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10 Important Stories From 08/09/18 Box Scores: Breakout Bats (Renfroe/Profar), Giving Up On Berrios?! & More

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by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There were surprisingly some big name starters who struggled yesterday:

  • Justin Verlander was bombarded for 3 HR over just 2.0 IP as he allowed 6 ER on 7 H and 0 BB, striking out 2
  • Corey Kluber was fairly pedestrian against the Twins, allowing 4 ER on 7 H and 0 BB, striking out 7, over 7.0 IP in a no decision

The performer of the night was Mookie Betts who capped off hitting for the cycle with a ninth inning home run (4-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R).  What else happened on the field that we need to know about?  Let’s dive into the box scores and find out:

1) Gio Gonzalez gives a sense of hope…  Somewhat…
He allowed 1 ER on 6 H and 1 BB over 7.0 IP against the Braves, which at least would give a sense of optimism.  However he once again struggled to get strikeouts, with just 3 K, and has now gone 11 straight starts with 5 K or fewer (and 14 of his past 15).  He also allowed another HR (he’s now allowed 3 HR over his past 10.2 IP), and while his overall groundball rate was 50.0% entering the day it hasn’t been as strong of late with a 42.9% groundball rate in June (when he was tattooed to the tune of a 2.53 HR/9) and he has 11 groundballs vs. 10 fly balls in August.  Without the strikeouts, with the risk of home runs and with consistent control issues (he finished the first half with a 4.25 BB/9 and entered yesterday with a 6.06) it’s easy to conclude the risk simply outweighs the potential reward.

2) Jose Berrios continues to lose the strike zone…
Lasting just 4.0 IP Berrios allowed 4 ER on 4 H and 6 BB, striking out 5, against the Cleveland Indians.  He’s now walked at least 3 batters in four of his past five starts (16 BB over 28.2 IP), which is a bit of a surprise considering how good his control was coming up through the minors (and having posted a 2.05 BB/9 in the first half).  It’s possible he’s dealing with fatigue, having now thrown 150.0 IP, though he totaled 185.1 IP last season.  The bigger concern has always with the risk of home runs, and he did allow another one yesterday (he entered the day with a 1.05 HR/9 and 41.2% groundball rate).  If he’s going to continue to struggle with his control, when coupled with the home run risks, he’s going to be tough to trust down the stretch.  Even with his previous workload, would it be a surprise if the Twins still shut him down a little bit early if he’s continuing to struggle like this?  That just adds to the risk a little bit more.

3) The home run binge of Hunter Renfroe continues…
Franmil Reyes (3-5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R) is going to get a lot of attention, since he’ tearing the cover off the board since returning to the Majors, as he should.  At the same time don’t overlook the production Renfroe has been providing of late.  He provided the biggest blow, a ninth inning grand slam off Joakim Soria, and finished the day going 2-4 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 1 R.  He now has four straight multi-hit games, four straight games with a home run, five straight games with at least 1 RBI and a seven game hitting streak overall (11-29 with 4 HR, 12 RBI and 4 R).  More importantly he has just 3 K vs. 2 BB over this stretch.  No one has ever doubted his power, but if he can cut down on the strikeouts the potential is going to be there (he entered the day with a 46.3% Hard%).  Of course he still had a 13.1% SwStr% in August entering the day, so keep the expectations tempered, but it’s well worth watching just in case he truly has turned the corner.

4) Has Jurickson Profar finally emerged as a must use option…
He was discussed yesterday as a middle infielder who could potentially face a “positive regression” and he only added to his cause last night going 2-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R.  He’s now hitting .255 with 13 HR, 62 RBI, 61 R and 9 SB over 369 AB as he’s been moved around the diamond and up and down the lineup.  He is now on a seven-game hitting streak (9-29, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R and 1 SB) and overall has shown a strong eye at the plate (7.6% SwStr%), an ability to hit the ball relatively hard (34.5% Hard%) and should improve upon his .266 BABIP.  The Rangers should be able to find him a steady position for 2019, as they are being rewarded for the patience in sticking with him, but for now look for him to continue to bounce around.  That’s actually a good thing for fantasy owners, as he’s already played over 20 games at both SS and 3B, and could potentially get there at 1B (13 games) and 2B (9 games) before the year is out.  A hitter who can produce (with even more upside) and has such flexibility?  That’s fantasy gold.

5) Does Ryan Borucki warrant our attention…
The numbers weren’t impressive last night, though he did get the W over the Red Sox so we need to keep that in mind.  Borucki went 5.0 innings allowing 4 ER on 9 H and 3 BB, striking out 2, and is now 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over 48.0 IP in the Majors.  Forget about the opponent, he managed just 1 swinging strike (after entering the day with a 7.7% SwStr%) and the home run he allowed (J.D. Martinez now has 35 HR after going 1-4 with 1 HR, 1 RBI and 1 R) was his first of the season despite entering with a pedestrian 46.0% groundball rate (7 groundballs vs. 5 fly ball yesterday).  In other words everything points towards a significant step backwards, despite some initial success.  While he has some control, eventually the long ball and lack of strikeout potential will burn him.

6) Is Mallex Smith primed to be a difference maker…
He went 1-2 with 2 R scored yesterday while drawing 2 BB.  He may not have stolen a based, despite being on three times, but he still has 7 SB over his past 7 games and is currently on a four-game hitting streak (7-15, 3 SB, 6 R).  The real question is if he’s going to be allowed to play regularly, as opposed to being deployed as a platoon player, because there’s no questioning the speed (he has 25 SB in 322 AB).  He actually has produced well against southpaws this season (.352/.417/.426 over 54 AB), so it makes sense for the team to simply leave him in the lineup and let him try to prove he can handle it the rest of the way.  For a speed first player he also does need to cut down on the swings and misses (12.6% SwStr% entering the day), but he has the speed to maintain an elevated BABIP and should be able to continue producing in at least two categories (R/SB) regardless.

7) Mitch Haniger is starting to heat back up…
The top of the Mariners lineup set the tone as they shook up the batting order (Dee Gordon was moved to ninth), as Haniger (4-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R), Denard Span (3-3, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) and Jean Segura (3-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) all enjoyed big days.  People appeared to be starting to give up on Haniger but he now has four multi-hit games in his past eight and is hitting .271 with 19 HR and 74 RBI overall.  He’s hitting .410 in August, though the real question is going to be if the power is going to be coming back (the HR was his first since July 10).  While he isn’t going to get back up to the pace he set early in the season, he still entered the day with a 15.8% HR/FB and should be able to contribute there again moving forward.  Hopefully you didn’t make the mistake of giving up on him.

8) An unimpressive victory for James Paxton…
Taking on a depleted Astros’ lineup Paxton did get the W, thanks to the offense jumping on Verlander and giving him a big lead to work with.  That said it wasn’t a particular strong showing, as he allowed 4 ER on 7 H and 3 BB, striking out 5, over 5.2 IP.  While he did keep the ball in the ballpark, he generated 5 groundballs vs. 7 fly balls and continues to struggle in that regard this season (39.6% groundball rate entering the day).  That’s led to a career worst 1.15 HR/9, and that alone has been the reason for his underwhelming 3.63 ERA as he’s generated strikeouts (11.48 K/9), shown strong control (2.30 BB/9) and hadn’t entered benefiting from luck (.294 BABIP, 76.3% strand rate).  Considering that he has a history of more groundballs, there’s reason to believe that better days are ahead.  Disappointing start, but obviously there is no reason for concern.

9) Is Cody Bellinger morphing back into his 2017 form…
He went 2-5 with 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R and 1 SB yesterday, giving him a strong seven-game stretch (10-24 with 2 HR, 9 RBI, 4 R and 2 SB).  He’s raised his average from .236 to .246 over this stretch.  The big difference from last season is the drop in power, as he entered the day with a 14.1% HR/FB (compared to a 25.2% mark a year ago).  Obviously 2 HR over seven games isn’t going to change any opinions, especially after a 3.6% HR/FB in July and having entered the day with a 31.7% Hard%.  That said the potential is there to get scorching hot, and this stretch could carry over the remainder of the season.  It’s easy to be down on him, but continue to stay the course and ultimately hope you can reap the rewards from your patience. As it is, 19 HR, 53 RBI, 65 R and 8 SB do offer value, just not at the level fantasy owners had hope for.

10) Can fantasy owners freely move on from Andrew Suarez…
After a strong start on July 9 against the Cubs he owned a 3.75 ERA, but things have spiraled downhill since.  Yesterday he allowed 3 ER on 7 H and 0 BB, striking out 4, over 5.0 IP and has now allowed 3+ ER in five straight starts (22 ER over 26.2 IP) and has seen his ERA rise to 4.64.  He struggles to generate swings and misses (he entered the day with a 7.7% SwStr%, before getting just 2 swinging strikes yesterday), and also had been hit extremely hard (39.6% Hard% entering the day).  Sure there’s enough control and he has been getting groundballs at roughly a 50% mark, but that’s not enough.  Maybe he’s streamable when at home (he entered with a 3.64 ERA at home), though he yielded a pair of home runs there to the Pirates yesterday.  In most cases he can safely be ignored.

Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs, CBS Sports

Make sure to check out all of our Midseason Prospect Rankings:

First Baseman
Second Base
Shortstop
Third Baseman
Outfielder
Pitcher



Source: http://rotoprofessor.com/baseball/?p=37002
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