Eduardo Rodriguez (SP-BOS) struggled again on Thursday, pitching just 3.2 innings in which he gave up 6 runs (all earned) on 8 hits and 3 walks while striking out just 2 A's batters. The good news is that his 7.75 xFIP for the game indicates that he was really only about half as bad as his 14.73 ERA would suggest; his .438 BABIP allowed and 52.1% strand rate inflated the surface numbers just a tad. But it's never a good thing when a pitcher walks more batters than he strikes out, and Rodriguez now has a 7.88 K/9 to go with a 6.75 BB/9 on the young season. Suffice to say that Rodriguez looks like a mess right now, and that he only performed worse after his pitching coach publicly questioned his approach following his first (bad) outing highlights the depth of the problem. I wouldn't start him until he shows us something encouraging.
Trevor Bauer (SP-CLE) stifled the Blue Jays on Thursday, tossing 7 no-hit innings in which he walked 6 and struck out 8 before being lifted after 117 pitches (75 strikes). In the midst of seemingly emerging as the true ace of the Indians rotation, the 28 year-old now boasts a 0.64 ERA on the season to go along with a 10.93 K/9. But his 3.67 xFIP indicates that he's enjoyed some good fortune; his .040 BABIP against and 90% strand rate underscore that. Bauer has, however, made some of his own luck, as he did induce 61.5% grounders on batted balls on Thursday. And his 6 walks allowed were a huge departure from his first outing (1 allowed in 7 innings of work) and they go against his trend of lowering his BB/9 every year since 2015 (from 4.04 to last season's 2.93). Another strong campaign should lay ahead for Bauer, even as his crazy walk rate as well as insanely good fortune in terms of BABIP against and strand rate normalize.
Spencer Turnbull (SP-DET) impressed against the lowly Royals on Thursday, completing 6 innings in which he allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 10. This comes on the heels of an iffy March 30 start in which he gave up 3 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks while punching out 5 Blue Jays over 5 innings of work. The 26 year-old rookie (he did toss 16.1 innings with Detroit last season) now boasts a 3.00 xFIP on the year, with a 66.2% strand rate and .346 BABIP against kicking his ERA up to 4.09. The 12.27 K/9 will certainly come down as hitters key in on his fastball-heavy approach, and his 3.27 BB/9 isn't terrible but shows that he will issue some free passes. Turnbull did record a 9.58 K/9 over 98.2 innings of work in Double-A last season, but that came with a 3.65 BB/9. With all that said, I'll wrap up by saying that as eye-opening as Thursday's start was, Turnbull needs to show a little more before I buy in on him as a viable option for fantasy. But he's on my radar.
Adalberto Mondesi (SS-KC) had a rough day at the plate against the Tigers on Thursday, going 0-4 with a trio of whiffs. The 23 year-old's season average only dipped to .346 on the young campaign, which highlights that he's gotten off to a pretty good start overall. Out of his 9 hits so far in 2019, 6 have gone for extra bases (1 homer among them) and he has also swiped a lone bag. That's all great, but there are some red flags. For one, he's yet to draw a walk across 27 plate appearances. Mondesi only walked 3.8% of the time last season, so this is no surprise - but it's going to be tougher for him to steal bases if he's almost wholly relying on base hits. Second, he's whiffed 8 times already, good for a 29.6% strikeout rate - which is just above his 26.5% clip from 2018. When he's made contact, though, it's been solid (38.9% hard-hit rate) and mostly been in the air (58.8% flyball rate and 11.8% liner rate). It's certainly early and things will normalize going forward, but the lack of walks and propensity to strike out will suppress Mondesi's fantasy value to some extent. And needless to say that a .471 BABIP isn't exactly sustainable.
Jose Ramirez (3B-CLE) struggled again on Thursday, going 0-4 with an RBI on a sacrifice fly against the Blue Jays. He's now batting .136 with that lone RBI and 3 runs scored through 24 plate appearances on the young season. Yes, it's very early, this is discouraging given the way that he closed last season; he batted .218 over 220 second-half plate appearances as his BABIP cratered from .280 to .208 while his hard-hit rate plummeted from 40.8% to just 28.5%. Entering play on Thursday, his hard-hit rate sat at just 31.3% while he was lofting 53.3% flyballs; that combination makes for a lot of lazy flyballs. Given his strong overall track record from 2016-2018, one has to be optimistic that he will turn things around sooner rather than later. But at the same time his performance during the second half of the 2018 campaign has to lurk in his fantasy owners' minds as his early-season drought continues...
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