Jose Fernandez continues to dominate
Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was the subject of trade rumors last offseason, which on the surface, seemed to make very little sense. Lucky for the Marlins, they did not deal him, and I imagine they were tossing his name out there to see if some team would blow him over with an offer.
On Sunday, Fernandez took the mound vs the Mets and completely dominated their lineup, tossing 7 shutout innings, giving up just 4 hits, no walks and striking out 14 in the Marlins 1-0 win. Fernandez out-dueled Mets starter Matt Harvey, and is now 9-2 on the season with a 2.29 ERA, 1.96 FIP, a 1.06 WHIP, and a remarkable 110-25 strikeout to walk rate in just 74.2 innings.
He has struck out 11 or more batters in 5 of his 12 starts this season, is striking out more than 13 batters per nine innings, and is on pace to strikeout over 300 batters. He is striking out almost 38% of the batters he has faced, and over his last six starts he has struck out 42% of the batters he has faced. He has given up two runs or fewer in 9 of his 12 starts, and over his last six starts, he has given up just 3 runs on 25 hits, 9 walks and 63 strikeouts in 41 innings.
He might give Clayton Kershaw a run for his money for the National League Cy Young award this season.
Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada flirted with a no-hitter for 7.1 innings on Sunday, giving up a solo home run to Red Sox outfielder Chris Young with one out in the eighth inning. The home run was the one of two hits he allowed in his eight innings of work, as he walked 3 and struck out 5 in the Blue Jays 5-4 win. Estrada is now 4-2 with a 2.29 ERA, 3.82 FIP, a 0.96 WHIP, and a 63-29 strikeout to walk rate in 74.2 innings. He has given up one run or less in 7 of his 11 starts, and yet is owned in just 62% of leagues right now. His underlying peripherals indicate he isn't pitching as well as his ERA states, but some pitchers can outperform their advanced ERA stats year in and year out.
Phillies starter Aaron Nola was ranked as the 64th best starting pitcher coming into the season, but he has outperformed his draft day ranking in a big way this season. On Sunday, Nola shut out the Brewers on 8 hits, 2 walks and 9 strikeouts in 6 innings of work in the Phillies win. The win moved his record to 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA, 2.72 FIP, a 0.99 WHIP and a sterling 85-15 strikeout to walk rate in 78 innings. He has given up two runs or less in 9 of his 12 starts this season, and has gone at least six innings in 11 of his 12 starts. He is striking out nearly 10 batters per nine innings, walking less than two batters per nine and is inducing ground balls at a 54% rate. If he can maintain this level of performance, the Phillies may have developed their ace to build their future rotation around.
Athletics starter Sonny Gray returned from the disabled list on Sunday and limited the Astros to one run on 5 hits, a walk and 5 strikeouts in 5 innings. Gray has struggled in the majority of his starts this season, giving up three runs or more in 7 of his 10 starts this season. He did not factor in the decision, and is now 3-5 with a 5.77 ERA, 5.06 FIP, 1.60 WHIP and a 46-25 strikeout to walk rate in 53 innings of work. Hitters are squaring up the ball on him more than last year, as his hard hit rate has jumped to 33% from 25% in 2015. After giving up 17 home runs in just over 200 innings last season, he has already given up 9 home runs in his 53 innings pitched, so he will have to limit the home runny the free pass to return to the pitcher he was last season.
Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar has been a huge surprise in the first two months plus of the 2016 season. Acquired in an offseason trade with the Astros, Villar is leading off for the Brewers and has been one of the most valuable fantasy hitters to date. On Sunday, he went 0-4 with a walk and a stolen base and is now hitting .307-.406-.455 with 5 home runs, 31 runs scored, 25 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 28 attempts. His batting average is buoyed by a .404 batting average of balls in play, which is not sustainable, so his batting average will take a nosedive at some point. He is on pace for 60 stolen bases, yet I don't see him reaching 60. I do see him flirting with 45-50 though. He is still available in about 22% of leagues right now, so grab him while he is hot.
Another surprise in the infield this season has been the hitting from Twins infielder Eduardo Nunez. Nunez was once a top Yankees prospect and has never been a full-time player until this season, and he has taken advantage of it. On Sunday, Nunez went 2-4 with a home run, 2 runs scored and a stolen bases in the Twins 7-5 loss to the Rays. The big day at the plate improved his slash line to .335-.363-.516 with 7 home runs, 27 runs scored, 22 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 15 attempts. He doesn't walk or strike out much, and makes plenty of contact. He is hitting more fly balls this season, and more of them have landed in the seats thus far. He is on pace for 20 home runs and 35 stolen bases, and is unowned in 43% of leagues right now. Grab him while you can.
The Cardinals will activate infielder Jhonny Peralta on Tuesday and he is slated to get most of his playing time at third base, with Aledmys Diaz manning shortstop and Matt Carpenter moving over the second base. The move to second base certainly will improve Carpenter's fantasy value going forward and in 2017 position rankings. The thought is that Peralta will bat clean up for the Cardinals, so he should get plenty of RBI opportunities assuming he can stay healthy.
I wrote about Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager in Saturday's Roundup, after he hit three home runs off of Braves pitching on Friday night. It appears he likes the hit against the Braves, as he hit two more home runs on Sunday, going 3-5 with 2 home runs, 2 runs scored and 4 RBI in the Dodgers 12-6 win. The big day at the plate improved his slash line to .286-.341-.533 with 14 home runs, 38 runs scored and 35 RBI in 249 plate appearances. He has now hit 18 home runs in his 362 plate appearances since his call up last September. He looks like he will be a regular 25-30 home run hitter at shortstop for several years before moving over to third base as many expect. The rookie is on pace for 39 home runs this season. Did I mention he was a rookie?
Orioles young starter Kevin Gausman is starting to look more and more like the talented pitching prospect we all thought he could be a few years ago. On Sunday, he limited the struggling Yankees lineup to one run on 7 hits, 2 walks and 5 strikeouts in 6 innings in a no decision, a game which the Orioles won 3-1. His record doesn't show how good he has been, as he is 0-3 with a 3.52 ERA, 4.28 FIP. 1.17 WHIP and an excellent 50-13 strikeout to walk rate in 53.2 innings. He is striking out more than 8 batters per nine, is limiting the free pass and inducing ground balls at a 46% clip. His problem has been the disaster start, as he has given up 4 runs or more in three of his nine starts, and his big problem is the long ball, as he has given up 9 home runs in his 53.2 innings pitched, an average of 1.50 HR/9, so that will have to come down for him to be more consistent from start to start.
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