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The Time Has Come
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times dropped a bombshell on Twitter on Sunday night, announcing that the Rays would be promoting the game’s top overall prospect -- Wander Franco -- prior to Tuesday’s series opener against the Red Sox.
The 20-year-old shortstop has made a mockery of minor league pitching during his three seasons there, slashing a combined .333/.400/.538 with 27 homers, 145 RBI and 27 stolen bases (in 48 attempts) over 213 games.
This season, in his first exposure to Triple-A Durham, he was hitting .315/.367/.586 with seven homers, six triples, 35 RBI and five swipes (in nine attempts) over 38 games. He’s the real deal.
As we have seen many times (including some this season already), it is possible for the game’s top prospects to fail in their first exposure to the big leagues. Just ask Jarred Kelenic. Or Mike Trout -- who hit just .163/.213/.279 with one homer and a 10/3 K/BB ratio over his first 14 games before he was demoted in 2011.
That’s not to say that Franco is likely to fail -- far from it. Franco looks like the complete package on offense and should be installed as the Rays starting shortstop for the next decade -- though he also possesses the ability to play second base and third base. He’ll be given every opportunity to succeed -- even if he does struggle initially -- and he’ll likely have less pressure on him initially while hitting from the bottom of the lineup.
If there are any fantasy leagues where he may somehow still be available, run to the waiver wire and scoop him up right now.
The one player whose fantasy value seems to be crushed by this news is Taylor Walls. It’s unclear if he’ll revert to a utility infielder role or if he’ll be sent back to Triple-A Durham where he’ll be able to play everyday. A lesser-heralded prospect -- but still a prospect in his own right -- Walls struggled in his first taste of the big leagues, slashing just .237/.356/.355 with one homer, seven RBI and three stolen bases in 26 games. He can safely be dropped in most redraft leagues.
Ronald Acuna Jr. blasted the 100th home run of his big league career on Sunday night, powering the Braves to a 1-0 victory over the Cardinals in the second game of their doubleheader.
In doing so, the 23-year-old became the sixth fastest player in MLB history to reach the 100-homer plateau -- behind only Ryan Howard (325), Gary Sanchez (355), Aaron Judge (371), Ralph Kiner (376) and Joey Gallo (377). He's in the midst of another unbelievable season, slashing .291/.404/.607 with 19 homers, 44 RBI and 15 stolen bases.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Adam Wainwright - 7 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 11 K
33% CSW, 12 swinging strikes
Adam Wainwright turned back the clock on Sunday, racking up 11 strikeouts over seven innings of one-run ball in a complete game victory over the Braves in the first game of their doubleheader. The only run that scored against him was Freddie Freeman stealing home on a double steal. The 39-year-old boasts a 3.74 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 84/25 K/BB ratio across 86 2/3 innings on the season.
Shane McClanahan - 6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 8 K
30% CSW, 17 swinging strikes
The rookie left-hander struck out a career-high eight in this one, allowing just a solo home run to Luis Torrens in the third inning. McClanahan generated 17 swinging strikes in the ballgame -- eight on his slider, four each on his fastball and curveball, and one on his changeup -- and posted a CSW of 30 percent. He now owns a 4.03 ERA and 1.30 WHIP on the year.
Dinelson Lamet - 5 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 K
28% CSW, 14 swinging strikes
The Padres have treated Dinelson Lamet with the utmost caution this season, but whatever they’re doing appears to be working. The right-hander racked up a season-high seven strikeouts over five frames in a victory over the Reds on Sunday and now boasts a 2.81 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over 32 innings. He also threw a season-high 81 pitches in the game, generating 14 swinging strikes and posting a CSW of 28 percent.
Sammy Long - 6 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 6 K
30% CSW, 11 swinging strikes
Sammy Long picked up his first big league victory on Sunday afternoon, limiting the Phillies to two runs over six strong innings. The rookie southpaw generated 11 whiffs on the afternoon -- five each on his changeup and curveball, and one on his fastball. He looks like he should stick in the Giants rotation and could be an impact addition in mixed leagues in the second half of the season.
Hitters with an EDGE
Kyle Schwarber - 3-for-4, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R
After blasting a pair of home runs in the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader, Kyle Schwarber went right back to work and clobbered three more long balls in Sunday’s victory over the Mets. He has now smacked nine homers in his last 10 games, which according to Sarah Langs of MLB.com, are the most in Expos/Nationals history during that timeframe. Pretty impressive.
Trey Mancini - 2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R
Trey Mancini continued his push for Comeback Player of the Year on Sunday, swatting a pair of long balls in a losing effort against the Blue Jays. The first was a solo shot off of Hyun-Jin Ryu and the second a two-run blast courtesy of Trent Thornton in the eighth inning. He’s now slashing .272/.353/.490 with 14 dingers and 52 RBI on the season.
Wilmer Flores - 4-for-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R
Wilmer Flores has been swinging an extremely hot bat since returning from the injured list on May 29, slashing .345/.393/.582 with three homers, eight RBI and a 5/5 K/BB ratio in 61 plate appearances. That includes Sunday’s monster four-hit, two-homer effort as the Giants slaughtered the Phillies.
EDGE Priority Pickup
Justin Upton, OF, Los Angeles Angels -- Available in 39% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.
In case no one is paying attention, Justin Upton is having a nice bounce-back season for the Angels. His production has escalated since being moved to the leadoff spot in the lineup on May 23 -- slashing .333/.427/.613 with six homers, 15 RBI, 25 runs scored and one stolen base in 24 games. That’s tremendous across the board production for a player that can be scooped up for nothing in nearly 40% of Yahoo leagues.
Aroldis Chapman vs. Blue Jays
1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 2 BB, 0 K (16th Save)
Aroldis Chapman has been one of the most dominant closers in baseball for a long time, but even he never closed out a game quite like he did on Sunday. Tasked with protecting a one-run lead, the flame-throwing southpaw couldn’t find the strike zone, missing wildly as he walked Jed Lowrie and Tony Kemp on a combined nine pitches to begin the inning. He then fell behind 1-0 on A’s catcher Sean Murphy. Rather than take until Chapman threw him a strike though, Chapman hacked at the next pitch, grounding into an astounding game-ending triple play to take Chapman off the hook.
James Karinchak vs. Pirates
1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 K (8th Save)
Just when you think Emmanuel Clase is going to pull ahead and take the lion’s share of the save chances in Cleveland, Terry Francona makes it known that this is still a split bullpen. Clase worked a perfect eighth inning to get the ball to Karinchak in this one. Karinchak now sports a 2.84 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 56/17 K/BB ratio over 31 2/3 innings on the season.
Brad Hand vs. Mets
1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K (15th Save)
Another clean inning from Hand in this one, as he appears to be completely over his early-season struggles. He has now converted 12 straight save chances dating back to May 16 -- and has picked up a pair of victories in there as well. He has performed exactly as the Nationals had hoped when inking him to a free agent deal over the winter.
Tyler Chatwood vs. Orioles
1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 0 K (1st Save)
Tyler Chatwood decided to make things interesting by issuing a four-pitch walk to Anthony Santander to begin the inning, but managed to get the next three hitters in order to preserve a three-run lead and earn his first save of the season. It still looks to be a committee approach to the ninth inning here, but if Chatwood converts a couple of save chances he could run with the opportunity.
Craig Kimbrel vs. Marlins
1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K (20th Save)
Craig Kimbrel just keeps rolling along, functioning as a truly elite closer. He needed just 12 pitches (nine strikes) to set down the Marlins in order in the ninth inning -- including strikeouts of Adam Duvall and Jesus Sanchez. He owns a scintillating 0.61 ERA, 0.65 WHIP and 49/9 K/BB ratio across 29 1/3 innings on the season.
Hansel Robles vs. Rangers
1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K (6th Save)
Fantasy managers (like myself) that have speculated on Hansel Robles for save chances had to be pleasantly surprised on Sunday when the right-hander came on in the ninth despite having worked each of the two previous nights. He did his job though, setting down the Rangers in order to earn his sixth save of the season. He and Taylor Rogers will continue to share chances based on matchups and both are worth rostering in mixed leagues.
Brad Boxberger vs. Rockies
1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 K (3rd Save)
With Josh Hader unavailable, it was Brad Boxberger who came on in the ninth inning once the Brewers took a one-run lead in the top half of the frame. The veteran right-hander allowed a two-out single to Trevor Story, but rebounded to get Charlie Blackmon on a ground out to first to end the game. Boxberger looks to be the next man up for save chances in Milwaukee, with Devin Williams preferred to remain in his fireman role instead.
Michael Fulmer vs. Angels
1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 3 K (6th Save)
Michael Fulmer converted his second straight save chance on Sunday and did so in style, striking out David Fletcher, Luis Rengifo and Taylor Ward in the 10th inning to preserve a two-run advantage. Gregory Soto -- who has been sharing save chances with Fulmer -- worked a scoreless seventh inning in this one.
Mark Melancon vs. Reds
1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 K (21st Save)
After a brutal blown save on Thursday, the 36-year-old right-hander rebounded to close out the Reds on Saturday and Sunday without issue. This time, he issued a two-out walk to Jonathan India but was able to get Jesse Winker to fly out to end the contest. He leads all of baseball with 21 saves to go along with a terrific 1.74 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.
Kenley Jansen vs. Diamondbacks
1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K (18th Save)
Coming on with a one-run lead to protect, Kenley Jansen made extremely quick work of the Diamondbacks on Sunday -- needing only seven pitches to retire the side in order. What’s more impressive is that included a strikeout of Asdrubal Cabrera. There had been some rumblings about his job security early in the season, but Jansen has been as reliable as ever this year -- registering a 1.52 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 32/19 K/BB ratio over 29 2/3 innings.
Will Smith vs. Cardinals
1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K (13th Save)
Will Smith set the Cardinals down in order in the seventh inning in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader, protecting a 1-0 lead to earn his 13th save of the season. After getting Edmundo Sosa to fly out, he got Paul DeJong and Andrew Knizner each on swinging third strikes to finish it out.
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Monday’s Matchup of the Day
Any time that Jacob deGrom toes the slab is must-watch television. The 33-year-old right-hander is in the midst of one of the most amazing pitching seasons of all time, registering a 0.54 ERA, 0.51 WHIP and 111/8 K/BB ratio over 67 innings in his 11 starts. Those are mind-boggling numbers. He had to leave his last start after three perfect innings (with eight strikeouts no less) due to a shoulder issue, but has made it through his regular bullpen sessions without issue and says that he’s good to go for Monday.
Just deGrom pitching on his own would be enough to make the game a must-see, but the Braves get to trot out their up-and-coming star right-hander Ian Anderson as well. The 23-year-old burst onto the scene with six dominant starts to close out the 2020 season -- as well as four outstanding starts in the postseason -- and he hasn’t really missed a beat to begin the 2021 campaign. He comes in with a 3.58 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 74/27 K/BB ratio across 70 1/3 innings through 13 starts.
American League Quick Hits: Adalberto Mondesi was pulled from Sunday’s game against the Red Sox after feeling something in his side. He went for further evaluation. Look for the Royals to provide an update on his status on Monday. … Kyle Tucker (illness) told reporters on Sunday that he expects to be activated from the injured list for the team’s upcoming series against the Orioles. … The Tigers released veteran backstop Wilson Ramos. … Brady Singer (shoulder) is expected to make his scheduled start on Tuesday against the Yankees. … Christian Arroyo left Sunday’s game with a bruised shin. He’s considered day-to-day. … Kevin Plawecki left Sunday’s contest with a hamstring injury and may require a trip to the injured list. … George Springer will bat fifth or sixth in the lineup upon his return from the injured list, at least initially. … Michael Pineda (elbow) played catch without issue on Sunday and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday. … Sam Hentges fired five shutout innings in a victory over the Pirates. … Sean Manaea piled up 11 strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings in a losing effort against the Yankees. … Hyun-Jin Ryu hurled seven innings of one-run ball to beat the Orioles. … Joey Gallo walloped his 12th home run in a loss to the Twins. … Adolis Garcia smacked his 18th long ball in that one as well. … Byron Buxton went 2-for-5 and crushed a two-run homer to lead the Twins past the Rangers. … Carlos Correa homered and reached base four times in a lopsided victory over the White Sox. … Shed Long smashed a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning to beat the Rays. … Jared Walsh homered for the third consecutive game as the Angels fell to the Tigers. … Shohei Ohtani clubbed his 23rd home run -- and sixth of the week -- in that loss as well.
National League Quick Hits: Jacob deGrom (shoulder) played catch without issue on Sunday and remains on track to make his start as scheduled on Monday. … Fernando Tatis Jr. (shoulder) is expected to return to the Padres' starting lineup on Monday. … Jeff McNeil will be activated from the injured list on Monday. … The Diamondbacks placed Carson Kelly on the injured list with a fractured right wrist. … The Nationals purchased the contract of Gerardo Parra from Triple-A Rochester… Brandon Nimmo (finger) will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Syracuse on Monday. … The Pirates placed Sam Howard on the injured list with left knee tendinitis. … Daniel Hudson (elbow) is expected to travel with the Nationals during their upcoming road trip where he’s expected to begin throwing. … Corey Seager (hand) is expected to begin his minor league rehab assignment on Friday or Saturday. … The Rockies placed Austin Gomber on the injured list with left forearm tightness, but his MRI came back clean and did not reveal any structural damage. … JT Brubaker struck out nine over six innings of two-run ball in a loss to the Indians. … Paul Goldschmidt homered and drove in four runs on Sunday as the Cardinals crushed the Braves in the first game of their doubleheader. … Zach Thompson struck out seven and didn’t allow a hit over four innings against the Cubs. … Kolten Wong went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBI in a win against the Rockies. … Brandon Crawford homered and drove in four in a lopsided victory over the Phillies. … Ketel Marte went 3-for-4 with two RBI and three runs scored in a loss to the Dodgers.