by Ray Kuhn (with an assist from The Rotoprofessor for the last two)
Monday night saw some very good pitching performances and some very close games as part of a reduced schedule. Let’s take a look at some story lines to be aware of.
1) Carlos Martinez Gets a Start
Fantasy owners have been waiting for Martinez to get a crack at starting games since he dominated spring training. Instead, as per the Cardinals way, the right-hander got sent to the bullpen to start the season and that is where he has been until Monday night. In the bullpen, Martinez has pitched to mixed results, and took a 4.67 ERA over 34.2 innings pitched into his start against the Mets. Entering his start, the Cardinals did state that Martinez would be pitching deep into the game, and they were correct as he only logged four innings. Martinez essentially did what he has done all season to this point as he struck out three batters, walked four, and allowed a run on two hits. It looks like Adam Wainwright will be rejoining the rotation for his next start so Martinez is likely headed back to the bullpen where he very well could be for the rest of the season. He is a pitcher to watch, but he is still working out the kinks and looking to improve his consistency and to pace himself.
2) We Really Need to Worry About David Wright
Wright got off to a slow start hitting .262 in the first month of the season before finding a groove and hitting .320 in May. However, that did not last and the slumping third baseman took a .106 June average into Monday night’s game. Wright went 1-4 with two more strikeouts while leaving two more batters on base as his struggles continue. All season power has been an issue for Wright as he has just four home runs and 33 RBI’s. While he will pick it up again, you have to wonder about the power and lack of RBI’s we have seen out of Wright so far this season. He is a player I would try to sell if possible and would not pay full price for.
3) We Can Stop Worrying About Billy Butler
Over the past few seasons Butler has been an underappreciated source of batting average and RBI’s but often overlooked because of the lack of power. This season Butler got of the gates struggling hitting .224 in April before heating up to hit .282 in May and .310 in June prior to Monday. Against the Tigers, Butler played a large part in Kansas City’s 11 run outburst as he drove in three runs on two hits to raise his average for the season to a respectable .267. Butler will never be a prolific offensive threat that can carry your team, but he can be a solid complementary piece if continues to keep this up.
4) Has JD Martinez Found a Home?
After being asked to do too much with the Astros, Martinez was picked up off waivers by the Tigers a few months ago. So far Martinez has been able to find steady enough playing time to put himself on the radar at least for AL-only leagues and some deeper formats. Martinez pinch ran for a recently struggling Torii Hunter on Monday and hit a grand slam in the ninth inning to make the game closer than it really was. Martinez is now up to .270 on the season with four home runs and 20 RBI’s in 97 plate appearances. While playing time is still an issue and these aren’t great numbers, they are something to be aware of in daily formats if Martinez happens to be playing that day or on days like today where there is a shortened slate of games.
5) Is it Time to Bench Justin Verlander?
It is no secret that Verlander has struggled this season, but it is hard to bench a pitcher of his skill level and track record. The fact that Verlander was making two starts this week made it even harder, but after Monday night fantasy owners certainly are wishing they did. Verlander allowed seven runs on 12 hits while striking out only two batters to raise his ERA to 4.98. At this point, it is time keep Verlander on your bench until he proves otherwise. This is also likely the low point of his value, so I wouldn’t try to sell him until he has one or two quality starts under his belt.
6) It’s Time to Pay Attention to Rubby De La Rosa
Since his promotion De Le Rosa has made four starts while getting mixed results. After seven shutout innings in his debut, the 25-year old had two starts of 5.2 innings and four runs allowed prior to Monday night. Against the Twins, De La Rosa once again pitched seven shutout innings, this time allowing only one hit and three walks to go with three strikeouts. For the season De La Rosa’s ERA sits at 2.84 and he has allowed 21 hits and seven walks to go with 23 strikeouts in 25.1 innings. Even at his worst so far in this small sample size, De La Rosa has not been terrible and we have seen on two occasions that he can be dominating. At this point he is certainly worth a look, at a minimum as a streaming option.
7) Don’t Worry About Jonathan Papelbon
Whenever a closer blows the save, the natural inclination is always the check the waiver wire for a possible replacement. In the case of Papbelbon that is necessary, as even after the blown save his ERA sits at just 1.65 along with a WHIP of 1.06. There was level of concern surrounding Papelbon entering the season, but all he has done is quiet those whispers by saving 15 games and striking out 25 batters in 27.1. While Papelbon is a player to watch at the trading deadline with Antonio Bastardo as the handcuff option, so far this season he has been one of the most secure closers.
8) Trevor Bauer Picks up the Win
It wasn’t a pretty start for Bauer, but he did enough to get his second win of the season. Bauer’s start will go down in the record books as a quality start as he allowed three runs in 6.2 innings, but he certainly had his share of struggles. Bauer allowed eight hits and four walks but he did strikeout six batters. For the most part it has been all downhill for Bauer since his season debut against the Padres as his ERA sits a 4.20. The 42 strikeouts in 40.2 innings is certainly a positive, but Bauer has not been able to keep runners off the bases with 41 hits and 16 walks. The right-hander is still working out the kinks and needs to improve at keeper runners off the bases and start to pitch deeper into games, Monday’s 6.2 innings are the most he pitched all season, but at this point we have seen enough to warrant at very least a bench spot.
9) Should we be paying attention to Robinson Chirinos (courtesy of The Rotoprofessor)
He went 3-5 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R last night and, while Donnie Murphy had a bigger day (2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R), he’s been scorching hot at the plate. He’s now homered in back-to-back games, with 4 HR in his past 8 while raising his average from .219 to .248. However, before we get too excited, he’s never shown much pop before (the most HR he’s hit in a minor league season was 18 in 2010) an owns a minor league career average of .260 in 4,022 PA. In two-catcher formats he’s worth using while he’s hot, but don’t get too excited.
10) Tyson Ross struggles against the Mariners (courtesy of The Rotoprofessor)
Ross allowed 5 ER on 7 H and 7 BB, striking out 2, over 5.2 IP against Seattle. He entered the day with a 3.38 BB/9, so this definitely appears to be an aberration and nothing more. He also got burnt by the long ball, giving up 2 HR, which hasn’t been an issue at home (0.58 HR/9) or on the road (0.86). In other words, chalk this up as a bad outing and nothing more.
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