10 Important Stories From 09/23/16 Box Scores: Paxton Continues Emergence, Under-The-Radar Bats (Asuaje) & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Jake Arrieta was dominant against the Cardinals, tossing 7.0 shutout innings allowing 5 H and 1 BB, striking out 10, in what was his first double-digit strikeout game since June 17.  Maikel Franco is once against starting to show his power, going 2-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R (his second straight game with a home run).  Drew Pomeranz had a strong bounce back performance, allowing 1 ER on 4 H and 0 BB, striking out 4, over 5.0 IP to defeat the Rays.  What else happened on the field that we need to know about?  Let’s take a look:

1) Did Francisco Liriano simply need a change of scenery…
Taking on the Yankees he tossed 6.0 shutout innings allowing just 3 H and 2 BB, striking out 6.  Over his past three starts he’s allowed 4 ER over 18.1 IP and he owned 43 K vs. 15 BB over 43.0 IP as a member of the Blue Jays.  Control was his biggest issue with Pittsburgh this season (5.46 BB/9), considering both the strikeouts and groundballs have been there (he entered the day with a 9.08 K/9 and 52.0% groundball rate).  Obviously we would think the move to the AL East would be a downgrade, so it’s going to be hard to recommend trusting him, but things do appear to be headed in the right direction.  At the very least consider him a matchup play, though depending on your situation he could be utilized in all formats.

2) Shelby Miller posts one of his best starts of ’16…
That’s obviously not saying very much, but he did toss 6.0 shutout innings against the Baltimore Orioles as he allowed 3 H and 3 BB, striking out 3.  Of course it’s easy to poke holes in the performance:

  • 11 fly balls vs. 4 groundballs
  • 5 swinging strikes

So he’s lucky he kept the ball in the ballpark (he entered the day with a 1.40 HR/9) and he wasn’t fooling anyone (he entered the day with a 7.1% SwStr%).  In other words, the problems that have been there all season remain despite the seemingly “strong” performance.  He may not be as bad as his numbers indicate, but he’s a disaster and is impossible to trust.

3) A strong rebound from Michael Fulmer…
He dominated the Royals, allowing 1 ER on 8 H and 0 BB, striking out 9, over 7.0 innings.  Amidst the talk that the Yankees Gary Sanchez deserves the Rookie of the Year Award, this was an important performance for the player who appeared to be a shoe-in.  He had been inconsistent of late, potentially running out of gas, as the strikeouts had been down (5 K or fewer in five straight starts).  He generated 19 swinging strikes yesterday, though, and now owns a 2.95 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 129 K over 155.2 IP on the season.  His next start (and potentially final one of the regular season) comes against the Indians, who has taken him for a 6.75 ERA over 3 starts (5+ ER in two of the three starts, including 6 ER over 5.0 IP on September 16).  Despite the strong outing, he won’t be a recommended starter for that outing.

4) Is Michael Conforto earning himself regular AB…
Making his first start since September 19 he had the big blast for the Mets, going 2-3 with 1 HR (as well as a double), 3 RBI and 2 R.  It’s obviously been a rocky season for Conforto, though with Jay Bruce’s struggles there is an opportunity for him to make an impact over the final week and a half.  He’s only had 27 AB in September, but his 6 BB vs. 6 K is promising and he’s 5-12 since September 18.  He’s likely going to platoon, but let’s not forget that he’s the same player who hit .365 with 4 HR in 74 AB in September.  A hot streak is possible, and he could help to carry your team to a title.  If he’s sitting on the waiver wire, he’s worth kicking the tires on.

5) Jose Peraza showing that he deserves regular AB…
It’s been a rocky road for Peraza, who was up for quite some time but generally was pinned to the bench earlier in the season.  With both Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart sidelined, though, Peraza is getting his opportunity and taking advantage of it.  He went 2-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R yesterday, giving him a four-game hitting streak (7-16, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 R).  He’s hitting .342 in September, though for a speed option hitting atop the order there are two key numbers to remember:

  • 3 runs scored
  • 3 of 7 on stolen base attempts

The runs scored is more based on the lineup around him, because he’s clearly getting on base enough.  As far as the stolen bases, he needs to be more efficient (which is something he also struggled with at Triple-A, going 10-for-17).  Look for the Reds to work with him on that in the offseason, but if he can get there the potential is here for a game-changing 1-2 duo atop the lineup (along with Hamilton).

6) A dominating performance from James Paxton…
His offense gave him plenty of support (10 R) and Paxton made it stand up against the Twins.  Going 7.0 innings he allowed 1 ER on 5 H and 0 BB, striking out 9, while also generating 8 groundballs (compared to 4 fly balls).  He’s battled some injuries and inconsistency, but over his last three starts (20.0 IP) he’s showing just what is possible as he’s allowed 5 R on 14 H and 3 BB, striking out 19.  It’s the strikeouts that are going to grab our attention (8.26 K/9 entering the day), but he’s also shown control (1.90 BB/9) and more than enough groundballs (48.1%).  A southpaw whose velocity is up significantly (96.9 mph average on his fastball), the sky is the limit in ’17.  He’s not going to be drafted as a Top 20-25 starter, but he certainly owns that type of upside.  His final start of ’16 is set to come against the Astros, so there’s a good chance he piles up the strikeouts once again.

7) Alex Meyer posts an underwhelming outing…
His start against the Astros will be a bit lost amidst the epic meltdown from Ken Giles (6 ER over 0.1 IP), but the once highly touted Meyer was less than stellar allowing 4 ER on 4 H and 3 BB, striking out 4, over 5.1 IP.  Control has been the biggest issue, with 12 BB over 17.2 IP over his four appearances for the Angels, though he also hasn’t generated many groundballs (39.5% mark entering the day, 6 fly balls vs. 6 groundballs yesterday) and isn’t fooling anyone (23.9% O-Swing%).  Obviously it makes sense for the Angels to give him an opportunity down the stretch and see if he can develop, but fantasy owners should be staying far away from him at this point.

8) Home runs cost Jon Gray…
He had 10 K over 4.0 IP, so he clearly had the swing and miss stuff working (15 swinging strikes).  Of course he allowed 4 ER on 3 H and 3 BB, with home runs to Joc Pederson (1-2, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R) and Andre Ethier (1-1, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R) providing the big blows.  While it’s a bit disappointing overall, Gray now has 26 K over his past 13.0 IP (you have to wonder if that complete game, 16 K performance caused a bit of fatigue) and three 10+ K starts in his past six.  Overall he has 182 K over 162.2 IP to go along with a 4.54 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.  He does need to reduce the line drive rate (24.9% entering the day), but he’s generally shown strikeouts and control (3.01 BB/9 entering the day) while also showing he can tame Coors Field (4.30 ERA).  He appears to be an ace in the making.

9) Carlos Asuaje produces for the Padres…
It’s easy to overlook the recall of Asuaje, since it came at the same time as the highly touted Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe.  Asuaje tried to grab everyone’s attention yesterday, though, by going 2-4 with 2 R while hitting in the #2 spot of the lineup.  Playing at Triple-A this season he was hitting .321 with 9 HR (though he added 32 doubles and 11 triples) and 10 SB, while also showing the ability to make consistent contact (13.7% strikeout rate).  He’s not going to blow you away with any one skill, but he has 10/10 stuff and if he sticks towards the top of the lineup could make an impact.  He’s hardly a must add, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he made an impact over the final few days.

10) Trevor Bauer does enough to win…
It certainly wasn’t an impressive outing, allowing 4 ER on 7 H and 2 BB, striking out 6, over 7.2 IP as he allowed a pair of home runs and generated just 8 swinging strikes.  For what was once expected to be a big strikeout pitcher, he certainly hasn’t generated those types of numbers this season (he entered the day with an 8.9% SwStr% and 25.4% O-Swing%).  He has shown improved control (3.37 BB/9) and increased groundballs (48.6%), but is either number really enough to excite anyone?

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, MILB.com, CBS Sports

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