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Charlie Morton
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Baseball Daily Dose

Morton Mystifies Orioles

by George Bissell
Updated On: July 3, 2019, 4:49 am ET

Whether it’s the lengthy injury history, or shocking late-career metamorphosis into a flamethrowing strikeout machine with the Astros, fantasy owners have been reluctant to regard Charlie Morton as a legitimate upper-echelon fantasy starter. That needs to change. The 35-year-old veteran righty, who will be making his first All-Star game appearance of his career next week, struck out a season-high 12 batters over seven innings of one-run ball in the Rays’ victory over the Orioles. He was utterly brilliant in this one, allowing only four hits over seven frames. An opposite-field solo home run by Chris Davis in the third inning represented the lone tally against him. Meanwhile, he generated a staggering 10 swinging strikes on 36 curveballs and recorded each of his final seven outs via strikeout. Granted, it was the bottom-feeding Orioles, but he’s been mowing down opposing lineups all season long. Morton’s sparkling 2.36 ERA ranks second in the majors, training only Dodgers ace Hyun-Jin Ryu’s league-leading 1.83 mark this season. He also ranks eighth in WHIP (1.03), seventh in strikeouts (132) and fourth in opponent batting average (.194). From a fantasy perspective, it’s risky to project Morton to eclipse the 175-inning plateau, but considering the league-wide decline in starting pitcher workloads, this is what a legitimate fantasy ace looks like in 2019. 

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Devers Dominates Jays 

Perhaps the most notable omission from the American League All-Star roster, third baseman Rafael Devers continued his torrid 2019 campaign with a monster performance, going 4-for-5 with a pair of home runs and six RBI to lead the Red Sox past the Blue Jays on Tuesday. The 22-year-old burgeoning superstar clobbered a gargantuan 419-foot two-run blast to right-center field off Blue Jays starter Trent Thornton in the opening frame. He followed it up with an opposite-field tater to left field against reliever Joe Biagini in the eighth to record his first multi-homer effort of the season. He’s been on an absolute tear at the plate in recent weeks, raising his batting average from .293 all the way up to .329, which represents the fifth-highest mark in the major leagues this season, by going 31-for-66 (.470) over his last 16 games. He's now gone deep 14 times on the year. This is what a franchise cornerstone looks like in 2019.


Running With Barreto 

With Jurickson Profar scuffling in his first season in the Bay Area, the Athletics have decided to shake things up at the keystone. Manager Bob Melvin said Tuesday that Franklin Barreto will get the “majority” of starts at second base for the foreseeable future. That decision is expected to relegate Profar, who’s hitting a ghastly .215/.277/.377 with 10 home runs and six steals in 310 plate appearances this season, to a modified super-utility role. Barreto posted a shiny .296/.379/.549 batting line with 12 home runs, 48 RBI, 13 stolen bases, and 65 runs scored in 73 games this season at the Triple-A Las Vegas prior to his promotion back to the big leagues on Sunday. 

In the era of a renewed emphasis on player development, it’s not inconceivable that a former top prospect, who flopped in spectacular fashion in limited exposure to major-league pitching over multiple stints early in his career, could finally blossom into a viable mixed-league asset. It would be hyperbolic to suggest that Barreto is a post-hype fantasy sleeper, but he certainly fits the mold on the surface. He’s been on the fantasy radar for what seems like an eternity after he was the centerpiece the Athletics’ controversial Josh Donaldson trade back in 2014. It’s hard to believe that he’s still only 23-years-old. At some point, he needs to translate his prodigious raw talent and stellar minor-league production into quality statistical production at the big-league level. It hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean fantasy owners should write him off entirely as yet another prospect who failed to deliver on the considerable power-speed combo upside that the entire industry forecasted prior to his debut.

In deeper fantasy formats, taking chances, speculating on talent and buying low on toolsy, risky speedsters with some semblance of plate skills and power is an essential part of constructing a winning roster, especially in keeper and dynasty formats. There’s a chance that Barreto’s sublime production at Triple-A - is merely a cruel mirage and not a harbinger of an impending second-half breakout. Not only has he excelled in the minors, but he also made some noise during the offseason, nearly taking home MVP Award honors in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he hit .352 with seven home runs, 38 RBIs and seven stolen bases. More importantly, he struck out only 35 times in 199 at-bats during that stint. To be completely fair, Barreto has washed out in multiple opportunities as a result of sub-par plate discipline and a propensity to swing and miss. He’s still striking out at a healthy clip, whiffing in nearly a quarter of his minor-league plate appearances this season, but that rate still represents a significant improvement from where he was last year and in previous seasons. Even a marginal improvement in his strikeout rate would give him a chance to capitalize on his opportunity to establish himself as an everyday option at second base in Oakland. At the very least, Barreto is worthy of a speculative pickup in deeper mixed leagues right now.


AL Quick Hits: Hunter Pence underwent an MRI, which revealed no new injury, after re-aggravated his right groin injury during a rehab game with Double-A Frisco on Monday. He can safely be ruled out of next week's MLB All-Star Game, and it's very possible his absence will extend past the break. … Joey Gallo will not participate in the Home Run Derby during next week’s All-Star festivities. … Yankees placed Luke Voit on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to June 30, with an abdominal strain. … Domingo German (hip) will indeed be activated off the injured list on Wednesday to start for the Yankees against the Mets. … Carlos Correa (ribs) is headed to the Astros' spring training complex in Florida to ramp up rehab activities. … Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) is on track to return shortly after the All-Star break. He’s expected to take over as the Red Sox closer. … Andrew Benintendi returned to the Red Sox’ starting lineup against the Blue Jays on Tuesday after missing three of their last four games due to leg issues. … Tuesday night's game between the White Sox and Tigers was postponed due to rain. Matthew Boyd, who was originally slated to toe the rubber in this one, will make his next start on Thursday afternoon against the White Sox. … Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe was removed from Tuesday's game against the Orioles after fouling a ball off his right leg in the bottom of the sixth inning. He was 3-for-3 with a home run and two RBI prior to exiting the contest. X-rays turned up negative and he’s considered day-to-day with a contusion. … Tommy La Stella was removed from Tuesday night's game against the Rangers with a right shin contusion. … Adalberto Mondesi homered and drove in three runs in his return from the 10-day injured list against the Indians. He ended up missing 12 games with right groin pain. … Yuli Gurriel went 3-for-5 with a pair of home runs to lead the Astros to a win over the Rockies. … Jose Altuve went 4-for-5 with an RBI double, a stolen base and two runs scored in that one. … Jason Castro went 3-for-4 with a pair of solo home runs in the Twins' loss to the Athletics. … Jake Bauers went 4-for-5 with three RBI to lead the Indians past the Royals. … An MRI taken Monday on Stephen Piscotty's right knee showed no structural damage. … Sean Manaea (shoulder) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday. … Hunter Strickland (lat) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Saturday. … Felix Hernandez (lat) is aiming to begin throwing off a mound sometime after the All-Star break. … Rays optioned Ryan Yarbrough to Triple-A Durham. … Steve Pearce (back, knee) will be out for at least another month. … Astros designated A.J. Reed for assignment. … Yankees released Kendrys Morales.

NL Quick Hits: Trevor Story returned to the Rockies' starting lineup on Tuesday night against the Astros after missing a little under two weeks with a right thumb sprain. … J.T. Realmuto (hamstring) was back in the Phillies' starting lineup against the Braves on Tuesday. … Justin Turner was absent from the Dodgers’ starting lineup Tuesday because of a sore left elbow. … Corey Seager (hamstring) may not require a minor-league rehab assignment before returning to the Dodgers' active roster. … Cole Hamels underwent an MRI on Monday, which confirmed the diagnosis of an oblique strain. … Steven Matz will be skipped in the Mets' rotation this weekend. … Cubs optioned Adbert Alzolay to Triple-A Iowa. … Cardinals placed Matt Carpenter on the 10-day injured list with a lower back strain. He expects to return on July 12, right after the All-Star break. … A.J. Pollock (elbow) took at-bats in a simulated game Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. … Manny Machado missed Tuesday's game against the Giants after his one-game suspension was upheld. … Brian Anderson was removed from Tuesday night's game against the Nationals with a right elbow contusion. … Michael Conforto delivered a go-ahead two-run double to propel the Mets to a comeback win over the Yankees after he was dropped to seventh in the Mets' lineup on Tuesday. … Aaron Nola fanned eight batters over eight scoreless innings in a win over the Braves. … Hector Neris struck out the side in the ninth to secure his 17th save of the season in that one. … Eugenio Suarez launched his 20th homer in the Reds’ extra-innings victory over the Brewers … Christian Yelich clobbered his 31st long ball in the loss. … Adam Frazier went 4-for-4 with a three-run home run in the Pirates’ win over the Cubs. … Kyle Hendricks allowed two runs over three innings Tuesday versus the Pirates in his return from the injured list. … Evan Longoria went 4-for-5 with a pair of home runs and five RBI in the Giants’ blowout win over the Padres. … Cody Bellinger drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth inning to lead the Dodgers to an improbable walk-off victory over Diamondbacks. … Jose Martinez walloped a pair of solo homers in the Cardinals’ loss to the Mariners. … Patrick Corbin whiffed seven batters over seven innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Marlins. … Juan Soto cranked a two-run home run and reached base three times in that one … Dinelson Lamet (elbow) is on track to make his season debut against the Dodgers this weekend. … Kevin Gausman (foot) is set to begin a minor league rehab assignment this week at High-A Florida. … Mets activated Jeurys Familia from the 10-day injured list. … Anthony Swarzak (shoulder) is expected to return to the Braves' bullpen right after the All-Star break. … Rockies optioned Chi Chi Gonzalez to Triple-A Albuquerque … Odubel Herrera's administrative leave has been extended through July 5.

George Bissell

George Bissell is a baseball writer for NBC Sports EDGE. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus. You can follow him on Twitter