10 Important Stories From 09/17/20 Box Scores: Breakout Bats We Believe In (Gurriel, Bohm), Young Pitchers Deliver & More

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Rafael Devers extended his hitting streak to 10 games, going 2-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R. Giancarlo Stanton made his presence felt, going 4-5 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R. Jose Ramirez did the damage at the dish for Cleveland, going 4-5 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 3 R. What else happened on the field that we need to know about? Let’s take a look:

1) Reynaldo Lopez is again plagued by the long ball…

Taking on the Twins Lopez allowed 3 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 6, over 5.1 IP. The problem is that three of the hits left the yard, as he’s now allowed 6 HR over 20.0 IP this season. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise from a pitcher who yielded a 1.71 HR/9 courtesy of a 35.0% groundball rate a year ago. With 1 groundball vs. 9 flyballs yesterday, there doesn’t appear to be hope that anything is going to change. If he can’t limit the home run damage, he’s going to remain an unusable option in all formats.

2) Daulton Varsho, the leadoff hitter?!?…

Varsho was slotted atop of Arizona’s lineup yesterday, though he didn’t take advantage of the opportunity going 0-4 (he walked once). He’s now hitting .151 with 3 HR, 7 RBI, 10 R and 3 SB. He entered the day with a 14.9% SwStr% and struck out two more times yesterday, as his ability to make contact has been highly disappointing. That wasn’t a problem at Double-A last season (8.1% SwStr%), which makes you think that he just needs time to adjust to the level. It’s easy to overlook that he hit .300 with 18 HR and 21 SB last season, which is why Arizona has been creative to find spots for him in the lineup. This experience should help him hit the ground running in 2021, but for this season he’s impossible to trust.

3) Griffin Canning nets his first W of 2020…

Hyped prior to the season Canning has struggled a bit, and he wasn’t overly impressive yesterday either. Needing 104 pitches to get through 5.0 IP he allowed 2 R (1 ER) on 6 H and 2 BB, striking out 7. Incredibly he didn’t generate a single groundball (8 flyballs) and we can’t call his struggles bad luck either (entering the day):

  • Strikeouts – 7.74 K/9
  • Control – 3.18 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 37.8%

In other words home runs are going to be an issue and the strikeouts have been down (he entered with a 10.6% SwStr%, down from 13.8% last year). Maybe this was just a sophomore slump? He needs to generate a few more groundballs in order to take that next step forward.

4) Do we care about Steven Brault’s stellar start…

Taking on the Cardinals Brault tossed a complete game for the W, allowing 1 ER on 2 H and 2 BB, striking out 8. He was generating both swinging strikes (15) and enough groundballs (10 groundballs vs. 8 flyballs), as he earned his first W and lowered his ERA to 4.04. Of course the “skills” are questionable, as he has 32 K vs. 19 BB over 35.2 IP. Control has never been his strong suit (career 4.75 BB/9), he’s not an elite groundball pitcher (45.6% for his career) and he entered the day with a 7.8% SwStr%. In other words, he’s easily ignored.

5) Has Framber Valdez truly emerged for the Astros…

Valdez was a strikeout machine against the Rangers yesterday, as he had 11 K over 6.1 IP en route to a W. He finished the day allowing 1 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, lowering his ERA to 3.82 as the underlying skills were even more impressive:

  • 15 swinging strikes
  • 7 groundballs vs. 1 flyball

In fact it’s easy to chalk up his mediocre ERA to poor luck, as he entered the day with a 65.1% strand rate. Considering his strikeouts (8.95 K/9), control (2.35 BB/9) and groundballs (58.8%) entering the day, it’s clear that he’s figured something out. While we’d like to see a slightly lower Hard% (41.6%), he’s a must own option in all formats.

6) Maybe it’s time to start believing in Lourdes Gurriel Jr…

He went 4-4 with 2 HR, 2 RBI and 3 R yesterday, putting him at .308 with 10 HR and 29 RBI on the season. He entered the day with a .318 BABIP, and while he had just a 31.3% Hard% it’s a number that is highly believable. His 18.6% HR/FB was also right inline with what he did last year (20.2%). He’s also improved his approach at the plate:

  • SwStr% – 15.7% to 11.4%
  • O-Swing% – 38.6% to 33.8%

In other words, we should be fully buying into the breakout at this point.

7) Casey Mize struggles yet again…

Hyped as one of the elite pitching prospects in the game, Mize has stumbled in his first taste in the Majors. Taking on the Indians he allowed a pair of home runs, leading to 5 R (3 earned) on 4 H and 3 BB, striking out 1, over 3.2 IP. He now owns a 6.08 ERA and 1.48 WHIP over 23.2 IP as he’s only managed to go more than 4.1 IP in one of his six starts. Long-term he should figure it out, but don’t trust him in ’20.

8) Has Brandon Nimmo truly emerged as a must use option…

Nimmo was atop the Mets’ lineup against the Phillies, as he delivered the go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth and finished the day 3-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R. He’s now slashing .282/.403/.515 with 8 HR, 16 RBI, 31 R and 1 SB. He now has four straight multi-hit games, going 9-16 with 2 doubles and 2 HR. His ability to get on base has never been in question, the bigger issue is in his power. Considering his 21.4% Hard% and 19.0% HR/FB, are we banking on him maintaining this type of pace? It seems unlikely, though his home run pace is similar to last seasons so it’s not impossible. Regardless of how you cut it, he’s a must use in all OBP formats and a solid option in “traditional” formats.

9) Is Alec Bohm living up to his potential…

He hit one home run yesterday, joining Bryce Harper (2-3, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) and Didi Gregorius (2-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R) to go back-to-back-to-back against Seth Lugo (1.2 IP,6 ER, 8 H, 0 BB, 3 K) in the opening inning. Bohm finished the day going 2-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 2 R, as he’s hitting .317 with 4 HR and 20 RBI on the season. He’s added 10 doubles, so the power appears to be for real, and while his 11.6% SwStr% is elevated from his Double-A mark (7.3%) it’s not unusable and he’s shown a good eye (28.1% O-Swing%). In other words he appears to be the total package, and as he gains experience he may only get better.

10) Julio Urias delivers a strong start in Coors Field…

Injuries have helped to limit him over the past few years, costing him the chance of living up to his hype. He delivered a strong start in Colorado yesterday, however, allowing 2 ER on 3 H and 0 BB, striking out 2, over 5.2 IP. Of course his 10 swinging strikes and 3 groundballs vs. 13 flyballs brings some questions, and that’s been consistent along with his inability to go deep into games (49.0 IP over 10 starts):

  • Strikeouts – 7.35 K/9
  • Control – 2.94 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 33.6%

While pitching in Dodgers Stadium may help, the upside is definitely limited given the risk of home runs and the lack of strikeouts (10.9% SwStr%). The upside is still there, but for ’20 it’s hard to trust him over the final week.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

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