by Ray Kuhn
There’s nothing like a full day of baseball action to get through a Wednesday, and that is what we had yesterday. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out:
1) Goodrum, Your Clean-Up Hitter
There certainly are reasons to like Niko Goodrum in fantasy circles at this point in the season. The utility player has been a valuable commodity on waiver wires over the past few weeks, and his positional flexibility certainly plays a large part in that. Seeing Goodrum play third base shouldn’t be surprising, and as long as he continues to hit he will have a spot in the lineup, but batting clean-up? Goodrum went 2 for 3 with a walk on Wednesday, and he showed off his power with his fifth home run of the season (a two run shot). That brought Goodrum’s RBI total for the season up to 13, and he is now hitting .245. Until his 13 home runs in Triple-A last season, Goodrum has never shown much power, and in short he hasn’t been very appealing from a fantasy perspective. Goodrum has a problem with strikeouts, 29.9% of the time, while he has also stolen five bases on the season, I would keep your expectations to a minimum.
2) Aguilar Continues to Slug
Talk about taking advantage of your opportunity. With Eric Thames, and Ryan Braun (who has just returned) sidelined, Jesus Aguilar has seen his playing time increase. And the first baseman certainly has seized the chance batting in the middle of Milwaukee’s lineup on a regular basis. On Wednesday, Aquilar went 2 for 5 with three RBI to bring his total for the season up to 23 in 111 at bats. The first baseman is now batting .324 for the season, and in his last 15 games, Aquilar has driven in 13 runs while hitting five of his seven home runs.
3) Verlander Keeps on Rolling
With the way Justin Verlander has been pitching to start the season, the fact that he only went six innings yesterday is a disappointment. The right-hander needed 97 pitches to get through his six innings of work, and quite honestly there was no reason to push him any further into the game. Verlander picked up his sixth victory of the season while allowing one run on just three hits and a walk. This time out, Houston’s ace right-hander struck out nine batters as brace yourself, his ERA rose from 1.05 to 1.08 on the season. That just goes to show you how good Verlander has been so far in 2018.
4) Ross Continues His Success
For as good as Tyson Ross has performed so far this season, entering his start in Washington, I would still be inclined not to use him. Well Ross made me look bad as he picked up his fourth victory of the season while keeping Washington’s bats at bay. A Matt Adams solo home run in the seventh inning was the only true damage against Ross who allowed just five hits and one walk while striking out nine. The right-hander’s ERA now sits at 3.13 ERA on the season as the Padres are finally reaping the benefits of Ross being healthy. And with his 3.35 FIP, we can also feel reasonably confident that Ross’ success will continue.
5) Arrieta Shuts Down Atlanta’s Offense
At this point in the season, that is bigger deal than we might have originally thought it would be. But on Wednesday, Jake Arrieta was up to the task and he shut Atlanta out over 6.2 innings to pick up his fourth victory of the season. The Braves did manage to pick up seven hits, but just one walk, against Arrieta, but the right-hander kept them off the scoreboard while striking out nine. For the season, Arrieta’s ERA sits at 2.45, but the lack of strikeouts overall are troubling. Even after yesterday’s performance, he is still striking out just 6.45 batters per nine innings after an 8.71 mark last year. A good sign, is that Arrieta’s ground ball rate is up to 56.3% compared to his career average of 48.5%, so overall he is doing fine without a true Spring Training. There has to be slight concern about his 4.02 xFIP, but I think that should also improve as Arrieta rounds into shape; regardless an ERA closer to the low 3’s is likely a more reasonable outcome anyway.
6) Mazara Shows off the Power
The fact that Nomar Mazara drove in three runs on Wednesday shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, the outfielder showed he can be an RBI machine last season (101) and he is already up to 31 RBI so far in 2017. But was the more important sign to me, was the home run that Mazara hit off CC Sabathia. After hitting just 20 home runs last season, Mazara is already up to 11 so far in 2018. The problem though, is that I’m not sure how truly sustainable that will be. After having fly ball rates of 29.7% and 34.2% in 2016 and 2017, Mazara’s fly ball rate has dropped to 21.5% (with a corresponding increase to his ground balls) in 2018. Mazara’s spike in home run production can directly be attributed to his 35.5% home run to fly ball rate. The good news though, is that we can still count on him as a run producer when his home run pace begins to subside and he is also hitting a solid .274 on the season.
7) Some Pop Out of the Bottom of the Order
As the White Sox scored 11 runs last night, you knew the contribution had to be a group effort. Four of their 12 hits came courtesy of the ninth batter in their lineup, Adam Engel, as the outfielder also came through with his first home run of the season. Engel has been a relatively popular fantasy name over the last two years, as a late round flier, because of his stolen base potential. The problem though is that Engel just hasn’t really hit at the major league level. Last night, he hit his first home run of the season and drove in two runs while scoring three times and bringing his average up to .212 on the season. What’s even more important, is that he stole his seventh base of the season.
8) Gonzales Throws a Gem
Despite the injuries, struggles, and shuttling to the minor leagues and the bullpen, Marco Gonzales was still a solid pitcher. The problem, is that he just needed to produce. And now with Tyler O’Neill slugging home runs in St. Louis, the emphasis was really on the southpaw. And on Wednesday, Gonzales really came through with a gem in Oakland. He shut the A’s out over seven innings of work and limited them to just two hits and two walks while lowering his ERA to 4.05. On the season, the left-hander is still dealing with a .352 BABIP, so we can expect his ERA to continue to improve based on his 3.22 FIP and 3.20 xFIP. The problem though, is that his time as a buy low candidate has likely come to a close.
9) Maeda Strikes out 12
I don’t think of Kenta Maeda as a strikeout pitcher, but he came through last night as he struck out 12 Colorado hitters. Even better, the right-hander made it through 6.2 innings of scoreless baseball as he picked up his fourth victory of the season. Maeda limited the Rockies to just two hits, although he walked four, as he lowered his ERA to 3.38. It is easy to overlook Maeda, but he has been a consistent performer in the Dodgers’ rotation so far this season, and his role is also secure due to injuries. Plus, you cant argue with 11.59 strikeouts per nine innings or a 2.59 FIP.
10) We Missed Harrison
It’s almost like Josh Harrison never left. We can’t understate how difficult injuries have been this season for fantasy owners, and having Harrison back has made lineup decisions a little easier; especially with his duel eligibility. Back at the lead-off spot, Harrison hasn’t appeared to miss a beat, and last night he picked up four hits in six at bats while also drawing a walk. The second baseman drove in one run, and even crazier since he was on base five times, Harrison only scored once on the night. For the season, he is hitting .319, as the infielder appears to have picked up right where he left off.
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