by Ray Kuhn
There is no way to get around the importance of the action we see on the field over the next three and a half weeks. In fact, the season depends on it. Every performance is important in one way or another, and we have you covered. Stephen Strasburg tried to return last night, and all looked good for about 40 pitches. Instead, he exited after 42 pitches and will have an MRI on his elbow today. Let’s take a look at some of the players who stood out on the diamond.
1) Noah Syndergaard Gets an Ugly Win
Considering the Mets have been sending Rafael Montero, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman out to the mound, Syndergaard’s start should be cause for relaxation. While the right-hander didn’t allow a run and picked up the victory, it was a struggle for Syndergaard to get through just five innings of work. He spent the entire afternoon pitching out of trouble as he allowed six hits and four walks while throwing 95 pitches and striking out seven. For the season, Syndergaard’s ERA sits at 2.48 and in his last three starts, he has allowed just three earned runs in 19 innings of work. By no means should we sound the alarm on the right-hander, but it is worth noting that the victory wasn’t exactly dominant.
2) Jharel Cotton Makes it Look Easy
It’s not supposed to be this easy, is it? Well on Wednesday, Cotton sure made it look that way. The right-hander acquired from the Dodgers at the trading deadline made his major league debut, and he looked right at home. Granted the Angels did him a favor by sending out a lineup with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, and Cotton got to pitch in Oakland, but he cruised through his debut without much of a problem. A solo home run in the seventh inning by CJ Cron was the extent of the damage against Cotton who went 6.1 innings for the victory allowing just one other hit and two walks while striking out three. In the Dodgers system, Cotton had a 4.90 ERA in 22 games at Triple-A (16 starts), and in six starts in Oakland’s organization he had a 2.82 ERA. Cotton has some pedigree, he was a 20th round selection in 2012 and has a career 3.68 ERA, but not all of his starts are going to be this easy.
3) Jonathan Villar Shows off the Power
This season has been all about Villar showing he can belong as an everyday player at the top of a major league lineup. And, yes, about his speed too. Villar has 52 stolen bases on the season, but we also can’t forget about his power. Against the Cubs on Wednesday, Villar didn’t add to his stolen base total, and that was only because he didn’t spend much time on the bases. Villar went deep twice, both of the solo variety, to give him 15 home runs and 54 RBI on the season to go along with his .299 batting average. Even though it feels like he has been around for a while, Villar is still just 25-years old, and he has to be taken seriously as a legit everyday player. However, he has benefited from a .396 BABIP, so it remains to be seen how well he can hold his batting average moving forward.
4) Justin Upton Goes Deep Again
Hopefully you either held on to Upton, or bought low on the Detroit outfielder. While his batting average still isn’t where you’d like to see it, .241 after going 2 for 4 yesterday, his home run total shouldn’t be all that far off from your projections. Upton hit a three run shot yesterday for his 22nd home run of the season. Over his past three seasons, Upton averaged 27 home runs and 84 RBI (he has 70 so far this season) and it looks like this season will be right in line with those numbers. Upton did have to adjust to a new league this season, and he is known as a streaky hitter, but in the end, all was not lost this season.
5) Brian Mitchell Makes His Season Debut
If it wasn’t for a toe injury in Spring Training, we likely would have seen Mitchell is some kind of a key role this season for the Yankees. Instead, he made his season debut last night, and it looked like he had been pitching all year. The Yankees held him to five innings (80 pitches), but he could have gone longer had stamina not been an issue. Mitchell scattered four hits and two walks while striking out two as he picked up the victory. Last season, Mitchell struggled at times (6.47 ERA in 20 games), but he was better than his ERA indicated. If he is going to remain in the rotation for the rest of the season, he does warrant some consideration. It is also worth noting, that Luis Severino picked up the hold as he provided three scoreless innings of relief after Mitchell. Severino has shown success coming out of the bullpen, Wednesday was no different as he allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out three, but that hasn’t translated to being a starter this season. Don’t give up on him in dynasty leagues though, because the stuff is there.
6) Three More Hits for Francisco Lindor
With Carlos Correa back in Houston getting his shoulder examined, last night there was just one top notch young shortstop on the field. And Lindor might not be receiving all of the attention that he deserves. In four at bats yesterday, Lindor singled three times and scored two runs. That brought his average for the season up to .320 and gave him 89 runs for the season. Lindor’s power is still developing, 14 home runs, but he has driven in 66 runs and stolen 17 bases. Over the past month, the shortstop has been scorching as he is hitting .367 which includes a .448 average in his last seven games. At age 22, Lindor is not done by any stretch.
7) Andrew Cashner, With the Victory
It was an interesting move when the Marlins acquired Cashner from the the Padres, but at least for one start on Wednesday, he gave Miami what they were looking for. Yes, it did come against the Phillies at home, and Cashner only lasted 5.1 innings, but he did pick up the victory. Cashner started the shutout, four other relievers finished it since he needed 102 pitches to get through his portion of the night, and he struck out nine batters while allowing six base runners (four hits and two walks). Cashner’s ERA is still an unsightly 4.77, and in his last seven games that jumps to 5.40. Two starts ago, he did go six innings and allow just one run, but he is still just a match-up play at best the rest of the way.
8) Byron Buxton Goes Deep
While Buxton has been disappointing to say the least, don’t forget that he is still a top prospect. He might have already done enough to damage to remove that tag, but his talent is still there. The 22-year old still has just 106 games of major league action under his belt, and it looks like things might be different for Buxton in his most recent stint with Minnesota. Batting ninth with no pressure, the outfielder is beginning to produce. On Wednesday, Buxton went deep for the fifth time this season while also picking up his 17th double of the year. While he is batting just .224 this season, in his last 15 games Buxton is hitting .300 with four home runs and 13 RBI. It is not too late.
9) David Dahl Goes Deep Again
It’s hard to argue with both Dahl’s production, and the projection he gives Nolan Arenado from the fifth spot in the order. Dahl went deep for the sixth time this season, a mammoth two run blast, and also added a single. In 155 major league at bats, Dahl is hitting .323 with 20 RBI as he looks perfectly comfortable at the plate. Dahl brought a .310 career average with him to Colorado, so it’s no secret that he can hit.
10) David Price Takes Care of the Padres
You can never go wrong with an elite pitcher taking the mound in San Diego, and that is what happened last night with Price. The southpaw faced little resistance as he cruised through seven innings to pick up his 15th victory of the season. While there were some speed bumps in adjusting to Boston, Price has done a good job of righting the ship. He allowed two runs Wednesday, on six hits, while striking out eight and not walking a batter to bring his ERA down to 3.87. In his last seven starts, Price is 6-1 with a 2.49 ERA, and that is exactly Boston was looking for when they signed him this past winter.