Astros Dallas Keuchel Rediscovering Better Form | Trust Twins Kyle Gibson
Deep Stat Examinations as the New Week Begins
Did we learn nothing last year from Chris Taylor’s breakout year with the Dodgers? Sometimes, a player who hasn’t done much throughout his career can still enjoy a breakout season. It was true last year with Taylor, and it’s proving to be true again this year with Max Muncy.
Muncy has mainly registered his playing time in the minors for the Athletics and Dodgers, but he had 245 plate appearances prior to this year in the Major Leagues, where he had a .206 and .186 average, respectively, to go along with a .285 and .262 wOBA.
This year, though, in 189 plate appearances (through Sunday), Muncy has a .257/.397/.586 triple slash line with 15 home runs, a .410 wOBA and a 165 wRC+. Yet, for some reason, he’s only owned in 60 percent of Yahoo leauges.
To put his numbers into context, he has a similar wRC+ to Jose Ramirez (167), a higher wOBA than Aaron Judge (.404), as many home runs as Freddie Freeman and a similar triple slash line to Paul Goldschmidt (.267/.376/.529).
Yes, track record is the reason that the above players are owned and trusted more, but the Dodgers are buying into it, as they are finding a place for Muncy’s bat in the lineup on a regular basis. It’s fine for Fantasy owners to buy in, too, as he already has triple eligibility (1B, 3B and OF) and has three appearances at second base, too.
If you waited too long for Taylor to prove it last year, you missed out on his production. You’re close to the point of the season where you’re going to miss out on Muncy for good, too.
Dallas Keuchel is a pitcher that’s similar to Marcus Stroman, as his value is in innings and out-pitching his peripherals. It’s been a down year for Keuchel, but he’s picked up his play as of late. The reason? Well, as I highlighted last August with Keuchel, it’s all about location.
Sans his two most recent starts, Keuchel’s heatmap resembled his 2016 season, which was a down season for him.
HEATMAPS VIA FANGRAPHS
Keuchel wasn’t pounding the lower part of the zone as much, which is what made him so successful in 2015 and his last outings in 2017. During that stretch to start this season, which ran from April 4 to June 10, Keuchel had a 4.44 ERA (4.18 FIP) and a .261 average against, allowing 11 home runs, 30.1 hard-hit rate and a 54.3 groundball rate.
But in his two most recent starts, Keuchel’s been much better, as his map resembles that great 2015 season where he was pounding down in the zone more.
It’s a two-start stretch, but those numbers are down to a 0.00 ERA, .250 average against, allowing no home runs, an 18.9 hard-hit rate and a 54.1 groundball rate.
Keuchel seems to be figuring it out sooner this year than he did last year, where he was admittedly pitching through a shoulder injury. He’s been a disappointment so far this year, but if his last two starts are any indication, he could be in for a Top 20 finish the rest of the season. Your buy-low window may be close to being shut for good.
Roll with Rodon
It’s funny what happens when Carlos Rodon gets to face an offense that isn’t the Red Sox or Indians. In his fourth start back from the disabled list, Rodon got a semi break by facing a Athletics’ lineup that, while still good, is a step down from Boston and Cleveland.
Rodon responded with his best outing yet, allowing two runs and striking out three over eight innings. The most impressive and encouraging part, though, is that Rodon didn’t walk any batters. So, while the strikeouts were low, it was offset by no free passes being allowed.
There is still major upside here, and Rodon has a good matchup this upcoming week against the Rangers, who are hitting just .246 against lefties this year. You can live with his walks for his big strikeout potential.
Fooled Me Once …
There’s still a fear that Kyle Gibson is going to turn back into a pumpkin. We’ve seen hot flashes before, but he constantly disappoints. But this year is different. For Fantasy owners in quality start leagues, Gibson has been very reliable, as he’s had nine quality starts this year and five of his last six games have netted a quality start. The one game that wasn’t was when Gibson allowed two earned runs in 5.2 innings.
Gibson has a 3.25 ERA, and it’s supported by his 3.90 FIP and his 4.18 SIERA. There may be a little correction, but what Gibson is doing is mostly legit.
The big difference this year than the past for Gibson is that he’s upped his IFFB% to 17.6 percent from 5.3 percent a season ago. He’s also upped his K/9% nearly two points from a season ago, striking out batters at 8.73 per nine.
The BABIP is low (.254) but even when it normalizes, Gibson will be a pitcher that you can trust to be a contributor piece in your Fantasy rotation.
Down on the Farm
There are two prospects who have been turning heads lately, and one of them can help you this year. Astros president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow said Sunday that there is a “decent likelihood” that Kyle Tucker could make his Major League debut in 2018. With left field being a weakness for Houston, this makes all the sense in the world.
The Astros’ top hitting prospect has been making noise in the minors, as he’s hitting .500 over his past 10 games. On the season, he’s hitting .314/.382/.509 with 10 homers and 13 steals. He may not make his debut until July or August, but if you have a minor-league slot, he’s worth stashing.
While Tucker could make his debut this year and contribute right away for Fantasy owners, Alex Kiriloff could find himself in a similar position in a year or two.
The highly-touted outfield prospect for the Twins missed last season with Tommy John surgery, but he’s made up for lost time this season in A-ball. Kiriloff just got promoted to High-A after annihilating the competition in Single-A to the tune of .333/.391/.607 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs.
Kiriloff is only 20 years old, but the former Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year should advance quickly through the Twins’ system. He’s a must-own player for dynasty league players, and should be on the radar for redraft owners for 2020.
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