Aaron Judge, OF (NYY)
All four of Judge's balls hit in play on Friday were driven with an exit velocity over 100 miles per hour, three of which were over 108-mph. Judge finished with 14 total bases, hitting three home runs and a double, including six RBI's as the Yankees beat the Diamondbacks 7-1. It was Judge's second three-homer game of the season, the first Yankee to do that in history, and if you're new to this, the Yankees have had some pretty good home run hitters in their past. The four-hit effort raised his OPS back over 1.000 and his batting average jumped to .267. Judge hit 62 home runs in 570 at-bats last year. He is on pace to hit 57 dingers if he got another 570 at-bats this year. The regression is actually more minimal than one may think as the Bronx Bomber is poised to finish with another incredible power season.
Ronald Acuna, OF (ATL)
Acuna's historic season continued Friday as the future National League MVP hit his 40th home run, becoming only the fifth player in MLB history with 40 homers and 40 stolen bases. It's probably worth mentioning that he is likely to become the first-ever 40/70 player with two more stolen bases. Meanwhile, he is climbing up the ranks of most runs scored in a single season (he currently has 143 while also driving in an incredible 101 runs out of the leadoff position. The numbers are simply eye-popping as Acuna leaves no question as to who should be the first player selected in 2024 fantasy drafts.
Luis Robert Jr., OF (CHW)
Robert is surging after a mid-September slump. The dynamic outfielder had a pair of stolen bases in Friday's loss at Boston. He has 37 home runs and 19 stolen bases as 40/20 is very much in reach. Both numbers are career highs, and even though his batting average has taken a hit, his power/speed skills will return the young Chicago slugger into the conversation for first-round fantasy value. Detractors will point to concerning plate discipline metrics (18% swinging-strike rate, 68.4% barrel rate, 29/171 BB/K), but he is posting a 15% barrel rate and elite speed. The upside is enormous. This season is an example, but there is obvious volatility and risk that will likely justify knocking Robert down to the 2nd or 3rd round.
Jameson Taillon, SP (CHC)
Taillon took advantage of the light-hitting Rockies offense to deliver his second scoreless outing in his last three starts. The veteran right-hander allowed four hits and four walks, but struck out seven without allowing any runners to score. His ERA still sits over 5.00, however, as the first-year Cub has played the role of "Jekyll and Hyde" all season. Home runs are a major contributing factor to those erratic results. He has already tied his season high with 26 home runs. That was set last year in 177.1 innings (this season he is at 144.1 IP). Some of it appears to be bad luck, with a HR/FB rate 2 points higher than his career average. However, his barrel rate is nearly twice his career mark, and he is allowing more fly balls than ever. When we are analyzing Taillon for next season, we will look at the bad luck rates (63.5% LOB, .301 BABIP, 14.8% HR/FB) and that's fair, but there are signs of regression that support the up-and-down results.
Christian Yelich, OF (MIL)
Yelich made his first appearance in a week and second in two weeks as back tightness has limited him recently. However, his back appeared fine on Friday as the Brewers slugger powered Milwaukee to 16 runs en route to a blowout win at Miami. Yelich had three hits, including two home runs, and five RBI's in the rout against his former team. The veteran only had one home run since the start of August, but the Brew Crew could use a hot Yelich as it approaches the postseason. Yelich is now one home run away from his first 20/20 season since finishing runner-up to Cody Bellinger in the National League MVP voting in 2019. While it's been a downhill slide since that season, Yelich has had a pretty solid rebound this year. Yelich has maintained his knack for hard contact while getting a bit more help with a HR/FB rate near 20%, as opposed to the sub-15% numbers of the past two seasons. Meanwhile, the league-wide boost to stolen bases has impacted Yelich as he's three off his career high. Add in 102 runs scored and you have a very nice fantasy season from a player that was an afterthought for many during draft season.
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