by Ray Kuhn
To kick off the week we had a light Monday as there were just games to follow. Aside from a 10 minute delay in Chicago due to some lights going out, there were no issues to overcome; just a few bad pitching performances. Let’s jump right into some of the things that happened on the field last night.
1) Maikel Franco Goes Deep… Twice!
Last season Franco failed to live up to expectations as he appeared in only 16 games with the Phillies and hit just .179 without a home run. However, so far in 2015 things have been different for Franco. After beginning the year in the minor leagues, the third baseman now looks at home in Philadelphia. Franco went deep twice on Monday, a solo homer and a two run shot, which now gives him home runs and 24 RBI’s in 141 at bats. In total, Franco went 4-5 and drove in five runs in total while scoring three times.. Over his last 15 games Franco is hitting .414 and, at least temporarily, has cut down on the strikeouts (just 22 so far). While Franco didn’t arrive in the majors this season with the same fanfare as other prospects, it doesn’t mean he should be ignored either.
2) Michael Pineda Can’t Get Out of His Own Way
In his last start, it is pretty simple to say that Pineda recovered nicely. After having a turn skipped for rest and then getting shelled by the Orioles, Pineda took a no hitter deep into his last start and all looked right in the world. The weak hitting Phillies then figured to not present much of an obstacle. But on Monday night, that was not the case. Pineda lasted just 3.1 innings while allowing eight runs on 11 hits and one walk. That performance raised his ERA to 4.25 and in perhaps the most troubling development, Pineda did not strike anybody out. I wouldn’t dismiss Pineda just yet, but these recent struggles are something to keep an eye on.
3) Kris Bryant Powers the Cubs to Victory
That is a phrase that we already used a few times this season and also a phrase that seems to get a lot of use over the next 15 years. Firmly implanted in the third spot of the batting order, Bryant went deep twice on Monday (the first time off Clayton Kershaw) to give him 10 home runs on the season. Bryant also walked and raised his average to .282 with the long balls. His three RBI, his second home run was a two run shot, raised his total to 42 on the season and you would never know that he began the year in AAA.
4) Dioner Navarro Has a Big Game
Entering the season after the Blue Jays acquired Russell Martin, you knew that Navarro’s role was going to decrease. But all was not lost as the Jays would likely DH the left-handed hitting Navarro a good amount while he retained catcher eligibility this season. Of course an injury got in the way, but now that he has returned, Navarro is worth a look in deeper leagues. Batting in the cleanup spot, everybody moved up one with Josh Donaldson getting a rest, Navarro went 3-4 against Tampa Bay while scoring three runs and hitting his first home run of the season. That raised his average drastically to .254 through 19 games.
5) Domingo Santana Goes Deep
When Santana was promoted last season from AAA he couldn’t buy a hit, let along make contact. He was quickly returned to the the minor leagues and then kind of forgotten about in fantasy circles (similar to Franco). Santana was recalled last week when Colby Rasmus went on the bereavement list, and not many people paid attention. After doing well in his short audition, Santana got to stay a little longer as Jake Marisnick went on the disabled list. So far in mostly platoon work, against left-handed pitching, Santana is 3-12 with 5 RBI’s after hitting his second homer of the season. In deeper leagues, he is worth a quick look and has some value as a cheap option, but just keep in mind he is on the wrong side of a platoon.
6) Tommy Milone Gets Another Win
I’ll admit it. I pretty much ignored Milone this week as a two start option. Quite frankly, I did not trust the soft tossing lefty. And based on the end result, I was wrong. Milone held the White Sox to two runs in six innings while picking up his fourth win of the season and keeping his ERA steady at 3.54. But it almost didn’t end this way for Milone. He gave the White Sox plenty of opportunities, and they just did not capitalize. Chicago had 10 hits and two walks on the night against Milone, an average of two base runners per inning, and he only struck out two batters. I would continue to use caution.
7) Albert Pujols is Turning Back the Clock
We still have a week left in June and Pujols is already at 23 home runs. The 35-year old is showing that he still has a lot of pop left in his back as he went deep twice on Monday against the Astros. After hitting a solo shot and a two run homer, Pujols is already at 47 RBI’s on the season and has a respectable .275 average. This is not the same Pujols we saw with the Cardinals, but it is hard to argue with this production either.
8) Maybe Kennys Vargas Will be an Asset After All
It is hard to roster players that are only eligible at utility, but if they hit, you can find a way to do it. Plus in some cases, they are a source of overlooked value. Entering the season, it appeared that would be the case with Vargas, but he struggled early on and found himself back in the minors. Back with Minnesota, Vargas is batting out of the eighth spot in the order, but that didn’t stop him from producing on Monday. Vargas went 4-4 with two runs scored and four RBI’s while making his average a lot more respectable at .248. That included a three run homer, his fifth on the season (along with 15 RBI) in 41 games. I’m going to need more than one good game from Vargas before I’m on board, and I also would like to see him elevated in the order, but this is a start.
9) Robinson Cano Does Something
So far, 2015 is not shaping up to be a good year for Cano. It should not be news that he went 1-4 with a solo homer off Joe Blanton and the Royals, but this year it is. That was Cano’s third homer on the season and his first since May 30th. Cano is hitting just .244 on the season and has a paltry 23 RBI’s while batting third for Seattle. For all of the talk about Cano’s lack of fly balls, his 24% fly ball rate is in line with that of his last season, and it fits right in line with his performance in three of the past four years. Prior to that it was between 30% and 36% for the most part. So perhaps, the lack of power is now the new norm for Cano. However, I would expect his BABIP of .284 to climb as it is about 40-50 points below his career norm. But, I would certainly adjust my expectations for Cano moving forward.
10) Brett Gardner Has a Good Game in a Losing Effort
Just because the Yankees lost to the Phillies at home, it doesn’t mean all was lost for New York. Gardner continued to be one of the Yankees’ few reliable performers as he went 4-4 with two runs scored and a walk. The big blow from the outfielder was his eighth home run of the season, a three run shot, that raised his RBI total to 30. Hitting .290 on the season, Gardner has developed into a solid option.