by Ray Kuhn
Impossible. Emotionally exhausting. Powerful. We can keep on going all day with adjectives to describe what we saw on the field in Miami last night. While the game itself did bring with it some level of normalcy, it was still like nothing we have seen before. And hopefully like nothing we ever will see again.
It’s hard to pivot to seemingly meaningless fantasy baseball analysis after talking about the sudden and tragic death of one of the best pitchers of our time, but that is what we do. And by that, I don’t mean be insensitive. Baseball, and fantasy baseball, exist to help us escape life and the tragedies that come with it.
As the end of the season draws near, let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out from a fantasy perspective last night.
1) Justin Bour Just Misses a Cycle
If there was an element of the the cycle you would expect Bour to be missing, it would not be a home run. Well at least compared to a triple, because before last night, Bour had never tripled in his professional career. After missing two months, Bour returned in the beginning of September, and he has yet to find his groove. Including his 3 for 4 effort last night, Bour is hitting just .196 in September with three RBI. There is no arguing with Bour’s power, prior to his injury he had 15 home runs with 46 RBI, and he could be a good source of such over his next few games.
2) Adam Duvall Goes Deep Twice
One of the unexpected All-Stars from this season who has sustained his fantasy value is Duvall. The outfielder went 4 for 6 during Cincinnati’s rout of the Cardinals, and that included two home runs, five RBI, and four runs scored. You aren’t going to get batting average from Duvall, .242, but he is at 33 home runs and 100 RBI for the season. When you get production like that, especially based on where he was drafted at the start of the season, you can certainly make due with a .242 batting average. The strikeouts are going to be there, 155 so far this season, but at this point that is to be expected. Duvall has a 47.1% fly ball rate this season, but it was 47.4% last season and his home run per fly ball rate has dropped from 27.8% to 18.3%.
3) Jean Segura Continues With the Power
If Segura is going to bat .317 with 30 stolen bases and 94 runs scored, you would consider that a win. But after his two home runs last night, the middle infielder is up 19 on the season to go along with 63 RBI. And that is a nice bonus. But aside from the speed, which is a skill set he has proven to own, what can we expect from him next season? Segura’s BABIP of .350 is above his career average of .313 and his home run per fly ball rate of 13.1% is well above his mark from the past two seasons (5.1% and 5.3%). He is still just 26-years old, so it is possible that some of those improvements will stick. And even with a little regression, Segura still sets up as a nice option for next season.
4) Javier Baez Drives in Six
As the Cubs get ready for the playoffs, I would expect to see Baez in the lineup at various positions for the last week of the season. Last night, he got the start at second base and then moved over the shortstop, but it was his bat that made the impact. Baez had just two hits and a walk in six at bats, but he made his hits count. His 14th home run of the season was a grand slam and he later drove in two more runs with a single to give him 57 RBI on the season in 408 at bats. While steady at bats are sometimes hard to come by, the power production from the middle infield certainly has value in deeper leagues.
5) Brett Gardner Picks up Three Hits
It hasn’t been a great season for Gardner, but he looks to close out the season strong as he picked up three hits and walk in four at bats last night. Gardner came around to score three runs as his average rose to .259 on the season. After hitting 17 and 16 home runs in the two years prior, Gardner’s power (unexpectedly) has dissipated this season and he has just seven home runs in 39 RBI. While he generally did stay healthy this season, he isn’t running as much as he used to, 16 stolen bases, and I would expect to see that trend continue into next season.
6) Corey Kluber Leaves Early
As the Indians clinched the AL Central title last night, Kluber should have been the pitcher of record receiving the victory. Instead he departed after the fourth inning with some groin tightness. Prior to that, Kluber allowed two runs on five hits and one walk while striking out three. With Cleveland’s spot in the postseason secure, and their pitching staff already in shambles, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the last we saw from Kluber this regular season as he ends it with a 3.14 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 215 innings.
7) Jonathan Villar is Not Slowing Down
At the risk of pouring cold water on Villar’s scorching 2016 season, there likely will be some regression next season. The question though, is how much as we try to avoid over drafting him. Regardless of that, Villar is likely a top keeper option for 2017, and he will have fantasy value. It’s hard to say otherwise, and his performance continues to point to that. Villar went 3 for 5 last night and went deep twice while driving in five runs. On the season, Villar is up to 18 home runs and 61 RBI with a .283 batting average and 59 stolen bases. Over the past month, Villar has noticeably cooled off, .210 batting average (although he has eight home runs) and that has helped spur the calls of regression. It is clear that Villar has benefited from a .371 BABIP (it was .360 last season), but he also suffered from a .170 this September. Villar quite possibly could be one of the most divisive and intriguing players entering next season.
8) Robinson Cano Keeps on Slugging
As the Mariners hang on to thin playoff hopes, and they likely dashed those of Houston, Cano once again played a large part in their success. Cano went deep twice on Monday, including the game winning home run in the 11th inning, and he is up to 35 home runs on the season. As his average rose to .298 on the season, Cano also doubled for the 31st time. With 94 RBI on the season, Cano still has a chance at hitting the century mark this season as he cements his status as one of the top second baseman.
9) James Shields Turns up a Solid Start
Despite all his struggles, and they have been substantial, Shields is still a solid starting pitcher. And last night, we saw it against Tampa as the right-hander picked up just his sixth victory of the season. Shields held the Rays to just one run in six innings while scattering seven hits and walking two to go along with six strikeouts. There really is not much good to say about Shields’ season, but he shouldn’t be totally forgotten about after his struggles this season.
10) Sean Manaea Turns in a Strong Start
Manaea was one of the young pitchers we highlighted who was taking the mound twice this week, and he didn’t disappoint on Monday. While he didn’t factor in the decision and his team lost, the southpaw was certainly not to blame. Manaea limited the Angels to just one run (a Mike Trout home run) while scattering three hits and one walk while striking out three. On the season, Manaea saw his ERA drop to 3.89 as he looks to finish out the season strong. Over his last seven games, Manaea’s ERA is just 2.23 with a WHIP of 0.92. That is a young pitcher who warrants a closer look in 2017.