by Ray Kuhn
Sometimes, we take it for granted. But the beginning of this season has proven that we should appreciate every full night of baseball action we get. Despite Shohei Ohtani having to depart after two innings with a blister, last night did live up to it’s billing as an exciting night around the major leagues. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that garnered some extra attention:
1) Welcome Home, Francisco
I feel like we have to start with Francisco Lindor are there are some things that simply transcend the game; and even fantasy baseball at times. After Hurricane Maria last September, it was a big deal to be playing major league baseball in Puerto Rican, and native son Lindor made sure to leave him imprint on the game. The shortstop went deep on Tuesday with a two run shot that was his just his second home run of the season. Granted it was Lindor’s only hit of the night, and he is batting just .238 so far this season with seven RBI, but it was hard not to appreciate the emotion of the moment. Lindor won’t be this bad all season, and perhaps last night will be the springboard that gets him going. He is already on the way to doing that, as in his last seven games, Lindor is hitting .267 with both of his home runs and all seven of his RBI.
2) Solarte Has a Solid Half Day of Work
Sometimes, batting orders don’t exactly work out the way you forecast them entering a season. How else can you explain why Yangervis Solarte has spent 11 games so far this season as Toronto’s cleanup hitter? And the second half of Toronto’s doubleheader on Tuesday aside, he went 0 for 5 to drop his average down to .280, Solarte has generally found success. To kick off the day, the third baseman who has certainly taken advantage of Josh Donaldson’s shoulder injury, was 2 for 3 with a walk and four RBI. Solarte got things going with a two run homer in the first inning, his third of the season, and his other two RBI gave him eight on the season. The utility player isn’t going to be a true difference maker, but Solarte is providing solid production, and even after Donaldson returns, he likely will continue to find himself in the lineup.
3) Welcome Back, J.T.
Well that didn’t take long. Miami didn’t waste anytime activating J.T. Realmuto, and their star catcher did not disappoint. Whether or not this is an audition for another team, perhaps the Mets, remains to be seen, but either way fantasy owners won’t be complaining. Slotted into the batting order behind Justin Bour and in front of Brian Anderson, in the fifth spot means that the first baseman now some protection and there is some semblance of a lineup for the Marlins. In his 2018 debut, Realmuto took Masahiro Tanaka deep for a three run homer and later added an RBI single as part of a 2 for 4 day.
4) Bettis Continues to Dominate
You have to give Chad Bettis a pass for last season as he was dealing with health issues, but overall, the right-hander has had stretches where he was worth a look as a fantasy streamer. In 2018, Bettis has yet to slow down, and on Tuesday he turned in his best start of the season so far. Bettis shut the Pirates out for 7.1 innings, Bryan Shaw relieved him with a runner on base, as the right-hander picked up his third victory of the season. All Pittsburgh was able to manage against Bettis were five hits and two walks as he struck out three and lowered his ERA to 1.44. But don’t throw caution to the wind and blindly keep Bettis in your lineup moving forward. We know he isn’t going to be much help with strikeouts, 5.40 per nine innings, but his ERA can be expected to rise. So far this season, Bettis has benefited from a .217 BABIP and a 92.7% strand rate and that is illustrated by a 4.21 FIP. It’s not terrible, but coupled with the lack of strikeouts, you could also do better.
5) A Victory for Moore
If you want to talk about Bettis as a streaming option, then Matt Moore should certainly come with some warnings. After last night’s victory in Tampa Bay, his first of the season, Moore’s ERA is still sitting at 5.59. And this is after seven innings of one run, unearned, of work. The southpaw limited the Rays to just five hits and two walks while striking out six in what was a strong effort. But, from what we have seen from Moore in the past few seasons, that is not something we can just expect every five days. However, we might want to take a closer look. Yes, fantasy owners have recently been burned by Moore, but he does have a 3.88 FIP through four starts. We have to note that is also coupled with a 5.25 xFIP and it’s hard to like a pitcher with just a 36.9% ground ball rate. That is especially true considering he only strikes out 6.98 batters per nine innings. But, Moore’s .359 BABIP should improve which means he is a streaming option to use at your own risk.
6) This is Why He Was a First Round Pick
Yes, Trea Turner is only hitting .250 so far this season, but he also stole his eighth base of the year last night. Given the state of speed in the game, that is what made Turner such a possible option on draft day. It wasn’t a one dimensional game for the shortstop as he went 3 for 4 with a walk on Tuesday while also scoring a run. You could argue that Turner has gotten off to a slow start with only eight runs and three RBI in 18 games, but the same could be said for Washington’s offense overall; other than Bryce Harper. I wouldn’t throw the towel in on Turner just yet, and you certainly shouldn’t be complaining about those stolen bases either.
7) Corbin Flirts With History
A check swing. That’s it, that is all it takes to derail history. With a no-hitter and one out in the eighth inning, a little check swing against the shift gave Brandon Belt an infield hit and it took away Patrick Corbin’s no-hitter. But, we didn’t need a dance with history to pay attention to the southpaw, as Corbin has been pitching at an elite level all season. It was the third victory of the season for Corbin as he ultimately went the distance without any other damage. Prior to Belt’s single, Corbin had only allowed a single walk while striking out eight. The start lowered Corbin’s ERA to 1.45 on the season and it was actually tied for the least amount of strikeouts he has registered all season. When Corbin isn’t striking batters out, he is keeping the ball on the ground thanks to a 56.4% ground ball rate. Despite his .217 BABIP, Corbin’s FIP and xFIP of 1.84 and 1.78, respectively also back up his success.
8) Don’t Forget About Me
While it was hard to ignore Corbin’s success, Johnny Cueto didn’t exactly struggle in his return from a brief DL stint. The right-hander showed that there is nothing to worry about with his health as Cueto turned in his third elite start of the season. Cueto is now through 20 innings of work this year while only allowing one run in total, which includes his seven shutout innings last night. The right-hander limited Arizona to just two hits while not walking a batter and striking out 11. Cueto has benefited from a .212 BABIP, but the right-hander’s performance has been strong, and after last season fantasy owners would certainly sign up for his 3.50 xFIP (as a worst case scenario). In the small sample size that is 2018, we have seen Cueto move away from his fastball, dropping from 51.2% to 43.5% (per Fangraphs) while increasing the use of his breaking pitches, so that is something to watch over the remainder of the season.
9) Mookie Triples His Fun
All eyes were on Mookie Betts, well really they were on Ohtani, in the first inning of last night’s game, and the outfielder came through. Or depending on what side you were on, he disappointed as he took the right-hander deep. That was only the beginning for Betts as he had a perfect night at the plate. Each of Betts’ three hits was a solo home run on Tuesday, as he took matters into his own hands. With good reason, Betts walked in his other two plate appearances, and the lead-off man is currently batting .389 on the season. Batting atop the order hasn’t exactly hindered Betts’ power production as he is now at five home runs and 13 RBI on the year as the move certainly agrees with him so far.
10) A Nice Rebound for McCullers
The right-hander’s last start, or really one inning, was one to forget, but Lance McCullers bounced back in a big way on Tuesday. Pitching in Seattle, the right-hander got Houston back on track after three straight losses. After allowing a first innings solo home run to Robinson Cano, McCullers shut the Mariners out over the next six innings as he turned in seven strong innings of work. In fact, other than Cano’s home run, all Seattle managed against the right-hander was one walk as they struck out 11 times. However, perhaps the most impressive thing for McCullers is that he was able to make it through seven innings and 102 pitches.