Shohei Ohtani (SP-LAA) will have his next start on the mound (originally scheduled for Friday) pushed back as he deals with arm soreness; the club has also raised the possibility that he may not take the mound again this season. But he felt well enough to DH against the White Sox on Thursday, going 2-4 with a run scored, 2 strikeouts, and a HBP. As we well know, Ohtani has impressed on both sides of his two-way role this season, amassing a 3.36 ERA, 10.6 K/9, and 3.2 BB/9 (backed by a 3.63 xFIP) as a starter while hitting .256 with 44 homers, 94 RBI, 92 runs scored, and 23 stolen bases across 569 plate appearances. On the pitching side, Ohtani does allow some hard contact (41% per Statcast) but induces grounders at a 44% clip while also missing bats at a healthy 13% rate and limiting contact to 73%, well below the league average. As a hitter, he owns a wRC+ of 152 and has made hard contact at a stellar 54% rate per Statcast while drawing walks at a healthy 13% clip. He has, however, fanned a lot (31%) and posted a contact rate of just 66%. So, especially as a pitcher, it appears that Ohtani is every bit the star his performance this season has indicated. There's no doubting the power, but there is reason for concern about the average going forward based on his low contact rate and strikeout issues.
Chris Sale (SP-BOS) is expected to be activated from the COVID-19 list to start against Baltimore on Friday. The 32 year-old looked solid in his first five starts of the 2021 campaign - his first MLB appearances since 2019 - as he logged a 2.52 ERA, 10.8 K/9, and 2.2 BB/9 across 25 innings of work. His 3.34 xFIP does point to an 83% strand rate suppressing his ERA a bit, although it's also worth noting that he's also run into some misfortune in the form of a .379 BABIP and 19% HR/FB. While he has averaged only 5 IP per outing - and another abbreviated outing should be expected in his return from the IL - Sale has shown about his usual velocity (94mph average heater) while displaying his career-average control and getting opposing hitters to chase pitches outside of the zone to the tune a career-high 37% o-swing%; and his 14% swinging-strike rate compares favorably with his career clip (13%). His 49% groundball rate, albeit in a very limited sample size, is his lowest since 2011, so that is a positive development to keep an eye on. Overall, it's been a promising return for Sale in 2021 and so he should be viewed as a top-tier SP for fantasy in 2022.
Amed Rosario (SS/OF-CLE) landed on the bereavement list on Wednesday and will be absent from the Cleveland lineup for the next 3-7 days as a result. Ernie Clement was promoted from Triple-A to fill his roster spot but Andres Gimenez is expected to fill in at SS for the time being. The 25 year-old Rosario scuffled early in the year as he attempted to move to the outfield, but has rebounded since moving back to shortstop. He's now hitting .279 with 10 homers, 51 RBI, 70 runs scored, and 12 steals across 550 plate appearances. His wRC+ remains below-average at 94, and for fantasy purposes he's basically a replacement type because he is a minor contributor in pretty much every category. Statcast does show that his hard-hit rate is up to 43% this season and Rosario effectively utilizes the whole field (31% pull, 40% center, 28% push) while making slightly below-average contact (under 77%), partly because he chases too many pitches outside of the zone (38% o-swing%), which has been a trend throughout his career. There's still 20-20 potential here, but Rosario remains groundball oriented (51%) and so he'll need a higher HR/FB (9% in 2021 and career) to reach that mark. So, for the time being he's a fantasy fill-in type.
Jo Adell (OF-LAA) is not expected to return from the IL before the end of the season as he ended up on the shelf after sustaining an abdominal injury because of a collision with an outfield wall over the weekend. It's a frustrating development, as the 22 year-old had showed some progress at the MLB level in 2021 after a disappointing 2020 debut. Across 140 plate appearances in 2021, he hit .246 with 4 homers, 26 RBI, and 2 steals after batting just .161 with 3 dingers, 7 RBI, and 0 stolen bases over 132 plate appearances last season. One of the keys to the improvement was slashing his strikeout rate from 42% to 23%, largely because he trimmed his swinging-strike rate from 20% to 15% and raised his contact rate from 61% to 72%. Those figures are still not great, but they are improvements. Adell still chases a bit too often (40% o-swing%), but has also done a better job of making contact on pitches inside the zone (z-contact% up from 67% in 2020 to 80% in 2021). Concerningly, his hard-hit rate did dip from 36% to 31% per Statcast, which can likely be, to some degree, attributed to his o-contact% climbing from 52% to 63%. Adell remains an intriguing fantasy prospect because of the power-speed contact, and the progress he showed a the big-league level in 2021 - even in a small sample size - is encouraging overall.
Jose Berrios (SP-TOR) is dealing with abdominal tightness but Manager Charlie Montoyo is hopeful that he will be able to make his next start, which is encouraging given that the issue prematurely forced him out of Tuesday's start. The 27 year-old is in the midst of perhaps his strongest MLB season, as he now owns a 3.43 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, and 2.2 BB/9 across 29 starts (173.1 innings). His 3.69 xFIP is a career-low, but it's difficult to see the exact causes of improvement in his peripherals. His swinging-strike rate is a touch under 10%, down from the 11-12% range of the last few seasons, while opposing hitters make a good bit of contact against him (79%), including a decent bit of hard contact (38% per Statcast). He doesn't exactly induce a ton of grounders (under 42%) while opposing hitters do rip a good bit of liners (24%). The improved control is good, but the 9+ K rate seems difficult to replicate given he doesn't miss many bats. And one can't love the move from the AL Central to the much tougher AL East.
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