by Ray Kuhn
Thursday began with a pitching duel in Toronto, and there was limited offense throughout the day. Oakland closed out the night by scoring nine runs, and that was the high point for the day as James Paxton showed he is mortal (five earned runs in 4.1 innings). And if anyone was surprised, Eric Thames went deep once again. This time it came off Carlos Martinez as some of Thames’ early home runs have been courtesy of pitchers with less than ideal resumes.
Let’s take a look at the highlights of the 11 game slate.
1) Can You Top This…
With no disrespect to Marco Estrada, he never had a chance on Thursday. The Blue Jays right-hander did end with a no decision, and it’s hard to find fault, but facing Chris Sale while backed by a less than ideal offense, that was missing Josh Donaldson, is not going to be a recipe for success. Estrada pitched six shutout innings while limiting Boston to just three hits and two walks to go along with seven strikeouts. Despite how things might appear on the surface, Estrada continues to be a solid pitcher who is a showing he can be a fantasy asset. Across the field though, Chris Sale is putting an end to any thoughts that he needed an adjustment period to acclimate himself to Boston, a new team, or the AL East. Sale turned in eight shutout innings of work in which he struck out 13 batters and allowed just four hits and one walk.
2) The Unlikely Lead-off Hitter Continues His Success
It may not appear to be conventional, but Carlos Santana gets the job done atop Cleveland’s lineup. On Thursday, Santana went 3 for 5 with a run scored and two RBI while raising his average on the season to .254; on base percentage is more his game. However, Santana is a consistent source for production, and that was evident on Thursday. Santana’s two doubles gave him six on the season to go along with his 13 RBI. Cleveland’s lineup will be getting stronger with Jason Kipnis slated to return on Friday and Edwin Encarnacion beginning to heat up (he was 1 for 3 with two walks yesterday).
3) Souza Just Misses a Cycle…
So maybe this is what the Rays saw from Souza when they acquired him in what can easily be viewed as a controversial trade? This season, it has been hard to argue with the start Souza is off to, and that was no different on Thursday. After his three hits, Souza’s batting average is up to .349 with an OPS of 1.041. Souza was productive in piling up his hits as he scored three runs while also driving in three; giving him 15 RBI on the season. The double was Souza’s fifth of the season to go along with his third home run. If he is currently available in your league, quite frankly, he shouldn’t be. At some point, Souza’s batting average will normalize, but a breakout should also not be catching anyone by surprise as he can be a legitimate asset.
4) Houston Dominates Once Again…
There wasn’t much to talk about from an offensive perspective in Houston on Thursday, props to Matt Shoemaker for a solid outing (seven innings of two run ball to lower his ERA to 4.98), but it was a good sign to see Carlos Beltran go deep for his first home run of the season. Lance McCullers continued his strong start to the season, especially at home, to pick up his second victory of the season. The right-hander struck out eight as he limited the Angels to three hits and three walks while lowering his ERA to 3.38. As long as he continues to stay healthy, McCullers is going to be a pitcher to own for both this season and beyond. He handed things off to the Astros’ relief ace, Chris Devenski who took things the rest of the way. His 2.1 innings of work were actually a little bumpier than we have seen (4 hits including a Mike Trout solo shot) as he picked up the save. Even if that is the only save he picks up all season, Devenski still should be owned on all fantasy teams as his 25 strikeouts and 1.35 ERA are an asset.
5) Is There a New Ace in Baltimore…
The performance last night and the 1.98 ERA say that there is, but I would tread a little more carefully. While the Reds do have some legitimate hitters, it is also clear that they are an offense we can expect to see struggling this season. Wade Miley had no issues going through their offense last night as he threw eight innings of one run ball as he limited Cincinnati to just two hits and a walk while striking out 11. Even if you were optimistic on Miley entering the season, not many, if any, were, his start to this season is even beyond that. There is certainly value to Miley as a streaming option, but his .162 BABIP can also not be ignored.
6) A Three Hit Night for Tommy Joseph…
At this point, the most accurate question we can ask about Joseph, is how long does he have? That is what happens when you struggle to start the season and have a prospect behind you at Triple-A. After a strong end to the 2016 season, Joseph was a popular sleeper option heading into this year, but he has yet to produce. And with Rhys Hoskins hitting .317 to start the season, there has to be some concern. Following his three hit performance on Thursday, Joseph is hitting just .208 on the season. Perhaps last night, which included an opposite field double off Noah Syndergaard, will get him going. But with just six RBI (he drove in a run last night) he really needs to start hitting.
7) Health Matters…
Ryan Zimmerman is healthy to begin the 2017, and it shows. The first baseman is taking full advantage of his health and so should you. He was the hitting star for Washington on Thursday as he was responsible for all three runs. Zimmerman took R.A Dickey deep for his fifth home run of the season (two run shot) which gave him 13 RBI, and then scored following his sixth double. So far this season, Zimmerman is batting .389 and looks right at home in the middle of Washington’s order.
8) An Unlikely Start to the Season…
When the Rangers signed Andrew Cashner, and then gave him $10 million for 2017, they didn’t receive much, if any, positive attention. From a fantasy perspective, the move appeared to be of little relevance and importance. However, things haven’t been all that bad to start the season. Cashner made his debut last week against the Mariners and allowed three earned runs (four total) before running out of steam last coming up two outs short of a quality start. Things were better last night, at home, against the Royals. Cashner limited Kansas City to just three hits, although he did walk four, while striking out three in six shutout innings. By no means am I suggesting to run out and grab Cashner in all leagues, but there is some value in deeper leagues and as a streamer.
9) It’s Not Just the Eric Thames Show…
Yes, we know that Thames went deep again, but so did Travis Shaw. Shaw’s blast was the hardest hit ball so far this season, over 116 miles per hour, and the three run shot was his fifth of the season. in fact, Shaw’s 16 RBI are more than the 14 that Thames has put up so far this season. However, after Shaw (the clean-up hitter) things start to get a little hairy for Milwaukee’s lineup. In fact, with Thames batting second and Ryan Braun third, there really isn’t much to talk about. If Jonathan Villar builds on his two hit performance from Thursday though, the Brewers at least would have their lead-off hitter back. Villar scored after both of his singles, but his 2 for 4 performance raised his average to just .159.
10) Ryon Healy is Getting on Track…
Not too long ago, April 15th, Healy was hitting just .170 and was the cause of frustration for fantasy owners. Hopefully you didn’t give up on the third baseman, as he has quickly righted the ship. After his 3 for 3 day on Thursday, Healy is now hitting .268 which is in line with what you expected on draft day. Healy doubled and drove in two runs (giving him seven on the season) as looks to get on track.
Make sure to check out our Preseason 2017 Prospect Rankings:
|Top 50 Prospects||1-50|
|Right Handed Pitchers:||1-10||11-20|
|Left Handed Pitchers:||1-10|