by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It was a dominant outing for Kenta Maeda, albeit against the Marlins, as he tossed 8.0 shutout innings allowing 2 H and 0 BB, striking out 8. Kevin Gausman was on the other end of the spectrum, struggling against the Red Sox (though that’s not a big surprise) as he allowed 6 ER on 8 H and 2 BB, striking out 6, over 4.2 IP. Christian Arroyo made his 2018 debut, going 2-5 with 1 R while manning 3B for Tampa Bay. What else happened on the field that we need to know about? Let’s take a look:
1) Is it time to jump on the Yasiel Puig bandwagon…
Hitting eighth he went 2-3 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 2 R, giving him home runs in three of his past four games (4-12, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R). He’s still hitting just .214 and those are the only three home runs he’s hit (112 AB), but he opened the day continuing to show an improved SwStr% (10.0%), a popup rate that should improve (24.2%) and plenty of room for growth in his luck (.241 BABIP despite a 20.0% line drive rate). None of that should imply that he’s a can’t miss option, but with some power and speed (28 HR/15 SB last season) and room for growth now may be the last time to try and buy on the lower side. There should be continued production, and it’s worth riding the hot stretch at the very least.
2) The window to buy Josh Bell is closing quickly…
He went 2-4 with 1 RBI and 1 R yesterday, putting him at .269 with 3 HR and 26 RBI on the season. Things have really picked up of late, with RBI in three straight games (5 RBI) and he’s raised his average from .238 to it’s current .269 mark over his past nine games (2 HR, 10 RBI over this stretch). Obviously it’s still easy to be down on him, considering the lack of home runs, but there’s little reason to think that a power surge is on the horizon. Just look at a quick comparison of his batted ball profile:
Line Drive Rate
Fly Ball Rate
The difference is that this year he held an 8.1% HR/FB, compared to a 19.1% mark a year ago. With everything else falling into place, buy now while you still can.
3) The struggles of Aaron Sanchez continue…
We keep waiting for him, but the struggles just keep on coming. Taking on the A’s at home he allowed 4 ER on 5 H and 4 BB, striking out 8, over 4.0 IP. The big blow came courtesy of Khris Davis (4-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R), but that was obviously just the start of his issues. He’s now walked 3+ batters in three straight starts, while home runs have surprisingly been an issue for a pitcher who is generally a groundball specialist (he’s now allowed a home run in four of his past five starts). Given his missed time in ’17 (36.0 IP) it’s not a complete surprise that he’s trying to rediscover his control, though we’d expect him to ultimately get there. He’s also still generating groundballs (54.5% entering the day, 3 groundballs vs. 1 fly ball yesterday) and getting more swings and misses (9.8% SwStr% entering the day, 16 swinging strikes yesterday). The best path is to keep him stashed on your bench and wait for him to figure it out, because ultimately we’d expect a rebound and regrets for cutting bait too soon (if you do move on).
4) Did David Price figure something out…
Taking on the Orioles Price tossed a complete game, allowing 2 ER on 5 H and 0 BB, striking out 8, to improve to 4-4 with a 4.38 ERA. He’s now had back-to-back successful starts (4 ER over 14.1 IP) and it’s easy to envision the luck continuing to improve (he entered the day with a .303 BABIP and 64.8% strand rate) as well as the control (he entered with a 4.04 BB/9 compared to a 2.33 career mark). The biggest concern is going to be the potential to allow home runs, with another HR allowed yesterday, and a lack of swinging strikes (13 swinging strikes yesterday, 8.8% SwStr% entering the day). There’s potential appeal and upside, but also significant risk that can’t just be ignored. For now we’d consider him more of a streaming option (or at least pick your spots) as opposed to a set him and forget him.
5) Should we be buying Luke Weaver…
He was strong yesterday, allowing 1 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 6, over 7.0 IP as he made just one mistake to Carlos Santana (1-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R). Unfortunately he was outpitched by Vince Velasquez (6.1 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K, W) and ultimately got saddled with the L. Weaver showed swing and miss stuff (15) and was also generating groundballs (9 groundballs vs. 6 fly balls), with this marking his second straight strong start (after an extended rough patch). Locked into the rotation for now (at least until Alex Reyes is deemed ready), Weaver entered the day with a .308 BABIP and 63.9% strand rate, though there’s risk in his home run rate (0.45 HR/9, 42.9% groundball rate) and he typically hasn’t shown that type of swing and miss stuff (career 9.4% entering the day). There’s value, but he’s likely going to be more of a 4.00-4.25 ERA pitcher, as he has been showing, as opposed to someone significantly better than that.
6) C.J. Cron continues to show he belongs…
Taking on his former team Cron went 2-5 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 2 R, putting him at .293 with 11 HR and 27 RBI on the season. He’s now homered in three straight games and has a 10-game hitting streak (17-43 with 4 HR, 7 RBI and 10 R). He does continue to show somewhat poor plate discipline (he entered the day with an 11.1% SwStr% and 37.3% O-Swing%), will likely see a decline in his home run production (21.3% HR/FB entering the day) and also has a distinct split:
- LHP – .375/.423/.667
- RHP – .259/.307/.483
It’s not that he’s been bad against RHP (7 HR), but he’s clearly been a monster against southpaws and if he can keep the strikeouts in check there’s little reason for concern. He may not maintain this pace, but he appears primed for a solid season and is worth owning in all formats.
7) Are we buying Chris Archer’s “strong” start…
On the surface it would appear to have been a good performance for Archer, tossing 6.2 shutout innings while allowing 2 H and striking out 5 against the Angels. Of course he issued 4 BB (now has 7 BB over his past two starts) and was struggling to generate many swinging strikes (9). The latter is interesting, as he hasn’t been generating strikeouts all year long (8.89 K/9), though he’s still been getting the swings and misses (13.9%). He also hasn’t had control issues and the luck should improve (.331 BABIP, 65.7% strand rate). While there are some underlying “concerns” after yesterday’s start, overall it should be seen as a step in the right direction. The upside remains to be obvious.
8) Should we be buying the Tigers’ Matt Boyd…
Taking on the Mariners (for the second straight start) Boyd allowed 2 ER on 6 H and 1 BB, striking out 9, over 6.0 IP. While he settled for a no decision in this one, he now owns a 3.19 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over 48.0 IP. You may want to call this strikeout performance an aberration, but he owned a 10.0% SwStr% entering the day (17 swinging strikes yesterday) and has shown the ability to strikeout nearly a batter per inning at Triple-A. He also has generally shown strong control, leaving home runs as the biggest concern. Thus far he’s kept the ball in the ballpark this season, and while that could turn in short order (49.2% fly ball rate entering the day), it’s not enough to completely ignore him either. All he needs to do is keep the home rate at around a 1.00 HR/9 and it will be more than enough, so those in deeper formats should be buying if he’s available at a solid price.
9) Yet another home run from Brandon Belt…
He went 2-5 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 1 R, giving him four straight games with a home run and putting him at .305 with 10 HR and 25 RBI on the season. After having his 2017 season ended prematurely by concussion issues it was fair to be concerned, but he’s ended those in short order as he’s showing a solid approach (10.6% SwStr%, 27.8% O-Swing% entering the day), a similar home run rate (17.0% HR/FB) and he’s hitting the ball exceptionally hard (48.1% Hard%). There is concern that he’s going too home run-centric (51.0% fly ball rate) and there’s a good chance that the luck regresses, even with the Hard%, considering his .361 BABIP. Those two things loom large, but even as a .260-.270 hitter if the power is there so will the value. Just know that this may be his peak value for the season.
10) Caleb Smith struggles against the Dodgers…
Lasting just 3.0 innings he allowed 4 ER on 2 H and 4 BB, striking out 4. He surprisingly has now gone four straight starts without allowing a home run, which would seem to be a positive, but he entered with a 31.5% groundball rate (3 groundballs vs. 2 fly balls yesterday) and it’s just a matter of time before that regresses. He also has had occasional control issues (3+ walks in four of his nine starts) and has seen opponents hit the ball fairly hard against him consistently (23.9% line drive rate). While it’s easy to see positives, the downside far outweighs it. Considering that W will also be nearly impossible to come by, he’s not a pitcher we’d be investing in.
Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs
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