Sonny Gray, SP, MIN
Gray tossed 6.0 innings of one-run ball against the Angels on Saturday afternoon. He allowed four hits and struck out eight in the outing. The 33-year-old has enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2023. His 2.80 ERA ranks 3rd amongst qualified starters, and his 180.0 IP ranks 18th. With an 8.95 K/9, Gray has been less of a strikeout pitcher than he was in his Cincinnati days, but he has been more controlled and effective overall. In 2023, Gray has been extremely stingy with the long ball, which has paved the way for his fantastic campaign. His .40 HR/9 is the lowest in the majors (qualified starters) by a wide margin, with Justin Steele's .70 ranking second. Gray's 5.0% HR/FB is also a league-best mark. Considering Gray's career HR/9 is .84, and his career HR/FB% is 11.5%, it will be difficult for him to replicate this level of success in 2023. Still, Gray has posted a 2.91 ERA in 299.2 innings in his first two seasons in Minnesota, so I would expect him to be a quality fantasy starter in 2024.
Anthony Santander, OF, BAL
Santander went 3 for 5 with a double and two RBI on Saturday night in Cleveland. It was the second consecutive game in which the 28-year-old recorded three hits; and he has 10 hits, including four doubles and seven RBI, over his past five contests. In 630 plate appearances in 2023, Santander is slashing .260/.329/.479 with 27 homers and a career-high 91 RBI. Santander has increasingly become a more pull-oriented, fly-ball hitter over the past few seasons, and it's agreeing with him. As his Pull% and FB% have gradually increased each of the past three seasons, his ISO and wOBA have followed suit. Santander's .219 ISO and .344 wOBA in 2023 are both career highs and what's more, his average hasn't suffered as a result. The Orioles lineup continues to fill in around Santander, and going into his 29-year-old season (and contract season), he will be in a position to do even more damage in 2024.
Dylan Cease, SP, CHW
Cease fanned 11 across 7.0 innings of shutout ball in Boston on Saturday. The most encouraging aspect of the impressive outing was that Cease didn't surrender a walk. He had walked two or more batters in eleven of his past twelve starts and his 4.20 BB/9 was the fourth-highest among qualified starters coming into the contest. To say Cease's 2023 season has been a disappointment would be a massive understatement. In 2022, Cease finished second in AL Cy Young voting, going 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA and 11.10 K/9. This season, Cease is 7-8 with a 4.66 ERA and 10.83 K/9. Cease's strikeout prowess has still been there and though his walks have been an issue, his current 4.02 BB/9 isn't that dissimilar from the 3.82 mark he posted a season ago. Hitters just seemed to figure the 27-year-old out this season. Both of Cease's main two pitchers have been severely less effective in 2023 compared to 2022. Last season, his wFB was 1.8 and his wSL was a staggering 33.6. This season, those numbers are -6.3 and 5.2, respectively. As a result, Cease has posted a 42.2% HardHit% that is well above the 31.2% mark he toted last year.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, TOR
Guerrero went 2 for 3 with a pair of singles and a pair of walks on Saturday night. With a 116 wRC+ and just 24 homers, this has been an underwhelming season for the talented 24-year-old. It took Guerrero nearly three months to hit his first home run at Rogers Centre and as it turned out, that would be the theme of the season for the slugger. Coming into the season, Vlad owned a career .284 batting average and a .376 wOBA when hitting at home. So far in 2023, he is hitting .240 with a .311 wOBA at home. Guerrero's away numbers this season have been almost identical to his career averages, which makes the home struggles all the more baffling.
Ezequiel Tovar, SS, COL
Tovar went 3 for 4 with two doubles and a single on Saturday afternoon in Chicago. The 22-year-old has hit safely in nine of the past ten games and is hitting an even .400 during that span. Overall, in 2023, Tovar's slashing .260/.295/.421 with 15 homers, 73 RBI, and 11 stolen bases. Like many Rockies hitters, the youngster has drastic home/road splits. He is hitting .289 at home and .232 on the road. Having the boost of Coors Field will make Tovar an intriguing fantasy prospect in 2024, however, he will have to improve his approach at the plate before he can be trusted. His current 45.6% O-Swing% and 17.0 SwStr% have led to a hefty 26.5% K% and lowly 4.1% BB%.
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