Aaron Nola: Phillies emerging ace?
The Phillies are the story of the 2016 baseball season thus far, and their young rotation has been the catalyst for their strong start to the season. Their rotation is led by Aaron Nola, who last night shut out the Cardinals in St. Louis in the Phillies 1-0 win. The Cardinals came into the game leading MLB in runs scored, so for Nola to shut them out at home is saying something about his talent.
The win moved his record to 2-2 with a 2.93 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and a44-7 strikeout to walk rate in 40 innings or work. Over his last three starts, he has given up just one run on 8 hits, 4 walks and 21 strikeouts in 21 innings, and has given up one run or less in four of his six starts to date.
After his start last night, FanGraph's Dave Cameron tweeted the following about Nola:
MLB leaders in xFIP-, updated through today’s games.— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) May 4, 2016
1. Syndergaard (47)
2. Kershaw (54)
3. Nola (64)
Philly may have themselves an ace.
That is some pretty impressive company, eh? He currently ranks fifth in MLB with a 24.5% K%-BB%, behind only Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard, David Price and Drew Smyly. Teammate Vincent Velasquez is right behind him with a 23.8% K%-BB%.
The future is bright in Philly.
For more on Nola's performance and the Phillies, check out The Good Phight, SB Nation's Phillies fan site.
Is it time to start worrying about Mets starter Matt Harvey. Coming into the season, I was pretty high on him, but he has yet to pitch like an ace this season. Last night, he cruised through the first four innings of his start vs the Braves, then he fell apart in the fifth and sixth innings. In the end, he gave up 3 runs on 8 hits, 2 walks and 4 strikeouts in 5.2 innings in the Mets 3-0 loss. The loss moved his record to 2-4 with a 4.76 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 1.56 WHIP, and a 25-11 strikeout to walk rate in 34 innings. His strikeout rate is down to 16.6% vs 24.9% last season, and his walk rate is up. His fastball velocity is down a bit, from 95.9 mph to 94.1 mph and he is having a tough time getting through opponents lineups the third time around. This from D.J. Short from Rotoworld:
Matt Harvey 1st time thru order: .255/.283/.373— D.J. Short (@djshort) May 4, 2016
Harvey 2nd time thru order: .208/.245/.313
Harvey 3rd time thru order: .528/.605/.667
Harvey hasn't pitched more than six innings in any of his six start this season, and has given up at least two runs in each start thus far. I am not sure what you could get back in a trade for him, so you might just have to wait it out and hope he turns things around. And soon.
The Brewers signed first baseman Chris Carter this offseason and for some reason he is not only hitting for power, he is hitting for a high average despite all the strikeouts. Last night, Carter went 2-4 with 2 home runs and 3 RBI in the Brewers 5-4 win over the Angels. The big night improved his slash line to .287-.356-.713 with 9 home runs, 17 runs scored and 21 RBI. He is still striking out too much, but he owns a double digit walk rate, and is making lots of hard contact right now. His 36% HR/FB% will come back to earth, but he could hit 35-40 home runs even with the high strikeout rate, as Miller Park is a hitter-friendly environment. He is owned in just 56% of leagues right now and I can't explain why. He should be rostered everywhere right now.
Back in the preseason, I saw some in the industry rank Indians shortstop ahead of Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, and I thought that was way too high for the Indians shortstop. Well, Lindor is making me looking silly for writing that to this point, as Seager has struggled to start the season and Lindor has excelled. Last night, Lindor went 3-4 with a home run, 3 runs scored and 3 RBI in the Indians 7-4 win over the Tigers. Linder raised his slash line to .315-.380-.438 with 2 home runs, 15 runs scored, 12 RBI and 4 stolen bases in 5 attempts. He is one pace to hit 14 home runs and steal 28 bases. Yeah, that's a top 5 shortstop for sure.
If it wasn't for the Phillies hot start to the season, the top story in baseball would be the play of the White Sox. Like the Phillies, they are being led by their rotation, including Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Mat Latos. Yes, Mat Latos. Last night, Quintana silenced the Red Sox, limiting them to just one run on 4 hits, no walks and 5 strikeouts over 8 innings in the White Sox 4-1 win. The win moved his record to 4-1 with a 1.40 ERA, 2.10 FIP, 0.98 WHIP and 38-7 strikeout to walk rate in 38.2 innings. He has given up two runs or less in each of his six starts this season, and is currently tied with Mets starter Noah Syndergaard with a 1.5 fWAR, good for second among all qualified starting pitchers. The White Sox were smart in signing him to a long term deal.
Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager was ranked among the top 6-7 fantasy third baseman in the preseason, but he has struggled to hit out of the gate. Even though he has struggled to hit, he has hit for power, and last night he went 2-4 with a home run and 3 RBI in the Mariners 8-2 win over Sonny Gray and the Athletics. The big night improved his slash line to .181-.274-.436 with 6 home runs, 15 runs scored and 17 RBI on the season. His .153 BABIP is the second worst among all qualified hitters right now, so if you have a willing owner, I would attempt to trade for Seager now before he starts hitting. He is hitting more fly balls and making more hard contact than last year, so a regression to the mean should happen in due time.
It seems like every preseason, Padres outfielder Matt Kemp gets little love from the industry and I don't why. Unlike most seasons, Kemp is off to a hot start, and last night he went 2-4 with a home run and an RBI, and is now hitting .301-.318-.612 with 8 home runs, 15 runs scored and 22 RBI in the Padres 6-3 win over the Rockies. To put his start in perspective, last season, he had ONE home run through the end of May. In 2014, he didn't hit his 8th home run till sometime in June. as he is a notorious second half hitter. Could we see Kemp return to being a 35-40 home run hitter?
In the offseason, several teams made trade inquiries to the Brewers regarding catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but Brewers GM David Stearn held firm on his asking price, which was rumored to be excessive. Lucroy is off to a hot start this season, and last night he went 2-3 with a home run, 2 runs scored and 2 RBI in the Brewers win over the Angels. Lucroy is now hitting .321-.387-.440 with a home run, 13 runs scored and 10 RBI. He is showing that he is back to good health after dealing with post-concussion syndrome. If he keeps hitting like this, Stearn should be able to get a very nice return for Lucroy come July 31st.
If you are looking for more fantasy baseball coverage, make sure you check out Fantasy Rundown, where you can find links to all of the best fantasy coverage on the internet.