Grayson Rodriguez (SP-BAL) put together perhaps the most complete outing of his young MLB career against the Rays on Saturday as he fired 8 shutout IP in which he scattered 5 hits, walked none, and fanned 7. The 23 year-old righty threw 72 of his 95 pitches for strikes in the contest. The stellar outing leaves Rodriguez with a 4.53 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, and 3.83 xFIP through 21 starts (111.1 IP) on the year. He's simply been a different pitcher since being recalled after the All-Star break following a rough first taste of the majors (7.35 ERA, 11.1 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, and 3.97 xFIP in 45.1 IP), as he'd recorded a 2.95 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, and 3.87 xFIP in 58 IP since the break entering Saturday's action. The lower strikeout rate isn't ideal, but it appears to be a byproduct of his efforts to hone his craft as a pitcher, in particular his efforts to improve his control (successful) and curb the hard contact (down to 33% from 42%). With a 12% swinging-strike rate on the year, Rodriguez clearly possesses strikeout ability and expect that to show more as he settles in and moves past what is clearly a "throw more quality strikes" phase. Expect another quality outing in Cleveland this coming week. More than that, Rodriguez is rapidly climbing up 2024 fantasy draft boards.
Tanner Bibee (SP-CLE) exited Saturday's start against the Rangers in the 6th inning because of tightness in his right hip that followed an errant pitch after which he awkwardly limped away from the mound. His fantasy owners will have to hope that he's able to make his next start (at home against Baltimore this week), as Bibee was solid on Saturday (5.1 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 4 K) and is in the midst of a strong rookie campaign in which he's recorded a 2.98 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, and 4.23 xFIP across 25 starts (142 IP). The 24 year-old righty's 11% swinging-strike rate is pretty average, but he's limited contact to a below-average 76% clip while opposing hitters have logged only a 30% hard-hit rate against him. Moreover, Bibee showed some improvement in key areas in 66.2 IP since the All-Star break, as his 25% K% represented a modest step up from a 24% before the break while his BB% dipped to under 7% since the break after coming in at 9% during the first half.
Jazz Chisholm, Jr. (OF-MIA) filled the stat box against the Braves on Saturday afternoon, going 2-4 with a grand slam, 2 walks, and 3 stolen bases. In another campaign abbreviated by injuries, Chisholm is now batting .255 with 17 homers, 44 RBI, 41 runs scored, and 22 stolen bases across 334 PA. While the power-speed combination is exciting, it's discouraging to see Chisholm not grow or even regress in some key areas in his age-25 season (his 4th in the majors), as his 30% strikeout rate is his highest since his cup of coffee back in 2020, his 6% walk rate is a career low, his 34% hard-hit rate represents a step back from last year's 37%, and his 66% contact rate and 15% swinging-strike rate are both career worsts. One might chalk at least part of this to various injuries throughout the campaign, so it appears that 2024 may be the real litmus test for Chisholm - for both whether he can stay on the field and whether he can improve his ability to make contact.
Michael Harris II (OF-ATL) had a nice game against the Marlins in a losing effort on Saturday afternoon, going 3-5 with a 2B and a solo blast. The 22 year-old endured a slow start to the 2023 season, as he was hitting just .255 with 9 homers, 26 RBI, 33 runs scored, and 11 steals, with a wRC+ of 93 PA in 249 PA before the All-Star break before logging a .333 average, 8 dingers, 25 RBI, and 37 runs scored, with a 141 wRC+ acrss 231 PA since the break (entering Saturday's action). During the season's second half, Harris is fanning less often (down to 18% from 20%) while ripping tons of liners (up to 30% from 15%) and making more hard contact (up to 39% from 36%). Overall, it's encouraging to see the youngster improve in key areas in his sophomore campaign, with a 19% strikeout rate (24% in 2022), 38% hard-hit rate (24% last season), 77% contact rate (74% last year), and 12% swinging-strike rate (14% last season) through 485 PA on the year. Especially considering his slow start as he dealt with a back injury that sidelined him in April, Harris has put together solid second big-league season and should again be expected to offer a useful power-speed combination in 2024.
Triston Casas (1B-BOS) was scratched from the starting lineup on Saturday for the second straight game because of right shoulder inflammation before landing on the 10-day IL. The 23 year-old has seemingly figured out big-league pitching after a slow start to the campaign, as he hit just .225 with 9 homers, 27 RBI, and 34 runs scored with a subpar wRC+ of 96 across 291 PA before the All-Star break before batting .317 with 15 dingers, 38 RBI, and 32 runs scored, with a well above-average wRC+ of 173 over 211 PA since the break. Casas has maintained a stellar 14% walk rate this season while trimming his strikeout rate from over 26% before the break to under 24% since and elevating his hard-hit rate from a below-average 35% before the break to an above-average 39% since. He's simply squared up the ball more often, with a 22% liner rate since the break (20% before) and more flyballs (up slightly to 43% from 42%), which works well with an improved hard-hit rate. His patience and discerning eye at the plate in combination with more contact and - importantly - more loud contact - bode well for his future fantasy value. With the club seemingly throwing in the towel on a playoff push, don't expect him to be rushed back to action.
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