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The Angels' rotation has been a frustrating one since the we started to project players for 2018. With a six-man rotation and a staff full of injury-prone, high-upside pitchers it was difficult to know what to make of any of them. Two months into the season, it oddly looks like one of the top rotations in baseball.
Shohei Ohtani is awesome; Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs look really useful as well; Jaime Barria has a 2.48 ERA and can't even stay on the major league roster. On Tuesday night it was Andrew Heaney's turn, and all he did was throw a one-hit shutout on his 27th birthday.
Heaney's performance on Tuesday dropped his ERA to 3.12 on the the year, with peripherals that suggest only a small amount of regression coming. His swinging strike rate and strikeout rate are both above his career average, and he's generating a ton of soft contact (22 percent) and pop ups (17.9 percent IFFB rate). It's still a small sample size of 60.2 innings for the year, so it's possible those batted ball numbers don't mean a lot yet, but there are other encouraging signs.
Tuesday's start was the sixth time in his last seven starts that Heaney has thrown at least six innings. That includes starts at Coors Field, Yankees Stadium, and against the Houston Astros. In some very difficult environments he's consistently pitching deep into games.
The six-man rotation is going to limit his upside in points leagues, but Heaney should still be near universally owned.
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Another messy situation this year has been the Reds outfield. With Billy Hamilton, Scott Schebler, Jesse Winker and Adam Duvall, they have more bodies than spots on the lineup card. What's becoming clear is that Scott Schebler needs to be in the lineup every day. Schebler ranks first in the Reds outfield in batting average, wOBA, slugging percentage and wRC+. Most of those categories are not particularly close. Schebler's even been the team's second best hitting outfielder against lefthanded pitching.
As of late he's really turned things up, with eight hits and three home runs in his last five games. An early trip to the disabled list has lowered his counting stats, masking his appeal. This hot stretch is likely to change that. He should be owned and started in all five outfielder leagues, and I'm ready to consider him in points leagues as well.
I'd understand if you reacted to a 473-foot bomb from Carlos Gonzalez with a yawn and a casual "Coors". Of course, the game wasn't at Coors, it was legit. We're not really going to add someone just because he hit a long home run, but it's a good excuse to talk about the heater Gonzalez is on. Since May 9 he's hitting .328 with an .899 OPS.
Maybe the biggest boon to his value has nothing to do with him. David Dahl's injury helps clear out a logjam in the outfield and should mean more plate appearances for Gonzalez. At the very least he's a good bench option that you know you'll start whenever he's at home. He has a 1.042 OPS at Coors this season.
Kyle Barraclough picked up his second save on Tuesday with a perfect ninth inning against the Cardinals and he looks like he's ready to take the Marlins' closer job and run with it. Barraclough hasn't allowed a run in his last 11 appearances and has only given up one hit over that stretch. Sure, Barraclough's strikeout numbers have crashed over the same time frame, but he has a long enough history of missing bats that I'm not too worried about it. Barraclough should be owned in all categories leagues, and I'd be fine with him as a No. 2 reliever in a points league.
I dismissed Wright before his first start on Tuesday and should probably reveal my bias. I don't play the slots. I know some people really enjoy them. I know big jackpots have been won. To me they're just depressing. And to me, knuckleball pitchers are mostly slot machines. Or better yet, random number generators.
Wright generated zeros on Tuesday, blanking the Tigers for seven innings while striking out six. My problem is I don't really believe that's predictive of anything. Maybe we can use his 2016 as an example. It was Wright's best by far, as he posted a 3.33 ERA over 156.2 innings. He had an incredible start to the season and people were actually talking about him as a Cy Young candidate. In his first six starts, he didn't allow more than two runs once. On June 20th he had a 2.01 ERA. Here is his game log in terms of runs allowed after that start: 8, 4, 6, 3, 2, 8, 3, 0, 5, 4.
When the knuckle ball is working it can seem impossible to square it up. When it's not working, it's batting practice. I don't believe Steven Wright knows on a day-to-day basis whether the pitch will be on or off. That makes it tough to trust him even coming off a start like Tuesday.