by Ray Kuhn
There’s nothing like a full day of baseball, well New York at Baltimore was rained out, to end your week. As you set your waiver claims, there was plenty of action to enjoy. Let’s take a look at some of the noteworthy performances:
1) Wacha Comes Close
Baseball is an exciting sport, and there are few things more exciting than watching a no-hitter go into the ninth inning. That is what we had on Sunday, as Michael Wacha came close to making history. Instead, Colin Moran had other ideas as led off the ninth with a line drive single. While this game will be forgotten about rather quickly, it’s still hard to complain as a Wacha owner. The right-hander threw eight shutout innings while allowing just two walks, he was lifted following Moran’s single at 111 pitches (74 strikes). Wacha struck out eight Pirates’ hitters as he improved to 7-1 on the season and lowered his ERA to 2.41. So far this season, Wacha has been St. Louis’ best starting pitcher. With a .241 BABIP and 3.77 xFIP, this level of success may not continue, but regardless Wacha is a solid starting pitcher who will have value all season.
2) Lester Wasn’t Too Bad Either
Jon Lester didn’t get to the point of MLB Network live look-ins, but he kept the Mets hitless for the first few innings on Sunday. Granted, based on their lineup, it’s not that difficult though. Lester ultimately allowed two hits and three walks in seven innings of work to pick up his sixth victory of the season. The southpaw struck out seven batters and continued to move his ERA in the right direction as it now sits at 2.44 for the season. The 34 year old though, might be a sell-high candidate as we work towards the All-Star break. His strikeouts are down to 7.94 batters per nine innings this season after an 8.97 mark last season while his walks are up slightly; from 2.99 to 3.21. Lester has also seen his ground ball rate drop from 46.2% to 37.2% while he is benefiting from a .254 BABIP. While he does have a track record of success, and this isn’t the first time we have seen a gap between his ERA and FIP (4.14), for his career the two are pretty close (3.48 to 3.56) so I wouldn’t get too comfortable.
3) Smoak Shows off the Power
As long as Justin Smoak hits home runs, we are happy. Yes, he is more valuable in OBP leagues, but after his ninth home run of the season on Sunday (a two run shot), there is some value in all formats. The first baseman picked up three hits yesterday as he brought his average up to .258 on the season and he drove in three runs to give him 33 RBI. While he isn’t on the same pace he was last year when he hit 38 home runs, Smoak should still give you 25 home runs with about 70 RBI. Not great production, but there are still worse options for your corner infield spot. And in those OBP leagues, Smoak is walking 16.3% of the time which is up from 11.5% last season.
4) Don’t Forget About Me
Last season, Dansby Swanson was the new and exciting thing in Atlanta. The top prospect was slotted into shortstop to open up the season, and he struggled. This season, with all of the focus on Ozzie Albies and then Ronald Acuna, Swanson has kind of just slide into the background. Batting eighth in Atlanta’s order, the pressure is off Swanson, and while he is not proving to completely buzz worthy, there is still a solid player there. On Sunday, Swanson hit his fifth home run of the season, singled, walked, and scored two runs as he brought his average up to a respectable .263 along with 22 RBI. At this point, what you see from Swanson is what you get, and while at some point he likely will be moved up in the lineup (and increase his value), he is still worth your consideration.
5) A Full Day for Rosario
All aspects of Eddie Rosario’s day were good yesterday. The outfielder, who is emerging as Minnesota’s best hitter, started his afternoon off with a home run, went deep in the middle of the game, and then sent everyone home happy with his third home run of the game. Two of Rosario’s home runs were of the solo variety, while one was a two run shot. He is now up to 13 home runs on the season while hitting .317 with 40 RBI. Through 55 games, Rosario is just about halfway to the 27 home runs he hit last season in 151 games, and there is a good bet he will eclipse 30 this season with the potential for a few more. After bringing his ISO up to .218 last season after a .152 mark in 2016, Rosario is up to .257 so far this season. While Rosario is hitting more fly balls in 2018, 43.2% compared to 37.4%, his home run to fly ball rate has remained pretty constant at 17.1%. We also have to like the increase in hard contact for Rosario, 31.7% to 39.3%, while his strikeout rate has remained steady at 17.7%.
6) Fowler Picks up Three Hits
It’s always disappointing when your lead-off hitter gets three hits, and scores just one run. Granted, Oakland did score six runs as a team and they were victorious, but from a fantasy perspective, all we really care about is how Dustin Fowler performs. All three hits were singles for Fowler, who is now hitting .241 in 58 at bats since his promotion, but that isn’t what we are most concerned. What piques our interest, is the fact that Fowler stole his fourth base of the season yesterday. After starting off cold, Fowler is starting to find his groove, as in his last 15 games, the outfielder is hitting .279 with all four of his stolen bases, three home runs, and 10 RBI. He appears to be past his ugly knee injury from a year ago, and Fowler should no longer be on your waiver wire.
7) Muncy Likes Coors Field
Let’s be honest, who had Max Muncy on their radar going into the season? And then another question, on June 3rd, did anyone think he would be batting fifth for the Dodgers? Well regardless of your answer to those questions, that is what’s happening, and Muncy must be on our radars. On Sunday, the utility player went deep twice, and that gave him nine home runs on the season to go along with 23 RBI in 107 at bats. Muncy is hitting just .243 on the season, but he got off to a slow start, and in his last 30 games (89 at bats), he is hitting .270. While Muncy’s production is a nice surprise, and you always want to role with the hot hand, there is still the possibility that better options are available.
8) D-Rod Gets the Win
That was bad. No, it doesn’t have the same ring to it as I-Rod. That would be Ivan Rodriguez, who is the father of Dereck Rodriguez who picked up his first career win on Sunday for the Giants. Prior to this season, Rodriguez wasn’t exactly considered a top prospect, but in nine starts at Triple-A prior to his promotion, he did put up a 3.40 ERA while striking out 9.48 batters per nine innings. The increase in strikeouts is a new development for Rodriguez, and it will be interesting to watch as he transitions to the major league level. Yesterday, he picked up the victory with six innings of one run ball against the Phillies. Rodriguez scattered five hits and two walks while striking out six with the damage actually coming via a Jake Arrieta solo homer. At this point, Rodriguez is merely a streaming option for me until he builds up a better track record.
9) Skaggs Cruises To Victory
The Rangers don’t offer up all that much in resistance these days, but Tyler Skaggs didn’t have many issues as he picked up his fourth victory of the season. The southpaw scattered four hits and three walks in six innings of work as he struck out six batters and lowered his ERA to 3.27 on the season. For the most part, this has been a pretty successful season for Skaggs so far as he is striking out 9.55 atters per nine innings; which is up from 8.05 a year ago. Skaggs has also managed to increase his ground ball rate from 41.8% to 47.8%. The big difference for Skaggs, is that per FanGraphs, he has transitioned about 15% of his pitch mix four-seam fastballs to sinkers; hence the improved strikeouts and ground balls.
10) Holt Continues to Produce
While you don’t want to see injuries, Dustin Pedroia has found himself back on the DL. That means Brock Holt will continue to see extended playing time at second base. Holt took advantage of it last night as he picked up two hits, including his first triple of the season, and drove in three runs. While has just 13 RBI, and 13 runs scored, in 91 at bats, Holt is hitting .319 on the season and he is worth a look if you have a hole to plug in your middle infield.
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