Frank Schwindel (1B-CHC)
Schwindel notched another multi-hit game, including his 14th HR of the season. Schwindel has stepped up in a monster way for the Cubs after they traded the Core of the World Series winning roster. Schwindel entered 2021 with very limited MLB action - going 1-15 with the Royals in 2019 and 3-20 with the Athletics in a handful of games earlier this season. But upon his arrival to the Cubs, and a shot at everyday playing time he had thrived amassing a ridiculous line with 25 extra base hits (13 HR), 35 RBIs and 29 runs scored in 42 games. Now Schwindel put up multiple 20+ home runs season in the minor leagues so perhaps the power isn't as surprising as the way he has continued to make solid all-around contact. A .378 is in play here but he is also hitting the ball hard (45% hard hit rate) with an 88 mph exit velo and most impressively isn't striking out. He has just a 14% K rate with the Cubs and has an even 5:5 B:K ratio on the month, while adding 9 multi-hit games in September. The slugger has been a revelation for fantasy owners who took the dive at the beginning of his hot streak and he should be tickets to start 2022 with the Cubs as their primary first baseman.
Zach Wheeler (SP-PHI)
Wheeler allowed 1 ER over 5 innings, striking out 5 Friday night. Wheeler was sitting with a pristine 2.05 ERA following 7.2 shutout innings July 2 after a big win over the Padres- and was primed to enter the Cy Young Discussion. The wheels (no pun intended) seemingly fel off over the next month as Wheeler coughed up 4 or more runs in 7 of his next 10 starts - but did mix in a complete game 11 K shutout vs the Mets in there. Wheeler has settled down on September 2 quality starts in what is still looking like his best season to date despite that rough stretch of starts. Wheeler was solid last year for the Phillies with a 2.92 ERA - but the strikeouts weren't there as he had a career low 6.72 K/9 although he did induce a career high 55% groundball rate. Wheeler has dialed up his velocity and spin rates slightly on all his pitches this year - so perhaps he wasn't in a normal routine with the shortened season a year ago as he has a career best 10.37 K/9 and a career low 1.94 BB/9 with his 2.67 lining up favorably with that 2.78 ERA entering Friday's start. For the second year in a row, Wheeler has been among the league leaders in generating low exit velocity's (85.7 mph last year, 84.6 mph this year) and limiting batters to just a 28% hard hit rate - down 6% from last year. Sitting 2nd in all of Baseball with 225 Strikeouts entering Fridays start, Wheeler is primed for a good finish and could again be in the CY Young conversation in 2022.
Daulton Varsho (C/OF)
In what has amounted to a lost season one of a few bright spots on the Diamondbacks has been Varsho. Varsho had shown promise throughout his minor league career showing off a blend of power and speed by registering multiple double-digit HR and SB season while also hitting for a high average and having the rare ability to play both catcher and the outfield. His 2021 debut did not go smoothly as he hit .188 across 37 games. Varsho struggled in the first half of this season and spent some time at AAA before getting recalled - but he has put together a very strong second half of the season batting .262 with 20 extra base hits, including 9 home runs and 4 stolen bases over 43 second half games. He is making better contact (77% in 2021 vs 70% last year) then a year ago and swinging through slightly less pitches (swinging strike rate down 2% from last year) and his .277 babip has some room for improvement, as all this slash line stats have been on the rise for 2 months now. The best part here is at least for 2022 Varsho will be OF and C eligible - and even more impressive he has picked up starts in centerfield. Dynasty League owners should hold onto him for sure and he could end up being an asset next year with dual eligibility.
Anthony Alford (OF-PIT)
Alford went 2-4 and was also robbed of a HR in Friday night's game. Alford has put together a solid September for the Pirates, picking up everyday at bats and has gone 11-39 with 4 HR and a pair of stolen bases. Alford was once a high end prospect for the Blue Jays but injuries and inconsistent playing never led to him getting enough playing time to get going. He made the Pirates roster out of Spring Camp but struggled in limited at bats and was sent down to AAA. Alford delivered 1.013 OPS with 14 home runs and a .307 batting average to earn a return trip to Pittsburgh. Alford has some solid underlying raw power numbers as his 14% barrel rate, 45% hard hit rate and 90 mph exit velocity are solid - but as has always been the case throughout his career he has big time swing and miss tendencies. Alford has a 19% swinging strike rate which has led to a whooping 44% K rate - but the Pirates seem content to keep letting him play as long as he mixes in hits with the Ks. He is still just 27, and the Pirates most likely want to see if he is part of their long term plans - but he will need to cut that K rate by at least 10%.
Josiah Gray (SP-WSH)
Gray allowed 5 ER on 3 hits over 5.1 innings. He walked 4 and struck out 5. Gray, who was the main return in the Trea Turner / Max Scherzer deal, has been a bit of a mixed bag over his 9 starts with the Nationals as that was the case again Friday as he he generated 17 first pitch strikes and 13 swinging strikes but walks and timely hits against him did him in. He started out solid allowing 3 runs or less in his first 5 but gave up 11 runs over his past 2 outings. Gray struggled with control in his last start, walking a season high 6 batters and has allowed a HR in all 10 of his appearances coming into Thursdays start. His FB which tops out at almost 95 mph has not been an effective pitch as batters have slugged .663 vs it with just a 17% whiff rate. His secondary pitches, however, have been successful - especially his curveball that he uses almost 30% of the time. Opposing batters have hit .193 against it and while he has allowed 4 HR on it, he has generated an impressive 52.3% whiff rate on it. His Slider, his third most used pitch has generated an almost as good 44% whiff rate. The pitch usage here is solid as you don't really want him using the curve anymore then this - but I would look to see if he can develop his changeup more heading into 2022. It currently sits at 90 mph but he has only used it 3% of the time - although the 63 mph exit velocity and negative launch angle are nice things to see. Keep an eye on Gray over the winter and in early Spring Training - if the changeup becomes a thing for him it could boost his stock immensely.
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