by Ray Kuhn
It hasn’t happened very often so far this season, but we started May off right last night. All 15 teams were in action, and it made for a very busy evening around baseball. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out:
1) Profar Drives in Three
At this point, it really feels like we have been waiting forever to see Jurickson Profar to live up to his billing as a top prospect. But so far in 2018, everything appears to be aligning for him. Well maybe not as an All-Star but at least as a valuable fantasy option. Profar has benefited from some injuries, notably Elvis Andrus, but he has also taken advantage of the opportunity. Last night, Profar batted third for the fifth time this season and he came through with two doubles, giving him seven on the season, and three RBI (11 overall) as he brought his average up to .250. On the surface, it isn’t much, but you need all the shortstop eligible players you can get and Profar also receives regular playing time.
2) Harper Starts Things Off
While it likely will continue for at least one more game, I’m not sure we can expect Washington’s unconventional lineup to remain for the rest of the season. However, if you are Bryce Harper owner, does it really matter? All the outfielder has proved, is that he can hit from anywhere. Batting lead-off last night, Harper went deep for the ninth time this season. The three run shot gave him 22 RBI on the season and helps to take away the sting of the fact that he is only batting .250. However, with a BABIP of .212 this season, we can expect to see that batting average rise. It will be interesting to see how long Harper stays atop the order, and what happens when Adam Eaton returns. Trea Turner moved down to the second spot, and he went 1 for 3 with three RBI while also attempting to steal a base. And behind him, Matt Adams certainly had a game as he hit two home runs.
3) Can’t Argue With That Debut
Fantasy owners that jumped on Mike Soroka were rewarded on Tuesday. And if you added Soroka but kept him on your bench to see what he could do in his debut, I fall into that camp, you also have to be happy that you got him before his value rose. With the exception of a solo shot in the sixth inning by Yoenis Cespedes, Soroka really wasn’t faced by facing the Mets. Overall, the rookie scattered six hits, didn’t walk a batter, only allowed the one run, and struck out five. Prior to being promoted, the 20 year old had 1.99 ERA in four starts at Triple-A after he dominated Double-A last season with a 2.75 ERA in 26 starts. If he continues to pitch like that, Soroka isn’t coming out of Atlanta’s rotation.
4) Is Arcia Coming Around
Orlando Arcia is simply too talented to cut bait with. But at some point in the season, you also need to see some production. Last night, Arcia picked up three hits against the Reds, all singles, and also scored a run as he looks to put a rough April behind him. Things have been better for the shortstop as of late, as in his last 15 games, Arcia is batting .255, but we have yet to see power or speed from him this season. With his .254 BABIP, .317 last season, we do have some room for improvement in that department. Arcia does need to walk more, 4.3%, but after walking just 6.6% of the time last season, it is something the 23 year old already had to work on. What is troubling though, and would potentially make me search for another option, is the fact that Arcia’s line drive rate is down to just 10.1% this season while his ground ball rate is up to 60.9%.
5) Garcia Continues to Deal
This time, Jarlin Garcia got a no decision for his efforts, but it’s hard to argue with his start last night. Facing the Phillies, the southpaw gave fantasy owners six strong innings of work while allowing just one run on five hits and a walk. If we are being picky, Garcia did strike out just three batters, but it was another strong effort as he lowered his ERA to 1.09 for the season. While you have to continue to use Garcia, there are some warning signs that should at least make you be careful about the situations you put him into. The fact that he doesn’t strike many batters out, 6.27 per nine innings, does limit his upside and you would like to see the 3.55 walks per nine inning improve. But more importantly, a .151 BABIP and 95.2% strand rate is just not sustainable and it is echoed by his 3.74 FIP and 4.57 xFIP. That is a better indication of the pitcher Garcia is. There’s nothing wrong with that, but just know what you are getting yourself into.
6) Maybe Now We Can Trust Gray
Last night gave us another strong start from Jon Gray who looks to get back in our good graces after a rough start to the season. The southpaw faced the Cubs on Tuesday, and aside from a lead-off home run from Anthony Rizzo, he shut Chicago down. Gray only allowed two other hits and one walk while striking out six and picking up his third victory of the season. Another strong start brought his ERA down to 4.99 and it is a trend we can expect to see continue. Gray’s BABIP of .333 might not normalize much more (.336 last year), but we can expect to see his 65.2% strand rate improve. Despite his early struggles, the strikeouts are still there (9.30 per nine innings) and the walks are down slightly from last season; 2.27 per nine innings. Gray has shown he can be a successful pitcher, and his 3.57 FIP and 3.39 xFIP reflects that.
7) German Dazzles in His Audition
It wasn’t supposed to be an audition for Domingo German on Tuesday. But after Jordan Montgomery was lifted after issues with his pitching elbow surfaced following the first inning, that is what it turned into for the right-hander. Montgomery is almost certainly going to miss time, and German already proved on Tuesday that he will be able to step in without issue. The right-hander threw four scoreless innings in Houston as limited the Astros to four hits and a walk while striking out four. In 14.1 innings with the Yankees so far this season, all in relief, German has struck out 18 batters so we know he has a big arm. The walks though, seven, are going to be an issue, but on Tuesday he was able to stay out of trouble. While striking out over a batter an inning last season between Double-A and Triple-A, German walked less than three batters an inning, so we know he can do it. Overall, German had a 3.00 ERA in 33 innings at Double-A followed by a 2.83 ERA in 76.1 innings at Triple-A last year. He certainly is an arm to keep an eye on.
8) Morales Shows off the Power
Being eligible at just DH is not attractive fantasy trait, well unless you are Nelson Cruz. Generally, Kendrys Morales gives you enough production so that is not an issue, but he has been slow to get going so far this season. On Tuesday though, Morales did show off his power stroke by going deep twice. Both were solo shots, and gave him three home runs on the season with 10 RBI. Morales, who also walked twice, is now hitting just .208 on the season, and things can only go up from here for him. If you are in need of power and he is available, picking Morales up wouldn’t be the worst thing you could do; just don’t expect a stolen base every night. Morales’ .222 BABIP will improve, and it will take his batting average with it. Due to injury, Morales only has 63 at bats so far this season, so now that he is healthy, his power should start to improve.
9) Ohtani Returns to the Lineup
At least from an offensive perspective, Shohei Ohtani’s ankle is fine. While we wait for Ohtani to return to the mound, he was back in the lineup last night batting fifth behind Albert Pujols. This time, Ohtani only went 1 for 4, but the one hit was an impressive double that he hit the other way down the third base line. With a .333 batting average in 51 plate appearances, Ohtani is holding his own so far, but with a .375 BABIP, I still need to see more. Given the state of strikeouts around baseball, I wouldn’t be all that concerned with his 23.5% strikeout rate, as the question lies more in what will happen once major league pitchers get a better scouting report on him. But you can’t argue with Ohtani’s .333 ISO.
10) Gordon Has a Complete Day
If you are going to go 5 for 5 like Dee Gordon did on Tuesday, does it really matter that four of those hits are singles. We don’t look to the lead-off man for power, he did pick up his sixth double of the season, and with a .339 batting average, it’s hard to find fault with his production so far this season. However, with Gordon being on base five times last night, you would have liked to Seattle drive him in more than once. What fantasy owners are really after though are the stolen bases, and Gordon picked up two more last night to give him 12 for the season.
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