by Ray Kuhn
For a Thursday, we had a pretty good slate of games to watch, although there were no “late games” as far as fans in the east were concerned. If you didn’t pay as close attention as normal to the games tonight due to the MLB Draft, we have covered here. Let’s take a look at 10 story lines from this evening’s games.
1) Is Marcell Ozuna Becoming a Legit Source of Power?
After coming on strong before cooling off last season, Ozuna does appear that he is working his way back into the good graces of fantasy owners. Ozuna went 3-5 against a very struggling Tampa Bay Rays team while driving in four runs, but more importantly hitting his eleventh home run of the season. This was of the two run variety and is also Ozuna’s fifth home run in his last 14 games, so once again there is some streakiness involved. But given the short sample size, is hard to accurately say whether he is an inconsistent player or he is just finding his way in the major leagues. While in the short term Ozuna is worth adding and starting if that option is still available, I would maintain some skepticism regarding his HR/FB rate of 16.7% before going all in.
2) Is Justin Verlander Really Trending in the Wrong Direction?
After Verlander put up a 2.48 ERA in April, the hope is that the Tigers’ ace was just caught up in a little slump. Instead, it does seem to be growing into a bigger issue as his struggles continued Thursday against a surging Toronto team. After allowing five earned runs (six total) in seven innings, Verlander’s ERA over his last seven starts is a less than stellar 5.67. Overall, he is only striking out about 6.5 batters per innings, and with a decreased velocity, there is some cause for concern regarding Verlander, but it didn’t negatively impact him in April. If you are looking to optimistic about Verlander, he has been the victim of bad luck as he had a 59.1% LOB rate in May that can be expected to rebound. Regardless though, he is not the same pitcher he was a few years ago, and expectations should be adjusted accordingly.
3) Will Mike Morse Reach 30 Home Runs?
When the Giants signed Morse this off-season, it was viewed as a solid pick up of a veteran power bat, but was also something that flew under the radar. Instead, Morse is making that does not happen as after his two run home game on Thursday, he now has 13 on the season and is playing a large part in San Francisco’s success. At this point, we do know that Morse’s power is real, and the Giants are doing a good job of managing his workload to keep him healthy as best as possible. There is nothing to suggest that Morse won’t hit 30 and continue to be a run producer.
4) Will Todd Frazier End the Season as a Top 10 Third Baseman?
Especially based on his performance at home, the answer is yes. Frazier hit his 12th home run of the season, which was his 10th at home compared to just two on the road in three more games. Based on his composite stats, Frazier will continue to be a must start option is most leagues, but based on his home/road splits, he is a better option in daily formats where he can be rotated out on the road. When Joey Votto returns from injury, Frazier will likely move back down in the order where he has proved to be a solid run producer with 31 RBI’s so far this season.
5) Should We Worry About One Bad Start from Jacob deGrom?
I think the short answer here is no. After tonight’s start, deGrom is up to five on his big league career and after allowing four runs in five innings, his ERA now sits at 3.19 on the season. This is the first start that deGrom has had where he didn’t pitch at least six innings or register a quality start. He throws hard with an average fastball velocity of 93.1 according to FanGraphs so he is definitely a starter worth consideration. In his last few starts, the Mets have relied on deGrom to pitch a little deeper into games than they may have wanted to due to shorthanded bullpen, so a start where he was less than sharp could be expected. I don’t think we have seen enough from him to consider deGrom an unconditional starter, but at the very least he should be owned and a matchup dependent start.
6) Mike Trout Didn’t Miss a Beat
After struggling with back inflammation in the early part of the week, Trout returned Thursday against the Astros by going 2-5 with a double, triple, RBI, and run scored. Trout is now hitting .295 on the season, and while this might be a nagging issue to be aware of moving forward, it doesn’t appear to be something that should concern you too much.
7) Yordano Ventura Appears to Alright
To say Ventura got off to a scorching start this season could very well be an understatement. But in his last start prior to Thursday, Ventura struggled and ultimately left with some elbow soreness. Fantasy owners were well within their rights to be concerned, but after seeing Ventura throw six innings against the Cardinals, some of those concerns should be negated. Ventura was facing a difficult opponent in St. Louis, and he emerged victorious after pitching six innings of two run ball. Now it was not the dominance we grew accustomed to see earlier in the season, but Ventura’s performance was nothing to be ashamed of. He allowed seven hits and two walks while only striking out one batter while dancing out of trouble all night. I would wait another start or two before I consider Ventura fully out of the woods, but this is a pretty good start.
8) Adam Jones Has Another Big Game
While Jones might not be as flashy as other superstars, he is quickly becoming an elite outfielder. With Jones it seems that depending on who you talk to, he is either overvalued or undervalued. The fact that Jones didn’t get off to a hot start this season didn’t exactly help his cause, but the outfielder is on a very good pace stats wise. Facing a struggling Colby Lewis, Jones went 2-4 with his 12th home run of the season to go along with a two run double that brought his RBI total on the season to 36. Don’t let Jones slip under the radar as he once again will come very close to, or eclipse, the 30 HR/100 RBI mark,
9) The Second Spot Agrees With Ryan Braun
Braun and the Brewers continued their 2014 success on Thursday night against the Twins with a victory by the score of 8-5. Even though he is a power hitter, Braun has campaigned to bat towards the top of the order, even leadoff, and the Brewers have somewhat relented batting him second. A 3-5 night with a double and two runs scored saw Braun lift his average to .318 on the season. Batting second is not ideal for Braun’s RBI numbers and fantasy owners can’t be entirely too happy about it. As long as the Brewers win, I would expect to see it continue, and it is possible that the increase in runs scored helps to somewhat offset the decreased RBI’s.
10) Is Juan Francisco Becoming Toronto’s Newest Reclamation Success?
Francisco continues to earn more playing, and all he does is deliver. On Thursday against Verlander and the Tigers, the left-handed slugger added his 10th home run on the season to go along with a respectable .268 batting average. Toronto still limits Francisco’s exposure to left handed pitching which is a good thing for his batting average. Francisco is still striking out his normal 30%-plus rate, but he has seen a spike in both his Fly Ball & and also his HR/FB rate, so perhaps some regression is order. Even if that does happen, it would likely be on a smaller scale, and Francisco still is a power threat. Sell high if possible, and I wouldn’t bank on Francisco being a 25-30 home run threat this season.