by Ray Kuhn
Tuesday brought us a nice, full, slate of baseball as it always does. The Cubs and the Dodgers gave us a brief one game appetizer in the afternoon, something had to give with all of those early season rain outs, and then we got into the evening slate of action. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out from across baseball:
1) The Move is Working
The sample size is small, four games, but perhaps Joe Maddon was onto something moving Kris Bryant to the lead-off spot. Bryant was atop Chicago’s batting order for both games yesterday, and he went a combined 3 for 10 on the day to bring his average to .282 on the season. After hitting .292 and .295 the last two seasons, there’s really nothing wrong with Bryant’s batting average so far this year, but it feels like he really hasn’t gotten going yet. He did drive in two runs in the first game, but that brought his RBI total up to just 35 on the year. That, and his nine home runs to date, really are the biggest problem as his ISO dropped from .242 a year ago to .210 so far this season. Bryant did double twice yesterday to bring his total to 20 on the year, but it’s the power and run production that is lacking. However, Bryant’s hard contact (per Fangraphs) is up to 36.3% from 32.8% last season, and his ground ball rate is down. To me, Bryant makes a fine buy-low candidate.
2) Eaton Doesn’t Miss a Beat
When Adam Eaton is in the lineup, things are good. The problem, is that it just doesn’t happen often enough. After missing close to a month with an ankle injury, Eaton now was eight games under his belt since his return, and he is just cruising right along. Eaton picked up two hits last night, he also drove in two runs and scored twice, to bring his average for the season up to .344. Since his return, the outfielder is hitting .355 with five runs scored (15 overall), and Washington’s lineup is now complete. With the presence of Juan Soto, the outfield is a little more crowded than it was since we last saw Eaton, but the extra rest will likely benefit him and he shouldn’t have a problem scoring runs with that offense behind him.
3) Peralta in Back
And this time, I’m not sure he can go anywhere. After Freddy Peralta’s strong debut in Coors Field last month, he was sent back down to the minor leagues. Milwaukee summoned him again, once for a spot start against the Twins, and then for last night’s start in Pittsburgh. Peralta recovered nicely from the six walks he gave up to Minnesota, as he didn’t walk a batter last night, and in fact he only allowed two singles in six innings of work. At this point, it does appear Peralta is here to stay after picking up his second career victory and lowering his ERA to 2.30 through three starts. We know all about the strikeouts from Peralta, and after seven last night, he is up to 25 in 15.2 major league innings. With a career 3.20 ERA in the minor leagues and 508 strikeouts in 424.1 innings, Peralta is certainly worth a closer look.
4) German Dominates Seattle
Hopefully, in the midst of his recent struggles, you didn’t cut Domingo German loose. Last night, he showed why the Yankees continued to believe in him with seven strong innings of work against the Mariners. German limited Seattle to just two runs, one earned, on two hits while not walking a batter and striking out nine. It was the right-hander’s second career victory as he lowered his ERA to 4.77 through 13 games, eight starts. After posting a 5.55 ERA in May, German has settled down so far this month, and he has a 3.86 so far in four June starts. With 72 strikeouts in 60.1 innings, we know that the strikeouts are there, it’s his propensity for the home run ball that limits his upside; 10 so far this season including one last night.
5) Carpenter is Settling In
After hitting .165 in April, things looked pretty bad for Matt Carpenter. While his batting average for the season is still sitting at .239 after he dug a nice hole for himself, Carpenter has found his groove and is back to his productive self. After hitting .297 with five home runs and 11 RBI in May, he has followed that up by hitting .265 with another five home runs and nine RBI so far in June. One of those home runs came last night in the top of the ninth inning of a tied game as Carpenter put the Cardinals up 7-6 in a game they ultimately won. The home run was part of a two hit night for Carpenter, he also added his 19th double of the season, as he drove in three runs overall and showed fantasy owners why they shouldn’t have given up on him.
6) Camargo Has a Day
When a team scores 11 runs, you are looking for a full box score. In the case of Atlanta though, you need to cruise all the way down the bottom of their box score from last night for that. As Johan Camargo tries to prove he has legitimate place on Atlanta’s team moving forward, he took a step in the right direction last night. Since returning from the disabled list, Camargo has settled into an everyday role at the hot corner, and the production has been there. Last night, he drove in five runs, and finished a triple shy of the cycle. While he is hitting just .240 on the season, Camargo’s batting average for the month of June so far is .271, and there is nothing wrong with riding the hot hand. Alright, so maybe Camargo hasn’t been scorching, but after last night, he does have three home runs and 15 RBI on the month as well. If you are looking to fill a temporary hole on your roster in a deep league, you could do worse.
7) Clevinger Cruises
Let’s be honest, did we really expect that anything else would happen with Mike Clevinger facing the White Sox last night. Clevinger picked up his sixth victory of the season without much effort as he limited Chicago to one run in 7.2 innings of work on just five hits and two walks. That brought Clevinger’s ERA for the season down to 3.00 as he struck out 10 batters. The strikeouts were a good sign, as after striking out more than 10 batters an inning last season, Clevinger is at just 8.18 so far this year. It is a good sign though that the right-hander’s ground ball rate is up from 39.5% to 45.1 in 2018. Even better, is the decrease in walks for Clevinger (4.44 to 2.91) as he continues to grow as a pitcher.
8) Barnhart Has a Perfect Day
The Reds committed to Tucker Barnhart in the off-season with a contract extension, and once again during the season when they traded Devin Mesorasco. And while not spectacular, Barnhart has given Cincinnati, and fantasy owners for that matter, what they expected. On Tuesday, Barnhart went 3 for 3 with a walk, including his 11th double of the year, drove in a run for his 21st RBI of the season, and scored twice. That brought Barnhart’s batting average up to .267, and while surprising for a catcher, it is not a liability. What you see from Barnhart is what you get, and while it won’t move the needle much from a fantasy perspective, it could also be a lot worse from the catcher position. The fact that you also get consistent playing time, 210 at bats, helps as well.
9) Snell Tames Houston
It took long enough, but at this point, we can say that Blake Snell has arrived. That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to have a bad start or struggle at times, but we have to be pleased with the overall body of work. Last night, he went into Houston to face a hot Astros team riding a 12 game winning streak, and shut down a lineup filled with right-handed bats. Snell threw seven innings of one run ball to pick up his ninth victory of the season while limiting the Astros to three hits and striking out seven to lower his ERA to 2.48. But before we overreact to Snell’s success, let’s a take a step back, as he was lucky to limit the damage to just one run. That is because he walked seven batters. Overall this season, Snell has been better with the walks, and even after last night, he is down from 4.11 walks a year ago to 3.43 walks per nine innings so far in 2018. Snell’s .235 BABIP is driving his 3.61 FIP, but it’s hard not be pleased with what we are seeing from the left-hander so far this season.
10) Arenado Did What Arenado Does
And that is just hit and have a solid game at the plate. Nolan Arenado has set the bar so high over the past few seasons, that matching it is difficult. In reality though, fantasy owners really can’t complain about the production they are getting from the third baseman. After missing the cycle by a triple last night, Arenado is hitting .311 on the season with 14 home runs and 45 RBI (he drove in three last night). No, Arenado isn’t leading the league in any of those categories, but it is a pretty solid body of work. After all, he could be a slumping Bryce Harper.
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