Studs and duds: September 13 – September 19

O’Neill’s hair looks like the brush I use to shine my nice shoes. (Wikipedia).

Alas, it was a busy day today; one only has time for the Studs and Duds. No fun facts, no autographs, no notes and musings, no random articles (which I haven’t written in a while, come to think of it). What a letdown.

Offensive stud: Tyler O’Neill (OF, Cardinals). The 26-year-old O’Neill isn’t a superstar yet, but he’s working on it. Over the past week, he’s hit .391/.481/.826 with 3 home runs, 10 RBI, 9 runs scored and a couple stolen bases to bring his September line to .333/.405/.712.

Thrice a Baseball America top 100 prospect, the slugger showed big power in the minors, but hadn’t yet shown it on the major league stage—until this season. He slugged at least 25 home runs three times on the farm, with another campaign of 24; in just 64 games at Triple-A in 2018, he had 26 dingers. From his major league debut in 2018 to 2020, he slugged just .422 in 410 at-bats. This season, he has 28 home runs and a .536 mark in 429 ABs—plus, he’s shown respectable speed, tacking on 13 steals.

In terms of performance, his rank on the team is right up there with (potential) future Hall of Famers Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Goldschmidt’s WAR and home run totals are 5.5 and 26, respectively; O’Neill’s are 5.3 and 28, while Arenado’s are 4.1 and 32.

Honorable mention: Jose Ramirez (3B, Indians; .500/.560/.900, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 10 R).

Offensive dud: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds). Aquino hasn’t improved upon his 0-for-7, 6 strikeout performance over the past week, so here he remains. His position is hard to shed mostly due to his showing on September 14 against Pittsburgh, when he went 0-for-4 with 3 Ks; prior to that game, he hadn’t whiffed in 10 at-bats (quite impressive, as he has averaged one every 2.4 ABs this season), but of course, that was the exception rather than the rule. From August 20 to August 30, he struck out in seven straight games, with two in four of them.

Dishonorable mention: Andrew Young (2B, Diamondbacks; 1-for-9, 4 Ks, 1 E).

Gilbert’s signing bonus was nearly $4 million. I think the Mariners got a steal. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Logan Gilbert (SP, Mariners). Seattle’s long awaited-return to the playoffs probably won’t be this season, but if the likes of Gilbert and fellow former first rounder Jarred Kelenic continue to blossom, the trip might happen sooner than we think. Gilbert was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 14 Ks and just two walks allowed in 13 innings over his past two starts, bringing the rookie’s season ERA down to 4.74; it was 5.44 less than a month ago.

The 14th overall pick of the 2018 draft, Gilbert rose through the minor leagues swiftly, playing just a single game at Triple-A this year and splitting 2019 between three levels. His totals in his brief minor league career are promising—11-5 W-L, 2.12 ERA, 140 IP, 99 H, 170 K—and that bodes well for the Mariners’ future playoff aspirations. They haven’t reached the postseason since 2001, when that 116-46 club was vanquished by the eventual-pennant winning Yankees.

Honorable mention: Sandy Alcantara (SP, Marlins; 2-0 W-L, 14 IP, 11 K, 1 BB, 0.64 ERA).

Pitching dud: Kyle Finnegan (RP, Nationals). It just hasn’t been Finnegan’s week. On September 15, he gave up 4 hits and 4 earned runs against Miami—the Marlins of all teams!—to blow a save and take a loss. A couple days later, on September 17, he surrendered 3 hits and 2 earned runs against Colorado, again blowing a save, again taking a loss. Despite tossing an inning, K-ing a batter, allowing no runs and earning a save last night, also against the Rockies, he still owns a 16.20 ERA these past seven days and is the Dud, again. C’est la vie.

Dishonorable mention: Brandyn Sittinger (RP, Diamondbacks; 1 L, 2 BSV, 13.50 ERA, 2 IP, 3 H, 2 HR).

Studs and duds: September 12 – September 18

The Offensive Stud is a revolving door of Blue Jays at this point.

Offensive stud: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Blue Jays). After a few days away, Hernandez is back on top.

The outfielder has continued his electric September by hitting .409/.480/.727 with 2 home runs, 9 RBI and 7 runs scored over the past week. He is slashing .371/.473/.726 with 6 home runs and 20 RBI this month and .304/.355/.527 with 28 dingers and 104 RBI on the year.

The Blue Jays are so stacked that his 4.0 WAR ranks just 5th on the club, though he paces the team in RBI and his OPS+ (138) is second behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 176. Since 2018, Hernandez has averaged 34 home runs, 97 RBI and 90 runs scored per 162 games.

Honorable mention: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Blue Jays; .994 OPS, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R, 3 BB).

Offensive dud: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds). Aquino remains the week’s worst with his 0-for-7, 4 K, one error performance.

When he’s on, he’s on, but the 27-year-old has been plagued by too many cold streaks this season. In one seventeen at-bat stretch in late July and early August, he had just one hit for a .059 batting average; from August 20 to September 3, he had a single hit in 27 ABs for a .037 mark.

While his power potential cannot be denied—he averages 32 home runs per 162 games—his inconsistency cannot be, either. How much of a leash does Cincinnati give him? His defense is middling, his speed is negligible (one steal this year) and his on-base percentage is paltry (.305 for his career). They’re in the thick of the playoff race. It’s amazing they’ve stuck with him so long.

Dishonorable mention: Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Brewers; 0-for-9, 6 K).

Pitching stud: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers). Welcome back Max, we haven’t seen you in what, a couple days?

The 37-year-old Scherzer is pitching like he is in the middle of his prime—he is 2-0 in his past two starts, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 16 batters, in 15 innings of work. He didn’t surrender an earned run, but that’s nothing new—Scherzer hasn’t given one up in five straight starts, meaning he is riding a 37 inning scoreless streak.

It’s a little soon to say, watch out, Orel,” but this run shows just how much the righty has aged like fine wine. He now stands at 15-4 with a league-leading 2.08 ERA in 29 starts this year; he’s tossed 169 innings, but just surrendered his 100th hit on September 12.

With an ERA+ of 195, he is on pace to have the highest full-season mark of any pitcher since 2018 and the highest among pitchers his age or older since 2005, when 42-year-old Roger Clemens had a 226 mark.

Honorable mention: Aaron Nola (SP, Phillies; 11 IP, 19 K, 1 BB, 1 W).

Finnegan debuted with a 2.92 ERA in 25 appearances last year. (Wikipedia).

Pitching dud: Kyle Finnegan (RP, Nationals). Well, Finnegan was having an excellent season before this hiccup.

Prior to September 15, he had a 2.61 ERA in 59 appearances; that number is up to 3.39 now, thanks to a two-game stretch in which he allowed 7 hits, a couple home runs and two walks in 2 1/3 innings of work. He blew two saves and took the same number of losses, bringing his record to 5-8.

Though his campaign has had its ups and downs, he was on the right track until this blip—from August 15 to September 12, he had an 0.68 ERA and .174 OBA in 13 appearances. In just a couple innings, all that progress was undone.

Dishonorable mention: Tyler Wells (RP, Orioles; 1/3 IP, 1 L, 1 BSV, 2 ER).

Studs and duds: September 11 – September 17

Offensive stud: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF, Blue Jays). With another hit and a run last night, Toronto’s hot hitting Gurriel stays the stud for one more day.

In the past week, the outfielder has hit .391/.481/.826 with 3 home runs, 12 RBI and 8 runs scored. In the week ending September 10, he hit .346/.419/.692. This is an extended run of excellence for the slugger, who is one of six Blue Jays with at least 80 RBI and who is third on the club in doubles with 26, behind Marcus Semien (37) and Teoscar Hernandez (27).

Gurriel was signed by the Blue Jays in November 2016 and by 2018, was in the majors. Little minor league conditioning was necessary—he hit .281 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in 65 games his rookie season and has only gotten better each year. 2021 has been his first full campaign, as he has never played more than 84 games in a big league season before this.

Honorable mention: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Blue Jays; .500/.552/.846, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 11 R).

Offensive dud: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds). Aquino has been the dud before, and here he is again, this time with a 0-for-7, 4 strikeout, one error showing since August 11.

This whole season has been a struggle for the outfielder, who hasn’t hit over .200 since August 21 and who has batted .111 with 24 strikeouts in his past 63 at-bats. In his past 42 ABs, he has hit .095 with 17 Ks. Though he doesn’t hit well anywhere, being away from Great American Ball Park, the Reds home turf, really hurts him. In 86 at-bats on the road, he has slashed .140/.232/.291; at home, his line is 233/.364/.534 in 73 ABs.

Aquino excited Reds fans with 19 home runs and 47 RBI in 56 games as rookie in 2019. The excitement has faded: Since 2020, he has batted .180 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI in 97 games.

Dishonorable mention: Andrew Young (2B, Diamondbacks; 2-for-13, 5 K, 2 E).

Castillo owns a career 9.8 K/9 IP ratio. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Luis Castillo (SP, Reds). It hasn’t been an optimal year for Castillo, who leads the National League with 15 losses and carries a 4.08 ERA through 31 starts.

However, it is never too late to right the ship, and that’s what he has done his past two appearances: In 13 1/3 innings, he allowed just 3 walks and 4 runs, while striking out 15 batters. His 2.70 ERA brought his season mark down a little further—it was 4.53 as recently as August 9.

The 28-year-old was an All-Star in 2019 and has been bubbling under superstardom his whole career. In his rookie season, 2017, he finished 8th in Rookie of the Year voting after posting a 3.12 ERA, 144 ERA+ and 9.9 K/9 IP ratio in 89 1/3 innings. In 2019, he was 15-8, 3.40 with 226 strikeouts in 190 2/3 frames and last year, he had a 3.12 mark, 154 ERA+ and 89 Ks in 70 innings. To fully blossom, he needs a shift to a consistently winning team. The Reds are not it.

Honorable mention: Zack Wheeler (SP, Phillies; 2-0 W-L, 11 2/3 IP, 3 BB, 14 K, 1.54 ERA).

Pitching dud: Tyler Wells (RP, Orioles). Nothing’s changed for Wells. He’s still the dud. His past week (0-2 W-L, 6 ER, 2 BSV, 1 2/3 IP) still stunk. He hasn’t pitched since the 15th. I wonder why.

Dishonorable mention: Kyle Finnegan (RP, Nationals; 4 IP, 7 H, 2 HR, 6 ER, 0-2 W-L, 2 BSV).

Studs and duds: August 20 – August 26

Salvador Perez was cranking this past week, but it wasn’t good enough to make him the Offensive stud. 

Offensive stud: Whit Merrifield (2B, Royals). After a 1-for-3 performance yesterday, which included a double, run and RBI, Merrifield maintains his title for one more day. His most recent showing puts him at .387/.412/.645 with 9 RBI, 7 runs and 2 stolen bases over the past week. Having not gone more than one game without a hit since August 6, Merrifield is batting .306 on the month, after hitting just .229 in July. August is usually his best month and he should cool off soon—though even his career September numbers (.296 BA, 35 SB) are still pretty solid.

Aristides Aquino has 125 home runs in 10 minor league seasons (Wikipedia).

Honorable mention: Salvador Perez (C, Royals; 6 H, 5 HR, 8 RBI).

Offensive dud: Aristides Aquino (OF, Reds). Aquino was a pleasant surprise for the Reds in 2019, slugging .576 with 19 home runs in only 56 games. Fast forward to 2021 and those good feelings are gone. Hitting just .189 on the year, Aquino was 0-for-15 with 8 strikeouts over the past seven days and his average is just .141 in 71 at-bats since July 25. Perhaps the slumping slugger is lucky to be in the majors at all—he began his professional career with two sub .200 seasons and as recently as 2017, hit .216 at Double A. Though he has great power, thrice crushing 20 or more home runs in the minors, whatever skill he has hasn’t translated consistently on the big stage. But all hope isn’t lost—he’s from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and there’s something about sluggers from that city putting it all together later in their careers. David Ortiz didn’t get going until he was 27, Nelson Cruz until he was 28 and Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista until they were 29.

Dishonorable mention: Jose Barrero (SS, Reds; 0-for-7, 4 K, 1 E).

Quite a turnaround: Robbie Ray had an 8.16 ERA his rookie year with the Tigers. (Wikipedia).

Pitching stud: Robbie Ray (SP, Blue Jays). The Cy Young Award is becoming more and more of a reality. Over his past two starts, Ray has pitched 15 innings and Ked 25 batters—while walking just 1. With 2 earned runs allowed, his ERA was 1.20, helping bring his August mark down to 1.59 and his number from the beginning of July—that’s 10 starts—to 1.78. His 14 strikeouts his last time out left him just 8 away from 200 on the season. Should he get there, and it’s all but a given he will, Ray will have four 200 K campaigns under his belt. Toronto received the hurler in a steal of a trade from Arizona, surrendering only pitcher Travis Bergen, who’s made just 39 appearances in his career, to get him. What’s more—the Blue Jays bought Bergen back from the Diamondbacks earlier this year.

Honorable mention: Max Scherzer (SP, Dodgers; 2-0 W-L, 12 2/3 IP, 18 K, 2 BB, 0.71 ERA).

Pitching dud: Genesis Cabrera (RP, Cardinals). Having blown two saves and taken a couple losses, this past week might be the genesis of his departure from the majors. Cabrera made 3 appearances, surrendering 3 earned runs in the first one and 6 earned runs in the last, to give him a 40.50 ERA. He allowed 10 hits, including back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back knocks against Pittsburgh yesterday. Because of that performance, his season ERA went from 2.96 on August 19 to 4.29 and his career mark went from 3.23 to 3.99. On the bright side, he strikes out a lot of batters, averaging 10.2 K/9 IP this year.

Dishonorable mention: Lou Trivino (RP, Athletics; 4 G, 0-3 W-L, 3 1/3 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 BSV).