by Ray Kuhn
It was another critical day of games on Sunday, and we have you covered. Fantasy pennant races are heating up, and each at bat or inning pitched is becoming that much more critical. While we look towards securing those fantasy fantasy championships, it’s important not to lose sight of next season. Let’s take a look at some of the performances that stood out from yet another busy day around the league:
1) Beckham Goes Deep, Twice
After hitting .278 last season with 22 home runs, there were some modest expectations for Tim Beckham entering 2018. That hasn’t been the case though, as the infielder is hitting just .225 through 351 at bats this year. Included in that, is the two home runs Beckham hit on Sunday which gave him 12 on the season. With a solo shot and a two run homer, Beckham has driven in just 34 runs this year, and his .272 BABIP has corrected itself after a .365 mark last season. At this point, it’s hard to consider Beckham as anything but a utility infielder devoid of fantasy value despite the tools he does have. There’s just not enough there to expect him to put it together on a consistent basis.
2) Snell Closes Out the Voting
Should there really be a vote at this point? Yes, Justin Verlander has over 270 strikeouts and Chris Sale has been his usual dominating self, but Blake Snell has to take home the hardware at the end of the season. The left-hander picked up his 21st victory of the season with yet another dominating outing; this time against Toronto. Snell kept Toronto off the scoreboard with 6.2 shutout innings in which he allowed just three hits and two walks. With 11 strikeouts, Snell lowered his ERA to 1.90 on the season, but while his 2.98 FIP does change things slightly, it doesn’t take away his success. The southpaw has 10.81 strikeouts per nine innings, but he has also benefited from a .238 BABIP and an 88.1% strand rate. By no means am I attempted to minimize how dominating Snell has been this season, but it maybe we should slightly slow down the hype moving forward.
3) Richards Picks up the Victory
Based on their rebuilding efforts, the Marlins are going to give young pitchers a chance to show what they can do this season. And that includes Trevor Richards who picked up his fourth victory of the season with seven shutout innings. The right-hander took advantage of the Reds as he limited them to just three hits and one walk while striking out nine. Richards’ ERA is still 4.66 on the season with a 1.40 WHIP in 119.2 innings, but he does have 122 strikeouts. In July, Richards’ showed some flashes with a 2.30 ERA in five starts, but aside from that, he hasn’t been able to find consistency. I wouldn’t read too much into Sunday’s start.
4) Another Victory for Keller
One starter who is taking advantage of his opportunity so far this season is Brad Keller. The Rule 5 draftee picked up his ninth victory of the season as he took advantage of the Tigers. Keller limited Detroit to just one run in seven innings of work on three hits and three walks while striking out just two batters. With yesterday’s start, Keller lowered his ERA to 3.08. Entering Sunday, Keller’s ERA in his last seven starts was 2.40, and he has been relatively consistent all season. With just 0.45 home runs per nine innings so far this season, Keller has kept the ball in the park. His 3.55 FIP and 4.25 xFIP should lead towards taking a closer look at the right-hander for next season, but he should have value at the back end of your rotation.
5) Shaw Goes Deep Again
The re-organization of the Milwaukee infield has benefited Travis Shaw in the sense that he has now acquired eligibility at second base. Shaw played his 36th game of the season there on Sunday while also seeing action at first base for the 13th time. His increased versatility, especially at second base, will certainly benefit Shaw next season, but he is also consistently producing at the plate. Shaw hit his 31st home run of the season on Sunday, a two run shot, which brought his RBI total up to 83. While Shaw is hitting just .242 at the plate, this is his second straight season eclipsing the 30 home run mark.
6) Maybe He Just Needed More Time
Michael Conforto was sidelined the entire off-season due to the effects of his shoulder surgery, and to say he got off to a slow start this year would be an understatement. At this point though, talks of sending Conforto to Triple-A to work on his swing are long gone. Ultimately, the outfielder did need more at bats, but it certainly appears that he was able to sufficiently work through his troubles at the major league level. On Sunday, Conforto continued the success with two more hits and three RBI. That brought the outfielder’s RBI total up to 80 on the season as he looks to finish the season strong and set the stage for 2019. As he continues to work off his early season woes, Conforto is hitting just .242 on the season, but entering Sunday, he is hitting .322 in his last 15 games.
7) Another Sanchez Victory
Perhaps one of the more surprising developments of this season, has been the success of Anibal Sanchez. The veteran has emerged as a dependable starter for the Braves, and on Sunday he picked up his seventh victory of the season. Sanchez limited Philadelphia to just one run on five innings, a solo home run by Scott Kingery, while scattering three other hits. However, the problem is that Sanchez struck out just one batter while lowering his ERA to 2.96. As far as next season is concerned, I wouldn’t read anything into Sanchez’s success, but he does have 8.82 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.67 FIP.
8) Valdez Comes in and Dominates
Charlie Morton started the game on Sunday for the Astros, but he only made it through one inning before exiting with some shoulder soreness. And in stepped Framber Valdez who continues to dominate since his promotion to the major leagues. The rookie picked up his fourth victory of the season with six innings of one run ball. Valdez’s lone blemish was a solo home run as he allowed three hits and two walks while striking out nine batters. So far this season, Valdez has 8.57 strikeouts per nine innings in his limited body of work, and with a 2.08 ERA, he has been able to limit the damage thus far. The sample size is small, 34.2 innings, and Valdez has been able to pitch out of trouble, but his 21 walks are alarming. Regardless of that concern though, we dispute the success the left-hander has had, especially on Sunday, as he has shown enough that he will have a role in a rotation, somewhere, in 2019.
9) Martinez Drives in Two More
Jose Martinez has always showed that he could hit, and this season, he has received regular playing time and an extended chance to show what he can do. Yesterday, Martinez picked up two more hits, both doubles (28 on the season), to raise his average to .304. The outfielder also drove in two more runs which brought his total on the year to 82. With 510 at bats under his belt, there is nothing to suggest that Martinez can’t continue to be a dependable hitter next season as he has certainly earned the playing time.
10) Kemp Gets Back on the Board
While we can certainly chalk this season up as a success for Matt Kemp, playing time has gotten a little harder to come by for the outfielder as of late. Regardless of that though, fantasy owners still have to be pleased with the overall performance of Kemp, and he also showed that there is enough left in the tank for next season. Yesterday, Kemp went 3 for 4 and finished just a triple shy of the cycle. It was the 21st home run of the season for Kemp, who is hitting .287 with 82 RBI after driving in three runs on Sunday.