Daily Intel – 6/4/2018

With only four teams in action today, we’re saving most of the off-the-field news for tomorrow’s Intel, and today’s will be focused almost exclusively on the action from yesterday’s full slate of games (except for the Yankees-O’s rainout).

Arizona Diamondbacks

  • We felt bad about recommending SP Matt Koch as a two-start option after his poor outing Monday, but thankfully he redeemed his week, and us, with seven shutout innings yesterday where he allowed the Marlins only three baserunners on a double and two singles. He struck out six and only needed 84 pitches to get through his day.

Atlanta Braves

  • SS Dansby Swanson seems to be finding his power stroke after struggling in his return from injury in May. After a double and a home run yesterday he’s got four extra-base hits in his last six games, to go along with five walks, which is actually 16 percent of his season total. Swanson is assured regular playing time at shortstop so he’s worth tracking in shallow mixed leagues over the next week or two to see if this is the start of a good long-term stretch at the plate.

Baltimore Orioles

  • The timeline has shifted a bit on RP Zach Britton, with manager Buck Showalter saying that June 15 is the earliest Britton will rejoin the team. He will pitch at Triple-A several times this week, then attempt to go back-to-back next Monday and Tuesday, then he’ll have an evaluation.

Boston Red Sox

  • 2B/3B/OF Eduardo Nunez hit fifth yesterday and had a strong game, going picking up three singles in four at-bats, scoring twice, and stealing a base. Nunez had lower-body issues in the spring, which may be partially to blame for his inability to deliver stolen bases so far, but he’s going to keep playing regularly with 2B Dustin Pedroia hurt again, so he’s a smart flyer to take if you need speed and he’s available (likely only in shallow leagues).

Chicago Cubs

  • SP Jon Lester delivered his best start of the season yesterday against the Mets, which is saying a lot considering how good he’s been – he went seven shutout innings and only allowed three baserunners after walking the first two batters of the game. He struck out seven and generated seven ground ball outs for the third straight start. Lester’s fastball has been better this season after taking a big dip from 2016 to 2017, so it’ll be key for him to keep that pitch working at around 91 mph throughout the summer for him to retain his current elite-level value.

Chicago White Sox

  • SP Dylan Covey was solid over five innings yesterday, allowing only an unearned run on four hits and three walks while striking out seven Brewers. Covey’s two-seam fastball heavy approach (about 65 percent of his pitches) is generating a bunch of ground balls, which should play well in the White Sox hitter-friendly ballpark, but he’s going to need to his slider and changeup a bit more than he currently is to have viability as a starter long term. He’s going to be tested quickly with a start at Boston on Friday followed by back-to-back starts against Cleveland (if he isn’t supplanted by SP Carlos Rodon, which looks likely).

Cincinnati Reds

  • SP Luis Castillo has struggled with runners on base all season, and yesterday that manifested itself at the worst time, turning a potential dominant outing in to one bereft of fantasy value. He allowed just two hits and struck out three in the first four innings, but in the fifth he allowed a soft single to center, a bunt single, and a walk, then after a fielder’s choice got his first out, he put a slider out with too much of the plate and pinch-hitting OF Hunter Renfroe hit a grand slam. Castillo faced two more batters and that was the end of his day.

Cleveland Indians

  • 1B Edwin Encarnacion hit two home runs yesterday, giving him six in his last nine games plus 15 RBI over that span. This is a reminder that even when Encarnacion goes in to another week or two-week slump with a sub-.100 batting average and 40 percent strikeout rate, you keep him in your lineup every day.

Colorado Rockies 

  • 1B/OF Ian Desmond hit a three-run home run yesterday, capping a decent homestand considering how poorly he had been playing prior to it – he started eight of the nine games in Denver and picked up eight hits, two homers, eight RBI and a stolen base. We’d be cautious using Desmond in weeks where he has nothing but road games, but there have been enough positive signs to justify keeping him on your roster in all formats.

Detroit Tigers

  • SP Michael Fulmer has quickly moved in to a spot where you’re going to have to play matchups until he shows he can be trusted at the same level he was earlier this season and in most of 2017. Yesterday’s six-inning outing, where Toronto tagged him for four runs on five hits and three walks, was his fourth start out of his last six where he allowed at least four runs, six innings or less, and he allowed home runs in all of them. Fulmer gets Cleveland next on Friday, and we’d probably sit him in all formats except AL-only leagues.

Houston Astros

  • RP Ken Giles worked in a non-save situation situation for the second consecutive Sunday, and, for the second consecutive Sunday he was hit hard, giving up a double and two singles and two runs in an inning.

Kansas City Royals

  • 2B/OF Whit Merrifield went more than two weeks without stealing a base after swiping three bags on May 18, but he stole two yesterday and is inching his way up the league leaderboard now with 14. Eight of Merrifield’s steals this season have come in three games – in addition to yesterday and the May 18 game, he also had a three-bag game on May 6.

Los Angeles Angels

  • We mentioned yesterday that RP Justin Anderson would be in line for saves if RP Blake Parker continued to falter, and with a 3-1 lead in the ninth last night Anderson got the chance and converted, though it wasn’t easy – walks are hurting him, and he loaded the bases on free passes yesterday after getting the first two outs of the inning. He got INF/OF Isiah Kiner-Falefa to fly out to end it, though.
  • SS/3B Zack Cozart was back in the lineup after missing a few days with forearm tightness. He went 1-for-3 with a run scored.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • 1B/OF Cody Bellinger sat yesterday with a couple of hot outfielders in Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson and a really hot first baseman in 1B Max Muncy. It was Muncy who produced again, going 2-for-5 with two home runs (he now has nine) with four RBIs.
  • SP Alex Wood only last two innings, allowing eight baserunners and six runs on 61 pitches. Only 33 of them were strikes. Wood has allowed six homers in his last five starts, and even when he wasn’t getting hit hard he was still only lasting five or six innings. At this point, you have to play Wood on a matchups basis, and with the Braves coming up next at home, we’d probably bench Wood if we had a good option in reserve.

Miami Marlins

  • 3B/OF Brian Anderson has six multi-hit games in his last nine starts after going 2-for-4 yesterday with a double. He still has just two home runs, but the percentage of Anderson’s balls-in-play that have left the bat at 95+ mph rivals that of elite power producers like 2B/SS Javier BaezOF Matt Kemp, and 1B Yonder Alonso, so the hope here is that Anderson starts producing three or four homers a month rather than one.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • OF Domingo Santana has hits in all of his last six starts, but the playing time still isn’t there for him and he’s not doing much in terms of power. If you still own Santana in a shallow mixed league, we think it’s time to move on, because it is hard to see a scenario in which you’re comfortable playing him, especially with 1B/OF Eric Thames getting closer to a return.

Minnesota Twins

  • OF Eddie Rosario hit three home runs yesterday, two solo shots and a walk-off two run homer in the ninth off Cleveland RP Cody Allen. He’s now batting .317 with 13 homers and 40 RBI.
  • OF Ryan LaMarre is making the most of his playing time with OF Byron Buxton out – after a three-hit day yesterday that included two doubles and a stolen base, LaMarre now has six hits in his last four games, and he’s scored twice and drove in three despite hitting eighth or ninth in all of his starts.

New York Mets

  • For those of you with SP Noah Syndergaard and a lineup decision to make today for your weekly league, he had a short bullpen session yesterday and didn’t have any issues coming out of it, so he’s currently slotted in to face the Yankees on Sunday. He’s likely too important to your team to risk benching, but as of right now there is a better-than-average chance of rain for New York City next Sunday.

New York Yankees

  • Yesterday’s series finale in Baltimore was rained out and rescheduled for a split-doubleheader on August 25. Good for the Yankees, by then the Orioles will have sold off SS/3B Manny Machado and every other asset not bolted down by a horrific contract (i.e. 1B Chris Davis and SP Alex Cobb).
  • And, in a nice bit of symmetry, the Yankees play a doubleheader in Detroit today, with SP Luis Severino starting the 1 pm game and SP Domingo German starting the 7 pm game.  SP CC Sabathia will go Tuesday in Toronto and SP Sonny Gray will go on Wednesday.

Oakland A’s

  • 1B Matt Olson homered again yesterday, his fourth in four games. He’s showing a lot of good signs at the plate over the last two weeks, walking more and finding his power stroke with 7 extra-base hits over his last 10 games.

Philadelphia Phillies

  • RP Hector Neris pitched in what was essentially mop-up duty with the Phillies down 5-1 in the eighth inning yesterday, and he wasn’t good, allowing a solo home run to Giants C Buster Posey, and also a double and a single.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • SP Nick Kingham is showing a fly ball tendency and a home run allowance trend is building – he allowed a grand slam to St. Louis OF Marcell Ozuna yesterday in the first inning, and while that was the only damage he gave up all day, it ended up limiting him to only five innings. Kingham is allowing 37 percent hard contact, a little bit higher number than you’d like to see from a starter (low-30s is about average), but hitters are pulling nearly 50 percent of the balls they put in play against him, and that combination is going to continue to create a home run problem for him in the near term. Kingham isn’t currently scheduled for another start with SP Ivan Nova throwing a bullpen yesterday and close to returning, but when he does come back he’ll have to be used with caution in mixed leagues.

San Diego Padres

  • OF Hunter Renfroe should be added in any deep league where you need power – he hit a grand slam yesterday and had three extra-base hits in 14 at-bats in his first full week back to the majors. More encouragingly, he’s only struck out twice and has walked twice in that six-game span. If Renfroe gets hot in his current playing time setup, we expect those 14 at-bats to become closer to 19 or 20 each week. He’s worth a speculative flyer.

San Francisco Giants

  • RP Dereck Rodriguez, the son of Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez, got his first career start yesterday after debuting in relief on Tuesday when SP Jeff Samardzija got hurt early in Colorado. He was terrific, limiting the Phillies to a run on five hits and two walks, striking out six. Rodriguez has an interesting pitch mix between a four-seam fastball that averages 92 mph, a changeup that comes in around 84-85 mph, and a curveball, which is his secondary offering, that ranges between 72 and 78 mph. We wouldn’t be surprised if the velocity gap between his offerings allow him to succeed for his first month or two in the majors before teams catch up to him.

Seattle Mariners

  • SP Felix Hernandez took advantage of a Rays offense that struggled all weekend, pounding the strike zone all day and needing only 106 pitches to get through eight innings of one-run ball. He allowed just four singles, a double, and one walk (he did hit two batters), striking out seven. Hernandez gets the Rays again in Tampa over the weekend and is a good streaming option in deeper mixed leagues.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • Yesterday was another positive step out of OF Tommy Pham’s major slump, as he was back up to second in the order and went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
  • SP Michael Wacha carried a no-hitter in to the ninth yesterday before allowing a single to start the inning. Wacha hasn’t had a bad start since March 31st, and while there was probably no question about his viability in all formats, if you weren’t starting him every time out without question, you should be. His strikeout totals tend to be low from start-to-start, but he’s shown so much growth in run prevention this year that it offsets that lack-of-strikeouts issue.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • 1B C.J. Cron was hit on the forearm by a pitch and left yesterday’s game. The Rays have an off day today, but with two games at an NL park coming up we wouldn’t be surprised to see Cron sit until Friday, even though manager Kevin Cash said he may be able to play in Washington tomorrow. With the Rays having only five games this week, you should consider benching Cron if you have a similar or even lesser option with more games and no injury concern.
  • SP Blake Snell tied an American League record by striking out the first seven batters he faced yesterday, the beginning of a dominant six innings of shutout ball where he struck out 12. Snell should be started every time out in all formats.

Texas Rangers

  • OF Delino DeShields hit ninth in the order for the second consecutive game yesterday, as OF Shin-Soo Choo took his place at lead off again. He went 0-for-2 with a walk.
  • OF Nomar Mazara’s power surge looks legit – after being a 20-homer guy for the first two years of his career, he’s already got 14 after a solo shot yesterday, and his average home run distance is 417 feet, which is tops in the league for all hitters with at least eight homers. He’s on pace for 37 bombs, and while we don’t think he’ll get there, we’d bet a nice chunk of money on him reaching between 32 and 34.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • 1B Justin Smoak capped off a solid road trip with a 3-for-5 day that included a two-run homer and an RBI double. Smoak reached base 17 times in the nine-game swing through Philly, Boston, and Detroit, tacking on three homers, seven RBI, and five runs scored.

Washington Nationals

  • SP Jeremy Hellickson left yesterday’s game after getting only one out, as he suffered a strained right hamstring trying to cover first base. He’ll have an MRI today.

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