by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Fantasy owners enjoyed the 2018 debut of Michael Conforto, who returned nearly a month early to hit atop the Mets’ lineup and go 1-4 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R. James Paxton bounced back from a poor 2018 debut, allowing 2 ER on 5 H and 1 BB, striking out 7, over 5.0 IP in a no decision against the Twins. Adam Wainwright struggled in his ’18 debut, allowing 3 ER on 4 H and 4 BB, striking out 3, over 3.2 IP against the Diamondbacks. What else happened that we need to know about? Let’s dive right in:
1) Is David Price truly back…
Granted both of his starts have come against the Rays, but it’s hard to ignore 14.0 shutout innings to open the season. Yesterday he didn’t come away with a W, as rookie Yonny Chirinos matched him pitch-for-pitch (5.0 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 0 BB, 4 K), but Price delivered 7.0 shutout innings for the second straight start. He allowed 3 H and 3 BB, striking out 5. Before we dub him “back”, though, there are a few warning signs that could catch up to him:
- 20 fly balls vs. 12 groundballs
- 15 total swinging strikes (in his two starts)
Those two things indicate home runs could become an issue and he could struggle to generate many strikeouts. Against better offenses that could ultimately cost him, so don’t go all in quite yet.
2) Maikel Franco erupts at the plate…
After opening the season 1-11 Franco finished the day going 3-4 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 1 R, finishing a double shy of the cycle. Obviously it’s just one day, but Franco needs to keep producing like this if he wants to continue playing as the Phillies are looking for ways to get Scott Kingery’s bat in the lineup (he played RF and hit third yesterday). The biggest question entering the year was his ability to produce against non-fastballs, and this one day isn’t going to alter that. The upside is there, but it also wouldn’t be surprising if he found himself out of a job before long.
3) The second start for Joey Lucchesi is a lot more successful…
After struggling in his first MLB start Lucchesi bounced back strong, despite taking on the Rockies, as he tossed 5.0 shutout innings allowing 1 H and 3 BB, striking out 7. The start did come at home, which may have benefitted him, but that’s not the reason for the strikeouts (though only 10 swinging strikes) and he did generate 5 groundballs vs. 2 fly balls. With a 1.8 BB/9 over his minor league career that is not expected to be an issue, and he also brings to the potential for a strikeout per inning and a solid groundball rate. Obviously that will play well in Petco, but he should be able to deliver regardless of the locale. He has the potential to stick all year, and a strong third start would go a long way.
4) Could Daniel Vogelbach be playing his way into the lineup…
A big spring put him back on the map, but over the first week he’s clearly outplayed Ryon Healy:
- Vogelbach – .333/.385/.417 (2-3 with 1 RBI yesterday)
- Healy – .056/.105/.056 (0-4 yesterday)
Healy is now 1-18 to start the season, and while he’s going to get a little bit of rope to rebound after missing most of Spring Training that patience won’t last forever. Vogelbach has back-to-back two-hit games and should continue to get AB with Nelson Cruz on the DL. However once Cruz returns the Mariners will need to make a decision, and if Healy doesn’t show signs it will be Vogelbach who gets the playing time (at least against all right-handed hitters). Depending on your format, he’s going to be worth a stash.
5) Yoan Moncada off to an inauspicious start…
While the unheralded Nick Goodrum played the hero for the Tigers (2-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB), and it will be interesting to see if he the Tigers try to find more playing time for him, it’s the struggles of Moncada that needs to be mentioned. He went 0-6 with 4 K yesterday and now has 8 K over his past 13 AB (11 K in 26 AB overall). That was always the biggest question facing him, and unless he can start to get that back in order he’s not going to last very long in the leadoff spot (and that will hurt his outlook for runs and stolen bases). Considering he entered the day with a 12.5% SwStr% (nearly identical to last year’s 12.6%) and it’s hard to anticipate a significant improvement.
6) A poor start for Stephen Strasburg, but no concern…
Taking on the Mets he allowed 4 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 6, over 6.0 IP. Home runs were the biggest issue, as he allowed a pair (Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes), though considering he generated 9 groundballs vs. 3 fly balls it fair to consider it a bit of an aberration (though a regression from last year’s 0.67 HR/9 was inevitable). He also had 14 swinging strikes on the day. Obviously there’s no cause for concern.
7) A surprisingly good line from Andrew Cashner…
Notice we described it as a good line, not a good start, as he defeated the New York Yankees as he allowed 1 ER on 2 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, over 6.0 IP. He made one mistake, a home run to Aaron Judge (1-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R), which came in his final inning of work. There were two surprises, with Cashner surprisingly keeping the ball in the ballpark for the bulk of the start and generating nearly a strikeout per inning. A cold night in New York likely aided in the first and his 5 swinging strikes shows that the strikeouts also won’t be there. Don’t get caught up in the name, as Cashner is not the pitcher he once was and has little value over the long haul.
8) Can Steven Brault thrive in the Pittsburgh rotation…
Taken out of the bullpen to make the start (in place of the injured Joe Musgrove), Brault defeated the Reds by allowing 1 ER on 3 H and 4 BB, striking out 4, over 4.0 IP. While the walks are going to jump out at you as a potential concern, keep in mind that over 120.1 innings at Triple-A last season he posted an 8.15 K/9 (courtesy of an 11.6% SwStr%), 3.29 BB/9 and 52.2% groundball rate. Over his minor league career he owns an 8.0 K/9 vs. a 2.7 BB/9, showing the potential. Often lost among the other Pittsburgh pitching prospects, Brault has the potential to make an impact if truly given the opportunity. In deeper formats he’s well worth monitoring.
9) Is there cause for concern with Robbie Ray…
He did defeat the Cardinals and racked up 9 K over 6.0 IP, but he struggled with his control as he walked 5 batters and now has 8 BB over 11.0 IP in his two starts. We have to remember that he posted a 3.94 BB/9 in his 28 starts last season, including a 4.42 BB/9 in the first half, and his velocity was also down significantly on his fourseam fastball in his first start:
- 2016 – 95.31
- 2017 – 94.52
- 2018 – 93.15
It’s a small sample size, but it’s fair to wonder if there’s something to the questions. No one is going to question the strikeouts, but he’s well worth monitoring for now.
10) Jon Lester with a strong rebound performance…
It was fair to be concerned with Lester (3 ER on 7 H and 3 BB over 3.1 IP) after his Opening Day debacle against the Marlins, but he bounced back strong against Milwaukee. Going 6.0 shutout innings he allowed just 3 H and 1 BB, striking out 6. The owner of a career 2.91 BB/9 it was fair to think that he’d improve in that regard and he’s always proven capable of generating more than enough strikeouts (8.40 career K/9) and groundballs (47.0% for his career). Over his first two starts he has 8 K over 9.1 IP and 14 groundballs vs. 5 fly balls, so there’s little reason for concern. He’ll continue on as a solid Top 30 option in all formats.
Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here.