just between Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger. Yelich’s recent injury aside, a third player has been increasingly gaining some buzz. And that player, is Anthony Rendon. All the Nationals’ third baseman has done all season, is hit, and he continued to do so last night. Rendon went 2 for 3 with 2 walks, three RBI, and two runs scored against the Twins on Thursday. For the season, he is now hitting .335 with 33 home runs (he did go deep last night), 117 RBI, and 111 runs scored. Over his last 30 games as Washington makes their push for the Wild Card, Rendon is hitting .398 with 27 RBI, and in his free agent campaign, one of the big things for him, has been his ability to stay healthy as his 496 at bats this season have given him the playing time needed to create career highs in just about all categories.
9) Solak Has to Play Everyday
The fact that Nick Solak was once again batting cleanup on Thursday has to count for something, but with Roughned Odor occupying second base, the Rangers have to figure something out. Granted Solak has just 75 major league at bats under his belt, and Odor did hit his 26th home run of the season last night, but the incumbent is also batting .204 on the season. Despite the small sample size, Solak did produce in the minor leagues as well, the young hitter has proven not to need an adjustment period (just yet at least) with the Rangers. On Thursday, Solak went 2 for 3 with a walk, two RBI, a run scored, and his fourth home run of the season. He is now batting .360, with 15 home runs and 17 runs scored, and Solak has to be on your radar for next season, as it’s talent we target because the playing time will follow.
10) Votto Sets the Table
I know it’s an odd thing to say about a superstar, but at this point in his career, that is what Joey Votto has become. Last night, he went 3 for 4 (two singles and his 29th double of the season) and scored three times while not driving in a run. Overall, Votto is hitting .267 in what has been a down season for him, or should we be considering this his new norm? With a .776 OPS and just 14 home runs and 44 RBI, we have to drastically change how we view Votto, and after a 12/67 season a year ago, it feels an awful lot like the beginning of a trend. We are now at the point where he is a late round corner infield target at best, and you have to be prepared to deal with the lack of power as the batting average, or on base percentage, is no longer as valuable as it once was.