Bo Bichette, SS (TOR)
Bichette stood out in Toronto's otherwise lackluster offense Thursday. The superstar shortstop had three hits in his first three at-bats, including his ninth home run of the season. Bichette is on pace to post career highs in average exit velocity and contact rate. He has cut his swinging strike rate under 10%, evolving into a true power/contact stud. What may be disappointing to fantasy owners debating whether Bichette is a true first-round pick or not, is the lack of stolen bases. He only has one theft this year after finishing with 13 steals in 652 at-bats in 2022. His sprint speed ranks in the bottom half of the league and his 58% success rate on stolen base attempts over past two seasons just isn't good enough to justify regular attempts. He is an elite hitter, but the lack of stolen bases keep him from sitting among the top of the fantasy values.
Bryan De La Cruz, OF (MIA)
De La Cruz popped his fourth home run of the season on Thursday, a solo shot off Trevor Williams in the 2nd. A sleeper favorite of the fantasy draft season, De La Cruz has managed to post a quality batting average despite underwhelming plate discipline. Boosted by a .389 BABIP, batting average is the only standard category De La Cruz is providing fantasy owners. He only has four home runs and one stolen base, not the numbers fantasy owners were hoping for. However, his quality of contact is there, and if he can get a little more lift and reduce his 45% ground ball rate, we could see a quick turnaround.
Dylan Cease, SP (CHW)
Cease matched a season low in strikeouts despite tying his season high in outs recorded. The up-and-down 2023 campaign for the White Sox ace continues. His velocity was down on Thursday, hard contact was up and he allowed a home run for the fifth time in his last six games. Something ain't right with Cease, who now has a 4.43 xFIP. Of particular concern is that hard contact. After ranking among the league leaders in low quality of contact last season, this year opposing hitters have a 49% hard-hit rate. His normally surefire slider is underperforming. First of all, he's lost about a mile per hour of velocity, and opposing hitters are hitting .211, which may not sound like a lot, but last year that number was .128. It's not breaking as much and clearly not fooling hitters as much. It's supposed to be his best pitch. Yeah, the concern is real.
Taj Bradley, SP (TB)
In his return to the big leagues, Bradley was solid yet unspectacular. The young flamethrower allowed two runs on three hits and a pair of walks in a no-decision at Citi Field. He struck out four batters in the contest, and the bulk of his struggles occurred in the first inning where he walked two batters and loaded the bases. He escaped with only one run allowed in that frame, and then Pete Alonso hit a solo home run off him in the 4th inning. Bradley was not particularly good following a late-April demotion to AAA-Durham. He gave up at least four runs in each of his three starts, giving up four homers and six walks in that span. His strikeouts were also down, but he was pretty solid on Thursday in his return to the majors. It's unclear how the Rays plan to proceed with their top prospect, which clouds his redraft league value.
Eury Perez, SP (MIA)
Perez continued the strong start to his career. He picked up his first win on Thursday, allowing one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts in five innings. The one run came on a solo home run by Jeimer Candelario in the 4th inning. He has allowed three runs in 9.2 innings with 13 strikeouts. Perhaps the most encouraging development from his MLB debut last week was a decrease in hard contact allowed. After giving up a 92.8-mph average exit velocity against the Reds last Friday, the Nationals only touched him for an average EV of 83.8 miles per hour. All of his secondary pitches generated sub-80 mile-per-hour exit velocities. If that trend continues, it will help him limit home runs, which so far have been the sole source of runs allowed. The sky's the limit for the lanky 20 year old.
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