by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
After a few days off it was nice to get back to real games. There was only one on the docket coming out of the All-Star Break, as the Cubs defeated the Cardinals 9-6 in a game featuring 28 hits. Here are the key notes that fantasy owners need to be aware of, before we get back to the full schedule tonight:
What should we make of Carlos Martinez…
He was pitching lights out early, but things completely fell apart in short order. He had allowed 1 ER over the first 4.0 IP, but the Cubs got him for 5 runs in the fifth, and he finished allowing 6 R (5 earned) on 7 H and 1 BB, striking out 2, over 5.0 IP. He managed to generate just 3 swinging strikes, and while it hasn’t been an issue overall this season he now has 9 K over 17.0 IP over his past three starts. He has cut down on the walks, which has been the biggest issue for him this season (4.67 BB/9 entering the day), though he’ll also likely struggle with a few more home runs allowed (he entered with a 0.40 HR/9, though he’s allowed home runs in back-to-back starts) and he has been hit relatively hard (37.4% Hard%, compared to a 30.0% career mark).
So what’s the bottom line? Martinez should be better than we’ve seen, as he’s rediscovered his control, has continued to be able to get swings and misses (he had 25 swinging strikes over the two previous starts) and still gets enough groundballs (49.8% entering the day). It’s been a frustrating season, but all fantasy owners can do is stick with him and hope the skills start to bring results. Selling low doesn’t make sense because of the potential, but there is also clear risk and no guarantee he returns to the ace-like status we expected.
Kyle Hendricks fails to get through 5.0 innings…
He allowed 3 ER on 9 H and 1 BB, striking out 4, over 4.2 IP. Hendricks had put together solid back-to-back starts prior to the break, though both came on the road against fairly poor offenses (Giants & Padres). Of course his split entering the day would’ve indicated he was worth rolling out there:
- Home – 3.18 ERA over 56.2 IP
- Road – 4.70 ERA over 53.2 IP
That’s a bit of a surprise, as he’s struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark (1.39 HR/9, before allowing a home run to Tommy Pham yesterday). He’s also failed to get many swings and misses, entering the day with an 8.8% SwStr% before getting just 9 yesterday, helping to explain his lack of strikeouts (6.77 K/9). That’s not a good combination, and for now he’s nothing more than a streaming option to draw from off your bench.
The start of a big second half for Tommy Pham…
He was one of two Cardinals to hit a home run (Matt Carpenter also went deep), and it was interesting as Pham’s performance came out of the eighth spot. He finished the day going 3-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 2 R, and while being picked off first is a negative there’s a good chance he’s moved back up in the order before long. It’s obviously been a rough stretch for Pham, but his batted ball profile hasn’t changed from last year’s breakout, he’s hitting the ball extremely hard (46.9% Hard%, yet just a .299 BABIP) and he’s showing a good approach (9.1% SwStr%, 23.8% O-Swing%). The one “knock” could be that he’s gotten a bit pull happy (42.0% compared to 36.7% last season), but that doesn’t justify this type of falloff. Things will get better, and don’t be surprised if he has a big second half.
Don’t look know, but could Jason Heyward become a viable option…
He went 3-5 with 2 RBI, 2 R and 1 SB yesterday, hitting third, putting him at 9-21 with 1 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R and 1 SB since July 11. Obviously it’s a miniscule sample, though he does have his overall average up to .290. The problem? He’s paired it with 6 HR and 1 SB, so it’s hard to get excited when he’s not producing any additional numbers. His 6.5% HR/FB is right in line with what he’s done the past few seasons, and it’s not like he’s been a SB machine (4 SB last year). In other words, while it’s nice to see him producing he’s going to remain nothing more than a short-term fill-in barring something else changing.
Pedro Strop earns the save…
With Brandon Morrow placed on the DL it looked like Carl Edwards Jr. would get the final four outs to close things up. However he ran into trouble, ultimately giving up 1 R on 2 H, and was pulled in favor of Strop for the last out (it took Strop two pitches to record the save). Does it mean Strop is going to get the next opportunity? It’s possible, but along with Steve Cishek and maybe even Justin Wilson (if there’s a tough lefty or two) this will likely devolve into a committee approach until Morrow returns (and the chatter is that he won’t miss a significant amount of time). If that news changes look for the Cubs to go out and acquire an alternative, but for now this isn’t a situation to have much faith in.
Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our Midseason Prospect Rankings: