by Ray Kuhn
As the pennant races heat up, both on the diamond and in your fantasy leagues, things are getting a little more challenging for the last few weeks of the season. With the expanding rosters and teams clearly out of contention, playing time is being handled a little differently than it was over the first five months of the season, and fantasy owners are often left scrambling for at bats. These conflicting agendas do make things more difficult, but everyone is dealing with the same issues.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out on the field from a busy Tuesday night around the league:
1) Another Solid Outing for Musgrove
No, Joe Musgrove is not Gerrit Cole and he likely won’t ever get confused for him, but the young right-hander is getting off to a solid start as a Pirate. Musgrove has moved past the early season DL stint, and he has become a reliable member of the Pirates’ rotation. On Tuesday, he picked up his sixth victory of the year with 6.1 innings of two run ball. The right-hander struck out eight batters while allowing five hits and lowering his ERA for the season to 3.75. Through 17 starts so far this season, Musgrove has struck out 88 batters in 103.1 innings of work while compiling a respectable 1.18 WHIP. With a 3.77 FIP and just 1.83 walks per nine innings, Musgrove is starting pitcher to keep an eye on for the rest of the season and also going into 2019.
2) If Only People Were on Base for Him
Marcell Ozuna went deep twice on Tuesday, but all the outfielder has to show for it are two RBI as both were solo shots. Compared to his last season, Ozuna’s first debut campaign in St. Louis can easily be classified as a disappointment as he is at just 18 home runs and 71 RBI for the year. With a .272 batting average, the outfielder hasn’t done much to stand out, but over his last 30 games, that has begun to change. In that stretch, Ozuna is hitting .298 with eight home runs and 20 RBI as he is setting a pace more in line with what was expected of him. This bodes well both for the remainder of the season, and for 2019 as there might be some potential value to be found.
3) There is That Power
Even before he was promoted last season, we have been waiting for Yandy Diaz to show off some, any, power potential. Yes, he can make contact, and he looks like he should be able to hit some home runs and drive the ball, but it just hasn’t happened. Last night, Diaz hit his first home run of the season (a solo shot) while also tripling as part of a three hit effort. Diaz drove in two runs on the night, and that gave him 11 RBI in 63 at bats to go along with a .333 batting average. Regular playing time will be hard to come by once Josh Donaldson returns, but Diaz is someone you should at least keep and eye on. That is especially the case if he adds some launch angle to his swing.
4) Cabrera Continues with the Power
You have to like players who are versatile, both in fantasy lineups and in major league lineups, as they can be very helpful. Playing time often isn’t an issue, and it helps you manage your bench as you can cover multiple positions with one player. When that player also is having a pretty good year at the plate, things get even better. And that is what you have in Asdrubal Cabrera who, last night, got the start at third base for the Phillies. The versatile infielder has continued to hit since joining Philadelphia, and he has also generated power on a consistent basis. Last night, Cabrera hit his 23rd home run of the season, a solo shot, while also driving in three runs and doubling for the 33rd time time this year. While many might not be paying much attention to him, it’s hard to argue with the performance we are getting from Cabrera who is hitting a solid .266 with 72 RBI.
5) Porcello Cruises to Victory
Well, if by cruises, you mean gets through five innings of work incident free, then yes, that is what happened. Those in quality start leagues probably don’t see it that way, but with the Red Sox already preparing and getting lined up for the playoffs, it makes sense that Porcello would have only worked five innings on Tuesday. The right-hander allowed just one run, a solo homer to Kurt Suzuki, in those five innings on two hits while walking a batter and striking out five. At this point, there is nothing you can do about his 4.20 ERA, but as Porcello picked up his 16th victory of the season, it was a good night for fantasy owners. They got what they wanted, the victory, added a few strikeouts, and didn’t suffer any damages to their ratios.
6) Miley Continues to Find Success
We knew that pitching wasn’t going to be a strength for the Brewers, but who expected Wade Miley to find his way into their rotation? And not only that, did anyone expect to see Miley have success and become a fantasy asset? That is what we are seeing though, and yesterday, the left-hander cruised to his third victory of the season. Miley has made 12 starts for the Brewers so far this season, and he has a 2.12 ERA with a respectable 1.18 WHIP after allowing just one run on three hits last night to the Cubs. Despite his success, picking up the victory has been an issue for Miley, who has seven no-decisions, and you also have to look past the lack of strikeouts; 44 in 63.2 innings. However, it’s hard to argue with those ratios, but with a 3.56 FIP and a 4.22 xFIP, you still have to tread with some caution.
7) Bregman is in the Zone
We are getting to the point where you just don’t know what Alex Bregman is going to do a nightly basis. Last night, we got three doubles and and two RBI from the third baseman who has now moved into the third spot in the batting order. Bregman is now up to 46 doubles and 91 RBI on the season to go along with a .296 batting average and a .944 OPS. This is really just the second full season for Bregman, who got off to a slow start last season, and it seems like we are just now seeing him come into his own. To say that Bregman is heating up for the stretch run would also likely be an understatement as he is hitting .421 with four home runs and 14 RBI over his last 15 games, with no signs of slowing down.
8) Ray Takes Advantage of the Competition
When you start a pitcher against the San Diego Padres these days, this is what you expect. Also, when start Robbie Ray, this is what you should be expecting, but it has not been an easy year for the left-hander. However, last night was a good step towards continuing to finishing the year strong, and also being a potential value pick for next season. Ray picked up just his fifth victory of the season with 6.1 shutout innings on Tuesday where he limited the Padres to just two hits and two walks while striking out 10. That start brought his ERA down to 4.25, as it was the first time since July 25th that Ray logged more than 5.1 innings of work in a game. While not great, Ray wasn’t exactly terrible during that stretch, 13 earned runs in 30.1 innings of work, but last night certainly was a nice step in the right direction. And after walking 21 batters in those 30.1 innings, the fact that Ray had just two walks yesterday was a big deal.
9) Gardner Sets the Table
Brett Gardner has been spending some time batting ninth for the Yankees, and that is not good for business. Last night, the outfielder was back atop the order, and he did what he does best. Gardner singled twice, drove in a run, and scored twice as the Yankees were victorious in Oakland. Overall, it has been a down year for Gardner who is hitting just .239, but his .328 on base percentage and 84 runs scored do make things look a lot better. Compared to a .311 career mark, Gardner’s .271 BABIP helps to explain the batting average so far this season, but in on base percentage leagues, you aren’t exactly complaining as Gardner is still one of the best at scoring runs.
10) Freese is Wasting No Time
The Dodgers haven’t proven to be shy about using David Freese after acquiring him from Pittsburgh, and he got time at both corner infield spots last night. More importantly though, the bat was on display as Freese hit his 10th home run of the season. It was part of a two hit night for Freese, who was batting fifth for the Dodgers, as he drove in two runs to give him 44 RBI in 249 at bats so far this season. With a .285 batting average, Freese can be a solid contributor, but you just need to make sure he is going to be in the lineup each night.