by Ray Kuhn
For the last time this season, here we go. It has been a long ride. One that for a lot of you, myself including probably didn’t start too long after the 2017 ended to be honest. While there are still four games left to be played as the last two division winners are determined, but all 10 playoff teams are set, let’s take a trip through the last full day of the season and any performances that may stand out. Congratulations to all of the champions, and good luck to those still sweating out the last two games.
1) Versatility Matters
While Kike Hernandez may not have a steady, full-time position, it is clear that he has a regular role with the Dodgers. We have to walk a fine line of not overrating a player because of multi-position eligibility, but it helps them find playing time, and in today’s game, it is a valuable skill; especially in daily leagues. Hernandez saw time in three positions on Sunday, left field, center field, and shortstop, while going 3 for 5 with two RBI and two runs scored. He finishes the season batting .256 in 399 at bats with 52 RBI and 66 runs scored. As long as you don’t overrate the fact that Hernandez can play all over the diamond, and expect a repeat of his 21 home run performance, he can be valuable late round addition to your team.
2) JD Finishes Strong
This season has gone about as well as anyone could have hoped for JD Martinez in Boston, and he finished the regular season out strong on Sunday. Before exiting the game, Martinez picked up two more hits, in three at bats, to finish the season with a .330 batting average and 1.031 OPS. His performance included his 43rd home run of the season, a three run shot, which also brought his RBI total up to 130. At this point, Martinez has proved himself as one of the best hitters in the game, and his price on draft day next season will be commensurate with his performance as there are no long any skeptics.
3) Ward Goes Deep
After tearing up the minor leagues, Taylor Ward’s first foray into major league baseball didn’t go nearly as well as it could have. Ward learned that hitting in Triple-A isn’t nearly as difficult as it is hitting at the major league level, and playing third base wasn’t exactly a smooth proposition either. After going deep on Sunday, Ward ends the season with a .178 batting average, six home runs, and 15 RBI in 135 at bats. In fairness to the rookie, his BABIP was .214, but he did also strike out 45 times in 40 games. At this point, until we get a look at him in Spring Training, Ward doesn’t carry much value on draft day. However, we know that could change very quickly, and where he ended 2018 could be vastly different than where he ends 2019; although I am tempering my expectations some.
4) Reyes Has a Respectable Finish
We know all about the power Franmil Reyes brings to the table, but he actually finished the season off as a pretty reliable option. After doubling and singling in yesterday’s finale, Reyes closes out the season batting .280 in 261 at bats. Despite batting in the middle of the order the majority of the time, Reyes only finished the season with 31 RBI; 16 of which were himself. However, that is indicative more of the team around Reyes, and with a .346 batting average in last 30 games, he certainly heads into 2019 with some positive momentum. Yes, Reyes did strike out 23 times in 104 at bats during that stretch, but he also hit six home runs, drove in 17 runs, and walked 13 times. Going into next season, Reyes likely has a leg up for one of the spots in San Diego’s outfield.
5) Kepler Gets 20
If only Max Kepler could get that batting average up. Unless Minnesota makes a splash this winter, Kepler will likely be back in right field for the Twins, but he simply needs to hit for a better average. With 20 home runs, he went deep on Sunday (a two run shot) and 58 RBI, there simply isn’t enough power there to sustain a .224 batting average. Yes, Kepler’s .236 BABIP was well below last season’s .276 and also a drop down from his .257 career mark, but this year did appear to be quite similar to last season. The one bright spot, is that Kepler did reduce his strikeouts from 114 to 96, but unless he makes a change, he will likely end next season where he ended 2018; as a borderline fifth outfielder.
6) Aguilar Isn’t Slowing Down
If there was any doubt who Milwaukee’s first baseman would be next season, Jesus Aguilar is making sure it is removed. The first baseman hit his 35th home run of the season on Sunday, and later added two more RBI to bring his total for the season up to 108. With a respectable .275 batting average, Aguilar enters today’s tiebreaker game looking to close out what possibly could be a career year. However, despite what a deeper dive into Aguilar illustrates, there is still a lot to like about the first baseman heading into next season.
7) Thor Needs to Keep This Up
Granted it was the Marlins and the last day of the season, but Noah Syndergaard had to excite fantasy owners about his prospects going into next season. After having an up and down 2018 season, while also being overshadowed by Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler’s strong second half, Syndergaard enters 2019 in perhaps the best possible position he can. The right-hander dispatched Miami with relative ease on Sunday as he picked up his 13th victory of the season with a complete game shutout. Syndergaard scattered five hits while striking out six and lowering his ERA to a very respectable 3.03. With a 2.27 ERA in his last seven starts, the hope is that the positive momentum can lead to the right-hander truly finding his groove in 2019.
8) It Doesn’t Matter Who Starts
As we look towards next season, it will be interesting to see what Tampa Bay’s plan is regarding starting pitchers. It also must be considered whether or not it is an approach other teams will implement on somewhat of a consistent basis (most likely not), but it is something the Rays did have success with. Look no further than Ryan Yarbrough who picked up his 16th victory of the season yesterday with three innings of two run ball (one earned). It has been a far more successful season for Yarbrough, than anyone likely could have imagined, as he finishes with a 3.91 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Yes, those ratios aren’t going to win you a league, and neither is his 128 strikeouts in 147.1 innings pitched, but they won’t lose you a league either. What could help win a league though, are those 16 wins.
9) Blackmon Hits for the Cycle
It’s hard to have a better game 162, remember he plays later today, than Charlie Blackmon did on Sunday. The outfielder clearly isn’t ready to stop playing as he hit for the cycle against Washington yesterday. It was the 31st double, seventh triple, and 29th home run of the season for Blackmon as he is winding down yet another successful season. With a .289 batting and 70 RBI, the outfielder doesn’t jump off the page at you as he previously did, but you can’t exactly be disappointed with his performance either.
10) Four More Hits for Rizzo
You can’t classify this season as a disappointment for Rizzo, but he didn’t exactly jump off the page at you with a prolific performance either. And as he picked up four hits on Sunday, including two doubles (29 on the season) to raise his average up to .283, it’s hard to really complain either. Rizzo’s lone RBI of the day brought his total up to 100 for the season. Yes, his 24 home runs and 73 runs scored do leave something to be desired, but at least the season wasn’t a total bust for Rizzo and you also want to be careful not to overlook him next season.