10 Important Stories From 08/30/17 Box Scores: Which Breakout Is For Real (Pham, Merrifield) & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The rumors have been swirling around Justin Verlander, though it didn’t stop him from having a strong start in Coors Field allowing 1 ER on 3 H and 1 BB, striking out 9, over 6.0 IP for the W.  Stephen Strasburg (complete game shutout against the Marlins allowing just 6 H and 1 BB while striking out 8) and Robbie Ray (6.2 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 2 BB, 10 K) both had impressive days.  Eddie Rosario had yet another big day, going 2-5 with 2 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R.  What else happened on the field that we need to know about?  Let’s take a look:

 

1) There’s no slowing down Tommy Pham…
We keep waiting for things to take a turn, but Pham just keeps on churning out the production.  Yesterday he showed off his power, going 2-4 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 2 R, giving him a five-game hitting streak and raising his season line to .307 with 19 HR, 59 RBI, 75 R and 17 SB.  It still is easy to envision a dramatic regression, considering he entered the day with a .372 BABIP and 52.5% groundball rate (his power has come courtesy of a bloated 26.6% HR/FB).  The big development has been a dramatic improvement in his strikeout rate (7.7% SwStr%, 20.0% O-Swing%), and while that does leave a good taste he still seems to be playing a bit over his head.  While he clearly has become a viable asset, there still should be a regression at some point.

 

2) A day off does Mitch Haniger good…
After sitting out on Tuesday Haniger looked refreshed yesterday, going 3-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R (adding a pair of doubles as well).  A much hyped player prior to the season, injuries have helped lead to a disappointing season as he’s also slashing just .248/.343/.432.  A lot of the issue centers around a poor line drive rate (17.9% entering the day), which actually resembles his mark from last season (18.1%).  That’s not a good sign, and does limit his potential upside despite a strong approach at the plate (8.6% SwStr%, 24.3% O-Swing%).  If he could ever get the line drive rate up into the 20+% range he could be a force, though it’s tough to anticipate that happening in September.

 

3) Ender Inciarte had a great week (in one day)…
Talk about making the most of a double header, Inciarte combined to go 8-10 with 5 RBI, 2 R and 2 SB between the two games.  He’s now hitting .310 on the season, and while he’s more known for his speed (he does have 17 SB) he has added 10 HR as part of 33 extra base hits on the season.  It’s not just his home ballpark, as he has 5 HR at home and 5 on the road, and isn’t something we’d anticipate him being able to maintain.  Instead continue to view him as a strong source of average (around .300), runs scored and stolen bases.  There’s nothing wrong with that, and anything you get in HR/RBI is simply gravy.

 

4) Cleveland starters shutdown New York…
Both of Cleveland’s starters looked good in yesterday’s double header sweep of the Yankees:

  • Trevor Bauer – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 4 BB, 4 K
  • Ryan Merritt – 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 1 K

Bauer is the bigger story, as Merritt has continued to struggle to fool hitters in the Majors.  Bauer has been pitching well, and while he’s pitched well in the second half he’s still a hard pitcher trust moving forward.  While his groundball rate has improved overall (45.9% entering the day), it’s down in the second half (43.1%) while he’s been hit exceptionally hard (25.4% line drive rate).  Throw in an 8.8% SwStr% and 24.0% O-Swing% and it’s easy to envision a hiccup coming before long.  Don’t bank on him being an ace, regardless of if the “luck” indicates improved production.

 

5) Is Hanley Ramirez finally starting to wake up…
He went 2-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 2 R yesterday, giving him home runs in back-to-back games and a modest four-game hitting streak (6-15, 2 HR, 2 RBI and 5 R).  There has been a bit of poor luck at play (.274 BABIP despite a 21.1% line drive rate) and even with this warming up period he’s still just 19-82 in August (.232 average).  He’s better than that, especially considering his 24.7% August strikeout rate entering the day (first time he’s above 19.8% this season).  While it’s easy to have gotten frustrated, stay the course and reap the benefits as this hot stretch should continue.

 

6) Has Rafael Montero developed into a viable option…
Granted this came against the Reds, but he carried a one-hitter into the ninth inning and finished with 8.1 shutout innings allowing 3 H and 4 BB, striking out 8.  He was getting both swings and misses (15) as well as groundballs (9 groundballs vs. 7 fly balls).  Montero has now allowed 3 ER or fewer in each of his past four starts and it’s definitely easy to overlook him based on his history of poor performances (he still owns a 5.12 ERA and 1.68 WHIP over 91.1 IP in the Majors this season).  His velocity is up this season and there has been some poor luck (he entered the day with a .381 BABIP and 70.6% strand rate), but unless he can cut down on the walks (4.66 BB/9 entering the day) he’s never going to be a great option.  Consider him more of a streaming option down the stretch, but a risky one for now.

 

7) Kyle Schwarber & Ian Happ lead the Cubs onslaught…
Chicago racked up 17 R on 20 H against Ivan Nova (3.0 IP, 5 R, 5 H, 1 BB, 5 K) and company, so there were obviously many big performances.  The notable ones came from Schwarber (2-6, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) and Happ (3-5, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R).  For Schwarber we all know the power, but he did strikeout 3 times and that is going to continue to limit his upside potential.  For Happ he’s now hitting .252 with 20 HR and 51 RBI and while he too has struggled with strikeouts (30.5% entering the day), he didn’t strikeout yesterday at least.  Of course that doesn’t mean much, and while you could argue he has more overall appeal than Schwarber unless he too can cut down on the Ks he’s not going to be the best option in September (and isn’t a guarantee to get every day AB given the team’s depth).

 

8) Jose Berrios dominates the White Sox…
Berrios tossed 7.0 shutout innings allowing 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 11 batters in the process.  He generated 20 swinging strikes as he continued his Jekyll & Hyde ways in the second half (remember, he allowed 5 R over 5.1 IP in his previous outing, also against Chicago).  The key is being able to keep the ball in the ballpark, as we know he has strikeouts and control but entered the day with a 39.2% groundball rate overall.  If he can avoid home runs he should have a strong start, which makes him a bit of a matchup play over the remainder of the season.  There’s no questioning that he has Top 30 upside, but it’s unlikely he has that type of consistency in September.

 

9) Stop underrating Whit Merrifield…
He continues to lack attention, but he simply keeps on producing.  It’s easy to point to the “official” end of usability for Jason Vargas (6.0 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 1 K) being the biggest story from this game, but who didn’t see that one coming?  Instead it’s Merrifield, who filled the box score by going 2-4 with 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R and 2 SB who deserves our attention.  He’s now hitting .283 with 17 HR, 62 RBI, 62 R and 26 SB over 466 AB on the season.  The one knock you can have, especially hitting at the top of the order, is his lack of walks.  Otherwise he’s shown the ability to make consistent contact (7.4% SwStr% entering the day), believable power (9.6% HR/FB, while also adding 24 doubles and 5 triples) and plenty of speed (he’s only been caught stealing twice).  A potential 20/20 player who could score 90+ runs, what exactly is there not to like?

 

10) Hyun-Jin Ryu may have pitched his way out of the rotation…
Taking on the Diamondbacks he allowed 6 ER on 8 H and 3 BB, striking out 2, over 4.0 IP as he was tagged for 3 HR (two of which came in the first inning).  With Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood primed to return this week someone needs to get bumped, so Ryu picked the wrong time to post this type of performance.  Of course home runs have been an issue all season (1.34 HR/9 entering the day) and having missed virtually all of ’16 pitching out of the bullpen may make sense.  In other words, don’t expect him to have much value in September.

 

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

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

7 comments

  1. ANTIDODGERS says:

    RP;

    Not to correct you, but saying Merrifield had 20/20 potential is still understating things… the guy will almost certainly go 20/30+ for this season, in which he wasn’t even used at the beginning of the year for at least a month…. He’s already eclipsed that word almost certainly

  2. Carlito says:

    Can you do an articles on Simmons and Taylor?

  3. Carlito says:

    Btw who do you like next year? Put in order. Rosario Simmons or Bogaerts?

  4. Ben says:

    Did Rich Hill already get bumped from the Dodgers rotation? ESPN does not have him listed as a starter for the next couple weeks.

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