Nick Castellanos (OF-CIN) continued his hot start to the 2021 campaign as he went 2-4 with a 3-run homer against the Cardinals on Sunday. The 29 year-old is now batting .545 with 2 dingers, 5 RBI, and 6 runs scored through his first 12 plate appearances of the season. He is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he batted just .225 but logged a career-high .261 ISO. His strikeout rate climbed to a career-worst 29% last year, but he has yet to fan so far on the young season. Perhaps the most encouraging thing about his 2020 was that Castellanos logged a career-high 46% hard-hit rate per Statcast, including a healthy 26% liner rate and 39% flyball clip. He's raking so far in 2021, so those who drafted him counting on something of a rebound in the average department to go along with significant power output have to be pleased with the early returns on their investment.
Ian Anderson (SP-ATL) pitched 5 solid innings against the Phillies on Sunday, as he allowed just 1 run on 4 hits and a pair of walks while fanning 7 batters. He tossed 55 of his 88 pitches for strikes. The 22 year-old's first outing of the 2021 campaign was largely a microcosm of his abbreviated debut in 2020, as he racked up strikeouts (11.4 K/9), allowed some walks (3.9 BB/9), and did not pitch deep into games (32.1 IP over 6 starts) while allowing few runs (1.95 ERA). The one blemish on Sunday's outing was a solo homer given up to Andrew Knapp, but he got away unscahed after putting runners on base. Especially given his shaky control, Anderson will likely struggle to pile up many quality starts and there will probably be some rougher outings here and there as hitters capitalize on his propensity for issuing free passes. But his ability to fan batters and induce groundballs (53% groundball rate last year) should help him out.
Zach Eflin (SP-PHI) was stellar against Atlanta on Sunday, as he gave up just 1 run on 4 hits and a walk while fanning 8 over 7 innings of work. He got the hook after 80 pitches, 54 of which he threw for strikes. The 26 year-old was pretty hyped in fantasy circles during the preseason after he compiled a 3.97 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 11.7 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9 across 59 IP (10 starts, 1 relief appearance) in 2020. A key to last season's emergence was apparently a slight uptick in velocity and a shift in approach, as Eflin largely abandoned his heater (down to 9% usage) while shifting to deploying his sinker 52% of the time. His average sinker velocity was up to a career-high 94mph. He also utilized his curveball a career-high 12% of the time. Sunday's outing against a potent Atlanta offense offers a good sign that he is poised to continue producing for fantasy owners in 2021.
Jeff Hoffman (SP-CIN) tossed 5 innings of 1-run ball against the Cardinals on Sunday, surrendering 3 hits and walking none while recording 6 punchouts. He was efficient on the mound, as he threw 55 of his 77 pitches for strikes in the contest. The 28 year-old is in his first campaign in Cincinnati after fizzling in Colorado. Hoffman, in fact, was used exclusively as a reliever in 2020, and that did not go well, as he finished the campaign with a 9.28 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, and 3.8 BB/9 across 21.1 IP (16 appearances). His 5.39 xFIP points to a suppressed strand rate (52%) and elevated BABIP (.414) inflating his ERA - but that's still not a good figure. A key to Hoffman's success on Sunday may have been adding a slider back to his repertoire, as he did not utilize it at all last season after only rarely using it in 2019. He effectively mixed four pitches - a heater, a curve, a change, and the slider - to keep Cards hitters in check on Sunday. Escaping Colorado could very well help him turn his career around, so I would keep an eye on the former first-round draft pick.
Carlos Martinez (SP-STL) did not fare particularly well against the Reds on Sunday, as he allowed 4 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks while fanning 4 in 5 innings of work. He tossed 50 of his 77 pitches for strikes while surrendered a homer to Nick Castellanos. The 29 year-old transitioned back to the rotation in 2020 after exclusively coming out of the bullpen in 2019, and the results were not good: a 9.9 ERA, 2.1 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, and 4.5 BB/9 across 5 starts (20 IP). On Sunday, Martinez rarely deployed his heater, instead adopting an approach that leaned heavily on a sinker, cutter, and slider, with an occasional change-up mixed in. Given how this first outing of the 2021 campaign pretty much represents a continuation of his disastrous 2020 season, it is difficult to place much confidence in him.
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