by Ray Kuhn
We had a busy Wednesday across the diamond with a full slate of exciting action from early afternoon to late in the evening. And yes, we did see Alex Bregman’s five RBI performance where he hit yet another home run and another double, but there are other players worthy of discussion as well. Let’s not waste any time, and jump right into some of the performances that stood out from around the league:
1) Welcome Back Brandon
You know that September can be a weird time as far things taking place from a fantasy perspective, and we might be seeing that with Brandon Phillips. After stashing the veteran infielder in Triple-A over the last month or so, Boston promoted Phillips and he made his debut yesterday. Batting fifth, Phillips started the game at second base before moving over to third base, but it was at the plate where he made his biggest impact. Previously, Phillips had walked twice while coming around to score on each occasion, but it was his three run homer in the eighth inning that capitulated Boston to victory. With the next 20 or so games essentially a dress rehersal for the post season, it wouldn’t be surprising if Phillips received consistent playing time, and means there could be some fantasy value to be found for a minimal or no cost investment.
2) Kluber Makes it Look Easy
Based on many factors with regards to pitching, we don’t need to re-hash them all now, 20-game winners have become something akin to finding a unicorn. But after picking up his 18th victory of the season on Wednesday, the possibility remains for Corey Kluber to reach that mark. The right-hander continues to take advantage of the AL Central as he limited the Royals to just one run on two hits and a walk over 6.2 innings. Kluber struck out 10 batters while lowering his ERA to 2.75 on the season. As we look towards next season, Kluber really isn’t showing any signs of slowing down as he is striking out just about a batter per inning while walking just 1.30 batters per nine innings. Additionally, in his last seven starts, Kluber’s ERA is 2.61.
3) Adams Returns to Washington
Based on their position in the standings and his expiring contract, it made sense that Nationals would have moved Matt Adams in August, but on Wednesday, he made sure to remind them what they are missing. Batting third for the Cardinals, Adams went deep twice which gave 20 home runs on the season. His first long ball got things going with two runners on in the first inning before he followed that up with a solo shot which gave him 52 RBI on the season. With a solid batting average, .250, that I wouldn’t classify as a liability, Adams can continue to be a solid source of power down the stretch.
4) Diaz is Showing the Power
Don’t look now, but after yesterday, Aledmys Diaz is up to 17 home runs on the season. With Troy Tulowitzki ultimately missing the entire season due to injury, Diaz ended receiving the majority of playing time at shortstop, but on Wednesday his versatility was on display as he got the start at third base. As far as next year goes, we know all about the two infield prospects lurking for Toronto, but Diaz is showing that he can have some sort of value. And for the remainder of this year, he is at least worth a look if you need some infield depth. Diaz’s 17th home run of the season was a three run shot, and he followed that up later in the game with his 19th double. With a .254 batting average and 45 RBI in 362 at bats, Diaz has been turning in solid production and he also figures to receive regular playing time over the next few weeks. As players begin to get shutdown for the winter, he might be worth a waiver wire look.
5) Alcantara Throws a Gem
Might the Marlins actually have acquired a useful piece from one of their trades? The way Sandy Alcantara looked last night, it might be the case. We know the right-hander has a live arm, but last night he made it through seven innings while dominating the Phillies. It was just his second start of the season, both wins, and he limited Philadelphia to just three hits and two walks while keeping them off the scoreboard. Alcantara struck out six after compiling a 3.89 ERA in 19 starts at Triple-A earlier this season. At age 22, the talent is there, and it will be interesting to see how he looks over his last few starts as he auditions for a spot in the 2019 rotation.
6) Wheeler Continues to Dominate
Zack Wheeler opened yesterday’s game with six strikeouts among his first 10 batters as he mixed his pitch types, locations, and velocities. We really shouldn’t have been surprised, as the right-hander has dispatched opposing lineups with ease over his last 15 starts to the tune of a 2.28 ERA. That continued last night as Wheeler picked up his 10th victory of the season as he ultimately allowed three runs in seven innings of work three hits and two walks while striking out nine. Wheeler was done in by two home runs as his ERA for the season now sits at 3.39 with a 1.53 ERA in his last seven starts. The right-hander is striking out a batter per inning, and his early season struggles and prior inconsistencies appear to be behind him. I would Wheeler to garner some legit attention entering the 2019 draft season.
7) Tommy John Surgery, Who Cares
We can certainly debate the merits of the (incorrect) decision for Shohei Ohtani not immediately having Tommy John surgery earlier this season, and then of him rehabbing and taking the mound on Sunday, but for now we care solely about his bat. On the day it was announced he would need the surgery on his pitching elbow, Ohtani showed that his bat still works just fine. With the Angels out of playoff contention, we will have to watch to see how they handle him over the next few weeks of this season, but it is clear that Ohtani the hitter does have some value. Last night, he went deep twice in Texas which gave him 18 home runs and 47 RBI (he drove in three) on the season. With a .287 batting average in 247 at bats, Ohtani has shown that he can be productive at the plate.
8) Stream Almost Anyone Against the White Sox
This isn’t to sell Jordan Zimmermann short as he actually hasn’t had too bad of a season to date, but the Chicago White Sox are an easy mark if you are looking to boost your innings total. And with Jose Abreu currently sidelined after having a surgery that no one wants to think about, their lineup is that much less imposing. Zimmermann didn’t exactly go over the top as far as being impressive, but he did pick up the victory on Wednesday, seventh for the season, while keeping Chicago off the scoreboard in his five innings of work. With just 67 pitches, 44 for strikes, the right-hander could have worked even deeper into the game if the rain didn’t have other ideas, but fantasy owners were still likely quite pleased with the results. The right-hander limited the White Sox to just two hits and a walk while striking out three and lowering his ERA to 4.03 on the season. With a 3.32 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in his last seven starts, Zimmermann might have some streaming value over his next few starts.
9) It Was a Powerful Story on Wednesday
Alright, maybe my pun game needs work, but Trevor Story’s home run trot does not. He certainly got a lot of practice with it last night as the shortstop went deep three times. It is his second home run, a 505 foot blast that will garner the most attention as it was the furthest home run hit in the Statcast era (since 2015). All told, Story hit three solo home runs on Wednesday as he clearly has sent a signal to the Rockies that the short stop job is his to keep. Story is up to 31 home runs and 95 RBI on the season, while also batting .298, and the shortstop is going to be off the board in the first few rounds of drafts next season.
10) Valdez Gets Another Win
Things looked a little hairy for Framber Valdez at times last night, especially in the first inning, but the left-hander was able to bear down and escape trouble. With three walks in the first two innings, and a throwing miscue, Valdez found himself in trouble, but thanks to the ground ball, the left-hander was able to escape with just allowing one run. Ultimately, Valdez was removed in the sixth inning with runners on base (he settled down over the middle innings), and the book on the rookie was closed with one run allowed over 5.1 innings of work. With the eight base runners allowed, five hits and three walks, it wasn’t the cleanest start for Valdez, but he certainly got the job done as he lowered his ERA to 1.37. At this point it looks like the rookie will remain in the rotation for the rest of the season, and between the Astros’ offense and bullpen, Valdez has a good chance at victory each time he takes the mound.