In this edition of 10 Thoughts, we cover Evan Longoria’s potential impact, emerging aces, popular overperforming hitters, and much more.
We love the game of baseball, and with so many players, it’s easy to think of 10 things every week. Here are our thoughts for week 20.
1) Evan Longoria could be a league winner down the stretch.
Longoria is far from a sure thing. Throughout the season he’s dealt with a variety of injuries, including a hand injury that he’s fighting through right now, but he’s been incredible when he’s in the lineup. Longoria has a .289/.382/.526 slash line to date in addition to 10 HRs in just 173 ABs. The Statcast numbers are ludicrous, Longoria is hitting the ball 95.2 MPH on average to go along with a 14.2% barrel rate and an insane 59.1% hard-hit rate. Those numbers are nearly unheard of, and yet Longoria is still on the waiver wire in most leagues. Longoria truly has league-winning upside if he stays healthy, and if he doesn’t you can cut him without sacrificing much of anything. Grab Longoria now and don’t look back.
2) Blake Snell is finally back.
Larry Rothschild was finally fired on Monday, but it appears that Blake Snell had already decided to go back to what works for him prior to Rothschild’s dismissal. Snell’s 2.45 ERA in August speaks for itself; he’s finally pitching to his potential. He got there by ditching his changeup and curveball in favor of his fastball and slider. The fastball/slider combination is what made Snell into an ace, but for whatever reason, be it bad advice from Rothschild or something else, he underutilized that combo for most of the year. Snell has walked a ton of hitters in August (10 in 22 innings pitched), but he’s been getting so many swings and misses with the new pitch utilization that it hasn’t mattered. I believe in Snell’s changes, and while the walks will inevitably result in some volatility, Blake is back.
3) Speed is enticing, but Bradley Zimmer and Jorge Mateo are overperformers best left on the waiver wire.
Zimmer and Mateo have been trendy waiver wire adds recently, and it’s understandable, as both have provided speed without abysmal hitting lines. The issue is that the abysmal hitting is bound to return extremely soon. Zimmer has hit three home runs in August, but he’s still hitting .217 for the month and there’s nothing to support the streaky power sticking around. Mateo is hitting .345 in August, but he doesn’t have a home run and a .488 BABIP and 28.3% K rate for the month suggest that the average is going to crash and burn in spectacular fashion. If you are extremely desperate for speed maybe you take the gamble, but I just can’t see it paying off with either player.
4) Carlos Hernandez is just scratching the surface of his potential.
Hernandez is proving that he belongs in a major league rotation this season with a 3.97 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 59 innings pitched, but this is just the beginning. Hernandez has elite stuff and a manageable walk rate (4.3 BB/9) to go along with it, and that combination almost always wins out. Hernandez leans on an explosive 97.3 MPH four-seamer, but he also has a pair of quality breaking balls that generate whiffs and a workable changeup. The arsenal here hints at top of the rotation upside, but to achieve it Hernandez will need to locate better within the zone and cut down his walk rate slightly. Those leaps aren’t out of reach, as Hernandez is extremely young. If those leaps happen down the stretch Hernandez could dominate, but even if they don’t materialize he’s a pitcher you want to roster.
5) Mike Moustakas is a shell of himself.
I would speculate on what is causing Moustakas to flounder at the plate right now, but there’s no way of knowing whether this is a health issue, a mechanical issue, or a confidence issue. Regardless, something is very wrong here. Moustakas’ putrid .206/.309/.389 line can be explained by some truly frightening Statcast metrics. An 86.6 MPH average exit velocity, 5.2% barrel rate, and a *gulp* 29.2% hard-hit rate have culminated into a .178 xBA and .286 xSLG. It’s not a stretch to say that Moustakas is one of the worst everyday hitters in the majors right now. If you’re still holding onto him because of his pedigree now is the time to let go.
6) Carlos Carrasco will be just fine.
Carrasco owners are surely upset to put it lightly, as the veteran missed most of the season and has posted an 8.82 ERA since returning on July 30th. Be that as it may, Carrasco has a 3.90 SIERA, 9.9 K/9, and the same velocity and pitch utilization profile that he’s dominated with in the past. This is a case of small sample size skewing perception, and it’s likely that Carrasco will be an asset for fantasy owners as they push for the title down the stretch despite a rough few outings out of the gate.
7) Strategically targeting hitting categories can win you your league.
If you’re in a roto league I highly suggest looking at individual hitting category standings as soon as possible. When you do this you will find that there are at least a couple of closely contested categories that could help you jump up in the standings should you excel in that area. If a few steals/RBIs/HRs/runs or a few points of batting average separate a few places in the standings for one category there are points for the taking. I highly suggest targeting waiver wire adds and/or plugging in players that can put you over the top in those closely contested categories. A Nicky Lopez, Luis Arraez, or Jonathan Villar might just win you your league.
8) Reynaldo Lopez’s recent success is no fluke.
News broke recently that Lopez corrected his vision, and he’s taken off ever since the Chicago White Sox reinstated him into their rotation in August. Apparently, Lopez’s vision was so poor last season that he had trouble discerning the catcher’s signs… so this isn’t just some small detail. On top of the improved vision, Lopez is now working with a mid to upper 90s heater that has been his most important offering (thrown 56.9% of the time, hitters batting .140 against it). Lopez’s slider has been an asset as well, and it’s the only other pitch Lopez throws regularly (thrown 35.6% of the time with a 30.5% whiff rate). Lopez’s 3.10 SIERA is more sustainable than his 1.86 ERA, and he will likely need to mix in another pitch more often, but he’s pitching great right now. Lopez punches out his fair share of hitters, he pitches for a good team, and he’s likely still on your wire — now is the time to scoop him up.
9) Carter Kieboom is on the right path.
Kieboom struggled immensely at the major league level in past seasons and in the early part of this season, but he’s making good on his prospect pedigree as of late. An 11.9% walk rate and manageable 24.8% K rate indicate that he’s seeing that ball better. Kieboom is also pulling the ball better (45.2%) and he’s hitting .280 against breaking stuff, which he really struggled with in past. Can he be trusted going forward? It’s complicated. He has those things going for him on one hand, but on the other, Kieboom’s 86.6 MPH average exit velocity, 5.6% barrel rate, and 38.7% hard-hit rate are scary. Kieboom’s contact has been mixed, but his xBA (.268) and xSLG (.447) is actually better than his actual BA (.259) and SLG (.424), so there’s sustainability here. Kieboom has been confounding, but he was an elite prospect who could just be getting started. I’m buying Kieboom where I can in hopes that he develops into a plus hitter with more reps.
10) Triston McKenzie is absolutely dominant right now.
I wrote about McKenzie last week, but it cannot be overstated how dominant he’s been. In 15 innings over his last two starts, McKenzie stuck out 19, walked one, and allowed just three hits. McKenzie’s breaking stuff has been unhittable in and out of the zone, and his nasty curveball has posted an absurd 60%+ whiff rate in two straight outings. The curveball has tight spin and incredible depth, and that’s before you consider that it’s thrown at 82 MPH. If McKenzie can continue to locate that pitch where he wants while limiting walks and fastball mistakes… the potential is limitless for the 24-year-old.