Aristides Aquino (OF-CIN) went 3-4 with a walk and a trio of solo bombs against the Cubs on Saturday. The 25 year-old rookie has now bashed 7 homers in his first 9 big-league games of 2019 (30 plate appearances). Prior to arriving in the majors, Aquino batted .299 with 28 dingers and 53 RBI across 323 Triple-A plate appearances. The power is nothing new for this guy, as he twice surpassed 20 homers during his minor-league career (23 in High-A in 2016 and 20 in Double-A last season). But that power comes with strikeouts (a shocker, I know), as he has whiffed at a 30% clip so far in the majors this season (yes, in a small sample size) after striking out at a 25% or greater rate in the minors each of the last 3 seasons. His production in 2019 comes after he reinvented his batting stance, so there's a chance that his production this year is more indicative of his potential than his less impressive numbers from 2011-2018.
Isan Diaz (2B-MIA) went 2-4 with a double, an RBI, and a walk against Atlanta on Saturday. The effort raises the 23 year-old rookie's batting average on the year to .174 to go with a .240 OBP through 25 plate appearances. Other than a homer he crushed during his debut against Jacob DeGrom, Diaz has struggled to adapt to big-league pitching, as 36% of his plate appearances in the majors to date have ended in a strikeout. His 18% hard-hit rate is also discouraging, but it has come in a tiny sample size. So, it might be more useful to focus a bit more on Diaz's work in in Triple-A this season, where he logged a .305 average, 26 dingers, and 70 RBI through 435 plate appearances while walking at an 11% clip and striking out in 22% of plate appearances. One can't assume that he will simply translate that production to the majors, but it gives a sense of his potential. So fantasy owners who added him should give him a bit of a leash. And he should be on the radar for 2020.
Sonny Gray (SP-CIN) handled the Cubs offense well on Saturday, tossing 6 shutout innings in which he surrendered 2 hits and walked 4 while recording 7 punchouts. The 29 year-old righty is enjoying his best season since 2016, when he posted a 2.73 ERA (3.80 SIERA), 7.31 K/9, and 2.55 BB/9. Entering Saturday's game, his ERA clocked in at a strong 3.25, with a 3.91 SIERA his best since 2016. While his 3.18 BB/9 sits right around his career average of 3.10, his K/9 has spiked to a career-best 10.13 after sitting at about 8.5 the last couple of seasons. Even though Gray's experienced a bit of good luck in the form of a 77% strand rate (72% career), he's using his slider a career-high 21% of the time while only throwing his heater 48% of the time and mixing in a curveball at a 23% clip (his changeup accounts for the balance). And it certainly doesn't hurt that he's calling the NL home for the first time in his career. It seems - and I say this with a little caution - Sonny Gray is back and even better than ever before thanks to the improved strikeout ability.
Adrian Houser (SP-MIL) stifled the Rangers offense on Saturday, going 6 strong innings in which he surrendered just 1 run on 3 hits and a walk while recording 10 punchouts. The 26 year-old righty is making a solid impression in his first substantial go in the majors, as he owned a 4.02 ERA, 9.61 K/9, and 3.12 BB/9 through 63.2 innings of work entering Saturday's contest (8 starts, 17 relief appearances). His nearly identical 4.02 SIERA suggests that he's performed just as well as the surface numbers suggest. Houser's ability to induce strikeouts paired with a 53% groundball rate should help to minimize any damage that might result from opposing batters making hard contact at a 38% clip. He employs a 95 mph fastball and sinker, throwing each about 1/3 of the time, while mixing in sliders (13%), curveballs (15%), and a plus change (6%). Saturday's outing should earn him further starts in the Milwaukee rotation and he should be worth the add as a result.
Jeff Samardzija (SP-SF) largely baffled the Phillies offense on Saturday, tossing 8 innings of 2-hit ball in which he surrendered just 1 run and walked none while recording 5 punchouts. Overall, the 34 year-old righty is enjoying a solid season. His 4.68 SIERA entering Saturday's start, however suggests that some good luck suppressed his ERA to 3.70. A 74% strand rate that sits 4% better than his career clip and a .258 BABIP that clocks in significantly below his .292 career rate are both indicators of good luck helping the Shark. Across the board, Samardzija's peripherals - especially his meh 7.84 K/9 and above-average 41% hard-hit rate allowed - say he's a back-end starter for fantasy purposes. The long and short of it is that some correction to the mean should be expected down the stretch.
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