Kenta Maeda (SP-LAD) – Maeda most likely saved his rotation spot on Friday against the Phillies, tossing seven innings of two-run ball with eight strikeouts. Maeda lowered his ERA from 8.05 to 6.58 in this one. Overall, his 27:6 K:BB in 26 innings is actually pretty encouraging, with the ERA being inflated thanks to a whopping seven home runs allowed. Maeda looks to have the ceiling of countryman Hiroki Kuroda, a solid #3 starter in his day. Maeda got an extra day off for this start, and the time off appeared to invigorate the Dodger starter. He was also called out somewhat in the media by manager Dave Roberts, and there’s little doubt that we’ll see him starting a game in the next five or so days.
Yuli Gurriel(1B/3B-HOU): Gurriel went 3-for-4 with a homer, a double, two RBI, and two runs scored vs. the A’s. After getting off to a sluggish start, Gurriel has picked up the pace at the plate, moving his line to .347/.365/.514 with two homers, seven RBI, and nine runs through 20 games. The BABIP is high, but Gurriel’s batted ball profile suggests we shouldn’t see his AVG dip below .300. While his 1 percent walk rate is concerning, the Cuban sensation is chasing fewer pitches than he did during his 2016 debut, and I see him tapping into the elite plate discipline he displayed in his home country. Buy.
Matt Harvey: Before Thursday’s start, Harvey looked good on the surface, but there were signs of trouble just below the surface. With a 2.84 ERA and 4.91 FIP heading into the game, maybe it’s not too surprising to see that the Braves roughed him up for six runs in four and a third innings. Harvey walked five while striking out just one – as the lack of ability to punch out hitters has dogged him all season. After Thursday’s loss, Harvey now has a K/9 rate of 5.46, one of the worst figures in the league. Harvey has still been a bit lucky, if anything, on balls in play, with a .209 BABIP against, and he’s giving up a lot of long balls. If you can stay sell relatively high based on his name cachet, it would be better to abandon ship sooner than later. His velocity has trended down (slightly) each game in 2017, and there’s not a lot like to here.
Hisashi Iwakuma pitched 5.2 innings of hitless ball, to everyone but Tyler Collins – who unfortunately had 3 hits. Iwakuma allowed 1 run (unearned) with 3 strikeouts and a walk. Iwakuma turned 36 this year and hasn’t been fantasy relevant since 2015; I don’t expect that to change this year either. Before yesterday, his velocity was down to just 85.9 MPH on his fastball vs. a career average of 89.2. He’s living dangerously and there will be a number of poor starts going forward. His xFIP is just under 6 for a reason.
Jason Heyward continued to rebound from a miserable 2016 campaign, launching a three-run homer and finishing the day 1-4 with four RBI. He’s already amassed 16 RBI along with a .294/.342/.456 slash line, and his swing overhaul appears to be reaping rewards already. His underlying numbers don’t actually indicate any type of change however, and even his hard contact rate is still below average just as it’s been since 2012. The only discernible change to this point from the new swing is a career-high pull percentage, which sits at 47%, and that’s more appraoch-based. That could lead to more power, but there’s no other evidence to this point that Heyward has really turned a corner to regain his old form. In fact, his reach rate is actually up and his walk rate is down to just 5.5%. Being in such a strong lineup will continue to act as a buffer if/when the batting average comes down, but don’t get overly excited about what he’s done so far. His swing will remain a work in progress as the season wears on.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, KC: Among other struggling Royals, Hosmer has managed just a .194 BA with 1 HR and 1 2B through the season’s first 19 games. His .217 BABIP is bound to rise and so is his BA, but it’s fair to wonder if the 25 HR’s in 2016 are really an outlier. His high GB% will make it difficult to hit for a lot of power, and it’s not like his Hard% has been through the roof either. It’s also fair to wonder how valuable a 1B with moderate power can be in fantasy.
Keon Broxton, OF, MIL went 2-4 with a 2B on Sunday, a nice showing for someone who had been mired in a 4-32 slump across the previous 9 games. But he also struck out two more times, giving him 24 K’s in 57 AB’s this season (42.1%) to go along with a miserable .173/.246/.308 slash line. His 23 SB’s in 75 games last season got people very excited, but right now there’s not much to be excited about.
Kevin Gausman found himself in the hole early, giving up four runs in the first inning alone and requiring 45 pitches to get out back into the dugout. He buckled down after that and would give up just one more run the rest of the way, but his line for the day was still ugly – 5.1 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 4 K. He’s now allowed 13 runs over his last 8 IP across two starts, and his owners are using their buckets to try to throw the water back overboard from the sinking ship. With a 17:15 K:BB ratio over 24 innings and a 7.50 ERA, it’s hard to blame them. The good news is that the slider he’s been working in twice as much this year compared to 2016 – to ill effect – was deployed just 11% of the time compared to 23% coming into the year. The other good news as that he threw his splitter much, much more. 32% of his pitches, in fact, compared to just 9% on the year beforehand. The bad news is that he still got rocked. The splitter, at least, was effective for whiffs, garnering a 29% whiff rate. The slider had exactly zero whiffs, so perhaps this pitch mix will be for the best if he sticks with it moving forward. Things will get better for Gausman; he’s never had control issues like this in the past, so whether it’s the slider that has him off or something amiss in his mechanics, it’ll get ironed out. It’s too much at this point to ask for the breakout season many were hoping for, but he can at least reclaim his place as a competent mixed league starter. You might want to bench him until he gets ironed out, but unless you’re in a very shallow mixed league, hang on to him. He’s slated to take on the Yankees in New York his next time out.