Soroka Shoots Fish in a Barrel
Mike Soroka took a shutout into the ninth inning against the Marlins on Friday night. He had retired the last 10 batters in a row at that point but ended up walking the leadoff batter in the final frame before being relieved. That runner came around to score against the bullpen to take away just a bit of the shine from the stellar rookie's fantastic game. He allowed just the one run on three base hits and two walks while fanning six over eight-plus innings in the ballgame. He is now 7-1 with a 1.38 ERA that ranks him second in the major leagues behind Hyun-Jin Ryu's 1.35 mark. Soroka has a microscopic 0.87 WHIP and has allowed just one home run through his 10 starts. Opposing batters have generated an impotent .470 OPS against him this year, which is by far the lowest mark in the major leagues.
Soroka has been so impressive that it is hard to take anything away from him, but that being said there are some warning signs buried in his statistical profile that indicate this might be the perfect time to shop him around in fantasy leagues. It is no surprise that the best pitchers in the league so far are out-performing their peripherals, after all we aren't even halfway through the season yet and many metrics haven't had time to stabilize. For example, Soroka has a .219 BABIP, a 79.9 percent strand rate and a 2.9 percent HR/FB rate and all of those numbers are screaming for regression. Even after those metrics normalize themselves he will still be a good pitcher, just not a historically great one. Soroka's 57:17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 65 1/3 innings is good but definitely not great.
Another major concern for the Braves and Soroka's fantasy owners is the issue of a potential innings limit. Soroka threw only 56 1/3 innings combined between the majors and minors last year. He has thrown as many as 153 2/3 innings in a single season in the past though. Given the historical correlation between large innings jumps and an increased risk of injury, the Braves will want to keep close tabs on his workload as the season unfolds. That could result in skipped starts and/or shortened stints, which will have a negative effect on his fantasy production.
Some fantasy owners may want to mitigate the risk of regression and reduced workload and decide to cash in their chips by trading Soroka for a more established and reliable commodity. Soroka is ranked as the number three overall starting pitcher on Yahoo's ranking system right now. Some potential trade targets to consider would be Charlie Morton, Lucas Giolito, Matthew Boyd, Zack Greinke and Jose Berrios. All of these pitchers currently rank behind Soroka on Yahoo and ESPN but are likely to outperform him in fantasy terms over the remainder of the season. Send out some offers!
Domingo Santana swatted a pair of solo homers to power the Mariners to a 6-2 win over the Angels. He went yard against starter Adnrew Heaney and reliever Luis Garcia in the ballgame. The two bombs on the day gave him a total of 13 on the season. Santana is now hitting .270/.337/.484 with 33 runs scored, 47 RBI and five steals across 280 plate appearances. The 26-year-old outfielder is enjoying his first go-round with the Mariners after spending most of last season on the bench in Milwaukee. He already has more at-bats this year than he did in all of 2018. He began this season hot as a firecracker before scuffling through the month of May. He is back in top form in June and should continue to put up impressive fantasy stats throughout the summer.
Marcus Semien went 4-for-5 and cracked a pair of home runs on Friday against the Rangers. He drove in four runs and scored three times. He hit a solo dinger in the fifth inning, added an RBI-single in the seventh and then won the game with a two-run shot off Jose Leclerc in the top of the ninth inning. This was the fourth multi-homer game of Semien's career. His current .270 batting average would be the best of his career if he can keep it up. He is piling up the counting stats as well, with nine home runs, 32 RBI, 41 runs scored and five stolen bases in 64 games played. He is on pace to set new career highs in both runs and RBI. He smacked 27 homers in 2016, so that number is likely out of reach but that season was an outlier compared to the rest of his career. Other than that one homer-heavy season he has never hit more than 15 in a single year.
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Tatis Hasn't Skipped a Beat
Fernando Tatis Jr. went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and a stolen base to lead the Padres to a 5-4 win over the Nationals. The stellar young shortstop has now reached base six times in his first two games since being activated off the injured list. Given he missed a month with a severe hamstring strain it was nice to see him feeling healthy enough to steal a base. He has picked right up where he left off before the injury and is now slashing .321/.387/.585 with seven homers, 15 RBI and seven stolen bases in 29 games. It wouldn't be a shock to see him put together a season with a .300 batting average, 30 homers and 30 steals at some point in the next few years, although those numbers are likely out of reach this year because he was out for a month.
Cole Looks Dominant
Gerrit Cole notched 14 strikeouts in his seven-inning stint against the Orioles. He allowed three runs to score, but only one of them was earned. The game went into the 11th inning before it was decided in his team's favor. Cole leads the majors with 130 strikeouts in 84 2/3 innings. He has a comfortable lead over Max Scherzer (117 punchouts). Justin Verlander and Chris Sale are tied for third with 110 strikeouts. Cole has a 5-5 record and a 3.72 ERA in 14 starts. That ERA is inflated a bit by a high HR/FB rate of 22.1 percent and a low 69.2 percent strand rate, which is very low for someone who strikes out so many batters. When those two indicators normalize toward his career rates we should see his ERA steadily improve. He has a fantastic 2.36 xFIP and 2.57 SIERA, both of which are more predictive of future performance than current ERA.
NL Quick Hits: Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw yielded two runs over seven innings in a loss to the Giants. This ended a string of 21 consecutive starts without a loss for Kershaw, who hadn't been charged with a loss since July 21st of last year. He is now 5-1 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.05 WHIP after 10 starts... Drew Pomeranz needed a good game to save his slot in the Giants' starting rotation and he came through in the clutch. He struck out seven batters and held the Dodgers scoreless for five innings. He is now 1-6 with a still-ghastly 7.16 ERA in 11 starts... Brandon Woodruff punched out 10 Pirates and gave up three runs in six innings while earning a win on Friday. The Brewers have won 11 of his 13 starts this year. He is 8-1 with a 3.87 ERA and a 90:20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 74 1/3 innings... Pirates starter Nick Kingham was blasted for six runs (five earned) in 2 1/3 innings by the Brewers. He shouldn't be in the major leagues -- he has a 9.61 ERA and 2.02 WHIP -- and definitely shouldn't be used in any fantasy lineups... Ryan Braun hit a three-run blast against the Pirates, which was his first home run in close to a month. He is having a decent season though, with a .270 batting average, 10 longballs, 35 RBI, 27 runs and four steals in 59 games... Jacob deGrom fanned 10 Rockies and gave up two runs in six innings. He was charged with a loss despite the excellent outing. Sound familiar? He is 3-6 with a 3.45 ERA as he tries to defend his NL Cy Young Award... Daniel Murphy went 2-for-4 with a solo home run against the Mets and owns a .373 batting average over his last 16 games... Rockies outfielder David Dahl finished 2-for-4 with a two-run homer, a walk, and two runs scored in a victory over the Mets. He has a .444 batting average over his last 16 games... Ronald Acuna Jr. went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBI in Friday’s win over the Marlins... Freddie Freeman went 2-for-3 with a homer, three RBI, and two walks against the Marlins... David Peralta went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBI in a win over the Blue Jays... Cole Hamels struck out 10 batters while firing eight shutout innings against the Cardinals...
AL Quick Hits: Angels starter Andrew Heaney struck out 10 batters but gave up five runs in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to the Mariners. He's made three starts since coming off the injured list and has a 5.40 ERA. On the plus side he has an excellent 0.96 WHIP and a spectacular 28:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 2/3 innings, both of which indicate great things are in store for the 28-year-old left-hander... Mariners catcher Tom Murphy clubbed a three-run homer in a win over the Angels... Cionel Perez notched the win for the Astros with three perfect innings of relief against the Orioles... Astros outfielder Josh Reddick is piecing together a solid fantasy campaign. He went 2-for-5 with a solo dinger against the Orioles on Friday and is now slashing a fine .310/.351/.462 with seven bombs, 22 RBI and 28 runs scored on the season. His batting average is much improved compared to recent seasons... Adalberto Mondesi went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a steal in the Royals' 6-4 win over the White Sox. He has a .282 batting average with six home runs, 44 RBI, 37 runs and 23 steals in 62 games. He might swipe 50 bags this year at his current pace, which is fantasy gold... Marwin Gonzalez went 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and an RBI against the Tigers... Kevin Kiermaier went 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBI in a win over the Red Sox... Yonny Chirinos gave up just two hits over eight scoreless frames in a win over the Red Sox... Marcus Stroman was hit hard in Friday's loss to the Diamondbacks, surrendering six runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 frames... Zach Plesac now has a 1.86 ERA after holding the Yankees to two runs in seven innings... Didi Gregorius went 2-for-4 in his first game off the injured list...