10 Important Stories From 08/13/17 Box Scores: Buying Buxton’s Breakout, Merrifield Emerging & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The torrid pace of Giancarlo Stanton continued, as he homered for the fourth straight game and the ninth time in his past 10 games.  It was yet another strong start from Corey Kluber, who defeated the Rays by allowing 3 ER on 4 H and 2 BB, striking out 9, over 7.0 IP.  Max Scherzer (7.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 10 K) and Chris Sale (7.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 12 K) had to settle for a no decisions despite highly impressive efforts.  What else happened on the field that we need to know about?  Let’s take a look:

 

1) Has Byron Buxton finally started to figure things out…
He went 1-2 with 2 RBI and 1 SB yesterday, giving him a modest four-game hitting streak (7-14, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB) and hits in 8 of his past 9 games.  He’s raised his average from .216 to .232 over this stretch, and has just 6 K over 29 AB.  That’s a significant develop, considering he entered the day with a 29.9% strikeout rate and a 12.9% SwStr%.  Obviously he still has some work to do, but he was at a 9.5% SwStr% in August and 9.7% since the All-Star Break (29.3% O-Swing%).  We all know that he has speed and power to tap in to, though he’s not there yet, so if he can maintain the improved plate discipline he should be able to maintain these improvements moving forward.  If there’s still a chance to buy, it would be wise to do so now.

 

2) Chris Flexen picks up his second straight W…
He defeated the Phillies, though that doesn’t mean that it was an impressive performance.  Lasting 5.0 innings he allowed 2 ER on 6 H and 4 BB, striking out 5, and now owns a 7.02 ERA and 2.10 WHIP over his four starts.  This is the first time that he’s allowed less than 3 ER, the first time he hasn’t allowed a HR and he’s walked 3+ batters in three of his first four starts.  We can’t ignore the impressive numbers he had between High-A and Double-A this season, as he generated groundballs (52.8% and 52.6%), racked up the strikeouts (9.2 K/9) and avoided walks (1.5 BB/9).  Obviously things have not gone nearly as well in the Majors, and it’s possible that the jump was too great for him.  The upside is still there for him to figure it out, but don’t be surprised if he finds his way to Triple-A before long.

 

3) A monster day for Whit Merrifield…
He’s an often overlooked option, though it is hard to ignore the gaudy numbers he posted yesterday as he went 3-6 with 1 HR, 5 RBI and 1 R.  He’s now hitting .296 with 14 HR, 56 RBI, 53 R and 19 SB on the season, showing the potential to be a 20/20 player.  It’s the power that may be the biggest surprise, after hitting just 2 HR in 311 AB in the Majors last season, though he’s seen a significant spike in his fly ball rate this season (he entered the day with a 43.2% mark).  Considering he was at 43.4% at Triple-A last season, and 29.8% in the Majors, it’s clear that the mark is sustainable.  Considering his 9.0% HR/FB before yesterday’s HR, there’s little reason to think that he can’t maintain the mark.  He also has shown an ability to make consistent contact (7.6% SwStr%), so the entire package is for real.  The fact is, he’s not going to be underrated much longer.

 

4) Jesse Winker moved up to #2 in the order…
He was only there due to Zack Cozart getting the day off, though he did go 2-5 and there’s a chance that he finds himself towards the top of the order more often.  Of course he’s significantly slowed down his production since making a quick impact upon his return, as he hasn’t homered since August 2 and is just 11-44 in August.  He has shown a good command of the strike zone during his time in the Majors this season, entering the day with a 6.4% SwStr% and 21.4% O-Swing%, though he lacks upside in both home runs and stolen bases.  He also hasn’t made hard contact, despite doing so often, with a 9.1% line drive rate.  In other words, there’s no reason to be buying (especially in redraft formats).

 

5) Dallas Keuchel returns to form, perhaps…
After a few mediocre starts (14 ER over 12.0 IP in three starts), Keuchel posted better results against the Rangers as he allowed 1 ER on 6 H and 3 BB, striking out 7, over 6.2 IP.  While he did show more groundballs (8 groundballs vs. 4 fly balls), he still allowed a home run (Adrian Beltre took him deep, finishing 2-3 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R) and has allowed a home run in each of his four starts since returning.  He also struggled with his control once again, and has now given up 11 BB over 18.2 IP in his four starts since coming off the DL.  Neither of these are good signs and do continue to cast doubt, despite the solid results.  We would expect him to ultimately find his footing, as a regression always had to be expected.  Don’t lose hope.

 

6) A strong start for Kendall Graveman…
He had struggled in his first two starts off the DL, but he looked good against the Orioles yesterday.  Going 7.0 innings he allowed 2 ER on 8 H and 1 BB, striking out 8, to earn the W.  Of course he had just 8 swinging strikes and has never been much of a strikeout artist, owning a career 5.56 K/9.  He does bring strong control and an ability to generate groundballs, a strong skillset in a pitcher’s park, though it’s not one that would create a must use option under any stretch.  He has the potential to be a strong streaming option, especially at home, but that’s about it.

 

7) Cory Spangenberg explodes for a big day…
His performance may have been overshadowed by Justin Turner (2-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R), though it was every bit as impressive as he went 2-4 with 2 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R.  It extended his hitting streak to five games (7-20, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R) and he’s now hitting .271 with 10 HR and 6 SB over 90 games.  Of course he entered the day with a .352 BABIP, as he strikes out far too much (26.6%) and doesn’t generate nearly enough fly balls to support a significant number of home runs (28.9%).  He also is a strict platoon player, entering the day hitting .225 against left-handed pitchers.  In the right spot he could make sense but in most cases he’s easily ignored.

 

8) Parker Bridwell does it again…
Taking on the Mariners he allowed 1 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 2, over 6.0 IP.  Sure he’s now 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, but that’s where the positives basically end.  How successful can he really be on control alone (17 BB over 72.0 IP)?  He continues to struggle striking people out (44 K) and he entered the day with a miniscule 37.7% groundball rate (6 groundballs vs. 10 fly balls yesterday).  Those two things simply don’t go well together, and sooner or later there is going to be a significant implosion (86.6% strand rate entering the day).  He’s certainly not a player that you want to be buying.

 

9) Does Chris Stratton belong on our radars…
Pitching in the first game of the double header he provided a stellar performance (even against a lineup that was without some of its biggest starts), tossing 6.2 shutout innings allowing 5 H and 1 BB, striking out 10.  He generated an impressive 16 swinging strikes, and is definitely an easy pitcher to overlook considering he’s spent time at Triple-A in each of the past three seasons.  However he owned an 8.05 K/9, 2.50 BB/9 and 52.4% groundball rate prior to rejoining the Giants, showing off his potential.  He has the potential to make an impact, especially pitching in a friendly home environment, so those in deeper formats want to consider him immediately.

 

10) Jordan Montgomery again answers the bell for New York…
Forced back into the rotation due to injuries, Montgomery made a seamless return as he allowed 1 ER on 2 H and 3 BB, striking out 4, over 5.1 IP.  He’s now thrown 126.0 total innings this season, and after throwing 139.1 last season you would think he had plenty of bullets left in the tank (think 170ish IP as his potential limit).  While home runs can be an issue (1.24 HR/9 entering the day, 4 groundballs vs. 8 fly balls yesterday), he also owned an 8.64 K/9 and 2.72 BB/9.  There’s an awful lot to like, assuming he’s going to stick in the rotation and not face a return trip to Triple-A once everyone is healthy.

 

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference

Make sure to check out our Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects by clicking here!

6 comments

  1. Carlito says:

    What are your thoughts on Odor going forward? Bad season or is this what he is?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Somewhat of a bad season. Hes still hitting for power, I’d expect him to be more of a .250-.260ish hitter

  2. Bennies Express says:

    If you had to choose between grabbing Byron Buxton or Brian Goodwin who would you take? Both are available on my wire and both are intriguing options imo, only have the ability to get one though.

  3. Bbboston says:

    Thoughts on chad ponder? Thanks!

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