Miley was the best non-Chris Sale pitcher on Thursday, going eight innings and allowing just one run on two hits and a walk while striking out 11. Wade Miley, yes THAT Wade Miley, is now sporting a 1.89/3.18/2.90 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line and striking out 11.37 batters per nine. I'm as shocked as you are. Miley has added a tick to his fastball, but more than that, it seems that he is relying on the sinker more than ever, and it is bringing good results. Miley is sporting a 48.7 percent ground ball rate, but also pairing that with a 12.5 infield pop-up rate. Miley is certainly due for some heavy regression, his .162 BABIP and 91.6 percent left on base rate are both almost laughable, but Miley may just be a decent streaming option in 2017. Miley has always posted strong xFIP numbers, it was just the ERA that lagged behind. If Miley has figured something out that allows him to have an ERA that matches his xFIP, we're now talking about a pitcher with a mid 3.00s ERA and (at least this season) a plus strikeout rate. Miley's next start will come at home against the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that has actually hit lefties pretty well in 2017, so it will be a good test for the seven-year vet.
McCullers bounced back from his worst outing of 2017 to post another excellent start on Thursday, giving him three out of four when it comes to excellent starts in 2017. McCullers went 6.2 innings, allowing just three hits and three walks, while striking out ten and getting the win over the Angles. McCullers has quality starts in three of his four outings, with only a 4.1 inning five-run outing holding him back from a truly excellent start to 2017. That's about where we should expect the young righty (23) to be at this point, and his 3.38 ERA after Thursday's start wouldn't be shocking to see as his final ERA in 2017. The best part of McCullers is his elite K rate as a starter, and he hasn't let down owners there this season. With an 11.63 K/9, McCullers is right around where he was last season when he struck out 11.78 over 81.0 innings. An innings cap/potential for injury is the only thing keeping McCullers out of the top tier of pitchers right now, as his run prevention (2.19 xFIP) and strikeout numbers are superb. Owners will have to cross the innings cap bridge when they get there (selling high in July might not be a terrible idea), but for now enjoy the young stud while knowing there will be a few rough outings along the way.
Betts had himself a nice ballgame Thursday, collecting only one hit, but it was a bases-clearing double in the tenth that won the game for the Sox. Betts also stole his first and second bases of the season in the game, giving him a great all-around fantasy day. Betts is slashing .340/.407/.472 on the young season, with one home run and two steals. He also was getting a lot of attention in recent days for not having struck out the entire season, but now has three strikeouts in his last two games. Interestingly enough, the strikeouts might actually be a good sign for fantasy players with Betts on their roster. The only number from Betts' slash line that has been somewhat disappointing in 2017 is his slugging percentage, which is about 70 points below 2016. While we don't want to see Betts completely selling out for power, it's quite hard to be a complete contact guy and still have some pop in the bat. Some strikeouts here and there are well worth it if it means Betts is loading up for more power, and thus more home runs and extra base hits. Betts hit his first home run of the season Tuesday, and could well be in for a tear now that the strikeout streak is broken.
Steven Souza Jr.
Souza has another great day, going 3-for-5 with a double, triple and a homer. The home run was his third of the season and with three runs and three RBI, Souza now has 26 RuBIns on the year. Maybe the best sign for future success on Souza's player card is that he has shaved nearly ten percent off his strikeout rate so far this season. Souza was whiffing at an astronomical 34.0 percent clip in 2016 (and 33.8 percent in 2015), but is striking out less than a quarter of the time in 2017. It is mighty difficult to hit for any sort of average with a 34.0 percent strikeout rate, so the drop is nice to see. Souza won't continue to hit .349 as he is right now. His BABIP (.452) has a lot of deflation still to come, but with a healthy walk rate, Souza will still get on base at a solid clip even when that regression does come. Souza was a bit of a wild card before the season, but as of now, there's a lot to like.
Michael Brantley $17
Brantley has officially come alive in 2017, sporting a six-game hit streak with three multi-hit games in that run. His average is up to .286 and his slugging percentage is up to .469. He's back in double-digits for walk rate, and he has a nice matchup with a struggling Jose Quintana on Friday. Brantley has had plenty of looks at Quintana in their overlapping AL Central careers, and Brantley is 13-for-27 with a homer and two steals against the White Sox lefty in that time. Quintana has a 6.75 ERA and a 5.32 xFIP this season and already has some buzz that there could be a potential injury in play. Brantley and the Indians should feast on the Indians, and the price isn't too expensive.
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