George Springer enjoying the leadoff spot
There is no denying how much I like Astros outfielder George Springer. I ranked him as my third ranked outfielder overall back in the preseason due to his potential to put up a 30 home run, 20 stolen base season.
Back on May 24th, Astros manager A.J. Hinch moved Springer into the leadoff spot, and Springer has been hot ever since. Since the move, Springer has gone 18-40 with 4 home runs, 8 runs scored, and 9 RBI, raising his season slash line to .290-.379-.525 with 13 home runs, 35 runs scored, 34 RBI and just 3 stolen bases in 9 attempts.
That last stat, the stolen base total, surprised me. He has been thrown out in 67% of his stolen base attempts, so he if he is going to lead off, he is going to need to work on his first step toward second base. Maybe the leg injuries he has dealt with over the last few seasons, or his play in the outfield, have slowed him down, but we as fantasy owners hope that is not the case.
His hard contact rate has remained in the 34% range this season, but he is pulling the ball more, so it appears he is emphasizing hitting for more power thus far. His walk rate and strikeout rate (23-24%) are relatively the same as in 2015, so it appears he has cured his issues with striking out. Remember when everyone was concerned about his strikeout rate affecting his fantasy value? Hitters can, and do, make adjustments, and Springer has made the necessary adjustments at the plate over the last two seasons.
Springer is on pace to hit 39 home runs and score and drive in 100+ runs, so if he can stay healthy, he could have a breakout season. Of course, his breakout would be that much better if he can improve his success rate on the base paths.
Marlins starter Adam Conley has some Randy Johnson likeness on the mound. He is tall, he throws left handed and he has the potential to strike out a bunch of hitters every time he takes the ball. Ok, Randy Johnson is a hall of famer, so it makes little sense to compare him to a hall of famer. I get it. He just has a bit of a resemblance to the Big Unit.
Last night, Conley pitched like the Big Unit, shutting out the Pirates on 2 hits, 3 walks and 9 strikeouts in 6 innings of work, leaving with a 2-0 lead. But, his bullpen coughed up the lead an inning later. Conley wasn't involved in the decision, and is now 3-3 with a 3.72 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 1.41 WHIP and a 57-27 strikeout to walk rate in 58 innings. He is too hittable and walks too many batters right now, resulting is several disaster starts of late, but he has the arm and talent to pitch like a top 40 starter. If you can deal with his inconsistencies, he is available in 83% of ESPN leagues at the moment.
Tigers young starter Michael Fulmer pitched a gem last night, flirting with a no-hitter that was broken up with two out in the seventh inning. He left after giving up a double with two out in the eighth. He shut out the Angels for 7.2 innings, giving up just the 2 hits, walking 2 and striking out 8 in the Tigers win. Assuming the Tigers bullpen doesn't blow the lead, Fulmer is now 5-1 with a 3.24 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 1.22 WHIP and an ace-like 44-13 strikeout to walk rate in 41.2 innings. Over his last three starts, he has given up just one earned run on 9 hits, 4 walks and 23 strikeouts in 22.1 innings. He is striking out more than a batter per inning, is limiting the walks and keeping the ball on the ground at a near-50% rate. In other words, he is pitching like an ace, and he is available in more than 75% of leagues right now. Run, don't walk, and grab him off of your league waiver wire.
About a week ago, I wrote that Mookie Betts was about to get hot, and luckily for me, he did get hot. As I write this, Betts is 2-3 with a walk, 2 home runs and 2 RBI, one night after going 3-5 with 3 home runs and 5 RBI. Over his last 11 games, he is 17-43 with 7 home runs, 17 runs scored and 14 RBI. He is now hitting .288-.332-.549 with 14 home runs, 51 runs scored, 42 RBI and 8 stolen bases, and is on pace for 43 home runs, 156 runs scored, 128 RBI and 24 stolen bases. Wow.
Mike Trout who?
I have been one who has supported Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos in preseason rankings for several years. This year, I kind of gave up on him. We all should have known that he would have a breakout season as a result. Last night, Ramos went 3-4 with a home run and 4 RBI in the Nationals 7-2 win over the Phillies. Ramos raised his season slash line to .338-.383-.536 with 7 home runs, 17 runs scored, and 29 RBI in 162 plate appearances. He is on pace to hit 21 home runs and drive in 87 runs, which would be career highs. He won't hit .300 all season, but he has always had the skills to hit 15-20 home runs.
Mets starter Jacob deGrom struggled to start the 2016 season, as he missed some time on paternity leave, and just wasn't as dominant on the mound as he was in 2015. Well, it appears he is rounding into form now, and yesterday he tossed his second consecutive dominant start, but had nothing to show for it as the Mets lineup mustered just one run for him in seven innings. deGrom limited the White Sox to one run on 5 hits, 2 walks and 10 strikeouts in his 7 innings in the Mets extra inning loss. deGrom is now 3-1 with a 2.62 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 1.16 WHIP and a 47-16 strikeout to walk rate in 55 innings. He is striking out more batters of late, and over his last three starts, he has stuck out 24 and walked 9 in 19 innings of work, so his K/9 is creeping back to a batter per inning.
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