David Shovein

Baseball Daily Dose

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Daily Dose: Impressive Crop

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Impressive Crop

In some years in the past, it has been a struggle to find competition for Rookie of the Year honors. Many times, it seems as though there’s a clear-cut winner who stands out amongst his peers and the award seems to be a foregone conclusion before season’s end.

That’s certainly not the case in the National League (or in the American League) this season.

On Friday, the impressive crop of rookies in the Senior Circuit were on full display, each stating their case, some more emphatically than others.

We’ll begin in Atlanta where a pair of generational talents continued to do unbelievable things.

Nationals’ 19-year-old phenom Juan Soto crushed a solo homer off of Braves’ right-hander Kevin Gausman in the fourth inning. It was the fourth consecutive game in which Soto has left the yard, giving him 20 homers on the season in just 102 games. He also made a spectacular running catch on a line drive in the third inning.

Soto, who played just eight games above A-Ball prior to his promotion this season, is slashing a ridiculous .303/.417/.534 with 20 homers, 70 runs scored, 62 RBI and a pair of stolen bases on the season. In most years, given what he has done at his age and in his first exposure against major league pitching, Soto would be a runaway favorite to capture the Rookie of the Year award. Not in 2018.

On the other side of the diamond, it was Ronald Acuna Jr. who once again stole the show on Friday.

He entered the contest 1-for-6 with a pair of strikeouts against Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer this season. In his first at-bat Friday, Acuna crushed a double off the wall. In his next trip to the dish, he delivered a bloop two-run single that tied the game at 2-2. In the fourth inning, Acuna blasted a triple into the gap and came around to score the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly. While he was unable to homer to complete the cycle, he did single again in the eighth inning, finishing the night 4-for-5 and leading the Braves to their sixth consecutive victory.

Acuna said through a translator after the game, that having already faced Scherzer twice this season allowed him to make the requisite adjustments in order to have success. Remember, this is a 20-year-old rookie against the most dominant hurler in the National League.

He’s now hitting .297/.374/.586 with 25 homers, 70 runs scored, 55 RBI and 14 stolen bases in only 96 games on the season. It’s what he has done since shifting to the leadoff spot in the lineup that has really turned heads though. Since ascending to the top of the lineup on July 20, Acuna is hitting .337 (69-for-205) with 18 homers, 14 doubles, 4 triples, 36 RBI, 46 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. He has also slugged a franchise-record eight leadoff home runs.

While Acuna and Soto look to be the top two options in this race, there were another pair of National League rookie standouts that went head-to-head on Friday, this time on the mound in St. Louis.

Cardinals’ rookie right-hander Jack Flaherty was outstanding in a high-pressure game against the Dodgers, racking up eight strikeouts over six innings of one-run baseball in a tough-luck loss. The 22-year-old hurler has been outstanding in 25 starts this season, posting an 8-7 record, 2.86 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 168/52 K/BB ratio across 138 ⅓ innings. He has been so impressive that he’ll likely garner some down-ballot Cy Young Award votes. Yet, he’s likely to finish third in the Rookie of the Year balloting.

Even better on Friday, was Dodgers’ rookie right-hander Walker Buehler. The 24-year-old matched his career-high with nine strikeouts over eight shutout frames, earning a much-needed victory against the Cardinals that pulled the Dodgers into a tie with St. Louis for the final Wild Card spot in the National League. He scattered just two singles and two walks during the impressive performance. Buehler is now 7-5 on the season with a 2.88 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 131/31 K/BB ratio over 118 ⅔ innings in his 21 appearances (20 starts) this season.

Strop Strained

Thought not completely unexpected, the Cubs received the bad news on Friday when an MRI confirmed that Pedro Strop had suffered a moderate left hamstring strain and will miss the remainder of the 2018 regular season.

Strop sustained the injury while lunging for first base in an attempt to beat out an infield hit during Thursday’s extra-inning win over the Nationals.

Now, the Cubs have major bullpen concerns as they head toward the postseason.Strop has been terrific for the Cubs this season, compiling a 2.26 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 57/21 K/BB ratio across 59 ⅔ innings. He has also filled in admirably in the closer’s role for the injured Brandon Morrow, locking down 13 saves.

Speaking of Morrow, the Cubs are holding out hope that he’ll be able to rejoin the bullpen before the end of next week. The right-hander, who has been on the shelf since July 15 with a bone bruise in his pitching elbow, will throw a simulated game on Saturday.

In the meantime, it’s unclear exactly how Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon will choose to mix and match in the ninth inning. Steve Cishek has plenty of experience in the ninth inning, though he has pitched so well in a setup role that he may not want to shift him from that role. Carl Edwards Jr. has terrific stuff, but has been shaky as of late. Jesse Chavez has recorded three saves already this year and has pitched well since joining the Cubs.

All three of the aforementioned options could see chances while Strop is sidelined. Or, perhaps there’s another unlikely candidate lurking.

Granted, most of the aforementioned arms have been taxed in recent days, so perhaps they were all unlikely to appear in Friday’s game. With a one-run lead to protect in the eighth inning though, it was converted starter Jaime Garcia that got the ball. He was followed by 37-year-old southpaw Jorge De La Rosa, who despite allowing a hit and a walk, managed to work a scoreless ninth inning to record the first save of his career in his 426th career appearance.

To fantasy owners scouring for saves, it’s difficult to recommend any of these options, as it’s highly unlikely that one guy sees the bulk of the save chances here. If I was forced to take a stab at one of them, Chavez or Edwards would be my guess.

Krushing the Ball

Khris Davis has been one of the most prolific sluggers in the American League since joining the Athletics in 2016. He has surpassed the 40-homer plateau in each of his three seasons in Oakland, though he has never captured the league’s home run crown. This year, that could all change.

On Friday night, Davis blasted a go-ahead solo home run while leading off the 10th inning against Jaime Schultz, proving to be the difference-maker in a 2-1 victory over the Rays in Tampa Bay.

The home run was Davis’ 42nd of the season, breaking a tie with Red Sox’ slugger J.D. Martinez for the major league lead. Jose Ramirez trails the pair with 38 long balls on the season. Davis also set a new career-best in RBI with Friday’s blast.

He has been remarkably consistent since joining the Athletics as well. Here’s a look at his production since arriving in Oakland:

2016: .247/.307/.524, 42 HR, 102 RBI

2017: .247/.336/.528, 43 HR, 110 RBI

2018: .251/.331/.546, 42 HR, 111 RBI

With a little more than two weeks remaining in the regular season, it’s likely that Davis will club two more homers to set a new career high. The bigger question, is whether or not he’ll hold off Martinez to earn the coveted crown.

American League Quick Hits: Jon Heyman of Fancred reports that the Angels are expected to discuss a contract extension with Mike Trout this offseason that would make him "a lifetime Angel."...'s Jesse Sanchez reports that Cuban outfielders Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr. have been declared free agents by Major League Baseball… The Tigers transferred Jose Iglesias to the 60-day disabled list, ending his season and likely his tenure with the club as he’ll hit free agency this winter… Hector Velazquez was scratched from his scheduled start on Saturday due to illness… Andrew Cashner was given a cortisone injection in his left knee Thursday to combat patella bursitis… Trevor Bauer (leg) will throw another bullpen session Saturday. The Indians still hope to have him back in the fold before the postseason begins… The Yankees activated Aaron Judge from the disabled list, though he’s still not 100% and hasn’t been cleared to hit in games yet… Trevor Cahill received a trigger point injection in his upper back on Friday and will miss at least one start… Luis Ortiz was removed from his first big league start on Friday after suffering a left hamstring strain…. Jorge Lopez is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his chest on Saturday after leaving Friday’s start with a rib contusion... Josh Donaldson belted his first home run as a member of the Indians, going back-to-back with teammate Edwin EncarnacionBlake Treinen worked two scoreless innings against the Rays to earn his seventh victory of the season to go along with his 37 saves and sparkling 0.85 ERA and 0.85 WHIP… Trey Mancini launched a pair of solo home runs in a losing effort against the White Sox… Andrew McCutchen homered and reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances in a lopsided victory over the Blue Jays… Masahiro Tanaka punched out eight over six shutout frames in a win over the Blue Jays, extending his scoreless innings streak to 20… Jose Berrios racked up nine strikeouts over six innings of two-run ball in a no-decision against the Royals… Salvador Perez smashed a walk-off grand slam off of Trevor Hildenberger, capping a five-run rally for the Royals...Jurickson Profar homered and plated three, leading the Rangers past the Padres…

National League Quick Hits: Diamondbacks' manager Torey Lovullo announced Friday that Clay Buchholz (elbow) will miss the remainder of the 2018 season. The veteran right-hander finishes the season with an impressive 2.01 ERA and 1.04 WHIP across 98 1/3 terrific innings for the Diamondbacks… In addition to having his dislocated left shoulder repaired, Gregory Polanco also had his labrum repaired during Wednesday's surgery. The typical recovery time for this type of operation is 7-9 months, so Polanco may not be ready for the start of next season… Chad Kuhl will have his elbow and forearm examined by Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York…. Aaron Altherr went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers and five RBI, leading the Phillies in a 14-2 thrashing of the Marlins… Jay Bruce remained hot, going 2-for-5 with a homer and four RBI in a win over the Red Sox. He has five homers and 14 RBI in his 18 games since returning from the disabled list… Noah Syndergaard struck out six over seven shutout innings in a masterful performance against the Red Sox at Fenway Park… Yasiel Puig went 3-for-4 and crushed a pair of homers in Friday’s win over the Cardinals, pulling the Dodgers into a tie with the Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot in the National League… Ian Happ launched a go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh to sink the Reds… Matt Harvey fired six shutout innings in a tough-luck no-decision in that one… Max Scherzer allowed a season-high six runs over four innings in a loss to the Braves… Pablo Reyes went 2-for-4 and clubbed his first big league homer in a loss to the Brewers… Christian Yelich swatted his 29th home run as the Brewers powered their way past the Pirates… Chris Stratton twirled his first career shutout, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out seven in the brilliant victory over the Rockies.

Dave Shovein is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveShovein.
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