by Ray Kuhn
What better way to kick off the week than a nice split slate? While it is enjoyable to have games going on just about all day, it always makes for a stressful Monday to get those lineups locked by 1 pm eastern. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out from yesterday’s action.
1) Gregory Polanco Continues His Hitting Ways
So far, it has been a good start tot he season for Polanco as he received a nice $35 million contract extension from the Pirates. And all he has done to justify that contract, is continue to hit. At some point, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Pittsburgh move their young outfielder up in the order and out of the sixth spot. Yesterday, against the Tigers, Polanco went 3 for 5 with a run scored and his fourth RBI of the season to raise his average to .381. It was Polanco’s fifth run scored of the season, and a move up in the batting order would only work to raise that total.
2) Once Again, Batting Average Doesn’t Matter for Chris Davis (at least for today)
All it takes is a few games like what we saw yesterday from Davis for him to prove his value. You can accept the low average, .227 after going 2 for 5 on Monday, if the power is there. And yesterday it was as the Orioles continued their unbeaten ways as they fought back against Craig Kimbrel to move to 6-0 on the young season. Davis drove in five runs on the day, to bring him to seven RBI on the season, but he truly made his presence felt in the top of the ninth inning with two outs. That is when Davis hit a three run shot off Kimbrel, his second of the year, to give Baltimore the lead for good.
3) The Hits Were There For Maikel Franco, But That Was It
When you have a dynamic young hitter, such as Franco, in a lineup that is absolutely terrible, like the Phillies, you have to be concerned to some extent about his production. On Monday, the Padres didn’t pitch around Franco, but the third baseman has nothing to show for his 3 for 4 performance. Franco did raise his average to .409 with his three singles, but he is still stuck on just two runs scored and two RBI for the season. While we have just a week’s worth of games under our belt and you don’t want to start over analyzing things, it could be something to at least keep in the back of your mind. However, I’m certainly not running out to sell Franco.
4) Jeremy Hazelbaker Bats Second
While that didn’t take long at all for Hazelbaker. Batting second yesterday was pretty good for a player who wasn’t even expected to make the team out of Spring Training. However, injuries to Ruben Tejada and Thomas Pham changed that and now Hazelbaker appears to be an intricate part of the Cardinals’ plans. After all, it is telling that he got the start in the outfield yesterday while Matt Holiday moved to first base with Brandon Moss and Matt Adams remaining on the bench. With his performance, Hazelbaker certainly proved Mike Matheny right as well. The young outfielder went 4 for 4 with a run scored and his fifth RBI of the season while coming a home run shy of the cycle. Not a bad way to ensure that you continue to receive more at bats.
5) Mallex Smith Goes Right to the Top of the Order
Smith can get on base, catch the ball in the outfield, and he can run. When the Braves promoted their speedy outfielder yesterday, there was some speculation that he might enter the lineup batting eighth. That was not the case though as Smith led off yesterday against the Nationals in his debut. Before exiting to receive a few stitches, Smith went 1 for 3 with a run. While he was thrown out trying to steal second, it was also a good sign that the Braves gave Smith the green light right away. If Smith continues to hit at the top of the order, there is certainly fantasy value here, and that will only increase if he continues to receive the green light.
6) Steven Matz Just Did Not Have It
All of the days off to start the season have left it that Matz went 10 days without pitching before taking the mound yesterday for his first start of 2016. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, we have to deal with the increase in workload that all of the Mets’ young pitchers had last season. After an easy first inning, it showed last night as Matz was unable to get out of the second inning. In the first inning, it looked like the southpaw was just picking up where he left off as he allowed just an infield hit and struck out Giancarlo Stanton swinging to end the frame. However, the next inning things did not go nearly as well with Matz allowing seven runs on five hits and two walks in that frame and leaving after Stanton’s two run blast. It was just one start, so I wouldn’t sound the alarms just yet, but Matz did not look good.
7) Brandon Finnegan Flirts With History
In his second start of the season, pitch count was ultimately going to hold Finnegan back, so it was a good thing when he allowed his first hit of the game to David Ross in the seventh inning. That allowed the Reds to remove Finnegan after 111 pitches only for him to see both his inherited runners score. Control was an issue for Finnegan as he walked five Cubs, while also striking out five. After seeing those two inherited runners score, Finnegan’s ERA sits at 2.84 with a WHIP of 0.79. If you are looking to stream a back end of the rotation starter with some upside, then Finnegan might worth a closer look.
8) Addison Russell Goes Deep
Entering the season, Russell was one of those divisive players. Even right here on this very site as some expect more out of the young shortstop than others. We know that 25 at bats does not make a season, but it was nice to Russell hit the deciding home run last night. It was just his fourth hit of the season and accounted for three of his five RBI. I’m not saying I am fully a believer here, but it is too early to sell on Russell.
9) Mike Trout Hits His First HR of the Season
If I’m not going to sell on Russell yet, then I’m certainly not going to lose sleep over Trout getting off to a slow start. Granted the price paid for Trout is a lot higher than Russell, but still, it is Mike Trout we are talking about. All you have to do is look at the Angels’ batting order to know that things aren’t great for Trout’s supporting cast, but Yunel Escobar is serviceable in the lead-off spot and he does have Albert Pujols behind him. Trout hit a two run shot on Monday to double his RBI total and raise his average to .217. After one or two big games, Trout’s rough first week of the season will be quickly forgotten.
10) Nick Tropeano Comes up Strong
Pressed into action due to Andrew Heaney’s injury, the Angels have to like what they saw out of Tropeano on Monday. Yes, it did come against the A’s in their cavernous home park, but it is hard to argue with five shutout innings. Tropeano did show some flashes of success last season, and after scattering six hits and two walks while striking out six, he is making the case to stay. Once Heaney does return, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Tropeano remain in the rotation because it isn’t exactly a strength for the Angels.