Monday, August 20, 2018

Young Guns

Major League Baseball fans will be in for a major treat this week as two of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball will be making their long-awaited, highly-anticipated debuts.

The White Sox announced on Sunday that top pitching prospect Michael Kopech, arguably the top pitching prospect in the game,  will be called up to make his major league debut Tuesday against the Twins.

A first-round selection of the Red Sox in 2014, Kopech came to the White Sox as part of the deal that sent Chris Sale to Boston.

The 22-year-old right-hander has put up a 3.70 ERA with a whopping 170 strikeouts over 126 1/3 innings this season at Triple-A Charlotte. He’s also walked 60, although he didn’t issue a single free pass in four of his last five outings.

Kopech has been especially good over his last seven starts at Triple-A, registering a 1.84 ERA and 59/4 K/BB ratio across 44 innings.

Kopech is surely going to miss plenty of bats right away even if his control abandons him. He should be an immediate add in all mixed leagues for his strikeout upside alone.

The atmosphere at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago will be electric, even if it is a meaningless battle between a couple of struggling teams in the American League Central.

Speaking of the Twins, they’re also calling up their top pitching prospect. The Twins announced Sunday that Stephen Gonsalves will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to make his major league debut Monday against the White Sox.

Gonsalves will be taking the place of the injured Ervin Santana’s (finger) in the Twins’ rotation and should get an opportunity to remain there for the rest of the season. The left-hander boasts a 2.76 ERA and 120/65 K/BB ratio over 120 2/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A this season.

Unlike Kopech, Gonsalves is more of a high-floor than high-ceiling guy, but he’s consistently missed bats in the minors and is a worthy pickup in deeper fantasy leagues. That’s especially true with two starts on tap for this week.

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All About the “W”

Justin Verlander has already racked up some pretty impressive accomplishments in what’s trending to be a Hall of Fame career. Rookie of the Year, check. Cy Young award, check. MVP, check. World Series Champion, yep, got that one too.

So while reaching some arbitrary numerical milestones may not be necessary, each one represents another feather in the cap of the 35-year-old right-hander.

He wasn’t even at his best on Sunday, allowing four runs on seven hits over 5 ⅓ innings against the Athletics, but that was still enough to earn the 200th victory of his career.

“A win’s a win,” Verlander told reporters after the game, “This is one of the tougher ones I’ve had to get this year, specifically. … These guys are a great ballclub and it was a hard-fought battle today. Our boys swung the bat and we came out on top — an all-around great day.”

Verlander became the 114th pitcher in big league history to reach the 200 victory mark, but joins just Bartolo Colon and CC Sabathia as the only active hurlers to accomplish the feat.

He then elaborated a bit on what hitting the milestone meant to him, “We don’t know the way the game’s changing where 200 wins historically stands anymore… I think everybody understands it’s a little more special than it was 20, 30, 40 years ago, but still, it’s something I’ve taken a lot of pride in, which is just pitching, even through injuries, or whatever. Just being out there for my team — Detroit, Houston — it’s a special moment for me. I don’t even know how to put it into words. I’ve been through a lot, and for these guys to have them celebrate with me that way, it’s pretty cool.”

With the type of season that he’s having this year, there could soon be a second Cy Young award on his mantle. With Sunday’s victory, he improved to 12-8 on the year to go along with a 2.65 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and a major league-leading 223 strikeouts in 169 ⅔ innings.

Verlander wasn’t the only star eclipsing a milestone on Sunday afternoon though, Clayton Kershaw did so as well.

The 30-year-old southpaw fanned seven over seven innings of one-run baseball against the Mariners, earning the 150th victory of his big league career.

It seems unlikely that any starting pitchers will reach the illustrious 300 win total in this day and age, but if anyone is going to do it, Kershaw would seemingly have the best shot. In his 11th season in the big leagues, he’s now half-way there. He would still need to average 15 wins per season over the next decade to get there.

Darvish Done?

The Cubs received more bad news on the Yu Darvish front on Sunday, as the right-hander was lifted from his minor league rehab start with Low-A South Bend after just one inning after appearing to injure himself on a warm-up pitch.

Darvish had been slated to throw 50-60 pitches and/or three innings but was pulled following a 19-pitch scoreless first inning.

Not long afterwards, it was confirmed that Darvish will undergo an MRI on his ailing elbow. He admitted that the renewed pain is similar to what he felt in his rehab start nearly two months ago.

While we’ll have to wait on the MRI results to gain more clarity on the situation, it’s obviously discouraging news for fantasy owners. With only six weeks remaining in the regular season, his chances of returning look slim. In redraft leagues, it’s probably time to cut bait if you haven’t already.

American League Quick Hits: Didi Gregorius was forced to leave Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays after colliding with Kendrys Morales at first base. He suffered a bruised left heel that Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone deemed “pretty significant” which could require a trip to the disabled list… Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said in a radio interview Sunday that “it is not out of the realm of possibility” Jose Altuve (knee) is activated from the disabled list Tuesday… Mark Trumbo is heading back to Baltimore to undergo another MRI on his ailing right knee…  Marcus Stroman landed on the disabled list due to a blister on his right middle finger… The Twins placed Ervin Santana back on the disabled list with recurring symptoms of the finger injury that held him out for the majority of the season… Edwin Encarnacion (hand) was able to take swings in the batting cages on Sunday and is slated to take live batting practice on the field on Monday. Indians’ president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti declared him “not too far away from being activated”… Logan Forsythe has cleared revocable waivers and can be traded to any team before the end of August… James Paxton (forearm) played catch on Sunday for the first time since landing on the disabled list. He could be ready to rejoin the Mariners’ rotation by next weekend… Matt Joyce (back) will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday… Giancarlo Stanton said after Sunday’s game that he’s ready and able to play the field against the Marlins in Miami on Sunday… Chris Herrmann was forced to leave Sunday’s game with a bruised right knee. He’s considered day-to-day… Aaron Judge admitted Sunday that he’s still dealing with pain in his fractured right wrist… Mike Clevinger racked up seven strikeouts over six shutout innings in a victory over the Orioles… Melky Cabrera blasted a grand slam in that win… Greg Bird smacked the second grand slam of his career as the Yankees topped the Blue Jays… J.A. Happ struck out eight across 5 ⅓ innings in a win over the Jays… Whit Merrifield smasked a three-run homer and stole a base in a losing effort against the White Sox… Jose Leclerc improved to 5-for-5 in save chances with a perfect ninth inning against the Angels… Khris Davis smacked his 35th and 36th home runs as the Athletics fell to the Astros… Martin Maldonado finished a single shy of the cycle in a win over the A’s.

National League Quick Hits:Stephen Strasburg (neck) will return to the Nationals’ rotation on Wednesday against the Phillies… The Cardinals demoted struggling right-hander Luke Weaver to the bullpen in favor of Daniel Poncedeleon… Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Sunday that he believes Addison Russell’s left middle finger “is bothering him more than he’s saying.”… Manny Machado was forced to leave Sunday’s game after being hit by a pitch (thrown by Andrew Romine) on his left wrist. X-rays came back negative and he’s considered day-to-day… Hunter Renfroe suffered a forearm contusion when he was hit by a pitch on Sunday. He should be fine to return on Tuesday…  Gio Gonzalez was blasted for eight runs over 4 ⅔ innings in a loss to the Marlins on Sunday… Jose Peraza went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer as the Reds routed the Giants… Jose Urena pitched his first career complete game, allowing just one run on two hits in a win over the Nationals… Starlin Castro went 5-for-6 with an RBI and three runs scored in that win… Luis Castillo fanned nine and allowed just one earned run over 6 ⅔ innings in a win against the Giants… Wade Davis worked a scoreless ninth inning to secure his 35th save of the season… German Marquez fanned five over seven innings of two-run ball in a win over the Braves… Adam Frazier crushed a pinch-hit walk-off homer to sink the Cubs in the 11th inning on Sunday… Patrick Wisdom slugged his first big league homer, a pinch-hit shot off of Jeremy Jeffress, in a loss to the Brewers… A.J. Pollock blasted a go-ahead home run off of Kirby Yates in the ninth inning, powering the Diamondbacks past the Padres… Justin Turner homered and drove in five runs as the Dodgers crushed the Mariners… Jhoulys Chacin picked up his 13th victory, firing six shutout innings against the Cardinals.