by Ray Kuhn
Honestly, it feels like we never left. After a long, and at most times boring, winter, we are back for another exciting season of baseball. While it is all too easy to just settle back into a comfortable routine once again, it does take some time to truly find your groove as a fantasy owner.
With that being said, let’s not waste anytime in recapping what was an exciting, albeit at half capacity, Friday night around the league by taking a look at some of the performances that stood out:
1) Another Shutout in Toronto
A day after the Blue Jays were shut out by the Tigers, Toronto turned the tables last night. This time it was Matt Shoemaker picking up the victory with seven strong innings of work for the Blue Jays. Before we go any further, there is a conclusion, quite simple in fact, to be drawn. And that, is to target each of these teams with your pitchers. While we are just two games into the season, it is clear that Detroit and Toronto are among a few American League squads that could provide quite valuable streaming value. At the same time though, we have to make sure not to overrate pitchers for their successes against said teams. In the case of Shoemaker, he is looking to turn back the clock to the 2016 season when he posted 3.88 ERA in 27 starts. Over the last two seasons, Shoemaker has battled injury and made a combined 21 starts with ERA’s of 4.52 and 4.94, respectively. On Friday, Shoemaker limited the Tigers to two hits and two walks while striking out seven. I would tread carefully, but Shoemaker is worth a look in deeper leagues.
2) Pham Keeps it Going
The trade, unexpected, to Tampa Bay certainly worked out for Tommy Pham last season as he got a true chance to showcase his talents, and that appears to be carrying over into this season. Batting second for the Rays, Pham continued to build on his .343 batting average over 39 games following the trade last season in which he hit seven home runs to go along with 22 RBI and five stolen bases. Last night, Pham went 1 for 3 with a walk, run scored, RBI, and most importantly, a stolen base. Through two games, Pham is hitting .429, and as long as he stays healthy, the outfielder looks to be strong contributor this season. And it certainly bears watching to see how often Pham runs.
3) The Train Keeps Rolling, Even in a Losing Effort
Gerrit Cole stood out as the best pitcher on Friday night’s slate, and he certainly didn’t disapoint. Aside from perhaps the fact that he just went six innings, you would have otherwise never known that it was the first game of the season for the right-hander. Cole struck out five of the first six batters he faced, 10 overall, and his night would have went a lot better were it not for a fielding error. Only one of the four runs Cole allowed was earned, a mammoth blast by Yandy Diaz (someone else to keep an eye on), as he limited Tampa Bay to five hits. Of his 101 pitches on the night, an efficient 71 were strikes, and despite an, at times, questionable strike zone, Cole pitched as if it were the middle of June.
4) Ride out the Streaks for Marquez
The low hanging fruit says to keep German Marquez away from Coors Field, but that would be considered “lazy analysis”. Despite his home park, the right-hander has generated a lot of attention and buzz this draft season, and it is well deserved. Marquez truly has electric stuff, and after what we saw out of him last season, it truly looks like he can take the next step. However, there are those few outings a season where the right-hander really just “does not have it”, and he could do some damage to your ratios. That certainly wasn’t the case on Friday night though as Marquez took advantage of another lineup ripe to be targeted; the Miami Marlins. Marquez picked up the victory with six innings of one run ball (a Curtis Granderson long ball) while limiting the traffic on the bases; just two hits and three walks. The right-hander struck out seven, and as long as he harnesses that consistency, Marquez could be ready to take the next step in 2019. Just be prepared to take on some risk.
5) There is Some Value in Miami
Yes, Curtis Granderson is past his prime. It has also been some time since Granderson has been in a leading role and had true fantasy relevance, but that is changing. At least for now that is, because it is only a matter of time before the Marlins ship Granderson out to a contender looking for a veteran bench presence. For now though, he is batting lead-off for Miami, and in deeper leagues, those at bats do have some value. That was the case on Friday as Granderson went deep while also walking twice.
6) Goldy Fits Right In
After going without a hit in his debut for St. Louis on Thursday, Paul Goldschmidt erased any doubts or questions last night. The first baseman clearly is comfortable with his new team, and it is clear that Goldschmidt is an elite option. He went deep three times, also adding a single for a four hit night, while driving in five runs. Batting second, between Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong should also benefit Goldschmidt, and that was on full display last night. If there were any nerves associated with his new uniform, that was taken care of with his three home run effort. All that kept him from his fourth home run of the night was an intentional walk to end the night.
7) An Unlikely Cleanup Hitter
One of the things to keep an eye on early in the season, is what teams do with their batting order. With Justin Upton now out for the next two to three months and Shohei Ohtani about a month away from returning, the Angels need someone to bat fourth, and at this point that appears to be Andrelton Simmons. Always known as a solid hitter, but with defense as his strong suit, Simmons doesn’t receive much attention for his bat. After driving in 75 runs last season, with a .292 batting average, Simmons could be in for his best year yet if he spends half his year batting fourth. The shortstop started things off in the right direction last night by going 2 for 4 with two RBI.
8) A Repeat of 2017, PerhapsJust two years ago, Domingo Santana hit .278 with 30 home runs and 85 RBI. Last year wasn’t as good for the outfielder, but at age 26, it’s simply too soon to write off the talented Santana. The trade this winter to Seattle appears to have worked out well for him, and the fact that Santana is slotted into the third spot in the Mariners’ batting order does work to his advantage. On Friday, Santana went deep for the third time already this season as part of a 2 for 3 effort with two walks. That gave Santana 10 RBI through his first four games as he brought his batting average up to .389 to go along with an OPS of 1.476.
9) Just Stay HealthyIf healthy, A.J. Pollock can be an elite option. Of course, that is easier said than done, but on Friday, the outfielder showed Arizona what they will be missing. Pollock appears to be nice and comfortable batting out of the fourth spot for Los Angeles as was 4 for 6 with a walk. Missing out on the cycle by a triple, Pollock drove in three runs on the night which he started off with a well struck home run. Buying into Pollock is perfectly reasonable, just don’t expect 150 games. In other words, nothing has changed.
10) Another New FaceAfter striking out four times between Thursday and Friday, Manny Machado didn’t have to wait any longer for his first hit in a San Diego uniform. Not like there was much concern, but Machado did pick up two singles on Friday. Now that he has gotten that out of the way, better to be sooner rather than later, Machado can work on earning his newly signed contract.