by Ray Kuhn
On Wednesday, we finally had a day/night where all 30 teams took the field. The games weren’t without incident as we had some tensions boil over into a bench clearing brawl in Colorado (once) and in Boston (twice) after Tyler Austin’s hard slide into second base and then the Red Sox response to it. While those make for great highlights, let’s take a look at some of the actual performances that stood out:
1) Suzuki Goes Deep Twice
Batting fifth in Atlanta’s lineup is little different than batting fifth in other lineups, here Kurt Suzuki was between Nick Markakis and Preston Tucker on Wednesday, but it’s still a prime spot in the batting order. After battling an injury issue to start the season, this half of Atlanta’s catching duo is back, and Suzuki went deep twice against Washington. Last season, Suzuki showed off some unexpected power by hitting 19 home runs (although he did average 14 for a three year stretch from 2009 to 2011), and there were some doubts about him being able to repeat that. Yesterday’s home runs were his first two long balls of the season, and through 22 at bats he is batting .273. In two catcher leagues, Suzuki remains a solid option.
2) A Walk off in Minnesota
When the Twins were up 8-1 on the Astros after the fourth inning, it looked like the game would be over. Instead Houston roared back, and the Twins needed Max Kepler’s second home run of the game in the bottom of the ninth to grab the series victory. When people think of Minnesota’s young players, Kepler often gets left of the peripheral. Last year, he certainly got a chance at regular playing time, 147 games, but he didn’t do anything to stand out as Kepler hit just .243 with 19 home runs and 69 RBI. Now just 25 years old, the outfielder looks to build on that and through 10 games, he is batting .281 with three home runs and five RBI. This is in spite of his current BABIP of .240, but the real issue is going to be Kepler dealing with left-handed pitching. Last season in 125 at bats, he hit just .152 against them and so far this season he has one hit in four at bats against southpaws. To truly maximize Kepler’s value, he needs to be able to come out of your lineup against left-handers.
3) A Check In On an Early Surger
You couldn’t get off to a much better start to the 2018 season than Matt Davidson did. Three home runs on Opening Day is pretty impressive and it certainly led to some buzz for the third baseman. Now that we are just about two weeks into the season, it feels like we should check back in on Davidson. He is still batting in the middle of Chicago’s batting order so that is a plus, but it’s also not like the White Sox have many other options. On Wednesday, Davidson did come through with a two run homer in the eighth inning to put Chicago ahead for good, so that counts for something. It was the fifth home run of the season for Davidson, or the second he hit since Opening Day, and it brought his RBI total for the season up to 10. Hitting just .235 on the season, nothing we thought about Davidson coming into the season has changed.
4) Paxton Gets Nothing for His Efforts
For starters, yesterday went a little better for James Paxton did than his last start just because a bald eagle didn’t land on him before the game. Regardless though, the left-hander showed why fantasy owners were high on him prior to the start of the season. While his ratios for the season, through three starts, are less than impressive (5.74 ERA and 1.40 WHIP), the reality is that Paxton did most of his damage to them in his first start of the season. After limiting the Royals to two runs over six innings yesterday, Paxton has allowed four runs over 11 innings in his last two starts on 10 hits and two walks. The southpaw took full advantage of Kansas City as he picked up 10 strikeouts on Wednesday and for the season, he has 21 strikeouts in 15.2 innings.
5) Buy if You Still Can
If anyone was lining up to sell Paul Goldschmidt, I would have been right there to grab him. If that window was ever even open, it might be closing quickly as the Arizona first baseman went deep again on Wednesday for the second straight game. The two run homer was the second of the season for Goldschmidt who also picked up his second double of the season while bringing his RBI total up to seven. He still needs one more game to get over the Mendoza line, currently Goldschmidt is hitting .190, but that shouldn’t be an issue. There was nothing to suggest that he would continue to struggle, and if this stretch took place in July, nobody would be concerned, but everything is magnified in April. There’s also no reason not to think that Goldschimidt’s .231 BABIP will continue to improve, especially considering his career mark is .352.
6) It Was a Complete Effort in Cleveland
At this point, I feel like we have to highlight every complete game by a pitcher regardless of who it is from. That is just the unfortunate state of where we are with starting pitchers in 2018. This one shouldn’t have come as a surprise, as Carlos Carrasco is a very suitable SP1 for fantasy owners. On Wednesday, he took full advantage of the Tigers to pick up his third victory of the season. The right-hander limited Detroit to just one run on three hits and two walks while striking out six. It continued the success Carrasco is having this season as he lowered his ERA to 3.48 with a WHIP of just 0.87. His ERA should only continue to drop as he works off the five runs he allowed in his victory against Seattle to start the season. Now we just need Carrasco to improve on his 14 strikeouts over 20.2 innings and we truly will be good to go.
7) Sanchez Wakes Up
Gary Sanchez owners are excused if they were beginning to panic about his performance; especially as compared to his ADP. But on Wednesday, Sanchez took a big step towards moving on from his early season struggles. In the first inning, he took advantage of David Price’s health issue and went deep against the southpaw. Sanchez then added a second two-run shot in the fourth inning as part of a wild game in Fenway. Even after adding a double later in the game, Sanchez is still hitting just .122 on the season. Quite simply, he is a better hitter than that, but it will take a few games like this one for the stat sheet to show that.
8) Barria Makes His Debut
This Angels pitching debut, Jamie Barria, was made to little fanfare. While the 21-year old was immediately sent back to Triple-A as a thank you for his efforts, based on the state of Los Angeles’ rotation, we will see Barria again, and now we have a preview of what he can do. In five innings of work, the right-hander limited Texas to just a solo home run and three walks as he struck out three for the victory. Last season, Barria rose through the Angels system, starting in High-A and ending in Triple-A, and overall he had a 2.80 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 142.2 innings of work. File his name away for his next promotion, although his value will likely be limited to that of a streaming option.
9) The Power Continues in Chicago
No one would argue that Javier Baez got off to a slow start this season. But over the last two games, the second baseman certainly is making up for it. After going deep twice on Tuesday, Baez added another two home runs last night. This time, it was a three run shot and a solo home run for Baez who now has four home runs and 20 RBI on the season. And just like that, his stat line is right where it should for the season, regardless of the fact that the bulk of his production has come over the last two days. Now, we just need Baez to improve on his .229 batting average and to keep the success going.
10) Chapman Continues His Success
As far as Oakland corner infielders named Matt go, Olson entered the season ahead of Chapman. Through the first 10 or so games of the year, that pecking order has been edited. Batting fifth on Wednesday, Chapman went deep for the fourth time this season, a two run shot, while also adding another RBI to give him 11 thus far. Chapman is currently hitting .347 on the season, and while I don’t expect that to continue, his career average is .251, we should be paying attention. Per StatCast, Chapman’s exit velocity so far this season of 93.3 is better than the league average (88.8) and last season he did hit 14 home runs in 82 games, so we know there is some power. Just don’t count on the batting average.
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