In this week’s installment, Shelby Miller hits a speed bump, Didi Gregorius continues his tear, Evan Gattis adds to his legend and Jedd Gyorko rediscovers his stroke (all statistics through Thursday).
1. Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals
5-3, 1.74 ERA, 62 K, 15 BB, 57 IP
Miller’s historic start has captured the attention of baseball fans. It’s not quite Fernando-mania, but it’s close — statistically. Last week Miller became the third pitcher since earned runs were first compiled in both leagues in 1913 to allow eight or fewer earned runs in his first nine career starts. He was the first to do so since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.
Miller was cruising in his 10th career start Monday night until he walked two batters in the sixth inning. Pulled after 107 pitches, reliever Fernando Salas allowed both inherited runners to score, and the Padres went on to beat the Cardinals 4-2. Miller was charged with three earned runs and his ERA jumped from 1.40 to 1.74 (which still ranks fifth in the majors).
It won’t get any easier for Miller. His next start is Sunday against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.
2. Didi Gregorius, SS, Diamondbacks
Stats: .348/.406/.554, 3 HR, 8 RBI
Before this season MLB.com ranked Gregorius as the D-backs’ third-best prospect, primarily because of his athleticism and outstanding defense. The career .690 OPS over five minor league seasons suggested he might struggle at the next level.
He hasn’t. At least not yet. Gregorius continues to spray line drives and draw the occasional walk from the No. 2 hole. He’s hit safely in eight of his last 10 games, batting .333 (13 for 39) with one triple, three doubles, five RBI, four runs and five walks.
You could argue that he’s been lucky (.431 BABIP) or that the small sample size (103 plate appearances) doesn’t tell us much. Or you could argue that he’ll be a fixture in the D-backs lineup for the next decade.
3. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins
2-2, 3.31 ERA, 46 K, 18 BB, 49 IP
If you jumped off the Fernandez bandwagon at the end of April, it’s time to get back on. In four starts this month, he’s 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA.
Fernandez continues to challenge hitters by pounding the strike zone. Two starts ago, he threw 65 of his 99 pitches for strikes. Against the Dodgers on May 10, he threw 66 strikes out of 86 pitches, prompting LA manager Don Mattingly to compare Fernandez to Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
“He reminded me of King Felix,” Mattingly said. “Same body, kind of the wide lower half, that turn he has and kind of the attack from there to the strike zone … It seemed like if guys had good swings he came back with the heater. It was almost like, ‘Go hit this one.’ He’d try to throw harder.”
Among rookies, Fernandez ranks second — behind St. Louis’ Shelby Miller — in WHIP (1.16) and opponents’ batting average (.215) and third in strikeouts (46). Miller has 62 K’s, while Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Dodgers has 60.
4. Evan Gattis, C-OF, Braves
.256/.308/.587, 10 HR, 27 RBI
Gattis started just three games in the last seven games, two in left field and one behind the plate, but he’s becoming a nice weapon off the bench.
On Saturday, May 19, Gattis entered a 1-1 game in the eighth inning with Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen on the mound. Gattis fouled off three consecutive two-strike pitches before lining the eighth pitch of the at-bat into the left-field seats.
“He likes these moments, it seems like,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “It’s almost better that you can put him in anywhere you want, but sooner or later we’ve got to get him three or four at-bats.”
After a slow start, Gyorko is heating up at the plate. Chase Headley’s return from the disabled list may have been the spark.
Gyorko, 24, has been playing only at second base since Headley returned on April 17. When Headley was out, Gyorko shuttled between second and third and was hitting .240 with no homers and six RBI. Since then he’s hitting .304 with five homers and 10 RBI.
A pure hitter with a good understanding of the strike zone, Gyorko has hit everywhere he’s played. He was a career .404 hitter at West Virginia. In three minor league seasons, he hit .319. Now he’s finding his stroke in the big leagues, leading all rookies in hits (46) and runs (23).