Oh Mister Willson!
It’s crazy how just a good couple of days in mid-May can completely change a player’s season around.
Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras was an extremely popular fantasy commodity in drafts this spring. He finished the draft season with an average draft position of 50, putting him second at the catcher position behind Gary Sanchez and just ahead of Giants’ backstop Buster Posey.
Entering play on Thursday, he had been considered one of the biggest disappointments of the season thus far. Through his first 29 games, Contreras was hitting just .246/.326/.407 with one home run and eight RBI.
He broke out in a big way in Thursday’s series finale against the Marlins going 3-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. All three hits went for extra bases, with a double and a pair of triples. He carried that good feeling into Friday which just so happened to be Willson Contreras bobblehead day at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Contreras put on a show for his home crowd, blasting a grand slam off of Carson Fulmer as part of a five-run uprising in the first inning. He wasn’t finished though. The hard-hitting backstop crushed a solo shot off of Chris Beck in the sixth inning that ran their advantage to 7-2. He then finished the monster afternoon with a two-run double in the seventh inning, running his RBI total to a career-high seven.
Altogether, Contreras now has three doubles, two triples and a pair of home runs in his last 10 at-bats. In doing so, he became the first Cubs’ hitter since at least 1913 to have seven extra-base hits in two games.
Afterwards, Contreras told reporters (through an interpreter) that he finally feels like he’s getting in rhythm at the plate which has led to his recent success, "I've been having really good at-bats and seeing the ball with both eyes and having good at-bats, working good counts… I consider myself a rhythm batter. It's just a matter of getting that timing, getting that rhythm down."
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon also likes what he has been seeing from Contreras, "I love when he hits the ball to left-center, and when it goes out, it's even better...My take on him is when he's driving the ball in the gap, he's on top of his game. That's what I saw last year. That's what I saw today."
Fantasy owners can only hope that this is the beginning of a breakout for Contreras and that he’ll continue to hammer the baseball in the coming weeks.
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Welcome to Cincinnati
After appearing in 109 games with the Mets to begin his major league career, Matt Harvey took the hill on Friday for the first time as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. You’ll recall that after being designated for assignment, the right-hander was dealt to the Reds earlier this week in exchange for catcher Devin Mesoraco.
Things couldn’t have gone much better.
Harvey cruised through four innings, retiring 12 of the 13 batters that he faced. The only hitter that did reach against him, came on a fly ball triple that left fielder Scott Schebler lost in the lights.
The right-hander threw 55 pitches, 32 of them for strikes. He averaged 93.6 mph on his fastball in the outing and touched as high as 95.8 mph, which is his highest mark this season.
Manager Jim Riggleman had said beforehand that Harvey wouldn’t work deep into the ballgame as he wanted to build up his stamina after a long layoff from starting. It made a lot of sense to get him out of there after four innings while he was still feeling terrific about his performance.
It’s probably a bit premature to advise rushing out to the waiver wire to snag Harvey, as even with this fine outing he still owns a miserable 6.10 ERA and 1.39 WHIP on the season. Also, he only struck out two hitters on Friday, recording most of his outs via fly balls. When pitching at home in Cincinnati, keeping the ball in the air could be troublesome.
In NL-only formats and deeper mixed leagues, perhaps he’s worth a gamble, though you should hold off on actually using him if possible, until he proves himself a few more times.
Harvey wasn’t the only player involved in this deal to prove himself on Friday night though. Devin Mesoraco secured his first hit as a member of the Mets, a solo homer off of Hector Neris in the ninth inning that helped the Mets to secure a come-from-behind victory over the Phillies.
It’s super early, but at least through the first week this deal is looking like it could be a win-win for both sides.
Manny being Manny
Manny Machado continues to obliterate the baseball as he charges towards free agency following the 2018 season.
In the first inning on Friday, Machado clubbed a two-run homer off of Jake Faria to get the Orioles on the board. He added some serious thump later in the ballgame, crushing a grand slam off of Ryne Stanek in the seventh to put the game out of reach.
It was the fourth multi-homer game already on the season for Machado, and the 18th in his stellar young career. According to STATS, only three American League hitters have tallied more multi-homer games before turning 26 -- Hal Trosky (20), Jimmie Foxx (19) and Alex Rodriguez (19). That’s some pretty impressive company.
His seventh-inning blast was also the 150th of his career, making him the youngest Orioles’ hitter to reach that milestone.
As it becomes more and more clear that Machado is intent on hitting free agency, speculation continues to run rampant that the O’s will look to deal him away before the end of the season rather than letting him walk away for nothing in free agency.
With the way that he has swung the bat this season, he has done nothing but amplify his trade value. The 25-year-old is slashing a robust .354/.440/.667 with 12 homers, 35 RBI and a pair of stolen bases.
American League Quick Hits: Stephen Piscotty was placed on the bereavement leave list and will be away from the team over the weekend after his mother passed away earlier this week because of ALS… Red Sox’ manager Alex Cora indicated that Steven Wright will work out of the bullpen when he returns from his suspension… Struggling right-hander Marcus Stroman was placed on the 10-day disabled list with shoulder fatigue. Joe Biagini will be recalled from Triple-A Buffalo to take his place in the rotation starting on Sunday against the Red Sox… Jackie Bradley sat out his third straight game on Friday and is hitting just .173/.264/.264 on the season… The Rangers designated Renato Nunez for assignment. He could once again attract interest on waivers… Brandon Drury continues to experience migraine symptoms and still has no clear timetable for a potential return to the Yankees… Dustin Pedroia (knee) will begin a minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday… Friday’s game between the Tigers and Mariners was postponed due to rain in Detroit. They’ll play a straight doubleheader on Saturday… Tyler Naquin left Friday’s game due to tightness in his left hamstring. He’s day-to-day… George Springer was removed from Friday’s contest against the Rangers after being drilled in the elbow by Cole Hamels. X-rays came back negative and he’s listed as day-to-day with an elbow contusion… Twins’ prospect Wander Javier will miss the remainder of the 2018 season due to a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder… Aaron Judge homered and drove in four runs in a loss to the Athletics… Jed Lowrie went 3-for-6 and slugged his ninth home run in a win against the Yankees… Chris Sale matched his career-high with 15 strikeouts over nine innings of three-run ball in a no-decision against the Blue Jays… Blue Jays’ catcher Luke Maile tallied the first two-homer game of his career, including a walk-off blast in the 12th inning to beat the Red Sox… Cole Hamels allowed just one hit over six shutout innings, out-dueling Justin Verlander in a 1-0 victory over the Astros… Michael Brantley blasted his second grand slam of the season in a wild loss to the Royals… Salvador Perez crushed a go-ahead two-run homer off of Andrew Miller in the seventh to lead the Royals to victory… Justin Upton slugged his 10th home run in a losing effort against the Twins… Eddie Rosario launched a pair of solo home runs, propelling the Twins to victory over the Angels.
National League Quick Hits: Yu Darvish (flu) will return from the disabled list on Tuesday against the Braves... Jake Lamb (shoulder, elbow) went through full baseball activities on Thursday. He’s starting to make progress, but there remains no clear timetable for a potential return…. Shelby Miller (elbow) threw three innings in an extended spring training game on Friday… Jay Bruce will miss the Mets’ weekend series against the Phillies while away on paternity leave… The Mets plan to skip Jason Vargas’ next trip through the rotation. He owns a hideous 13.86 ERA in three starts since returning from the disabled list… Mac Williamson will remain in the concussion protocol for another 7-to-10 days… Ryan Zimmerman missed another game on Friday due to lingering soreness in his back… The Nationals placed Matt Wieters on the 10-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain… Justin Turner (wrist) is on track to return to the Dodgers early next week… Jameson Taillon was forced to leave Friday’s start after three innings due to a laceration on his finger… Odubel Herrera went 2-for-3 with a homer in a loss to the Mets and has now reached base safely in each of his last 40 games… Jake Arrieta fired 7 ⅓ shutout innings in a tough-luck no decision there… Michael Conforto belted a go-ahead two-run homer off of Hector Neris in the ninth inning to lead the Mets to victory… Ozzie Albies crushed his 12th home run, tying Bryce Harper for the National League lead, and swiped a base in a loss to the Marlins… J.T. Realmuto went 3-for-5 with a homer, two runs scored and two RBI to lead the Fish… Starling Marte swatted one of four Pirates’ homers in a rout of the Giants… Trea Turner slugged a leadoff homer in a win over the Diamondbacks… Max Scherzer improved to 7-1 on the season, fanning 11 over seven innings of one-run ball against the Diamondbacks… Lorenzo Cain went 3-for-6 with a double and three runs scored in a win over the Rockies… Manny Pina belted a game-tying two-run homer off of Wade Davis in the ninth inning as the Brewers came back to win in extra innings… Scooter Gennett homered for the fourth straight game as the Reds topped the Dodgers… Tommy Pham slugged one of five Cardinals’ home runs in a convincing victory over the Padres.