by Ray Kuhn
Talk about a busy sports weekend. Not only did we have wall to wall baseball action, but it was impossible to miss the NBA and NHL free agency talk. If some of that, or the World Cup for that matter, caught your attention, have no fear, as we have you covered. Let’s take a look at some of the performance that stood out from a busy Sunday in the majors:
1) Gausman Taunts Us
I say taunts when it comes to Kevin Gausman, because we know he has the ability. The problem for the right-hander, is just consistently putting it together so you feel comfortable leaving him in your starting lineup against most, if not all, opponents. Yesterday, Gausman navigated the Angels’ batting order without much issue as he picked up his fourth victory of the season with eight innings of two run ball. He limited Los Angeles to six hits, while not walking a batter, to lower his ERA to 4.05 on the season. Gausman did allow a home run, 9.36 per nine innings so far this year, and he only picked up two strikeouts. Overall, Gausman has 90 strikeouts in 102.1 innings which isn’t terrible, but he does need to work on improving his WHIP of 1.32. With a 3.83 xFIP, Gausman does provide some optimism, but he has yet to prove he can be a starter to consistently rely on.
2) It Could Have Been A Bigger Day For Castellanos
Let’s start with what is being replayed on highlight shows across the country. Yesterday afternoon, Kevin Pillar made one of the best catches you will see as he robbed Nick Castellanos of a home run. In fact, the catch was so good, that he gave Pillar props before heading back to the dugout. Had it not been Pillar in center field for Toronto, it would have been a two home run day for Castellanos, with his first long ball being a Grand Slam. It was the 13th home run of the season for the outfielder who has been coming on strong in the power department with seven home runs in his last 15 games including four in his last seven. Overall, Castellanos is hitting .310 with 53 RBI as he is getting set to represent the Tigers in the All-Star game.
3) I Guess We Will Pay Attention to Harvey
Any outing where the starting pitcher doesn’t allow a run should get your attention. However, we have to at least add the qualifier that the pitcher we are talking about is Matt Harvey. Now, no one is disputing the fact that the right-hander is a talented pitcher, but the times he has produced results have been few and far between over the past two and a half years. Yesterday, Harvey shut the Brewers out over 5.2 innings while scattering two hits, not walking a batter, and striking out six to bring his ERA down to 4.91. It appears that Harvey has finally made some adjustments, as in his last seven starts, his ERA is 4.31 with a very respectable WHIP of 1.16. You aren’t going to get the dominant Harvey of years past, but there’s a solid streaming option in there.
4) Matz Has Actually Been Pretty Good
Yes, I know it’s hard to get to excited over a start when the pitcher only gets through the first 5.1 innings of the game, but that is where we currently are in major league baseball. Steven Matz needed 109 pitches, 69 strikes, to pick up his fourth victory of the season on Sunday in Miami, but he was able to limit the damage. The one run the Marlins scored off the southpaw was unearned, and Matz also limited them to just three hits and two walks while striking out six. With a 3.46 ERA, it’s hard to ignore what Matz has done to start the season, but his .257 BABIP and 4.72 FIP (4.18 xFIP, though) should help to keep your expectations in check. While Matz has increased his strikeouts from 6.48 strikeouts per nine innings to 8.21 so far this season, his walks have unfortunately followed suit going from 2.57 to 3.46. I know the pitching options we have mentioned so far today aren’t very exciting, but once again, I have a hard time moving Matz out of the streaming conversation; although he is higher on the list than the others.
5) Culberson Drives in Two
Wow, we are really turning up the heat here by bringing up Charlie Culberson. When it comes to production though, you can’t leave any stone un turned, and as long as Culberson continues to receive at bats, he should be on your radar. After going 2 for 3 with a walk and two RBI, 21 for the season, Culberson is hitting .277 and in his last seven games, that jumps to .333. This is a case of the Braves riding the hot hand at third base, but Culberson’s versatility across the diamond also helps. There isn’t much power here, but Culberson does have some ability as a run producer and he has 26 runs scored in 141 at bats. At the very least, he won’t hurt you while filling a hole created by injury.
6) Baez Doubles His Fun
Yes, there was a slump in there from Javier Baez, but he is improving that it was just a bump in the road. Baez had a three hit day on Sunday, including two doubles which gave him 21 on the season, to raise his average to .290 on the season. The infielder brought his RBI total up to 61 with two more RBI and he also scored twice which gave him 53 runs on the year. In his last 15 games, Baez truly has been on a tear, and it’s hard to say that many players have looked better. While he only has two home runs, Baez is hitting .460 with a slugging percentage of .820, with 15 RBI and 14 runs scored. That production, is hard to top.
7) A Four Hit Day for Garcia
You know that it’s a small sample size, and also a really good day, when there’s a batting average jump of 25 points; from .245 to .270. That is what happened yesterday for Avisail Garcia as he clearly had his best performance since returning from injury about 10 days ago. Two of those four hits were doubles, but Garcia only drove in one run. He did though, score three times as part of a 10 run performance from the White Sox in Texas. Garcia has already gone deep three times since his return, and all appears to be right with both his timing and health. At this point, if he is still available in your league, he certainly warrants a look.
8) Lindor Goes Deep Again
It’s hard to pick just one Cleveland hitter who stood out yesterday as they scored 15 runs in Oakland, but we really can’t ignore what Francisco Lindor is doing at the plate. The shortstop went deep for the 21st time so far this season. Last year, we saw Lindor’s home run total jump from 15 to 33, and it is clear now that it wasn’t a fluke. The pace Lindor is on so far this season will easily exceed that, and you have to begin wondering what the ceiling really is for the 24 year old. While his home run to fly ball rate has increased compared to last season, 14% to 19.6%, it’s still not all that outlandish, and Lindor’s fly ball rate has actually slightly decreased so far this year; 42.4% to 39.9%. While we focused on the home run, Lindor actually reached base five times yesterday, three hits and two walks and drove in two runs (48 overall) while scoring four times. That gives the lead-off hitter 70 runs scored so far this season to go along with his .296 batting average as he is becoming one of the best hitters in the game.
9) Domination From Paxton
Yesterday’s start from James Paxton was exactly how you would draw it up. We got eight innings of shutout baseball from the southpaw, as the Royals really never had a chance. Paxton limited Kansas City to two hits and two walks while striking out 11 batters to lower his ERA to 3.39 on the season. In the process, the southpaw picked up his eighth victory of the season as he looks to take the next step that we have been waiting for.
10) Hicks Shows Off All the Power
The Yankees exploded for 11 runs last night, and their lead-off man was a big part in setting the tone for that. Aaron Hicks went deep three times yesterday, the problem though, is that two of those were solo shots, and he only got four RBI for his efforts. However, we are just being greedy though, as no one would really every complain about a three home run performance. In fact, power has been a big part of Hicks’ game all season as he is up to 14 home runs on the year, with 38 RBI. While he is hitting .258 overall, Hicks’ average in his last 15 games is .305 as he has become a true asset in New York’s outfield.