Jon Gray (SP - TEX) - Gray continued his run of solid pitching on Wednesday with a phenomenal outing against the hapless A's: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K. Since the beginning of June, Gray is 5-2 with a sub-3.00 ERA over 55 2/3 IP, allowing 42 H and 14 BB with 68 K. His velo is up, the control has improved again, the exit velo is down......everything looks good. The schedule remains mostly easy for him except for a rough patch at the beginning of September, so there's no reason to expect this to stop anytime soon either. This shouldn't really be as much of a surprise at it seems to be for people, as aside from the odd 2020 year Gray's highest xFIP of his career was last year's 4.04, and his career mark is just 3.76. He's always been an above-average pitcher as far as skills though......but Coors will Coors. He's looking like, dare I say, a top-30 SP?
Esteury Ruiz (OF - SD) - Esteury Ruiz was brought up to San Diego on Tuesday, and although he's disappointingly 0-1 in steals through 2 games, he's also gone 3-8 with a 3B (although it is in Colorado). The Padre OF is ranked 26th in MLB in OPS so far this season, so they definitely are looking for a spark, and the speedy Ruiz could fit the bill. The 23 year old has shown quite a bit more power this year, hitting 13 HR in 77 G between AA and AAA, and of course there is the mind-boggling total of 60 SB that he produced as well. The contact ability has shown steady improvement through the minors to the point where I'd say he is at least average, and the power has clearly gone from virtually nothing to possibly above average as well.....there's quite a bit of upside here, and I'd have to think on the virtue of the steals alone that he merits a pickup in most formats. I would keep a close eye on how they choose to deploy him once Profar is back, but for now it looks like he is going to play most every day.
Tarik Skubal (SP - DET) - After breaking a 5-game losing streak last time out, Skubal was back to his losing ways on Wednesday, giving up 8 hits and 5 runs (4 earned) over 6 innings, striking out 5 without walking a batter. Still, there's reason for optimism here. We thought that Skubal had turned the corner toward ace-dom in May with the walk rate trending toward elite, but that had come back to average for the past 6-7 starts before Wednesday. I still have hope there. More importantly, his velocity was up 2.5 mph on average this start over last....he really looked electric but was victimized by an error and a couple of misplays that show up as earned runs but really should have been outs. I do think he's a top-50 SP for sure, and while I may have been a bit premature looking for him as a top-30 starter by year's end, I do still think he can get there. He's definitely a good start on the short break week, as he will likely get Oakland in one of the doubleheader games next Thursday. The 25% HR/FB ratio looks completely random when set next to the batted ball data for July, so it doesn't really concern me.
Matt Olson (1B - ATL) - I had visions of Matt Olson taking the NL by storm this year, with him being able to play 81 of his games in a much more favorable park than he ever has before, but it just hasn't materialized for the new Atlanta 1B. He has homered in two straight games after hitting one Wednesday afternoon, but he's still only on pace for 25-30 despite his traditionally excellent hard hit rate (49.2%, 24th in MLB) and exit velocity (92.4, 20th in MLB). I do expect to see more power as his career as a Brave continues.....there's just no logical reason that he would hit for more power in Oakland than he will in Atlanta. 40 HR should be a reasonable thing to expect going forward, I would think.
Ross Stripling (SP - TOR) - Stripling has had some decidedly mediocre starts over the past few weeks, but he was excellent on Wednesday in holding the Phillies to 2 unearned runs on 2 hits over 7 innings, striking out 6 without walking a man. It may not look extremely pretty, but here is Stripling's line since June 1: 45 IP, 36 H, 10 ER (2.00 ERA), 6 BB (0.933 WHIP), and 34 K. He doesn't strike out as many batters as I'd like to see, but the control is excellent and he's been much better about keeping the ball down this season. He's also likely to get the Tigers in one of his first two starts after the break, which is always nice. I think he's a reasonable back-end starter in just about all formats right now, albeit not a super-exciting one.
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