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After missing nearly the entire opening month of the 2021 campaign due to a myriad of lower-body injuries, offseason free agent import George Springer became somewhat of a mysterious enigma as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. rapidly ascended to become the proverbial face of the Blue Jays’ franchise in recent weeks. As if to make up for lost time, the 31-year-old veteran outfielder certainly made his presence felt with a two-homer performance -- his 15th career multi-homer effort -- on Saturday evening, leading Toronto to an eventual 6-5 walk-off victory over the Braves in an extra-inning marathon.
On a night in which Cristian Pache launched a grand slam and Ronald Acuña Jr. belted his major league-leading ninth homer to headline the Braves offensive explosion, Springer sparked the Blue Jays’ eventual comeback victory by walloping an opposite-field two-run homer off Charlie Morton in the third inning, and also tattooing a colossal, game-tying, 470-foot solo shot to left field against Luke Jackson in the seventh inning. The former Astros superstar made quite an impression in his third game in a Blue Jays’ uniform, propelling them to their sixth win over their last nine contests, dating back to April 20. There are five months remaining in the 2021 campaign, but Toronto sits just two and a half games behind the Red Sox for the division lead in the American League East.
May Day Paused
Among the most notable breakout performers during the opening month of the 2021 campaign, Dodgers’ hard-throwing righty Dustin May is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday after exiting his start against the Brewers on Saturday evening due to an arm injury. The 23-year-old sophomore sensation’s fastball velocity was down significantly and he departed after just 1 2/3 innings after experiencing a “shooting sensation” in his right arm. There won’t be any clarity on his status until he undergoes further testing, but it seems likely that the Dodgers will understandably proceed with an abundance of caution moving forward.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Griffin Canning vs. Mariners
5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
40% CSW, 23 swinging strikes
Canning was staked to an 8-0 advantage by the second inning and cruised to an easy victory over the Mariners in his fourth start of the 2021 campaign. The 24-year-old righty was extremely impressive, inducing a whopping 23 swinging strikes, the most by any pitcher on Saturday’s packed 15-game slate, and finished with a sublime 40 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). There’s no way to sugarcoat his struggles from a run prevention standpoint, but he’s racked up a sublime 26/7 K/BB ratio over 20 1/3 innings over five appearances (four starts) to open the 2021 campaign. The surface stats aren’t pretty, but Canning has shown signs of immense potential with his early-season performance so far. There’s a buying opportunity here for savvy fantasy managers.
Jameson Taillon vs. Tigers
5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
33% CSW, 16 swinging strikes
Taillon became the latest starter to dominate a lackluster Tigers’ lineup, inducing 16 swinging strikes over five innings of one run ball. The 29-year-old righty recorded a season-high eight strikeouts as a solo homer by Jeimer Candelario represented the lone tally against him. He’s been a tad underwhelming from a run prevention standpoint, as evidenced by a bloated 5.24 ERA, but he’s registered a solid 1.25 WHIP and 29/5 K/BB ratio over 22 1/3 innings (five starts). He’ll square off against the Nationals at home on Friday in his next start.
Jose Urquidy vs. Rays
7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
34% CSW, 12 swinging strikes
Urquidy authored his finest start of the 2021 campaign, scattering four hits and one walk over seven scoreless frames against the Rays. The 26-year-old righty wasn’t overpowering, but he pounded the strike zone, finishing with an elite 34 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). On an evening when solid pitching performances were difficult to find, it certainly stands out even more than usual. He’ll carry a 3.71 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 27/8 K/BB ratio over 34 innings (six starts) into his next outing against the Yankees on Thursday.
Danny Duffy vs. Twins
7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
27% CSW, 11 swinging strikes
Duffy’s surreal 2021 campaign continued on Saturday afternoon with a stellar performance against the Twins. He allowed only five baserunners over seven frames, with a solo homer by rookie sensation Alex Kirilloff accounting for all of the damage against him. He’ll carry a microscopic 0.60 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 34/9 K/BB ratio over 30 innings (five starts) into a home matchup against the Indians on Thursday.
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Hitters with an EDGE
Jared Walsh vs. Mariners
4-for-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB
Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon combined for five hits and also homered on Saturday evening, but it was Walsh who stuffed the statsheet and stole the spotlight in the Angels’ blowout win over the Mariners. The 27-year-old burgeoning slugger tallied a career-high four hits and also homered twice off Mariners’ righty Ljay Newsome in his first two at-bats of the contest. It was his second multi-homer effort of the 2021 campaign. He’s proven that last year’s breakout campaign wasn’t a mirage, hitting .360/.429/.640 with 14 runs scored, six homers and 21 RBI across 98 plate appearances this season.
Trevor Story vs. Diamondbacks
3-for-5, 4 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB
It was only a matter of time before Story put together a signature offensive effort this season. The entire Rockies’ lineup could’ve gone in this spot as they plated an absurd 14 runs on 18 hits in the blowout victory over the division-rival Diamondbacks. However, a pair of budding young stars in Raimel Tapia and Ryan McMahon deserve a mention here. Tapia went 4-for-6 with three runs scored and McMahon went 2-for-4 with four RBI in the blowout victory. Meanwhile, Story collected a season-high three hits, reached base safely in four of his six plate appearances, and also blasted his third round-tripper of the 2021 campaign in this one.
J.D. Martinez vs. Rangers
2-for-3, RBI, 2 BB
Martinez has put to bed the absurd notion that last year’s dismal offensive performance was a harbinger of impending offensive decline by obliterating opposing pitchers over the first five weeks of the 2021 campaign. He’s slashing an extra-terrestrial .361/.446/.742 across 112 plate appearances and currently leads the majors in home runs (nine), RBI (25), doubles (10) and total bases (70).
Nolan Arenado vs. Pirates
3-for-4, 2 R, 3 RBI
Arenado wasn’t the only Cardinals batter to make a splash against the rebuilding Pirates as Tommy Edman collected four hits and Paul Goldschmidt went 3-for-4 with four runs scored in the one-sided affair. The 30-year-old third baseman broke the game wide open with a two-run double in the seventh inning and also added an RBI triple in the ninth inning. He’s dispelled any notion that leaving the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field would destroy his offensive numbers, hitting .274/.330/.491 with 12 runs scored, four homers and 18 RBI over 115 plate appearances this season.
Tejay Antone hasn’t officially been anointed the Reds primary closer, but it appears that a changing of the guard could be on the near horizon in Cincinnati. The 27-year-old righty entered spring training as a potential option for the Reds' starting rotation, but has evolved into their most effective reliever instead. There's even a possibility that he takes over as the team's primary closer after picking up his first save of the season on Friday evening against the Cubs. He's compiled a sparkling 0.64 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and 20/6 K/BB ratio across 14 innings in eight relief appearances this season. As if that weren’t good enough, he told reporters on Saturday that he plans to pitch exclusively out of the stretch moving forward to solve an issue he’s had against leadoff hitters. Simply put, Antone is emerging as a potential elite closer and should be rostered in all fantasy formats moving forward.
Closer Quick Hits: Aroldis Chapman twirled a perfect ninth inning with a pair of strikeouts against the Tigers to net his fifth save … Jordan Romano tossed a shutout frame to pick up a win in relief for the Blue Jays against the Braves … Kenley Jansen and Josh Hader spun scoreless frames, but didn’t factor into the decision as the Braves defeated the Dodgers in an extra-inning affair … Ian Kennedy struck out the side against the Red Sox to notch his sixth save of the season … Hector Neris allowed a go-ahead solo homer against the Mets and was saddled with a loss … Edwin Diaz spun a perfect frame with a pair of strikeouts against the Phillies to collect his third save of the year … Ryan Pressly gave up a run, but managed to preserve a three-run lead against the Rays to pick up his fourth save … Craig Kimbrel scattered two hits over a scoreless frame against the Reds to notch his fifth save.
EDGE Priority Pickup
Willie Calhoun, OF, Rangers
Calhoun extended his hitting streak to eight games on Saturday evening, despite the presence of a tough lefty on the mound in Red Sox’ ace Eduardo Rodriguez, going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and a pair of runs scored. The 26-year-old outfielder has capitalized on a slow start by Isaih Kiner-Falefa to emerge as the Rangers’ primary leadoff hitter versus right-handed pitching and owns a robust .333/.388/.489 triple-slash line with eight runs scored, two homers and five RBI across 49 plate appearances. He’s struggled to establish himself at the major-league level due to a variety of issues, including injuries, over the last few years, but he appears to be rapidly evolving into a four-category fantasy force this season. Simply put, he should be rostered in all fantasy formats.
Sunday’s Matchup of the Day
Rogers closed out the opening month of the 2021 campaign with a microscopic 1.29 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 38/10 K/BB ratio over 28 innings (five starts). The 23-year-old southpaw has established himself as one of the most exciting young pitchers in the game and will square off against the Nationals’ veteran stalwart in Sunday’s marquee pitching matchup.
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American League Quick Hits: Mike Trout went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and Anthony Rendon went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer and four RBI in the Angels’ lopsided victory over the Mariners … Andrew Benintendi homered twice in the Royals’ win over the Twins … Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano blasted solo homers in the Athletics’ loss to the Orioles … Tim Anderson launched a grand slam in the White Sox’ win over the Indians … Jeimer Candelario went 3-for-4 with a solo homer in the Tigers’ loss to the Yankees … Alex Kirilloff homered for the third time in his last two games in the Twins’ loss to the Royals … Alejandro Kirk was removed from Saturday's game against the Braves with left hip flexor discomfort … Indians placed OF Franmil Reyes on the paternity list … White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Saturday that Yermín Mercedes could sit for both games of the team's upcoming interleague series with the Reds … Matt Olson (eye) was absent from the Athletics' starting lineup for the third consecutive game for Saturday's showdown with the Orioles … Rays activated LHP Rich Hill from the COVID-19 injured list. The 41-year-old veteran southpaw is scheduled to take the ball for the Rays in Sunday's series finale against the Astros … Matthew Boyd (knee) will not make his next scheduled start on Tuesday against the Red Sox. The 30-year-old lefty made an early exit from his previous start on Thursday against the White Sox due to left knee tendinitis … Astros manager Dusty Baker said Saturday that Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr. and Jose Urquidy will pitch in the team's upcoming three-game series against the Yankees. He also added that Jake Odorizzi (forearm) is "progressing well" and is scheduled to throw off flat ground this weekend … Ross Stripling (forearm) will be activated to start for the Blue Jays on Sunday against the Braves … Yankees placed RHP Darren O'Day on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to April 30, with a right rotator cuff strain and recalled RHP Mike King from their alternate site … A.J. Puk (biceps) threw a bullpen session on Saturday … Chris Sale (elbow) has yet to throw off the mound … Royals recalled Kris Bubic from Triple-A Omaha … Mariners designated Jacob Nottingham for assignment.
National League Quick Hits: Mets manager Luis Rojas said Saturday that Jacob deGrom will have his next start pushed back to Tuesday against the Cardinals … Brewers placed Omar Narváez on the 10-day injured list with a strained left hamstring. He made an early exit from Friday's win over the Dodgers due to left hamstring tightness and will be sidelined for at least two weeks … Braves manager Brian Snitker told reporters after Saturday's game against the Blue Jays that Travis d'Arnaud will be placed on the injured list with a left thumb injury … Jordan Hicks was removed from Friday’s game against the Cardinals with tightness in his right forearm … J.D. Davis and Brandon Nimmo left Friday’s game versus the Phillies due to a left hand sprain and a left index finger contusion, respectively … Bryce Harper (face) and J.T. Realmuto (hand) were held out of the Phillies’ lineup for Saturday’s game against the Mets. Phillies manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Saturday evening that he's hopeful both will be able to return to the lineup on Sunday … Christian Yelich (back) and Lorenzo Cain (quad) will not return for the Brewers until Monday’s against the Phillies at the earliest … Trea Turner went 2-for-5 with a pair of stolen bases in the Nationals’ win over the Marlins … Mookie Betts went 2-for-4 with his third round-tripper of the season in the Dodgers’ loss to the Brewers … Michael Conforto went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and three RBI in the Mets’ win over the Phillies … Alec Bohm went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in the Phillies’ loss to the Mets … Nico Hoerner went 3-for-3 with a stolen base in the Cubs’ win over the Reds … Manny Machado clobbered a three-run homer and Fernando Tatis Jr. stole his fifth base of the season in the Padres’ win over the Giants … Dom Nunez walloped a grand slam in the Rockies’ blowout win over the Diamondbacks … Josh Rojas went 3-for-4 with a solo homer and three runs scored in the Diamondbacks’ loss to the Rockies … Luis Urias went 2-for-3 with a solo homer in the Brewers’ walk-off victory over the Dodgers in extra-innings … Colin Moran went 3-for-4 with two RBI in the Pirates’ loss to the Cardinals … Jesus Aguilar went deep in the Marlins’ loss to the Nationals … Jack Flaherty struck out nine batters over six innings of three-run ball in a win over the Pirates … Brandon Woodruff struck out six batters over six innings of two-run ball in a no-decision against the Dodgers … Blake Snell allowed two runs (one earned) with six strikeouts over five innings in a win over the Giants … Zac Gallen struck out seven batters over four innings in a loss to the Rockies … Jesse Winker (back) was held out of the Reds' starting lineup for Saturday's game against the Cubs … Willson Contreras (thigh) was absent from the Cubs' starting lineup for Saturday's game against the Reds after exiting Friday's game early due to right thigh tightness … Marcus Stroman (hamstring) is optimistic that he will be able to make his next start against the Cardinals on Wednesday … Juan Soto (shoulder) tested his injured left arm out in right field on Saturday with members of the Nationals' training staff … Stephen Strasburg (shoulder) threw off a mound on Saturday for the first time since landing on the 10-day injured list last month. The 32-year-old righty has been steadily increasing his throwing distance and progressing towards a return from a mid-April shoulder injury … Phillies activated Didi Gregorius from the COVID-19 injured list … Dinelson Lamet (forearm) played catch on Saturday … Rockies placed Antonio Senzatela on the 10-day injured list with a right groin strain … Braves placed Guillermo Heredia on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to April 30, with right knee inflammation … Alec Bettinger will start for the Brewers on Sunday against the Dodgers … Wil Crowe will start for the Pirates on Sunday against the Cardinals.