Daily Intel – 4/25/2018

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Arizona Diamondbacks

  • The pitch chart on Baseball Savant for SP Robbie Ray‘s start last night is a work of art, with an incredible mix of pitches high out of the strike zone, an array of curveballs and sliders in the dirt, and a bunch of swinging strikes – 16, to be exact. Ray ended up going 4 2/3 innings, needing 107 pitches to do so but striking out 11 Phillies in the process. He gave up five hits, three walks, and three earned runs. Ray now has 20 strikeouts in his last two starts, spanning 10 2/3 innings – and, we’re sorry, if you spent the top 50 pick needed to get Ray, that’s why you’ve got to deal with the insanely high WHIP and just slightly-less-insanely high ERA and keep starting him every time out.

Atlanta Braves

  • OF Ronald Acuna, arguably the top prospect in the game, will be called up today, per Mark Bowman of MLB.com. It is expected the OF Preston Tucker will move to the bench.
  • C Tyler Flowers could return this weekend, per this update from Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but C Kurt Suzuki continues to hit the ball well – he went 3-for-5 last night with a home run, two runs scored, and two RBI. Both Flowers and Suzuki had value in two-catcher mixed leagues last season, but you’ll need to see how the playing time situation shakes out upon Flowers’ return next week before making any judgment on either of their long-term futures moving forward.

Baltimore Orioles

  • Before rain washed away the O’s series opener against Tampa Bay, their lineup card did come out, and there were two items worth noting: OF/1B Trey Mancini was back in the lineup after missing three games with a knee issue, and C Chance Sisco was hitting second. In his 11 previous starts this year, Sisco hit no higher than seventh, and in the majority of those 11 starts (six), he hit ninth.

Boston Red Sox

  • SP Rick Porcello had a strong night – seven innings, nine strikeouts, three hits, three walks, three earned runs – but it could’ve been even better if not for a second inning where a mix of bad ground ball luck and some poor Boston defense let him down and led to those three runs being scored. If there’s a such thing as a “buy high” in leagues where you can trade, we’d call Porcello that – maybe there’s an owner out there who is wary still of last season’s performance and thinks they are going to get out from under Porcello before he regresses. If that’s your situation, go and get him.

Chicago Cubs

  • OF Kyle Schwarber took full advantage of his first opportunity to play designated hitter this season, going 2-for-5 with two home runs off Cleveland SP Josh Tomlin. Schwarber now has nine hits in his last five games and has raised his batting average from .222 to .302 in that time. Perhaps the most impressive thing is that he only has one strikeout in those five games.

Chicago White Sox

  • As mentioned in yesterday’s Intel, the hamstring issue that forced OF Avisail Garcia out of the game Monday led to a 10-day disabled list stint. His regular number two spot in the lineup was filled by 2B/3B Yolmer Sanchez, while SS Tim Anderson led off for the second time in four games after spending the first 16 games of the season hitting sixth of lower. As a fringe option in 12-team mixed leagues, Sanchez does gain some value moving up in the order, especially because he’s reached base at a .346 clip so far.

Cincinnati Reds

  • SP Tyler Mahle continues to inch his way on to radar screens in all fantasy formats. Through six innings last night, Mahle had a no-hitter against Atlanta and had struck out 11 and walked two. Those numbers stayed the same on his final line, but in the seventh he faced three batters, and all three of them scored thanks to a solo home run from 1B Freddie Freeman and a two-run shot by C Kurt Suzuki. Mahle generated 20 swinging strikes in this game and now has 31 over 27 innings this year. We’ve been on Mahle as a deep sleeper since the spring and would recommend him to any owner looking for an upside play that you’ll have plenty of data on in the near term, as he’s in no danger of losing his rotation spot.
  • 3B Eugenio Suarez had a strong start to his rehab assignment in Triple-A, reaching base three times with a double and two walks.
  • We noted last week when new manager Jim Riggleman took over that we’d be noting the usage of RP Amir Garrett based on his early-season success. Garrett worked 2 1/3 innings yesterday for just the second time this season, and Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reported that Riggleman said Garrett could work three innings in the near future and a return to the rotation is not out of the question. Garrett is a must-add in 15-team mixed leagues and, based on the rest of his week and usage, we may recommend him in 12-team leagues soon too.

Cleveland Indians

  • 1B Yonder Alonso hit ahead of DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion in the Cleveland lineup last night, something that has only happened once since April 4.
  • Jordan Bastian of MLB.com has a must-read article on OF Michael Brantley and his insane contact rate (97.3 percent) so far this season. In other related news on the Cleveland outfield, Melky Cabrera was brought in on a minor-league deal yesterday. With both Rajai Davis and Tyler Naquin not exactly lighting the world on fire, Melky could be a great deep-league and AL-only add when he’s up to speed in a few weeks.

Colorado Rockies 

  • SP Kyle Freeland had his best start of the season last night, throwing seven scoreless innings with three runs, two hits, and eight strikeouts against San Diego. Freeland has an intriguing long-term profile, with a deeper arsenal than most Rockies starters (five pitches) and an ability to generate ground balls against hitters from both sides of the plate. As a left-handed starter with some pedigree (he was drafted eighth overall in 2014), it isn’t out of the question for him to have mixed-league relevance in all league sizes in the near future.

Detroit Tigers

  • Another weather PPD for the Tigers, this time in Pittsburgh, and they’ll play a doubleheader with the Pirates today. No changes in their pitching plan, with SP Jordan Zimmermann starting game one and SP Matt Boyd starting game two.

Houston Astros

  • SP Charlie Morton had his first bad start of the season, going four innings and allowing 10 baserunners (five hits/walks each), four runs, and striking out just two. But RP Brad Peacock relieved him and continued to pitch well, throwing two perfect innings and striking out two; there was also a positive step for RP Ken Giles, who worked the ninth inning with the Astros down one and needed just eight pitches to get the Angels out in order.

Kansas City Royals

  • C Sal Perez made his season debut and hit a solo homer in his second at-bat against Milwaukee SP Zach Davies. If you didn’t put Perez back in your lineup, do so now.

Los Angeles Angels

  • The Angels won their 11th straight road game, a wild 8-7 affair over Houston that saw SP Shohei Ohtani bounce back from his last start in the sense that he didn’t have to leave early due to a blister, but also take a step back from his first two outings in the sense that he walked five batters, was behind on a lot of hitters in the 5 1/3 innings he threw, and only generated 10 swinging strikes on his 98 pitches. Ohtani buried his splitter a lot, which made it easier on the Astros. He gets the Orioles at home next Tuesday, and we’d still start him in all formats.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Some worrisome news on RP Kenley Jansen – he was available last night in tie game in the ninth, and manager Dave Roberts decided to go with RP Pedro Baez. Now, in what is maybe good news for Jansen, Baez allowed two hits and lost the game for the Dodgers.
  • Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times noted that SP Rich Hill will start next Monday in Arizona after completing a 58-pitch sim game yesterday. That lines up Hill for a two-start week with the second outing coming in San Diego next weekend. He’s a must-start in all formats.

Miami Marlins

  • For a second there, OF Lewis Brinson had us fooled – we thought his three games out of the starting lineup last week would be the beginning of an in-season bounce back, especially since he hit three home runs in his first two games back. But no, he has struck out seven times in 11 plate appearances since then, and now is on pace to strikeout 232 times this year. Unless you can stash Brinson away on your bench and not feel like it is a wasted roster spot, it’s fine to let him go.
  • Joe Frisaro of MLB.com provided a snippet of good news on SP Wei-Yin Chen, who will make his first start of the season on Saturday at home against Colorado. Chen was a borderline 12-team mixed league option at his best in 2015, so it’s worth monitoring how he’s recovered from his elbow injury that cost him most of last year.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • 2B Jonathan Villar had his first three-hit game of the season last night, raising his batting average to .300. Villar sat out three games last week, so we’ll have to keep track of what the rest of this week looks like and if this game gives him some more chances, because a change in long-term playing time that mirrors last week would eliminate almost all of Villar’s value in mixed leagues.

Minnesota Twins

  • SS/3B Eduardo Escobar hit cleanup for just the second time this season, going 3-for-3 with a run, an RBI, a walk, and a caught stealing. He continues to impress and his value is higher relative to other fringe middle/corner infield guys since he has position flexibility.
  • Another dominant relief outing for RP Ryan Pressly, who struck out all three Yankees he faced in the fifth inning yesterday, including C Gary Sanchez and OF Giancarlo Stanton. As we’ll mention just a few clicks down in the Yankees blurb, there are probably pitchers on your roster right now that don’t belong there. Pressly is a fine replacement if you’re looking for a high-strikeout option in a few scoreless innings per week.

New York Mets

  • An eventful night for the Mets’ bullpen: SP/RP Matt Harvey had his first relief outing after SP Zack Wheeler went four largely ineffective innings. Harvey threw two innings and 35 pitches, allowing a run, two hits, a walk, and striking out two. RP Robert Gsellman continued to deliver value in a non-closer relief role, picking up his third win of the season by working a scoreless ninth inning. And RP Jeurys Familia bounced back from his blown save in Atlanta last time out and worked a perfect tenth inning, striking out two to get the save.

New York Yankees

  • If you’re still hanging on to RP Dellin Betances in any mixed-league format, regardless of size, you have our blessing to let him go. Manager Aaron Boone doesn’t seem to have much patience for him right now, despite the company line noted here by Mike Mazzeo of the Daily News, which is that Betances’ stuff is great but he just hasn’t put it all together yet. It’s not even that Betances has been awful recently – until last night’s 1/3 of an inning with two walks and a hit, five of his previous six appearances were scoreless innings with at least one strikeout. It’s more that Betances doesn’t have a long leash and isn’t racking up the innings he needs to be viable in mixed leagues. There are better non-closing relievers out there to spend a roster spot on.

Oakland A’s

  • If you missed yesterday’s Intel, you missed us recommending 1B/OF Mark Canha in deep mixed leagues – hopefully you didn’t miss that he homered last night and has now hit in eight straight games.

Philadelphia Phillies

  • C Jorge Alfaro struck out three times last night, and he now has 24 for the season to go along with his .174 batting average. Alfaro should be dropped in all mixed formats, even two-catcher leagues – you’re better off finding a part-time catcher who is playing well like Houston’s Max Stassi than continuing to hope that Alfaro’s regular playing time leads to a change in fortune and an increase in value.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Rain in Pittsburgh led to the series opener against the Tigers being postponed to a doubleheader today. SP Jameson Taillon will start game one and SP Chad Kuhl will start game two.

San Diego Padres

  • In this update from Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, we learn that both 1B Eric Hosmer and 3B Christian Villanueva will be out until Friday. Hosmer is on family medical leave and Villanueva is dealing with a hamstring issue.

San Francisco Giants

  • 1B Brandon Belt picked up his second home run of the season at AT&T Park, and now has six on the season. He’s hitting fifth in the order on a more regular basis in the last week or so. Belt’s fly ball rate is at 54.5% this year, nearly eight points higher than last year, and his hard contact rate is 49% per FanGraphs, which is well above his career high of 39.8%. If Belt can finally stay healthy, he looks likely to put up, at worst, a 25 home run season, with 35 home runs not being out of the question on the high end.

Seattle Mariners

  • Back-to-back eight strikeout starts for SP Marco Gonzales, who went six shutout innings yesterday en route to his second win of the year. He continues to increase the usage of his sinker, and the 34 times he threw it yesterday led to four swinging strikes and 14 called strikes. We still don’t see near-term value in Gonzales beyond AL-only leagues, but that could change with a good start Sunday against Cleveland.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • OF Tommy Pham returned to the lineup after missing time last week with a groin injury and homered in his first at bat, then went on to reach base all four times he came up to the plate after that, picking up two singles and two walks.
  • RP Greg Holland worked the ninth inning of a tie game, which is a good sign for his return to the closer role some time in the near future. He had a perfect inning, striking out two Mets.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • A rainout in Baltimore pushes SP Jake Faria back to today, and his two-start week is now next week. Meanwhile, SP Nathan Eovaldi made progress in his return from an elbow issue, per this tweet from Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Eovaldi is on track for a return before the end of May.
  • Because of the rain out, SP Bullpen Day has been pushed back from Thursday at Baltimore to Sunday at Boston. Odds are that RP Ryan Yarbrough will start that game – he went 4 innings in a start against them at Fenway on April 8, allowing two hits, three walks, one run, and getting three Ks. He hasn’t worked more than 26 pitches since April 15, so we can’t see him going beyond 70 on Sunday.

Texas Rangers

  • SP Cole Hamels’ weird season continued – he’s now allowed eight home runs in 34 2/3 innings after 1B/OF Mark Canha took him deep last night, but he’s also continuing to pick up strikeouts at a pace he’s never hit in his career. After five Ks last night, Hamels now has 39 for a rate of 10.13 per nine innings – his career high is 9.86 in his rookie season of 2006 (over 132 1/3 innings). Hamels is 1-4 and that’s driving down his value, and maybe that doesn’t change drastically with the Rangers struggling overall, but we would still recommend owning him in all formats, even shallow mixed, because he can be a good matchups play against weaker, strikeout-prone lineups.
  • TR Sullivan of MLB.com tweets what anyone who saw 3B Adrian Beltre‘s hamstring injury last night probably already knew: he’s going to hit the disabled list today. The reason Beltre was one of the more polarizing players in draft season was because of his age and the injury uncertainty that came with playing a high-demand defensive position like third base at that age (and mileage level). Beltre may be worth dumping in 10-team leagues depending on the severity of the injury.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweeted an update on 3B Josh Donaldson, who is progressing in his return from a shoulder injury that has nagged him all season. If Donaldson gets in to rehab games this week, owners could have a tough decision to make with him and their lineup next Monday.
  • We watched RP Roberto Osuna blow his first save of the season last night, and while he was squeezed on a few pitches that could have conceivably ended the game, he still left too many pitches in the fat part of the zone for Boston hitters to take advantage of, which they did to the tune of four hits and two runs. Nothing to worry about with Osuna yet, but worth tracking that he has now allowed a hit in each of his last three appearances.

Washington Nationals

  • OF Bryce Harper is not going to be benched in any of your lineups, but after another 0-for game at the plate last night, we did think it was worthwhile to point out that he only has two hits in his last seven games, both singles, but that he has picked up nine walks over that time. With 1B Ryan Zimmerman continuing to struggle behind Harper in the cleanup spot, we wonder if manager Dave Martinez will opt to put 3B Anthony Rendon behind Harper when he returns from the disabled list. He already did it twice this season against Atlanta on April 10 and 11. Without that change or Zimmerman turning it around quickly, we have a feeling Harper is going to continue to get pitched around by the opposition.

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