Cedric Mullins (OF-BAL) went 2-4 with a run scored and 2 stolen bases against Boston on Saturday. The 26 year-old has really emerged in 2021, as he now owns a .302 average to go with 29 dingers, 86 runs scored, 56 RBI, and 30 stolen bases across 624 plate appearances. His .333 BABIP is not exactly insane for a guy with his kind of wheels. Mullins has posted a career-high 40% hard-hit rate (per Statcast) to go with a career-high 42% flyball rate (and a productive 21% liner clip). His 16% HR/FB is easily a career high, but given the uptick in his hard-hit rate, it's not ridiculous. Mullins makes lots of contact (82%), especially on pitches inside the zone (88%), and given his improved ability to hit those pitches with authority one has to like him for 2022.
Ryan Mountcastle (1B-BAL) went 2-4 with a walk and a 2-run dinger against the Red Sox on Saturday. The 24 year-old has assembled a productive sophomore campaign, batting .260 with 30 longballs and 83 RBI over 530 plate appearances. His hard-hit rate is solid at 40% (per Statcast) and he hits a good bit of his batted balls into the air (only 36% grounders), but his strikeout rate is high at over 27% while he doesn't draw many walks (under 7%). With a swinging-strike rate over 16% and a propensity for chasing pitches outside of the zone (42% o-swing%), Mountcastle seems like the kind of guy who could be a bust on the heels of an eye-opening season. His contact rate is just 70% and that hard-hit rate isn't exactly astronomical. He seems to have a small margin between being a fantasy producer and not being one.
Marcus Semien (2B-TOR) went 1-5 with a solo blast against Minnesota on Saturday. The 31 year-old has assembled a career-year in 2021, as he is now hitting .268 with 40 homers, 95 RBI, 106 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 662 plate appearances; the homers, RBI, and steals are all career bests while the average is north of his .256 career clip. Never one to make a lot of hard contact, Semien has posted a career-high 42% hard-hit rate (per Statcast) in 2021 while raising his launch angle to 20. The result has been a career-high 48% flyball rate to go with an 18% HR/FB; he did post 15% HR/FBs twice before in his career, so 18% is not exactly ridiculous, especially given the increased hard contact. Semien has made contact at a league-average 80% clip, as he rarely chases pitches outside of the zone (20% o-swing%) and connects on 87% of swings at pitches inside of the zone and 68% of those beyond the zone. With a reasonable strikeout rate of 20% and a great proclivity for hard contact, Semien should be viewed as a top 2B option again in 2022; after all, it was only two years ago that he hit .285 and hit 33 dingers while driving in 92 runs and scoring 123.
Shohei Ohtani (DH/SP-LAA) threw a bullpen session on Friday and reportedly feels well enough to pitch on Sunday against Oakland. The 27 year-old two-way superstar had his most recent start postponed as he dealt with arm soreness, but that has apparently subsided. Although the Athletics lineup is a tough one, Ohtani should probably be immediately inserted back into lineups as an SP for Sunday's contest given his strong performance overall on the mound in 2021, as he as he has compiled a 3.36 ERA, 10.6 K/9, and 3.2 BB/9 across 21 starts (115.1 innings). His 3.62 xFIP and 3.72 SIERA indicate that his ERA is about where it should be, with a .275 BABIP and 77% strand rate slightly suppressing it. Ohtani's swinging-strike rate is slightly above average at 13%, as he gets opposing hitters to chase at a below-average 30% clip while they do make hard contact at a 41% rate against him per Statcast. Overall, the metrics indicate that Ohtani is very good but not quite elite as a starter. Ultimately, his fantasy value is derived from his ability to hit for power at the plate and perform at roughly the #2 SP level on the mound.
Xavier Edwards (2B-TB) has played well in Double-A this season, hitting .295 with no homers, 39 runs scored, 27 RBI, and 17 steals across 334 plate appearances. The #71 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, the 22 year-old switch-hitter has displayed his toolset this season, hitting for a nice average and deploying his plus-plus wheels on the basepaths to swipe some bags. As his grand total of 1 homer across three minor-league seasons indicates, he does not posses much power to speak of. But Edwards offers value as a guy who makes lots of contact (13% strikeout rate in 2021), including plenty of liners (24%) and grounders (47%), which suits his speed-oriented game well, and as a player who can steal a solid number of bases. He has shown patience at the dish, drawing walks at a solid 11% clip in 2021. He'll likely begin the 2022 campaign in Triple-A, especially given Tampa Bay's embarrassment of riches in the middle infield, but he's worth keeping an eye on since stolen bases are relatively scarce today.
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