A couple of weeks ago with the Mets hanging on to a surprising 1st place lead in the National League East, it had been reported that top pitching prospect lefty Steven Matz would join fellow top prospect righty Noah Syndergaard in the Major League rotation around July 1. After losing 7 straight games to fall out of 1st place, the Mets are still a .500 baseball team and still can’t be counted out to win the division. So it is being reported that the Mets will call up Matz from AAA on Friday June 26 to be a part of a 6-man rotation for the time being. However, if Matz performs well enough, then Jon Niese could officially get the boot from the rotation or perhaps the Mets would look to trade Niese or Bartolo Colon for some help on offense, because they are really struggling to score (only 11 runs in their last 8 games).
I advised picking up Matz in re-draft fantasy leagues a couple weeks ago and here is some more information about him. Matz was a 2nd round pick by the Mets back in 2009 as a local boy out of a New York high school. He reported to instructional league in the 2010 season, but he felt discomfort in his arm and it was learned that he would need to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the damage. So all of the 2010 season was gone for Matz and in his recovery during the 2011 season, he felt additional discomfort and had to be shut down for another wasted year. Finally in June of 2012, Matz made his professional debut and he ended up making 6 starts at the Rookie level of the Minors where he had a 1.55 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 10.55 K/9, and 5.28 BB/9. The walk rate was really high, but that could largely be attributed to some rust after the two-year layoff. There was little doubt within the Mets organization that Matz had a special arm if he could remain healthy.
Fast forward to 2013 where he spent the whole season at the single-A level, making 21 starts with a 2.62 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 10.24 K/9, and 3.22 BB/9. With the lowered walk rate, it gives further proof to the notion that high walk rate in the previous season was just him working out the kinks coming back from the injury. In 2014, he split the season at high-A and AA to display more of the same by compiling a 2.24 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.38 K/9, and 2.24 BB/9 over 24 starts.
Matz then began 2015, his age 24 season, at AAA and has continued to show dominance with a 2.19 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9.37 K/9, and 3.07 BB/9 in 15 games (14 starts). What is really impressive about Matz’ Minor League career is that he has not struggled at any stop at any level and has provided consistent production upon each promotion. So will his next promotion yield the same results?
With comparisons being made to the likes of current southpaw greats Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner, the bar is being set pretty high for Matz. I am no baseball scout, but judging by the surface statistics, looking into his metric statistics, and the reports that I have read on him, I feel that Matz could eventually be mentioned in the same conversation with Kershaw and Bumgarner. Matz brings a mid-90’s fastball that he complements with an excellent changeup and an improving curveball that has been developing nicely. Matz has shown great ground ball tendencies in the Minors (54.8% this year and 49.7% for his career), and that helps him to prevent home runs as he has an incredibly low home runs allowed rate of 0.34 HR/9 in his Minor League career. A pitcher with excellent strikeout capabilities that profiles as a ground ball pitcher with the ability to keep the ball in the stadium is golden stuff.
Of course there is always the caution of top prospect pitchers struggling upon reaching the Majors — see Carlos Rodon, Archie Bradley, and Taijuan Walker. It is no doubt that some struggles should be expected of any rookie pitcher, but I think that the ones that that have the best chance to have early success with less struggles are the ones that have not displayed issues with their control/walk rates in the Minors — see Noah Syndergaard and Eduardo Rodriguez. Matz surely falls into the latter of the two groups to instill optimism for his immediate impact.
For upstart dynasty leagues, Matz should have been drafted, and for returning dynasty leagues he should have been scooped up last year if not sooner. For smaller number keeper leagues, Matz should have been picked up weeks ago. For any type of re-draft league, Matz requires an immediate pickup because he can be better than a good portion of the pitchers for the rest of the season. For DFS, his price should be relatively cheap for his first couple starts, which is going to make him a great bargain play (but beware because there will be many others who know the same, which will drive up his ownership rate).
For the remainder of the season, I will give Matz the line of: 5 W-3 L, 3.49 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 76 K, 28 BB in 80 IP.
Now let’s check out the rest of the action from Thursday’s slightly abbreviated slate!
Adam Eaton – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. I have mentioned Eaton as one of the primary reasons why the White Sox have been such an underwhelming team on offense this season because up until June 14, he had not been able to get his batting average above .240 or his on-base rate above .300. When a team’s leadoff hitter can’t get on base more than 30% of the time, then that team is usually going to have a significant problem trying to score runs. So on one hand, it is kind of a wonder how Eaton had lasted that long as the White Sox leadoff hitter with the struggles that he was enduring. But on the other hand, the team didn’t exactly have any better option. So while Eaton has been a big factor to the team’s inability to get runs across the plate, the whole team outside of Jose Abreu and perhaps Avisail Garcia has been ineffective. However, Eaton reached base 3 times in 5 plate appearances on Thursday, including his 4th HR of the year (a new career high). For the season, he now has a .253 AVG and .321 OBP, and the White Sox offense as a whole will benefit if he can continue to trend upwards, which I believe he should be able to.
Carlos Rodon – 5 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 K. For DFS on Thursday, Rodon would have been a must avoid for me with the Tigers right-handed heavy lineup. The Tigers actually rolled out 8 righties and 1 switch hitter and they were able to get to Rodon and his erratic ways. He served up 2 HR on Thursday after allowing just 1 HR in his first 11 appearances of the season. Rodon is not a recommended option in re-draft leagues due to his control issues as a rookie pitcher, but he can be used in DFS in the appropriate matchups because of his strikeout potential. He now has a 4.07 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, and 55 K/31 BB in 55.1 IP.
Ian Kinsler – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Kinsler’s power has dipped a lot this season with his current ISO sitting at .088, which is well below his career low of .125 for a single season from 2010. I didn’t like Kinsler coming into the season as I figured his power would drop, but this drop is very drastic. A couple things that are noticeable in his batted ball profile are that he is pulling the ball a lot less than usual and also not hitting the ball as hard. For a player that has always been more of a pull conscious hitter, the drop in hard hit rate this season is likely a causal effect of him not pulling the ball as often. Kinsler not pulling the ball as often could be just a slowing of his bat speed due to natural aging since he is now 33 years old, which is around the age where a lot of players begin to show greater signs of a decline.
J.D. Martinez – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 2 K. Just dongs for J.D. After his 3 dong performance earlier this week, I wrote about Martinez in “J.D. (Just Dongs) Martinez Goes Yard Thrice.” And he homered yet again on Thursday to give him 5 HR in the last 5 games, which happen to also be his only hits in that span — living up to the nickname that I gave him, Just Dongs.
Alfredo Simon – 6.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. Now this is what I like to see — back to back Simon bashings. I knew that he couldn’t continue the magic show that he was performing for the first couple months of the season. He now has a 3.57 ERA and 1.27 WHIP and I imagine him to finish with worse numbers by season’s end.
Dustin Pedroia – Updating a previous item from Wednesday, Pedroia was indeed placed on the DL with a hamstring strain on Friday. No word on whether he is expected to return after the minimum 15 days or not.
Eduardo Rodriguez – 3.2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 5 K with the L. E-Rod was perfect through 3 innings with 5 strikeouts before becoming unraveled in the 4th inning after he committed a throwing error on a fielded bunt. That inning was surely a turn for the worse and he now has a 4.33 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 32 K/11 BB in 35.2 IP. The ERA and WHIP don’t really matchup because he’s stranding runners at a well below average rate of 66.1% after Thursday’s debacle. As most rookie pitchers do, E-Rod will keep on experiencing some struggles from time to time, but he’s got a nice repertoire and the talent to succeed. He gets a date with the Rangers next who he dominated in his Major League debut. However, since this was the Orioles second time seeing Rodriguez and they were able to string together a hit parade, maybe the Rangers will have better luck in their second time seeing him as well.
Matt Wieters – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Wieters homered for the 3rd time since returning from the DL as he continues to quiet any concerns about being rusty after returning from Tommy John surgery. It’s been only 15 games, but he has extremely healthy marks of a .313 ISO and .604 SLG.
Mitch Moreland – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R. Moreland has been hitting great this season with a .302 AVG, 9 HR, and 35 RBI in 53 games after drilling one out on Thursday. His AVG figures to fall down to .270 or lower eventually once his BABIP comes down from .353 since there isn’t much in his batted ball profile to suggest he can be a .300 hitter.
Sonny Gray – 6 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K with the W. Gray hasn’t been as sharp in his last two games now. He normally dominates the Rangers, but this one was a tough battle in the 95 degree Texas heat that likely aided some of those Rangers bats. He’s not quite a fantasy ace because he’s not a huge strikeout pitcher, but he is improving this year and is as close as one could be to being called a fantasy ace. He is now 9-3 with a 2.09 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 97 K/26 BB in 107.2 IP. He gets a nice matchup at home against a Rockies offense that struggles on the road.
Jacob deGrom – 8 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W. It was another dominant outing for deGrom who now has 5 starts this season where he has not allowed a run, and he helped to snap his team’s 7-game losing streak. His 2.15 ERA and 0.93 WHIP are shiny, but the most impressive part of his game this year is the reduction in walks. He always had very good control coming up through the Minors with 2.28 BB/9 in all his Minor League starts, and as a rookie last year he was a little better than average at 2.76 BB/9. But this season he is all the way down at 1.61 BB/9. Pair that excellent walk rate with a strikeout per inning potential and you have an excellent pitcher on your hands. He faces the Cubs in his next start who gave him trouble earlier this season at Wrigley Field, but this next one will be at home where he has fared much better in his short career.
Carlos Frias – 5 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K with the W. Frias blanked the Cubs for 5 innings, but he was very fortunate to allow 10 base runners and have none of them score. This should buy him some more time in the rotation for the Dodgers, but I still don’t expect him to stay all season long.
Jon Lester – 4 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 K with the L. If only Lester had struck out one less batter and it would have been 4’s across the board. Overall, Lester has not met expectations as he is giving up a little more HR and line drives than he is accustomed to. Those rates aren’t out of control though, so a huge swing of his overall numbers shouldn’t be expected. But he can certainly come down to the area of a 3.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Definitely not ace material, but useful stuff.
Rubby De La Rosa – 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Rubby has been serving up HR all season long, so a start at Coors Field on Thursday didn’t look promising. However, he escaped with just allowing one HR and ended up pitching a very fine game. If he can continue to see his HR allowed rate fall from the 1.41 HR/9 mark that it is at now then his 4.69 ERA will continue to regress toward his xFIP of 3.35. However, he’s still going to give up his fair share of HR, so an ERA a little above 4.00 instead of under 4.00 is more of a believable mark for him by season’s end. His next start though comes against a Dodgers team that crushes right-handed pitching and demolished him by scoring 9 runs against him last time. He should be nowhere near starting fantasy lineups for that one and that will be a great DFS Dodgers stack opportunity as the visiting team with the full 9 innings of at-bats in a hitters park to boot.
Charlie Blackmon – 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 SB, 1 BB, 2 K. Blackmon is now up to 20 SB on the season after swiping two on Wednesday and one on Thursday. He had 28 SB in 154 games last year, so he’s on pace to blow by that mark this season, which in the end, regardless of what he does with the bat, will probably make him more valuable than last season in his breakout.
Nolan Arenado – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Arenado keeps on going yard. He now has 4 HR in his last 4 games and 20 HR on the season. I wanted to project him for 30 HR this season, but I thought that would be too generous. It turns out that it would have been just fine to project him at that level.
Wilin Rosario – 3 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB. Rosario continues to log semi-regular at-bats with Justin Morneau and Corey Dickerson on the DL for the Rockies. Rosario’s playing time is coming at first base, but he is catcher eligible for fantasy purposes, and he should continue to see a fair share of starts with no timetable for Morneau to return. Rosario loves hitting at Coors Field and against left-handed pitching, but don’t use him when he’s on the road versus righties.
Troy Tulowitzki – 1 for 1, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. Tulo hit his first pinch-hit HR of his career on Thursday for his 8th HR of the season. He has put his early season funk behind him.
Ian Desmond – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R. Desmond hit his 6th HR of the season on Thursday, but he has been very quiet so far. Even more disappointing than his HR total and .224 AVG is that he is just 2 for 4 in SB attempts. He’s stolen 20 bases in each of the last 4 seasons, so the fact that he’s only attempted 4 in almost halfway through the season is not a good sign. He’s not a player that I would be buying into at this point.
Doug Fister – 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K with the W. Fister returned from the DL on Thursday to toss 7 shutout frames. However, like with Jordan Zimmermann on Wednesday, let’s not get too excited because this start was against a Braves offense that has lost Freddie Freeman to the DL. Outside of a 6 run game, the Braves have only scored 5 runs total in the other 5 games since they lost Freeman. Double however, like Zimmermann, Fister will make his next start against the same Braves team. Meanwhile for DFS, add the Braves along with the Mets of teams to use starting pitchers against for the time being.
Matt Wisler – 4 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 0 K with the L. Wisler’s second Major League start certainly didn’t go over as well as his debut did. He’s got great control, but does lack strikeout appeal. I personally wouldn’t use him right now, but I could see starting him in the right spots — unfortunately, against the Nationals again in his next start is not the right spot.
Matt Kemp – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. In a bit of an odd move, Kemp has been leading off for the Padres the last couple games. I could understand maybe using him in the leadoff spot if the Padres had more mashers in the middle of the lineup, but they just don’t have a slew of other power options to drive in guys. And his current .283 OBP is very uninspiring and definitely not leadoff material. Nonetheless, he did hit a HR for his 5th of the year, so that may keep him in the leadoff spot for the next few days as the new Padres manager tinkers with his lineup. It’s been a very disappointing season for Kemp in his first go round with the Padres, but one positive is that he has 7 SB in less than half a season of play — he remarkably hasn’t had double digit SB’s since he stole 40 in 2011.
James Shields – 4 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 7 K with the L. So remember when I talked about bad defenses in “Sometimes A Pitcher Is Only As Good As His Defense?” I didn’t include Shields in the conversation when mentioning the Padres, but it is clear that I should have. After the hit parade that he let through on Thursday in San Francisco, Shields now sports an ugly .337 BABIP and it is hard to attribute that all to bad luck knowing that the Padres defense is so bad. So it will be difficult to expect for that number to come down a whole lot, and for his overall stats to improve by a lot. I do believe that he will finish the season with better than his current 4.24 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, but it might not get too much better than a high 3’s ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. At least he is whiffing a lot of batters (10.69 K/9) as expected in his first season in the National League.
Joe Panik – 3 for 4, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB, 1 BB, 1 K. I’ve said it before, but Panik is really having a nice season and is developing into a quality Major Leaguer. He’s not flashy with a lot of power or a lot of speed, but this guy can be a .300 hitter year in and year out. He stole a base (and also got caught stealing) on Thursday, so he now has 6 HR and 3 SB on the season. He should finish the season right around 10 HR/10 SB, which isn’t bad for a second baseman by any means.
Buster Posey – 3 for 5, 3 RBI, 3 R, 1 K. I said after Wednesday’s game that Posey should get the AVG up to .300 soon. A three-hit game will help with that.
Brandon Belt – 3 for 5, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Belt has cooled down a lot after an extremely hot second half of May, but he tripled twice on Thursday so hopefully this kick starts him to get back on track. He is batting .269 with 9 HR and 31 RBI.
Chris Heston – 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W. Heston hadn’t been sharp in his two starts since his no-hitter, but he turned in a better performance on Thursday against a Padres team that demolished him earlier this year. He gets a friendly start at Miami next and I think he should continue to be a decent fantasy asset.
Lance Lynn – 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K with the W. Lynn made his first start in 18 days and a matchup against a Marlins team that struggles against righties was a nice spot for him to make his return from a forearm injury. Despite pitching with about a 1 MPH loss in velocity on his fastball this season, Lynn is currently posting the best numbers of his career. However, with the forearm injury that he returned from, it will be something to monitor going forward.
Todd Frazier – 3 for 6, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB. The Toddfather now has 24 HR. He cannot be stopped. If he ties or surpasses his career high of 29 HR set last year by the All-Star break, then I will be completely floored.
Jose Altuve – 3 for 4, 3 R, 2 SB. Altuve missed some time with a bad hamstring, but then tried to play through it and looked awful. So he took some more days off to let it get better and it would appear that he is indeed feeling better as he stole a base on Wednesday and added two more steals on Thursday. Fire him back up in your lineups.
Dallas Keuchel – 9 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K with the W. After a 0.73 ERA in April and a 2.62 ERA in May, Keuchel entered Thursday with a 4.21 ERA in June to suggest that he was losing some of that early season magic. However, he proved on Thursday that is certainly not the case by hurling a CGSO against a powerful Yankees squad, and he did it in style by setting a new career high of 12 strikeouts. Who knew that after posting a 5.20 ERA in his first two Major League seasons that this would be the pitcher that Keuchel would develop into?