Mike Clevinger (SP-CLE) labored a bit through his 5.2 scoreless innings on the mound on Wednesday, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 4 while walking 5. The 29 year-old hasn't quite been himself so far in 2020, as he now owns a 3.24 ERA (5.02 xFIP), 8.1 K/9, and 5.4 BB/9 through his first 3 starts (16.2 IP). His walks are way up (2.64 BB/9 last season) while his strikeouts are down a lot (12.09 in 2019) and opposing batters are teeing off on his pitches far more often (45% hard-hit rate, 2.16 HR/9). His average fastball velocity is down a tick from last season (to 94), but still above the 93 that he averaged before 2019 while he's throwing it just 39% of the time (53% career) and using each of his 3 off-speed offerings more frequently than ever before. Something could be off that is leading to this shift within the arsenal or he's just adopted a different approach that isn't working very well so far. Either way, there is reason to be concerned about Clevinger, even if he didn't pay for his wildness on Wednesday.
Hyun-Jun Ryu (SP-TOR) put together an encouraging outing against Atlanta on Wednesday, completing 5 scoreless innings in which he allowed just 1 hit, walked 3, and fanned 8. The 33 year-old southpaw's start to the 2020 campaign - with a new team - was rough through his first two starts, as he owned a 8.00 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, 9 K/9, and 4 BB/9 entering Wednesday's start. The 4.63 xFIP, of course, suggested that he wasn't quite as bad as the ERA indicated, although the high walk rate - and 3 more on Wednesday - are a bit concerning because he posted a BB/9 south of 1.7 the past two seasons with the Dodgers. On top of that, opposing batters made hard contact at a 39% clip through his first two starts. But his 18.2% HR/FB is bound to regress toward his 11.4% career clip while his .333 BABIP is a bit on the high side and his 72.9% strand rate is a bit on the low side. Wednesday's performance indicates that his fantasy owners should hold tight because correction has already begun.
Alex Cobb (SP-BAL) took a tough-luck loss in the first game of a doubleheader with the Marlins on Wednesday, as he surrendered 1 run on 2 hits and 3 walks while fanning 7 over 5 innings of work. The lone run came on a Brian Anderson solo shot. The 32 year-old appeared destined for years of being a fantasy contributor after a pair of solid campaigns with the Rays in 2013 and 2014, but injuries derailed his career. Now with Baltimore, Cobb has put together 3 solid starts to open the 2020 season, as he now owns a 2.51 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 9.42 K/9 through 14.1 IP. His 3.23 xFIP does suggest that he's enjoyed some good fortune, as he has posted a 3.77 BB/9 so far while managing to strand 91.5% of baserunners thanks in part to a .211 BABIP. He has done a good job of keeping the ball on the ground (67.5%), which is something that he did back in his first handful of seasons with the Rays (groundball rate of 52.5% or better in each season, 2011-2016). At this point, Cobb has shown that he is worth rostering - he's currently available in about 90% of ESPN leagues. He lines up for a start at Philadelphia early next week.
Gary Sanchez(C-NYY) continues to struggle early in the 2020 campaign, as he went 0-2 with a pair of strikeouts at the plate in the second game of a doubleheader with the Phillies on Wednesday (he did not play in the first game). The 27 year-old slugger has now fanned in 16 of his 29 PAs to open the season, and he has yet to hit a homer. Contact has never been a strong suit for him (72% career), but that figure currently sits at just 58% so far in 2020. Consequently, he's now batting toward the bottom of the Yankees lineup (7th on Wednesday). For what it's worth, opposing pitchers are throwing him the lowest percentage of fastballs (43%) that he has seen in his career, and that's a pitch he feasted on in years past (5.2-8.5 wFB each year 2015-2019).
Max Kepler (OF-MIN) went 1-4 with a walk and a 3-run shot against Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The 27 year-old is now batting a solid .268 with 4 homers, 10 RBI, and 10 runs scored so far in 2020. The walk rate (12%) is a bit higher than his career average (10%) and his strikeout rate (19%) is right around his career mark (18%) while he's making hard contact at a 40% clip that isn't far off his career-best 42% from last season. Kepler is smoking a lot more liners (27%) than usual (17%) while elevating his flyball rate (50%) from previous seasons (43% career). The batting average rides on a .241 BABIP that is actually under his career clip (.253), so his average could very well remain in the .260s going forward. There's a lot to like about what he's doing so far in 2020.
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