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The Royals seemingly lost their leadoff hitter and catalyst on Sunday afternoon as Whit Merrifield was pulled from action in a win over the Guardians in the fifth inning due to a toe injury. Initial word from the team didn’t seem ominous, only that Merrifield was removed due to right toe discomfort and that he’ll be re-evaluated after the game.
After the game, however, Royals skipper Mike Matheny told reporters that Merrifield felt something in his toe as he broke toward a ball during the fourth inning. He was immediately sent for precautionary X-rays, which came back negative, but the Royals also had an MRI done – the results of which are not yet known.
The rest of the evening came and went with no announcement from the club regarding the results of that MRI exam. Reading the tea leaves though, perhaps there was some information revealed. Daniel Alvarez-Montes of ElExtrabase reported that prospect Maikel Garcia would be recalled from Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Monday.
Now that doesn’t mean for certain that Merrifield is dealing with a serious injury and is going to be looking at an extended absence, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility here. As a best-case scenario for fantasy managers, Merrifield would only need to miss a couple of games and the Royals are simply bringing up the 22-year-old second baseman as coverage for that short period of time. It’s also possible – though less likely – that the report from Alvarez-Montes is simply inaccurate and while Garcia is on his way to join the Royals, perhaps it’s only as a member of the taxi squad to be an insurance policy in case Merrifield is looking at an extended absence. Finally, the most likely scenario is that Merrifield is heading to the injured list and will at least be sidelined through the All-Star break.
Based on the draft capital that it took to acquire Merrifield this season – average draft position of pick 35 overall in NFBC Main Event drafts – the 33-year-old has been a major disappointment this season. He’s slashing .240/.292/.343 with 45 runs scored, five homers, 36 RBI and 14 stolen bases. The speed that he’s providing has value – as do the runs scored – but they were supposed to come with a much higher batting average and a bit more pop would have been nice as well.
Also of note, Merrifield has been a popular name in trade rumors again this season, and for the first time ever it seemed as though general manager Dayton Moore was actually considering unloading him this time around. A move out of Kansas City and to a contending team could have given his fantasy stock a serious boost. Alas, if he winds up on the injured list here, his chances of being moved certainly dwindle.
On the other side of the coin, let’s take a quick look at Maikel Garcia, the 22-year-old prospect who looks like he’ll be making the jump from Double-A to replace Merrifield in the Royals lineup for the time being. Garcia has slashed a healthy .287/.365/.397 with three homers, 30 RBI and 27 swipes (in 30 attempts) through 74 games at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Seems like a pretty similar skillset to Merrifield, perhaps with even more speed. He could be worth a look in deeper mixed leagues – at least on a short-term basis – if Merrifield does indeed hit the IL.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Alex Wood - 7 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 8 K, W (6), 36% CSW, 14 swinging strikes
Alex Wood flirted with a no-hitter on Sunday afternoon, but ultimately had to settle for just a victory as the Giants demolished the Padres. Wood carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning where C.J. Abrams’ leadoff single spoiled the fun. All three hits that he allowed in the contest were singles. The eight strikeouts were a season-high for the 31-year-old southpaw. He now holds a 4.43 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 83/21 K/BB ratio over 85 1/3 innings through his first 17 starts on the season.
Jake Odorizzi - 7 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 K, W (4), 27% CSW, 15 swinging strikes
The right-hander looked outstanding in his second start back from the injured list, recording a season-high seven strikeouts over seven scoreless frames in a victory over the Athletics. It’s the first time that Odorizzi has worked seven innings since May 10 of 2019. He got 15 whiffs on 98 pitches in the game – seven of those on his fastball and five on his cutter – while posting a CSW of 27 percent. He’ll take on these same Athletics in Houston next Sunday where he makes for a very viable streaming option.
Taijuan Walker - 7 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 29% CSW, 11 swinging strikes
An old-fashioned pitcher’s duel broke out at Citi Field on Sunday afternoon, with both hurlers having to settle for tough-luck no-decisions as Taijuan Walker and Sandy Alcantara each fired seven scoreless innings against each other. It’s the sixth consecutive quality start for Walker, who now boasts a terrific 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 68/23 K/BB ratio over 85 2/3 innings on the season.
Hitters with an EDGE
Carlos Santana - 2-for-3, 2 HR (7), 3 RBI, 3 R
After launching a go-ahead two-run homer to beat the Blue Jays in the seventh inning on Saturday night, Santana felt like an encore performance was needed on Sunday. On the first pitch that he saw on Sunday he crushed a 366-foot solo shot (105.7 mph EV) off of Max Castillo to get the M’s on the board and tie the score at 1-1. He wasn’t finished though. He then strolled to the plate with the Mariners down a run in the eighth inning and blasted an Adam Cimber offering for a go-ahead 360-foot (95.4 mph EV) two-run blast to once again propel the Mariners to victory. Santana seems to have been re-energized by the trade to the Mariners – hitting .282/.404/.538 with three homers and six RBI in his first 12 games with the club.
Wilmer Flores - 4-for-6, 2 HR (12), 4 RBI, 2 R
The Giants offense as a whole did plenty of damage in a 12-0 victory over the Padres on Sunday afternoon in San Diego, but it was Flores that was leading the charge. He crushed a 387-foot (101.5 mph EV) two-run shot off of MacKenzie Gore in the third inning that made it a 4-0 game, then put the cherry on top of the lopsided victory with a 370-foot (101.7 mph EV) solo shot off of a 46.2 mph offering from third baseman Matthew Batten in the ninth inning. Flores is now hitting .249/.338/.432 with 12 homers and 47 RBI in 79 games on the season.
David Bote - 2-for-2, HR (1), 2B, 3 RBI, R, BB, SB (1)
David Bote filled up the box score as the Cubs fell to the Dodgers in a slugfest in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon. Bote launched his first homer of the season – a 382-foot (104.2 mph EV) three-run shot off of Phil Bickford that increased the Cubs early lead to 8-3. He also picked up his first stolen base of the season in the ballgame. Through his first 30 plate appearances since returning from the IL he’s slashing .280/.400/.480 with a homer, six runs scored, three RBI and one swipe.
EDGE Priority Pickup
Josh Rojas, 2B/3B/SS/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks – Available in 51% of Yahoo fantasy leagues
It seems criminal that Rojas is currently rostered in less than 50 percent of all Yahoo leagues. It’s not just the extreme flexibility that he provides with his four positions of eligibility though, Rojas has been sizzling at the dish in recent weeks. Over his last 13 ball games, he’s slashing a robust .426/.471/.681 with a homer, nine RBI and a pair of stolen bases. That’ll certainly play in all formats.
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Brusdar Graterol vs. Cubs - 2 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K (third save)
With the Dodgers shying away from using Craig Kimbrel on back-to-back days, it was Graterol who was given an opportunity to close things out on Sunday and he did so in impressive fashion. He came on with two men on and nobody out in the eighth inning, with the Dodgers clinging to a two-run lead. He needed just five pitches to get Rafael Ortega to hit into a fielder’s choice and Willson Contreras to bounce into an inning-ending double play. He then returned for the ninth where he set down the side in order on 10 pitches. He isn’t likely to usurp the closer’s role anytime soon, but he now looks to be second in the pecking order for save chances in Los Angeles.
Tanner Scott vs. Mets - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K (12th save)
Tanner Scott got the job done on Sunday afternoon, working a scoreless 10th inning to protect a two-run lead against the Mets. He did issue a two-out walk to Mark Canha to put the tying run on base, but battled back to whiff Francisco Lindor to close it out. The 27-year-old southpaw now holds a 4.04 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 54/22 K/BB ratio over 35 2/3 innings on the season while converting 12 of his first 15 save chances.
Liam Hendriks vs. Tigers - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K (17th save)
In his first save chance since returning from the injured list on Monday, Hendriks came through with flying colors, retiring the Tigers in order in the ninth inning to preserve a two-run lead. His early-season struggles are long in the rear-view mirror as he now boasts a 2.51 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 42/8 K/BB ratio over 28 2/3 innings while making good on 17 of his first 20 save opportunities.
Ryan Helsley vs. Phillies - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K (seventh save)
The Cardinals saw a rare save chance on Sunday afternoon and it was Helsley – not Giovanny Gallegos – who got the call to protect a one-run lead. That’s after both hurlers worked in the game on Saturday night where Gallegos wound up taking the loss. Helsley needed just 10 pitches (six strikes) to retire the side in order and close this one out, earning his first save since June 28. Gallegos hasn’t recorded a save since June 12. In addition to seemingly taking over the closer’s role in St. Louis, Helsley sports a phenomenal 0.73 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and 54/12 K/BB ratio over 37 innings on the season.
Monday’s Matchup of the Day
With all due respect to the Mitch Keller vs. Trevor Rogers battle in Miami on Monday, the real must-watch matchup of the evening is the battle of the Max’s as Scherzer and Fried square off as the top two teams in the National League East battle in Atlanta.
Scherzer looked as good as ever in his return from an extended stay on the injured list, striking out 11 batters over six scoreless innings in a tough-luck no-decision against the Reds on Tuesday. On the season, he holds a brilliant 2.26 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 70/11 K/BB ratio over 55 2/3 innings through his first nine starts with the Mets.
Fried has been no slouch himself though. The 28-year-old southpaw totes a terrific 2.52 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 100/17 K/BB ratio (107 1/3 innings) into Monday’s critical matchup. He has surrendered more than two earned runs just once over his last nine starts.
American League Quick Hits: The Astros placed slugger Yordan Álvarez on the 10-day IL due to renewed soreness in his hand. It’s not yet clear how long he’ll be sidelined. … The Rays officially placed Wander Franco on the 10-day IL with right wrist discomfort. He’ll be re-evaluated on Monday to determine how long he’ll be sidelined. … The Rays unexpectedly placed Jeffrey Springs on the 15-day IL with right lower leg tightness. He had been scheduled to start on Monday. … The Rays also placed Kevin Kiermaier on the 10-day IL with left hip inflammation. … The Red Sox paused Enrique Hernandez’s minor league rehab assignment as he battles tightness in his hip. … Brandon Lowe (back) resumed his minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Durham on Sunday. … Jeremy Peña returned to the Astros lineup on Sunday after missing a few games due to health and safety protocols. … The Astros recalled Jose Siri from Triple-A Sugar Land. … There’s a chance that Nathan Eovaldi will be activated from the injured list to start against the Yankees on Friday. … Astros pitching prospect Forrest Whitley was pulled from his start at Triple-A Sugar Land due to right shoulder inflammation. … David Fletcher (hip) will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Tuesday. … Frankie Montas (shoulder) felt good after playing catch on Saturday, but won’t return during the A’s upcoming series against the Rangers.
Austin Voth struck out six over five innings of two-run ball in a victory over the Angels. … Ramón Urías drove in three runs to pace the attack there. … Shane Baz was obliterated for seven runs over 2 1/3 innings in a loss to the Reds. … Zack Greinke hurled five scoreless innings in a victory over the Guardians. … Kyle Isbel went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a swipe in that win. … Gavin Sheets homered for the second straight game as the White Sox defeated the Tigers. … Ryan Jeffers homered and drove in two as the Twins beat the Rangers. … Korey Lee went 3-for-4 with three RBI in a victory over the Athletics. … Giancarlo Stanton blasted his 22nd homer in a loss to the Red Sox. … Trevor Story went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBI as the Red Sox defeated the Yankees on Sunday night.
National League Quick Hits: Joey Votto (back) missed his seventh consecutive game on Sunday, yet he still hasn’t been placed on the injured list. He’s tentatively expected to return on Tuesday. … Starling Marte (groin) was held out of the Mets lineup on Sunday, but an MRI came back clean and he’s expected to avoid the injured list. … The Mets placed catcher James McCann on the 10-day IL with a left oblique strain. … C.J. Cron (wrist) was held out of the Rockies lineup on Sunday. He’s considered day-to-day. … Dylan Carlson missed Sunday’s game due to soreness in his right knee, though he was available off the bench. … Andrew Heaney (shoulder) is expected to throw a simulated game on Tuesday before heading out on a minor league rehab assignment. … Miguel Rojas was pulled from Sunday’s battle against the Mets due to neck tightness. … Nick Madrigal will be re-evaluated after he experienced groin tightness during his minor league rehab game on Sunday. … Bryan Reynolds was pulled from Sunday’s battle against the Brewers due to discomfort in his right side. He’s tentatively listed as day-to-day. … Vladimir Gutiérrez is slated to undergo Tommy John surgery. … The Braves acquired 2B Robinson Canó from the Padres for cash considerations. He’s expected to be added to the big league roster on Monday. … Kris Bryant is expected to be placed on the paternity leave list on Monday.
Sandy Alcantara fired seven shutout innings in a tough-luck no-decision against the Mets. … Jon Berti went 3-for-4 and swiped his league-leading 27th base in an extra-inning victory over the Mets. … Tyler Stephenson went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in a victory over the Rays. … Kyle Schwarber blasted his 28th home run of the season as the Phillies fell to the Cardinals. … Albert Pujols smacked his 684th career home run in a victory over the Phillies. … Austin Riley went 3-for-6 with a solo homer and a walk-off RBI single as the Braves topped the Nationals in 12 innings. … Ke’Bryan Hayes went 3-for-5 with a homer as the Pirates topped the Brewers. … Germán Márquez hurled seven innings of two-run baseball in a victory over the Diamondbacks. … MacKenzie Gore was tagged for eight runs over 3 1/3 innings in a loss to the Giants.