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And just like that, we have our first decent-sized trade of trade deadline season. As you likely know by now, Nelson Cruz was dealt to the Rays for two pitching prospects, and you can read all about it below. Where I would like to focus my attention is on Blake Snell, who turned in just his second quality start of the season on Thursday (in 18 tries). He went six-plus innings, allowing just one run while striking out eight. It was a great start but it came against the Marlins

Speaking of the Marlins, they are dead last in wOBA vs. left-handed pitching this season. See where I'm going with this? Even with this start, Snell has a 4.93 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP. If you have Snell on your Fantasy team, your goal is to shop him all weekend long. If your league is in the know, chances are they won't bite on Snell, but it doesn't hurt to try. I made a massive update to my starting pitcher ranks on Thursday and place Snell at SP62 in H2H points and SP52 in Roto. Maybe I'm being too harsh. I just feel like I've seen enough. If you can turn him around for a pitcher who's struggled recently like Tyler Mahle or Dylan Cease, I would. If you're looking for a bat, maybe try for Michael Conforto or Anthony Rizzo.

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Cruz gets dealt to the Rays

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The Twins traded DH Nelson Cruz to the Rays on Thursday. It was our first blockbuster trade prior to the deadline, and we expect more to follow in the coming weeks. The final deal is Cruz and minor league reliever Calvin Faucher to the Rays in exchange for pitching prospects Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman.

Cruz is the 57th-best player in 5x5 Roto scoring leagues and he's averaging 3.1 fantasy points per game -- the same amount of FPPG as Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel.

  • The box score stats for Cruz: .294 batting average, 19 homers and a .907 OPS (this ranks 17th among qualifying hitters).
  • The underlying stats for Cruz: He has cut his strikeout rate significantly and ranks in the 92nd percentile in xSLG, xwOBA, hard hit right and average exit velocity.

He joins a higher scoring lineup in Tampa -- the Rays have scored the seventh-most runs per game while the Twins have scored the 12th-most. He also will benefit from playing more road games in the AL East -- there are better hitter parks in this division than the AL Central.

The fallout in Tampa is that some combination of Yandy Diaz, Joey Wendle, and Ji Man Choi will lose playing time as Cruz takes over as the DH. From a pure baseball perspective, Scott was a little surprised the Twins got back a prospect like Joe Ryan in exchange for a 41-year-old Cruz when factoring in that NL teams were out of the mix and trading pool was cut in half.

Here's the lowdown on Ryan: There is lots to like from a pure stuff standpoint. Ryan has a big-time fastball and slider and he leans on these two pitches. In 11 Triple-A starts this season, Ryan has delivered a 3.63 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 75 strikeouts in just 57 innings pitches. Under the hood, Ryan, a flyball pitcher, has delivered an 11.8 K/P and 1.6 BB/9.

Strotman is a lower prospect than Ryan but he's been solid at Triple-A with a 3.39 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and over a strikeout per inning but he also has a 5.0 BB/9. 

For now, the advice to stash Ryan in AL-only leagues. Once he gets called up, he's someone to bid on in 15-team leagues. He is currently 3% rostered in CBS leagues. Strotman should not be on your Fantasy radar for 2021.

The curious rise of Kim

Cardinals SP Kwang-Hyun Kim strung together another quality start on Thursday in a win over the Cubs, and this continues a string of quality innings that have seemed to go completely under the radar. In fact, in giving up two runs, Kim had his 24-inning scoreless streak snapped. He's given up just three earned runs over his last five starts, and four of those five have gone at least six innings. His season ERA is now down to 2.88 with a 1.17 WHIP and 67/28 K/BB ratio over 84 1/3 innings. He finished the game with seven strikeouts and just one walk. More importantly, he induced 15 swinging strikes -- eight on a slider that looked nasty -- putting together a healthy 35% called strikes plus whiffs rate.

So why is this such a curious case, according to Scott? Well, Kim was doing these types of things last year as well. He's a modest groundball pitcher and he doesn't strike out many batters. Usually, you need at least one of those two traits to be premium -- or at least premium control -- to have sustained success. The underlying stats as you might expect are not great, but the box score stats continue to make him look like a unicorn. Is he kind of like Kyle Hendricks? Every once in a while a pitcher comes a long that is so good at inducing weak contact that he breaks the normal indicators for breakout pitchers. 

Kim has a 2.45 career ERA and he's going six innings with consistency. It's long past due to consider him a mixed-league asset.

More news and notes

  • Dodgers OF Mookie Betts remains day-to-day with that hip injury, but a stint on the injured list remains possible. 
  • Mets SP Jacob deGrom threw off flat ground at Citi Field on Thursday. The team said he wouldn't throw until the forearm tightness dissipated. 
  • Angels OF Mike Trout ran the bases, participated in outfield drills and took some batting swings Thursday. There's still no word on a rehab assignment. 
  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau, with Padres SS Fernando Tatís Jr.'s stolen base on Thursday night, he became the fastest player (by games) to reach 50 career homers and 50 career steals since 1898 when modern steal rules were adopted.
  • Cubs 3B Kris Bryant has sat out two straight games with a hamstring injury, or maybe they're just trying to keep him healthy before a trade. 
  • Cleveland 3B Jose Ramirez was back in the lineup after sitting out two straight. 
  • Cardinals SP Jack Flaherty threw his second bullpen session Thursday. Manager Mike Shildt told reporters that Flaherty's next step will be facing live hitters, though he deferred providing further detail until Friday.
  • Reds OF Nick Castellanos could be sidelined for a couple of weeks, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network. Castellanos was diagnosed with a microfracture in his right wrist. 
  • Yankees OF Aaron Judge could be ready to rejoin the team this weekend and potentially return from the COVID IL early next week.
  • Yankees SP Luis Severino is scheduled to throw a live batting practice session this weekend and could begin a minor-league rehab assignment by the middle of next week. He suffered a Grade 2 groin strain in mid-June on his first rehab assignment. 
  • Yankees DH Giancarlo Stanton will see time in the outfield in the coming weeks. 
  • Marlins 2B Jazz Chisholm is expected to begin a rehab assignment in the near future and could return during the Marlins' upcoming homestand that begins July 30.
  • Twins C Mitch Garver was placed on the paternity list. 
  • Padres C Austin Nola went 0 for 3 with two walks in his return to the lineup.
  • Angels OF Justin Upton went 0 for 4 with a strikeout in his return to the lineup.
  • Phillies OF Odubel Herrera finished 1 for 2 with a walk and an RBI in his return.
  • And just like that, the Yerminator is back! White Sox DH Yermin Mercedes reported to the team's Triple-A ballpark Thursday following a retirement post on Instagram.

Other awesome pitching performances from Thursday

  • Twins SP Kenta Maeda went seven innings against the Angels and allowed just seven hits, no walks and three earned runs. He struck out six batters and induced 12 swinging strikes on 95 pitches. Past the box score, Maeda was truly dominant against almost every batter but made one mistake and allowed a three-run homer to the No. 9 hitter Jack Mayfield. Maeda is back on track and looking a lot like the pitcher we invested early draft capital in. Over his last four starts here are the bottom line numbers for Maeda: 2.35 ERA, 31 strikeouts and four walks over 23 innings pitches. I think Maeda is fully back and Scott is in full agreement. The splitter gave him trouble earlier this year, and that has now turned around for him. If the splitter is back -- and it looks like it is -- Maeda is back to being a trustworthy starter. Managers are being rewarded for holding on to Maeda, Dom Smith, Luis Castillo, and Kyle Hendricks, among others.
  • Braves SP Charlie Morton looked a lot like his old self against the Phillies when he went six innings and allowed just four hits and two earned runs. He did walk four batters, but Morton made up for it with eight strikeouts and by inducing 15 swinging strikes on 102 pitches. They were swinging and missing against Morton on Thursday, and he has been much more effective as of late. Over his last seven starts here are the bottom line numbers for Morton: 2.40 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 45 innings with an impressive14% swinging strike rate.
  • Dodgers SP Walker Buehler was on a lot of avoid lists this offseason -- including mine and Scott's -- but he has done an excellent job quelling concerns, and he was excellent again on Thursday. The Dodgers have changed the way they use Buehler and now he is a consistent innings eater after having just one six-inning start in 2020. This year he has had just one start that didn't go six innings. On Thursday, he went seven innings and allowed one earned run on four hits and one walk. He struck out nine batters and induced 12 swinging strikes on 95 pitches. Fun fact: Entering today, Buehler was the No. 1 scoring pitcher in points leagues. 
  • A's SP Sean Manaea was brilliant against the Mariners on Thursday night and might've been the most dominant pitcher on the sale from a swing-and-miss standpoint. He went seven innings and allowed just three hits, three walks and one earned run. More importantly, he struck out a whopping 13 batters with 21 induced swinging strikes on 106 pitches. Scott is not ready to believe that Manea has unlocked something new and will now be a big-time strikeout pitcher, but he's still been excellent this season and proved to be an excellent value add.