by Ray Kuhn
Wednesday brought us another split slate of games, and they certainly did not disappoint. We started the day off with the Mets batting out of order in the first inning, and things only got better from there. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that stuck out from a fantasy perspective:
1) Carrasco Leads the League
No one here is surprised that Carlos Carrasco would be leading the league in anything as he has developed into an ace, but the category we are talking about here is complete games. On Wednesday, Carrasco picked up his league leading second complete game of the season. Cleveland gave the right-hander a little bit of latitude to work with as he threw 117 pitches, 85 strikes. Milwaukee did manage to get two runs off Carrasco on five hits and a walk, but he also struck out 14 batters, and for the part, Cleveland’s ace was dominant as he lowered his ERA to 3.61 for the season. Carrasco utilized his curve ball about 33% of the time as kept Brewer hitters off balance, and they were only able to generate a meager 88.5 average exit velocity against him.
2) Mazara Shows off Some Power
Last season, Nomar Mazara showed that he could be a legitimate run producer, 101 RBI, but he left somethings to be desired in the home department; 20. Not like there was anything wrong with his performance in 2017, no one will argue about a 100 RBI season, but in this climate, the chase for home runs is ongoing. But after going deep twice on Wednesday, including a walk off blast in the 10th inning, Mazara is already at 10 home runs so far this season. He hasn’t sacrificed batting average for his newly found power, as Mazara is hitting .294 this season after hitting .253 a year ago. With 26 RBI already for 2018, Mazara is still the same run producer we saw last year as well. But take these home runs in stride, as it is highly unlikely Mazara will continue his 38.5% home run to fly ball pace, and that is especially true considering his fly ball rate of 34.2% last season is down to 23.9% so far this year.
3) Is Rizzo Back
First of all, it is too early in the season to panic about certain players; one of them being Anthony Rizzo. Secondly, were there really any doubts about his ability to produce? As part of Chicago’s 13 run out burst yesterday, Rizzo picked up three hits and five RBI to give a nice boost to his season totals. It was a little shocking though to see that Rizzo’s double was just his second of the season and his home run being his fifth of 2018, but this should be business as usual for the first baseman moving forward. He is now up to 19 RBI on the season so those numbers are beginning to look a little more realistic, while his .210 batting average still has some climbing to do. After his past seven games, Rizzo is hitting .355 with four home runs and 10 RBI (essentially the bulk of his 2018 production), and the time to stop worrying about him is now. With a .202 BABIP, the only place for him truly to go is up.
4) Coors Field is No Match for Barria
The Angels keep on calling up, and using, Jamie Barria for spot starts, but maybe its time to look at some more permanent work. I mean after all, it’s work to argue with the production Los Angeles is getting out of the 21 year old. On Wednesday, Barria tamed both the Rockies and Coors Field as he threw 5.1 shutout innings for his third victory of the season. Barria scattered five hits and one walk as he struck out seven and lowered his ERA to 2.45 on the season. However, I still would keep my investment to a minimum as Barria is reaping the benefits of a .255 BABIP and an 84.1% strand rate with his FIP (3.93) and xFIP (4.89) pointing to some regression. The 6.38 strikeouts per nine innings, he has never shown the ability to be a strikeout threat in the minor leagues, also limits his upside, but he should at least be on your radar.
5) Altuve Continues to Dominate
On days when Gerrit Cole pitches, six innings and nine strikeouts, it’s hard to focus on other things for the Astros, but the right-handers success is also getting a little redundant. Trust me though, there are no complaints here, it’s just a little crazy when Cole leads the American League by 16 strikeouts; 86 to Justin Verlander’s 70. At the same time though, we want to avoid have Jose Altuve’s greatness fly under the radar; although last season’s playoff run did help to prevent that. Yesterday, Altuve had his normal three hit game, including two doubles (nine overall), as he scored a run and raised his batting average to .331. For me though, the big thing is that Altuve stole a base. After stealing 32 bases last season, it was just the second stolen base of the season for Altuve. It’s hard to argue with how he has started the season, but we do need him to run a little more.
6) Judge Doesn’t Intimidate Easily
It really shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s pretty difficult to overpower Aaron Judge. Boston and Craig Kimbrel learned the hard way in the eighth inning last night as Judge hit a game winning home run off the Red Sox closer. It was the third hit of the night for Judge, who also walked, as he brought his average up to .308 on the season and his ninth home run of the season. While he isn’t on the same pace he was last season, he does have 27 RBI so far in 2018 (four more than Giancarlo Stanton), and no signs of a letdown really have appeared. Yes, he does strike out 29.4% of the time, but it appears that is something we are going to have to live with as it’s not interfering with his fantasy, or real life, production.
7) Santana Shows Up
Thanks to the Phillies’ early season success, we haven’t heard too much about the struggles of their big off-season (offensive) acquisition. To be honest though, Carlos Santana is too good of a hitter to continue to struggle all season, and we had legitimate sighting last night. Santana drove in five of Philadelphia’s 11 runs on Wednesday as part of a three hit effort as he brought his RBI total up to 23 on the season. While he is still batting .189 on the season, Santana does have 10 doubles. We should also note that over his last seven games, the first baseman is batting .290 with three home runs and 12 RBI (granted a chunk of that production came last night), so the window to buy low on Santana could be coming to a close as his .189 BABIP can only rise from here. It is interesting though that despite his propensity to draw a walk, 22 against 24 strikeouts so far this season, Santana hasn’t walked once in his last seven games (against just three strikeouts) as he has become more aggressive to hit his way out of his early season slump.
8) What Was Toronto Thinking
At this point, it’s become pretty mind boggling to try and figure out why Teoscar Hernandez didn’t start the season in the major leagues. Hernandez had another three hit effort on Wednesday, and the outfielder went deep for the sixth time this season. He finished just a triple away from the cycle as he also picked up his ninth double while raising his batting average to .267 on the season. If anything, the flaw you could find with last night’s performance is that he only drove in one run, 15 RBI overall, and scored just once. It also has to be encouraging that Hernandez’s strikeouts so far this season are down to 23.6% compared to a career mark of 28.4%. At this point, Hernandez is not budging from the top of Toronto’s lineup.
9) Teheran Cruises to Victory
Things went pretty easily for Julio Teheran on Wednesday as he picked up his third victory of the season. The right-hander shut Tampa Bay out over six innings while scattering just four hits and not walking a batter to go along with seven strikeouts. Teheran’s ERA so far this season is 3.14 as he has benefited from a .241 BABIP. While I would continue to use Teheran most weeks, that is something to keep an eye on as his 4.35 FIP says he is pretty much the same pitcher he was last year. There is still some value in that, especially now that the Braves are scoring some runs, but be careful not to overvalue the right-hander.
10) Another Solid Start from Lucchesi
Yes, you would like to see your starting pitchers go more than five innings, but you can’t argue with the results from Joey Lucchesi. All Washington really managed off the southpaw was an Anthony Rendon solo homer as he held the Nationals to six hits and one walk while striking out six and lowering his ERA to 2.98 on the season. For his efforts, Lucchesi got a no decision, but he was actually pretty efficient as he needed just 69 pitches to get through five innings (San Diego is being careful with their young pitcher), with 44 of them being strikes. With a 3.43 xFIP and less than three walks per nine innings, 2.98, to go along with 9.78 strikeouts per nine innings, Lucchesi is a pitcher to keep a close eye on this season.
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