Monday, August 8, 2022

Fantasy Baseball Today: Chris Sale returns and Jose Berrios confuses again

We had a few important season debuts in Tuesday’s MLB action, with Padres prospect Esteury Ruiz’s MLB debut looking like one especially impactful one for Fantasy players. If you remember from yesterday, Ruiz got the call after hitting .333/.467/.560 with 60 steals in 77 games, which makes him look like a potential Fantasy superstar.

And he could be that! He had two hits in his MLB debut, and though he was caught stealing, the fact that Ruiz had the green light immediately bodes well for his chances of being an immediate impact player in that regard. However, Ruiz’s four batted balls Tuesday were all hit with an exit velocity below 72 mph, which normally wouldn’t be noteworthy if not for one fact I saw before the game — Ruiz had just an 18.8% hard-hit rate in Triple-A. That would make him one of the slappiest slap hitters in the game — for reference, Steven Kwan is at 21.9% 

That’s not to say Ruiz can’t be a good player or a good hitter, but it’s one reason to temper expectations just a bit, at least relative to his gaudy minor-league numbers. It was a good debut, though, so we’ll see what the next few games hold.

Here’s what else you need to know from Tuesday around the league. 

How did Chris Sale look in his debut? 

Pretty great! OK, well, it was kind of a mixed bag in terms of results — five strikeouts in five innings is pretty good, but four whiffs on 78 pitches is pretty concerning. However, Sale also averaged 95.1 mph with his fastball in this one, the second-highest average fastball velocity he’s had in a starter since 2018, which I’ll take as an unequivocal good sign. Sale has managed to be effective with less velocity since 2018, putting up a 4.12 ERA but 3.46 FIP and 12.8 K/9 overall with diminished velocity, but he’s always been at his best when throwing harder. Obviously, injuries will continue to be a question for Sale, but in looking through my rankings, I compared him to Spencer Strider and decided I’d rather have Sale for the rest of the season — if Sale is healthy, I think he’ll be very good, and I’m not sure his injury risk is a bigger red flag than concerns about potential innings limits for Strider should be. Which means Sale is back to being a top-30 SP, and he could continue to rise quickly if he keeps averaging 95 mph in future starts. I’m excited. 

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The Jose Berrios enigma

The thing that’s been so tough to figure out about Berrios’ struggles this season is how there didn’t seem to be an obvious explanation for them. His velocity, spin rates and movement profiles for his pitches have all mostly been similar to last season, he just … hasn’t pitched well. This always brings up the possibility that he’s tipping pitches, which is often an unsatisfying hypothesis because it’s so hard for non-experts to prove, and also relies on Berrios himself to figure out how to fix, which isn’t something for which we’ll generally get much prior warning.

This makes his 20 swinging strikes and 13 strikeouts (both season-best marks) Tuesday against the Phillies so frustrating. For one thing, there’s a decent chance you didn’t start him given his overall numbers, though that does make two good starts in a row for Berrios, which is cause to celebrate at this point. Hopefully, Berrios figured something out, because he mostly looked like he usually does, just with better execution. I’ve tried not to lose faith in Berrios, so hopefully that will be rewarded moving forward. 

Bullpen report

On the podcast Tuesday night, we talked about how it seems like bullpens have actually been calmer around the league than usual of late, to the point where Scott said it’s getting harder to find things to write  about in his weekly bullpen report column. With Kenley Jansen expected to return to the Braves Wednesday, that should answer one open question, so here’s how Scott views the five most unsettled bullpens at this point, from Tuesday’s Bullpen Report column:

Rangers

Pecking order: Brett Martin, Dennis Santana, Joe Barlow: “Brett Martin, a left-hander, is the Rangers’ choice to replace Barlow, and the clarity is a refreshing change of pace. It helps that the team has been inundated with save chances since the announcement was made Friday. We’re talking three in four days, and Martin successfully handled all of them.”

Twins

Pecking order: Jhoan Duran, Tyler Duffey, Emilio Pagan: “Emilio Pagan’s removal from the closer role at the start of July seemed to signal the coronation of rookie Jhoan Duran, who has been the Twins‘ best reliever this year with numbers befitting a closer. But the Twins have continued to use him in high-leverage spots other than the ninth inning, most recently in the eighth Sunday to set up Tyler Duffey. Duffey has been far from reliable the past two years, and the save was only his second as compared to Duran’s five. It still seems inevitable Duran will close eventually, especially since Pagan has continued to flounder in his reduced role.”

Phillies

Pecking order: Seranthony Dominguez, Brad Hand, Corey Knebel: “This one has only gotten messier over the past week. Phillies manager Rob Thomson continues to flip-flop between Seranthony Dominguez and Brad Hand, with one working the eighth inning one day and the ninth the next, but then out of nowhere, he turned to ousted closer Corey Knebel for the save Saturday. Presumably, it was because Dominguez and Hand had each worked two straight, with one getting the save one day and the other the next, but Knebel does have eight straight scoreless appearances with a combined one hit allowed. Dominguez still stands out in terms of talent, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of these three get the next save.”

Mariners

Pecking Order: Paul Sewald, Diego Castillo: “I’m thinking this week is the last time I’ll need to feature Mariners for a while, and it’s probably been a full calendar year (about the time they traded Kendall Graveman to the Astros) since I could say that. Manager Scott Servais hasn’t made any official declarations or anything, but if actions speak louder than words, then his would suggest that Paul Sewald is now the Mariners closer, plain and simple. The right-hander has recorded six of the team’s past eight saves, and the only two he didn’t get were on days he was unavailable.”

Injuries, news and notes

  • Mike Trout exited in the fifth inning with back spasms Tuesday, and given his recent performance and injury concerns over the past few years, you have to be at least a little concerned here. 
  • Fernando Tatis underwent another scan on his surgically repaired wrist, and we’re expected to get an update on his status Wednesday as he continues to press to be cleared to begin hitting. I’m expecting Tatis to move pretty quickly once cleared, but we’ll hold on until that happens. 
  • Trevor Story was removed Tuesday after getting hit by a pitch on his right hand. It was announced as a bruise, but we’ll wait for the results of X-rays. 
  • Kevin Gausman threw a bullpen session Tuesday and could be cleared to start Thursday. He left his most recent start after being hit on his ankle with a line drive. 
  • Frankie Montas felt good after a 25-pitch bullpen session Tuesday and hopes to start this weekend against the Astros. He’s missed a few starts with shoulder inflammation, and I would probably keep him on the bench given the injury and the matchup. 
  • Starling Marte has now missed three straight games with a left groin injury. He could still end up on the IL. 
  • Christian Yelich was scratched Tuesday due to mid-back tightness, which is a concern given the back injuries that derailed much of his 2021 season. Hopefully we’ll get more information Wednesday. 
  • Freddy Peralta has progressed to throwing multi-inning bullpen sessions, which is actually surprisingly positive news. I didn’t expect Peralta to be back so soon, but a bullpen session is typically a precursor to a rehab assignment, so it’s possible he’ll return from his shoulder injury sometime in August, perhaps early on. 
  • Tyler O’Neill said his bruised right wrist checked out fine following a full workout Monday, potentially putting him on track to come off the IL Wednesday. 
  • Tyler Mahle expects to return from the IL right after the All-Star break. He’s been out since July 6 with a right shoulder strain. 
  • Andrew Heaney will begin a rehab assignment with Single-A on Saturday. He’s on the IL with left shoulder inflammation and remains worth stashing for the upside he has shown when healthy. 
  • Jurickson Profar is doing baseball activities and could return to action later this week. That’s a good sign as he recovers from a concussion. 
  • As expected, Brayan Bello was optioned back to Triple-A on Tuesday. I remain intrigued by his potential, but given his struggles — nine runs, six walks, seven strikeouts in eight innings — there doesn’t seem to be much need to stash him. 
  • Garrett Whitlock will likely return Friday against the Yankees but is looking at a multi-inning relief role. Maybe he’ll figure into the ninth inning if Tanner Houck struggles, but for now I think Whitlock has little value outside of deeper daily lineup leagues. 
  • Miguel Sano will move his rehab to Triple-A. He’s been on the IL since April after undergoing surgery on a torn meniscus in his left knee. He’s 21% rostered and worth keeping an eye on if you need power in deeper leagues. 
  • Gabriel Moreno was optioned back to Triple-A after Danny Jansen was reinstated. He was batting .276 but with zero homers, but the underlying numbers were all pretty positive. I think he’s still a potential impact player, but you can probably drop him now that Jansen is healthy, especially given how dominant Alejandro Kirk has been. 
  • Mike Soroka threw a bullpen session Monday with no issues and should return to throwing live BP before being cleared for a rehab assignment. 

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