by Ray Kuhn
With the Astros now officially clinching the AL West for the second straight season, games with playoff implications are beginning to dwindle. We have the NL Central race as well as the race for the second NL Wild Card spot, and that is it. All that means, is that fantasy owners still in contention need to become even more vigilant when keeping an eye on playing time. Let’s take a look at some of the fantasy worthy performances from last night:
1) Max Makes History
Even though it’s quite possible he isn’t the most deserving pitcher for the Cy Young, it really is no fault of Max Scherzer’s. If this was indeed his last start of the season on Tuesday, the right-hander certainly finished 2018 off on a high note. Entering drafts for next season, Scherzer will likely be the first pitcher off the board, and it is very much well deserved. It was Scherzer’s 18th victory of the season last night as he limited the Marlins to just one run in seven innings on five hits while not allowing a walk. With 10 strikeouts, Scherzer reached the 300 mark for the season and with a 2.53 ERA, and the only thing slowing him down is the end of the season.
2) O’Hearn Shows Some Power
We know that entering the 2019 season, Kansas City isn’t looking to spend money, and if anything, they are set to cut payroll. That means Ryan O’Hearn has a chance to begin next season where he is ending this one, at first base for the Royals. Last night, O’Hearn showed off his power stroke with his ninth double and 12th home run of the season. The sample size is small, 133 at bats, but the production, 29 RBI after two on Tuesday, is quite promising. So far this season, O’Hearn is hitting .271 with a 1.005 OPS after hitting just .232 with 11 home runs in Triple-A prior to his promotion. Before investing too heavily into O’Hearn, I would tread carefully for next season, but this is a nice building block.
3) James Continues to Dazzle
The Astros were cautious with Josh James and his workload on Tuesday, five innings, but it was due to no fault of his own. James certainly was efficient, 65 pitches (44 strikes), and allowed just a solo home run while scattering three other hits and a walk. He struck out three and lowered his ERA to 2.57 through 21 innings of work to pick up his second victory of the season. After adding velocity this off-season, we have seen noticeable improvements in James’ performance. At the major league level, he has benefited from a .244 BABIP and an 89.9% strand rate, but the sample size is small, and you can’t argue with the results. That came on the heels of 92.2 innings at Triple-A where he put up a 3.40 ERA. James has pitched well enough to warrant a role somewhere with the Astros next season, we just don’t know where yet.
4) Suzuki Drives in Two
Kurt Suzuki isn’t an exciting option behind the plate, but you could do much worse than the dependable Atlanta backstop. On Tuesday, Suzuki had a two hit effort, including his 24th double, while driving in two runs. With 50 RBI on the season to go along with his .274 batting average, in 339 at bats, Suzuki has been a solid source of production when he is in the lineup. The counting stats won’t hurt you at the catching position, and with his batting average being an asset, there is value in waiting at the catching position as long as you don’t expect too much.
5) Archer Has a Strong Outing
The true impact of the Chris Archer trade will be felt next season, but the right-hander is certainly going in the right direction after his shutout victory on Tuesday. Archer picked up his sixth victory of the season with six innings of shutout baseball in which he scattered four hits and two walks against the Cubs while striking out nine. For the season, you might want to look away at Archer’s rations, 4.31 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, but he does have 162 strikeouts in 148.1 innings of work. In his last seven starts things have been a little better, 3.79 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, but it’s clear that Archer needs a fresh start in 2019. While he isn’t an ace, and shouldn’t be drafted as such, Archer can be a solid starter who could potentially provide some value in next season’s drafts. And his 3.75 FIP and 3.59 xFIP does reflect that.
6) Yelich Goes Deep Again
This is the power output we have been waiting on from Christian Yelich, but how much of it will return next season. Yes, Yelich did hit his 33rd home run of the season on Tuesday (a three shot), and we should be enjoying it, but it’s also hard not to at least glance towards 2019 at this point. It’s not breaking news, but Yelich’s fly ball rate went down from 25.2% in 2017 to 23.1% this season. At the same time, we saw his home run to fly ball rate jump from 15.3% to 33%. That helped trigger the increase in home runs as Yelich went deep just 18 times last season. Regardless of that fact though, Yelich, who drove in six runs last night, is coming into his own as a hitter and has 104 RBI this season to go along with a .321 batting average. Just don’t expect all of the home runs to remain next season.
7) Dahl Drives in Four
I think the greater surprise is not that David Dahl has 12 home runs on the season after going deep last night, but that Colorado gave him enough playing time for that to happen. At his point, it appears the Rockies are finally getting the memo about keeping Dahl in the lineup and just letting him produce. Batting third on Tuesday, the outfielder went 3 for 4 with that home run (a three run shot) and drove in four runs. Dahl drove in four runs, and in 226 at bats, he has 39 RBI for the season to go along with his .274 batting average. At this point, there is no reason not to expect Dahl to have a regular role next season, and his production should follow; at least at a similar pace to the one he has established this season.
8) A Solid Start from Shoemaker
While he didn’t pick up the victory, Matt Shoemaker did turn in five solid innings of work on Tuesday against the Rangers. Shoemaker limited Texas to just one run (a solo homer) on four hits while not walking a batter and striking out seven. Yes, his 4.82 ERA should spur you to look away, but the right-hander has only been healthy enough to make six starts so far this season. In reality, this is really an audition for next season, and for the most part, Shoemaker has pitched alright since his return with the exception of the five runs he allowed against Oakland over 2.2 innings in his second to last start. There is nothing wrong with looking at Shoemaker as a back end of the rotation option for next season.
9) Cruz Continues to Hit
The end of the season isn’t going to slow Nelson Cruz down, because it honestly appears that nothing can slow him down. Yesterday, Cruz got things started with a three run homer in the first inning, his 37th of the season, and the three RBI brought his total for the year up to 95. He only added a single in the remainder of his five at bats, but that did bring his average up to a solid .262 on the season. It’s not the batting that causes Cruz to continue to get drafted though, it’s the power production, and with seven home runs and 17 RBI in his last 30 games, it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere too fast. Once again, he will be staring at you on your 2019 draft board, and for at least one more season, it will be difficult to pass on that power.
10) Is Sanchez Awake
This is why the Yankees stick with Gary Sanchez despite his struggles and inconsistencies. And that is just at the plate. While we know that defense doesn’t matter for fantasy baseball, in Sanchez’s case it’s a huge issue. His propensity for passed balls and wild pitches lead to runs scored, and eventually the Yankees will have to take him out of the lineup. However, when he hits home runs like he did on Tuesday, it makes it a bit easier to leave him out there. The problem though, is that his bat hasn’t exactly been awake. Sanchez’s three run homer on Tuesday was his 17th of the season, and combined with a subsequent RBI, Sanchez is up to 52 to go along with his .184 batting average. Perhaps, he does carry this momentum forward for the remainder of the season, but regardless of that, his ADP for next season will take a big hit.