Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel came into this season as a 26-year-old with a lifetime 9-18 record and 5.20 ERA in 239 innings. He also had a 4.69 ERA in 134 innings at Triple-A. There was really no reason to believe he possessed any sort of upside beyond being a back-of-the-rotation starter on a really bad team.
And yet right now he’s 5-2 with a 2.92 ERA and 55/12 K/BB ratio in 62 innings for the Astros, who’re 6-3 when he starts and 11-25 when anyone else takes the mound. Last night he took a shutout into the ninth inning versus the Angels and came up one out short of a complete game.
There’s nothing different about Keuchel’s raw stuff this season–his average fastball is still under 90 miles per hour. But for whatever reason that pitch has gone from being something hitters tee off on to an actual weapon and his changeup has also gotten significantly better results.
Compared to his first two seasons in the majors Keuchel’s strikeouts are up 31 percent, his walks are down 47 percent, and he’s allowed just four homers in 242 plate appearances. I’m not sure how long this can last, but it’s been fun to watch and it’s kept the Astros from really being a mess this season.
The Yankees signed first-round draft pick Clarke Schmidt and second-round pick Matt Sauer on Saturday, per a team announcement. Schmidt, a right-hander from the University of South Carolina, is set to earn a signing bonus of $2,184,300. According to MLB.com’s Oliver Macklin, that’s much lower than the typical $3+ million allocated for a No. 16 overall pick. The opposite is true for Sauer, whose projected $2.5 million signing bonus tops the suggested $1.2 million reserved for a No. 54 pick.
Schmidt, 21, boasts an impressive four-pitch repertoire and profiles as a front-end or mid-rotation starter, according to reports from Yankees’ VP of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer and ESPN’s Keith Law, among others. He carried a 4-2 record through nine starts in 2017 and turned in a 1.34 ERA before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery last month to repair a torn UCL in his right elbow. While the Yankees won’t see him pitch at any level until late 2018, they seem confident in his makeup and ability to rebound over the next couple of years.
Fellow right-hander and Righetti High School senior Matt Sauer is a different story altogether. The 18-year-old hurler appears destined for the bullpen with a polished fastball-slider combo and a promising curveball and changeup. He dazzled on the mound this year, going 9-1 with an 0.98 ERA and two shutouts over 78 1/3 innings. While the Yankees seem most interested in his pitching skills, Sauer showed some pop at the plate as well, touting a .427 average with 24 RBI through 135 plate appearances.
The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.
Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:
Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:
In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.
The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.