Daily Intel – 4/23/2018

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Arizona Diamondbacks

  • If you didn’t consider SP Pat Corbin a must-start in all formats every time he pitches, you should after yesterday’s six inning, 11-strikeout performance. Most impressive of his early-season breakout remains the lack of hard contact he’s allowing. Yesterday, the Padres only put three balls in play against him with a hit probability of higher than 50 percent, per Baseball Savant.

Atlanta Braves

  • The Braves were postponed at home yesterday due to rain, but there was a key piece of news regarding recent acquisition OF Jose Bautista. Per this article from Mark Bowman of MLB.com, recent reports have been positive on Bautista, and he’ll likely join the big league club next week after his stint in Triple-A that starts today.

 Baltimore Orioles

  • We’re not running out to buy shares of SP Andrew Cashner in 12-team and shallower mixed leagues, but for a guy who seemed like such a surefire candidate to provide much less fantasy value in 2018 than he did last year, he’s finding ways to stay relevant thanks to an increased strikeout rate. Cashner struck out 86 in 166 2/3 innings last year – after yesterday’s outing where he struck out seven Indians, he now has 28 Ks in 30 innings, with just 13 walks. Cashner is worth a start-by-start judgment of his value in deep mixed leagues, and a few more starts like this would give him increased relevance in 12-team leagues.

Boston Red Sox

  • C Christian Vazquez went 1-for-4 yesterday, but he only has three hits since April 12th and hasn’t hit a home run yet. You may want to consider dropping him in leagues where the catcher pool goes anywhere from 15 to 24 players deep – so, basically, one-catcher 15-team leagues or two-catcher 12-team leagues. You could find safer value from part-time guys like Houston’s Max Stassi. 
  • SP David Price was left in to face one batter too many, as OF Khris Davis hit a three-run shot on the first pitch of his at bat with two outs and two runners on in the eighth inning, giving the A’s a 4-1 win and Price a pitching line that doesn’t convey an otherwise strong performance. Price did allow a little more contact than you’d like to see, as the A’s collected nine hits in the game, but only walked one after walking nine in his previous three starts, and he struck out six.

Chicago Cubs

  • 3B Kris Bryant took a 96 mph fastball from Rockies SP German Marquez in the first inning of yesterday’s game and had to depart. After the game, reports were positive on his status, and Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune tweeted that Bryant would travel with the team tonight to Cleveland and have more tests on Monday. As of right now, we’d keep him in your lineup for leagues that lock for the week today.

Chicago White Sox

  • 2B Yoan Moncada was back in the lineup after leaving Saturday’s game early with a cramping issue. He was also back at the leadoff spot after a few games in the six hole, doing some good (on base twice with a hit and walk) and some bad (two strikeouts).

Cincinnati Reds

  • SP Luis Castillo had another shaky outing, lasting just five innings against St. Louis and allowing three earned runs on seven hits and a walk. There’s no way around accepting that his command is way off from last season, especially on his fastball, and until that turns around you have to judge his value to your lineup based on your risk tolerance and other options. He gets the Twins on the road next on Friday – we’d start him in almost all formats, though we could see 10-team owners having better options.
  • OF Billy Hamilton returned to center field and hit ninth yesterday. We’re hoping he gets some time in the leadoff spot this week, otherwise it’ll be fair to begin worrying about his status with new manager Jim Riggleman. 

Cleveland Indians

  • 2B/3B Jose Ramirez capped off his best week of the season with a two-home run game, giving him four for the week and seven for the season. His OPS was .640 entering Tuesday’s game and is now .881.

Colorado Rockies 

  • OF David Dahl made his season debut in the majors, starting and hitting sixth. The primary drivers here were OF Carlos Gonzalez going on the disabled list with a hamstring injury he suffered earlier in the week in Pittsburgh, and OF Gerardo Parra beginning his suspension from the brawl with San Diego a week and a half ago. Dahl will probably be in the lineup every day while Parra is out, and if you can get him without breaking the bank or giving up a number one waiver claim, sure, do it, but the long-term playing time outlook is still murky.

Detroit Tigers

  • OF JaCoby Jones extended his hit streak to six games yesterday, and after a week in which he picked up 24 plate appearances and produced well, we’re recommending 15-team mixed league owners add him if they have a low-producing outfield or utility spot. Jones hasn’t put up much power beyond his first season in the minors, but he can steal bases and he looks to have made progress in cutting strikeouts. If he continues to play every day, we’d bank on a 20-plus steal season with an average between .265 and .280.

Houston Astros

  • RP Ken Giles got his second appearance of the weekend in a blowout, throwing a scoreless eighth inning and striking out a batter. That makes two good outings in a row after Giles missed a week with a nagging back issue – if you own him and need the saves (which, we’re guessing you do), keep him in the lineup this week. He’s at least healthy and seems effective. The next step is getting the opportunity for a save.

Kansas City Royals

  • Speaking of good Sundays capping off great hitting weeks that turned around a season-long batting line, OF Jorge Soler went 1-for-2 with a run and three walks yesterday, capping off a five-game week where he picked up seven hits, his first home run of the season, and six walks to just three strikeouts. We wouldn’t be surprised to see this be the start of a good run for Soler, and he starts playing like a guy who would pace out to give you a .275-25 HR-80 RBI level from here on out.
  • RP Kelvin Herrera picked up his fourth save yesterday and has still allowed just three baserunners in 6 2/3 scoreless innings this year.

Los Angeles Angels

  • We think it’s time to dump OF Kole Calhoun in all 12-team and smaller mixed formats, and at least bench him, if not cut him, in 15-team mixed. Calhoun has struck out 21 times this year to just three walks, this after two full seasons where his K:BB ratio was under 2:1 and he was one of the more underrated on-base assets in fantasy relative to his batting average.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • SP Rich Hill threw a bullpen session without restrictions yesterday, and as Pedro Moura tweeted, he is likely to start on Friday or Saturday in San Francisco. If you would regularly start Hill in that matchup, we’d do it, but it is understandable if you want to see him get a good start before putting him back in. We just find it tough to take that approach with Hill, considering his innings production moving forward is so unpredictable. Take what you can get from the guy.

Miami Marlins

  • We’re not sure how to value SP Caleb Smith, especially after another high-strikeout performance yesterday (10 Ks in six innings against Milwaukee). He definitely allows too many walks (though he only had two yesterday), and his 51 percent fly ball rate is going to lead to nights where an unlucky home run undoes an otherwise strong performance, but the strikeout numbers are hard to ignore so far, especially in a points format. Smith is worth tracking for starts against weak lineups, particularly when he’s at home and able to take advantage of spacious Marlins Park.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • The dominance continues for RP Josh Hader, who picked up a two-inning save yesterday, his third save of the season, as well as his 27th, 28th, and 29th strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings pitched. If you can trade, see if you can talk the Hader owner in your league in to selling him when the news of RP Corey Knebel‘s inevitable return to the closer role begins to kick up – if we had to guess, that’ll be in another 10-14 days based on his accelerate rehab pace so far.

Minnesota Twins

  • And if you can’t get Hader, RP Alex Pressly is providing some under-the-radar value as a middle reliever – after yesterday’s four strikeouts in 1 2/3 perfect innings, he now has pitched 9 times and put up 11 scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts and three walks. Two of his last three outings have been for five outs or longer – this is the starter kit for a valuable non-closer reliever, especially in AL-only and deep mixed leagues.

New York Mets

  • The Mets were rained out in Atlanta. They open a three-game set in St. Louis tomorrow and their rotation remains on track – SP Zack Wheeler will open, followed by SP Steven Matz and SP Noah Syndergaard. This makes Wheeler an intriguing two-start option this week, and we’d recommend using him in 12-team mixed and larger formats.

New York Yankees

  • RP Aroldis Chapman worked the ninth inning in a four-run game, walking two but not allowing a run. We note this because it was only the second appearance of the season in which Chapman walked a batter. If you could find an owner willing to sell Chapman at a discount because of his lack of save opportunities, we’d do what we can to get him on our roster immediately.

Oakland A’s

  • A small step forward for SP Daniel Mengden, who for the second-straight start had solid command of his primary weapon, his fastball, in holding Boston to one run over 6 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking none (six hits allowed). This was a great week for Mengden, with 14 1/3 innings and only two earned runs allowed lowering his ERA from 6.19 to 3.86. He’s back on our radar for 12-team mixed leagues, but we’re not ready to put him back on our teams just yet. He gets the Astros in Houston on Saturday – even an average start there will make us consider him for our weekly waiver recommendations next weekend.

Philadelphia Phillies

  • SP Nick Pivetta didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday, generating just one swinging strike on 45 four-seam fastballs, his primary pitch, but that didn’t stop him from posting another good start for fantasy purposes. After yesterday’s 6 1/3 innings with two runs, five hits, and a walk allowed, Pivetta’s ERA now sits at 2.57 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 7:1 (28 Ks to 4 BBs). We hesitate to anoint Pivetta a no-doubt starter every time out for the remainder of the season, but until he has a bad outing, that’s the case.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • An 0-for-4 day with two strikeouts lowered OF Gregory Polanco’s batting average to under .200, and while we are heartened by his 13 walks so far this year, he’s still swiped only one base despite those increased chances on base. You’re not benching Polanco in any format because of the power he’s shown so far, but most fantasy owners drafted him for speed, first and foremost. If he doesn’t deliver a steal or two this week and continues to strikeout once a game, then you’ll have to start considering his value to your lineup on a weekly basis.
  • Another under-the-radar middle reliever so far this season is RP Michael Feliz, an offseason acquisition from Houston in the SP Gerrit Cole trade. Feliz gave up four runs and didn’t get an out in that wild 13-10 Opening day win at Detroit, but since then he’s pitched 10 times for a total of nine innings, and has only allowed one run, five hits, three walks, and has struck out 14 batters. Feliz is on track to be a 70-75 inning reliever this year, and if that comes with his current strikeout rate of 14 batters per nine innings, he’s going to be a worthwhile addition to some deeper mixed league rosters.

San Diego Padres

  • A small return to earth for SP Joey Lucchesi, as the Diamondbacks put together one big inning to limit Lucchesi to a five-inning day where he allowed five hits and four earned runs. He also walked four batters, a season-high for his five starts. Lucchesi continues to remain a risk because he’s throwing just two pitches – a sinker, his primary weapon (used 66 times yesterday on 103 pitches) and a curveball.
  • The extra-base hits keep on coming for 3B Christian Villanueva. He added a double and two-run home run off otherwise-dominant Arizona SP Pat Corbin yesterday. He also moved up to third in the batting order for the first time, switching spots with 1B Eric Hosmer, who moved to cleanup.

San Francisco Giants

  • SP Johnny Cueto capped off one of the best two-start fantasy pitcher weeks in recent memory, going six shutout innings yesterday and allowing only two hits and two walks while striking out seven Angels. Cueto is a must start every time out for the near future.

Seattle Mariners

  • OF Mitch Haniger went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBI yesterday, as he hit second for the first time this year and played center field with OF/2B Dee Gordon taking a day off. There’s nothing about Haniger’s strong start that says this is fluky – his batted-ball luck is only slightly higher than league average (and, for him, lower than last year), and he’s improved his walk rate and hard-hit rate. We could be looking at the beginning of a breakout season for a player with the potential to finish in the top 20 at his position.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • OF Harrison Bader is providing some interesting fantasy contributions at the bottom of the Cardinals lineup. After a two-hit day yesterday, Bader is now batting .300 on the year with a home run and three steals, and his playing time is increasing slightly, as he picked up 16 plate appearances last week. He isn’t mixed-league relevant yet beyond a bench stash in 15-team leagues, but the skills are there for him to be a contributor in shallower formats thanks to his speed (he stole 15 bases in Triple-A last year).

Tampa Bay Rays

  • 1B C.J. Cron continued his improved play with a two-run home run, his fifth of the season and third in two games. But it was 2B Joey Wendle who caught our eye yesterday with a 2-for-4 day that included a run and an RBI. Wendle has put up batting averages in the .280s in multiple minor league seasons, and so far this year’s he shown an improved command of the strike zone with seven walks, putting him on a pace that would outdo his best minor league performances. He’s also had multiple seasons in the minors of double-digit homers and steals. He remains a 15-team league mixed and AL-only option at the moment, but if he can continue to pick up playing time at this pace for another few weeks, we may have to reevaluate his relevance to all owners.
  • In his first outing as an official full-time starting pitcher, SP Yonny Chirinos went 4 2/3 innings and 83 pitches, allowing a home run and three singles for two runs while striking out six. Chirinos’ stuff looked good and he was able to move the ball around the strike zone; we continue to be impressed by him and now, with a guaranteed rotation spot every five days, we recommend adding him in all formats.

Texas Rangers

  • OF Delino DeShields returned to the Rangers lineup yesterday and led off. We are a little worried that perhaps DeShields rushed back from his hand injury and may not hit that well for the next week or so, but if you have him and need steals, he should be right back in your lineup this week.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • C Russell Martin has just one hit in his last eight games after another 0-for yesterday, and his season-long average sits at .130. Martin has been a victim of bad-luck so far, with just a .138 average on balls in play (he has a career .284 average on balls in play), and he is still walking at a better-than-average clip. We wouldn’t dump Martin yet in 15-team mixed or shallower two-catcher leagues, as we’d bet a turnaround is coming soon.

Washington Nationals

  • After more than a week of not playing but also not hitting the disabled list, 3B Anthony Rendon was finally placed on the latter, backdated only three days. That means Rendon is definitely out of your lineup this week, and while the initial feeling is he’ll be ready for the following week, you’re going to have to stay on top of this one since the Nats botched the initial move so badly. INF Wilmer Difo should continue to play third base, as he has since Rendon has been out.

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