Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, TOR
In the bottom of the 9th inning, with the Blue Jays down a run, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stepped up to the plate and slapped a double down the right field line for the first hit of his career. Vlad Jr. would finish 1 for 4 in what was one of the most highly anticipated debuts of any player in recent memory. The 9th inning double proved vital to the Jays comeback as Brandon Drury hit a walk-off Homer a few batters later and Toronto won the game 4-2. Guerrero Jr. nearly homered earlier in the game when he hit a towering fly ball to left, but Oakland's Chad Pinder made a great grab up against the wall, much to the dismay of the feverish Rogers Centre crowd in Toronto. He grounded out to third in his first at bat and also hit another high fly ball out to right that was hauled in a few steps short of the warning track in the 6th. Vlad Jr. hit .367 with an wOBA of .471 and an absurd 186 wRC+ in eight games for Triple-A Buffalo this season. In 2018, he hit 6 Home Runs and slashed .336/.414/.564 in Triple-A and touted the 4th highest wRC+ (175) of any International League player (with a minimum of 100 PA) in 128 plate appearances. So there is a reason Vlad Jr.'s debut was so highly anticipated, and it's not just because his father is a Hall of Famer...it's because the kid can flat out rake. Of course it might take him some time to adjust to big league pitching, but all indications point to him being an exceptional hitter.
Jose Abreu, 1B, CWS
Abreu had a monster game on Friday night, going 4 for 5 with a Home Run and 5 RBI. The White Sox star is on a six-game hitting streak that has skyrocketed his average from an abysmal .174 to a respectable .260. Abreu is 13 for 27 with 6 XBH (2 HR, 2 2B) during the streak--he was just 12 for 69 with 6 XBH (3 HR, 3 2B) prior--so it's safe to say Abreu has been turning it around as of late. I wrote previously about how Abreu's increasing tendency to pull the ball may be a key reason for his recent struggles, and well, it appears there might have been something to that. Over the past six games Abreu has used the opposite field nearly TWICE as much as he did during his previous 19 contests (44.4% Oppo% compared to 22.9% previous) and has been having much more success as a result. He has also vastly cut down on his strikeouts (16.7% K%, compared to 27.8%) and has been hitting the ball on a line with much more regularity (27.8% LD%, compared to 12.5%). This hot stretch should help relax those who were concerned about Abreu's slow start to 2019 (me) and will hopefully propel him to another solid season for the South Siders.
Marcus Stroman, SP, TOR
Stroman continued his amazing 2019 campaign with seven one-hit innings against the A's on Friday. His bullpen promptly came in and blew the two-run lead in the 8th so he was unable to improve upon his 1-3 record with the gem. He struck out seven and walked a pair in the contest; his season ERA is now a gorgeous 1.43. Hitters are having a difficult time off of Stroman this season, his SwStr% is at, what would be a career best, 10.5%, and his opponent Ocontact% is also at a career best 49.3%. On top of that, Stroman has yet to give up a Home Run in 2019. It's unlikely that he will keep this up considering his xFIP is 3.85, but, he is still available in 37.2% of ESPN leagues and is worth streaming in most formats for the time being.
Trey Mancini, 1B/OF, BAL
Mancini collected three hits (1 2B, 2 1B) on Friday night and extended his hitting streak to eight games. The streak has seen his batting average go from .320 to .349 and the 4th-year pro appears to be in amidst a breakout campaign. Mancini's early success appears to be a product of an increased launch angle as he has been getting the ball off of the ground with much more regularity this season. His 24.7% LD% is about 5% higher than his career average and his 37.0% FB% is more than 8% above his career mark. Mancini has been a groundball hitter (51.4% career GB%) his entire career up until this season and the change seems to have sparked something. Despite all the grounders, Mancini was able to blast 24 homers in each of his past two seasons, which is adequate; but his new swing already has him 6 long balls in 2019 and we could see him make a run at the 30s.
Nicholas Castellanos, OF/3B, DET
Nicholas Castellanos smacked his 2nd Home Run of the year and finished 2 for 5 Friday night against the White Sox. One day after banging his first homer of the season off of the 'Pesky Pole' in Boston, Castellanos sent a Carlos Rondon offering to the seats in dead center at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. After starting the season slowly, the Tiger outfielder has started to find some success over the past few games. He is 5 for his last 12 with 2 HR and 4 RBI; in his previous 85 plate appearances Castellanos had 0 HR and 4 RBI. His slash line is now .267/.330/.444 and his wRC+ is back above 100 at 105.
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