by Ray Kuhn
If you were looking for some pitchers to feel confident about entering yesterday’s slate, you were not in the right place. Of course one of the pitchers who we expected good things from, Tanner Roark and Julio Teheran, disappointed, while other pitchers emerged to have, at the very least, a solid game. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out from yesterday around the major leagues:
1) Has Pittsburgh Found Their Cleanup Hitter…
Josh Bell has proven he is a legitimate hitter. The criticism of him though, is that for a first baseman, he doesn’t bring enough power to the table. However, on Thursday, his two run home run was his fourth over his last sixth game, and ninth overall this season. It gave Bell 19 home runs to go along with his .248 batting average, but that will likely increase. Bell has been the victim of a .250 BABIP, and in the past, hitting for average has never been a concern with the first baseman. As far as young players go, Bell’s 28 strikeouts in 141 at bats so far this season are also not a liability which helps his value.
2) Seth Smith is Not Traditional…
At this point, we should be over the shock of Smith batting atop the order. Yes, he does fit the mold of a traditional lead-off hitter, but it works and Smith is successful in the role. Yesterday, the outfielder went 2 for 4 in Detroit with his fourth home run of the season and two RBI (10) while raising his average to .310. Smith is strictly a platoon player, so his value increases in leagues that allow for daily moves, as he has 78 at bats against right-handed pitchers while just six against southpaws. Just because Smith doesn’t “look” like other lead-off men, it doesn’t mean he can’t capitalize on the exploits of Baltimore’s lineup.
3) A Rough Start to the season for Franco…
Entering the season, the Phillies counted on Maikel Franco to bat in the middle of the order, but on Thursday, he was down to seventh. Franco had just one hit yesterday, but he made it count with a two run blast giving him just six home runs on the season. While he has been lacking in that department, all has not been lost with Franco as he has still been a run producer this season (28 RBI). However, it is his batting average of .216 so far in 2017 that has been hard to stomach. What should give fantasy owners cause for optimism though, is his .211 BABIP.
4) A Grand Day for Javy…
Now with Ian Happ in the mix, the competition for at bats among Chicago’s versatile options has increased. But if Javier Baez hits like he did on Thursday, finding playing time will not be an issue. Baez reached base all four times he came to the plate yesterday, three hits and a walk, but the big hit was a first inning grand slam. It was the sixth home run of the season Baez who later drove in another run giving him 19 RBI on the season. We shouldn’t expect much in the batting average department, .248 so far this season, but that it isn’t terrible enough that becomes a true liability. Plus, if he is going to come through in the power department, a .248 average comes a lot more palatable.
5) Where Has This Performance Come From…
I guess you really have choice but to ride this performance from Eric Sogard. As long as the utility player hits, it appears that the Brewers will continue inserting him in the lineup, and it’s likely there is at least one hole (created by injuries) in your lineup that could use some, even just temporary, attention. Sogard was promoted from Triple-A a week ago, and so far he certainly appears that he belongs. Batting lead-off on Thursday, Sogard was perfect going 4 for 4 with a walk. Despite that, he didn’t score a run, but Sogard did drive in three which gave him seven RBI in six games. Sogard has seen time this past week at second base, third base, and shortstop, and he is currently hitting .588. We know that hot streak will ultimately end as Sogard slows down, but to what extent will that occur? Until Sogard comes crashing down to earth, there is no reason to ride him; however it is only prudent to do so with a prudent investment.
6) The Starting Performance We Have Been Waiting For…
We knew Jose Berrios could do it. At this point, there isn’t anything more Berrios can do in Triple-A, but he is still searching to put it together at the major league level. After his performance on Thursday in the nightcap of Minnesota’s double-header against Colorado, it’s hard not to believe he has found it. After allowing just one run on two hits over 7.2 innings in his first start of the season five days ago, Berrios took it even a step further last night. The right-hander once again pitched 7.2 innings and allowed two runs and one walk, but this time he didn’t allow a run. After striking out just four batters in his last start, Berrios took it a step further and struck out 11. While doing so, he had the most swings and misses of his career; 20.
7) Marcus Stroman Does it All…
Unfortunately we don’t get any fantasy credit for Marcus Stroman’s home run, but his pitching performance wasn’t too bad on Thursday. Stroman shut the Braves out, but he only lasted 5.2 innings as the right-hander scattered seven hits. He did strike out six, while only walking one batter as he picked up his fourth victory of the season. The good thing, is that Stroman kept the ball on the ground, where he recorded 10 outs, while lowering his ERA to 3.00 on the season and pitching out of trouble, but it wasn’t an especially clean start. While Stroman’s 1.39 WHIP is a cause for concern, his 3.18 FIP/3.33 xFIP has to make fantasy owners feel better.
8) Danny Duffy Deals With the Yankees…
Entering the night, there was some concern about how Duffy (a southpaw) would deal with a strong, powerful, right-handed New York lineup. He answered those questions pretty quickly, and affirmatively, with seven shutout innings. It was the third start over the last two seasons for Duffy where he pitched a minimum of seven shutout innings with at least 10 strikeouts. There were very few times where Duffy was in trouble on Thursday, as he allowed just three hits and two walks to go along with his 10 strikeouts. It was the third victory of the season for Duffy who lowered his ERA to 2.97 as he continues his success from last season.
9) A Quality Start for Gray…
Not too long ago, Sonny Gray was a top starting pitcher. Injuries and ineffectiveness took their hold last season, and the right-hander recently made his 2017 debut with expectations vastly reduced. Gray took the mound on Thursday against a tough Boston team, and he held his own. It didn’t start off too good for Gray as he allowed two first inning runs, but he settled down and allowed just one more run (a Mitch Moreland solo home run) in the next five innings as he picked up his first victory of the season. In a positive sign, Gray struck out eight batters while allowing four hits and two walks on the day. Through four starts so far this season, Gray has a 3.97 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP, and while it’s to soon to expect a full return to form, it is possible as long as he stays healthy.
10) Three Hits for Anderson…
Before the season, the shortstop job and lead-off spot in the order was essentially handed to Tim Anderson. Due to inconsistency, Anderson hasn’t held on to his spot atop Chicago’s batting order, but the White Sox are sticking with him in the lineup. The shortstop shows flashes of success, so far this season, consistency has eluded him. Anderson picked up three hits on Thursday in Seattle, including his third home run of the season, as he raised his batting average to .254. Perhaps what is even more troubling, is that Anderson stole just his third base of the season last night. While his performance has been up and down, I would resist the urge to give up on Anderson. That is especially true since he is batting .366 so far this month.
Make sure to check out all of our updated rankings:
|First Base||April 26|
|Second Base||May 1|
|Third Base||May 4|