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MLB Today: Oakland Going Strong

August 19, 2020 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Stephen Piscotty's power is back for the Oakland Athletics.
Stephen Piscotty’s grand salamis have been a highlight of the A’s fast start. (Chris Victorio|Special to S.F. Examiner)

After the A’s put up back-to-back 97-win seasons the last two years, it wouldn’t necessarily take a betting guru to predict they’d again be contenders in 2020.

But how many of you expected Oakland to blaze out of the gates to a 16-7 start (heading into action Tuesday), putting it in first place in the AL West, already 3.5 games ahead defending AL Champion Houston?

Clearly, the A’s have taken the next step, and with the season halfway point just a week away, they look like a real challenger for the AL crown.

There’s a special feeling developing around this team. On Opening Day, Matt Olson smacked a walk-off grand salami; just a week and a half later, Stephen Piscotty repeated that feat, giving the franchise a pair of walk-off grand slams for the first time in history. Further, Piscotty smoked another grand slam on Friday to tie a game the A’s went on to win in 10 innings, Magical.

Speaking of Piscotty, his power is back (even in the virtual world — see video below) after an injury-plagued and ineffective campaign in 2019. He enjoyed a major power breakout in 2018, but last year knee and ankle woes really limited him, and his numbers took a nosedive as a result.

Heading into this season, Piscotty was not even guaranteed a full-time role, and while he actually isn’t hitting as well early on, the power has returned with four doubles and four homers through his first 64 at-bats (.484 slugging percentage).

Curiously, he hit .305 as a rookie in 2015, and then .273 the following season, but has failed to reach .270 in any year since. Piscotty, a 2012 supplemental first rounder by St. Louis, is clearly not quite as good as we thought after his debut season, but neither is he as bad as he showed last year or in 2017. Still, right now he looks like a solid addition in AL-only and deep mixed leagues.

Around the Bigs

  • The general consensus was that after signing with Toronto, Hyun-Jin Ryu would be hard-pressed to repeat the success he had with the Dodgers the last couple of years. That proved prophetic in his first couple of starts with the Blue Jays (nine IP, 13 hits, eight runs, two homers, four walks, nine strikeouts). Since the calendar shifted to August, however, the Korean has pitched like the ace Toronto thought it was getting. After limiting the O’s to four hits across six innings Monday, Ryu has now won all three of his starts this month, giving up just seven hits and two runs over 17 frames for a 1.06 ERA. Pitching for the meh Jays, it’s going to be tough for him to duplicate the sparkling won-loss record he had with the powerful Dodgers (21-8 combined over the last two seasons), but if he can stay healthy (a somewhat big if), he’s going to give Toronto real stability atop its rotation. In fact, Ryu’s current .211 BAA is a career low. Not too shabby for the portly southpaw, who is again a must-own Fantasy asset.
  • Cincy outfielder Nick Senzel is off to a better start this year, at least from an on-base and slugging perspective, but there was speculation that he was the Red that tested positive for Covid-19. After Friday’s 8-1 win over Pittsburgh, Senzel was seen talking to a coach away from the rest of the team, and did not participate in the team’s victory handshakes. He seemed pissed as he walked off, but Manager David Bell refused to talk about what happened. Still, reports emerged that Senzel tested negative, so perhaps we will never know which Cincy dude got the coronavirus. Senzel had a solid rookie season last year, although it was cut short by shoulder surgery. The Reds desperately need this budding star to stay on the field if they have any hope of staying in the NL Central race this season, so now that he’s out of the woods, consider adding him if he’s available.
  • Texas reliever Ian Gibault was unremarkable in his MLB debut last year for Tampa Bay, getting DFAed after a single appearance. He wound up in Texas, and was equally unremarkable over the rest of the season. Re-signed to a minor league deal this year, Gibault has again been unremarkable, yet has somehow worked his way into a setup role, earning a couple of holds. Well, after throwing behind Manny Machado, Gibault has earned himself a three-game suspension, which could very well be the most relevant thing he ever does. Gibault did a fair amount of closing in the minors (and in college), so is a name to know, but he currently offers zero Fantasy value.

RotoRob Tune of the Day

American singer Willie Hutch got his start in 1969 and remained active until his death in 2005. He was probably best known for his work on several Blaxploitation soundtracks, including the classic 1974 film, Foxy Brown. From that effort comes “Ain’t That (Mellow Mellow),” a tune that’s been sampled by a wide variety of artists including Drake.

Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below what you expect out of Piscotty for the remainder of this season.

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