Robbie Ray, SP, TOR
On Wednesday afternoon, Ray struck out 13 and surrendered one run en route to his 12th victory of the season. The big southpaw is enjoying his best major league season here in 2021. Ray's hefty 11.87 K/9 and tidy 2.64 ERA each rank 5th among qualified starters this season. Since his stellar 2017 season (15-5, 2.89), the 29-year-old had been in rapid decline before this campaign. Ray has finally reigned in his command, which has undoubtedly been a catalyst in his resurgence. Before this season, he owned a career 4.28 BB/9, including a horrific 7.78 BB/9 mark in 2020. Ray currently owns a respectable 2.23 BB/9 that has enabled his elite stuff to go to work for him. His 34.1% Hard%, 33.9% O-Swing%, 15.7% SwStr%, and 61.3% F-Strike% this season are all career-best percentages. Ray has always displayed big strikeout numbers, but he's clearly made some adjustments and made more of himself so far in 2021.
Bo Bichette, SS, TOR
Bichette went 2 for 3 with a homer and five RBI on Wednesday afternoon against the Rays. The youngster certainly showed promise over the past two seasons, but this has been his first full season at the major league level, and he has been terrific. Bichette is now slashing .293/.341/.470 with 25 homers, 93 RBI, and 22 stolen bases. He does hit a lot of groundballs (47.0% career GB%), so his home run upside might be limited; however, he hits the ball hard (45.5% career HardHit%) and will contribute in basically every statistical category for years to come.
Salvador Perez, C, KC
Perez went 2 for 4 and hit his second home run in as many days on Wednesday night. The veteran backstop has 44 homers and 110 RBI for the season; his homer tally matches him with Shohei Ohtani for 2nd in baseball. Perez is enjoying the best season of his career in the power and run production department. His previous high for homers was 27, while his previous best RBI mark was 80. To say that this kind of production from Perez is a surprise would be an understatement. He hasn't taken a different approach at the plate as he is still as free-swinging as ever (48.6 O-Swing%); in fact, his 18.0% SwStr% is a career-high. Perez has simply hit the ball hard (career-high 55.1% HardHit%) and been able to get it out of the park at an unprecedented rate of 27.0 HR/FB. The 31-year-old is unlikely to reproduce this success in 2022, but there is no reason to think he won't be a top-end catcher option for fantasy once again.
Nester Cortes, SP, NYY
Cortes racked up 11 strikeouts and gave up just one run across 6.1 innings in Baltimore. After being mainly ineffective in the majors over the past few seasons, the 26-year-old has been an invaluable starter down the stretch for the Yankees this season. In his 79.2 IP so far, Cortes has a 2.60 ERA to go along with a 9.83 K/9. However, with a 3.95 SIERA and 4.18 xFIP, the advanced metrics don't love the youngster, and his Plate Discipline stats are underwhelming (29.9% O-Swing% and 9.8% SwStr%); so the 2022 expectations for him should be tempered. Still, if given a shot in the Yankees rotation, he may be worth a late-round flier pick in next season's drafts.
Cal Quantrill, SP, CLE
Quantrill surrendered three runs (all unearned) on two hits across 6.2 innings of work on Wednesday night. The 26-year-old came very close to completing 7.0 innings of shutout ball, but he gave up a three-run homer to Miguel Sano with two outs in the 7th. As he walked three, Quantrill struggled with his control again, giving him five consecutive outings with two or more walks. Nonetheless, it was another solid outing in what has been in an impressive year for the youngster. He has pitched particularly well down the stretch, giving up one or fewer runs in eight of his past twelve starts, with nine of those starts resulting in a Quality Start. He is now 6-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 137.0 innings this season. However, to go along with his lackluster command (2.96 BB/9), he isn't a strikeout threat (7.23), and the advanced metrics don't favor him either (4.46 xFIP and 4.51 SIERA), so he probably isn't someone to be counted on next season.
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