by Ray Kuhn
To say that Tuesday was a busy night across baseball would be an understatement. We had some dominant pitching performances, James Paxton and Jeremy Hellickson, we had an implosion, Dylan Bundy, and we had an emotional night in Oakland for Stephen Piscotty. Let’s not waste any time, and jump right into some of the performances that were noteworthy from a fantasy perspective:
1) Paxton Makes History
I guess the answer to “How do I follow up a 16 strikeout outing?” is answered by throwing a no-hitter. James Paxton was assisted by his defense with a few nice plays, Kyle Seager we are looking at you, but the night was about Paxton as he no-hit the Blue Jays on Tuesday. All told, it was a pretty efficient start from Paxton as he needed just 99 pitches to make it through the night. Toronto managed just three walks against Paxton as he struck out seven batters and of his 99 pitches, 64 were strikes. Ten of Paxton’s outs came via the ground ball, with just three of the fly ball variety, as he lowered his ERA to 3.40 while picking up just his second victory of the season. As long as he continues to stay healthy, this is what we expected to see from Paxton all along.
2) An Inefficient, But Solid Start for Odorizzi
Anytime a starting pitcher picks up the victory while allowing just one run, it’s hard to argue with the performance. On Tuesday, Jake Odorizzi needed 93 pitches, 61 strikes, to make it through five innings in St. Louis, but thankfully, it was enough for his third victory of the season. If this start came with Odorizzi on your bench, it is understandable as the right-hander really is just a depth and streaming option for your rotation. A Jose Martinez first inning home run was all the Cardinals managed off Odorizzi as he allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out three and lowering his ERA to 3.83. However, Odorizzi is still one of those pitchers who warrants a closer look, and his 5.54 FIP and .243 BABIP should snap you back to reality. I’m not saying this is a safe strategy, but we should note that last season Odorizzi’s BABIP was .227 and he did exceed his 5.43 FIP by putting up a 4.14 ERA. I’m still just counting on Odorizzi as a match-up play though.
3) He Hits in the Bronx
Now that the Yankees are winning, the focus has kind of gone away from Giancarlo Stanton, and the outfielder can just exist as a baseball player. That doesn’t mean fantasy players are any less invested in him though, and on Tuesday, Stanton came through in a big way. Facing the Red Sox for the first time in Yankee Stadium, the slugging outfielder went deep twice last night. The two solo shots gave him nine home runs and 21 RBI on the season to go along with his .237 batting average. None of those stats are ideal, but the power output could be worse. And in his last 15 games, Stanton is batting .296, so that just highlights how bad he was earlier in the season as he attempted to adjust to being a Yankee and dealing with the northeast weather. Now, we just need him to decrease his strikeout pace, and in turn raise the batting average, and Stanton’s April struggles will be behind us.
4) The Moose is Loose
For anybody that stacked Royals in DFS last night, especially those that started Mike Moustakas, you probably owe Dylan Bundy a cut of your winnings. The right-hander allowed seven runs on Tuesday without recording an out, and it was just the start for Kansas City’s offense as they put up 15 runs. After signing very late into the off-season, Moustakas was almost a forgotten man in drafts, and playing for the Royals this season isn’t exactly going to lift his profile. But overall, he has been one of the best hitters in baseball so far this season. The third baseman went deep twice last night, a solo shot off Bundy and a two run homer in the fifth, and that gave him 10 home runs so far this season. Moustakas later drove in two runs with a single, and despite the Royals’ middling offense, he has driven in 28 runs so far this season while batting .300.
5) Nola Cruises Through the Giants
With all of the standout pitching performances we saw on Tuesday, it’s easy to loose track of Aaron Nola. That shouldn’t be the case though, as the right-hander and his five victories to start the season, are a big part of Philadelphia’s early season success. Nola was never really in trouble against the Giants last night as he limited them to just one run on five hits in seven innings of work while striking out 12. The right-hander’s ERA now sits at just 2.05 on the season and while his FIP and xFIP do call for some regression, 2.55 and 3.22 respectively, it’s hard to argue with the success he’s having to start the year. The two big things for me, is that he is walking just 1.88 batters per nine innings and he is sporting a 50% ground ball rate. Both of those items should lead to continued success this season. We have also seen his hard contact, per Fangraphs, drop from 29.7% last season to 22.5% this season. That is another good sign for Nola as he develops into an ace.
6) Newcomb Continues His Success
While shutting out Tampa Bay’s lineup over six innings isn’t too impressive, we also can’t dismiss it. After all, Sean Newcomb did exactly what he was supposed to do on Tuesday as he picked up his third victory of the season. The southpaw held the Rays to just two hits and three walks through six innings of work as he struck out six. Newcomb lowered his ERA to 2.88 on the season which is a fry cry from the 4.32 mark he posted last season. And this, is why the Braves were willing to deal to Andrelton Simmons to the Angels last off-season, as so far in 2018, Newcomb has struck out 10.62 batters per nine innings. That shouldn’t come as a total surprise, but one key to Newcomb’s success has been limiting the walks. While they still need some improvement, Newcomb is walking 3.98 batters per nine innings so far this season after last season’s mark of 5.13. Things have gotten better as in his last three starts, the southpaw has walked seven batters and he also is showing the ability to pitch around the walks. The increased ground ball percentage, 49.5% compared to 43.8%, is also helping that department.
8) Change is Here for Castillo
I actually mean that quite literally for Luis Castillo as the right-hander has corrected a mechanical flaw over his last two starts. Castillo is now using his change-up more often, and more importantly, he is getting a plethora of swings and misses on the pitch as it is a dangerous weapon for him. Last night against the Mets, it certainly was on display as he didn’t allow a base runner until the fifth inning. Castillo ultimately ran into some trouble in the sixth inning, but he still was able to pick up his second victory of the season. The final line on the right-hander was two runs on three hits and one walk in 5.2 innings while striking out seven. With his ERA still at 6.47, yes he was really bad to start the season, there is still improvement to be done, but bright days are ahead for Castillo and his 3.83 xFIP reflects that.
9) Story is a Run Producer
Sometimes, you can’t fully pay attention to batting average. Yes, it is a category, but it’s all about roster construction and building a balanced team. That means overlooking Trevor Story’s .225 batting average and instead focusing on the fact that he bats in the middle of Colorado’s lineup and is a consistent run producer. Batting clean-up on Tuesday, the shortstop had two extra base hits (a double and a triple) and also drove in two runs. That gave him 23 RBI on the season, to go along with seven home runs, and you just are going to have to live with the batting average.
10) Hellickson Flirts With History
For six innings, it looked like we were going to have a perfect game to go along with a no-hitter, but instead we had to settle for 6.2 innings of shutout baseball from Jeremy Hellickson. The right-hander ultimately allowed two hits in that seventh inning before being bailed out by Ryan Madson. It was the first victory of the season for Hellickson, who entering this week stood out as a streaming option to be thanks to his two starts. That included last night’s outing in San Diego, and he clearly didn’t disappoint while striking out eight. Through five starts, Hellickson’s ERA is 2.28, and while I would still keep him at an arms length, his 3.01 FIP is actually pretty reasonable. Hellickson is not a strikeout pitcher, 6.83 per nine innings, but he also limits the walks, 1.30 per nine innings, and he should keep Washington in games. I would continue to look at Hellickson as a streaming option, but be careful not to get too crazy.
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