by Ray Kuhn
There’s nothing like a full slate of games. Actually, we had 16 games as the Twins and White Sox played a doubleheader to make up for one of the many early season postponements due to weather. After such a light schedule on Monday, all of the games were a welcome sight for sure. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out:
1) That’s How You Handle a Doubleheader
With all of the early season games Eduardo Escobar lost due to the weather, he has a lot of making up to do. And on Tuesday, he certainly made fantasy owners happy. Escobar started the day off by going 2 for 3 with a double, home run and three RBI. He then followed that up with three more hits in the nightcap. That included two more doubles, giving him 23 on the season to go with his 11 home runs, and two RBI, bringing his total for the year to 36. Overall, Escobar is hitting a solid .280, and has developed into a legit contributor at the plate. Compared to last season, we have seen a big spike to Escobar’s ISO (.195 to .265), and that has been a welcome development. The third baseman is also hitting less balls on the ground this season, 33.7% to 26.9%, and that has made a difference in his performance.
2) Stripling Keeps on Rolling
As long as he continues to pitch like this, the Dodgers aren’t going to be able to remove Ross Stripling from the rotation. On Tuesday, he picked up his fourth victory of the season with five shutout innings of work in Pittsburgh. Stripling scattered four hits while not walk a batter and racking up seven strikeouts to lower his ERA to 1.52 on the season. In 53.1 innings so far this season, he also pitched 11 games in relief, Stripling is striking out 11.14 batters per nine innings which is a vast improvement from his career mark of 8.46. While there have been slight changes to Stripling’s pitch mix, overall he looks a better pitcher than were accustomed to. And with a 1.99 FIP and 2.63 xFIP, there is a good chance he maintains the majority of his success.
3) We Are Running Out of Superlatives
At this point, do even need to talk about Max Scherzer in this space every fifth day? I mean I get it, I know he’s the best pitcher in baseball and he is also pitching like it. The right-hander reminded us again on Tuesday how great he truly is as he picked up his 10th victory of the season against Tampa Bay. They truly never had a chance against Scherzer, although he did scatter two runs on five hits in eight innings of work as he improved his record to 10-1 on the season. While lowering his ERA to 1.95 on the year, Scherzer struck out 13 batters. Included in that, was the second immaculate inning of his career. Need we say more?
4) Andujar Keeps on Rolling
Miguel Andujar is trying, but I’m not sure how much higher than seventh he’s truly going to get in the Yankees’ batting order. At this point, he has certainly earned his everyday role as he leaves Brandon Drury stuck at Triple-A. Last night, Andujar provided the big blow for New York with a seventh inning grand slam as part of a 2 for 3 effort at the plate. The grand slam was the seventh home run of the season as Andujar brought his RBI total up to 26 on the year. While you certainly could get more power from your third baseman, we also can’t overlook the fact that Andujar is hitting .305 on the season.
5) He Keeps You on the Hook
I feel like every so often, we have to bring up Carlos Gonzalez here. It’s clear that he isn’t the same player he was a few years ago, but the flashes he does give you are enough to keep him at the back end of your roster. Last night, Gonzalez hit a three run homer as part of a 3 for 5 effort to raise his batting average to .264. It was the sixth home run of the season for Gonzalez who drove in four runs on the night giving him 26 RBI for the season. The fact that Gonzalez still is the clean-up hitter for Colorado does also help maintain some of his value. In reality, it’s really just in the last 15 games that Gonzalez is coming to life, as he is hitting .354 in that stretch with two home runs and 12 RBI. Don’t over invest, but ride the streak out if you can.
6) He Had the Wright Stuff
Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself, and I have to get a pun in there every so often. And with Steven Wright, it’s just too easy. After getting a delayed start to the season, Wright is back in Boston’s rotation, and he doesn’t appear to have missed a beat. Yes, it was against Detroit, but his seven scoreless innings have to get your attention as a worthy streaming option moving forward. Wright limited the Tigers to just two hits and three walks while striking out six and lowering his ERA to 1.57. The sample size is small, but Wright does have a BABIP of .185, and last season in 24 innings with Boston, he did have an 8.25 ERA. In 2016 though when he logged 156.2 innings, Wright has a reliable option with his 3.33; although he did have a 4.57 xFIP. Exercise some caution here, but there likely is value as a streaming option.
7) Eflin Rolls Through Chicago
With a lot of aces taking the mound last night, it would have been very easy for Zach Eflin to fall through the cracks. Ultimately that wasn’t the case though, as Eflin went into Wrigley Field and silenced the Cubs’ offense. In 7.2 innings of work, Eflin limited Chicago to just one run while scattering eight hits. The problem though, is that while he didn’t walk anybody, Eflin struck out just two batters all night. With a career mark of 5.41 strikeouts per nine innings that shouldn’t exactly be surprising, but even after last night, he is striking out 8.29 batters per nine innings in his 33.2 innings of work so far this season. While I’m not necessarily a fan of the fact that Eflin’s ground ball rate is just 32%, he is doing a good job of limiting hard contact; 27.9% per Fangraphs. Another thing that we have to like about Eflin, is that he simply throwing harder this season with an average velocity on his fastball of 94.4 miles per hour compared to 92.7 last season.
8) Don’t Sleep on Anderson
To be honest, it’s easy to just dismiss the Miami Marlins from your considering; both in reality and fantasy. But doing so would cause you to miss out on Brian Anderson. While Anderson isn’t going to prove to be a difference maker in your league, the rookie is still can be a valuable contributor in 15 team leagues or as an injury replacement. Even though it’s a weaker batting order than most, Anderson is still batting fifth in a major league lineup and he has dual eligibility; third base and the outfield. On Tuesday, Anderson picked up three hits, one of which was a two run homer. It was just the third home run of the season for Anderson, who also added another RBI to give him 28 on the year, but he’s also hitting .298 on the year.
9) Newcomb Takes Care of Business
On a night where Sean Newcomb only needed one run of support, Atlanta got him 14. The southpaw shut San Diego out over six innings of work to pick up his seventh victory of the season; against just one loss. Newcomb did allow a base runner per inning, three hits and three walks, but he didn’t a allow a runner to cross the plate as he lowered his ERA to 2.49 on the season. I know it’s a broken record, but the walks (4.33 per nine innings) are still an issue with Newcomb, but he is walking about a batter less than he did last season. After striking out four batters last night, his strikeout rate is at 8.91 per nine innings, and although it is down by about a batter an inning, it’s hard to find much fault in that. Newcomb has also improved his ground ball rate, taking it from 43.8% to 50.6% as he looks to fulfill his billing as a prospect.
10) Mad-Bum Returns
It is isn’t often you get to add an ace mid-season, and it’s even rarer you get to do it at no cost to you. But that is case for those owners who held onto Madison Bumgarner all season. The southpaw returned to action against Arizona last night, and while he did take the loss, it was hard to find much fault in his performance. It look Bumgarner a little bit to find his groove, but ultimately he did make it through six innings of work while limiting Arizona to just two runs. The Diamondbacks did manage to pick up eight hits against Bumgarner, but he didn’t a walk a batter. While he only picked up three strikeouts, once he got going, Bumgarner looked like the ace we expect him to be. Just remember, despite his success in Triple-A on his rehab starts, it was still just his first start of the season.
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