Stephen Strasburg (SP, WAS) - Strasburg left his start after just three innings against the Braves, taking a comebacker off his hip and not returning for the fourth frame. He seems to be alright though, saying after the game that the injury wouldn't even affect his availability for the All-Star Game. Perhaps part of why he didn't return to the game was his lack of effectiveness in this start, as he wound up yielding six runs (three earned) on seven hits and no walks without recording a strikeout. The lack of strikeouts is a bit concerning and he got just three whiffs in the start, but his velocity was fine so we are left to chalk it up to one of those starts. His 12.7% swinging strike rate is as high as ever, and his 10.22 K/9 continues to make him an elite option in fantasy. He'll carry a 3.43 ERA over 112.2 innings into the All-Star break.
Aaron Nola was excellent over eight innings against the Padres, giving up just two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out nine. Naturally, he still took the loss, falling to 6-6 on the season. He's been excellent over his last four starts though, with 34 K's and 9 BB's over 29.1 innings, in which he has a 1.53 ERA. His success has coincided with a shift to more sinkers than fourseams, and in this start in particular he went with more changeups, to great effect. He threw 24% changeups in this start compared to 14% on the year, and got a whopping 22% whiffs with it. It's a pitch that also has 65% ground balls on the year, and he seems to be trusting it more than ever. With a strikeout per inning and a 2.80 BB/9, his 3.59 ERA is well deserved. He has been able to keep the ball in the park as well, with a 0.90 HR/9 thanks in part to a 49% ground ball rate. Nola has the ability to pitch like a high-end #2 starter, but the knock on him continues to be health.
Paul DeJong (2B/SS, STL) - DeJong had a monster night at the dish, doubling three times and homering in his four at-bats. He's hitting .306/.326/.581 with eight home runs in just 129 plate appearances, but that comes with disgusting plate discipline. He has a 29.5% strikeout rate, which is far from unheard of from a power hitter, but whereas most sluggers draw plenty of walks, DeJong has a tiny 3.1% walk rate. That will make for a really ugly OBP when his .380 BABIP craters, which it will soon. He's hitting 41% fly balls with an 18% pop-up rate, so despite a 36% hard contact rate you're looking at a low batting average with the more PA's he gets. A 16% swinging strike rate and 70% contact won't help, so while he's just 23 and has time to adjust and make more contact, DeJong is more of a short-term injury filler than an asset you should be hanging on to.
Josh Bell (1B, PIT) - Bell doubled twice and drove in two runs as part of a 3-4 night. The young first baseman has been somewhat of a disappointment this year, despite hitting 16 home runs. His .236/.320/.473 line isn't what those who invested in him were hoping for. We might see an overall balancing of his results over the second half, however. His .250 BABIP is worse than he deserves by a fair margin, with a slightly above league-average 33% hard contact rate and not a lot of fly balls or pop-ups to worry about. On the other hand though, his 16 home runs look very undeserved themselves, with a 22.5% HR/FB rate that is high for a mediocre hard contact rate, and with just 31% fly balls he doesn't give himself a lot of opportunities to leave the yard. Bell should continue to provide corner infielder value in deeper mixed leagues, but he's got a long ways to go before he's a top-12 option for mixers.
Luis Castillo (SP, CIN) - Castillo fired 6.2 shutout innings against the Diamondbacks, giving up just three hits and a walk with eight strikeouts. It's a very impressive showing in a tough matchup, and his ERA over 23 MLB innings is 3.13. He also has a 30:10 K:BB ratio that should grab your attention. That's an 11.74 K/9 from a starter who has generated a 14.2% swinging strike rate. He features an upper-90's fastball that he can actually locate fairly well, complementing it with a slider and changeup. The change is 10 MPH slower than the fastball at 87 MPH, and the slider sits at 84 MPH. One thing he did in this start that he has failed to do consistently beforehand is pound the strike zone; he came into the game with just a 41% zone%, but threw 65% strikes in this start. Some of his peripherals look goofy from such a small sample, but trust me when I say his 96% strand rate will lower and his 23.8% HR/FB will lower as well. That should settle somewhere around his current 3.49 xFIP, which will do quite nicely when paired with a double-digit strikeout rate. He will have ups and downs, but still should be picked up in all but shallow mixed leagues.
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