by Ray Kuhn
Tuesday certainly was an interesting day around the league. We had a major bullpen implosion in Cleveland, other pitching performances that left a lot to be desired, and then an ending in Houston that you won’t see everyday. Well, it shouldn’t have been all that surprising to see Ken Giles play a pretty large part in blowing a four run lead, but you need to find yourself a highlight of the play that sent Houston home victorious. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out from a busy Tuesday:
1) When You Are Going Good, It’s Good
To say that Alex Bregman has been hot since the beginning of June would be an understatement. Last night, he had his first multi home run game of his career, and at 19 for the season, Bregman has already reached last year’s total. Overall, he is batting .282 with 59 RBI on the season, but it’s his last 30 games that are the true picture of what he can really do at the plate. Now, the pace is a little ambitious, 13 home runs and 31 RBI, with a .317 batting average, but it’s a good indication of what we can expect from him. Bregman also happened to be at the plate when the Astros scored the winning run, as Jonathan Lucroy failed to tag him out following a screaming four foot grounder, and the catcher proceeded to throw the ball into right field allowing the winning run to score from second base. Additionally, Carlos Correa’s stint on the DL has allowed Houston to play Bregman at shortstop, five games so far, so there is hope he preserves that eligibility for the 2019 season.
2) An Audition, Perhaps
Manny Machado doesn’t need to prove to anyone how talented he is, but if the Yankees had questions, he answered them last night. The shortstop went deep twice as part of a three hit effort, and his three RBI brought his season totals to 23 home runs and 63 RBI. That is pretty impressive considering the struggling Baltimore lineup around Machado. With a .314 average on the season, Machado is a great hitter in the prime of his career who has put his .259 batting average from a year ago in the rear view mirror.
3) A Bounce Back Effort for Hellickson
In his last start, in which he had just returned from the DL, Jeremy Hellickson was ill and pitched with a fever; and man did it show in the results. Last night, Hellickson faced the Pirates, and he bounced back to pick up his third victory of the season. It wasn’t exactly a start that dreams are made of, but can anyone really argue with five innings of shutout baseball. Hellickson limited Pittsburgh to just two hits and a walk while striking out three and lowering his ERA to a respectable 3.47. It appears that, for now, Hellickson’s role in Washington’s rotation is secure, and based on his 3.71 xFIP, we can feel confident in his performance. The only thing though, is that with 6.79 strikeouts per nine innings, Hellickson is not going to blow hitters away. It works though, because he is walking just 1.58 batters per nine innings.
4) Yelich Shows Miami What They are Missing
The Marlins knew that when they traded Christian Yelich, they were trading an All-Star caliber outfielder. And if there were any questions about that, Yelich provided some proof last night. Batting second for Milwaukee, the outfielder went 3 for 4 with two doubles (14 on the season) and drove in four runs. In 291 at bats so far this season, fantasy owners are seeing a very balanced, and valuable campaign from Yelich as he is hitting .292 with 40 RBI, 11 home runs, and 12 stolen bases. There isn’t much that Yelich does to truly jump off the page at you, but you can’t find any arguments with his production.
5) A Very Pleasant Debut
While he still might be headed to Washington for the Futures Game on Sunday, Enyel De Los Santos took a detour to Queens on Tuesday. The purpose, was to make his major league debut against the Mets. After posting a 3.78 ERA in 26 games, 24 starts with Double-A last season, the right-hander has truly emerged so far in 2018. Promoted to Triple-A at the start of the season, De Los Santos has made 16 starts so far this season, winning nine of them and holding opposing hitters to a .210 batting average. With a 1.89 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, it was only a matter of time before De Los Santos found his way to Philadelphia. Against the Mets last night, the right-hander held his own as he allowed three runs in 6.1 innings of work on five hits and three walks while striking out six. The Phillies’ plan for him for the remainder of the season remains to be seen, but he should be on your radar.
6) Bradley is Over the Mendoza Line
Jackie Bradley is a frustrating fantasy player, at least for me personally. I feel like after having watched the outfielder for a few seasons, that he should just be better and a more valuable fantasy commodity. Even though he bats ninth in Boston’s lineup, once the batting order turns over, he has Mookie Betts protecting him, and the opportunity to score plenty of runs as long as he reaches base. However, it took two doubles from Bradley last night (15 on the season) for his batting average to climb up to .205 on the season. Bradley has just 29 RBI on the season, and after scoring a run last night, he is up to 36 overall. None of these numbers make the case for starting Bradley in your outfield, but he is hitting .302 over his last 15 games. With a .235 career batting average, .245 last season, invest, but only minimally, and don’t be afraid to cut bait quickly.
7) Stroman Shuts Down Atlanta
You know it hasn’t been a good season, when seven innings of one run ball only brings your ERA down to 5.90. That is the case though for Marcus Stroman who picked up his second victory of the season, in 11 starts, on Tuesday against the Braves. Stroman limited Atlanta to six hits and two walks while striking out, but now the only question, is can he continue to do it consistently. So far this season, the right-hander has struggled with a .321 BABIP and 60.1% strand rate, so as those numbers normalize, more starts like Tuesday night are very possible. In fact, Stroman’s 3.78 xFIP also tells the same story. It’s not going to be a smooth ride with the right-hander, but he is also worth a buy-low investment.
8) Merrifield Sets the Table
Don’t tell Whit Merrifield that the Royals are rebuilding and not very good. On Tuesday, the second baseman (he has also gained valuable eligibility in the outfield and first base in some leagues) doubled twice, walked twice, and scored two runs. So far this season, Merrifield is batting .306 with 29 doubles. The only clue you get as to the Royals’ struggles when looking at Merrifield, is the fact that he has scored just 39 runs so far this season. If you can overlook that, and his five home runs, you have a pretty solid fantasy second baseman; especially considering his 16 stolen bases. It is safe to say, that Merrifield has erased any doubts about the validity of his success from last season.
9) A Grand Night for Fowler
One grand slam does not turn a season around, but is it a start? Things aren’t going so well for Dexter Fowler this season, both on and off the field with the Cardinals. Quite simply, the outfielder has not performed to any level of respectability, forget about his contract, and it has been met with some criticism. Last night, Fowler connected for a grand slam which was his sixth home run of the season, giving him 25 RBI, and his two hit effort brought his batting average up to .173. The best thing we can about Fowler, is that his BABIP so far this season is just .200 compared to his career mark of .333. At this point, it’s unclear whether last night’s game was an isolated incident or the beginning of a comeback, but keep him on your radar.
10) Calhoun Produces at the Top
The Angels have been moving Kole Calhoun up and down the batting order, he’s spent a good deal of time batting ninth, as they look to get the outfielder going. Last night, Calhoun hit lead-off, and it appeared to agree with him. The outfielder had three hits, to bring his batting average up to .180, and that included his sixth home run of the season. Calhoun’s two RBI gave him just 22 on the season, and while he has never been known as a “power threat”, we have become accustomed to better production than this. As with a Fowler, we can point to a .208 as a potential source of the struggles, and Calhoun is a player to keep an eye on to see if he turns it around.