Michael Pineda, SP (MIN)
Pineda was fantastic on Thursday, shutting down a red-hot Red Sox lineup for seven innings, allowing only two hits and striking out six. He probably could have gone deeper in the game as he was pulled having thrown only 88 pitches, but the Twins opted to go to the bullpen in the 8th inning and that did not pay off as Boston immediately feasted on non-Pineda Twins pitching. Pineda was unscored upon in two of his first three starts. His ERA is now 1.00 (xFIP at 3.48). An incredible start to the season, but it has been boosted by some luck. In spite of the fact Pineda is allowing the hardest contact of his career, his BABIP allowed is a measly .178. Furthermore, his strand rate is an unsustainable 98%. As usual, Pineda is surrendering very few walks while executing an average number of strikeouts. His consistency and command is what makes him effective. Nevertheless, anticipate regression as his BABIP and LOB% deviate to the norm.
Lance Lynn, SP (CHW)
Lynn extended the shutout streak by White Sox starters to 21.2 innings and his personal streak of 19.1 innings to open the season without an earned run allowed before he ultimately gave up a 2-run home run to Jose Ramirez in the 6th inning. The JoRam homer ended the streaks and also gave the Indians the lead. All in all, it was still a fantastic start for the offseason acquisition who completed six innings, striking out 10 and only allowing the two runs. Since walking two batters in his first start against the Angels, Lynn has yet to allow another free pass. He has 27 strikeouts in 19.2 innings and ranks among the league's best with a 1.36 FIP. Lynn has nearly eliminated the use of his offspeed pitches, but he has so many different kinds of movement within his fastball (sinker, cutter, 4-seamer) that he's still enormously effective. He throws his 4-seamer about half the time and on Thursday his CSW% on his 4-seam fastball was 41%. Those positive results help mystify hitters with a good cutter that shows a different trajectory. We'll see how sustainable Lynn can be without using a curveball anymore, but he's been spectacular so far.
Jose Ramirez, 3B (CLE)
Ramirez only had one hit in four at-bats on Thursday, but that hit was a 2-run home run to give the Indians a 2-1 lead over the White Sox in the 6th inning. It was Ramirez's third homer of the year, but his batting average is a disappointing .222 despite an expected batting average of .267. His BABIP is only .200, although he's still hitting the ball hard and actually hitting it on the ground more than ever. His line drive rate is low, but expect that to climb throughout the season. The poor batting average is largely a case of bad luck. Ramirez is making elite contact and hitting the ball with a career-high 90.5-mph average exit velocity. As evidenced by Thursday's blast, the power remains. He also stole his second base of the season, which puts him on pace for 25-30 steals. So all in all, everything is right on target for the first round fantasy pick, especially when the batting average gets a boost, and it will.
Jakob Junis, SP (KC)
Junis cruised through the first five innings, holding a talented Blue Jays offense off the scoreboard. He ran into trouble in the 6th, allowing the first two batters to reach base before getting the hook in favor of the Royals bullpen, which promptly allowed those two inherited runners to score. So Junis finishes with two runs allowed on five hits and a walk in five innings. He struck out six batters. After a couple relief appearances early in the season, Junis moved into the starting rotation last week against Cleveland and delivered five shutout innings with six strikeouts. He followed that up with another encouraging performance on Thursday. Junis effectively replaced his sinker with a cutter, a pitch he developed over the offseason. The cutter has looked good in the early going, particularly on Thursday when Junis deployed it 31% of the time. As Junis works to reestablish himself as a starting pitcher, he must limit the hard contact and increase his strikeout numbers. If he can accomplish those goals with an altered pitch arsenal, he still has plenty of time to develop into a reliable starter.
Mark Canha, OF (OAK)
Mark Canha reached base four times in six plate appearances on Thursday. Three of those were walks and the other was a single. He's turned into a great fit at the leadoff position for Oakland. But let's look at the career evolution of Mark Canha.
Here are Canha's year-by-year lefty/righty splits are something.
LHP: 153 wRC+
RHP: 90 wRC+
LHP: 118 wRC+
RHP: 160 wRC+
LHP: 177 wRC+
RHP: 113 wRC+
I don't really know what to make of that or specifically what we should expect throughout the course of 2021. What's important to note is even though the splits are pronounced each year, his overall numbers continue to improve and he has proven to be more than just an everyday player. He's developing into one of the top outfielders in the league. Canha has the power to rank among the best, as evidenced by his .244 ISO in 410 at bats in 2019, and he has the ability to hit for a high batting average due to an above-average contact rate and an improved hard-hit rate. Canha also presents underrated speed, is a very good base runner and now hitting at the top of the A's lineup offers great potential for runs and maybe even an unexpected boost in stolen bases.
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