Are Yu Kidding Me?
Coming into the 2020 season, many believed that Yu Darvish would carry over his ridiculous second half and could be a sleeper candidate to take home the National League Cy Young Award in 2020.
He was a target of many in fantasy drafts as well. In NFBC Main Event drafts this summer, Darvish went as the 36th player off the board on average -- making him the 13th starting pitcher selected on average. Perhaps as a collective group, we still weren’t high enough on him.
Over the second half of the 2019 season, Darvish was electric. He posted a 2.76 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and ridiculous 118/7 K/BB ratio across 81 ⅔ innings. Everyone always knew that he possessed Cy Young-caliber talent, could he really replicate that type of success though?
The answer to that question looks to be a resounding -- yes. Darvish delivered another brilliant performance in Friday’s victory over the Cardinals -- carrying a perfect game into the sixth inning until Matt Carpenter’s solo homer spoiled his evening.
That home run would be the only baserunner that he would allow in seven innings. Darvish punched out 11 on the evening, throwing 69 of his 101 pitches for strikes.
Darvish allowed three runs over four innings in a loss to the Brewers in his first start of the season. Since then, he has allowed a total of four earned runs over his last seven starts. Friday’s outing was the third time in that stretch that he eclipsed double digits in strikeouts.
For the season, his numbers are staggering. He sits at 7-1 with a 1.44 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 63/8 K/BB ratio over 50 innings of work.
Once considered a trendy longshot pick to take home that hardware at the end of the season, Darvish is now easily the front-runner to capture the Cy Young Award in the National League. I’m sure he’s also pitching quite a few fantasy players to their championships as well this sprint season.
Welcome Back Ronald
Ronald Acuna sat out the first three games of the week due to a hamstring issue, but returned to the lineup with a bang on Friday.
In his first at-bat since Sunday, Acuna absolutely crushed a leadoff homer off of Nationals’ right-hander Austin Voth. That was the 17th leadoff home run of his young career -- tying the Braves’ franchise record.
He was just getting started though. In the fifth inning he victimized Voth again -- this time for a two-run shot -- giving him his fifth career multi-homer game.
Acuna tallied one of those multi-homer games earlier this season against the Phillies -- where he smacked two home runs in the second game of a doubleheader on August 9. Acuna also had left the yard in the first game of that twin bill, giving him three on the day.
So naturally, the 22-year-old superstar smacked another homer in the nightcap -- this one a solo shot off of Will Crowe in the second inning. Acuna now has eight home runs on the season -- seven of those coming during doubleheaders.
For the year, he’s slashing a healthy .279/.398/.628 with eight dingers, 14 RBI and two stolen bases through his first 25 games.
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Juan Soto was scratched from the Nationals’ starting lineup for the first game of their doubleheader against the Braves on Friday with what was described as left elbow soreness. It wasn’t clear at the time if it was a precautionary measure, or if there was something for fantasy players to be nervous about.
He was also held out of the lineup for the nightcap, which caused more concern. Thankfully, Nats’ skipper Dave Martinez announced after the game that his 21-year-old superstar had undergone an MRI exam that came back clean and that Soto is merely dealing with soreness in his throwing elbow.
Martinez reiterated that Soto's elbow was sore -- and sore to the touch before he underwent the MRI -- but that everything checked out okay. He'll take the next couple of days off as a precautionary measure, but the Nationals are hopeful that he'll avoid a stint on the injured list. Fantasy players can breathe a collective sigh of relief, as Soto has been a monster at the plate this season, slashing a ridiculous .354/.453/.758 with 11 homers, 21 runs scored, 26 RBI and a stolen base in his first 27 games.
Schmidt to the Rescue?
Lindsey Adler of The Athletic reported Friday that 24-year-old right-hander Clarke Schmidt has been added to the Yankees' taxi squad and that he could make his major league debut on Saturday against the Orioles.
The Yankees are in the midst of a stretch when they play 20 games over 17 days, so it makes sense to give Schmidt a shot now. It also makes a ton of sense when you consider the fact that the Yankees’ starters as a whole have tallied only nine wins on the season while posting a middling 4.48 ERA.
Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone came out Friday afternoon and said that the team had no plans to activate Schmidt -- and then his contract was officially purchased before the second game of their doubleheader against the Orioles.
Ranked by MLB.com as the team's No. 2 prospect and the No. 94 overall prospect in baseball, Schmidt posted a 3.47 ERA and 102/28 K/BB ratio over 90 2/3 frames across three levels in the minors last season -- finishing up with three starts at Double-A Trenton.
While he’s an impressive young arm -- it’s hard to envision Schmidt helping fantasy players out this season.
The Yankees’ rotation is crowded -- with Gerrit Cole, J.A. Happ, Masahiro Tanaka and Jordan Montgomery locked in -- not to mention with Deivi Garcia lighting the world on fire and Mike King in the mix as well.
Instead of starting on Saturday against the Orioles though, Schmidt came on in relief of Garcia on Saturday night -- and the results weren’t great. He was called upon with two men on and two men out in the fifth inning and the Yankees clinging to a one-run lead. He allowed a run-scoring single to Ryan Mountcastle to tie the game, then another to Rio Ruiz, followed by a two-run double to Pat Valaika. Schmidt battled back to strike out Dilson Herrera to end the inning, but the damage had been done.
He stayed on for the sixth inning, where he walked the leadoff man -- and hit DJ Stewart with one out -- but managed to navigate a scoreless inning.
Schmidt received a lot of hype on the Twitter-verse on Friday -- and deservedly so. Yes, he’s an exciting talent -- and yes, I expect that he’ll eventually be a front-line starter for the Yankees and a highly-relevant fantasy asset. I just don’t see it happening this season. When setting those FAAB bids on Sunday night, I’d suggest refraining from placing a bid on this Yankees’ rookie right-hander.
American League Quick Hits: Jose Altuve is considered day-to-day following an MRI on his right knee… Max Kepler landed on the 10-day injured list with a left adductor strain. He’s expected to be activated as soon as he’s eligible… Domingo Santana passed through waivers unclaimed and accepted his outright assignment to the Indians’ alternate training site… Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun writes that Bo Bichette's (knee) return "may be in advance" of the initial mid-September projection "if he continues his progression."... Aaron Judge (calf) worked out in the outfield prior to Friday's game and will resume baseball activities. The Yankees are confident that he’ll return before the postseason… Alex Cobb was placed on the injured list for undisclosed reasons, with O’s skipper Brandon Hyde saying they were simply “following protocol” and that they “hope he is back soon”... Ken Giles is set to face live hitters on Saturday. If all goes well with that session, he could be cleared to return to the Blue Jays’ bullpen next week… Yankees’ infielder Gio Urshela landed on the injured list on Friday with a bone spur in his right elbow -- Miguel Andujar was recalled from the club’s alternate site to replace him… Gleyber Torres (quad/hamstring) is expected to return to the Yankees on Saturday… Alex Avila was pulled from the second game of the Twins’ doubleheader against the Tigers due to renewed back tightness… A.J. Puk (shoulder) will throw once more at the team's alternate training site on Sunday before rejoining the big league club… Anthony Santander was held out of the Orioles starting lineup for the nightcap of Friday's doubleheader after he felt something in his oblique during the first game… Delino DeShields was removed from Friday's game against the Brewers with a right shoulder contusion.
Jorge Polanco and Josh Donaldson swatted back-to-back homers to begin the first game of Friday’s doubleheader against the Tigers… Matthew Boyd allowed just those two runs and fanned eight over six innings in a losing effort… Randy Dobnak picked up the win with five innings of shutout baseball… Gregory Soto suffered a blown save in the second game of that twin bill… Marwin Gonzalez delivered the game-winner for the Twins with an RBI single in the eighth inning… Travis Shaw had three hits, including a homer, as the Blue Jays took the first game of their double dip against the Red Sox… Yairo Munoz went 3-for-3 with a homer in the loss there… Ross Stripling gave up two earned runs over 4 ⅓ innings as he lost to the Red Sox in his Blue Jays debut… Matt Barnes closed out the one-run win to earn his fourth save… Jose Abreu drove in a pair of runs to lead the White Sox past the Royals… Adalberto Mondesi had three hits, two RBI and a pair of stolen bases in the loss… Michael Perez delivered a bases-clearing double to lead the Rays past the Marlins… Josh Fleming picked up the victory there, improving to 3-0… Nick Anderson secured his fourth save in his return from the IL… Carlos Carrasco punched out seven over six innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Brewers… Gary Sanchez clubbed his seventh homer as the Bombers took the first game of their doubleheader from the Orioles… Renato Nunez smashed his 10th in a losing effort… Ryan Mountcastle went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBI as the O’s rallied to win the nightcap… Yusei Kikuchi struck out seven over six innings of one-run baseball in a victory over the Rangers… J.P. Crawford smacked a three-run homer to help the cause for the M’s… Jose Trevino homered for the Rangers in the loss… Lance McCullers lasted just five batters before being yanked against the Angels… Mike Trout crushed his American League-leading 14th home run and reached base five times as the Halos won in extra innings… Shohei Ohtani delivered the final blow with a walk-off RBI single in the 11th.
National League Quick Hits: The Reds released veteran right-hander Pedro Strop, who had previously been designated for assignment. Jesse Rogers of ESPN reported shortly afterwards that he had agreed to a deal to return to the Cubs where he thrived as a setup man from 2013-2019… Rogers also reported that the Rockies have agreed to terms with free agent right-hander A.J. Ramos… Cole Hamels (triceps) is set to throw a live batting practice session on Sunday… Wade Miley (shoulder) threw a simulated game at the Reds’ alternate training site and could rejoin the rotation during the team’s road trip… Ozzie Albies (wrist) took batting practice on Friday and will do so again over the weekend. If all goes well, he could rejoin the Braves early next week… Sonny Gray will have his next start pushed back a couple of days after his disastrous outing against the Cardinals… The Mets are considering removing Robert Gsellman from their starting rotation… Ian Happ (eye) sat out Friday’s game against the Cardinals as a precautionary measure. He’s considered day-to-day… Drew Smyly and Jeff Samardzija are each expected to throw three innings in a simulated game on Saturday… The Mets’ designated speedster Billy Hamilton for assignment… Jon Gray landed on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation.
Luis Castillo punched out eight over six innings of two-run ball as the Reds took the first game of their doubleheader from the Pirates… Nick Castellanos swatted his 11th homer in that victory… Trevor Bauer fanned seven in a losing effort in the nightcap… Anthony Alford’s two-run triple powered the Pirates to a split… Richard Rodriguez closed that one out to earn his third save… Keston Hiura went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBI as the Brewers crushed the Indians… Corbin Burnes punched out seven and allowed just an unearned run over six strong innings in a victory over the Indians… Michael Conforto smacked his seventh homer in a loss to the Phillies… Roman Quinn delivered a go-ahead RBI single and swiped a pair of bases in the victory… Dansby Swanson left the yard as the Braves crushed Austin Voth and the Nationals in the first game of their doubleheader… Freddie Freeman blasted his first career grand slam as the Braves fell to the Nationals in the nightcap… Trea Turner smacked his ninth home run to lead the Nats to victory there… Willson Contreras homered and drove in four runs to lead the Cubs past the Cardinals… Jeremy Jeffress closed that one out to earn his fifth save… Matt Carpenter’s solo homer in the sixth broke up Yu Darvish’s perfect game bid in that one… Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. went back-to-back yet again as the Padres shutout the Athletics… Zach Davies dazzled over seven scoreless innings in that one… Luis Campusano smacked an opposite-field homer in his big league debut there… Brandon Belt homered, doubled and drove in two in a loss to the Diamondbacks… Ketel Marte went 4-for-5 with a homer and two doubles to lead the Diamondbacks in that one… Kevin Pillar blasted a go-ahead grand slam homer in the eighth inning -- and it still wasn’t enough to lead the Rockies past the Dodgers… A.J. Pollock, Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, Will Smith and Mookie Betts all homered as the Dodgers won that one to improve to 30-10 -- tying the best 40-game start in Dodgers’ franchise history. Their +102 run differential through 40 games is the third best through 40 games over the last 80 years -- only the 1984 Tigers (+116) and the 2016 Cubs (+113) were better. Both of those teams won the World Series.