Daily Intel – 4/26/2018

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Arizona Diamondbacks

  • SP Zack Greinke had just seven starts last year where he allowed four or more earned runs. After last night’s five-run outing, he now has three already this season. All of the underlying indicators on Greinke are positive – low walk rate, lower but still solid strikeout rate, similar hard contact numbers – so don’t sell him low if you’re worried.

Atlanta Braves

  • OF Ender Inciarte picked up his eighth and ninth stolen bases of the season last night, an impressive feat considering his on-base percentage is .314. Inciarte stands to gain more value in the next few weeks via an increase in runs scored if OF Ronald Acuna Jr. is as good as advertised.

Baltimore Orioles

  • SS/3B Tim Beckham is likely going to be out until mid-June after being diagnosed Wednesday with a groin injury that will require core muscle surgery. His replacements at third are likely to be 3B Danny Valencia and 2B/3B Jace Peterson, two guys who have no value at all, even in AL-only leagues.
  • SP Alex Cobb should be cut in all mixed leagues – there’s no way you can start him right now in those formats and there are likely higher upside options on your waiver wire that you can spend that reserve spot on. Cobb wasn’t expected to be much help in strikeouts relative to other back-end starters, but his ground ball rate is down six points from last year and he is allowing more hard contact than any other regular starter in the majors.

Boston Red Sox

  • SS Xander Bogaerts had his second rehab game rained out last night, but Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reported that a Friday return to the Boston lineup is still very likely. 2B Brock Holt, who has been playing shortstop in Bogaerts absence, has put up a pretty impressive offensive line so far over 49 at bats – .327 batting average with six extra-base hits and just five strikeouts. It’ll be interesting to see how Holt’s playing time is balanced with 2B/3B/OF Eduardo Nunez not setting the world on fire so far.

Chicago Cubs

  • 2B/OF Ian Happ hit ninth last night and struck out three more times, also picking up a single and a walk. Happ now has 29 strikeouts on the season. Meanwhile, OF Albert Almora continued to get opportunities at the top of the lineup, going 1-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout.
  • Another solid start for SP Jon Lester, though for the second consecutive outing his fly ball rate was out of whack – he allowed 13 fly balls in the game to just four ground balls, after posting an 11-to-2 ratio in his last start. As of right now, it isn’t damaging him, and according to Baseball Savant there were only two fly ball outs that had a hit probability of more than 50 percent. Still, in a park like Wrigley Field, it is a trend to keep in mind as the summer goes on.

Chicago White Sox

  • Another nice game at the plate for 2B/3B Yolmer Sanchez. 2-for-4 with two runs scored, a double, and a stolen base.
  • 2B Yoan Moncada had the most Yoan Moncada game ever yesterday out of the leadoff spot: he opens the game with a leadoff home run against Seattle SP Felix Hernandez, then strikeouts out in all three of his other at bats.

Cincinnati Reds

  • It’s still early in manager Jim Riggleman’s tenure, but the early hook for SP Brandon Finnegan last night seems to be more of a trend than what previous manager Bryan Price did with his pitchers. Finnegan only got through 77 pitches before being pulled in a double switch, going five innings and allowing seven hits, one walk, two earned runs, and striking out four. It was a good enough start to say that Finnegan still has potential value in NL-only leagues.
  • 1B Joey Votto got his second home run of the season last night after picking up his first on Tuesday. We expect him to go on a tear here in the next few weeks, and he makes for a great target in DFS formats.

Cleveland Indians

  • RP Andrew Miller left last night’s game with hamstring tightness. Per Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, Miller will get an MRI today, but the initial feeling is that the injury isn’t serious.

Colorado Rockies 

  • Starts like yesterday are why SP Jon Gray is hard to bench in any start, even at Coors Field – six scoreless innings, three hits, one walk, 11 strikeouts. Gray had an obscene 23 swinging strikes on 101 pitches, and he only gave up three fly ball outs.
  • We haven’t mentioned RP Adam Ottavino in about a week, so here’s your reminder that he continues to produce tremendous value for a non-closer: he picked up his fifth hold of the season yesterday in an eighth inning where he threw 20 pitches, 13 for strikes, and struck out two.

Detroit Tigers

  • OF Leonys Martin and OF JaCoby Jones are two guys we’ve mentioned at different points this month as potential under-the-radar values for mixed leagues owners. Martin has probably gained enough traction to be owned in a lot of leagues, but if you play in a league where he’s still available, go grab him. After a 3-for-10 day yesterday with two home runs and three RBI, Martin now has an OPS of .835. Jones, meanwhile, went 2-for-8 in the doubleheader, but he continues to move up in the lineup, batting fifth in both games last night.

Houston Astros

  • Finally, the first home run of the season for 2B Jose Altuve. If you own him, you know there’s nothing more to say than that. Altuve’s hard contact and pull rates are down, per FanGraphs, so there are reasons to worry about a power drop from the last few seasons. But we won’t know that for sure until at least the end of May.
  • And, finally, the second save of the season for RP Ken Giles, and an easy one at that – seven pitches, a strikeout, no baserunners. We’re not ready to say “all is well” yet with Giles – we made that mistake with RP Kenley Jansen – but if you own him, he’s safe to have in your lineup for now.

Kansas City Royals

  • With OF Alex Gordon returning last night, the Royals lineup finally healthy and whole for the first time this season. The next few days will tell us what the construction is likely to be going forward, but for last night, manager Ned Yost kept the same top three that’s been out there for most of the season – OF Jon Jay, 2B/OF Whit Merrifield, and 3B Mike Moustakas – with Gordon batting seventh in front of OF Jorge Soler (sixth), 1B Lucas Duda (fifth), and C Sal Perez (fourth).

Los Angeles Angels

  • We’re starting to wonder how much rope 2B Ian Kinsler has in the leadoff spot, especially with SS Andrelton Simmons sporting an on-base percentage close to .400. If Kinsler were to drop in the lineup, he’d be hard to hold on to in 10-team mixed leagues, and depending on the availability of alternatives on waivers, maybe 12-team leagues as well. We’re not recommending any action yet, just something to watch out for.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • C Yasmani Grandal and OF Matt Kemp both hit their fourth home runs of the season last night, remaining the most effective Dodgers hitters early in the season. The two-run shots put Kemp at 12 RBI on the season and Grandal at 18.
  • RP Kenley Jansen received work in the ninth inning, but it was with the Dodgers down 6-3. He allowed two unearned runs, one hit, and struck out two. More importantly, 15 of his 20 pitches were strikes.

Miami Marlins

  • These two tweets (here and here) are pretty cool insights on Miami SP Trevor Richards, who struck out 10 Dodgers last night but still couldn’t get the win, failing by one out to go five innings. Richards picked up 6 swinging strikes on the 21 changeups he threw, and the Dodgers failed to put it in play once. There’s still no reason to have Richards in mixed leagues, but starts like this at least have us watching what comes next when he starts Tuesday at home against the Phillies.
  • For those looking to capitalize on the next closer failure, RP Brad Ziegler came in for the ninth inning of a non-save situation (the Marlins padded their lead in the ninth inning while Ziegler warmed up) and gave up three hits and three runs in an inning. The question remains whether RP Drew Steckenrider or RP Kyle Barraclough would be the next in line.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • Well, this sucks, but one of our favorites, 1B/OF Eric Thames, is going have surgery on his left thumb after suffering a torn ligament there on a diving defensive play on Tuesday. He will be out for at least six weeks. Here’s the positive part: 1B/OF Jesus Aguilar, who we called out recently for his very strong performance in limited playing time, is now in line for at least an increased part of a timeshare with 1B/OF Ryan Braun, who we all know is by no means the picture of health. Aguilar is a great speculative play for owners looking to add a potential big-time power source, especially in a Brewers lineup with strong hitters at the top.

Minnesota Twins

  • At this point, SP Lance Lynn is probably in the same boat as SP Alex Cobb, who we mentioned earlier, except he owns a tick more strikeout upside. But after another beating last night – 3 2/3 innings, seven hits, three walks, six runs, three strikeouts, we’re not sure what combination of results would have to happen in the next few weeks for us to feel comfortable starting Lynn in a mixed league anytime soon. Our feeling with back-end starters like Lynn and Cobb are that you should be using those roster spots to either stream two-start pitchers each week, or shuttle starters that show something over the course of a few starts and you want to be ahead of the pack on by adding him to your team.

New York Mets

  • The cool early-season story of 1B Adrian Gonzalez’s resurgence has died out pretty quickly. He has three hits in his last nine games over 30 plate appearances, with only one of those being an extra-base hit. Gonzalez has no value in mixed leagues, no matter how deep they are.
  • SP Steven Matz went 3 1/3 innings and allowed seven runs, but just three earned, along with five hits and two walks, to take his second loss of the season. After the game, manager Mickey Callaway wouldn’t commit to another start for Matz, per this tweet from Anthony DiComo.

New York Yankees

  • It’s fair to bench SP Sonny Gray in all mixed formats until he delivers a truly valuable fantasy outing. Right now, the closest thing we have is his April 7 start where he went six innings and allowed three runs, and even that came with just four strikeouts. Don’t cut Gray, though. The stuff is too good and he’s going to continue getting chances to work through this.
  • 3B Brandon Drury began his rehab assignment and picked up a couple of hits last night, and he’ll play nine innings on defense Friday, per DJ Eberle of the Times Leader. Drury should be back soon, the question is where he’ll play with 3B Miguel Andujar and 1B Tyler Austin hitting so well, and 2B/SS Gleyber Torres just getting called up.

Oakland A’s

  • OF Khris Davis hit his seventh home run last night. Some interesting early season trends on his batted ball data, per FanGraphs – his hard contact rate of 50 percent is well above his career high since he became a starter, which was 42.1 percent last year. He’s also pulling the ball 45.7% of the time, an 11.3 percent increase from last year and a trend similar to his pre-Oakland years with the Brewers. But he’s only hit 19.4 percent of his flyballs for home runs so far – that number was 26.6 in 2016 and 26.9 in 2017. If/when he gets to that pace, Davis could be on track for a 50 HR season.

Philadelphia Phillies

  • We’re not sure how much longer 3B/SS J.P. Crawford is going to have before he’s sent back to Triple-A. He made his fourth error of the year last night, a bad throw to first base, and he still can’t get his OPS above .600. If Crawford is sent down, both 2B/OF Scott Kingery and 3B Mikael Franco gain value with more assured every day playing time.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • We had our doubts that the early-season changes in the offensive output of C Francisco Cervelli were real, but after going 3-for-4 with a home run and six RBI yesterday in game one of a doubleheader, those doubts have very little reason to remain. With his playing time safety and commitment to hitting the ball in the air, Cervelli very well could be a top-5 catcher this season.
  • We said in the April 9 Intel that we hated to be the ones to burst the bubble on SP Jameson Taillon after his great opening two starts, but after yesterday’s 3 2/3 inning stint where he allowed 13 baserunners and seven runs, we hope you can see why we weren’t buying in right away. Taillon has now struck out just eight batters in his last three starts over 11 1/3 innings, and in his last two starts he’s allowed 12 runs.

San Diego Padres

  • The line on SP Tyson Ross doesn’t look great – four innings, six hits, three walks, four runs – but he did strikeout seven Rockies. Ross remains a high-risk, high-reward proposition at the back-end of your rotation because of his mixture of uneven command and strikeout-generating ability. With a two-start week coming up against the Giants and Dodgers, we think adding him now is a smart move to take more advantage of the “reward” side.
  • It’s getting worse offensively for C Austin Hedges, who struck out twice in five hitless plate appearances and now has a batting average of .147. Hedges was a popular middle-of-the-pack choice at catcher because of his perceived playing time safety that comes with his great defense. At this point, he’s arguably the least valuable catcher in fantasy because that volume is combined with no production offensively. We’re not sure how he’s roster-worthy in any mixed league at this point, beyond maybe those 15-team leagues where you have to have two catchers. Even then, you may want to grab a third catcher off waivers in the interim until Hedges gets a little better, that way he’s no longer dragging down your batting average.

San Francisco Giants

  • We could use today’s space to point out another hitless performance for OF Andrew McCutchen, who is now hitting .205 on the season, but we’ll instead opt to be positive and rehash something we said earlier this week – 1B Brandon Belt looks fantastic at the plate. He went 2-for-4 yesterday with a triple off Nationals’ ace SP Max Scherzer, raising his OPS to 1.040. Here’s the great thing about owning Belt – he’s either going to be healthy and hitting well, or he’s going to be hurt and you can get production from someone else. Make the extra effort to go trade for him.
  • Not a great second start back from injury for SP Jeff Samardzija – 3 2/3 innings, eight hits, three walks, six runs, and three strikeouts. Shark was rushed back off the disabled list after one rehab start where he threw just over 60 pitches, so an uneven performance like this was to be expected even after his strong return last weekend. Keep him in your lineup next week in all formats for two starts at home against San Diego and on the road against Atlanta.

Seattle Mariners

  • C Mike Zunino has been back for less than a week, but after yesterday’s 2-for-4 outing with a home run and a double, we wouldn’t be surprised if he’s set the baseline on his triple-slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) for the season: .200 AVG/.238 OBP/.550 SLG. Ok, maybe the AVG and OBP come up a little, and maybe the SLG comes down a little, but if we could put a bet down in Vegas on his line at the end of September, we’d take the one he ended with yesterday plus or minus 25 points on all three of the categories.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • We were worried when OF Tommy Pham left the game yesterday after one at bat, figuring it might have been a recurrence of the groin injury that sidelined him over the weekend. Turns out, per Derrick Goold, that Pham injured himself in the batting cage when a self-made device caused his bat barrel to hit him in the back of the head, opening up a cut. We don’t expect that to lead to a disabled list stint.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • As we continue to monitor the Rays’ under-the-radar hot hitters, 1B C.J. Cron moved up to second in the order last night and went 1-for-5, but that 1 was a 2-run double that he eventually scored on. Meanwhile, 2B Joey Wendle continued to rake with three singles in five at bats, along with two RBI and a run scored. We’re a little more skeptical about 3B/SS Daniel Robertson, who hit fifth last ninth and went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored, but over his last seven games Robertson is hitting .417 with and OPS of 1.366 over 24 at bats. He’s playing every day and his defense is solid – you could do much worse in deep mixed leagues considering his position flexibility.

Texas Rangers

  • As mentioned yesterday, the Rangers made the expected move of 3B Adrian Beltre to the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. It will likely be a month or so before he’s back. 2B Isiah Kiner-Falefa started at third and went 1-for-3 with a run scored, an RBI, and a stolen base. We continue to like Kiner-Falefa in very deep mixed and AL-only leagues, as manager Jeff Banister seems to trust him with everyday playing time.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • A very nice start for SP Aaron Sanchez, who picked up 17 swinging strikes on 96 pitches, and struck out eight Red Sox over six innings. This comes after just six Ks in his previous two starts, spanning 14 innings. Sanchez has gone at least six innings in his last four starts and hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs – we’d feel comfortable starting him every time out regardless of matchup.

Washington Nationals

  • One day after we lamented OF Bryce Harper’s “struggles,” which really just look like a guy not getting any pitches to hit because pitchers would much rather face all of the hitters behind him, 1B Matt Adams stepped in to the cleanup role behind Harper and went 3-for-5 with a home run, double, six RBI and two runs scored. Adams is off to a very nice start this season with an OPS near .900 – if 1B Ryan Zimmerman’s struggles turn in to a disabled list stint for any reason, Adams would be a smart short-term add for owners needing a power boost.

 

 

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