Daily Intel – 4/30/2018

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Arizona Diamondbacks

  • SP Robbie Ray delivered another turd to his fantasy owners that likely drafted him to anchor their staff – a strained right oblique that led to him leaving yesterday’s game after just 1 1/3 innings. Nick Piecoro of AZ Central tweets here about the last D-Backs starter to suffer an oblique strain (Zack Greinke) and how long it cost him (six weeks). We should know more today.

Atlanta Braves

  • SP Brandon McCarthy improved to 4-0 with a 5 1/3 inning effort that included six strikeouts. McCarthy’s ground ball rate is higher than its been in four seasons, which is helping to make up for the drop in dominance markers like K rate and swinging strike rate. We continue to recommend McCarthy as an asset in all mixed-league formats.
  • We feel like we haven’t written about him much because he’s been so good and he’s owned everywhere, but here are some props for those who believed in the draft helium on 2B Ozzie Albies, who hit his ninth home run and stole his third base yesterday in a 2-for-5 effort that raised his batting average to .293.

Baltimore Orioles

  • DH Pedro Alvarez got his first start at third base this season and hit two more home runs, giving him four for the weekend and six on the season. We have no clue if Alvarez is going to play nine more games at third to get the eligibility, but if he does, and the Orioles remain putrid and committed to tanking, there are crazier things than Alvarez delivering another 30 home run season for the first time in five years.

Boston Red Sox

  • RP Craig Kimbrel had his most taxing outing of the season, throwing 26 pitches for his first win of the season after the Red Sox offense broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth. Kimbrel went 1 1/3 innings and struck out three, but he also gave up three hits.
  • 2B/3B/OF Eduardo Nunez got his first shot in the leadoff spot this season with OF Mookie Betts out, but he only got on once and didn’t attempt a steal. Those of us who were counting on Nunez for 20-plus steals this year are going to need him to find ways in to the lineup once 2B Dustin Pedroia returns.

Chicago Cubs

  • It is incredible that SP Tyler Chatwood has an ERA of 2.83 after yesterday’s seven shutout innings against Milwaukee, considering that it was just the second out of five starts this season where he struck out more (four) than he walked (three). Chatwood’s one negative right now is his WHIP, which is an unsightly 1.47, but he’s striking out close to a batter an inning, he’s somehow preventing runs, and the Cubs are going to give him a good shot at winning. You have to keep running him out there in most formats.

Chicago White Sox

  • OF Daniel Palka went 2-for-2 yesterday with a double, triple, and two RBIs, capping off a strong six-hit weekend, including his first major league home run. He doesn’t have much on his minor-league track record besides power, but he should get enough playing time in the next few weeks to be of minor value in AL-only leagues.

Cincinnati Reds

  • 2B/SS Jose Peraza capped off his best week of the season with a 3-for-5 effort. In seven games this week, Peraza picked up 15 hits, his first two home runs of the season, and a steal. His playing time at shortstop is secure and he’s going to keep hitting at the top of the lineup – we’ve seen some 12-team leagues where Peraza has been dropped, and we’d recommend adding him if that’s the case.
  • That’s three straight strong starts for SP Tyler Mahle, who went 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball yesterday, striking out seven Twins and allowing just four baserunners. We’ll keep saying it – Mahle should be owned in all leagues, the upside is high and the starts are regular.

Cleveland Indians

  • SP Josh Tomlin gave up six earned runs in six innings and now has an ERA over 9 this season. After yesterday’s game, manager Terry Francona did not indicated they’d move away from Tomlin yet, but it does seem to be a positive development for the value of SP Danny Salazar, who still isn’t in rehab games and is looking more likely for a late May return.

Colorado Rockies 

  • 1B/OF Ian Desmond his hit in six of seven games, but he’s still hitting more than 70 percent of his batted balls on the ground and he’s pulling it far less than he did in previous seasons when he produced decent power. We hate to give up on Colorado hitters that are assured of playing time and have a track record, but at this point all you can do with Desmond is bench him and wait. And if you can’t bench him, he’s given very little reason for you to keep him on your roster.

Detroit Tigers

  • We’d written earlier this month about our hope that SP/RP Daniel Norris could have some deep-league value as a long reliever, but after yesterday’s terrible spot start, where his velocity was down several ticks and he lasted just 2 1/3 innings due to groin tightness, we think he’s no longer worth holding even in AL-only leagues. After the game, Jason Beck of MLB.com tweeted some quotes from Norris that make it sound like his groin has been an issue since last summer – if that’s the case, it isn’t getting magically fixed now in the middle of a new season.

Houston Astros

  • If 3B/SS Alex Bregman hadn’t delivered a first two months much worse than this last season, we’d be worried about his .267/1 HR/9 R/12 RBI/2 SB line so far, but he did do that last year before delivering a top-20 hitter performance in the second half of the season. Bregman is hitting the ball just as hard as he did last year, he’s making the same level of contact, and his plate discipline has improved. He’s a nice buy-low target.

Kansas City Royals

  • 1B/3B Cheslor Cuthbert had his best fantasy game of the season, hitting two two-run home runs, thus doubling his extra-base hit total on the season (he entered the game with two doubles, and that’s it). With no real depth and few high-minors options on the horizon, Cuthbert should continue to be owned in AL-only leagues simply due to volume playing time.

Los Angeles Angels

  • SP/DH Shohei Ohtani will not pitch on his regular Tuesday turn this week, and is likely to return to the mound over the weekend in Seattle, per this tweet from Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • OF Yasiel Puig was placed on the 10-day disabled list with an ankle issue. INF/OF Kike Hernandez got the start in right field, his first of the season at that position, and we’d guess he’s the most likely fantasy beneficiary from Puig’s injury.

 Miami Marlins

  • We’ve given up on guessing the usage pattern in the Marlins’ bullpen – RP Brad Ziegler got his third save of the year last night, a day after he was available and sat in favor of RP Kyle Barraclough. Barraclough was likely unavailable after working consecutive nights, but there’s still no guarantee he or Ziegler are going to get even a tiny majority of the save chances moving forward.
  • SP Caleb Smith is not going to be the guy to lose his rotation spot as SP Wei-Yin Chen settles back in and SP Dan Straily inches closer to a return. Smith used a very good four-seam fastball to get ahead on Rockies hitters yesterday, and mixed in his slider and changeup to finish them off with strikeouts nine times in seven innings. Smith isn’t a star, and he’s got a lot of potential pot holes to avoid with a high fly ball rate and a dangerous proclivity for walks, but there’s no doubt he should be rostered in all leagues now, primarily because he seems unlikely to go past 140 innings this year and the strikeouts he’s racking up are going to be most valuable in the first half of the season before the Marlins start altering his schedule and limiting his innings later in the year.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • OF Lorenzo Cain picked up his seventh stolen base of the season yesterday, and with the pace at which he’s getting on base, he is looking like a serious threat to not only break the 30-steal threshold for the first time, but challenge for 40 steals.
  • 1B/OF Jesus Aguilar started again at first, even with OF Ryan Braun back in, and batted fifth. We like the pattern his playing time has taken in the initial days after 1B/OF Eric Thames’ injury.

Minnesota Twins

  • The Twins’ awful week was capped off in fitting fashion, with ace SP Jose Berrios giving them absolutely nothing of value in a three-inning effort that saw him throw strikes on just 32 of his 60 pitches. The Twins defense didn’t do all it could to help him, but Berrios also walked three Reds. If you can find someone frustrated with Berrios’ last two starts – seven innings total, nine earned runs – we’d be willing to pay whatever you consider “full price” for him.

New York Mets

  • With SP Steven Matz on the brink of losing his job and SP Jason Vargas looking awful in his first start, SP Zack Wheeler’s nine-strikeout performance over five innings yesterday should help his case for a long-term rotation spot. Wheeler picked up 18 swinging strikes on 95 pitches and was successful limiting fly balls as well. We like his form right now and would consider starting him at home this weekend against Colorado.
  • OF Yoenis Cespedes injured his thumb in Sunday’s game, but X-rays came back negative and he said he’ll only miss three games, per Tim Healey of Newsday. We’ll know more today after an MRI.

New York Yankees

  • Bryan Hoch of MLB.com uses this tweet to give updates on five injured Yankees: 1B Greg Bird, 2B/3B Brandon Drury, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, OF Clint Frazier, and RP Tommy Kahnle. 
  • SP CC Sabathia went seven strong innings last night, giving up five hits, one walk, and one earned run, and striking out four on 97 pitches. Sabathia did a nice job challenging an Angels lineup that hasn’t been at its best recently, picking up 23 of 28 first-pitch strikes. He gets Cleveland on Friday when the Yankees return home and is a borderline starter in 12-team leagues.

Oakland A’s

  • Cutting 1B Matt Olson isn’t a rational move at this point, but after three strikeouts yesterday, he is now on pace for 226 this season, and he’s homered once in the last 23 days. In shallower mixed leagues, we’d be worried if he can’t take advantage of a softer schedule this week that sees him face no good pitchers other than Seattle SP James Paxton, especially with a six-game week looming next week against Houston and the Yankees.

Philadelphia Phillies

  • SS/3B J.P. Crawford is on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right forearm and should be out a few weeks. He can be cut in all formats. INF/OF Scott Kingery will likely gain the most from this in terms of everyday playing time.
  • SP Vince Velasquez can’t figure out the Braves, who hit him hard for the third time this season. Velasquez went four innings and allowed nine baserunners, six earned runs, and struck out four. Velasquez’ command wasn’t there all day, as the Braves made a lot of loud contact, and that’s the exact problem with trusting him in mixed leagues. He doesn’t deliver enough upside to deal with these complete disaster starts he’s prone to.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • An incredible debut from SP Nick Kingham, a one-time top prospect who had a very uneven path to the majors. In going seven one-hit, no-run innings, Kingham struck out nine and became the first pitcher since 1961 to retire 20 batters in his debut before allowing a baserunner (per Keith Law tweet). Earlier in the week, it looked like this Kingham start would be a one-and-done, but per Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic, he traveled with the team for Washington for their next series. If he unseats SP Steven Brault for a rotation spot, we’d speculate on him in 12-team mixed and larger formats, at least for a couple of starts just to see what he’s got against a league unfamiliar with him.

San Diego Padres

  • OF/1B Wil Myers is hurt again, hitting the 10-day disabled list yesterday with a strained oblique. This seems like a minimum-stay injury, but this is already starting to feel like those seasons Myers  lost to injury in 2014 and 2015. OF Travis Jankowski took his place on the roster, and this also helps out 2B Carlos Asuaje, who looked to be a playing time loser with OF Jose Pirela moving to second earlier this week. Pirela should move back to the outfield while Myers is out.

San Francisco Giants

  • The back end of the Giants bullpen continues to deliver good results when given the opportunity. Yesterday, RP Sam Dyson had his seventh consecutive scoreless appearance, and RP Tony Watson and RP Hunter Strickland followed with clean innings in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, continuing their season-long dominance (Watson has a 0.71 ERA and Strickland is at 1.32).
  • 3B Evan Longoria hit his sixth home run of the season, and after his miserable start he’s going to close April on track for 35 homers and 87 RBI, which anybody drafting him as late as they did would have to consider a success. We’ll guess he finishes closer to 25/80, but that’ll still be a solid performance for someone who is a corner infielder in deep mixed leagues.

Seattle Mariners

  • A day after we recommended SP Marco Gonzales as a potential deep-league waiver add, he gave the M’s another solid start – six innings, six hits, one walk, two earned runs, four strikeouts. Per Baseball Savant, Gonzales did not have any batted-ball outs with a hit probability over 50 percent, so there wasn’t much luck to this performance. Gonzales has delivered his last two times out and may not be available for free for much longer.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • The Cards almost got “perfect gamed” by Pittsburgh SP Nick Kingham, but the good news is that 2B/3B Jedd Gyorko started for the third time this week. Gyorko continues to hit whenever he is playing, yesterday notwithstanding, and we’ll be checking in on him every day this week to see if he’s any closer to reclaiming an every day spot in the lineup, hopefully at the expense of 2B Kolten Wong. 

Tampa Bay Rays

  • 2B Joey Wendle hit third in the order for the first time this season, a reward for his good form that has his OPS over .900. Wendle’s best lineup spot before yesterday was two consecutive days in the two hole in early April. Wendle is hitting the ball on the ground almost 65 percent of the time, so we don’t expect him to be a great power source, but he has good bad-to-ball skills and should have a solid batting average all season.

Texas Rangers

  • SP Matt Moore pitched out of the bullpen yesterday, and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News explains here the mechanics of this move and the Rangers’ six-man rotation. Moore will start on eight days rest Wednesday against Cleveland – he’s been pretty mediocre so far, but maybe starting with that much time off could give him an extra tick in velocity and make an interesting streaming candidate.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • 2B/SS/3B Yangervis Solarte hit his seventh home run of the season, and continues to provide the positive side of an “all or nothing” approach when it comes to making contact. While he’s not striking out any more than his career norms, he’s increased his fly ball percentage and pull percentage, and it is paying off in the power department so far. He’s got a .203 batting average on balls in play, and his career norm is around .270-.275, but we’re not sure how that will normalize as he hits more fly balls. Either way, if you can stomach a potential .230 average for the season, Solarte looks primed to deliver on a very valuable fantasy season thanks to his power and position flexiblity.

Washington Nationals

  • 2B/OF Howie Kendrick hit cleanup and OF Michael Taylor hit fifth for the second consecutive day, which would be nice potential boosts to their run-producing value if it weren’t for the news that 3B Anthony Rendon seems on the verge of returning this week, per this tweet from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. Both Kendrick and Taylor have been productive over the last two weeks, so keep an eye on where they are hitting once Rendon is back, especially because the bottom of the Nats’ lineup is pretty bad right now with OF Adam Eaton still out and 2B Daniel Murphy a few weeks from his season debut.

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