Shohei Ohtani (SP-LAA) was sharp against Toronto on Saturday afternoon as he fired 7 shutout innings in which he allowed just 2 hits, walked 1, and recorded 9 punchouts. The 28 year-old righty hurled 72 of his 109 offerings for strikes in the outing. So, uh, yeah, he's pitching even better in 2022 (2.67 ERA, 12.4 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 2.58 xFIP across 128 IP) than he did in 2021 (3.18 ERA, 10.8 K/9, 3 BB/9, 3.55 xFIP over 130.1 IP). Ohtani's average fastball velocity is up nearly two full ticks this year (from about 95.5mph to almost 97.5mph) while he's actually deploying the heater much less often (down to 34% usage, was 44% last season) while leaning more on his slider (career-high 36%) and curve (career-high 10%), with his splitter use down to a career-low 14%. So, increased velocity in tandem with some changes in pitch selection have apparently helped him miss more bats (swinging-strike rate is up to nearly 16% this year after coming in at 13% last season), even as he's slashed the hard contact allowed from 34% to 25% and reduced the walk rate significantly. So while his fantasy owners might be disappointed that Ohtani's power output is down this season compared to last, they have to appreciate that he's on pace to log the most IP of his big-league career while doing so in quality fashion. He's slated for a home turn against Houston this week and of course he should be started in that one.
Rich Hill (SP-BOS) was stellar against the Rays on Saturday afternoon, tossing 7 shutout innings in which he scattered 3 hits, walked 1, and racked up 11 punchouts. The 42 year-old lefty was efficient on the mound, hurling 71 of his 95 offerings for strikes in the contest. Suffice to say that the outing was Hill's best of the campaignas he had never pitched more than 6 innings in any start while he hadn't logged a scoreless outing since early May. Overall, he's been fairly productive when healthy in 2022, as he now owns a 4.32 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, and 4.10 xFIP across 19 starts (89.2 innings). Although his swinging-strike rate comes in at just over 8% this season and opposing hitters have recorded an 82% contact rate against Hill, he's limited the hard contact to just a 27% clip while. He's useful on a start-to-start basis and I'm not sure he's an auto-start against a disappointing Texas ballclub next week. The Rangers have scored the 6th-most runs in the majors since the All-Star break while ranking 8th in the majors in OPS against lefties all season long (.763).
Alek Manoah (SP-TOR) took a tough-luck loss against the Angels on Saturday as he allowed 1 run on 4 hits and 2 walks while fanning 8 over 7 innings of work. The 24 year-old righty fired 70 of his 105 pitches for strikes in the contest. Overall, Manoah's sophomore campaign has been anything but a disappointment after he impressed in his rookie campaign (3.22 ERA, 10.2 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 4.17 xFIP across 111.2 IP). So far in 2022, he owns a 2.60 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, and 3.86 xFIP over 25 starts (155.2 IP). Yes, the dip in strikeouts is a bit of a bummer that might be attributed to a swinging-strike rate that fell from about 12.5% last year to just over 11% this season while opposing hitters have made contact at a 77% rate against him (up almost 4%), which includes a boost in contact made on pitches both inside and outside of the zone. The good news is that Manoah has limited hard contact to a miniscule 24% rate (down from 26% last season) while slashing the walk rate by nearly a BB per 9. Sure, the gap between the ERA and xFIP raises an eyebrow, but it was the same story last season. He's still early in his career, but the trend so far indicates that Manoah may just be one of those guys who outperforms the peripherals. But only time will tell on that. For now, he's slated for a favorable turn in Pittsburgh next week.
Randy Arozarena (OF-TB) went 2-4 with an RBI and a stolen base against Boston on Saturday. For the most part, it's more of same for the 27 year-old, as his 2021 performance (.274 average, 20 homers, 69 RBI, 94 runs scored, 20 steals) in many ways mirrors his work to date in 2022 (.260 average 17 dingers, 67 RBI, 54 runs scored, and 24 steals across 508 PA). His wRC+ for 2021 and 2022 were identical at 126 while he's remained an inefficient base stealer (caught 10 times in 2022 after he was nabbed 10 times last season). While Arozarena has trimmed his strikeout rate a bit (down to just over 24% from 28%), he's walking a little less (under 8%, was over 9%) while making about the same amount of hard contact (41% in 2022, 42% in 2021, per Statcast). He's been even more groundball-oriented in 2022 (up to 52% from 49%), with some of the stat shifts attributable to his lower spot in the order (he's been hitting toward the middle of the lineup more this season after batting toward the top last year). Overall, it's looking more like Arozarena be a 20-20(ish) type who should offer an average that doesn't hurt you - certainly not the superstar his postseason heroics of 2020 seemingly portended, but still useful for fantasy at the right price on draft day.
Nick Castellanos (OF-PHI) went 1-4 with a solo shot against the Pirates on Saturday. The 30 year-old's first season in Philadelphia has been underwhelming overall, as he now owns a .268 average to go with 13 homers, 61 RBI, and 7 steals across 525 plate appearances. However, he's warmed up since the All-Star break, as he was hitting .315 with 4 homers and 11 RBI across 97 PA since the start of August entering Saturday's contest. Key metrics such as his strikeout rate (down to 19% in August, 23% on the season) and hard-hit rate (up to 33%, 29% on the year are trending in the right direction, so there's still hope that he can help fantasy owners who haven't moved on from him down the stretch.
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