10 Stories From 05/21/14 Box Scores: Is Brantley For Real, Should Owners Trust Ozuna & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

On a day where Max Scherzer got shelled early but settled in (7.0 IP, 7 ER, 12 H, 2 BB, 5 K) and Jeff Samardzija was brilliant again yet remained winless (7.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 K), there were ample stories that fantasy owners need to know about.  Let’s take a look at everything we need to know coming out of yesterday’s games:


1) Is Michael Brantley for real…
He continued to post big numbers this season, going 4-7 with 3 RBI, 2 R and 2 SB while hitting third in the lineup for the Indians (though it was David Murphy who had the biggest hit, with a 2 R HR off Joe Nathan in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to extra innings).  Brantley is now hitting .302 with 9 HR, 36 RBI, 26 R and 6 SB on the season.  While we can say that there will likely be a regression in his strikeout rate (8.6% entering the day), he owns a career mark of 11.6% so there isn’t far for it to fall.  There also hasn’t been a lot of luck (.277 BABIP), so the real question is if the power can continue.  His fly ball rate is along the lines of his career mark (30.2% vs. 30.0% for his career), but his HR/FB has more than tripled (20.0% vs. 6.3% for his career).  Can we really expect that type of mark to continue?  Last year his best month was a 10.0% mark.  In fact, the best mark for his career was 13.0%, back in May 2011.  It’s hard to imagine this continuing, so now may be the time to sell while his value is at its peak.


2) Jacob deGrom struggles with home runs, despite pitching at CitiField…
While the return of Hyun-Jin Ryu (6.0 IP, 2 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 9 K) may have been the bigger story, it was deGrom’s performance that needs to be highlighted.  Taking on the Dodgers, he allowed just 4 H and 3 BB over 6.0 IP, striking out 4, but 3 of the hits were solo home runs (Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig & Hanley Ramirez).  At Triple-A this season, he allowed 1 HR in 26.1 IP while pitching at home (which is Las Vegas, one of the worst pitcher’s ballparks in baseball).  In his minor league career he owns a 0.51 HR/9, so this would appear to be an aberration.  Overall he has looked good over his first two starts and is becoming an intriguing option for those in deeper formats, though he’s hardly a trustworthy one quite yet.


3) The Pirates put a beating on Chris Tillman…
He lasted just over an inning, finishing with a line of 8 R (6 earned) on 6 H and 3 BB, striking out 1, over 1.0 inning.  He’s now allowed 3+ ER in six of his past seven starts and has just 9 K over his past 21.0 IP (four starts).  His velocity is down thus far, at 90.4 mph (91.6 in ’13) and he’s missing fewer bats (6.6% SwStr%).  Based on those numbers there’s little hope in a rebound in the strikeout department, which is going to cripple his value moving forward.


4) Xander Bogaerts continuing to warm up…
The move to 3B is imminent (with Stephen Drew finally resigning, putting him about a week away from returning to the Majors), and Bogaerts is finally producing at the plate.  He went 3-4 with 1 RBI and 1 R yesterday, giving him a modest four game hitting streak (8-14 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R).  He’s slashing .290/.371/.435 in May, and hopefully the RBI are finally starting to come (3 RBI, 8 R for the month).  There is more power in his bat (4.5% HR/FB), which will also help in his RBI production.  As it is he’s hitting .158 courtesy of a .200 BABIP with runners in scoring position, something he should be able to improve upon.  Better times are coming, so hopefully you haven’t given up on him.


5) Marcell Ozuna enjoys a big day at the plate, but is he over his cold stretch…
He went 2-4 with 1 HR, 5 RBI and 2 R, helping to lead the way as the Marlins mauled the Phillies 14-5.  Ozuna has been struggling overall in May, hitting .164 with 3 HR.  The big issue has been a major jump in strikeouts, going from 19.1% in April to 33.3% in May.  He was at 19.6% in 2013 and 21.7% since 2011 in the minors, so this recent could spell would appear to be the aberration (think mid-20s may be the realistic level).  He’s taken a major jump in his power (15.9% HR/FB), though that has been consistent all season thus far.  If he can get the strikeouts back in check, there’s no reason to think he won’t get back to his impressive April performance.  Don’t give up hope.


6) Is Wilin Rosario getting things back on track…
He went 1-3 yesterday and is 4-11 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R since returning from the DL.  Before we get too excited, we have to keep in mind that he has struck out 3 times.  That hasn’t been a major issue this season, however, at 15.1%.  The bigger issue has been his lack of hard contact (15.3% line drive rate helping him to a .259 BABIP).  While last season’s .344 BABIP was going to be hard to match, he’s a better hitter than this.  Albeit in a small sample size, his May line drive rate sits at 23.1% and we have to think better days lie ahead.  Now would be the perfect time to try and acquire him, if possible.


7) Phil Hughes thrives in San Diego…
There was a reason many thought Hughes would thrive by moving out to the NL West, and he showed us why last night as he tossed 7.0 shutout innings allowing 7 H and 0 BB, striking out 7, against the Padres.  Of course, he’s actually been pitching well overall of late regardless of the opponent and locale.  He’s allowed 1 ER over his past three starts (20.0 IP) and 4 ER over his past five starts (33.1 IP).  He now owns a 3.15 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, and there hasn’t been any luck on his side (.329 BABIP, 76.2% strand rate).  That’s not to say that there isn’t some downside, as he’s not going to maintain a 0.99 BB/9 (he owns a career mark of 2.71).  As long as he continues to keep the ball in the ballpark (0.66 HR/9), he should continue to see success though.  At this point he’s proven to be a viable fantasy option.


8) A tough luck loss for Tanner Roark…
He allowed 2 R (1 earned) on 6 H and 3 BB, striking out 2, over 6.0 IP against the Reds.  He’s proven to be a solid option, though you have to wonder if he can take the next step forward or not.  There’s nothing in his current skillset that screams out to you, with a 6.83 K/9, 2.44 BB/9 and 46.3% groundball rate.  Since 2011 in the minors he owns marks of 7.44, 2.58 and 42.9%, so this simply may be the pitcher that he is.  It’s hardly must own, but it’s usable depending on the situation.


9) Clay Buchholz struggles again…
The bulk of the beating came courtesy of Edwin Encarnacion (2-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) as Buchholz allowed 5 R (4 earned) on 9 H and 2 BB, striking out 2, over 4.2 IP.  He now owns a 6.32 ERA and 1.85 WHIP and while there has been a little bit of bad luck (.381 BABIP, 65.2% strand rate), it’s hardly the only explanation.  His SwStr% has plummeted, with a 9.0% career mark vs. a 6.9% this season.  He’s also allowing home runs (1.34 HR/9), something that’s not unbelievable (1.19 in ’12).  Fewer strikeouts + more home runs is simply going to lead to poor results.  He is better than this, but that doesn’t mean he’s a pitcher you want to hang your hat on.


10) Closer Notes…

  • Hector Rondon blows a save…  His first blown save certainly came at an inopportune time for Jeff Samardzija, as Rondon allowed 2 R (1 earned) on 2 H and 1 BB, striking out 1, over his inning of work.  Every closer is going to blow one, from time to time, and Rondon’s job certainly isn’t in jeopardy.
  • Jason Motte returns to the mound in St. Louis…  He tossed 1.2 shutout innings allowing 1 H and 0 BB, striking out 1.  While Trevor Rosenthal has had his issues, it still seems unlikely that Motte overtakes him (at least for now).  It’s worth monitoring, but don’t think anything is imminent.


Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, MILB.com, Minor League Central


  1. CJ says:

    I do see that Brantley has a career high HR\FB ratio. Will he hit the 32 homers he’s on pace for? Probably not. But I do think he has the ability to hit 25 dingers. After all, he is at the prime age for power to come together.

  2. Henry Titlebaum says:

    Brantley seems like a much different guy at home than on the road. I haven’t studied his splits but on weeks where the Tribe are at home or have at least 3 games at home with favorable pitching matchups, he’s a must start imo. Even if his power numbers do level off, he looks like a sure bet for a 20/20 season with the chance of it being a 25/25 or better.

    • Henry Titlebaum says:

      Just as I suspected. Brantley is averaging .359 at home and .217 on the road. 6 of his 9 dingers, 23 of his 36 RBI’s, 19 of his 26 runs and 5 of his 6 SB’s have been at home. Also worth noting, 10 of his 16 strikeouts have been on the road. Just some food for thought about when to insert Brantley into your lineup.

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