by Ray Kuhn
Just because NFL season has begun, it doesn’t mean that we should forget about baseball. In fact far from it. Obviously if you are competing for a title, now is certainly not the time to ease up on the gas pedal, in fact quite the opposite, and in general, there is a lot of knowledge to be gained from September. In a lot of cases, the end of this season, will shape, or at least influence, the beginning of next season. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out from a busy Sunday around the league:
1) Hernandez Shows off Some Power
Teoscar Hernandez didn’t start the game on Sunday, but he certainly finished it well. Yesterday was Hernandez’s turn to sit as the Blue Jays rotate through their four outfielders, but after Randall Grichuk injured himself chasing down a fly ball, the rookie outfielder took his place. Hernandez had two at bats yesterday, and both were extra base hits; his 28th double of the season followed by a three run homer which was number 20 on the year. In 431 at bats, Hernandez is batting .244 with 20 home runs and 55 RBI. The problem though, is that for as powerful and explosive as Hernandez’s bat is, he just strikes out too much; 147 at bats. That is something to watch for next season, but the power should put him on your radars.
2) Smith Sets the Table
Mallex Smith batting lead-off is how things should work. Smith is one of the few, true, speedsters around, and to maximize his value, you need atop the batting order. Yesterday was Smith’s 27th game batting first, and in that stretch, he is hitting .330 with 20 runs scored and nine stolen bases. Given that pace, it certainly nice to see how that translates to a 162 game season. Regardless though, Smith has produced wherever he bats in the order, and yesterday he went 3 for 4 with two runs scored which brought his average up to .307 on the season. And that also included a steal of home, which was Smith’s 31st stolen base of the season.
3) Keep the Power Going
While we would like to see Rhys Hoskins at first base and not running, and sometimes stumbling, around left field, it really is his bat that we are after. And yes, a .251 batting average isn’t ideal, after yesterday’s two run shot, it is hard to complain about a 30 home run season. Hoskins is up to 88 RBI on the season, and with three weeks left in the season, it is very likely we will have a 30/100 player on our hands, and while some might view Hoskins’ 2018 season as a disappointment, you shouldn’t let him fall too far in 2019 drafts.
4) Is Gant Emerging as a Legit Starter
It might be too early to fully evaluate what the Cardinals are thinking about for their 2019 rotation, after all Carlos Martinez got his second save of the season yesterday, but John Gant could be a name to file away. Yesterday, Gant picked up his seventh victory of the season by dispatching the Tigers with relative ease. In 6.2 innings of work, Gant allowed two runs on five hits and one walk while striking out six. With a 3.16 ERA, the right-hander has been dependable, but his 3.77 FIP and 4.49 xFIP should slow things down some. For me, the 4.12 walks per nine innings will help to limit my expectations as he has also benefited from a .242 BABIP. This is the other side of September success, you don’t want to overrate performances either just because they are your most recent memory.
5) Heaney Dominates the White Sox
There really is no other way to say it. I know I haven’t been shy about targeting the White Sox for success, but Andrew Heaney took it to another level on Sunday. The left-hander limited Chicago to just three hits in seven shutout innings of work while striking out 12 batters and lowering his ERA to 3.98 on the season. All in all, it has been a positive year for Heaney, who is reestablishing himself with the key, being that he is healthy. The left-hander is striking out close to a batter an inning while walking just .218 batters per nine innings and sporting a 3.72 FIP (3.73 xFIP), so we can believe in his success.
6) Turner Makes up For Lost Time
Getting Justin Turner in your lineup was tough this season due to injury, but when he has been healthy, the third baseman has produced. Yesterday, Turner had a four hit game in Coors Field, and his day included a double (23 for the season) and a two run homer which was number 13 on the year. Through 293 at bats, Turner has driven in 43 runs and is hitting .314, and there is no reason not to expect him to keep up this success. In fact, over his last 30 games, Turner is hitting .395 with seven home runs and 21 RBI.
7) Acuna Might be Pretty Good
I guess we don’t need to worry about Ronald Acuna slowing down or not finishing his rookie campaign strong. At this point, there is not much left to say about the outfielder, but he is just continuing to produce. Acuna has more than made up for a slow start, and subsequent knee injury, and after yesterday’s two hit effort, he is hitting .293 on the season. On Sunday, Acuna tripled and also hit his 25th home run of the season (a two run shot) while stealing his 14th base. Acuna did get caught for the fifth time, but for a rookie, it’s hard to argue with that success rate. In 358 at bats, Acuna has scored 67 runs and driven in 53, and in his last 30 games he is hitting .342 with 12 home runs.
8) Urias Goes Deep
It hasn’t been the smoothest of debuts for Luis Urias, but you have to give credit to the Padres for sticking with him. The sample size is still small, so that means there is no reason to overreact, but it is a good sign that Urias was back in the lineup batting second yesterday. Urias took advantage of the situation with his second career home run (a two shot run), while also adding a single. In 44 at bats, Urias is hitting .205, but he more than proved himself as a hitter in the minor leagues, so I would certainly give him more time. Just let him do it from your bench if you are competing for a title.
9) Bogaerts Has a Perfect Day at the Plate
Entering this season, Xander Bogaerts was almost a forgotten man among the young shortstops, but he has proven to be a valuable commodity in 2018. It’s important to remember that Bogaerts is still just 25 years old, and he bats right in the middle of a very strong and explosive Boston lineup. Yesterday, the shortstop went 4 for 4 with a walk. Bogaerts only managed one RBI on Sunday, but that hasn’t been an issue this season, as with 93 RBI on the season, there is a pretty solid chance he will hit the century mark. And that will look good next to his .291 batting average and 21 home runs in just 464 at bats.
10) Pannone Picks up the Win
If you are going to go after young starting pitchers that don’t have the highest of pedigrees, they should at least have strikeout potential. That is why, even though Thomas Pannone was able to navigate a tough Indians lineup for his second victory of the season, I’m still not interested. Pannone allowed two runs on four hits and three walks in 6.1 innings of work, but he struck out just two batters. Both runs came on solo homers and Pannone’s ERA now sits at 4.13 through 24 innings of work. If the left-hander’s 5.63 strikeouts per nine innings aren’t enough to keep you away, then his 5.20 FIP and 5.87 xFIP should be.