Tex Marks the Spot (and other notes from 6/1/15)

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Landing on the DL in each of the last 3 seasons, which includes missing all but 15 games in the 2013 season, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira was all but an afterthought in fantasy drafts this season and overlooked by many, including myself.  But he is showing an immense amount in his on-field performance to earn the $22.5 million that he’s due this season.  So after hitting a grand slam off Felix Hernandez on Monday, Tex is now hitting .241 with 15 HR, 39 RBI, 26 R, and 1 SB, but should he be expected to keep up this type of performance?

From 2003-09, Tex hit for over a .300 AVG in three seasons and compiled a .290 AVG over the whole time frame.  With that type of ability to hit for AVG combined with the 35 HR per season on average that he posted in that same period, he had firmly established himself as one of the best hitters of the decade.  But once 2010 came around, his ability to hit for a good AVG took a turn for the worse as teams began to collect and use different types of data more to their advantage.  Tex became just one of many sluggers who became greatly impacted by the increased implementation of defensive shifts by teams all around the league.  So gone were the days of hitting .290-.300.  From 2010-14, Tex hit for a rather paltry .242 AVG as he also began to pull the ball into the shift and fly out a lot more.

However, something that never really evaporated was his ability to go yard.  Over the last three seasons, his power has been sapped a bit as he only homered once every 19.27 AB, opposed to once every 16.60 AB from 2003-11.  Also, his ISO fell below .200 for the first time in his career in 2012 and 2013.  But this slight loss in power can largely be chalked up to the injuries that he dealt with.  The main injury that plagued his performance was a wrist injury that began as inflammation during the 2012 season and it carried over to 2013 before worsening to the point where he needed to have season-ending surgery to repair it.  While the wrist injury wasn’t what sidelined him in 2014, it surely had to have been something that affected his swing.

This season he is showing himself as healthy as ever, appearing in 49 of the Yankees 52 games so far.  And other than the low AVG, which should be a continuous occurrence because of his inability to hit around the defensive shifts, Tex is a better hitter than ever.  The power is incredibly off the charts with a current .325 ISO, which is well beyond his career high of .279 from his 2004 sophomore season.  But what might be even more impressive is the locked in and refined approach at the plate he appears to have.  Tex is 1 of 8 players in the Majors who currently has more walks than strikeouts, and at a 14.9 BB% and 13.4 K%, he is on pace for career bests in both categories.

One could point to his average distance on his HR + fly balls is only 279 feet compared to 294 feet last season (according to Baseball Heat Maps) and believe that perhaps this rebound in his HR total is a bit of a mirage.  But the ESPN Home Run Tracker shows that only 2 of his 15 HR this year are categorized as “just enough,” as in having just enough distance to clear the fence.  So I wouldn’t worry a whole lot about the average distance since most of his HR are clearing the fence by more than enough — it’s just the fly balls that have stayed in the park that are bringing his average distance down.

There can always be some sort of injury that comes up, but with the wrist appearing to be fully healed and his excellent plate approach and discipline, I remain optimistic for Teixeira to remain productive and a fantasy asset the rest of the season.  I will give him the rest of the season line of (from June 2 onward):   .242 AVG, 21 HR, 68 RBI, 52 R, 1 SB, 54 BB, 70 K

Let’s see what else Monday baseball brought to us…

Jason Hammel – 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K with the W.  “U Can’t Touch This, Hammel Time!” proclaimed the Cubs hurler on Monday evening.  He showed brilliance and once again had a 0 walk effort for the 5th time in 11 starts this season.  I believe that Hammel is well on his way to a career year and you can follow the above link in this blurb to find out why.  He’s now 4-2 with a 2.82 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and 69 K/7 BB in 67 IP.

Steve Cishek – Cishek was demoted to AA to figure out his mechanics down there.  Wowsers, I put him on blast earlier this season before he went on to blow even more games, but this is a mighty fall.  Maybe he can work his way back up to being a setup man for the Marlins, but it’ll be a long road back for him to be closing games for any team.

Jonathan Lucroy – 0 for 4.  Lucroy made his return from the DL after sitting out 6 weeks with a fractured toe.  It wasn’t exactly a triumphant return, but it’s just nice to see him back on the field after a fluke injury.  Yan Gomes returned last week, Lucroy came back on Monday, and Travis d’Arnaud and Matt Wieters should be back very soon as well.  It’s been tough sledding for fantasy owners with catchers this year, but the catcher position is about to get a lot stronger with all these guys coming back.

Jaime Garcia – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K with the L.  I’ve said before how Garcia is always a quality option for the Cardinals and fantasy owners when he is healthy, and he certainly showed it against the Brew Crew on Monday.  However, I’ve got the over/under on his next stint on the DL as the All-Star break and I would bet the under.

Nolan Arenado – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Back at Coors Field, Arenado took Kershaw deep for the first time in his career on Monday, and he has 6 HR and 16 RBI in his last 8 games.  He is locked in right now and with 6 more games at home this week, he will probably continue to stuff the box score.  It looks like he’s going to fulfill the lofty expectations that I had of him after all!

Joc Pederson – 1 for 6, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 2 K.  Joc hit his 14th HR of the year but it was just his 2nd off a lefty.  Overall, he has appeared much more comfortable versus righties.  So to take a lefty deep, even if it was at Coors Field, was great to see.  It’ll be something he will work on to continue to become a more complete hitter.

Adrian Gonzalez – 4 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB.  After a mediocre month of May, A-Gon got June off to a perfect start at the plate.  Fantasy owners would love to see him replicate his April.  He’s now hitting a cool .339 with 10 HR and 35 RBI.

Howie Kendrick – 2 for 6, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R.  Big game for HK-47 and he appears to be right in line with a typical Kendrick season.

Andre Ethier – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R.  Ethier went yard for the 7th time this year and also has a .309 AVG and 20 RBI as he has been filling in nicely for Yasiel Puig in right field for the Dodgers.  Dodgers beat writer, J.P. Hoornstra, reports that Ethier will move over to left field once Puig returns, which is not great news for Alex Guerrero who has been seeing most of his playing time in left field.  As I noted in “Fantasy Impact of Uribe/Callaspo Swap for the Dodgers,” Guerrero also should still see some playing time alongside Justin Turner at third base though, so all value will not be lost for him when all are healthy.  Guerrero would also figure to see starts in left field against lefties.

Jimmy Rollins – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  Rollins was bumped down to 7th in the Dodgers lineup on Monday and he responded by knocking his 6th HR of the year.  With just a .209 AVG and .277 OBP, the bottom of the order is best suited for Rollins at this point in his career, but it is no surprise that it took manager Don Mattingly this long to move him down in the order.  We’ll see how long it lasts though, and if it does then it would appear to be great for Justin Turner for the time being, as he is the one who slid into the 2-hole that Rollins had been occupying.  Turner was already looking like an attractive option over the last couple weeks and then even more after the trade of Juan Uribe, but now he’s looking even better.

Clayton Kershaw – 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K with the W.  Kershaw also added 3 hits at the plate, but more importantly is that he appears to be getting zoned in on the mound for the Kershawshank redemption.  That 3.73 ERA and 1.13 WHIP are about to see some big improvements.

Freddie Freeman – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R.  Entering the season, Freeman looked like a lone wolf on a seemingly pathetic Braves offense, but they have shown some fight and are averaging a decent 4.11 runs per game.  Surpisingly, up until recently, Freeman hadn’t been a huge part of that, but he’s now on a nice little streak with 3 HR and 6 RBI over the last 4 games.  He’s now at a .297 AVG with 8 HR, 29 RBI, 30 R, and 1 SB in 51 games.  Freeman has been a reliable and pretty consistent performer since his 2011 rookie season, making him a safe fantasy pick.  But it’ll be interesting to see who will have better stats the rest of the way — Freeman, Brandon Belt, or Lucas Duda — the latter of the two which could have been had at a much cheaper price on draft day.

Alex Wood – 8 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K with the W.  Wood has lowered his ERA from 4.28 to 3.13 over his last 3 starts having allowed only 1 ER in each of those starts, which is very encouraging.  With just 11 strikeouts in 22 innings during that time though, it’s not all gravy.  But he is showing better command of his pitches and his swinging strike rate is climbing, especially with the changeup.  So if the strikeouts begin to climb a bit, which I believe they should, then his 1.42 WHIP will come down.

Archie Bradley – 5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K with the L.  I’m pretty sure I’ve been saying for a while now that Bradley’s whacky control is not going to make him worth starting in fantasy leagues this year.  To add on, he has been just truly awful since returning from the DL after he got hit by a line drive in the face.  He now has a horrendous 10.91 ERA and 2.43 WHIP in 15.2 IP over 4 starts since the scary incident.

Albert Pujols – 3 for 5, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R.  Purely en fuego at this point with 5 HR and 9 RBI in his last 5 games.

Daniel Murphy – 4 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R.  All it took for Murphy to have a huge game was his teammate Lucas Duda to be on the bench as Murphy slid into Duda’s 3-spot.  Weird how that works out.  But Murphy has actually been quietly on a nice streak since the beginning of May with .352 AVG since.  He hasn’t been contributing hugely in any other area though, which could be attributed to being slotted in the 5th spot for most of the season instead of the 2-hole that he has been used to.  Hitting 5th has given him more RBI opportunities (29 RBI on the season), but it has severely impacted his runs total (16).  And the biggest impact that the change in lineup spot has had on him is that he has only 1 SB in 2 attempts.  If he continues to hit 5th then it’s looking like he won’t be reaching double digits in SB.

Jacob deGrom – 8 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K with the W.  DeGrom has just been lights out lately with a 0.92 ERA, 0.51 WHIP, and 34 K/1 BB in 29.2 IP over his last 4 starts.  That is absolutely filthy, but his start on Monday was the only one of those starts to come on the road, and as shown in the post “Prepare For Total deGromination,” the Mets hurler has been a much worse pitcher on the road in his so far short career.  I said that deGrom would probably be good to go for this start at San Diego, but I said that his next start at Arizona might be one to sit him.  However, at this pace, it would be nearly impossible to bench him.  But if he blows up at Arizona, then you’ll know why.

Andrew Cashner – 4.2 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 12 K with the L.  Well, this is a pretty strange sight.  Cashner had good enough stuff to where 12 of the 14 outs he recorded were via the strikeout, but somehow he also was extremely hittable to allow 11 base knocks.  I condoned Cashner as a buy candidate in “Cash In With Cashner,” and I still stand by it and I took my own advice and traded Luke Gregerson and Ben Zobrist for Cashner in a league.  He’s still bringing the heat with his fastball with a little extra zip and using his slider more, which is leading to his fantastic 9.58 K/9 — a big boost from 6.79 K/9 that he had last year.  He’s still giving up more HR and hits, and while those rates may not fully revert to the rates that he is accustomed to given how Petco Park is playing as less of a pitcher’s park and how he has a poor defense behind him, the rates should still come down at least a bit.

Felix Hernandez – 4.2 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 5 BB, 4 K with the L.  King Felix seems to have one of these outings every once in a while, but he’s still the King.  Even with the beating he took on Monday to fall to 8-2, he still has a wonderful 2.63 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.

Michael Pineda – 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K with the W.  He’s now got 76 K/7 BB in 70.1 IP as he continues his assault on Phil Hughes K/BB ratio record.

Nori Aoki – 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 SB, 1 K.  Aoki is now hitting .313 and has a .385 OBP with 12 SB.  Both the OBP and SB are good enough for 4th in the Majors as a leadoff man.

Gerrit Cole – 7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K with the W.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is the new norm for Cole as he is developing into a true ace at 24 years old.  He’s now 8-2 with a 1.90 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 79 K/16 BB in 71 IP.

Mark Melancon – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K with the SV.  Melancon has now tossed 8.2 scoreless innings in a row despite continuing to work with a decrease in velocity.  With the loss in velocity he only has a strikeout rate of 4.88 K/9.  The Pirates won’t mind the lack of strikeouts as long as he is closing out games cleanly.  But it just seems like it could just be a matter of time before he suffers through some hit parades.  But with a 2.63 ERA, converting 14 of 15 save opportunities, and an amazing last 1.5 seasons that he’s given the Pirates closing games, he is going to have a bit of a leash before they consider a switch.

Joey Gallo – With Adrian Beltre hitting the DL, the Rangers plan on calling up top prospect Joey Gallo.  He’s got big time power and I will have more to say about him soon.  For now, as is the case with most top prospects when they get called up, pick him up and wait and see, but keep expectations tempered.

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5 thoughts on “Tex Marks the Spot (and other notes from 6/1/15)

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