by Ray Kuhn
We had an enjoyable Sunday of action across baseball to close out the second full week of the 2018 season. At this point, we are now in the swing of things, but thankfully there is still a lot of baseball left to be played; if you aren’t in first place. It goes without saying that there were exciting performances, something might have been going down in Los Angeles, so let’s jump right into it. Thanks to injuries and Sunday lineups across baseball, some of those good performances didn’t exactly come from household names.
1) It Was Almost a Perfect Sunday
Denying the buzz that came out of Los Angeles yesterday afternoon would just be impossible. Not only did Shohei Ohtani take a perfect game into the seventh inning, but he did it with style as he dominated the Oakland A’s. The right-hander retired the first 19 batters of the game, and ultimately struck out 12 batters in his seven innings of work. After allowing a one out single and then a four pitch walk, Ohtani quickly recovered and ended his afternoon by inducing a swinging strikeout via a nasty splitter.
Speaking of his best pitch, the A’s have swung and missed 28 times against his splitter in the 66 times he has thrown it across his two starts so far this season. Yesterday, the A’s swung and came up empty 24 times, and overall, Ohtani has a 26.4% swinging strike rate. It’s still just Oakland, and only two starts, but the right-hander has truly looked dominant to begin is career in Los Angeles. He was able to change to location with ease, and Ohtani was also sitting in the high-90’s most of the day. Resist the urge to overpay, but after what we saw in March, we have to rethink our stance on Ohtani.
2) A Utility Option in Tampa Bay Could Have Some Value
One important thing to do in fantasy baseball, is to monitor the batting order. We know the Rays aren’t exactly conventional, or filled with talent, but Daniel Robertson batted fifth for them on Sunday. The utility player got the start at first base on Sunday after previously playing five games at second base and one at third base so far this season. Robertson went 2 for 4 with a walk and scored three runs on the afternoon as he brought his average up to .333 on the season. In 18 appearances, Robertson does have six walks, but he also has yet to record an RBI. Now this isn’t a move for all leagues, but for deeper leagues, Robertson is someone who should be on your radar. That is especially true if he continues to bat in the middle of the order.
3) Santander Goes Deep
For starters, we assumed that Austin Hays would be manning right field for the Orioles at this point. Instead, he remains in the minor leagues, and Anthony Santander is getting the majority of the playing time there. So far this season, there hasn’t been anything to see from a fantasy perspective, but that changed on Sunday. The rookie outfielder went 3 for 6 with his first career home run (a two run shot) while adding another RBI. At this point in the season, he is still batting just .207, but the Orioles clearly have some faith in Santander. I’m just not sure yet how it translates from a fantasy perspective.
4) Clevinger Gets Nothing to Show for His Efforts
On Sunday, facing a weak hitting Kansas City Royals team, Mike Clevinger did exactly what he was supposed to do. It wasn’t pretty at times, the right-hander allowed 10 hits and two walks in 7.1 innings of work, but he limited the damage to just one run. Clevinger struck out four batters as he lowered his to 0.71 on the season. Cleveland ultimately won the game, but it didn’t come until the ninth inning, so Clevinger is left with a no decision but that shouldn’t diminish his work. Ideally, Clevinger would have struck out more than four batters, but after striking out 137 batters in 121.2 innings last season, I wouldn’t be too concerned.
5) A Complete Game in 2018
Yes, I’m as shocked as you are. A complete game so far this season is a foreign concept, and for the most part, we are happy if a pitcher gets through six innings. But Jameson Taillon certainly has looked a stud so far this season, and he dominated the Reds on Sunday. The right-hander limited Cincinnati to just one hit and two walks while striking out seven and lowering his ERA to 1.26 to go along with his WHIP of 0.49. This is a far cry from the 4.44 ERA and 1.48 WHIP Taillon posted last season, in his defense he did also battle cancer, and the potential has always been there for the right-hander. After the last two starts, we might be seeing him reach that potential in 2018.
6) Fiers Has a Successful Debut in Detroit
Mike Fiers getting activated from the disabled list shouldn’t be generating much excitement, but that is the state of pitching these days. There are also enough weak teams to target, and that was the case on Sunday. Fiers threw six shutout innings in his return while allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out six. Just be careful not to overreact to the right-handers debut, as he is just a match-up play at best.
7) Don’t Sleep on Stassi
Brian McCann is still the starting catcher in Houston, but he isn’t the only backstop seeing time. With Evan Gattis relegated to strictly DH duties, Max Stassi has been getting semi-regular playing time. Stassi had just one hit on Sunday, but it was a big one. His three run home run put Houston ahead, and in 15 at bats Stassi is now batting .400 with five RBI’s. While he doesn’t receive regular playing time, and therefore reduced chances at counting stats, Stassi has also showed the ability to produce when he is in the lineup. In reality, you might better off with a catcher like Stassi who plays less often, and therefore can’t sabotage your batting average in deeper leagues.
8) Let’s Hope Pollock Stays Healthy
Despite his injury woes, there is still a reason why AJ Pollock goes pretty early in fantasy drafts. And it is because what he is capable of when healthy. That was on display yesterday, and it has also been on display so far this season. Pollock, batting clean-up behind Paul Goldschmidt, went 2 for 4 with a solo home run in the decisive eighth inning. While it was the first home run of the season for Pollock, it brought his RBI total up to six, and he is hitting .343 on the season. Of perhaps even more importance, Pollock stole his third base of the season on Sunday.
9) A Big Blow from Morales
The initial problem Kendrys Morales had this season was a lack of position. With Josh Donaldson unable to throw, that moved him into the DH spot which sent Morales to the bench. Now that Donaldson has returned to the hot corner, Morales can return to the lineup and hopefully find his groove. That is one of the problems with players who are only eligible at DH, but when he is the lineup and locked in, Morales could be a good source of production. He got things started off well on Sunday as he hit a three run homer off Cole Hamels in the first inning. It was the first home run of the season for Morales, who later added a single. Overall he is batting just .190 in 21 at bats with six RBI, but don’t give up on him just yet.
10) Albies Picks up Two Hits
As much as you want to, it’s hard to look at batting averages in the first two or three weeks of the season. While it’s something you obviously have to be aware of, they are just so volatile until the number of at bats pick up. After his two hits on Sunday, Ozzie Albies is up to .244 on the season after sitting at just .172 three games ago. We have to note that Albies’ last three games did come in Coors Field where he went 5 for 12, but either way, I’m not letting his batting average at this point in the season cloud my judgement. Batting second, between Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman seems to work for the 21-year old, and he came threw with his third home run of the season (a solo shot) on Sunday. Albies also added an RBI double, and he is up to six RBI on the season.
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here.