by Ray Kuhn
Although there was a shortened slate of games on Thursday, it does not mean that there was a shortage of action to talk about. The schedule was split pretty even between the afternoon and evening, and offense was at a premium. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that most of what we will key on here is performances that came on the mound.
1) Johnny Cueto really is for real.
After Cueto’s complete game shutout against the San Diego Padres Thursday afternoon, I’m not sure how you can anything but. The right-hander is now 4-2 on the season as he struck out eight batters while allowing just five baserunners, three hits and two walks. As long as Cueto continues to maintain his health this season, and there is no reason to believe otherwise, he will end 2014 as a top-10 starter. Yes, there is an injury risk based on his past, so you would be allowed to sell high, but you should not be selling Cueto short either. So far in nine starts this year, he has 76 strikeouts in 72 innings which means that Cueto is not only pitching deep into games, but also dominating opposing hitters.
2) And Should Tyson Ross be Taken Seriously?
It is only normal for San Diego starters to be popular sleeper picks at home and then to be cautionary tales on the road. Ross took the mound in Cincinnati which presents its own set of challenges as it is a hitter’s park. But after allowing a first inning run that essentially just belong to Billy Hamilton and his speed, Ross settled down and tamed the Reds. That was the only run Ross allowed in seven innings as his ERA fell to 2.81 while he struck out eight batters. The one concern though is that Ross walked five batters and has 23 walks in 57.2 innings on the season. I would keep an eye on that this season, but the fact that Ross has pitched seven innings in each of his last three starts while allowing three runs total does count for something.
3) Is it Really As Easy As Jacob deGrom Made it Look?
Even though deGrom took the loss, it is hard to ask for a better major league debut than he had against the Yankees. The Mets’ prospect allowed four hits and two walks while striking out six batters while being efficient with his pitches (91 including 57 strikes). With Rafael Montero also in the mix, it remains to be seen how many more starts deGrom will have in the rotation, but he certainly should be on your radar. While the Yankees are far from full strength with Carlos Beltran on the disabled list, their lineup is still not a pushover, and deGrom didn’t really have too much trouble. I would not invest too heavily, but he is certainly a pitcher who should be on your radar.
4) Should Dellin Betances be on Your Radar?
Betances has skills, but not a fantasy friendly role. That combination works for the Yankees, but usually not for fantasy baseball. But after Betances’ performance Thursday night, six strikeouts in 2.1 innings while earning the victory, he is certainly worth a look. In 18.1 innings so far this season, Betances has 34 strikeouts with a 1.61 ERA. That production is undervalued due to his role but is better than mediocre starters.
5) Is Edwin Encarnacion Finally Starting to Heat Up?
After hitting two home runs against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, Encarncacion is now up to eight on the season, along with 30 RBI’s, so I would say the answer is yes. The first baseman has six home runs in his last ten games and it appears that the power he was missing early in the season has returned. The time to buy low is drawing to a close.
6) It Was Not a Good Day for Mark Melancon.
After last season we had grown acustoomed to success from Melancon so it was weird to see him blow his second save opportunity this season since Jason Grilli went on the disabled list. Melancon is now 5-7 in save chances after he allowed two runs without recording an out. With Grilli already appearing in a simulated game, it appears he will be back in a week or two to regain his job. I think Melancon is safe in the role until then and he is still good for a few more saves.
7) Do the Orioles Have a New Closer?
After we saw Zach Britton take care of the Royals in order in the ninth inning, I think we do. Tommy Hunter has been having his share of struggles lately, so Baltimore instead went to the southpaw for the save, and he delivered. Hunter was warming, but I think it is a good sign that Britton was left in to face two right-handed hitters that he retired without incident. That gives me a pretty good feeling that at least until he proves otherwise, the job does belong to Britton. With an ERA of .84 and a WHIP of .89, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be given a shot, and at the very worse his ratios will help your fantasy team.
8) Is Jenrry Mejia the New Mets Closer?
Before the game, that is what manager Terry Collins said, but the Mets did not have a save opportunity. Regardless, Mejia did pitch the ninth inning, and the Mets have been adamant in the past that they feel the right-hander is best suited pitching in relief. With Bobby Parnell out for the season, there is a clear need, and I think Mejia will be given a shot to succeed here. His main problem in the starting rotation was when he faced batters for the second or third times in a game, so success is very possible for the hard thrower.
9) Can Danny Salazaar Get Past the Fifth Inning?
To say the highly regarded right-hander has been frustrating to fantasy owners this season would be an understatement. In his latest start, Salazaar lasted only four innings as he gave up two runs taking his fourth loss of the season. Once again the problem was pitch count and base runners as his WHIP sits at 1.62 on the season. Of course there is frustration as we know Salazaar has clear strikeout potential, 47 so far this season, but that is not enough. I still think he will turn it around, but you have to be careful here and way the benefits of his strikeout potential against his WHIP and his 5.53 ERA.
10) Billy Hamilton Can Run.
Yes, I know this is not a secret. We know Hamilton is fast. He essentially turned a leadoff walk into a triple with his speed before he scored on a groundout. That gave Hamilton 14 stolen bases on the season which helps to make up for his .259 batting average. I know it is early, but so far this season Hamilton is not making a mockery of the stolen base leader board which is where his value was based. As he starts to get more comfortable at the plate, I do think he will start stealing more, but teams are also prepared for him to run. It might be time to adjust your stolen base expectations for him slightly, but I don’t think he have seen the true Hamilton yet this season. This might be the time to inquire on his availability.