Around the Majors: July 23, 2020: Buying Opportunities Emerge, Stanton For MVP? & More

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It was months later than we had all hoped, but finally the 2020 campaign got underway.  Of course things didn’t go quite as planned, with the Yankees-Nationals game getting cut short due to rain (they didn’t complete the sixth inning).  Still, there are a few storylines worth noting coming out of yesterday’s pair of games.  Let’s take a look:

1) Will Giancarlo Stanton be a difference maker…
Hitting cleanup Stanton carried the Yankees to a victory, going 2-3 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R.  The home run came against Max Scherzer, who didn’t have his control in this one (5.1 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 4 BB, 11 K).  Stanton played in 18 games in 2019, the third time in the past five years that he’s played in fewer than 120 games.  Of course that’s not the only issue, as there’s always going to be the fear of strikeouts (he did strikeout once yesterday), but there’s no questioning the upside/value.  A career .269 hitter, he has the power to carry your team for the short season.  It’s only one game, but it’s a nice start.

2) Dustin May gets a surprising Opening Day start…
All talk had been of May operating in a piggyback role, working in tandem with Walker Buehler (who is going to be limited to open the season).   Instead, with Clayton Kershaw getting placed on the IL on Thursday, May was tabbed to fill the hole and make the Opening Day start.  It took him 60 pitches to get through 4.1 IP, though he was solid allowing 1 ER on 7 H and 0 BB, striking out 4.  Obviously the number of hits is the only “concern”, as he also generated 6 groundballs vs. 3 flyballs and got 8 swinging strikes.  There’s no question that he is one of the premier pitching prospects in the game, and he has the potential to stick in the rotation even once Kershaw is healthy.  The control and groundballs are there, and if he’s generating enough swings and misses (SwStr% of 8.5% at Triple-A, 8.7% in the Majors last season) he’s going to be a difference maker.  If he’s available, he’s worth stashing.

3) Did Enrique Hernandez claim the Dodgers 2B job…
It’s unlikely that he gets the job outright, but he not only started over Chris Taylor on Opening Day but provided the bulk of Los Angeles’ offense.  Hitting sixth he finished 4-5 with 1 HR, 5 RBI and 2 R, with three singles and the one home run.  As we mentioned once Gavin Lux was demoted, the profiles of Hernandez and Taylor aren’t very different, though Hernandez could be prone to a few more strikeouts.  Still, in a sprint season managers are going to be more apt to ride the hot hand so watch Hernandez closely.

4) The Giants use Mike Yastrzemski atop the batting order…
He doesn’t seem like a prototypical leadoff hitter, but there Yastrzemski and he finished 2-4 (striking out once).  It’ll be interesting to see if the Giants continue to use him in that role, but obviously it would be a boost to his value given the extra opportunity.  It was just one game, but a 0% SwStr% and 20.0% O-Swing% is a nice sign.  Considering he hit .329 against LHP last season this could prove to be a full-time spot, and that only makes it look that much better.

5) The Nationals lineup doesn’t look very imposing…
Obviously when we learn that Juan Soto is hitting the IL due to COVID-19 the lineup is going to take a hit, but does one bat make that big of a difference?  Adam Eaton (1-2, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R) provided the offense for a middle of the lineup that featured Starlin Castro (0-2), Howie Kendrick (0-2) and Eric Thames (0-1).  Victor Robles, who had a late start to Summer Camp, was hitting ninth and went 0-2 with 2 K so it’s clear he’s going to need a little bit more time.  Carter Kieboom, who has potential, was out of the lineup in favor of Asdrubal Cabrera.  The defending World Series champions are going to lean heavily on their rotation, which remains a strength, and while there is some upside the lineup currently leaves a lot to be desired.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, CBS Sports

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