Juan Soto (OF-WSH)
Soto went 2-4 with an RBI double and a walk Tuesday night. Despite trades that have left the offense somewhat thin, Soto continues to produce as his OPS has continually climbed towards the 1.000 mark. Soto does lead the league in both intentional walks (20) and total walks (128) as pitchers continue to pitch around him. Even with all that he has still slugged 26 home runs, scored 102 runs, and driven in 87 - numbers that would be even higher if he had some help. If it wasn't already known Soto is the real deal as he hits the ball hard (52.5% hard hit rate) rarely strikes out (13% K rate, more walks then Ks in his career) as he continues to show off an exceptional skill set at just 22. Look for him to be a Top-5 Fantasy in 2022 and depending on what the Nationals add offensively he could only be scratching the surface.
Mitch Keller (SP-PIT)
Keller allowed 2 ER over 5.2 IP, allowing 7 hits and walking 4 while striking out 2. Keller fell behind often and early, throwing just 8 first pitch strikes but was able to induce 2 double plays to erase some of the baserunners. Unfortunately, I am not sure we have gotten any clarity on the type of Pitcher Mitch Keller is. Keller has simply been all over the place throughout his major league career. In 2019 he pitched to a dreadful 7.13 ERA over 11 starts - but his FIP was much kinder at a solid 3.19 as Keller managed a 28% rate but had a .478 babip and stranded just 59% of the runners that reached against him. Keller was limited in 2020, making just 5 starts but pitched to a 2.91 ERA - but with a 6.74 FIP as he walked more batters (18) then he struck out (16) and his strand rate was nearly 94% with most of the damage he allowed coming on HR. In 2021 Keller had made 20 starts entering Tuesday Game and while the ERA is still ugly the 4.13 FIP again shows some signs of improvement. He is still walking way too many batters with a 4+ BB/9 and only made it 88 innings in those 20 starts - as he has not been able to give the Pirates any length. He also is near the bottom of the league in allowing hard hits with a 91.5 mph average exit velo and a 48% hard hit rate against. Keller hasn't been able to develop that dominant pitch yet as batters have been squaring up about anything - and it's hard to recommend Keller as a viable fantasy option next year until something changes.
Cody Bellinger (OF/1B-LAD)
The Dodgers placed Bellinger in the IL Tuesday with a left rib fracture. There were talks of Bellinger playing through the injury, but the Dodgers decided to opt for some rest. This most likely closes the book on what was one of the most disappointing seasons of any player in recent memory. The 2019 MVP has battled injuries this year and even when healthy he put up a tough .159/.237/.291 line with 9 HR, 34 RBIs and just 2 stolen bases. Everything has been a struggle as his K rate is up to 26%, nearly a 10% increase over what he has put up the past 2 seasons. His 9.2% walk rate is the first time he has finished with below a 10% walk rate in his career and his hard hit rate sits at 35% - 10% below his career mark. While his 1.035 OPS MVP season may have been a little exaggerated, he is certainly better than the numbers he put up this year - and a healthy offseason could be key for him.
Keibert Ruiz (C-WSH)
Ruiz went 2-5 with a run scored and an RBI. A key piece in the Trea Turner and Max Scherzer Deal, Ruiz has now ripped off multi-hit games in 4 of his last 5 games after a slow start that saw him pick up just 4 hits in his first 10 games with the Nationals since he got the call in late August. Ruiz was regarded as one of the top catching prospects in the game and has always shown an exceptional eye and hit tool. In AAA this year between Washington and Los Angeles Ruiz slashed .311/.377/.616 with 45 extra base hits and a pristine 30:33 BB:K ratio. Ruiz has put these numbers on display early with the Nationals with just a 7% K rate in limited plate appearances but still stands to hit the ball with a bit more authority as his 26% hard hit rate is rather low. Ruiz could be one of the better catchers in baseball over the next handful of years.
Tyler Mahle (SP-CIN)
Mahle struggled against the Pirates allowing 3 ER over 4.1 IP, while walking 3 and striking out 6. Despite the rough outing, Mahle is showing that his 2020 effort over 9 games wasn't a fluke - as he has put up almost identical, if not slightly better numbers this year. Mahle entered Tuesday start with an identical ERA (3.59) as a year ago and while his K rate this year is down slightly (10.5 K/9 vs 11.3 K/9) his walk rate has dropped almost a full walk per 9 to 3.1 and the past 2 years strikeout numbers are both his career bests. Mahle has continued a trend of limiting hard hit balls - as 2021 is the third year in a row he has lowered that number to a 34% clip this year. We have seen Mahle added some velocity each of the past few years as well - as his FB now sits at 94.1 mph - it sat in the high 92s when he entered the league in 2017. The additional velocity has been key in him getting more swings and misses as Mahle has now set career highs in just about every pitching category including wins (12), IP (165) and Ks (192). He could be in store for another solid 2022 as he looks to get to 200 Ks.
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