- Noah Syndergaard's velocity remained elite even while he trudged through April with an ERA north of 6. Then, he delivered a tremendous 10-strikeout shutout vs. the Reds on May 1. Was that outing the start of a season revival?
What’s one of the surest signs that we are fully into the rhythm of another baseball season? The absence of five-game weeks. For the first time all season, every team is playing at least six games this week. Spring stubbornly refuses to break all the way through in certain parts of the country, but the regular flow of the baseball calendar has officially taken root.
Let’s turn our attention to the week at hand with a special focus on these 10 players.
Pitchers to Watch
Anthony DeSclafani, Reds
DeSclafani is on a tear of late, allowing one run on nine hits and five walks with 20 strikeouts in his last 17 2/3 innings, a stretch spanning three starts. He’s leaning on his fastball and knuckle-curve more this season than he has in previous years, and the change in usage is paying dividends. His fastball has a whiff rate of 11.6%, while the knuckle-curve is getting empty swings 16.9% of the time. DeSclafani is scheduled for two starts this week, both of which will come against the Giants.
Noah Syndergaard, Mets
Syndergaard absolutely dominated the Reds in his last outing, one of the best starts across the majors this season. He tossed a shutout, striking out 10, walking one and allowing four hits in a 1-0 Mets win. What’s more, he was responsible for the team’s only run, belting a solo shot off Tyler Mahle in the third inning. It was as single-handed as a baseball win could possibly be. Syndergaard’s velocity has been on point all season, but his results through April were terrible.
If one start can turn around an entire season, though, he just had it. He’ll make one start this week, facing the tough Padres lineup on Tuesday in San Diego.
Chris Paddack, Padres
Speaking of the Padres, Paddack will take the ball against Jacob deGrom in the first game of that series. The 23-year-old rookie has been excellent all season, pitching to a 1.91 ERA and MLB-leading 0.70 WHIP with 35 strikeouts against nine walks in 33 innings. Paddack has been dominating all year with mostly a four-seam/changeup combo, mixing in his curveball for good effect 10.5% of the time. The changeup has a whiff rate near 20%, while Paddack is getting hitters to swing and miss at his four-seamer 12.2% of the time. Monday’s start against the Mets is his only scheduled outing of the week.
Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays
Stroman had his first bad start of the season in his last trip to the mound, allowing four earned runs on six hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings in a loss to the Angels. Before that, he had four quality starts in six outings, and his two misses were hardly his fault. He came up one out shy of a quality start in his second outing of the year, then was done in by his defense two starts later, allowing three unearned runs in four innings. Stroman is enjoying bounceback season, racking up a 2.20 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 39 strikeouts in 41 innings. He’ll take the ball twice this week, facing the Twins on Monday and the White Sox over the weekend.
Blake Snell, Rays
Snell has been knocked around in his last two starts, both of which came against the Royals, not exactly one of the league’s most intimidating lineups. They tagged him for a total of 10 runs—nine earned—on 11 hits, including two homers, in 6 1/3 innings. What’s worse, Snell had just five strikeouts in the two outings, equal to the number of walks he issued. He hadn’t showed any warning signs before falling victim to the Royals twice so, for now, we can take this as a blip on the radar. Snell draws the Diamondbacks on Monday and Yankees on Saturday.
Hitters to Watch
Eduardo Escobar, 3B/SS, Diamondbacks
We’ve written quite a bit about Christian Walker this season, a late-bloomer who is taking full advantage of Jake Lamb’s injury and grabbing the first-base job in Arizona by the reins. With Walker playing as well as he is, it’s likely he sticks at first when Lamb returns. Lamb came up as a third baseman, but he might be out of luck across the diamond, as well, because of Escobar’s play. The 30-year-old is hitting .303/.377/.541 with six homers, nine doubles and 19 RBI in 138 plate appearances on the year. After the way he hit last year, splitting his time between the Twins and Diamondbacks, Torey Lovullo is going to be just as hard-pressed to turn away from him as he is with Walker.
Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies
It took Arenado a while to get going this season, but the cream always rises to the top. He has six homers and 15 RBI in his last 12 games, going 19-for-52 in that time. Before the hot streak, he was hitting .259/.319/.412 in 94 plate appearances. Now he’s up to .299/.338/.577 in 148 plate appearances.
Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox
Abreu had a 10-game hitting streak snapped last Thursday, though he still drew a walk in that game. He went 21-for-44 with three homers, six doubles and 20 RBI during the streak, raising his slash line to .292/.362/.531 in the process. He bounced back Saturday after a couple hitless games in a row, going 2-for-4 with a homer and two knocked in. Abreu is slashing .285/.360/.528 with seven homers, nine doubles and 32 RBI this season.
The Cardinals Outfield Rotation
The Cardinals have a problem. It’s a good problem for them, but a terrible one for fantasy owners. Marcell Ozuna, Harrison Bader, Dexter Fowler and Jose Martinez are all swinging the bat well, but there aren’t enough spots to play all of them in the everyday lineup. With Ozuna locked into the lineup in left field, Mike Shildt has to do what he can to find enough time for Bader, Fowler and Martinez in the remaining two outfield spots. First base was an option for Martinez last year, but that’s no longer on the table with Paul Goldschmidt doing his usual thing. Pay close attention to how Shildt deploys Bader, Fowler and Martinez this week. There could be some hidden fantasy value to be found.
Michael Chavis, 2B/3B, Red Sox
Chavis entered this season as a top-85 prospect according to both Baseball America and MLB.com. The Red Sox promoted him after he hit .250/.354/.600 with four homers in 48 plate appearances at Triple-A Pawtucket, and he has not disappointed. Through XX plate appearances, the 23-year-old is hitting .354/.446/.771 with six homers and 13 RBI in 58 plate appearances. What’s more, since getting the call on April 19, Chavis has started 13 of 14 games, all but the day of his promotion.
Pitchers scheduled to make two starts this week (Alphabetical order by team)
Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks
Taylor Clarke, Arizona Diamondbacks
Max Fried, Atlanta Braves
Mike Foltynewicz, Atlanta Braves
Andrew Cashner, Baltimore Orioles
Hector Velasquez, Boston Red Sox
Cole Hamels, Chicago Cubs
Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs
Ivan Nova, Chicago White Sox
Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox
Anthony DeSclafani, Cincinnati Reds
Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds
Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians
Jefry Rodriguez, Cleveland Indians
Antonio Senzatela, Colorado Rockies
Daniel Norris, Detroit Tigers
Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros
Collin McHugh, Houston Astros
Jakob Junis, Kansas City Royals
Griffin Canning, Los Angeles Angels
Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers
Hyun-jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins
Caleb Smith, Miami Marlins
Jhoulys Chacin, Milwaukee Brewers
Martin Perez, Minnesota Twins
Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees
Aaron Brooks, Oakland A’s
Vince Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies
Steven Brault, Pittsburgh Pirates
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Marco Gonzales, Seattle Mariners
Drew Pomeranz, San Francisco Giants
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
Miles Mikolas, St. Louis Cardinals
Dakota Hudson, St. Louis Cardinals
Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays
Adrian Sampson, Texas Rangers
Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Teams playing seven games: Diamondbacks, Braves, Cubs, White Sox, Reds, Indians, Tigers, Astros, Dodgers, Marlins, Twins, Yankees, Mariners, Giants, Cardinals, Nationals
Teams playing six games: Orioles, Red Sox, Rockies, Royals, Angels, Brewers, Mets, A’s, Phillies, Pirates, Padres, Rays, Rangers, Blue Jays