Marvelous Mullins Continues Mashing

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Here's an oversimplification: things haven’t exactly been trending in the right direction for the rebuilding Orioles this season. That disturbing trend continued on Saturday afternoon when ace left-hander John Means, who tossed a no-hitter against the Mets last month, was forced to make an early exit against the Indians after recording just two outs in the opening frame due to left shoulder fatigue. The 28-year-old lefty told reporters that he’s been dealing with the issue for a bit and is set to undergo a precautionary MRI on Sunday to rule out any structural damage. Just when it seemed like things could potentially spiral out of control, Cedric Mullins stepped up to deliver an epic five-hit performance, providing a glimmer of hope for the franchise moving forward.

Mullins singled and scored a run in the opening frame before blasting a pair of solo homers off righty Aaron Civale in the third and fifth innings, respectively. It was his second multi-homer effort of the season. He capped off the monster five-hit explosion with a pair of singles against right-handed relievers Bryan Shaw and Emmanuel Clase in the late stages of the contest. The 26-year-old outfielder has put together a remarkable breakout campaign, slashing .314/.379/.511 with 30 runs scored, eight homers, 16 RBI and nine stolen bases across 249 plate appearances. He’s on pace to easily record a 20-homer, 20-steal campaign, while also boasting an elite batting average, which puts him in rarified territory from a fantasy standpoint. To put those numbers in proper context, let’s take a step back and analyze those benchmarks historically. Since 2016, only six hitters (Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve, Christian Yelich, Tommy Pham and Jean Segura) have maintained a .300 batting average, while also eclipsing 20 homers and 20 steals in a single campaign. Given his tremendous raw speed and athleticism, it’s not unfathomable that he sustains an inflated BABIP, while his plate skills growth and slight uptick in hard contact don’t appear to be fading away either. Mullins has proven that his early-season metamorphosis wasn’t a mirage. He’s clearly arrived as an elite five-category fantasy contributor and also emerged as a potential franchise cornerstone in Baltimore.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Tarik Skubal vs. White Sox

5.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 K

20% CSW, 36 swinging strikes

Skubal authored the most dominant start of his brief exposure at the big-league level, tallying a career-high 11 strikeouts over five innings. The 24-year-old southpaw was a bit wild, issuing three walks, but flummoxed the White Sox, holding them to just four hits in this one. He induced a career-best 20 swinging strikes and finished with an elite 36 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). He’s recorded at least eight strikeouts in four of his last five starts, dating back to May 7. He still has some work to do to make the jump to the next level, but he appears to be on the verge of a massive breakthrough. He’ll carry a 4.33 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 68/26 K/BB ratio over 54 innings (12 appearances, 10 starts) into a rematch with the White Sox on Friday evening.

Kevin Gausman vs. Cubs

7.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K

39% CSW, 21 swinging strikes

The eye-popping 21 swinging strikes and stratospheric 39 percent CSW provide an accurate summary of Gausman’s latest gem on Saturday evening. The 30-year-old righty showed zero ill effects from a hip issue that cropped up in his previous outing, touching the upper 90’s with his fastball and limiting the Cubs to just a pair of baserunners over seven frames. He’s allowed one earned run or fewer in nine consecutive starts since April 19. He’s a legitimate NL Cy Young contender as we approach the midpoint of the 2021 campaign.

Tyler Mahle vs. Cardinals

7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K

37% CSW, 17 swinging strikes

Mahle had everything working on Saturday afternoon, generating a season-high 17 swinging strikes and finishing with an elite 37 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). The 26-year-old righty has made the jump, blossoming into an upper-echelon fantasy starter this season. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in 10 of his 12 starts this season. He’ll carry a solid 3.32 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 72/20 K/BB ratio over 62 1/3 innings (12 starts) into a favorable home outing against the Rockies on Friday.

Jacob deGrom vs. Padres

7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K

33% CSW, 20 swinging strikes

Yet another masterful performance from deGrom, the best pitcher on the entire planet right now. He hit 102 mph on the radar gun and also averaged nearly 94 mph on his slider in a dominant performance against the Padres. The 32-year-old righty has allowed one earned run or fewer in nine consecutive starts to open the 2021 campaign. He’ll carry a sublime 0.62 ERA, 0.57 WHIP and 93/8 K/BB ratio across 58 innings (nine starts) into a rematch against the Padres next weekend.

Hitters with an EDGE

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. vs. Astros

3-for-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI

Guerrero Jr. took over sole possession of the major league-lead in round-trippers with his 18th homer of the season off righty Jose Urquidy in the fifth inning. As if the colossal over-the-fence power production wasn’t enough, he’s racked up nine games with at least three hits this season. He’s hitting .338/.439/.672 with 44 runs scored, 18 homers, 47 RBI and one stolen base across 239 plate appearances.

Jesus Aguilar vs. Pirates

4-for-6, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI

Aguilar got off to a hot start at the plate, but has cooled off in recent weeks, so it was encouraging to see him put things together against the Pirates on Saturday afternoon. He collected a season-high four hits and also socked a solo homer -- his 11th round-tripper of the season -- off righty Chase De Jong in the fourth inning of this one. He also delivered a game-tying RBI single off righty Richard Rodriguez in the ninth inning.

Josh Rojas vs. Brewers

2-for-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI

Rojas made some serious noise in spring training, but stumbled out of the gate once the regular season kicked off. He blistered a leadoff homer against Brandon Woodruff and also went deep off lefty reliever Brent Suter in the seventh inning to record the first multi-homer effort of his career. If this epic performance was a harbinger of things to come, fantasy managers may want to strongly consider stashing him, especially in deeper mixed leagues.

Closing Time

Connor Brogdon vs. Nationals

1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (1st save)

With Hector Neris away from the Phillies on paternity leave, Brogdon was called upon to protect a three-run lead in the ninth inning after righty Sam Coonrod and lefty Jose Alvarado were used in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. There’s a chance he could pick up an additional save or two over the next few days while Neris remains away from the team.

Jose Cisnero vs. White Sox

1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (1st save)

With Michael Fulmer unavailable on Saturday afternoon due to arm fatigue, Cisnero was summoned to guard a one-run lead against the White Sox. It’s unclear exactly how the Tigers’ murky bullpen situation will shake out, especially if Fulmer winds up needing a trip to the injured list, so this is most likely a stay away situation for fantasy managers moving forward.

Lucas Sims vs. Cardinals

1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (5th save)

It’s starting to look like Sims has emerged as the Reds preferred stopper since he’s been called upon and converted a pair of save chances against the division-rival Cardinals over the last three days. The inflated surface stats are a bit misleading, as Sims has notched five consecutive scoreless appearances since May 25. He’s worthy of a roster spot for fantasy managers in shallow mixed leagues.

Richard Rodriguez vs. Marlins

1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (2nd blown save)

The Pirates don’t have a ton of in-house alternatives, but it’s a tad concerning that Rodriguez has blown two of his last three save chances. He was called on to preserve a one-run lead and wound up surrendering a game-tying RBI single to Jesus Aguilar on Saturday afternoon. He isn’t in danger of losing his grip on the closing role, especially after how well he pitched over the first two months of the season, but it’s a situation fantasy managers may want to start watching closely.

Diego Castillo vs. Rangers

1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K (9th save)

There will be the occasional low-leverage save chance for some of the alternatives in the Rays’ bullpen, but Castillo will gobble up the vast majority of opportunities moving forward. The hard-throwing 27-year-old righty struck out the side on Saturday afternoon, easily preserving a three-run lead against the Rangers. He’s reeled off four straight scoreless appearances and is locked in as the team’s primary high-leverage stopper.

Hansel Robles vs. Royals

1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K (5th save)

It’s been extremely difficult to get an accurate read on the Twins’ bullpen, but it appears as though Robles and lefty Taylor Rogers will continue to split save opportunities moving forward.

Tyler Rogers vs. Cubs

1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (8th save)

Rogers has notched saves in back-to-back games for the Giants and appears to be their preferred ninth inning option moving forward.

Matt Barnes vs. Yankees

0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (14th save)

Save chances don’t get much easier than this, folks. Barnes came on to face Kyle Higashioka with a pair of runners on base in the ninth inning and needed only five pitches to slam the door. The 30-year-old righty has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season.

Will Smith vs. Dodgers

1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K (10th save)

Smith didn’t experience any issues on Saturday evening, striking out the side to preserve a two-run lead against the Dodgers. He’s struck out multiple batters in five of his last six appearances.

Lou Trivino vs. Rockies

1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (8th save)

Trivino didn’t face much resistance from the Rockies, icing a three-run victory in Coors Field on Saturday night. The 29-year-old righty has settled in as the Athletics’ primary closer and hasn’t given up an earned run since May 5.

Josh Hader vs. Diamondbacks

1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (14th save)

Hader has allowed just two runs on 10 hits with an unbelievable 41/8 K/BB ratio across 23 2/3 innings of work this season. Unreal.

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EDGE Priority Pickup

Eric Haase, C, Tigers

The catching position is a complete wasteland, therefore Haase has legitimate mixed league appeal for fantasy managers right now. The 28-year-old backstop homered twice off White Sox’ ace Lucas Giolito on Saturday afternoon and is already up to seven round-trippers on the season. He’s been sizzling-hot at the plate recently, going 6-for-12 with five homers over his last four games. There’s some clear regression coming, but he’s on a hot streak right now, and fantasy managers should continue to ride the wave.

Sunday’s Matchup of the Day

Caleb Smith (Diamondbacks) vs. Corbin Burnes (Brewers) - 2:10 PM ET

Obviously, Burnes is among the most talented starting pitchers in the entire game, but the sneaky storyline for fantasy managers here is Smith, who has excelled out of the Diamondbacks’ bullpen this season and represents an intriguing streaming option in deeper mixed leagues. The 29-year-old southpaw owns a 3.32 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 42/17 K/BB ratio across 38 innings (20 appearances, two starts) this season.

American League Quick Hits: Angels manager Joe Maddon told reporters Saturday that there's still no timetable as to when Mike Trout (calf) will return … Royals manager Mike Matheny said Saturday that Adalberto Mondesi (hamstring), who was absent from the team’s lineup on Saturday for the fourth consecutive game, is making progress, but there is still no exact timeline for his return … Tigers placed Spencer Turnbull on the 10-day injured list with a right forearm strain … Yusei Kikuchi notched eight strikeouts over four innings before exiting Saturday's start against the Angels with a knee contusion … Shohei Ohtani launched his 16th homer of the season in the Angels’ blowout win over the Mariners … Miguel Cabrera went 2-for-4 with a solo homer in the Tigers’ win over the White Sox … Miguel Sano, Ryan Jeffers and Kyle Garlick homered as the Twins’ edged the Royals … Bobby Dalbec launched a two-run homer in the Red Sox win over the Yankees … Manuel Margot hit a solo homer and Austin Meadows delivered a two-run single in the Rays’ win over the Rangers … Harold Ramirez went 3-for-5 with a solo homer, two RBI and three runs scored, leading the Indians to a lopsided win over the Orioles … Matt Olson and Chad Pinder went deep in the Athletics’ victory over the Rockies … Jake Fraley slugged a grand slam in the Mariners’ loss to the Angels … Andrew Benintendi smacked a two-run homer in the Royals’ loss to the Twins … Gleyber Torres drilled a three-run dinger in the Yankees’ loss to the Red Sox … Carlos Correa went 3-for-4 in the Astros’ loss to the Blue Jays … Ryan Mountcastle belted his eighth homer of the season in the Orioles’ loss to the Indians … Lucas Giolito struck out nine batters, but also yielded four runs over seven innings in a loss to the Tigers … Eduardo Rodriguez posted seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings in a win over the Yankees … Rich Hill tossed five scoreless frames in a win over the Rangers … Cole Irvin yielded one run over six innings in a win over the Rockies … Alex Cobb allowed five runs over seven innings in a win over the Mariners … Ross Stripling gave up one run over five frames in a win over the Astros … Aaron Civale allowed four runs over six innings in a win over the Orioles … Jose Berrios completed six frames in a win over the Royals … Jameson Taillon yielded three runs over 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Red Sox … Mike Minor coughed up five runs over seven innings in a loss to the Twins … Kolby Allard posted six strikeouts over five innings in a loss to the Rays … Jose Urquidy was shelled for six runs over 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Blue Jays … Tyler Glasnow will make his next start on Tuesday against the Nationals, rather than Sunday versus the Rangers … Michael Pineda (forearm) will not make his next scheduled start on Sunday against the Royals … Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Saturday that Jose Urena (forearm) is expected to start Sunday's game against the White Sox … Dylan Cease will start Sunday's series finale against the Tigers, while Carlos Rodon will make his next start on Tuesday against the Blue Jays … Angels activated Jose Iglesias from the 10-day injured list … Yankees purchased the contract of Chris Gittens from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre … Indians designated Jake Bauers for assignment.

National League Quick Hits: Phillies activated Bryce Harper from the 10-day injured list … Yadier Molina is considered day-to-day after being pulled from Saturday's game against the Reds due to a left knee contusion … Evan Longoria left Saturday's game against the Cubs after a collision with teammate Brandon CrawfordMax Muncy (ankle) was held out of the Dodgers' lineup for Saturday's game against the Braves … Ronald Acuna Jr. stole two bases in the Braves’ win over the Dodgers … Francisco Lindor went 2-for-5 with a solo homer, leading the Mets to a narrow win over the Padres … Jonathan India and Eugenio Suarez left the yard in the Reds’ win over the Cardinals … Andrew McCutchen slugged a three-run homer in the Phillies’ win against the Nationals … Omar Narvaez, Christian Yelich and Willy Adames homered in the Brewers’ victory over the Diamondbacks … Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jorge Alfaro went deep in the Marlins’ loss to the Pirates in extra innings … Nolan Arenado went 3-for-4 with two RBI in the Cardinals loss to the Reds … Josh Bell walloped a solo homer in the Nationals’ loss to the Phillies … Patrick Wisdom crushed a two-run homer in the Cubs’ loss to the Giants … Cody Bellinger went 1-for-3 with a steal in the Dodgers’ loss to the Braves … Brendan Rogers walloped his first round-tripper of the season in the Rockies’ loss to the Athletics … Joe Musgrove recorded 10 strikeouts over five innings in a loss to the Mets … Brandon Woodruff tallied nine strikeouts over five innings in a no-decision against the Diamondbacks … Charlie Morton allowed four runs over five innings in a win over the Dodgers … Clayton Kershaw posted nine strikeouts, but coughed up five runs over six innings in a loss to the Braves … Merrill Kelly was charged with five runs (four earned) over six innings in a loss to the Brewers … Caleb Smith will start for the Diamondbacks in Sunday's series finale against the Brewers … Rockies placed Jon Gray on the 10-day injured list with a flexor strain in his right elbow … Marlins placed Cody Poteet on the 10-day injured list with a right MCL sprain … Reds placed Alex Blandino on the 10-day injured list with a broken right hand … Giants designated Scott Kazmir for assignment … Padres claimed Sam McWilliams off waivers from the Mets.