Yesterday, we saw Rays pitching prospect Blake Snell and Padres pitching prospect Cesar Vargas make their big league debuts, and we have profiles from Domenic and new Fake Teams writer Quinn Canelias below:
Jon Gray: Buy for his strikeout potential
Last season, Rockies pitching prospect Jon Gray struggled like most rookie starters do, pitching to an 0-2 record with a 5.53 ERA, 3.63 WHIP and striking out nearly a batter per inning. Pitching at least half of his games at Coors Field is a negative, but the team's front office is being very proactive in trying to change the stadium to be more pitcher friendly. In the offseason, they raised the fence in center and right field and it has already cost shortstop Trevor Story three home runs to date.
On Friday night, Gray made his first start of the season vs the Dodgers at Coors, and the first inning was very rocky for him, as he gave up three runs on two home runs, but settled down afterward. He left after tossing five innings, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits, 2 walks and 10 strikeouts. He is a tough sell when starting at home, as he pitched to an ERA over 8.00 at home last season. But, on the road is a different story. He pitched to a 2.70 ERA and a 25-8 strikeout to walk rate in 20 innings last season on the road.
He used his slider 27% of the time in his first start on Friday night, compared to just 19% last season, so it could become a weapon for him this season. He has the potential to strike out more than a batter per inning this season, so if you can stash and stream him on the road this season, I would recommend picking him up off of you league waiver wire. I own him in the Tout Wars NL only league, and can activate him on a weekly basis, so i will be watching his performance at home and on the road closely over the next few weeks.
Kenta Maeda: Ace starting pitcher?
The Dodgers signed Kenta Maeda to a very team friendly deal this offseason, and some felt he was nothing more than a back end starter. In his first four starts of the season, he has been much more than that. Heck, Maeda has been so good that he has basically replaced Zack Greinke as the Dodgers #2 starter behind Clayton Kershaw. Last night, Maeda flirted with a no hitter for five innings before surrendering three consecutive hits in the sixth inning, working out of a one-out bases loaded jam without giving up a run. The win moved Maeda's record to 3-0 with a microscopic 0.36 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and a 23-5 strikeout to walk rate in 25.1 innings in his four starts.
Mead's first four starts have been pretty impressive, especially since he has some issues with his elbow that caused the Dodgers to change the terms of his contract before finalizing the deal. His performance has actually been historic. This from ESPN's Buster Olney and ELIAS:
ELIAS: Kenta Maeda's 1 run allowed is the fewest by any pitcher through 4 career games, all starts, since mound moved to 60' 6" in 1893.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 24, 2016
Maeda isn't going to pitch like this all season, but he should continue to be a very productive starter for the Dodgers and his owners for the rest of the season.
After watching Rockies shortstop Trevor Story over the last two nights vs the Dodgers, I have to say he makes the opposing starter throw a lot of pitches. Last night, he saw 27 pitches in his four at bats. On Friday night, he had a 13 pitch at bat vs Scott Kazmir, and saw 28 pitches in four at bats. Yes, he still leads the majors in strikeouts, but most power hitters strike out a lot. I can't remember where I read it, I think it was from Patrick Saunders from the Denver Post, but Saunders opined that he thinks once MLB rules on Jose Reyes, Reyes will serve his suspension and then the Rockies will release him. So, Story owners should not worry about Reyes coming back to take his job. It's Story's job till he plays poorly enough to lose it. From what I have seen, he has a strong arm and plays a very good shortstop. He batted leadoff on Saturday night, and I wonder if he will stay there until outfielder Charlie Blackmon returns from the disabled list.
Speaking of Blackmon, he is scheduled to start a rehab stint this week and could be activated later in the week, so for those in weekly transaction leagues, you might want to get him on your active roster. Here is more from Nick Groke from the Denver Post, via the Twitter:
Charlie Blackmon (turf toe) is angling toward a two-game rehab next week. "Gives us hope" about his return, Weiss said.— Nick Groke (@nickgroke) April 23, 2016
I assume "next week" is the coming week. I have activated Blackmon in the Tout Wars NL only league, fwiw.
Rays pitching prospect Blake Snell performed as advertised as he made his major league debut in Yankee Stadium yesterday. He limited the Yankees to one run on 2 hits, a walk and 6 strikeouts over 5 innings of work. He was sent down to AAA after the game, but we should see more of Snell later this season.
Who saw this coming? Yesterday, Nationals starter Tanner Roark completely dominated the Twins lineup, shutting them out for 7 innings on 2 hits, 3 walks and 15 strikeouts in the Nationals 2-0 win. The Twins rank fourth in the majors in strikeouts, so they do whiff a lot, but 15 times? Wow. Roark needed 121 pitches in his 7 innings so I wonder if the Nationals will consider skipping his turn in the rotation or limiting his pitches in his next start. The win moved his record to 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and a 24-11 strikeout to walk rate in 24 innings. Coming into this start, Roark owned a 9-8 strikeout to walk rate, so don't let yesterday's performance confuse you into thinking he is a strikeout pitcher. He is not.
Cubs utility man Javier Baez made his second consecutive start at third base yesterday, with regular third baseman Kris Bryant in left field. Manager Joe Maddon played him at third not to get his bat in the lineup, but because of his defense. Here is more from Cubs beat reporter Mark Gonzales at the Chicago Tribune:
"I like the defense. The baserunning was very good. The energy he brought to the field was very good. He happened to hit a home run. I liked the line drive (single) to right field."
Maddon said Baez, 23, who returned last weekend from the 15-day disabled list, earned the start because of his defense with John Lackey on the mound.
Baez still has the skills to play shortstop, third or second, and I see Maddon playing him regularly to keep Bryant and second baseman Ben Zobrist fresh all season long. Baez can also play center field, so with Jorge Soler being relegated to more of a bench role due to his poor outfield defense, Baez should see plenty of playing time going forward. He is currently owned in just 22% of leagues right now and is a solid choice to stash if you don't have room on your active roster at the moment.
Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki hasn't been the same since he had hip surgery over a year ago. Last season, he hit .280 with 17 home runs, 77 runs scored and 70 RBI in 128 games. That's a great season for most shortstops, but it was a down season for Tulo. This season, he has struggled out of the gate, but yesterday he went 3-4 with two home runs and 2 RBI in the Blue Jays 9-3 win over the Athletics. The big day at the plate improved his slash line to .188-.293-.391 with 4 home runs, 5 runs scored and 10 RBI. He has improved his batting average over the last week from .119 to .188, so hopefully he has sorted things out and will become a more productive fantasy asset for his owners going forward.
In the offseason, I opined that fantasy owners shouldn't draft Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant in the first round, and, instead, should wait and draft Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco several rounds later. I predicted that Franco would put up similar stats as Bryant, so why waste an early pick on Bryant when you can get a similar hitter later in your draft. Last night, Franco went 3-5 with two home runs and 4 RBI in the Phillies 10-6 win over the Brewers. The big night at the plate improved his slash line to .299-.338-.552 with 5 home runs, 6 runs scored and 12 RBI. Bryant, on the other hand, is hitting .263-.317-.474 with 4 home runs, 13 runs scored and 15 RBI. Their performance to date has been similar, with Bryant scoring more runs and Franco hitting for more power. Franco is the best hitter in the surprisingly improved Phillies team thus far, and they have plenty of talent sitting in the minors who could help later in the year.
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