10 Stories From 04/16/14 Box Scores: Has Cueto Emerged As An Ace, Will Teheran Regress & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

George Springer made his Major League debut, which obviously is going to dominate everyone’s attention.  However, there were plenty of other stories that need to be discussed.  It was an especially impressive performance for starting pitchers around the league, but which are for real and which are a mirage?  Let’s take a look:

 

1) Johnny Cueto put up a lights out performance, but is the strikeout inflation for real…
He clearly outpitched Francisco Liriano (7.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 7 K), who is now 0-3 with a 3.96 ERA and 1.24 WHIP on the season (obviously he’s pitched better than the win-loss record).  As for Cueto, who tossed a complete game shutout, allowing 3 H and 0 BB while striking out 12.  It’s his first W of the season, but he’s surprisingly been racking up the strikeouts with 35 over 30.0 innings of work.  He entered the day with an 11.7% SwStr%, and actually had an 11.0% mark in his 60.2 innings in 2013.  So is it for real?  It’s hard to say, but the underlying numbers indicate that it is possible.  Keep a close eye on it, but coupled with solid control and a 50%+ groundball rate he could emerge as one of the elite in the game.  In other words, don’t consider him a sell high candidate quite yet.

 

2) Masahiro Tanaka/Michael Pineda dominate the Cubs…
Chicago failed to score a run in the day/night doubleheader.  Is there anything else we really need to know?

Tanaka tossed 8.0 shutout innings allowing 2 H and 0 BB, striking out 10.  It was the second consecutive start where he posted 10 K and now has 28 over 22.0 innings.  Even more impressive may have been his 16 swings and misses.  It’s not a surprise that he’s had a big-time strikeout rate in the early stages (he entered with a 17.2% SwStr%), but will he be able to maintain it once teams have seen him more and more?  Time will tell, but early on he’s certainly paying dividends.

Pineda tossed 6.0 shutout innings of his own, allowing 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 3.  He’s been fantastic over his first three starts, with a 1.00 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.  He’s shown tremendous control (1.50 BB/9), which was important, but also could ultimately prove to be prone to the long ball (54.2% fly ball rate).  He’s also not throwing as hard as he did back in 2011 (92.5 mph on his fastball, compared to 94.7), but that’s not of much concern.  He’s quickly proven that he’s a viable option in all formats.

 

3) Julio Teheran twirls a complete game shutout, but is his early season success for real…
It was the only way he was going to get the W, as Cliff Lee allowed just 1 ER on 11 H and 1 BB, striking out 13, in his own complete game performance.  Teheran, however, was fantastic as he allowed 3 H and 0 BB, striking out 4.  With a 1.93 ERA and 1.04 WHIP on the season it’s easy to get excited, but can they even remotely be maintained?  The strikeouts have been poor, with a 4.18 K/9, but a 9.9% SwStr% tells us there is easy upside for more.  The strand rate is reasonable (77.2%), the improved strikeouts will help offset an increase BABIP (.239) and his control (1.93 BB/9) has always been good in the Majors (2.25 for his career).  Obviously he’s going to take a step back, but as long as the strikeouts improve (and they should) he is going to be a very usable option moving forward.

 

4) George Springer makes his Major League debut…
You knew this had to be mentioned, didn’t you?  He didn’t show off his entire skillset, going 1-5 with 1 R (and the one hit being a little dribbler in front of the plate).  He did strikeout twice, which we know is something that could hinder him, and also drew a walk.  We all know that the power/speed upside is very much for real and he has to be owned in all formats.

 

5) Is Zach Walters forcing his way ahead of Danny Espinosa…
He hit a pinch hit home run yesterday, giving him long balls in back-to-back games.  The Nationals have a hole at 2B, thanks to the injury to Ryan Zimmerman, and we all know that Danny Espinosa (1-4 with 2 K) has potential but is no guarantee to produce (1-8 with 3 K over his past two games).  Walters hit .253 with 29 HR at Triple-A in 2013.  He had never shown that power before, but his early season success in the Majors gives us hope.  Strikeouts could be an issue (25.7% in ’13), but the same issue could easily plague Espinosa (27.0% in the Majors).  In deeper formats, Walters is definitely a player to keep an eye on.

 

6) Alexi Amarista starts at 3B…
Chase Headley is battling a biceps strain, so Amarista was slotted in at third and 1-2 with 2 R.  The utility man has a .296/.406/.519 slash and has played three different positions while starting the past four games (CF, SS and 3B).  He can also play 2B and the corner outfield spots, so now the question is if the Padres will continue to find playing time for him.  His batting average (.234 for his career) has always been the issue, though last season he had a 23.0% line drive rate yet just a .267 BABIP.  He doesn’t have a ton of power or speed, but if he’s playing every day he could produce for those in the deepest of formats.

 

7) Jake Odorizzi saddled with the loss in a subpar outing…
The Rays absolutely need him to produce, but he was less than stellar yesterday allowing 3 ER on 5 H and 3 BB, striking out 4, over 5.0 innings of work.  He does possesses better strikeout (6.75 K/9) and control (3.94 BB/9), while there also has been a bit of poor luck (.333 BABIP, 63.6% strand rate).  He’s off to a relatively slow start (5.63 ERA), but the Rays need him and the potential is there.  Don’t give up hope, though don’t consider him a must use option as he tries to maneuver through the AL East.

 

8) Wily Peralta impresses again, but has he become a must own option…
He silenced the Cardinals, allowing 1 ER on 6 H and 1 BB, striking out 3, over 6.1 innings to improve to 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA and 1.09 WHIP on the season.  He is not striking out a ton of hitters (6.38 K/9), but has shown elite control (2.45 BB/9) and significant groundball stuff (61.8%).  There is hope that he can improve the strikeouts (7.59 K/9 in the second half of ’13), though it’s not a lock.  He’s throwing his fastball an awful lot (71.6%) and is generally just a two pitch pitcher (slider at 24.9%).  That’s not to say he can’t succeed with the mix (as he did it in the second half last season), but it’s something to watch.  Continue to view him as a low-end option for now, but one worth owning.

 

9) Has Matt Lindstrom lost the closer’s role in Chicago…
It’s interesting that after getting the final out in the eighth inning, Maikel Cleto was allowed to go out there for the ninth inning to try and earn the save.  However, he walked two batters (he had 3 BB in his 0.1 innings) and was ultimately replaced by Lindstrom.  It was Lindstrom who was charged with the blown save, his third of the season, though he allowed just 1 H and 0 R in his two innings (the only run scored was charged to Cleto).  At this point we have to assume Lindstrom is going to get the next chance, though Daniel Webb could also get a look.  Webb allowed 1 ER on 1 H and 3 BB, striking out 1, over 3.0 IP and was asked to throw 59 pitches.  Obviously it’s going to be a few days before we see him again, but on the season he has a 2.53 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.  He showed big strikeout stuff in the minors in 2013 (78 K over 62.2 IP), so keep tabs on him at this point.

 

10) Additional Closer Notes…

  • How long until we see a change in New York…  No one really expected Jose Valverde to hold the Mets’ closer’s role for long, did they?  It was a non-save situation, but he allowed 2 ER on 3 H (2 of which were HR) and 0 BB, striking out 1, over his inning of work.  He’s now allowed 5 ER over his past two outings, including 3 HR.  At this point, if you are desperate for saves, Kyle Farnsworth is probably the guy to stash but one of the younger arms will likely get a look before long.
  • Fernando Rodney blows a save…  His job is in no jeopardy, as he allowed a pair of unearned runs on 2 H and 1 BB, striking out 1, over 0.2 IP.  Still, would it be a surprise if this was just the start of things?
  • Could Oakland’s committee be coming to a close…  Luke Gregerson was charged with a blown save, allowing 1 ER on 3 H and 0 BB, striking out 1, over 2.0 innings of work.  With Jim Johnson pitching well, it could just be a matter of time.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, Minor League Baseball, Minor League Ball

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8 comments

  1. Paul says:

    Hey Prof,

    With my acquisition of Springer, I now have a log jam in the OF with Springer, Billy Hamilton, Angel Pagan, Melky Cabrera and Coco Crisp (don’t worry, I have power at others positions). I pretty much need to drop one (or RA Dickey if he has another bad start today).

    I am leaning towards dropping Cabrera and my thinking is that despite Crisp’s durability issues, I still think he might put up better numbers than Cabrera. What are your thoughts?

    Best,

    Paul

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      How deep of a league is it? I am not a big fan of Melky, but hard to drop him with his hot start. That said, Melky/Pagan are at the bottom of your depth chart, so I wouldn’t have an issue with it.

    • CJ says:

      I too now have a logjam at OF with Springer coming up. Need to drop either Aoki or Brantley. H2H points

      • jmax says:

        I like Brantley

      • Rotoprofessor says:

        I know Aoki has gotten off to a slow start, but I actually prefer him to Brantley. It’s probably worth shopping Brantley to see if you can get something for him as opposed to just dropping him.

        • CJ says:

          Well with OF options of Stanton, Rios, Springer, Brantley, and Aoki….one must go by Monday. Trade voting lasts 4 days. So trading one is not an option unfortunately. Aoki should pick up the pace soon, but I’m leaning towards keeping Brantley as his ceiling is higher

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