More Fantasy Baseball: Week 9 two-start pitchers | Sleeper hitters | Juan Soto is here

We’ve always wanted something more from Reynaldo Lopez.

In 2016 he had the pedigree and looked dominant in the minor leagues, but he walked 22 hitters in 42 major league innings. In 2017 he was traded to the White Sox and got the walks under control, but he only struck out 30 hitters in 47.2 innings. Even when he started this year with a 1.78 ERA, his peripherals screamed regression. That regression came hard and fast in May when he gave up 13 runs in 16 innings in his first three May starts. But on Sunday he finally gave us the upside we’d been begging for.

Lopez blanked the Rangers over eight innings on Sunday, striking out eight and walking just two. He generated 12 swinging strikes (his second best total of 2018) and only gave up two hits. It was the kind of start we’ve been dreaming of since he first arrived in the major leagues. It’s the type of start that would have made us take notice if not for the fact that we’ve been talking about him for three years. 

Looking at the peripherals for Lopez, you’ll still see a lot of red flags. His FIP is 4.81 and his strikeout rate is still an abysmal 17.2 percent. He has a career 9.2 percent swinging strike rate, and that’s exactly where he is for 2018. That is to say that one start is too early to say he’s arrived, but it’s also easy to forget that he’s still just 24 years old. With a pitcher of his age, I’m just looking for signs and I’ll wait on consistency. Here are the good signs:

  • Lopez has allowed two or fewer earned runs in seven of his nine starts.
  • Sunday was the fourth time this season he’s struck out at least six and the seventh time he’s thrown at least six innings.
  • He has walked two or fewer batters in each of his past five starts.

Am I saying Lopez is a must-start pitcher after this start? Not at all. But I’m trying to find a place for him on most of my teams because I expect he will be at some point this season.

I wrote last week about Josh Harrison’s pending return, and he didn’t waste an time making an impact. Harrison collected three hits in his return on Sunday, including a double. As expected, Harrison slotted right back into the leadoff role and looked as if he hadn’t missed a beat. Harrison has now played 14 full games this season and has multiple hits in half of them. 

With eligibility at both second and third base, Harrison should be started in all leagues that require a corner infielder and a middle infielder. But with his leadoff spot and excellent plate discipline I have a hard time seeing how he isn’t owned in most points leagues as well. For as long as he stays healthy Harrison should be a quality starting option in most leagues.

When the Cardinals recalled Tyler O’Neill last week, I was skeptical that it had any Fantasy impact. O’Neill looked determined to change that over the weekend. The 22 year-old mashed home runs on Saturday and Sunday, picking up five hits over the weekend. The power should come as no surprise because this is a player who hit 31 home runs in 130 games at Triple-A in 2017. He already had 13 this in just 29 games in Memphis. When he hits the ball, he generally hits it hard.

The concern is playing time. The Cardinals have Marcell Ozuna, Tommy Pham and Dexter Fowler locked into their outfield spots. They already had Harrison Bader as a fourth outfielder. I don’t have much concern about dispatching Bader, but the rest are locked into everyday jobs, or at least we thought they were.

Fowler in particular has been awful at the plate this season. He owns a .160/.281/.292 slash line. A lot of that is bad luck (.168 BABIP) but he’s also 32 years old with an extensive injury history. The Cardinals aren’t just going to walk away from him (Fowler is owed $49.5 million after this season) but a trip to the DL or a part-time role until he figures things out is possible. I’m adding O’Neill as a speculative add in five outfielder leagues and making sure he’s owned in keeper/dynasty formats.

Still speculating on saves? It’s been a rough couple of weeks, but the carousel is still moving. Nate Jones picked up another save on Saturday night and has his ERA back down to 3.50. On Sunday, the White Sox turned to Jace Fry, who hasn’t allowed a run in 8.1 innings this season. Fry was likely used because the Rangers had Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara coming up in the ninth, but it helps illustrate what a mess this role still is. If I had to bet on one reliever from Chicago getting a save this week it would be Jones.

Philadelphia is nearly as messy, but at least they’re providing more opportunities. While we have no idea who the closer is, it’s becoming more clear who their best reliever is. Seranthony Dominguez picked up his first save on Saturday, and it was of the two-inning variety. Like Fry, Dominguez has yet to allow a run this season and he also hasn’t walked a batter. I certainly don’t think he’s a lock to get a save opportunity this week, but he’s more likely to help you in the other ratios than any other Philadelphia reliever.


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