Is there anyone seeing the baseball better than Adrian Gonzalez to start the 2015 season? The Dodgers’ first baseman hit three home runs in his first three at-bats of Wednesday night’s win against the Padres. With a chance to hit his fourth homer in the bottom of the sixth, Gonzalez instead extended the Dodgers’ lead to 7-4 with an RBI single to center. He’s homered in all three games to start the 2015 season, currently 10-for-13 with five home runs, two doubles, and seven RBI.
Spring training stats don’t have any real correlation to regular season success, and Gonzalez is proving that as he hit a measly .222 (14-for-63) with two home runs and 11 RBI in 23 Cactus League games. Though Gonzalez is no longer the hitter he was back in 2009 when hit 40 home runs, he’s still one of the better hitters in the National League. Last year, Gonzalez finished with a .276/.335/.482 triple slash line with 27 home runs and a league-leading 116 RBI total.
Speaking to Dodgers reporter and host Alanna Rizzo on the field at Dodger Stadium after the game, Gonzalez said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen), “I'm still not a home run hitter. I'm just trying to hit line drives.”
Gonzalez will certainly cool down, but his average draft position of 34 in Yahoo fantasy leagues is looking rather accurate.
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Joe Nathan Hits the 15-Day Disabled List
Soria closing over Nathan is something many wanted during the off-season -- certainly after Nathan pitched poorly during the spring – but not at the expense of the right-hander’s health. In 11 2/3 innings in Grapefruit League action this spring, Nathan allowed eight runs (six earned) on 13 hits and four walks while striking out eight. This came on the heels of his disastrous 2014 campaign in which he posted a 4.81 ERA and a 54/29 K/BB ratio in 58 innings.
Soria, 30, pitched 11 innings for the Tigers after coming over from the Rangers last season and the results weren’t that great, but his overall numbers on the season between both clubs were decent. He compiled a 3.25 ERA and a 48/6 K/BB ratio in 44 1/3 innings. Soria, of course, has plenty of experience closing given his five seasons with the Royals between 2007 and ’11. Soria should handle the temporary promotion just fine, and his K/BB numbers show that he’s capable of being more than adequate for the Tigers.
Soria missed all of the 2012 season and the first three months of the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He’s been able to avoid arm injuries since, however, and shouldn’t be considered an injury risk.
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Carlos Carrasco Fans 10 with Ink Still Wet
With the ink still wet on the four-year, $22 million extension he signed with the Indians on Tuesday, Carrasco took the mound on Wednesday and blanked the Astros over 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out 10 batters.
There were many who wondered if the 28-year-old’s performance with the Indians last season was a fluke. Over 134 innings, Carrasco compiled a 2.55 ERA and a 140/29 K/BB ratio. About half of that workload came when he moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation on August 10. In 10 starts, he allowed just 11 runs (10 earned) with a 78/11 K/BB ratio in 69 innings.
Carrasco’s success has many root causes. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian went over many of them in a January column. Among the reasons Bastian cites, Carrasco relied less on his four-seam fastball and more on his slider and, to a lesser degree, his change-up.
GM Chris Antonetti also had a theory. He said, “His mentality, I think, was the biggest difference. We’ve seen Carlos throughout his time as a pitcher, he’s always had very good stuff. He took the time in the bullpen and really focused on his mind-set and how he wanted to attack hitters. He was very aggressive from almost Day 1, really, out of the bullpen. And then when he had the opportunity to start again, he maintained that same aggressive mind-set and attacked hitters. He was able to obviously be very, very successful with that type of approach.”
While 11 starts – 10 last year plus his first this season – isn’t a large enough sample size upon which to state anything definitively, there exists a lot of qualitative information to justify believing in Carrasco over the long-term. Carrasco has been drafted 116th overall in Yahoo fantasy leagues, slightly behind Tyson Ross and narrowly ahead of Masahiro Tanaka. It seems like the average player is keen on Carrasco’s transformation.
Pirates Extend Josh Harrison for Four Years
The Pirates and third baseman Josh Harrison agreed to a four-year contract extension worth a guaranteed $27.3 million on Wednesday. Two club options at the end of the contract could raise the value to $50.3 million, per MLB.com’s Tom Singer. As the contract includes the 2015 season, it is in effect a three-year extension.
Harrison, 27, broke out last season, batting .315/.347/.490 with 13 home runs, 52 RBI, and 18 stolen bases, taking over the starting third base job from Pedro Alvarez. He showed himself to be a plus-defender and multi-talented on the offensive side of things. It’s difficult to think the Pirates would have found their way in the NL Wild Card game against the Giants last year if they hadn’t discovered Harrison.
Harrison went 2-for-4 with a double on Opening Day on Monday, and finished 1-for-5 with a walk on Wednesday. While Harrison isn’t projected to have nearly as much success in terms of batting average, he’s still expected – by multiple projection systems including ZiPS and Steamer, found at FanGraphs – to post double-digits in both home runs and RBI, which still makes him quite valuable in mixed leagues. For the Pirates, counting on 10-plus homers and 15-plus stolen bases over the next four years will be a nice luxury to have.
National League Quick Hits: Braves closer Jason Grilli earned his second save of the season Wednesday with a perfect ninth inning against the Marlins … Mets manager Terry Collins confirmed on Wednesday that Jeurys Familia will serve as the closer while Jenrry Mejia (elbow) is sidelined … Giancarlo Stanton was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts Wednesday against the Braves and is batting .125 to start the season … Phillies starter Aaron Harang dominated the Red Sox on Wednesday, tossing 6 1/3 scoreless innings on two hits and a walk with eight strikeouts … Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth (shoulder) will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Thursday … Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta struck out seven in seven shutout innings against the Cardinals on Wednesday … Billy Hamilton stole three bases against the Pirates on Wednesday, giving him four on the season … Ryan Braun (oblique) singled as a pinch-hitter against the Rockies on Wednesday … Andrew McCutchen went 0-for-5 with a walk in Wednesday’s 11-inning loss to the Reds … Lance Lynn struck out nine Cubs on Wednesday but got the loss after allowing two runs without recording an out in the seventh inning … D’Backs starter Jeremy Hellickson was chased with one out in the fifth inning after surrendering nine hits and a pair of walks to the Giants on Wednesday … First baseman Justin Morneau (neck) talked his way into the Rockies’ lineup Wednesday but went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .077 to start the season … Brandon McCarthy struck out nine Padres in his Dodgers debut on Wednesday but was chased after allowing a home run and two doubles to lead off the sixth inning … Yonder Alonso has back-to-back three-hit games after going 3-for-4 Wednesday against the Dodgers … Brandon Belt’s MRI showed a mild groin strain on Wednesday, but the Giants’ first baseman is optimistic that he will avoid the disabled list.
American League Quick Hits: Alejandro De Aza was responsible for two of the Orioles’ three hits on Wednesday against the Rays, singling twice in four at-bats … Rick Porcello had shut down the Phillies until surrendering a three-run home run to Jeff Francoeur in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s loss … Dellin Betances needed 32 pitches to get through the eighth inning of Wednesday’s win against the Blue Jays, and will likely be unavailable Thursday … Rays closer Brad Boxberger fanned the side in slamming the door on the Orioles on Wednesday … Jose Bautista struck out in all three official at-bats Wednesday against the Yankees, leaving him hitless in eight at-bats to start the season … Avisail Garcia went 3-for-4 with a double in Wednesday’s loss to the Royals … Mike Aviles was a late addition to the Indians’ lineup Wednesday night and homered against the Astros … Second baseman Ian Kinsler knocked in four runs as the Tigers steamrolled the Twins 11-0 Wednesday afternoon … Twins starter Ricky Nolasco struggled in his season debut, allowing six runs in three innings to the Tigers … Lorenzo Cain went 3-for-4 with a game-deciding two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning Wednesday against the White Sox … Scott Feldman pitched well in a losing effort Wednesday against the Indians, allowing one run while striking out five over 6 2/3 innings … With a first-inning, two-run home run off of Hisashi Iwakuma on Wednesday, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols tied Ted Williams, Willie McCovey, and Frank Thomas for 18th on the all-time home run leaderboard with 521 … Scott Kazmir one-hit the Rangers with 10 strikeouts over seven innings on Wednesday while teammate Mark Canha went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and four RBI in his major league debut … Mariners outfielder Seth Smith (groin) was again out of the lineup on Wednesday but is considered day-to-day … After helping the Rangers avoid getting no-hit on Monday, Ryan Rua went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts on Wednesday and is now 1-for-11 to start the season.