by Ray Kuhn
Despite the very un-springlike weather across much of the northeast, we had a full day of action on Saturday. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out from across the league:
1) A Grand Afternoon in Toronto
Chad Pinder isn’t the type of player who garners much fantasy attention. I mean, quite honestly, why would he. But in deep leagues, especially leagues where you can take advantage of Pinder’s positional eligibility with daily roster moves, there is some value here. On Saturday, Pinder hit a decisive grand slam to spur Oakland to victory. It was the fourth home run of the season for the utility man, who now has 10 RBI, as part of a two hit effort to bring his average up to .280 on the season. You have to watch playing time for Pinder, just 75 at bats on the season, but he plays enough to have some value; just make sure that it is deployed correctly and not over-valued.
2) Hernandez Uses His Speed
Don’t overlook Cesar Hernandez. At this point in the season, it is clear that Scott Kingery, nor anyone else, is going to get in the way with Hernandez’s playing time. So far this season, Hernandez is doing exactly what is expected from him at the plate. Yesterday, Hernandez went 2 for 4 with a walk to raise his average to .282 on the season while scoring twice. The second baseman is having the best season of his career, as he is benefiting from an improved Phillies team. He is now up to 34 runs scored on the season, and Hernandez is also showing some power with six home runs 15 RBI. But more importantly, and especially so considering the state of the running game, Hernandez stole his ninth base of the season yesterday.
3) A Four RBI Day for Crawford
Brandon Crawford is an interesting fantasy player. The shortstop is a better player in real life than in fantasy, but he is also a solid run producer who hits for a decent batting average. That is the case again this season, and as injuries pile up, Crawford shouldn’t go to unnoticed. On Saturday, the shortstop drove in four runs as part of a 3 for 4 day that saw come up a triple shy of the cycle. It was the fourth home run of the season for Crawford, who is also up to 10 doubles and 19 RBI on the season to go along with a .302 batting average. The past 15 days have been even stronger for Crawford, as he is hitting .446 over that stretch with his average jumping to .577 in his last seven games.
4) Kluber Keeps on Rolling
Yesterday, we got exactly what we have come to expect from Corey Kluber. The right-hander seamlessly navigated through a difficult Astros’ lineup to pick up his seventh victory of the season. Kluber limited Houston to just two runs, via a Carlos Correa moonshot, on six hits while striking out 10. So far this season, Kluber’s ERA is sitting at just 2.36, but there are some warning signs. I wouldn’t let it cloud my judgement as there is no denying Kluber’s success, track record, and ability, but he has also benefited from a .212 BABIP so far this season. I wouldn’t expect Kluber’s BABIP to regress all the way back to his .295 career average, but the .267 mark he had last season is a good expectation. While Kluber’s FIP is 3.73, his xFIP is 3.07, so even with some regression, the right-hander is still an ace. Just don’t expect a repeat of last season, as after striking out 11.71 batters per nine innings in 2017, that mark is down to 8.40 so far in 2018.
5) Don’t Forget About Me
Going back a few weeks, Christian Villanueva burst onto the scene for the Padres. He was a popular waiver wire add, but there was also some caution involved following his hot start. The third baseman then hit an, expected, cold spell, but he remains in the lineup everyday for the Padres while batting in the middle of their lineup. Yesterday, Villanueva hit his 11th home run of the season to remind us of his power, but it was just his third in his last 15 games. As part of a two hit day, Villanueva also added another RBI, and he has just five in that 15 game stretch while hitting just .120. Overall, Villanueva is hitting .242 on the season with 24 RBI, but the consistency is just not there. Unless you are truly desperate that is. Not many players can be successful while striking out 29.7% of the time.
6) Newcomb Throws Another Gem
Sure, you would want more than six innings out of your starting pitchers, but in 2018 we truly can’t be too picky. Last night, Sean Newcomb dealt with the Marlins without issue as he picked up his fifth victory of the season. It came without incident as the southpaw allowed just one run on four hits and two walks while striking out four and lowering his ERA to 2.39. After walking 5.13 batters per nine innings last season, that was the major issue for Newcomb and he is taking some steps in the right direction this season down to 4.10 so far this season. We have to like Newcomb’s 48.9% ground ball rate, but his .256 BABIP does point to some regression. The good thing though, is that with a FIP of 3.05 and a 3.69 xFIP, if their is a fall, it shouldn’t be too drastic. And with 9.91 strikeouts per nine innings, the southpaw’s skills are there.
7) Benintendi Drives in Three
A majority of the focus, rightfully so, in Boston is on Mookie Betts. That is a good thing for someone like Andrew Benintendi who has had some struggles to start the season. With that being said, the outfielder who is still only in his second major league season, is a very good hitter who you shouldn’t be selling low on. Benintendi hit his fourth home run of the season on Saturday while also adding a two RBI single. He has gotten his average up to .275 on the season to go along with 27 RBI, so despite the fact that he has yet to truly find his groove, there is still enough value. You also have to like the fact that Benintendi is striking out just 16.5% of the time to go along with a 12.5% walk rate.
8) Sanchez Has a Four Hit Night
Don’t look at Gary Sanchez’s batting average. Despite a four hit night on Saturday, the catcher is still batting just .225 on the season, but the only true place for that to go is up. The easy solution, would be to look at Sanchez’s BABIP, but with that at .324, we can’t offer it up as a solution. And as a power hitter, Sanchez’s 23.2% strikeout rate isn’t all that terrible. That power was certainly on display last night, as Sanchez went deep twice, giving him 12 on the season, while driving in three runs to push his total for the season to 33. As long as we are getting the power, the batting average can be digested, and after hitting .278 last season, it should climb. The issue appears to be Sanchez’s lack of line drives, 14%, while he is focusing on putting the ball in the air; 45% compared to 36.6% last season.
9) Seven Strong from Quintana
Following a bench clearing incident and extra inning game to start the day off, Jose Quintana made sure there was much less drama in the nightcap. The southpaw limited the Reds to just one run and four walks in seven innings while striking out seven batters. It hasn’t been the smoothest of starts to the season for Quintana, as his fifth victory of the season brought his ERA down to 4.47. After walking just 2.91 batters per nine innings last season, Quintana is walking 4.66 batters so far in 2018. The strikeouts, 8.38 per nine innings, are still there and Quintana is 45.3% ground ball rate is right in line with his career norms. There is no reason not to be able to count on Quintana to be a solid starter for the rest of the season.
10) Abreu Keeps on Producing
Last night notwithstanding, the White Sox are just not a good team. In fact, one team had to win last night as Chicago picked up their 12th victory of the season against a Texas Rangers team that isn’t much better with 18 wins. But don’t hold Chicago’s struggles against Jose Abreu. The first baseman just keeps on hitting, and on Saturday, he hit his eighth home run of the season. Abreu drove in two runs as part of a 3 for 3 day while raising his batting average to .306 for the season. The first baseman has driven in 25 runs so far this season as he continues to be a consistent producer.
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