Corbin Burnes (SP-MIL) fired 8 no-hit innings against Cleveland on Saturday, walking just one batter while fanning 14. The 26 year-old righty threw 78 of his 115 pitches for strikes in the contest before giving way to Josh Hader, who completed the no-no. Burnes has nicely built on his breakout 2020 campaign (2.38 ERA, 13.3 K/9, and 3.6 BB/9 with a 2.99 xFIP over 59.2 innings) by posting a 2.25 ERA, 12.4 K/9, and 1.7 BB/9 across 25 starts (152 innings). His 2.29 xFIP indicates that he's been as good as his ERA suggests, with his biggest improvement coming in the control department. In addition to missing lots of bats (16% swinging-strike rate), Burnes has induced lots of grounders (50%) while keeping the hard contact to a low 30% per Statcast. And he's even elevated his average heater velocity to a career-high 96.5mph. Everything suggests that he is for real. Burnes lines up for an enticing matchup with the Cubs at home next week.
Kevin Gausman (SP-SF) defeated the Cubs on Saturday afternoon as he allowed 3 runs on 8 hits and no walks while racking up 9 punchouts over 6 innings of work. The 30 year-old righty fired 69 of his 92 offerings for strikes in the outing. Overall, Gausman has been a fantasy stud in 2021, posting a 2.65 ERA, 10.6 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 across 29 starts (170 innings). His 3.29 xFIP does point to a .263 BABIP (.306 career) and 77% strand rate (74% career) suppressing his ERA a bit, but by any metric he's continued and improved upon the success that he found last season. Gausman's swinging-strike rate has now hovered at 15% the last three seasons while opposing hitters have maintained a contact rate down around 70-72%. They do make some hard contact against him (40% per Statcast in 2020), but the growing body of evidence suggests that Gausman has finally put it all together. He lines up for a turn against the Padres at home next week and is clearly a guy you start against anyone at this point.
Patrick Wisdom (3B-CHC) went 0-4 with 3 punchouts against the Giants on Saturday. The 30 year-old rookie has made some noise this season, especially in the power department, as he is hitting .234 with 25 homers and 50 RBI over 324 plate appearances. But his achilles heel has been the punchout, as his strikeout rate sits at a lofty 40%. He was a hot commodity in fantasy a couple weeks back, but since homering twice in back-to-back games on August 27 and 28, he was hitting just .100 with no homers, no RBI, and 3 runs scored across 45 plate appearances entering Saturday's contest, with a 42% strikeout rate during that stretch. He can probably be dropped in most fantasy leagues based on his struggles since the end of August.
Jesse Winker (OF-CIN) did some hitting on Friday and could begin a rehab assignment soon if his body responds well to the activity. Winker has been sidelined since mid-August with an intercostal strain and has slowly ramped up activity. His fantasy owners will welcome his return for the home stretch of the 2021 fantasy season, as the 28 year-old has amassed a .307 average, 24 homers, 71 RBI, and 77 runs scored across 481 plate appearances on the campaign, good for an excellent wRC+ of 153. Winker has never posted a wRC+ below 113 since making his MLB debut back in 2017, but it's worth nothing that his 481 plate appearances this season is easily a career high. So, fantasy owners will have to bear that in mind on draft day 2022. But he temptation to take him early will be high, as Winker hit for power but not a great average in 2020 (.255 with 12 homers across 183 PA), fanning at a career-high 25% clip before regaining contact (82% in 2021, up from 74% in 2020) and slashing his strikeout rate (16% in 2021, 25% in 2020) while maintaining power output (.252 ISO in 2021, .289 in 2020). He's an exciting player for 2022 but a risky one based on his inability to put together a full season to date.
Nick Lodolo (SP-CIN) put together a string of 10 strong starts in Double-A to open the 2021 campaign before running into some bad luck following his promotion to Triple-A. Across 44 Double-A innings, the 23 year-old southpaw amassed a 1.84 ERA, 14 K/9, and 1.8 BB/9 while, in 3 Triple-A starts (6.2 innings), he has a 5.40 ERA, 13.5 K/9, and 2.7 BB/9. His 2.26 xFIP in Double-A did point to an 83% strand rate and 4% HR/FB suppressing his ERA while in Triple-A he's run into some bad luck, as his 2.86 xFIP indicates that a .357 BABIP and 33% HR/FB in that small sample size are inflating his ERA. Surface numbers aside, Lodolo has done a good job of recording punchouts - thanks to his strong command and quality secondary offerings, especially a nice backfoot slider. Now ranked as the #32 prospect in all of baseball per MLB Pipeline, the lefty merits the attention of fantasy owners although he will likely spend some more time in Triple-A before getting the call.
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