by Ray Kuhn
Wednesday brought with it an exciting full day, and night, of action on the field. With each game that passes, postseason races take on greater importance as the excitement continues to build. Let’s jump right into some of the performances that stood out from a fantasy perspective:
1) Grandal Drives in Three
After getting off to a strong start this season, a .315 batting average in April, Yasmani Grandal has been quite streaky this season. He followed that up by hitting .181 and .162 in May and June, respectively, before bouncing back with a .362 average in June. So far in September, Grandal appears to be splitting the difference, after hitting .182 in August, and after a three hit game yesterday (including his 19th double), has a .250 average so far this month. Grandal also drove in three runs yesterday, giving him 67 RBI on the season along with 23 home runs and a .239 batting average. As far as catchers go, its a pretty solid, overall, body of work, and Grandal’s power and run production potential does help to maintain his value.
2) Why Not Let Him Go All the Way
With 89 pitches after eight innings, why not let Zack Wheeler just go all the way? It seemed to be almost a foregone conclusion that the right-hander would be taking the mound in the ninth inning as he looked to finish out his complete game shutout, but instead he was lifted. Wheeler was economical for most of the night while allowing just four hits, with three of them coming in the seventh inning before he worked out of trouble by forcing a double play. It seems like every time Wheeler takes the mound these days we feature him here, but his performances have been just that good. Wheeler struck out seven batters while not allowing a walk to pick up his 11th victory, and he saw his ERA drop to 3.23 on the season.
3) Snell Almost Makes History
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Blake Snell was working on a no-hitter into the seventh inning yesterday before Jose Ramirez hit a solo home run for his 38th long ball of the season. Tampa Bay’s one true “starting pitcher” was ultimately lifted after 104 pitches and seven innings with Ramirez’s home run his only blemish; along with two walks. Snell struck out nine batters while lowering his ERA down to 2.03, and now with 19 wins, he is in good position to get his 20th victory before the end of the season.
4) Bregman Makes History
The fact that Alex Bregman had two hits, a single and a double, on Wednesday while driving in three runs, really shouldn’t be a surprise. Bregman hasn’t had a problem carrying the Houston offense these days as he continues to get on base and drive in runs at a prodigious clip. After yesterday’s effort, Bregman is now hitting .296 on the season, but it is the milestones he reached yesterday that should firmly put him in the discussion for AL MVP. Yesterday, Bregman reached 50 doubles, 100 RBIs, and 100 runs scored for the season, and that puts him in rarefied air; both in the annals of baseball and Astros’ history. In order to properly appreciate the season Bregman is having, let’s just note that Bregman is the first third baseman in history to reach those milestones.
5) Another Victory for Taillon
After the health issues Jameson Taillon had last season, it was fair to wonder if the right-hander would ever truly get on track as a major leaguer. Those questions have clearly been answered so far this season, as Taillon picked up his 13th victory of the season yesterday. He limited the Cardinals to two runs on four hits and two walks, despite striking out just four batters, as he lowered his ERA to 3.37. Over his last seven starts, we have really seen Taillon take the next steps, as the right-hander has 2.35 ERA with five victories and a 1.13 WHIP. With 40 strikeouts and eight walks in 46 innings, that is a good recipe for success. Additionally, yesterday was Taillon’s 19th straight start in which he has allowed three earned runs or less.
6) Sanchez Keeps it Up
I know at least for me, personally, I didn’t enter this season expecting to be leaning on Anibal Sanchez down the stretch. But his performance has certainly made it a legitimate option. Despite getting a no-decision yesterday, Sanchez turned in a quality start in San Francisco allowing just one run despite their being a great deal of traffic on the base paths; six hits and five walks. Sanchez did strike out four batters while lowering his ERA to 3.01 in 21 starts. Yesterday’s game not withstanding, Sanchez has been successful at limiting base runners so far this season as his WHIP is just 1.12. With a 3.65 FIP, there is some expected regression built into Sanchez’s performance, but still not enough to scare me away from his last few starts of the season.
7) Hedges Goes Deep
It’s not a secret that finding production at the catcher’s position is challenging. And Austin Hedges’ power could be seductive at times as you are just left wanting more from him. We know that the batting average is going to be an issue, but after his two hits yesterday, he is hitting .242 on the season and it could be worse. And as long as we get power production from Hedges, that is batting average you can deal with. Yesterday, he did go deep for his 13th home run of the season, a two run shot, that also gave him 36 RBI on the season in 269 at bats. In his last seven games, Hedges is hitting a solid .280 with two home runs, and I would expect San Diego to want to see what they have in him over the remainder of the season. That upside sets Hedges apart from a lot of other catching options down the stretch.
8) Strasburg Cruises to Victory
We know that health is an issue for Stephen Strasburg, and it’s certainly going to be a concern heading into next season. But if healthy, there is no reason not to expect success from the right-hander. Last night, Strasburg limited the Phillies to just one run on five hits while not walking a batter and striking out nine. With a 3.87 ERA, but a 3.48 FIP and 3.25 xFIP, Strasburg might provide some value next year on draft day; if you are willing to bet on his health that is.
9) D.J. Comes Through
It was a three hit effort for DJ LeMahieu last night, but it was his rare display of power that stood out. LeMahieu came through with his 15th home run of the season yesterday to send the Rockies home as walk-off winners. In fact, that “rare display of power” has been a common thread over LeMahieu’s last 30 games. In that stretch, the second baseman has gone deep seven times as we have become accustomed to not seeing much power from LeMahieu. Overall though, it hasn’t been as strong of a season in 2018, as LeMahieu is hitting just .283 after hitting .348 in 2016 and .310 last season. In fact, his average is only where it is after hitting .323 in the last month which includes a .483 average in his last seven games. If someone gave up on LeMahieu, ride the hot streak.
10) Arcia Drives in Four
I guess we will make catchers our theme for the day, and look at Fernando Arcia. When Arcia was initially promoted to the big leagues, he got off to a hot start, and garnered some quick attention. Overall, Arcia isn’t a difference maker, but he has shown the ability to have some good games, and at this point in the season, that is all you need. Last night, Arcia went 3 for 4 with two home runs (five overall) and four RBI (19 overall). That production has come in 75 at bats to go along with Arcia’s .240 batting average. I wouldn’t rush out to the waiver wire to grab Arcia, but if you find yourself there, he does have one home run per 15 at bats.