Corey Knebel Hit the DL
After a stellar 2017 season when Knebel saved 39 games with a 1.78 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 126 strikeouts in 76.0 innings, expectations were obviously high for 2018. In case you want the quick math without looking, Knebel had a 40.8 K% and 14.9 K/9. Those marks and expectations had Knebel as the fourth closer and 73rd overall player off the board. Unfortunately, Knebel suffered a hamstring injury and will be out for at least six weeks (dating back to April 6). Doubly unfortunately, we don’t have a clear answer to who the closer will be in Knebel’s absence.
Josh Hader isn’t in the mix and continues his work in the middle innings with the long-term outlook still being for the rotation. After that, Jacob Barnes came in for the ninth against the Cubs for the first post-Knebel save opportunity and was hammered. Barnes blew the save with four runs, two earned, in two-thirds of an inning. The second opportunity came when Barnes entered the eighth against the Cardinals with Matt Albers blowing the save in the ninth, then getting the win in the 10th. The third opportunity saw Taylor Williams continue into the ninth after pitching the eight. Williams walked the leadoff batter and Barnes replaced him after a sacrifice bunt. Barnes threw two wild pitches and let the tying run score on the second. He finished the inning with two walks and a strikeout but another blown save. The Brewers grabbed the lead in the 10th, but J.J. Hoover blew the save and then took the loss in the 11th. Albers looks to be the favorite for the next opportunity, but this is a situation to run far away from.
So Did Eugenio Suarez
HEY YOU GU… genio Suarez fractured his right thumb and hit the DL
That’s highly unfortunate after Suarez built off 2016 with a breakout 2017 season of .260/87/26/82. Suarez already had .296/5/2/7 through eight games, but this injury is less about Suarez and more about Nick Senzel… for Fantasy purposes. Yes, it’s hard to replace Suarez, but the Reds have an internal option with the potential to ease the pain for both them and Fantasy owners.
Senzel is arguably the top prospect for the Reds with the ability to hit for a high average with 20/20 homers and steals. The Reds want to find a spot for him and had Senzel learning second base with Suarez locked into a new long-term contract. The Reds haven’t given a timeline for Suarez’s injury, but the telling move in how concerned they might be is that Senzel is back to playing third base in Triple-A. The Reds are going with a mix of Cliff Pennington and Alex Blandino for the time being, and Senzel might be the Reds second baseman of the future, but it appears Senzel might get the third base call soon. He needs to be stashed in every league of 12 teams or more.
Greg Holland Made His Debut
And it couldn’t have gone much worse. Holland walked four batters, including walking in the go-ahead run, in his Cardinals debut… in which he only faced five batters! Holland was terrific in his time with the Royals, albeit with a step back in 2015 before having Tommy John surgery. Holland returned in 2017 and dominated the first half of the season with the Rockies, posting a 1.62 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and a 20.9 SOBB with 28 saves. Then, he fell apart with a 6.38 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 16.0 SOBB with just 13 saves. That also included three of his four blown saves and five of his six losses. One has to be concerned with Holland going forward, even pitching for a quality team like the Cardinals.
Bud Norris has the experience and could step up, Dominic Leone has struggled and Luke Gregerson is on the DL. The one to watch is Jordan Hicks, but while he throws among the hardest – up there with Aroldis Chapman – he has no control and doesn’t strike out many with his flat fastball. This looks to be much like the Brewers if Holland can’t get things right, and Mike Matheny might go with experience in Norris anyway.
Didi Gregorius is the Yankees’ Best Hitter
Gregorius is tied for the team lead in home runs, is third in Runs and leads in RBI and AVG. Count me in the skeptical group from last year, and clearly, I was wrong as Gregorius took another step forward and hit 25 home runs with 73 Runs and 87 RBIs in 17 less games than the 2016 season. So, is it official and Gregorius is one of the best shortstops in the game? Pretty much. The two main differences for Gregorius from early in his career are his blossoming power and improved contact. It’s not out of the question for a player to come into his own with more development. Don’t forget that Jose Bautista went from a mid-teen home run hitter to 40, even 50-plus, in one offseason. Secondly, Gregorius saw a nice boost in Z-Contact% over the past three seasons, which demonstrates his improved discipline and ability to attack pitches over the plate. That combination has turned Gregorius into a top-end shortstop and potential MVP for the Yankees.
Jake Junis Looked Great, Jake Faria Notsomuch
Pretty stark contrast between the two as Junis has a 0.00 ERA and Faria is sitting at 14.29. Obviously, Junis isn’t this good, and his xFIP is up at 4.53, but while Faria isn’t that bad, his xFIP is only down at 9.82. Neither pitcher is ever going to be a top-end strikeout guy with Junis settling in the 7-8 K/9 range and Faria with the potential to sit in the eights. However, where Faria is struggling with control and has historically walked more (12.7 BB/9 this year as a matter of fact), Junis has been able to keep his BB/9 in the low twos. Lastly, the biggest difference between the two is that Junis induces a high percentage of weak contact, while Faria is once again the opposite.
Junis has a groundball rate of 44.4 after 40.1 last year with the 23rd lowest exit velocity with at least 25 hits against (85.7 mph) and a crazy low 22.2 Hard%. Meanwhile, Faria is down to a worrisome 28.0 GB% after 38.3 last year with a 91.1 mph exit velocity and 48.0 Hard%. You can certainly try to sell high on Junis given his lack of top-end pitches, but don’t dismiss his potential success given his control of the strike zone. As for Faria, he’s droppable in 12 team leagues or smaller, and 15 teamers should stash him on the bench for a while.
Main Image Credit: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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