Presto for Preston (and other notes from 7/22/15)

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Preston Tucker is an outfielder that was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 7th round of the 2012 draft as a four-year standout at the University of Florida, and he’s been a player in the Minors that has shown a nice power stroke and a bit of an advanced plate approach. After beginning the year at AAA and hitting .320 with 10 HR in just 25 games, the Astros promoted Tucker to the Majors in early May after George Springer landed on the 7-day DL with a concussion. At the time, it was unclear whether or not the Astros intended to keep Tucker on the roster once Springer was ready to return, but Tucker began to hit and the Astros kept him on as a left-handed bat since they were in 1st place in the division and in “win now” mode.

Tucker eventually hit a prolonged slump once the calendar flipped over to June as he had a .189 AVG for the month, but the Astros stuck with him, which shows the confidence that they have in him to be the type of player that they feel he can be (side note: The Astros also drafted Preston’s younger brother Kyle Tucker with the 5th overall pick in this year’s draft). And to even further show the Astros’ faith in Tucker, he has been hitting out of the 2-hole since July 3 after Springer suffered yet another injury that landed him on the DL, and Tucker has responded very well in that role.

On Wednesday, Tucker belted 2 home runs and is now hitting .264 with 8 HR, 26 RBI, and 26 R for the season, and .321 with 4 HR, 9 RBI and 9 R since being inserted into the 2-hole. Springer isn’t expected back for about another three weeks barring any setbacks, so Tucker seems likely to continue to be placed in a very favorable spot in the Astros lineup on a regular basis and he’s got the skills to keep on improving his overall triple slash of .264/.324/.466. And in the Minors, he has a 25 HR and a 24 HR season to his name, so he definitely has the type of pop that can make him a useful fantasy commodity.

Along with the power potential, Tucker has shown an advanced plate approach in the Minors that I alluded to previously. Currently, Tucker has a walk rate of 7.6% and a strikeout rate of 20.0%. Neither number is terrible as they are actually right on par with the league averages of a 7.5% walk rate and a 20.1% strikeout rate, and his 20.0% strikeout rate is actually lower than average for a player with his type of 25+ HR power. But in his Minor League career, he had a 9.3% walk rate and a 16.4% strikeout rate. However, his strikeout rate in 420 plate appearances in AAA is 21.9%, so perhaps he won’t get too much better than his current rate there, but he’s still just 25 years old and can develop those skills with more experience in the Majors. Just know that the potential is there for improvement in this area and this is something that makes him someone to monitor for now and for the future.

Another aspect of Tucker’s Minor League game that hasn’t yet translated over to his Major League career so far is his ability to left-handed pitching. For the season against southpaws, he is hitting just .218/.259/.255 with no home runs in 55 AB, and this poor hitting performance for a lefty vs. left-handed pitching is not atypical for many players. However, according to Minor League Central, Tucker actually hit left-handers very well throughout his time in the Minors at .321/.377/.512. That line is actually better than his line against right-handed Minor League pitching. So while he may not be hitting Major League lefties all that well at the moment, there is some definite capability of improving, and is probably the reason why manager A.J. Hinch is not being afraid of putting him high up in the batting order against lefties.

Once Springer is ready to return to the lineup Tucker will probably get bumped down in the order and also lose some playing time, but he appears to be showing enough to be given a good amount of consideration for both season long fantasy leagues and in DFS. At the very least, it’s looking like Tucker can at least be on the strong side of a platoon, and Adam Lind is a good example of the type of player that we might see Tucker develop into in the future. Provided that he doesn’t make too much noise from now till the end of the season, Tucker could enter the 2016 season as quite a sleeper.

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

Julio Teheran – 7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 11 K with the L. Teheran unexpectedly struck out 11 batters to tie a career high on Wednesday, but he still was saddled with the loss. He’s been struggling all season long, so how he did so well against a Dodgers offense that pounds right-handed pitching, I’m not sure. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the Dodgers rested a couple of their regulars in the day game. I definitely need to see more of this from him before I can say that he’s turned a corner in what has been a disastrous season. He now has a 4.49 ERA and 1.37 WHIP and will make his next start at Baltimore.

Yasmani Grandal – 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Grandal didn’t start for a few games due to a jaw injury, but he returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday and immediately got back down to business in hitting right-handed pitching. The switch-hitting catcher’s prowess comes nearly exclusively against right-handed pitching. Keep that in mind for DFS play.

Mike Bolsinger – 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K with the W. Without allowing an earned run in his start on Wednesday, Bolsinger got his ERA back under 3.00 to 2.79. A couple months ago, I did a feature on Bolsinger in “Is Bolsinger a Bullsh**ter?” My conclusion was that he should be able to do well for a bit since teams were unfamiliar with him, but since he was just a two-pitch pitcher (cutter and curveball), I believed teams would start to pick up on him pretty quickly. However, in his start on June 19, according to PITCHf/x data, Bolsinger introduced a slider that he used 12.2% of the time since then. And on Wednesday, according to MLB Gameday, Bolsinger upped his slider usage to 20.4% of his pitches in Wednesday’s game against the Braves. So since he started using a slider, he has posted a 3.50 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 32 K/11 BB in 36 IP. Those are pretty decent numbers and with the introduction of a third pitch offering that he can now turn to, I do have to believe more in Bolsinger’s ability to be a quality option.

Kyle Schwarber – 2 for 5, 1 RBI, 1 SB, 1 BB, 2 K. Schwarber came up big on Tuesday with a game tying home run in the 9th inning and then then go-ahead and game-winning home run in the 13th inning. He kept things rolling on Wednesday with another couple of hits and he even swiped his first base of his career. He’s now batting .400 with 3 HR and 10 RBI in 40 AB and he is really drilling the ball anytime that he makes contact with it. He’s showing some great skills and displaying why he was a 1st round draft pick. He will strike out a lot as he continues to get settled in, but he can mash. He needs to be owned in pretty much all leagues despite the fact that he may not start after Miguel Montero returns from the DL in over a month and the fact that he may not start games that Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester are pitching (because Cubs manager Joe Maddon may opt to use the veteran David Ross as their personal catchers). When I featured Schwarber earlier in the season, I opined that Schwarber could be a top 5 fantasy catcher as soon as next season — all he may need is a place to play.

Kyle Hendricks – 6 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 9 K with the L. Hendricks ran into serious trouble in the 1st inning on Wednesday, allowing 4 runs right off the bat. But he settled down nicely after that and managed to strikeout a career high 9 batters to help offset all the runs allowed. I’ve mentioned a few times this season how Hendricks has been striking out more batters this season, and he’s now up to 7.56 K/9, which is light years ahead of his mark of 5.27 K/9 last year. Hendricks may very well be able to keep up this type of performance to finish the season right around his current 3.66 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. He’s an underrated option.

Joey Votto – 5 for 6, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 R, 3 BB, 1 K. Votto is on a bit of a terror right now with 13 hits in his last 22 at-bats to bring his season batting average up to .298. He’s definitely slowed down in the HR department after smashing 7 HR in his first 20 games, but he’s still a quality option and is a definite threat to finish the season with a .300 AVG.

Mike Leake – 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K with the W. Leake improved to 8-5 with a 3.78 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 87 K/33 BB in 128.2 IP. He’s not easily trusted in fantasy circles because of his tendency to have blowup games, especially against good offenses, but there are definitely worse guys to own. He may be on the move with the trade deadline coming up, so while he would benefit with a home park switch, if he gets traded to the American League then that could offset any positive park switch.

Tony Cingrani – 2.2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. I featured Cingrani and his pending return to the Reds rotation (after spending all season as a relief pitcher) in “Cingrani’s Return to the Rotation,” and I suggested that he probably doesn’t belong as a starting pitcher. So to prove me right, he got blown up by the Cubs on Wednesday in his first start of the season. Scoop him up for the upside and on the chance that he actually does do well in his future starts, but I don’t think it’s all too promising for him unless he is able to develop his offspeed pitches better and become less reliant on his fastball. He doesn’t have a scheduled next start yet, but if either Johnny Cueto or Mike Leake get traded before the deadline then Cingrani will step right in.

Michael Taylor – 2 for 5, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB, 2 K. Taylor has been getting a good amount of starts in the leadoff spot for the Nationals with Denard Span spending so much time on the DL. He has really been awful in that role and it’s rather surprising that the Nationals keep putting him there, but I guess the Nationals just lack a better option. Entering Wednesday’s game, Taylor had just a .180 AVG, .207 OBP, and 37 K in 89 AB out of the leadoff spot. But he was able to be more productive in that role on Wednesday with a couple of hits and a few RBI. Taylor is a very toolsy player, but he’s got a lot of maturation to go through before becoming a quality fantasy option. If he can’t drastically improve on his 32.4% strikeout rate, then it’ll be tough sledding.

Noah Syndergaard – 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 4 K. Syndergaard uncharacteristically struggled with his command on Wednesday to walk 5 batters, but he was able to work out of jams to limit the damage. He’s always displayed good to very good control at every stop he has made in the Minors and now in the Majors, and that is what makes him such an attractive young rookie power pitcher. He shouldn’t have too many more games with a walk total this high.

Logan Forsythe – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Forsythe hit his 10th HR of the season on Wednesday and continues to be a really nice player for the Rays, and he’s providing pretty good fantasy value as a player with multi-position eligibility. He would appear to be the new Ben Zobrist for the Rays.

Ben Revere – 3 for 5, 1 RBI, 1 R. With a 3-hit performance on Wednesday, Revere’s batting average is at .300 for the first time all season long. A while ago when Revere was hitting in the .260’s, I said that Revere should be able to get that AVG up to .300 because his BABIP was sitting rather low and he has excellent contact skills. He’s now on pace to match or better his very solid 2014 campaign. In leagues that penalize hitter strikeouts, Revere gets a big boost in value.

Adam Lind – 4 for 5, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R. Lind doing what Lind does, and that’s crushing right-handed pitching. He’s now hitting .307 with 16 HR and 52 RBI in 251 AB against righties this season. That is pretty juicy.

Francisco Lindor – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Lindor is supposed to be much more known for his glovework at shortstop than his bat, and so far that has been the case. But with a .246 AVG, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 11 R, and 1 SB in 31 games since his promotion, he hasn’t been a complete bust. He does have 25+ SB potential, so it’s rather disappointing that he only has 1 so far — but it is difficult to steal bases when you only are on base at a .284 clip. Continue to expect mediocre fantasy production for a fantasy shortstop out of Lindor.

Michael Brantley – 4 for 5, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R. Brantley has battled some back issues this season that he has mostly played through, but it’s something that has probably been affecting his performance and his batting average fell to as low as .286 on July 6. Since then though, he’s gone 17 for 41 (.415 AVG) with 3 HR and 4 doubles in 11 games, so it could be possible that his back may no longer be an issue, especially after extra rest at the All-Star break. A big performance could be in store for Brantley down the final 2+ months of the season.

Cody Anderson – 2.2 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 1 K. It didn’t take an expert to know that Anderson would not be able to maintain a 0.89 ERA and 0.66 WHIP, so a start like this was bound to happen and they will continue to come for the Indians rookie pitcher. With such a poor defense behind him and hardly striking out any batters, Anderson is just not that great and is not a reliable fantasy option. He now has a 1.91 ERA and 0.91 WHIP and will next face an A’s team who can rack up some hits against poor right-handed pitching.

Rougned Odor – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R, 1 BB. I’ve been hyping up Odor for over a month now since he got recalled in mid-June (check out “Rougned Bringing a Nice Odor to the Texas Air”) and this is definitely looking more and more than just a silly hot streak. Since his recall, he is hitting .370 with 5 HR, 21 RBI, 15 R, and 4 SB in 29 games. No, he won’t keep hitting at a .370 clip, but he is definitely locked in and is capable of hitting .300 the rest of the way. Plus, he finally was moved up to the 2-hole in the batting order for the Rangers, which was something that I had been calling for to happen. If you missed the Odor train then I hate to say I told you so.

Carlos Gonzalez – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB. CarGo keeps on ripping the ball in July. He has to be given consideration as a trade target while his overall numbers still look mediocre with a .258 AVG, 14 HR, and 39 RBI.

Nick Hundley – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R. Hundley homered on Wednesday and is now hitting .307 with 7 HR, 32 RBI, 33 R, and 3 SB. I mentioned over 2 months ago that Hundley could be in for a top 10 catcher season calling Coors Field his home and he just keeps the hits coming, especially at home. He’s now hitting .350 with 6 HR, 27 RBI, 23 R, and 3 SB at home to account for pretty much all of his production this season. That’s rather incredible and would suggest for fantasy owners to bench him when he’s on the road.

James Shields – 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K. Shields wasn’t able to go very deep in his start on Wednesday but 5 shutout innings with 7 strikeouts isn’t bad. His 3.77 ERA and 1.32 WHIP aren’t really where we would want them to be, but that is the result of a poor defense behind him, serving up home runs at a very high rate of 1.42 BB/9, and a career high walk rate of 3.34 BB/9. None of those things seem like they are bound for a reversal, so this could be the level that he pitches at the remainder of the season. But at least his 10.23 K/9 is elite.

Brandon Belt – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB, 2 BB, 1 K. It’s been a bit of a letdown from Belt this season, but his 30.5% line drive rate and 40.7% hard hit rate are actually elite marks compared to his peers. What hurts him though is that he is only hitting .164 against lefties and only 2 of his 10 HR have come at home because his home park in San Francisco really suppresses left-handed home runs with that incredibly deep gap in right-center field. He is now hitting .275 with 10 HR, 37 RBI, 43 R, and 5 SB.

Kevin Gausman – 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K with the L. Gausman certainly has talent and good stuff, but as a young pitcher, he seems to struggle with his command at times and just pipes it in there for hitters to drill. He’s had one good start out of four since is recall, but he gets a much friendlier matchup when he faces the Braves next. He should make for a nice stream for that one, and he definitely should be owned in keeper and dynasty leagues because he does have a chance to develop into a #2 type of pitcher.

Mark Teixeira – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R. Teixeira now has 24 HR and 65 RBI after belting another one out on Wednesday. I’ve been saying for a while now that he won’t be slowing down this season (barring an injury).

Mike Montgomery – 2.2 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 5 BB, 2 K with the L. It’s been a rough few last starts for Montgomery now and it may be the case that this is his regression period as teams around the league become more familiar with him and the luster wears off. He’s now 4-4 with a 3.25 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 45 K/21 BB in 63.2 IP. Keep rolling with him if you own him, but know that he should experience a bit more regression. He faces the Diamondbacks in his next start.

Ian Kinsler – 4 for 5, 1 RBI, 2 R. The man is hot. He’s now hitting .500 over his last 10 games.

Nick Castellanos – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Castellanos hasn’t exactly progressed this season as the Tigers would have hoped, but at least he’s 5 for 7 with 2 HR in his last 2 games now. Maybe it’s a turning point in his season, but the third baseman has definitely not shown any sign of improvement over last year up to this point.

Eric Hosmer – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. With a home run on Wednesday, Hosmer has now matched his HR and SB totals from last season in 31 fewer games, and he will also be surpassing his RBI and runs totals from last year very soon. He doesn’t put up the big power numbers, but at least he has the ability to hit for a nice batting average while swiping some bases.

Edinson Volquez – 7.2 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K with the W. With just 6.83 K/9 and 3.15 BB/9, Volquez actually is very mediocre in that regard. But because he is the beneficiary of the league’s best defense, it is really no surprise that he has been able to carry a 3.15 ERA and 1.26 WHIP up to this point. Both his xFIP and SIERA sit over 4.00, but he should continue to do just fine for the Royals. Just don’t expect strikeouts to come in bunches regularly like they did in his start on Wednesday.

Jose Fernandez – 7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 11 K with the W. Fernandez hasn’t missed a beat at all it would appear. Fantasy ace material.

A.J. Ramos – 1 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 3 K with the SV. Ramos started the 9th inning by loading the bases with no outs, but then he incredibly struck out Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and Yasmany Tomas to end the game. He’s still locked in as the Marlins closer.

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One thought on “Presto for Preston (and other notes from 7/22/15)

  1. Pingback: Mining for Cole in Texas (and other notes from 7/29/15) | The Backwards K

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