by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There were several players who made their MLB debut yesterday, and impressed (at least two of the three did) in the process:
- Touki Toussaint – He allowed 1 ER on 2 H and 2 BB, striking out 4, over 6.0 IP against the Marlins (though as we mentioned on the prospect page a strong debut isn’t a surprise, given the matchup, but there are concerns about his control and home run against more difficult offense
- Sean Reid-Foley – Taking on the Royals he allowed 3 ER on 6 H and 3 BB, striking out 3, over 5.0 IP in what was a less than stellar debut
- Danny Jansen – He went 2-3 while hitting ninth, and he has the potential to rise to a Top 10 offensive catcher before the year is out
What else happened on the field that we need to know about? Let’s dive into the box scores and see:
1) Ronald Acuna making a strong push for Rookie of the Year…
He leadoff both games of the double header with a home run, finishing the day hitting 5-8 with 2 HR, 5 RBI, 5 R and 1 SB. He’s now homered in four straight games, and six of his past seven, as he has gone 13-29 with 6 HR, 11 RBI, 11 R and 2 SB over his current seven game hitting streak. Obviously there is a lot to love about him moving forward, with his blend of power and speed to go along with a 43.0% Hard% entering the day. That’s not to say that there isn’t some risk moving forward, however, as there are some key metrics that stand out:
- SwStr% – 11.8%
- Pull% – 45.3%
It’s possible he becomes very prone to the shift, and he’s already striking out his fair share (29.2%). We’ll take a closer look at him in the near future, but don’t be surprised if he hits a rough patch.
2) The struggles of Luis Severino continue…
He lasted just 4.0 innings against the Mets, allowing 4 ER on 7 H and 1 BB, striking out 6 as he was clearly outpitched by NL Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom (6.2 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 12 K, W). Severino has now allowed 3+ ER in seven straight starts, failing to go further than 5.2 innings in all but one of them (his ERA has jumped from 1.98 to 3.27). The big problem has clearly been home runs, as he allowed 2 HR yesterday (the Mets hit 5 HR total) and has allowed 11 HR over this seven game stretch). Last season he posted a groundball rate of 50.6%, but he entered the day at 42.5%, generated just 3 groundballs vs. 3 fly balls yesterday and has been trending in the wrong direction all season long (he was at 50.0% in April but has been under 40% each month since June). It’s an issue that needs to be fixed, otherwise he’s going to continue to struggle.
3) Reynaldo Lopez takes a small step backwards…
The White Sox ultimately allowed 9 ER to the Tigers, with Nick Castellanos (5-5, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R) leading the charge. While Lopez didn’t allow the bulk of the damage, he wasn’t particularly good allowing 4 ER on 7 H and 1 BB, striking out 2, over 5.0 IP. He had posted back-to-back strong starts (2 ER over 14.0 IP), and he continued to show improved control. However, while he didn’t allow a home run yesterday he continues to struggle generating groundballs (7 groundballs vs. 6 fly balls yesterday, after entering the day with a 33.6% groundball rate) and he also doesn’t get nearly enough swings and misses (8.7% SwStr% entering the day, only 5 swinging strikes yesterday). With those two risks not disappearing and time soon, Lopez remains a pitcher to continue to ignore if you are eyeing 2018.
4) Are we overlooking the value of Michael Brantley…
Hitting between Francisco Lindor (2-4, 2 R) and Jose Ramirez (3-5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) it’s easy to overlook what Brantley is doing this season. After going 3-6 with 1 RBI and 2 R yesterday he’s now hitting .300 with 13 HR, 63 RBI, 68 R and 8 SB as he’s stayed healthy (426 AB) and that may be the big key. He’s done a tremendous job of putting the ball in play (just 39 K) and commanding the strike zone (4.0% SwStr%, 25.8% O-Swing% entering the day). Couple that with a 39.5% Hard%, meaning his .300 BABIP may just continue to improve, and enough power and speed (he could come close to a 20/10 season if he gets hot) and what exactly is there not to like? It’s easy to lose him among the superstars he hits between, but don’t make that mistake.
5) Another home run for Paul DeJong…
This one was a walk-off winner, as he finished the day going 1-5 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R. He hasn’t been producing many hits during this streak, but he’s made the most of them as he’s homered in back-to-back games as well as 4 of his past 6. Currently on a seven-game hitting streak he’s gone 8-29 with 4 HR, 9 RBI and 6 R. He’s hitting just .243 overall this season, but does have 13 HR (and 29 total extra base hits) over 276 AB. His fly ball centric approach (45.2% entering the day) has helped to keep his BABIP suppressed (.292 BABIP) despite a 37.6% Hard%, so there’s no guarantee that he can turn things around. There’s room for even more power, however, as he entered the day with a 13.5% HR/FB (19.8% last season) and should maintain his improved strikeout rate (his SwStr% has gone from 13.3% to 11.2%). As long as you aren’t targeting him for a strong average there’s value, but he could hit .250-.260 the rest of the way to go with ample power.
6) Robinson Chirinos leads the Rangers charge…
He took Zack Greinke (6.1 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 6 K) deep, finishing the day going 2-4 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 1 R. He’s shown ample power this season, now with 16 HR and 52 RBI, though he’s hitting just .223. It’s clear that he’s trying to hit for power, as he entered with bloated fly ball (46.6%), Pull% (53.7%) and SwStr% (14.9%) rates and when coupled with his lack of speed it’s always going to be impossible for him to post anything close to a strong average. While the power is right in line with what he’s done over the past few seasons, is it enough to make him a must use option? Obviously if all you care about is HR then he’s a fine option, but if you are looking for overall production you are going to want to look elsewhere.
7) Is there any potential value with Ryan O’Hearn…
He went 1-2 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R yesterday, but it’s been nothing but a struggle since being recalled as he’s hitting .160 with 2 HR and 6 RBI over 25 AB. Obviously 8 K isn’t an impressive number, though he’s drawn 5 BB and has a .300 OBP despite his rough start and has proven that he has a good sense of the strike zone (26.6% O-Swing% entering the day). Strikeouts will continue to be a part of his game (23.9% at Triple-A prior to his recall) and he likely will be viewed as a platoon player (he’s a left-handed hitter), and that’s going to help limit him. He also hasn’t shown big power totals overall this season, with just 11 HR in 353 AB while playing in the Pacific Coast League. He’s shown more upside before, and maybe he catches fire, but he’s more of a short-term play as opposed to someone to depend on in ’18.
8) Has the time come to move on from Marco Gonzales…
He struggled for his third straight start, allowing 4 ER on 8 H and 3 BB, striking out 4, over 5.0 IP. Over this three start stretch he’s allowed 15 ER on 27 H and 3 BB, striking out 14, over 17.0 IP watching his ERA jump from 3.37 to 3.91. While he’s continued to show strong control, he doesn’t get many strikeouts (9.1% SwStr% entering the day, 11 swinging strikes yesterday, leading to a 7.91 K/9) nor is he a groundball machine (45.5% entering the day). Couple that with a 25.1% line drive rate, even if you think his “luck” metrics will improve (.314 BABIP, 74.7% strand rate) the overall upside isn’t very high. He is what he is, and the current ERA and 1.23 WHIP appears to be it. In other words he’s more of a streaming option as opposed to a pitcher to trust each and every time out.
9) How concerned should we be with Madison Bumgarner…
He was clearly outpitched by Clayton Kershaw (8.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 9 K), as Bumgarner allowed 2 ER on 7 H and 2 BB, striking out 4, over 6.0 IP. While he has a 2.71 ERA and has allowed 2 ER or fewer in four straight starts, his control hasn’t been sharp all year (3.67 BB/9 entering the day, 8 BB over 18.0 IP in his past three starts) and the strikeouts remain down (9.5% SwStr% entering the day, his lowest since 2012, and 7 swinging strikes yesterday). Throw in a relative lack of groundballs, something that’s generally been the case (43.7% entering the day), meaning home run issues could be there (Justin Turner took him deep yesterday) and the answer is that we should be highly concerned for ’18.
10) Wil Myers returns at a new position…
He was in the lineup playing 3B and hitting second in the order, going 0-3 with 2 K. Obviously the additional flexibility will be nice, and it appears that Myers is going to remain at the hot corner the rest of the way to open up the outfield for Hunter Renfroe (0-4), Manuel Margot (0-5) and Franmil Reyes (0-3). Of course Myers himself has struggled this season, returning to a career worst SwStr% (12.0%), O-Swing% (33.8%) and strikeout rate (29.5%). He has been hitting the ball incredibly hard (51.7%), so you have to wonder if the problem is tied more to the consistent missed playing time (yesterday was just his 45th game of ’18). In other words, with the playing time there and an intriguing list of eligibility he’s worth trying to buy low and see if he can get hot down the stretch.
Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, MILB.com
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