by Ray Kuhn
Essentially almost anything could have happened on Wednesday, and the focus would remain on Ronald Acuna making his debut. But while you were focused on that, we had a lot of other around the league yesterday, and that included three aces taking the mound. While Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer earned victories, the same wasn’t the case for Clayton Kerhshaw. The fact that Kershaw struggled against the Marlins, yes the Marlins, highlights the fact that anything can really happen once we get between the white lines. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out from a busy day around baseball:
1) Candelario Has a Day
The fact that the Jeimer Candelario has the Tigers had the benefit of two games to accumulate their stats certainly helped, but the majority of the heavy lifting came in the first game of the day. Batting second, the third baseman had three hits as he missed hitting for the cycle by a triple. Candelario went deep for the fourth time this season while also doubling for the sixth time and driving in five runs. In the night cap, he merely went 1 for 4 with an RBI to drop his batting average down to .290. Yesterday was a big day for run production as Candelario nearly doubled his RBI total for the season to 11. With a .258 ISO, we are seeing more power than we were accustomed to for Candelario, and while I wouldn’t invest too much, I would buy if the price was right.
2) Verlander Shuts Down the Angels
The fact that Albert Pujols hit a home run in Houston shouldn’t be a surprise. In reality it is just a formality dating back to his time with the Cardinals. That didn’t come until the seventh inning, and it was hard to find fault with the fourth victory of the season for Justin Verlander. He started the day off extremely strong and was economical with his pitches early while primarily throwing fastballs. Overall, Verlander two runs in seven innings on four hits while not walking a batter and striking out nine. While we know Verlander is an ace, his .198 BABIP and 94.5% strand rate won’t continue, but even if regresses to his FIP of 2.83, you still have an elite pitcher.
3) Zunino Drives the Ball
If you are hurting at catcher at Mike Zunino was dropped due to a roster crunch, the Seattle backstop is worth a lot. You know aren’t going to get much in the way of batting average from Zunino, but that is the case with the majority of catchers. What you will get though is power, and yesterday Zunino hit his second home run of the season. That was coupled with his first double in 2018 which came in his sixth game of the season. It is understandable if Zunino needs a little time to get going, and perhaps his two RBI, two extra-base hit day on Wednesday could be the trick.
4) A Bounce Back Start for Gray
While benching Jonathan Gray was acceptable given how he began the season, selling low or cutting him would not have been. Gray rewarded those owners you stuck with him on Wednesday as he threw six shutout innings for his second victory of the season. Yes, it did come against the Padres, but it also came in Coors Field, and a dominant performance counts no matter what. Gray kept San Diego off the scoreboard in his six innings of work and limited them to just three hits and one walk while striking out 11. The start brought his ERA down 5.79 on the season. In his second outing of the year, Gray threw seven shutout innings against the same Padres team, he did follow that up by allowing seven runs to them in his next start, so let’s hope that this is a building block. Gray’s .372 BABIP will regress to the mean and his performance should begin to more closely mirror his 3.55 FIP. If anything, buy low.
5) A Big Day for Turner
Fantasy owners of Trea Turner are going to wish that Adam Eaton never returns. That means the lead-off spot will belong to Turner, and perhaps he can continue to do what he did on Wednesday. Batting sixth hasn’t hindered Turner’s running ability, but the shortstop was drafted in the first round because he can do everything. And yesterday, he went 5 for 6 with two RBI and two runs scored. It is a little crazy though, that Turner was on base five times in a game his team scored 15 runs, and he only scored twice. That brought his batting average to .267 on the season, and don’t worry, he also stole his 10th base of the year.
6) No, It’s Not a Repeat
Yes, Didi Gregorius hit another home run on Wednesday. It is the ninth home run of the season for the shortstop who had a perfect day as he went 3 for 3 with two walks. If the home run wasn’t enough, the shortstop also added another RBI to give him 29 on the season to go along with his .372 batting average. This is not the time to try and acquire Gregorius, and if you have him, this a train you don’t want to get off of. But at the same time, if the price is right, you have to consider moving him just because this pace is proving to be absolutely insane and you have already gotten a tremendous amount of production out of him. There are so many good things to mention about Gregorius’ start, and it is clear that it is not solely a fluke as the shortstop is a very good player. His batting average of .372 far outstrips his BABIP of .313 (thanks to those nine home runs) and that is a good sign for his prospects the rest of the season. Additionally, he is walking 17% of the time so far this season (partly due to his success) while striking out just 9% and producing a .462 ISO. After a 43.2% fly ball rate last season, it is up to 50% so far this year for Gregorius to go along with his 25% home run to fly ball rate as he is really keeping the ball off the ground so far this season; just 25% of the time down from 36.2% in 2017.
7) Batting Sixth, Acuna Has Landed
Ronald Acuna wasted no time, or tried to waste no time, as he attached the first pitch and flew out to the warning track. Later in the game, Acuna did get his first career hit and he also showed off his speed as he scored the tying run of the game. Acuna also struck out twice and left six men on base in his debut. It clearly will get better for the phenom, as despite some early struggles in Triple-A this season prior to his promotion, he as excelled at every stop. Just keep in mind that he is still a 20-year old rookie, so be patient. Of course, he has the talent to change that narrative tonight, but don’t overreact in either direction; at least in the first month of his major league career.
8) Wendle Picks up Three More Hits
If you find yourself looking to plug a hole in the middle infield, it’s possible that Joey Wendle has crossed your radar. To be honest, he is doing just that for me in one of my leagues. A team like Tampa Bay is the land of opportunities for players if they can just continue to stay hot, and so far that is the case for Wendle. Batting sixth, he had a nice 3 for 5 day on Wednesday as he drove in two runs (eight RBI on the season) while scoring once and raising his average to .328 on the season. For good measure, Wendle also stole his second base of the season. With a .413 BABIP and not much power, enjoy this success from Wendle when it lasts, or your injured player has returned to health, but there is nothing wrong with benefiting from it on a temporary basis.
9) More Power for Betts
I could have just created a bad pun with Mookie Betts’ surname, but that would just take away from what he is doing at the plate to start the season. Betts got the game started with a home run on Wednesday, and then he followed that up with a two run homer in the seventh inning. That makes it eight home runs so far this season for Betts who is now up to 17 RBI and a .350 batting average out of the lead-off spot. To say that the move to the top of the lineup agrees with Betts so far this season would certainly be an understatement. While he never struck out a ton, this year has been even better for Betts as he is walking (12.6%) more often that he is striking out (11.6%) and outperforming his BABIP (.323).
10) Realmuto Shows off the Power
So far this season, it appears that the catcher likes to do things in pairs. For the second time in 2018, Realmuto went deep twice on Wednesday, and his three RBI brought his season total up to eight. In Miami’s lineup, you really can’t count on many run producing opportunities, unless you drive in yourself, but Realmuto is still one of the top catching options there is. After starting the year on the disabled list, Realmuto appears to be fully healthy as he is hitting .385 on the season, and your best hope is that Miami moves him to a contender.
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