by Ray Kuhn
We certainly had a busy Sunday. At this point, do we really want to know what is wrong with Ronald Acuna’s knee? Yu Darvish and Felipe Vasquez are both headed for MRI’s on their pitching arms, and their fates for the rest of the season are also unknown. Let’s focus on the positive for Sunday, and take a look at some of the performances that stood out:
1) Folty Takes Care of the Red Sox
When you have young, often inconsistent pitcher such as Mike Foltynewicz, starting in Fenway Park, the results can sometimes be a bit concerning. Instead, the right-hander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning as he picked up his fourth victory of the season. Overall, Foltynewicz threw seven innings of one run ball on Sunday with limited traffic on the bases; three hits and three walks while striking out seven batters. The strikeouts shouldn’t come as a surprise from Foltynewicz as he is striking out 10.35 batters per nine innings. Instead, the issue with the right-hander (as it has been) is the control. So far this season, Foltynewicz is walking 4.35 batters per nine innings, and he has had success in spite of that (the strikeouts certainly help). The good news with the right-hander, is that so far this season he has shown the ability to pitch around the walks and he only has one game where his control truly betrayed him; five walks against the Cubs.
2) The Good Starts Keep Us on the Hook
Masahiro Tanaka is a frustrating starting pitcher to own. For starters, we have to deal with his name recognition. And there are are the expectations based on the success he had in 2015 and 2016. Sometimes you get the good Tanaka (like we did on Sunday), and sometimes his start will just blow up your ratios. The problem though, is that you are at the point with Tanaka where you have to start him each week as he is now up to a 6-2 record on the season. Tanaka limited the Angels to just one run in six innings of work on three hits and three walks to go along with eight strikeouts while lowering his ERA to 4.62 on the season. One of the issues with Tanaka is that he is struggling this season despite having a .239 BABIP, but with an xFIP of 3.86, there is some cause for optimism. And that is why Tanaka is frustrating.
3) Ramirez Continues to Show off the Power
Entering the season, Jose Ramirez was coming off the board within the first three rounds of most drafts. So far this season, he has certainly lived up to those expectations, and thanks to his home run exploits, he actually has exceeded them. Ramirez went 2 for 6 on Sunday, and he got the scoring starting in the first inning of what turned out to be a wild game with his 15th home run of the season. Last season, Ramirez’s 29 home runs were a bit unexpected, and based on the skill set the third baseman offers, fantasy owners would have certainly been alright with a 20 home run season. Instead, Ramirez is already more than halfway to last year’s total with more than 100 games left in the season. With a .292 batting average, that aspect of his game isn’t suffering, and Ramirez is also a run producing machine with 37 RBI (obviously the home runs help in that department). After improving to a .265 ISO, from .150, last season, Ramirez has kept on going and so far this season he sports an ISO of .313. The question is just how long can we expect to see his 21.1% home run to fly ball rate continue, compared to 14.1% last season. But my favorite stat with Ramirez, is that he is walking (13.3%) more than he is striking out (9.7%).
4) Strasburg Has an Interesting Start
The fact that Stephen Strasburg picked up his sixth victory of the season against Miami on Sunday shouldn’t be a surprise. Strasburg not allowing a run also sounds pretty reasonable as the Marlins managed just three hits and two walks against the right-hander. However, Strasburg failed to pick up a quality start as he lowered his ERA on the season to 3.13. That is because Strasburg struggled to get through five innings, 103 pitches with 68 of them for strikes. Not exactly what we should be expecting from our ace, but unless you are in a quality start league, it’s still hard to complain.
5) Travis is Back, and Healthy, For Now
The big thing for Devon Travis is staying healthy, and over the past few seasons that hasn’t been the case. Travis is now back in the majors, at least for now, and that means he is worth a look. On Sunday, Travis picked up two hits (a single and a double) and a walk, while driving in two runs. Yes, Travis is still hitting just .178 on the season, but in his last seven games, that average jumps to .261. As long as he can continue to stay healthy, there could be some value there.
6) Aguilar Goes Deep
At this point, it doesn’t appear that Jesus Aguilar is going to relinquish his starting job at first base. Batting third on Sunday, Aguilar went deep for the ninth time this season, a three run shot, while also picking up a single and a walk. The first baseman is now hitting .325 on the season with 30 RBI, he drove in four runs, and he’s not showing signs of slowing down. Over the last 30 days, Aguilar has done the bulk of his damage hitting all nine of his home runs and picking up 27 of his 30 RBI while hitting .302. It is a wonder what regular playing time can do, and Aguilar is certainly taking advantage of his opportunity.
7) Hammel Takes Advantage of Texas
With all of the teams flirting with 100 losses this season, we really can’t eliminate anybody from streaming consideration. Jason Hammel was no exception on Sunday as he shut the Rangers out over 5.1 innings for his second victory of the season. The right-hander limited Texas to just four hits and two walks while lowering his ERA to 5.23 on the season. While that ERA should be enough to scare you away, along with his 5.92 strikeouts per nine innings, Hammel struck out 10 batters on Sunday. Yes, his FIP of 4.10 does present some optimism, but Hammel’s 4.81 xFIP promptly erases that. However, you wouldn’t have known any of that yesterday.
8) CarGo Has a Perfect Day
Carlos Gonzalez is no longer the perennial All-Star he once was. But depending on your situation, you still can do worse than Gonzalez as your fourth or fifth outfielder. On Sunday, Gonzalez took advantage of facing Matt Harvey with his fifth home run of the season, a two run shot, while driving in two runs and scoring twice. With just 18 RBI, Gonzalez can no longer be counted on as a true run producer, but games like Sunday show just enough to keep you on the hook before his .241 batting average snaps you back to reality.
9) Buehler Keeps on Dealing
We knew that Walker Buehler was a top prospect, but he has certainly shown it so far in his first foray into a major league rotation. On Sunday, the right-hander picked up his third victory of the season with seven innings of one run ball against the Padres. While he limited San Diego to just four hits and struck out eight batters, what was most impressive to me, is the fact that he didn’t walk a batter. The start lowered Buehler’s ERA to 2.20 through seven starts, and his 2.13 FIP and 2.52 xFIP also back up his success. However, I keep on going back to his 10.54 strikeouts per nine innings against just 1.98 walks.
10) Baez Keeps the Power Going
So far this season, we are seeing the emergence of Javier Baez. He truly has settled into an everyday role with the Cubs and on Sunday, the second baseman went deep for the 13th time this season. The three run shot brought Baez’s RBI total up to 42 on the season to go along with a solid .266 batting average. While Baez is walking just 3% of the time, he has improved his strikeout rate from a year ago; 28.3% to 21.7% so far this season.
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