10 Important Stories From 09/02/18 Box Scores: Breakout Bats To Target (Lowe), Pitchers We’re Avoiding (Teheran) & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Aaron Nola had the strikeout pitch going, but ultimately was burned by three home runs as he finished allowing 4 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 11, over 5.2 IP.  Noah Syndergaard tossed a complete game gem, allowing 1 ER on 2 H and 1 BB, striking out 11, to defeat the Giants.  Shohei Ohtani made his return to the mound, allowing 2 ER on 2 H and 2 BB, striking out 2, over 2.1 IP though he was forced from the game due to back issues (though reports had his elbow being fine).  What else happened on the mound that we need to know about?  Let’s dive into the box scores and take a look:

 

1) Did Sean Reid-Foley gives us a peek at his actual potential…
After back-to-back underwhelming starts Reid-Foley turned in a stellar performance against the Marlins, allowing 1 ER on 4 H and 1 BB, striking out 10, over 7.0 IP.  His 16 swinging strikes was impressive and he showed a big improvement in his control (he had walked 6 over his previous 9.1 IP).  The real problem is his lack of groundballs, something that didn’t hurt him given the opponent and ballpark (the game was in Miami).  Over his first two starts he generated just a 35.5% groundball rate, and that was before 2 groundballs vs. 8 fly balls yesterday.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he had allowed 4 HR over his first two starts, and it’s something that should continue to plague him (he had a 42.7% groundball rate while at Triple-A).  If the matchup is right he could potentially be usable, but given his home ballpark and the HR risk he’s a streaming option over the rest of 2018 (though he could be more in the future).

 

2) Will the real Jon Lester please stand up…
Or maybe this is the real Lester, who is among the more frustrating pitchers to own right now.  Yesterday we got the “good” Lester, who tossed 6.0 shutout innings allowing 8 H and 0 BB, striking out 7.  Of course he’s now allowed 20 H and 4 BB over his past 17.2 IP, so he hasn’t been doing your WHIP any favors and he’s proven to be prone to the blowup start of late (he entered with a 6.69 ERA in the second half).  As it is he still entered the day with a 79.0% strand rate, a number that could easily regress, and his SwStr% (8.4%) and O-Swing% (26.8%) have been down all year long (and despite the strikeout mark yesterday he still had just 10 swinging strikes).  Throw in a 36.7% groundball rate and the risk/reward is fairly poor.  It’s not to say that he’s unusable, but he wouldn’t necessarily be our first choice.

 

3) Whit Merrifield continues his multi-hit onslaught…
He went 2-5 with 1 RBI, 1 R and 1 SB, giving him three straight multi-hit games and six of his past seven (13-30 with 2 HR, 7 RBI, 8 R and 2 SB).  He’s now stolen 30+ bases in back-to-back seasons, though he appears to have gotten even more comfortable.  He entered the day hitting the ball exceptionally harder (his Hard% has jumped from 30.6% to 37.9%) and when coupled with his speed that’s allowed his BABIP to balloon to .359.  While he may not be able to maintain that type of mark, there’s no question that he has the ability to carry an above average number and thus continue with a .300+ average.  Throw in that he’s not a power void (36 doubles, 1 triple and 11 HR) and what is there not to like?

 

4) Nomar Mazara helps to pace the Rangers’ explosion…
When you score 18 R on 19 H you are bound to have quite a few offensive heroes.  Jurickson Profar (4-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R) also was among the bigger performers, but it was Mazara who had the biggest day going 3-5 with 2 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R.  Mazara has missed time due to injury this season, but he’s now homered in three straight games (5-14 with 4 HR, 7 RBI and 4 R) and is hitting .267 with 20 HR and 68 RBI over 412 AB.  The biggest “issue” when you look at his numbers is that he entered the day with a 56.1% groundball rate and 24.8% fly ball rate.  It had been even worse in the second half, with a 64.4% groundball rate, so you’d think that his power potential could ultimately be limited.  Time will tell, and we’d hope that he can get hot and reverse that at least a little bit, but the fact that he’s produced despite that number is impressive (though it has to be monitored).

 

5) An eruption at the plate for Stephen Piscotty…
Piscotty finished the day going 2-3 with 2 HR, 5 RBI and 2 R, putting him at .262 with 21 HR and 68 RBI over 470 AB.  He’s always shown the potential for power, and with 36 doubles and entering the day with a 15.7% HR/FB and 41.4% Hard% there’s little reason to think that he can’t continue to produce there.  The bigger question comes from his average, though his Hard% and a .287 BABIP would make us think that the average could rise significantly.  However he’s regressed in terms of SwStr% (12.3%) and O-Swing% (37.5% compared to a 33.3% career mark), and that should lead to a fall in his 18.8% strikeout rate (and he’s already struggled to draw walks, at 6.5%).  At the end of the day he appears to be what he is, meaning a .255-.265 hitter with power, and that does hold value moving forward.

 

6) Should Brandon Lowe be grabbing our attention…
The Rays’ outfielder went 3-5 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R giving him home runs in back-to-back games and 3 HR in his past 4 (the one time he didn’t homer he had just 1 AB).  Since August 24 he’s gone 10-20 with 3 HR, 8 RBI, 8 R and 2 SB.  Even better, he’s made consistent contact with just 1 K vs. 6 BB over this stretch (though he did enter the day with a 17.1% SwStr%, he also had been staying inside the strike zone with a 27.0% O-Swing%).  Obviously this a tiny sample size, but he had shown plenty of power in the minor leagues (31 doubles, 1 triple, 22 HR split across Double and Triple-A) so it’s easy to buy in.  Strikeouts are a little bit of a concern (12.7% SwStr% in the minor leagues), but he showed he can hit the ball hard (23.9% line drive rate) and has an ability to take the ball the other way (31.6% Oppo%).  There could be a platoon risk for the left-handed hitter, but the upside is there and in deeper formats he’s well worth grabbing.

 

7) Walker Buehler continues to thrive…
He was forced to have x-rays on his foot after the game, so we’ll have to see exactly what the fallout from that is.  That said the biggest risk in investing in Buehler is him moving to the bullpen or being shutdown completely, as he continues to show just how talented he is.  Taking on the Diamondbacks he allowed 1 ER on 2 H and 3 BB, striking out 9, over 6.1 IP and has now allowed 2 ER or fewer in seven straight starts and owns a 2.92 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 104.2 IP on the year.  There is a little bit of risk in the “luck” metrics, with a .269 BABIP, but a 50.0% groundball rate, 9.70 K/9 and 2.29 BB/9 all look attractive.  He has now thrown 120.1 innings on the season (including his time in the minors), compared to 98.0 a year ago.  If the Dodgers are going to keep him to an increase of 30-40 innings, he may only have 2 or 3 starts left on the year.  We’ll have to wait and see, but regardless of the foot issue it wouldn’t be shocking to see the team skip his next turn through the rotation.

 

8) Do we want to trust Jacob Nix…
He was coming off a gem, allowing 1 ER on 8 H and 0 BB over 8.1 IP, but he couldn’t follow it up.  Maybe he ran out of gas in the seventh, but he only threw 84 pitches (and needed 79 during his gem) so we aren’t going to buy that excuse.  Taking on the Rockies he allowed 5 ER on 5 H and 2 BB, striking out 4, to take the loss.  The big number that works against him is the lack of swinging strikes, as he had just 5 yesterday, which is the second most he’s had in any of his five MLB starts (he had 8 swinging strikes in his MLB debut).  That limitation is going to completely limit any value, even if he is generating groundballs and showing control.  Without the strikeouts he can be safely ignored.

 

9) Julio Teheran turns in a strong start against the Pirates…
He went 7.0 IP allowing 1 ER on 4 H and 2 BB, striking out 5, though he had to settle for a no decision.  He’s now allowed 2 ER or fewer in four of his past five starts, putting him at a respectable 4.05 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.  Of course he’s now struck out 5 in each of his past three starts and over his past 10 starts only has more than 6 K once (and that was 7 K).  That obviously is a concern, after he managed just 8 swinging strikes yesterday, and while he was getting groundballs (11 groundballs vs. 5 fly balls) that hasn’t been the case for the bulk of the season (39.1% groundball rate).  We have to take the opponent into account here, and even his current ERA/WHIP have benefited from an unsustainable .220 BABIP (especially with his 38.3% Hard%).  It’s been a nice little resurgence, but we aren’t buying.

 

10) Has Jeff McNeil turned into a must own option…
He went 2-4 with 2 RBI and 1 SB yesterday, putting him at .323 with 2 HR and 4 SB over 124 AB.  He entered the day with an 8.8% SwStr% (though his 9.6% strikeout rate should regress a little bit) and 36.7% Hard%, so there’s little reason to think that he can’t hit.  He hasn’t shown this type of stolen base upside recently, though he did have 16 SB over 529 PA at High-A back in ’15 so there is the potential to swipe 10+ bases.  He also showed tremendous growth in his power, with 26 doubles, 5 triples and 19 HR between Double and Triple-A.  In other words he has the potential to at least be a .290ish hitter to go with 15 HR/10 SB (with the upside for a little bit more).  What in that isn’t there to like?

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs

8 comments

  1. Carlito says:

    This week playoffs, head to head Choo or Renfroe?

  2. bbboston says:

    RP: Perfect paired keepers – Merrifield and Gallo – Together 250AVG+ 50HR+ 35SB+. Given both’s history comparatively cheep keeper prices likely.

  3. bbboston says:

    RP: What are your thoughts on Luke Voit?

  4. Barry says:

    Hello Professor,

    Renfroe, Piscotty, or White ROS?

    Thanks

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Renfroe for me, I’m really starting to buy into what he’s doing. Piscotty isn’t far off and has a better chance to post a stronger AVG, but less HR/RBI.

      So, for me it’s:

      Renfroe / Piscotty / White

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