10 Important Stories From 07/04/17 Box Scores: Buying Benintendi, Nelson Emerging As Must Start & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Daniel Murphy continued to abuse his former team, going 4-5 with 5 RBI and 1 R yesterday.  Yonder Alonso, moved into the cleanup role, continued his surprising season as he went 2-4 with 2 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R.  Clayton Kershaw did his thing, tossing 7.0 shutout innings while striking out 11 (and yielding just 2 H and 2 BB) to earn the W.  There were also two key returns, both of which should help buoy fantasy offenses:

  • Freddie Freeman – 1-4 (he was manning 3B)
  • J. Pollock – 1-4 (right back in the leadoff spot)

What else happened on the field we need to know about?  Let’s take a look:

 

1) Is Wilmer Difo emerging in Washington…
The Nationals need someone to emerge with Trea Turner sidelined and it’s possible that Difo emerges as the regular SS in the interim.  He went 2-4 with 3 R yesterday, giving him a three-game hitting streak (4-9, 1 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB) and a three-game walk streak (3 BB vs. 0 K).  While he may not own much power, he’s stolen 30+ bases in each of the past three seasons (including 49 SB in ’14).  He’s also displayed an ability to make consistent contact, including a 13.1% strikeout rate at Double-A last season.  Considering his 59.2% groundball rate entering the day, those two things should help him utilize his speed to get on base.  He does need to show a better SwStr% (12.3%) and O-Swing% (35.5%), but with more exposure he should be a viable fantasy option as long as the AB are there.  In deeper formats he’s worth buying.

 

2) Is it time to buy into Jose Urena…
He got the win against the Cardinals yesterday, allowing 2 ER on 3 H and 2 BB, striking out 7, over 5.0 IP.  He’s now 7-3 with a 3.43 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 81.1 IP, so on the surface you would think there would be reason for optimism.  However he entered the day with a 5.66 K/9 and only generated 9 swinging strikes in yesterday’s game.  He also doesn’t generate many groundballs (39.9%) and had benefited from a .249 BABIP.  So just think about this equation:

Lack of strikeouts + Lack of groundballs + Likely luck regression…

While it’s been a good run, it’s nearly impossible to think he’s going to sustain it.  Be prepared to a falloff, and likely a significant one.

 

3) Chris Archer defeats Jon Lester…
Sure he got the W, but that doesn’t mean either pitcher was overly impressive on the day:

  • Archer – 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 8 K
  • Lester – 5.0 IP, 6 R (5 ER), 9 H, 1 BB, 6 K

Archer did get an impressive 24 swinging strikes, while also generating 6 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls.  He entered the day sporting a career best 12.9% SwStr%, leading to a 10.69 K/9 and 2.69 BB/9.  His 3.92 ERA is definitely deceiving, as it’s more due to poor luck (.319 BABIP, 71.6% strand rate) than the underlying skills.  Considering him among the best in the game.

 

4) An impressive showing for Jameson Taillon…
He needed 102 pitches to get through five shutout innings, but he allowed just 4 H and 2 BB, striking out 9 against Philadelphia.  He’s now tossed 11.1 shutout innings over his past two starts and allowed 2 ER or fewer in four of his five starts since returning from the DL.  He has failed to work deep into games (his longest outing in this stretch has been 6.1 innings), and while it hasn’t been an issue yet it does make it tougher to get W.  There are questions about his strikeout potential (7.80 K/9 entering the day, courtesy of a 7.9% SwStr%) and luck (82.4% strand rate), and that will help to cap his overall upside.  That said he brings solid control (3.12 BB/9) and plenty of groundballs (53.0%), making him a worthwhile mid-rotation options.

 

5) Franklin Barreto breaks out for Oakland…
It is fair to wonder if he’s going to remain in the Majors, with Marcus Semien nearing a return and Barreto struggling (.211/.286/.421), so he picked a good time to play the hero.  He went 2-4 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R yesterday, with both hits going for extra bases and the home run giving Oakland a walk-off victory.  It’s a small sample size, but strikeouts have been a significant issue (42.1% entering the day), as he’s been particularly prone to offspeed pitches (41.67% Whiff%).  While it was a nice game, it likely doesn’t save his job and it would make sense to have him continue to work at Triple-A.  It’s possible they keep him in the Majors, sliding him to second base, but even if he is demoted there’s little question that he will be back.  The upside is there, we just need to give him time to adjust.

 

6) Jimmy Nelson shuts down the Orioles…
It was a stellar outing, as he allowed just 1 R (0 earned) over 7.0 IP.  Baltimore managed 6 H and 0 BB, striking out 8, as he improved to 7-4 with a 3.20 ERA on the season.  We’ve long waited for it all to come together for Nelson, and he entered the day checking off all of the boxes:

  • Strikeouts – 9.65 K/9 (11.4% SwStr%)
  • Control – 2.32 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 49.8%

Throw in “struggling” with a .331 BABIP and what exactly is there not to like?

 

7) Danny Duffy pitches well in first start back…
Taking on the struggling Felix Hernandez (6.0 IP, 6 R, 6 H, 4 BB, 5 K) and the Mariners Duffy allowed 2 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 4, over 5.2 IP to earn the W.  While he didn’t generate many strikeouts he did get 9 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls, something that will be the key to his victory.  He returned to a modest 7.08 K/9 and 3.28 BB/9, though an 11.7% SwStr% (12 swinging strikes yesterday) indicate significantly more upside in the mark.  If he can maintain the type of groundball stuff he displayed yesterday he could bring ace-like results to the table (but even if he can’t he should be a usable option moving forward.

 

8) It was a miserable night for Sean Newcomb…
He had a difficult matchup against the Astros, and the rookie took a beating as he allowed 7 ER on 10 H and 2 BB, striking out 2, over just 3.1 IP.  That said, despite the abbreviated outing he generated 11 swinging strikes and had 5 groundballs vs. 3 fly balls, so there are a few positives to takeaway (he was seemingly having an issue putting away the Houston hitters).  Control was always going to be the biggest question facing Newcomb, but his 10 BB over 27.2 IP isn’t an unreasonable mark and you could argue that he was due for a regression (he entered with a .250 BABIP and 85.4% strand rate).  As long as he can avoid the walks he is going to have the potential to put up elite results, so don’t hold this one against him.

 

9) It was Andrew Benintendi’s turn to carry the offense…
He helped to lead the onslaught against Yu Darvish (4.1 IP, 7 ER, 11 H, 0 BB, 4 K) and the Rangers bullpen as he finished going 5-5 with 2 HR, 6 RBI and 4 R (he finished a triple shy of a cycle).  He’s now hitting .288 with 12 HR, 40 RBI, 43 R and 9 SB on the season, living up to the hype that had been bestowed upon him prior to his recall last season.  The biggest question was when the power would develop, though his 9.8% HR/FB entering the day is a very believable mark.  The only “concern” would be his 18.2% line drive rate, though that is dragged down by a miserable May (9.5%).  He was at 24.7% in April and 21.1% in June, so it’s hardly a concern.  Thought of as a potentially elite outfielder, Benintendi is quickly developing into one.

 

10) Could Corey Kluber be the elite pitcher in the game…
Sure he took the L yesterday, but there was due to a lack of offense and not his performance.  Taking on the Padres he allowed 1 R on 5 H and 1 BB, striking out 10, over 8.0 IP to improve to a 2.85 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over 88.1 IP.  He entered the day with an 11.76 K/9, 2.24 BB/9 and 48.9% groundball rate, all numbers that he built on (including an impressive 20 swinging strikes).  Considering the luck metrics stood at .289 BABIP and 73.1% strand rate entering the day, it’s hard not to buy into the numbers either.  Obviously with Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer toeing the rubber calling Kluber #1 is a stretch, but he’s thrust himself into that class.

 

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, MILB.com, Brooks Baseball

Make sure to check out all of our updated rankings:

Position
Posted
CatcherJune 1
First BaseJune 3
Second BaseJune 5
Third Base--
Shortstop--
Outfield--
Starting Pitcher--
Relief Pitcher--

4 comments

  1. Chris says:

    Hi Prof, Start/Sit advice please. Cole @ PHI, and Vargas @ SEA. TIA

  2. Rodney says:

    How do you feel about Jorge Polanco?

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