If you felt like your team was short-handed in recent weeks, you weren't alone, but reinforcements have been arriving in recent days, and Tuesday saw another big name make his comeback from injury: Max Scherzer. We'll have more on his start in today's Fantasy Baseball Today newsletter, as Frank Stampfl and I chatted about Scherzer and how high he deserves to be ranked in Wednesday's episode of the show.
We also talked about how highly Sandy Alcantara ranks because he was dominant yet again, going seven-plus innings for the 11th straight start. I mean, who does that? In today's era, nobody. Frank and I agree that Alcantara is part of a solid top six that stands alone at the top of the pitching rankings, so make sure you check out the show to hear who else joins Alcantara at the top tier.
In the rest of today's newsletter, we're talking about Julio Rodriguez's continued excellence, some drop candidates at starting pitcher, and the rest of the news and notes from Tuesday you need to know about. You should also make sure you check out and his as we get set for Red Sox pitcher Brayan Bello's MLB debut tonight. And of course, as always, you can follow to make sure you get the latest episodes of Fantasy Baseball Today right when they drop on Apple and Spotify.
We have to talk about …
Is Julio Rodriguez playing his way into contention for a first-round pick? That might be selling him short at this point. He didn't make our consensus top 24 the last time we re-drafted the first two rounds, but we're going to do that exercise again at the All-Star break, and I don't see any way the 21-year-old isn't among the first 20 players taken. He had another big game Tuesday, going 2 for 5 with another steal, and he's now hitting .300 with 15 homers and 12 steals since May 1, a 36-HR, 29-SB pace over 150 games. It sure feels like another Fernando Tatis Jr. situation, where whatever Rodriguez is lacking in terms of plate discipline is more than made up for by what an outrageously talented hitter he is. Is Rodriguez a contender for the No. 1 overall pick? Probably not yet, but another couple of months like this are going to put him in the discussion.
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Usually, when a pitcher is coming back from IL, I like to give them a start to get their feet under them before I throw them back in the lineup, but Max Scherzer isn't your usual pitcher. He came back from his oblique injury and absolutely dominated the Reds on Tuesday, striking out 11 with just two hits allowed over six innings – and he only needed 79 pitches to do it, 11 fewer than what he said was his max goal. His velocity was actually up 1.0 mph in the start and he had 15 swings and misses. Sure, it was the Reds, but hey, that's why you get him active for this start. Scherzer is set to face off against Sandy Alcantara on Sunday in New York, and I'm looking up tickets for that game right now, because that's can't-miss baseball right there.
Time to drop 'em?
We talked about a couple of struggling starters on today's podcast, wondering whether you should be looking to drop them. In this case, one is much easier to drop than the other:
- Michael Kopech is the one I would have a hard time pulling the plug on. He's struggled mightily over his past four starts, allowing a 6.86 ERA with 17 strikeouts, 11 walks, and seven home runs allowed after giving up six runs to the Twins on Tuesday. His velocity has been down a bit during that stretch – about 1 mph Tuesday – and his overall swinging strike rate of 10.1% and his 4.3 BB/9 are both pretty mediocre. However, none of his pitches seems to be a particular issue so far. I think he's probably a bit too fastball heavy overall, and the drop in his slider whiff rate from 36.0% to 19.1% is alarming – he has to rely too much on his fastball in all counts, making him predictable. That being said, I just think there's too much upside with Kopech to drop him, even if you can't start him right now.
- It's a lot easier to drop Jameson Taillon, who was getting away with a contact-heavy approach earlier in the season but now has a 6.26 ERA over his past six starts. He's still 96% rostered – actually a couple of ticks higher than Kopech, which I don't get – and I'm fine dropping him even in a 12-team Roto league. Taillon just doesn't have that much upside, so I'm fine chasing someone who does. Like Brayan Bello, who is set to make his MLB debut for the Red Sox on Wednesday, or Nick Lodolo, who had a solid start (eight strikeouts in 4.2 innings) in his return from the IL against the Mets.
Injuries, news and notes
- Juan Soto has now missed two straight while he recovers from a left calf injury.
- Jacob deGrom is set to make his second rehab start Friday at Single-A. He recorded five outs (all via strikeout) in his first rehab outing Sunday.
- Kevin Gausman, dealing with an ankle injury, did not throw his scheduled bullpen on Tuesday and it sounds like he won't make his scheduled start Thursday.
- Bobby Witt Jr. left Tuesday after getting hit on the hand by a pitch. X-rays were negative, but is set for more testing on Wednesday. Hopefully this isn't a big deal, because Witt has come on strong after a bit of a rough start and is on a 25-25 pace.
- Craig Kimbrel underwent a CT scan on his back Tuesday after being hit by a line drive Sunday. Yency Almonte converted the save for the Dodgers on Monday, while Brusdar Graterol got the save Tuesday, so I think there's a decent chance this could be a timeshare if Kimbrel does have to miss time.
- Chris Taylor has been diagnosed with a small fracture in his foot. His timeline has yet to be determined, but this could open the door for prospect Miguel Vargas, who is hitting .294 with 13 homers and nine steals while playing first, second, third, and left field this season. That's a Taylor-esque profile, though the Dodgers are often happy to call up top prospects only to not play them everyday, which makes him less than a must-stash
- Anthony Rizzo was scratched Tuesday due to lower-back stiffness, which is a little bit concerning because he's dealt with back injuries in the past. That's one to watch.
- Eloy Jimenez concluded his rehab assignment and rejoined the White Sox on Tuesday but hasn't been activated yet. He hasn't played in the majors since April 23 with that torn hamstring, but it seems like he's due to be activated any day now.
- Kyle Hendricks left his start due to right shoulder soreness. He had been pitching better, so that's frustrating.
- Chris Archer was placed on the IL with left hip tightness, retroactive to July 2. Josh Winder started in his place instead but doesn't have much Fantasy appeal.
- Edward Cabrera completed a 25-pitch bullpen session Tuesday. He was placed on the IL with right elbow tendinitis on June 15 but has also been dealing with a personal issue, so hopefully this is a sign that he's on the way back. I'd like to keep stashing Cabrera if I can.
- Both Jazz Chisholm and Jorge Soler have been taking part in mobility and core-strengthening work at the Marlins' spring training facility as they are on the IL. Hopefully neither will be a long stay.
- Dodgers pitching prospect Ryan Pepiot was called up to start Tuesday. He allowed one run over five innings, striking out six with, notably, just one walk. Pepiot has great stuff, but control has been a limiting factor in him getting an extended opportunity. He's someone to keep an eye on, but not necessarily add.
- Jon Berti was out of the lineup Monday due to "lower extremity tightness." That's frustrating, because Berti missed a chance to run wild against Noah Syndergaard Tuesday, who allowed Jesus Aguilar to steal his first base in 701 games.