What’s the Haps With Matz and His Lat? (and other notes from 7/9/15)

Top prospect Steven Matz burst onto the MLB pitching scene for the Mets a couple weeks ago and has already drawn comparisons to two of the top left-handed pitchers in the game today, Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner.  I wrote about him in detail in “Metz to Promote Matz,” and he has been as advertised in two starts to compile a 1.32 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 14 K/5 BB in 13.2 IP.

However, on Thursday he was diagnosed with a partial tear of his lat muscle and he will not be throwing for three weeks. Once those three weeks are up, he’s then going to be looking at some sort of rehab period as well, which could push his absence to a month or even longer.

For the Mets, this presents as a brutal situation as they have been playing some better baseball as of late, after going through a big slump.  They sit only 3 games behind the Nationals in the NL East and having Matz as a part of their rotation was a big boost.  With the promotion of Matz, the Mets were using a 6-man rotation, but now can go back to the traditional 5-man rotation, which means that Jon Niese, who is the subject of trade rumors, may not be going anywhere as the trade deadline approaches.

For fantasy owners who picked up Matz for redraft leagues, if you can afford to use a roster spot on him while he’s on the DL, then that would be ideal because we have seen his talent and he should be quite a force if he returns fully healthy. For Matz owners in keeper or dynasty leagues, obviously he remains a must hold due to his tremendous future value.

Let’s take a look at the rest of Thursday’s action.

Brett Gardner – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Gardner became the latest member of the 10 HR/10 SB club this season when he hit his 10th HR of the year on Thursday.  Also on Thursday in between innings, it was announced that Gardner, who was on the final man ballot for the AL All-Star team, would be heading to the festivities in replacement of the injured Alex Gordon.  Rightfully so since he’s been such a great player this season.

Masahiro Tanaka – 7.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W.  Tanaka had posted three mediocre or bad starts in a row, but he was able to finally post a good one in his last start before the All-Star break.  He defeated the A’s and now has a 5-3 record with a 3.63 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 67 K/13 BB in 67 IP.  He hasn’t been nearly as sharp as he was in his rookie season, but he figures to improve a little bit over the second half.  He’s been done in by the long ball this season a with a home runs allowed rate of 1.34 HR/9, but that should come down a bit.

Melky Cabrera – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R.  The Melk Man has been hitting much better as of late with a 8-game hitting streak since the start of July.  It looks like he’s breaking out of what seems like has been a season long slump.

Jeff Samardzija – 9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K with the W.  Samardzija came out and pitched a gem on Thursday by shutting out the Blue Jays, though it should be noted that the Blue Jays were resting a few of their regulars.  Nonetheless, it was a good performance and he almost has his ERA back below 4.00.  I said a couple months ago that I didn’t like Samardzija for this season and for the most part, there has been good reason to it.  But with the White Sox out of contention, Samadzija is going to be subject to trade rumors in the final year before he hits free agency.  So if he were to land in a better situation, preferably a National League team in a more pitcher friendly park, then I would be all for endorsing him.

Lorenzo Cain – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB 1 K.  Before Cain got ejected on Thursday, he hit a home run in his second consecutive game.  He’s really on a roll right now and even though he has a high .360 BABIP to support his .312 AVG, his batted ball profile suggests that he should be able to sustain a higher than average BABIP.  So I wouldn’t expect Cain to go through any significant regression.

Salvador Perez – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Perez doesn’t know how to take a walk with only 5 walks on the whole season so far, but his power sure is coming through as he blasted his 14th HR of the year on Thursday.

Yordano Ventura – 5 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K with the W.  Ventura made his return from an arm injury on Thursday, but he posted a line that was very similar to the mediocre lines that he has been posting all season long.  With the velocity decline and the arm trouble he has had this season, he’s not a pitcher that I am a fan of.

Alex Gordon – Gordon landed on the DL with a strained groin and is expected to be out 8 weeks.  When Alex Rios was on the DL, it was Paulo Orlando who saw the bulk of starts in right field, but perhaps things will be different this time around. On Thursday, it was Jarrod Dyson who started in place of the injured Gordon, and from a fantasy perspective, Dyson would be the much more intriguing option because of his blazing speed.  Dyson already has 11 SB in limited playing time this season, so if you’re in the need of speed, Dyson would be the man to get.  Even if Dyson remains in his normal reserve/late-inning role, he should at least some additional starts with Gordon out.

Nate Karns – 6 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 5 K with the L.  Karns ran into some trouble against a fiesty Royals offense on Thursday.  His BABIP and strand rate are still a little better than average, but I have to expect him to still keep regressing and finish the season with an ERA above 4.00 and WHIP above 1.30.  He shouldn’t be a pitcher to invest too heavily in.

Dee Gordon – 2 for 3, 2 R, 3 SB, 1 BB.  Gordon has given way to Billy Hamilton this season as the best base stealer in the league, but Gordon still is no slouch.  With 3 SB on Thursday, he now has 33 on the season and he also continues to hit very well at the plate with a .336 AVG.  He has a .397 BABIP to support that high AVG, but a player with his speed and his line drive rate could be able to keep getting hits at that pace on the balls he puts in play.

Jose Fernandez – 7 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K with the W.  Fernandez was amazing in his second start back from Tommy John surgery and he showed no issues with his control or command as he did not walk a single batter.  I’ve said before that pitchers typically struggle in that regard when they come back from the surgery, but maybe Fernandez is going to be an exception as he has 0 walks in 13 innings so far.  He should be quite the weapon as the season wears on.

Cody Anderson – 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K with the W.  Anderson of the Indians now has 4 starts to the beginning of his Major League career where he has given up either 0 or 1 run, but he is getting extremely fortunate by all accounts.  He’s beginning to remind me of Chi Chi Gonzalez who had great results for the Rangers in his first several starts, but then the regression caught up to him and he was recently optioned back to the Minors.  Anderson profiles better than Gonzalez though in the fact that he has shown impeccable control.  But his .165 BABIP and 98.8% strand rate are beyond ridiculous, and he only has 11 K’s through 30.1 IP.  The wheels are going to begin to come off pretty soon for Anderson, but enjoy his 0.89 ERA and 0.66 WHIP while you can.

Carlos Martinez – 7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K with the W.  Martinez pitched another excellent game and will head to the All-Star break with a 10-3 record, 2.52 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 113 K/43 BB in 107.1 IP.  It’s been a breakout first half for the young righty, but in his first start back from the All-Star break, he will be entering uncharted territory from an innings pitched standpoint.  So it is entirely possible that he begins to break down some in the second half of the season as he gets further and further away from his previous career high in innings pitched.  Check out “Attention C-Mart Shoppers: Red Light Special” for more information on the situation.

Ian Kinsler – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R.  Kinsler’s power has been missing for most of the season, but he stepped into a Mike Pelfrey offering to leadoff the game with a home run, and then he missed his 2nd HR of the game by just an inch or so.  His power goes to his pull side, which he has been hitting toward much less this season, but he’s been pulling it more lately and showing a little more power with it.  He should begin to trend upward a little over the second half.  If anything, he’s still a solid source of runs moving into the leadoff spot for the Tigers recently.

David Price – 8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 K with the W.  Price allowed a couple unearned runs, but he held on to beat the Twins for the third time this season and will take an 9-2 record, 2.38 ERA, and 1.12 WHIP into the All-Star break.  I think that he will finish the season with an ERA above 3.00 as more of those base runners come around to score instead of being stranded, but he’s obviously still a great fantasy option.

Yasiel Puig – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Puig has recently been moved down in the Dodgers lineup to as low as 6th due to his recent struggles that have seen his AVG fall to .272 after an 0 for 5 game on Wednesday.  But on Thursday, he was able to do something positive by hitting a double and launching his 4th HR of the season.  His bat should get going pretty soon, but the bigger concern with him from a fantasy standpoint is the lack of stolen bases.  He has yet to steal a single base this season, which probably has something to do with the hamstring injury that put him on the DL for 6 weeks of the season.  If he isn’t stealing bases, then he is far less attractive as a fantasy option.

Zack Greinke – 8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K with the W.  Greinke had a 1-hitter going with only 94 pitches thrown and a 6-0 lead, yet for some reason he was pinch hit for in the bottom of the 8th inning.  It’s a shame that he wasn’t given the chance to complete the shutout, but he turned in his 5th straight scoreless start and now has thrown 36 shutout innings in a row. He’s bound to give up many more hits and runs because his BABIP and strand rate are unreal, but clearly he is doing a lot of things right as well.

Felix Hernandez – 7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the W.  Felix does have his occasional blowup games, but he sure knows how to silence an offense that has been red hot.  With 7 shutout innings against the Angels on Thursday, Felix improved to 11-5 with a 2.84 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 112 K/35 BB in 117.1 IP.

Garrett Richards – 5.1 IP, 12 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K with the L.  I’ve been saying for a while now how Richards’ velocity has been down this season and while he’s been able to work around it in some games, he’s just overall visibly not as effective without that extra tick on the radar gun.  He saw some bad results in his start on Thursday against the Mariners where he got knocked around for 12 hits.  The poor start dropped his stats to a 3.53 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, and his 6.98 K/9 is very reflective of that velocity that he’s missing.  He’s not someone that I would target or have much confidence in during the second half of the season.

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