Mookie knows baseball. Mookie knows bowling. With football season officially underway, it wouldn’t be completely shocking to see Mookie under center for the Chargers or Rams in Los Angeles this Sunday. With the Dodgers -- who own the best record (32-12 overall) in baseball this season -- on the precipice of securing their eighth consecutive NL West crown, electrifying superstar right fielder Mookie Betts unveiled the latest innovation to his unparalleled all-around skillset, starting at second base on Thursday, in the finale of a three-game road series against the division-rival Diamondbacks. It was his first appearance at the keystone since September 28, 2014.
The second base experiment with their franchise cornerstone is a luxury the Dodgers can afford at this stage of the truncated 2020 campaign. According to manager Dave Roberts, Betts volunteered to get some experience at the position to prepare for situations in which he might be needed there during the playoffs in October. Roberts also told reporters that he and Betts discussed unforeseen circumstances in a condensed series that could potentially lead him to pinch-hit one of his outfielders in the early innings and force Betts to play second base. “For me nothing is off the table, especially when a player like Mookie is open to it,” said Roberts. “And so I just felt like this was a good opportunity for him to log some innings, get the feel of it and see what he thinks. Right now, just gathering information. He wants to do it, he’s excited about it.”
From a fantasy standpoint, the implications of Betts acquiring second base eligibility, which could happen by the conclusion of the regular season, are fairly straightforward, yet rather complex as well. His newfound versatility will simultaneously re-shape fantasy managers' approach to the second base player pool, while also having a profound impact on the first round of fantasy drafts next spring. The 27-year-old fantasy stalwart has been a consensus early-first round selection for nearly a half decade, but the fact that he instantly becomes the headliner at arguably the weakest position in the entire fantasy landscape (excluding catchers, obviously) could be enough to propel him to the very top of draft boards.
Here’s an oversimplification: the gap between Betts stratospheric five-category production and the remainder of the keystone position group, which includes a handful of upper-echelon studs like Whit Merrifield, DJ LeMahieu, Keston Hiura and *checks notes* Donovan Solano (seriously, second base is a dystopian wasteland right now), might be enough to warrant consideration as the top overall selection alongside Mike Trout, Trevor Story, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. It may seem like a mammoth overreach to prefer Betts over Trout’s unprecedented stability or Tatis’s and Acuña’s off-the-metaphorical charts ceilings, but it’s at least a debate that will warrant serious consideration within the fantasy community.
Blister Sidelines Buehler, May Exits Early
The Dodgers’ starting rotation remains in flux as they head into a two-game series against the Astros this weekend, and a pivotal three-game set against the upstart Padres early next week. They’ll be without hard-throwing 26-year-old righty Walker Buehler, who was placed on the 10-day injured list on Thursday after re-aggravating the blister on his right hand during an abbreviated outing against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday evening. They could also be without rookie sensation Dustin May for a while after he exited Thursday’s start against the Diamondbacks with a left foot contusion after being struck by a line-drive in the opening frame. The 23-year-old righty underwent an X-ray after leaving, but the results were “inconclusive” according to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. We likely won't know more about May's status until Friday afternoon at the earliest and he’s likely to miss at least a start or two at a minimum.
With a playoff spot virtually locked up, the Dodgers clearly aren’t going to take any chances with either Buehler or May moving forward. Fantasy managers shouldn’t count on either of them making a major impact in the homestretch. The Dodgers were planning to send Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias to the mound against the Astros this weekend, but that may change after Gonsolin threw 80 pitches over five innings in a relief appearance against the Diamondbacks following May’s first-inning injury. It’s also unclear who will take Buehler’s turn against the Padres on Monday. There’s going to be some major re-shuffling in Los Angeles over the next few days and it’s a situation that fantasy managers should be monitoring closely.
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Sensational Singer Tosses Near-No-Hitter
Royals’ rookie right-hander Brady Singer carried a no-hit bid into the eighth inning on Thursday and finished with eight scoreless innings in a victory over the Indians. The 24-year-old righty, who entered the contest with an abysmal 5.58 ERA across 40 1/3 innings (eight starts), threw a career-high 119 pitches (80 strikes) and didn’t surrender a hit until Austin Hedges poked a harmless single into right field with two outs in the eighth inning. He generated a whopping 18 swinging strikes, including 10 whiffs on 46 sliders, matched a season-high with eight strikeouts and only issued only a pair of walks. It was a dominant performance against an Indians lineup that was held scoreless for 17 consecutive innings by the Royals pitching staff over the two games, before they finally broke through for a run against reliever Matt Harvey in the final frame of the one-sided affair.
“I felt really good from the start,” Singer told reporters after the game. “It’s probably a bad thing, but I noticed there were no hits after the third inning. But I felt sharp from pitch one.”
From a fantasy perspective, Singer has shown enough potential to warrant a speculative roster spot in deeper mixed leagues. He lowered his ERA by nearly a full-run to 4.66 with the stellar outing and also boasts a 44/17 K/BB ratio across 48 1/3 innings (nine starts). What he lacks in terms of overpowering stuff, which limits his long-term fantasy upside, he’s overcome by displaying plus-command throughout his professional career. He projects as a durable, strike-throwing workhorse and a critical component of the Royals rotation for years to come. It’s not a tantalizing skillset, but with starting pitcher workloads experiencing a precipitous decline in recent years, a high-volume innings-eater like Singer can serve as a ratio stabilizer at the back-end of a fantasy rotation.
Verlander On Track To Return This Season
The Astros have been in a complete free-fall, losing nine of their last 12 games, dating back to September 1. Their pitching staff, most notably their bullpen, has been at the epicenter of the collapse, giving up a whopping 63 runs (5.25 per-game) during that span. Yet, there is some reason for optimism that veteran ace Justin Verlander will be back to co-anchor their starting rotation, along with fellow righty Zack Greinke, before the postseason begins in October. Astros manager Dusty Baker told reporters on Thursday that Verlander, who has been sidelined since late-July after suffering a forearm strain in his season debut, “could be back at the end of this month.” Baker didn’t offer any further details, but the 37-year-old righty threw a 50-55 pitch bullpen session Wednesday, and appears to be progressing towards a potential return before the regular season ends on September 27.
American League Quick Hits: Thursday’s scheduled game between the Orioles and Yankees was postponed due to inclement weather and rescheduled as a seven-inning doubleheader on Friday … Mike Trout clobbered his major league-leading 16th home run in the Angels’ lopsided win over the Rangers … Dylan Bundy recorded a season-high 12 strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball to pick up the win in that one-sided affair … Matt Olson blasted a two-run homer to lead the Athletics past the Astros … Sean Manaea struck out four batters over seven innings of one-run ball in that contest … Liam Hendriks tossed a perfect frame to collect his 12th save of the year in that one … Jose Urquidy surrendered two runs over six innings in the losing effort … Maikel Franco went 3-for-5 with a three-run homer and a season-high five RBI, Adalberto Mondesi walloped a three-run homer and stole a base, and Edward Olivares also went deep to lead the Royals to a blowout victory over the Indians … Rafael Devers went 3-for-4 with a two-run tater and three RBI as the Red Sox edged the Rays … Bobby Dalbec belted his sixth long ball of the year in that one … Brandon Lowe crushed his 10th round-tripper of the season in the loss … Jeimer Candelario went 3-for-3 with a solo homer and three RBI to lift the Tigers to a comeback win in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cardinals. He also went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and a double in the front-end of the doubleheader … Tarik Skubal was knocked around for six runs over two innings and saddled with the loss in the first contest of the twin-billing … Carlos Hernandez will make his first career major-league start for the Royals on Saturday against the Pirates. The 23-year-old rookie right-hander has posted a sparkling 1.42 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 4/2 K/BB ratio across 6 1/3 innings … Alex Cobb (undisclosed) will come off the injured list on Friday to start for the Orioles against the Yankees … Gio Urshela (elbow) was able to hit on the field prior to Thursday’s game against the Orioles. He’s been sidelined since September 4 with a bone spur in his right elbow, but is expected to return to the Yankees’ lineup next week … David Fletcher (ankle) could return to the Angels as early as Friday … The 26-year-old infielder was placed on the injured list September 3, retroactive to August 31, with a left ankle sprain … James Paxton (elbow) won't throw for another couple of days after experiencing soreness from his side session on Wednesday. The 31-year-old southpaw hasn’t returned to the mound after being placed on the injured list on August 21. It doesn't sound like he’ll return to the Yankees’ rotation anytime soon … White Sox placed LHP Dallas Keuchel on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to September 7, with back spasms and also recalled RHP Reynaldo Lopez from their alternate training site … Rangers purchased the contract of C Sam Huff. The 22-year-old backstop posted an .845 OPS with 28 home runs and six stolen bases in 127 games last season between Low-A Hickory and High-A Down East … Red Sox optioned INF Jose Peraza to their alternate training site.
National League Quick Hits: Chris Paddack left Thursday's start after two innings against the Giants due to a sprained right ankle. The 24-year-old righty’s velocity was down significantly, dipping into the low-90’s during his final inning. X-rays came back negative and he’s being considered day-to-day … Mike Moustakas left Thursday's game against the Cubs with a left foot contusion … Giovanny Gallegos left Thursday's game against the Tigers with a groin injury … Sean Doolittle exited Thursday’s game against the Braves with an injured right oblique … Freddie Freeman launched a pair of two-run homers and Ronald Acuña Jr. tattooed a two-run homer, walked twice, stole a base and scored three runs to power the Braves past the Nationals … Juan Soto reached base safely four times and also scored twice in the loss … Jorge Alfaro delivered a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Marlins to a walk-off victory over the Phillies … J.T. Realmuto slugged his 11th round-tripper of the season in the loss … Manny Machado clobbered his 13th long ball of the season in the Padres’ win over the Giants … Jorge Ona hit his first big-league homer in that victory … Drew Smyly posted eight strikeouts over four innings in relief in the losing effort … Jack Flaherty tallied six strikeouts and allowed two runs over five innings to pick up a win in the first game of a doubleheader against the Tigers … Paul Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina, Tyler O’Neill, Rangel Ravelo and Lane Thomas all went deep in the blowout victory … Tommy Edman went 2-for-3 with a solo shot in a losing effort in the nightcap of the twin-billing … Reds manager David Bell told reporters on Thursday that it's “a matter of days” until Nick Senzel (undisclosed) returns. The 25-year-old outfielder has been on the injured list since August 19 for undisclosed reasons … Zack Wheeler will have his next start pushed back to Monday against the Marlins. The 30-year-old righty sustained an injury to the nail on the middle finger of his right hand while putting on pants … Caleb Smith will make his Diamondbacks debut on Friday against the Mariners … Dodgers activated RHP Joe Kelly from the 10-day injured list. He will need to serve a five-game suspension before he can return to action … Padres activated RHP Emilio Pagan off the 10-day injured list … Marlins placed INF/OF Jon Berti on the 10-day injured list with an index finger contusion and recalled LHP Daniel Castano from their alternate training site … Braves placed LHP Tommy Milone on the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation … Diamondbacks designated INF Jake Lamb for assignment … Giants designated INF Pablo Sandoval for assignment … Cubs released OF Steven Souza.