Luis Castillo, SP (SEA)
Castillo rebounded nicely from a poor performance last week against the Mets. On Thursday the Mariners ace shut out the Rays in six innings, allowing four hits and striking out eight. His control was a little off as he walked four batters, his first time allowing more than two walks since June 21. In fact, only 44% of his 108 pitches were inside the strike zone. Plus, his velocity was down. However, he still generated 17 swinging-strikes and generated fairly weak contact. Castillo has outperformed his peripherals all year, but surface numbers are great, carried by a career-low walk rate and BABIP. The BABIP can be attributed to a career-high flyball rate, which has limited opponents' batting average. The reduced bases on balls come along with an enhanced ability to get opposing hitters to chase at pitches out of the strike zone. That was the case in Thursday's game where he lacked control, but it's also true when he's commanding his pitches. There is little reason to expect Castillo to improve these numbers and there are reasons to anticipate regression, but he remains one of the more reliable starting pitchers in the league regardless.
Will Smith, C (LAD)
After three hits on Thursday, Smith is trending towards the highest batting average in a full season. He's up to .273 and may set new highs in runs and RBI's. However, his three base knocks in the Dodgers' 10-0 win at Miami were all singles, which sort of encapsulates his season. He will probably finish with his lowest home run total in a season where he played more than 55 games. His isolated power reflects his lack of extra bases. The career .225-ISO slugger is under .200 this year, sitting currently at .178. That trends with a career-low barrel rate, first time under 10%, and a career-high groundball rate. Look, he's putting the ball in play and getting on base at an excellent rate, but he isn't showing off the power one would like to see out of one of the first catchers drafted. If you want reliability and plate appearances, Smith is a solid choice at the unreliable position, but there are other players who offer a little more power and speed than the Dodger backstop.
Emmanuel Clase, RP (CLE)
It was a rough night for the Guardians closer who allowed two runs on four hits after entering the 9th inning with a one-run lead. It was Clase's 10th blown save and eighth loss of the year. These are troublesome numbers for a player considered by most fantasy players as the top closer during draft season. On the positive side, you draft closers for saves and Clase leads the majors with 38 saves. Strikeouts are down and he is getting hit harder, which all leads to nearly a two-point jump in ERA since 2022. However, Clase's ability to accrue saves amid regression is why drafting a top-end closer is so important. He has been able to get those saves because he's held onto the role. Clase was given a long leash because of his prior success. Other less-established relievers would have been removed from the position, but drafting a closer for how secure their role is becomes nearly as important as drafting a closer for their skill set.
Gleyber Torres, 2B (NYY)
Torrid Torres continues to torment opposing pitchers. The Yankees' second baseman had a pair of hits, including his 25th home run on Thursday. He has made drastic improvements this season, holding onto his above-average power while refining his plate discipline by incredible margins. His swing is more consistent than offer, and he has developed a touch more patience. Meanwhile, with his OBP up, he has had more opportunities to steal bases. He has 13 stolen bases to go along with the 25 long balls as he is trending toward a massive contract if he becomes a free agent in 2025. Either way, he'll get a nice pay bump as an arbitration-eligible player next season. He should enter the 2024 draft season as a top-five second baseman with even more room to grow following the gains made this year.
Jordan Lawler, SS (ARI)
The Diamondbacks finally closed the door on veteran shortstop Nick Ahmed and called up their top prospect, Jordan Lawler. Lawler has very good power and excellent speed and was absolutely dominating in a brief stint at AAA-Reno before his promotion. He basically forced the organization's hand by tallying 11 hits and three home runs in his last four minor league games. He was relatively quiet in his Major League debut, picking up his first hit, a single, but that was it in four plate appearances. Arizona will likely keep him as its everyday shortstop moving forward, and fantasy owners should certainly give him a look. Arizona likes to run and Lawler can steal bases while adding some significant pop from the middle infield position.
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