Chris Sale announces he's back with 17K gem and other fantasy nuggets

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale delivers against the Colorado Rockies during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 14, 2019, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale hurled a gem Tuesday night. (AP Photo)

Chris Sale was absolutely dominant Tuesday night, allowing two runs and just three baserunners over seven innings, posting a ridiculous 17:0 K:BB ratio. He fanned eight of the first nine batters he faced and set a career-high with the Ks, becoming the first pitcher in major league history to record 17 strikeouts in an outing of seven innings or fewer. With 108 pitches, Sale wasn’t given the chance at the MLB record of 20 (and Boston’s bullpen would ultimately blow his win), but fantasy owners have to be ecstatic after there was real worry early in the year that he was done.

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With his velocity down, Sale had a 7.43 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP after six starts. Over his last four outings with his velo creeping back up, he has a 1.29 ERA and a 0.48 WHIP with a 31:1 K:BB ratio over 21.0 innings. Suddenly Sale’s WHIP on the season is 1.02, and his xFIP (2.85) is lower than his career mark (2.92). He’s benefited from a favorable schedule lately that will change with the Astros due up next, but Sale looks healthy again, and his slider was simply unfair Tuesday night. A healthy Sale has the upside of being the No. 1 fantasy player from here on out.


Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

The phenom entered with a shockingly disappointing .191/.283/.234 line through the first dozen games of his career before finally homering for the first time Tuesday night, and he did so twice. Guerrero Jr. entered with an oddly low launch angle since joining Toronto, so it was nice to see some power. Expect nothing but more raking from the rookie moving forward, as he’s just getting started and should be treated as a top-five fantasy third baseman. I bet Chris Liss that Guerrero Jr. would finish with better fantasy numbers than Nick Senzel on our latest podcast (gave him odds), and I’ve already spent my winnings.

Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates

He knocked another two homers with four RBI, giving him 12 long balls to match last season’s total in 355 fewer at-bats. If there was any doubt earlier whether Bell’s hot start was for real, it’s been put to rest. He ranks in the top 1% of the league in exit velocity (94.9 mph) and top 5% in xwOBA (.422) and Hard Hit% (54.6). He’s legit.

Aledmys Diaz, Houston Astros

He homered for the third time over the last four games, recording 10 RBI over that span as well. Diaz had an .879 OPS just three seasons ago, clubbed 18 homers in just 422 at-bats last season and is playing regularly now with Jose Altuve on the IL in an Astros lineup that’s leading MLB in wRC+ by a wide margin. He’s 1B/2B/3B/SS eligible and still available in more than 95% of Yahoo leagues.

Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers

He hit another homer and is quietly up to 13 on the year (just two behind Cody Bellinger). Pederson is batting only .220, and 26 runs scored feels a little light for someone who’s hit predominantly leadoff for a team that ranks third in MLB in wRC+, but few players have been a better and cheaper source of power, especially for those who can platoon him in daily transaction leagues. He has 38 home runs over 513 at-bats since the start of last season.

Mike Foltynewicz, Atlanta Braves

He’s struggled during all four starts (three at home) since returning from his elbow injury, getting bombed Tuesday night for eight runs. Folty has served up eight homers over 21.1 innings, and while he’s likely been unlucky there, his velocity has been a career-low (94.4 mph, down 2.0 from last season), which is obviously troubling coming off the sore elbow. Moreover, after striking out 202 batters over 183 innings last season, his 13.2 K% is in the bottom 5% of the league. Foltynewicz was bad during his rehab starts as well, and panic wouldn’t be an overreaction right now.

Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies

The 32-year-old entered May with a .790 OPS, but he’s bounced back in a big way since, homering for the fourth time in three games Tuesday to bring his season line to .302/.364/.580. It’s certainly helped this month has consisted of a long homestand with a couple of games in hitter-friendly Milwaukee before Tuesday’s game in Fenway. Blackmon hasn’t attempted a steal in May, but any concerns of him entering a major decline phase have been eased.

Prospect Watch

Keston Hiura reached base in 3-of-4 plate appearances while batting seventh in the Brewers’ lineup. He’s one of the top prospects in baseball, was destroying Triple-A pitching (164 wRC+ with 11 homers and four steals) and should get a real chance to replace Travis Shaw in Milwaukee’s infield (moving Mike Moustakas to third). Shaw was recently placed on the IL and sports a 32.5 K% that’s in the bottom 5% of the league … Oscar Mercado went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and scored a run, hitting sixth in Cleveland’s lineup. While not the same flashy debut as Hiura (nor the same level of prospect), Mercado carries fantasy upside himself given his SB ability (he recorded 14 steals over 30 games in Triple-A this season) and should get a chance on a Cleveland team that ranks ahead of only the Marlins in wRC+ (70). Mercado is still available in more than 75% of leagues.

Nicky Lopez hit second for Kansas City during his MLB debut Tuesday and is worth grabbing in deeper fantasy leagues after posting strong Triple-A numbers this season (.457 OBP, 14.5 BB%, 3.6 K%) … Atlanta’s Austin Riley was called up late Tuesday with Ender Inciarte leaving with an injury. The third baseman just started playing the outfield last week, but fantasy owners will take any way to get Riley’s bat in the Braves’ lineup. Riley is a former first round pick whose 15 home runs lead the International League. He’s owned in just 9% of leagues, but that number will start rising fast.

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