by Ray Kuhn
The weather only claimed one game yesterday, Detroit and Kansas City, and once we got going there was a full day of baseball to enjoy. Shohei Ohtani went deep again, this time against Corey Kluber, and the hype train will only continue to pick up steam at this point. While we are on the topic of buzz worthy performances, Giancarlo Stanton promptly rebounded from a five strikeout performance by going deep in his first at bat of the afternoon. Let’s take a look at some of the other performances of note from a busy Wednesday around the league.
1) Severino Comes out Dealing
All across baseball so far this season, all we are seeing is starting pitchers failing to pitch deep into games. We can attribute it to many factors, but ultimately all it means is that fantasy owners must dig deeper and change their strategies when it comes to pitching. It was a good sign though to see Luis Severino battle through less than ideal conditions to pick up his second victory of the season. The right-hander limited Tampa Bay to two runs over 7.1 innings on five hits and one walk while striking out seven. In fact, it was a rough start compared to what Severino did on Opening Day; 5.2 innings of shutout baseball allowing one hit. After two starts, Severino is picking up right after he left off as an ace.
2) Rosario Comes Through in the Clutch
Just because Amed Rosario is batting ninth half the time, we shouldn’t hold it against. So far this season, it appears to be working for the Mets’ shortstop as the pressure is kept off him at the bottom of the lineup. Yesterday he came through with a two RBI triple to put New York ahead for good. That brought Rosario’s RBI total up to five for the season while he raised his batting average to .333 on the season. The Mets will likely keep Rosario at the bottom of the order for a little while longer as he gains experience, but he shouldn’t be overlooked as New York is putting him in the best possible situation to succeed.
3) Houston Is At It Again
Everything appeared to be in order for the Astros on Wednesday. Dallas Keuchel gave them five solid innings of work, Hector Rendon worked a scoreless sixth inning, and then Brad Peacock came on for the seventh. After Houston took the lead in the bottom of the seventh, AJ Hinch decided to leave Peacock in for the eighth, and then ninth inning. It worked out to be three scoreless innings of relief for the right-hander as he repriced his role from the playoffs. Instead of going to Ken Giles for the save with the one run lead, the Astros stuck with Peacock. The right-hander certainly had his best stuff on Wednesday, and the fact that Houston is off on Thursday also helped. Peacock did allow two hits, but he also struck out five batters. If he continues to be used in this manner, Peacock certainly will have fantasy value this season.
4) Is It the Humidor or Is It the Pitcher?
Going into the season, prior to the talk about the humidor, Patrick Corbin was a popular sleeper option at starting pitcher. And yesterday, he certainly showed why that was the case against the Dodgers. The southpaw limited the Dodgers to just one hit and one walk over 7.1 innings while striking out 12. Corbin picked up his second victory of the season after he allowed two solo home runs in 5.2 innings against Colorado to start the season. The left-hander had a solid 2017 campaign in which he put up a 4.03 ERA along with a 3.89 xFIP and .326 BABIP and he is poised to build on that in 2018.
5) Are We on the Verge of a Breakout in Atlanta?
Last season, Mike Foltynewicz struck out 8.4 batters per nine innings but he also struggled to put up a 4.79 ERA. The right-hander always has had good stuff and plus velocity, but he has just been too inconsistent. Walking 3.45 batters per nine innings last season also didn’t help Foltynewicz’s case, but the talent and a 4.33 FIP did leave some cause for optimism. After shutting down the Nationals on Thursday, perhaps we might be on to something. Now, I’m still going to be cautious with the right-hander, but he is going to be someone I’m following a little closer over his next few starts as a streaming option. Foltynewicz limited Washington to just one run over 5.1 innings while allowing four hits and two walks. Perhaps even more importantly, the right-hander struck out eight batters while picking up his first victory of the season.
6) A Rebound Performance from Carlos Martinez
The Cardinals’ right-hander certainly has the stuff to be an ace, but sometimes he struggles with control and consistency. Those issues were on full display Opening Day, but last night against the Brewers he bounced back. Martinez made it through 8.1 innings of shutout ball while limited Milwaukee to just four hits and two walks while striking out 10. You have to like the fact that Mike Matheny let his hurler go deep into the game, 114 pitches and 74 strikes, and eight of Martinez’s outs came via the ground ball with just two coming through the air.
7) Escobar Continues to Hit
Slated to enter the season as a utility player, Eduardo Escobar is taking full advantage of Jorge Polanco’s 80 game suspension. Escobar, for at least half the season, now has a regular role and through the first week of the season, he is hitting .438. Last season in 499 plate appearances Escobar hit .254 (also his career average) so we are going to need more than 17 plate appearances to accurately judge him, but he does warrant closer attention. Yesterday, Escobar doubled twice (four on the season) and drove in two runs to bring his RBI total for the season to five. This isn’t exactly ground breaking production, but he is in a prime RBI spot and the multi-position eligibility (between third base and shortstop) will also come in handy.
8) Belt Shows Some Power
Maybe one of these years Brandon Belt will finally do what has been expected of him? At this point, I personally have stopped waiting for it, but the skill set is still there (at least we think it is). The big thing for Belt is that he needs to stay healthy, but as the Giants’ offense came to life yesterday, he was a big part of it. Batting second in front of Andrew McCutchen could prove to help Belt’s cause, especially once the outfielder heats up, and on Wednesday the first baseman went 3 for 4 to bring his batting average up to .353. That included the first home run of the season for Belt, a solo shot, who also added an RBI single to get on the board in that category. Health is still a concern, and you can’t draw conclusions after a week, but Belt would be a post-hype sleeper in the mold of Justin Smoak; with less of the power.
9) Desmond Looks Fine
At the beginning of the week, there were some concerns about Ian Desmond’s knee and whether or not he would be in the lineup this week. Through Wednesday, he has certainly eased those concerns, and his second season with Colorado is looking a lot better than the first did. Batting clean-up on Wednesday, Desmond drove in two more runs to bring his RBI total for the season up to seven. In the process, he also raised his batting average to .421. Everything we initially expected from Desmond last season with the move to Colorado appears to be taking place this season.
10) An Unlikely Third Hitter
Jed Lowrie doesn’t strike me as a number three hitter, but that is where Oakland has used him in five of seven games so far this season; he batted second in the other two. The middle infielder, he is eligible at both positions, doesn’t bring much in the way of home run power, but he can be a decent source of RBI’s and cheap option for DFS or in deeper leagues. Last night, Lowrie picked up two hits and two RBI and just because he doesn’t have the upside of some other options, he shouldn’t be ignored if you need to plug a hole in your lineup. Were Lowrie batting seventh or eighth, this would be a non-issue.