Yu Darvish (SP-CHC) did a pretty good "Nuke" LaLoosh impression against the Rangers on Saturday, giving up 3 runs on 2 hits and 7(!) walks while striking out 4 in just 2.2 innings of work. He did throw just one wild pitch, but there's no indication whether it smoked a mascot. He also gave up a longball - no word on whether that hit a bull or went so far that there should have been a flight attendant aboard that ball. Alright, enough with the Bull Durham stuff. Seriously, this was a disturbing outing given that 2018 was basically a lost season for Darvish (he made just 8 starts), and when he did pitch he had major control issues (4.73 BB/9). Yeah, he also logged a 11.03 K/9, but he's not going to get very deep into games if he keeps issuing walks like "Wild Thing" Vaughn before he got glasses. Okay, I can't stay serious here. I think it has something to do with looking at the 23.63 BB/9 that Darvish has after this start. Blah, blah, blah, limited sample size... but there's a ballpark full of red flags up after this one. If I owned him in fantasy, he'd sit on the bench until the Cubs brought in Crash Davis to catch for him.
Pete Alonso (1B-NYM) followed up a quiet MLB debut (1-4, 2 strikeouts) on Thursday with a nice day at the plate on Saturday, going 3-4 with a pair of doubles, 2 RBI, and a walk. The 24 year-old slugger did whiff once, and that will certainly be something to keep an eye on going forward. After logging a strong 18.3% strikeout rate over 273 Double-A plate appearances last season, that clip jumped to 25.9% after his promotion to Triple-A (301 plate appearances). The strikeouts will no doubt suppress his batting average, and the .252 clip that we have him projected for sounds about right. In OBP leagues, his propensity for taking a walk (11% in Triple A, 15.8% in Double-A last season) adds value, and it's only a matter of time before he crushes what should be the first of many big-league homers. We projected Alonso for 22 dingers this season over just 376 at-bats, so given his surprise addition to the Opening Day roster, he should get enough plate appearances to allow him to push toward and perhaps beyond 30. He's still somehow widely available in fantasy leagues (he's owned in only 38.6% of ESPN leagues right now, for example), so scoop him up if he's on your waiver wire.
Maikel Franco (3B-PHI) refused to let an off day on Friday slow him down, as he went 2-3 with a homer, 3 RBI, and a walk against the Braves on Saturday. The 26 year-old, who appeared to be a bust after underwhelming since a solid 2015 campaign, now has a pair of home runs and 6 RBI to his name on the young season. The power certainly stands out, but perhaps more encouraging has been his patience at the plate so far in 2018; 2 walks in 2 games to start the season hints that Franco - who has never been one to take many walks (6.5% career walk rate) - may be maturing as a hitter. If that's the case, this could be the season that he finally breaks out. Of course, there's always the chance that this is just a mirage as we are looking at a very small sample size and all that. Nevertheless, for many fantasy owners there is an opportunity here because he's vastly underowned; for example, he's currently owned in only 34% of ESPN leagues.
Noah Syndergaard (SP-NYM) didn't have the strongest season debut against the Nationals on Saturday, but it also wasn't a disaster. Across 6 innings, the 26 year-old gave up 4 runs on 7 hits while walking none and recording 7 strikeouts. There is no reason to panic, as his typically stellar control was intact, his fastball sat in the high-90s, and he was a victim of some bad luck - a .375 BABIP against, 60.6% strand rate, and 20% HR/FB won't hold up over the course of a season. His 2.29 xFIP attests to him not deserving to walk away from the game with a 6.00 ERA. When it's all said and done, Thor will be arguably a top-10 SP for fantasy purposes. So, don't let one outing in which there were no real red flags cause any concern.
Nick Pivetta (SP-PHI) was a popular sleeper pick for many fantasy experts going into the 2019 campaign (depending on your definition of "expert," I am among those who really liked Pivetta this year), but his season debut against the Braves was disappointing. Lasting just 4.2 innings on the mound, he surrendered 4 earned runs on 8 hits and 1 walk while striking out 4. On the surface, yikes. But under the hood... it wasn't that bad (just like his entire 2018 campaign - déjà vu, anyone?) His 2.29 xFIP says that a 50% HR/FB, .438 BABIP allowed, and 65.8% strand rate inflated his ERA to an awful 7.71. However, he's always had a problem with the longball (17% HR/FB and 1.48 HR/9 in his career) and his BABIP allowed was high at .326 last year and .332 in 2017. I don't want to put too much into one outing, but viewed within the context of Pivetta's admittedly brief career... this fits the narrative. So, I'll put my Jump to Conclusions Mat away and end on this: It's just one start and we'll have to see how the next couple go. But I'm more concerned than I am with guys with longer track records like Syndergaard and Strasburg.
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