Corbin Burnes (SP - MIL) - Burnes had his streak end at 24 innings without allowing an earned run (interestingly enough, Kwang Hyun Kim got to that same mark with his 7 shutout innings in the 1st game of the twinbill), but Burnes still fanned 10 in just 4 2/3 innings, picking up 17 swinging strikes in 101 pitches. Burnes scuffled with his control again, walking 3 in his stint, but the upside here is very obvious. He's 9th in swinging strike%, and amazingly he has 5 pitches that all grade out as plus so far this year. He's a clear SP3 for me right now, albeit one with a bit higher ceiling and floor than many in that tier. The schedule the rest of the way makes him an easy must-start (KC and STL).
Kwang-Hyun Kim (SP - STL) - Kim returned from two weeks off for a kidney ailment in style Monday, extending his streak to 24 innings without allowing an earned run. The 32 year old allowed 3 hits and walked 3 during those 7 scoreless innings, striking out 6. The underlying stats for Kim don't look very impressive at all, with mediocre BB numbers, hard contact rates, and swinging strike%, but we are still talking about less than 30 innings here. I was very impressed with Kim in spring training, and I think he's a legitimate major league starter with 3 plus pitches. I actually wish he'd use the splitter more....it's a solid weapon and he uses it less than 10% of the time. I have no trouble valuing Kim as a top-60 SP right now, and I definitely like him for his last 2 starts against the Pirates (ranked last in MLB offensively) and the Brewers again (ranked 25th).
Max Muncy (1B/2B - LAD) - Muncy walked and singled on Monday, but he's still mired in another slump that has seen his average hover below the Mendoza line. He has 1 XBH this month so far, and our forecast of a drop in HR/FB rate back toward the 20% range has proven very prophetic. Of even greater issue is the drop in BABIP, as after a few years of overperforming or at least matching expectations given his batted ball dispersion, it seems to have gone the other way in dropping from .283 to .207. Muncy is a pull, FB-heavy hitter, and that's going to depress BABIP to being with. He was also putting up those lofty HR numbers without elite exit velo, and this year that number has gone from the bottom end of the top-100 (above-average) to right about average. Muncy is a better contact hitter than many realize...he's so patient that he racks up K's despite a solid contact rate, but that hasn't been enough this year to provide production. Very often late bloomers with this type of profile (little speed, power primary tool) flame out early, so I'd be very cautious with Muncy heading into next spring (and right now, for that matter).
Josh Bell (1B - PIT) - Bell was 3-6 with a BB and a HR in the doubleheader Monday, extended his hitting streak to 8 games. He's striking out at half the rate in September that he did prior, and he has 3 homers in the past 4 days. I have no problem gambling early on that a player has fixed whatever was ailing them, and I would certainly gamble that Bell has rediscovered his form and could help me over the last 2 weeks of the year. He certainly hasn't performed like the top-10 1B I expected to see coming into the year, but it's very possible he could be one for the month of September and help win you a title (with an asterisk, assumably).
Miguel Rojas (SS - MIA) - Rojas hit his 3rd homer of the year on Monday as part of a 2-3 afternoon with a walk, and he's now 15-38 with 5 doubles and a HR since the calendar turned to September, walking 6 times against only 3 strikeouts. Sure, the .400 BABIP is a bit inflated, but as a player that doesn't pull the ball a ton, doesn't hit a lot of flyballs, and has a LD rate of over 27%, it isn't as out of whack as you'd think. Add in the 3-4 mph gain in exit velo over the past 2 years, the 9% decline in chase rate since 2018, and the double-digit percentage decline in soft contact over the past 2-3 seasons, and you've got a player that is turning himself into a useful commodity. Seeing these gains at 31 is disappointing, as he's unlikely to hold any value for very long, but I do see him as a legitimate option in most formats for the stretch run this year: his plus contact, average exit velo, and average speed can play at SS.
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