Chris Sale (CWS - SP) - Chris Sale took the loss on Wednesday but the lanky lefty is in the midst of his best season as a big leaguer and is currently on pace for career highs in strikeout rate, walk rate, ERA, and WHIP. Facing the Rangers, Sale went 6 innings giving up just 2 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out an impressive 9 batters. All of Sale's pitches are effective but he finds a lot of success by mixing speeds and getting hitters to get out in front of his 84 MPH change-up. Sale's pitch velocity is markedly down compared to how hard he threw when he rose to the major leagues in 2010. From my perspective, the drop more related to his development as a pitcher rather than injury. As a rookie, he threw the ball hard but his control suffered. As the years have passed, Sale has learned how to be a good pitcher rather than just a thrower and has lowered his walk rate (and baserunners) in the process. He's seeing the dividends now and can be safely considered among the elite pitchers in the league.
Sonny Gray (OAK -SP) - Sonny Gray struggled mightily against a weak Tampa Bay Rays lineup on Wednesday afternoon, giving up 6 earned runs on 10 hits and 4 walks. Gray has put together an impressive sophomore season for the Oakland Athletics. While he isn't overpowering, he succeeds by keeping the ball on the ground (55% groundball rate) paired with a slightly better than league average 21% strikeout rate. He mixes between his 3 pitches well but it's his devastating curveball that really sets him apart. His batted ball splits suggest he has been a little lucky .278 BABIP and 19% line drive rate, but his 77% strand rate helps make a case against his luck. Either way, write off the poor outing for Gray as just a minor speed bump and keep running him out there each start. He should continue finding success while pitching for the contending A's in a very friendly home ballpark.
Jeremy Hellickson (TB -SP) - Jeremy Hellickson had himself a fantastic 4th starter of the season on Wednesday. The right-hander went 7 innings while striking out 3 giving up just 2 hits and no walks. The lone run scored against him came via the long ball by Dayan Viciedo. Jeremy Hellickson has never been a strikeout pitcher so with a below average swinging strike rate, there's no reason to expect that to change the rest of this season. Most of his batted balls allowed go for flyballs, and while the Trop suppresses some of them, his career 10.2% HR/FB ratio proves that he's still extremely homer prone. Hellickson is too risky to roll out there everyday so he's merely a streaming option in mixed leagues.
Drew Hutchison (TOR - SP) - Drew Hutchison pitched a beautiful game on Wednesday, nearly going the distance by throwing 8.2 innings of 1 hit, 1run ball with just 1 walk. The lone run was courtesy of a solo homerun by Chris Davis in the second inning. It's been a total roller coaster ride for Drew Hutchison this season, who going into his start on Wednesday had given up 4 or more runs in 3 of his last 4 starts. Even after the great performance, Hutchison's ERA is still at 4.39 but his underlying statistics are still quite strong. His 21.2% strikeout rate and 7.5% walk rate are both slightly better than league average and his 9.6% swinging strike rate and 34.2% chase rate support the high strikeouts. He remains a risky play considering his home park but he's still worth owning in mixed leagues on a start-to-start basis.
Chris Davis (BAL-1B) - Chris Davis hit a homerun for the second consecutive day and now has 19 dingers on the year. Davis hasn't been very good this season and he certainly hasn't provided the production that many owners expected when taking him in the 1st or 2nd round in fantasy drafts this spring. On the year, Davis is slashing .197/.307/.397 with a horrific 33.4% strikeout rate and brutal 75.7% z-contact rate (how often he makes contact while swinging at pitches inside the strikezone). Unfortunately, it looks like 2013 was simply an outlier for Davis, not the beginning of a breakout.
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