The Best Player in the World - Byron Buxton
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli referred to his superstar outfielder Byron Buxton as “the best player in the world” on Sunday, and there’s certainly reason to believe that. The 28-year-old almost single-handedly led the Twins to a comeback victory over the White Sox on Sunday afternoon.
After striking out in each of his first three at-bats on the afternoon, Buxton clobbered a game-tying two-run homer off of Aaron Bummer in the seventh inning to even the score at 3-3. He then strolled to the plate with a man on and two outs in the eighth inning, but the White Sox seemingly wanted no part of him as he drew a walk.
He got a chance to be a hero once again in the 10th inning though, and he didn’t miss it. The White Sox scored a run in the top half of the frame, leaving the Twins with a deficit to battle back from. With his teammates firing him up in the dugout beforehand – telling him that he’d deliver a walk-off victory for the Twins – Buxton came up with two men on and one out against White Sox closer Liam Hendriks. He got ahead in the count 3-1 and then absolutely pulverized a 96.1 mph fastball for a 469-foot game-winning three-run homer.
Baldelli told reporters after the game, “Right now, there’s no better player in the world than him. I think he’s absolutely the best player in the world when he’s out there running around doing his thing. You’re talking about a guy that’s just demolishing the baseball every day, and is absolutely one of the top handful of defenders in the world as well… He just makes so many different things happen out on the field. You can never totally get used to watching what we’re watching right now. It’s amazing what we’re seeing. He can do anything.”
Buxton has already missed a few games this season due to a knee injury, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him land on the injured list at least once over the remainder of the season. When he’s on the field though, he has been an absolute monster. Through his first 10 games he’s now slashing a ridiculous .351/.415/.946 with six homers, 11 RBI and one stolen base. Those six long balls are the top mark in the American League and tie him with Ozzie Albies and C.J. Cron for the major league lead.
Only once in his eight-year career has Buxton logged more than 92 games in a season. If he’s able to play even 120 games in 2022, the Twins could be a force to be reckoned with and countless fantasy managers are going to be led to league titles based on his excellence.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Eric Lauer - 6 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 13 K, 36% CSW, 17 swinging strikes
The Brewers southpaw delivered the finest start of his career in a no-decision against the Phillies, racking up a career-high 13 strikeouts over six scoreless innings. The 26-year-old hurler has been outstanding through his first three starts, registering a 2.20 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 23/4 K/BB ratio across 16 1/3 innings. Not too shabby for a guy that was taken at pick 310 on average in NFBC Main Event drafts last month.
Aaron Nola - 7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 9 K, 37% CSW, 13 swinging strikes
While he was somewhat overshadowed by all of the strikeouts that Lauer piled up on the other side, Nola was outstanding in his own right on Sunday night, giving fans perhaps the best pitcher’s duel that we have seen in the 2022 season to date. Nola allowed just one hit – a two-out double to Tyrone Taylor in the third inning while striking out a season-high nine batters. Through four starts, he holds a 3.74 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 25/5 K/BB ratio over 21 2/3 innings of work.
Gerrit Cole - 6 2/3 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, `9 K, W (1), 37% CSW, 14 swinging strikes
Finally. It only took four starts, but this is the Gerrit Cole that fantasy managers have been waiting to see. Cole was dominant in this one, striking out a season-high nine batters while holding the Guardians to just four hits over 6 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball – picking up his first victory in the process. He’ll look to further improve upon his 4.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 21/8 K/BB ratio when he takes on the Royals next weekend.
Hitters with an EDGE
Joc Pederson - 3-for-3, 2 HR (5), 3 RBI, 3 R, 2B
With Mike Yastrzemski landing on the COVID-19 injured list on Sunday morning, Pederson got the chance to hit out of the leadoff spot in the Giants lineup for the first time. Maybe he’ll stay there for a while. He got the game started with a solo shot off of Joan Adon on the third pitch of the game, then added a sacrifice fly in the second inning and another solo blast in the seventh. He has been sizzling at the plate, slashing .364/.383/.750 with five long balls and eight RBI through 47 plate appearances.
Cody Bellinger - 2-for-4, 2 HR (4), 4 RBI, 2 R
It’s starting to look like those who were celebrating the demise of Cody Bellinger were doing so prematurely. While he did strike out two more times on Sunday, he also clobbered a pair of home runs – one 405 feet and another that was 412 feet – while driving in four runs to lead the Dodgers past the Padres. The first of those bombs was a solo shot off of left-hander Sean Manaea, while the second was a three-run shot off of Dinelson Lamet in the fifth. He’s now slashing a healthy .273/.333/.582 with four homers, eight RBI and three stolen bases. The buy-low window on Bellinger may be permanently closed.
DJ LeMahieu - 3-for-4, HR (2), 3 RBI, R, 2B
Remember four weeks ago when LeMahieu was falling down draft boards after the Yankees acquired Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa because it wasn’t clear where he was going to play on a daily basis? Good times. All LeMahieu has done is hit to begin the 2022 season, slashing .333/.414/.510 with a pair of long balls and seven RBI in 58 plate appearances through his first 15 games.
EDGE Priority Pickup
Ji-Man Choi, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays – Available in 71% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.
It’s astounding to me how much disrespect Ji-Man Choi has to deal with from fantasy managers. The dude simply mashes right-handed pitching and is a tremendous option in daily and bi-weekly leagues when the schedule aligns properly. He has been raking to the tune of .351/.500/.622 with two homers and 10 RBI in his first 48 plate appearances. No, that’s not a typo, that’s a league-leading .500 on-base percentage. Choi is lined up to face five right-handers in six games for the upcoming week and is certainly worthy of streaming.
Josh Hader vs. Phillies - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K (8th save)
This guy is the cream of the crop for a reason, he just continues to get the job done. Hader came on with a one-run lead to protect in the ninth inning and retired the side in order – including a strikeout of Kyle Schwarber on what may have been a questionable call by Angel Hernandez. Hader is now tied with Jordan Romano for the league lead with eight saves (no one else has more than five) and he has yet to allow a run through his first eight innings. Studly.
Ryan Thompson vs. Red Sox - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K (1st save)
This is yet another example of Rays manager Kevin Cash simply deciding to Kevin Cash. Despite having a fully rested bullpen, he opted to turn to Ryan Thompson to protect a three-run lead in the ninth inning on Sunday and Thompson came through with a perfect inning of work to earn his first save of the season (second of his career). While he has been good this season, he’s unlikely to wind up with many saves this season and probably isn’t worth speculating on in deeper mixed leagues.
Louis Head vs. Braves - 2/3 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 2 K (1st save)
The Marlins entered the ninth inning with a four-run lead on Sunday, but things got dicey after Tanner Scott allowed three runs while recording only one out. That’s when Head came in to get the final two outs to preserve a one-run lead and earn his first career save. With Scott, Anthony Bender, Cole Sulser and Richard Bleier in the mix – and with Dylan Floro returning soon – it doesn’t seem like Head is going to wind up with many save opportunities this season and isn’t worth speculating on.
Lucas Sims vs. Cardinals - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K (1st save)
Unlike Thompson and Head who each earned their first save of the season on Sunday, Lucas Sims is absolutely someone that should be rostered in all mixed leagues. He returned from the injured list and made his season debut on Saturday, then was thrown right back out there when the first save opportunity appeared on Sunday. As long as he stays healthy, he should see the bulk of the save chances for the Reds and that has plenty of fantasy value.
David Bednar vs. Cubs - 1 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 K (2nd save)
After Chris Stratton received the last two save chances – with Bednar facing the heart of the order in the eighth inning – it was Bednar getting the ball in the ninth on Sunday after Stratton worked the eighth. He made things interesting in this one – loading the bases on a pair of doubles and a walk – before striking out Frank Schwindel to end it. He looks like the top arm in the Pirates bullpen, though will still be utilized in the eighth inning on occasion when the higher-leverage situation arises.
Archie Bradley vs. Orioles - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K (1st save)
With Angels skipper Joe Maddon wanting to avoid using Ryan Tepera and Raisel Iglesias on Sunday, he turned to Archie Bradley to protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning against the Orioles. He responded with a perfect inning – including a strikeout of Anthony Santander. While it was nice to see him convert, he’s still no better than third in the pecking order for save chances in Los Angeles.
Dany Jimenez vs. Rangers - 1 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 K (3rd save)
Dany Jimenez locked down his third save of the season on Sunday, protecting a two-run lead against the Rangers in the ninth inning. He has attempted to run away with the closer’s job while Lou Trivino is on the COVID-19 injured list, though Sunday’s outing wasn’t quite that smooth. He did allow a pair of hits to put the tying runs on base before getting Willie Calhoun to line out to end it. Trivino is still going to be a factor once he returns, but Jimenez looks like he should stay in the mix for save chances, making him worthy of a speculative add in most mixed leagues.
Monday’s Matchup of the Day
The matchup of the day to watch is between two powerhouses in the National League as the leaders in the East take on the leaders in the Central.
Max Scherzer has been as good as advertised through his first three starts with the Mets, going 3-0 with a 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 23/7 K/BB ratio across 18 innings. He faced the Cardinals twice during the 2021 season, hurling a combined 14 innings of shutout baseball while striking out 22 batters. All signs point to him dominating again on Monday.
On the other side, Miles Mikolas has been a pleasant surprise through his first three starts of the season. He boasts a 1.76 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 13/3 K/BB ratio over 15 1/3 innings. He’ll have his work cut out for him in this one, as the Mets rank fifth in all of baseball with a .773 OPS against right-handed pitching on the season.
American League Quick Hits: White Sox slugger Eloy Jimenez landed on the 10-day injured list with a hamstring injury and is expected to miss 6-to-8 weeks. … Javier Baez (thumb) was activated from the 10-day IL and returned to the Tigers lineup on Sunday… The Guardians activated Owen Miller from the COVID-19 IL. … Steven Kwan passed through the concussion protocol and returned to the Guardians lineup on Sunday, then was removed due to right hamstring tightness. He’s considered day-to-day. … Alex Kirilloff (wrist) will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A St. Paul on Tuesday. … Ryan Pressly (knee) threw a successful bullpen session and could be activated within the next few days. … Cristian Javier will start for the Astros on Wednesday as the team goes to a six-man rotation for the time being. … Spencer Patton was placed on the 10-day IL with a right oblique strain. … Ryan Jeffers was scratched from the Twins lineup due to a left knee contusion. He’s considered day-to-day. … David Fletcher (hip) has been medically cleared to rejoin the Angels. … Chris Ellis was pulled from Sunday’s start in the first inning with right shoulder discomfort. … Casey Mize (elbow) resumed his throwing program at the Tigers spring training facility in Lakeland. … Matt Manning (shoulder) felt some discomfort after throwing off flat ground on Saturday and will not resume his throwing program just yet. … The Royals acquired Matthew Peacock from the Diamondbacks for cash considerations. … They then designated Domingo Tapia for assignment.
Shane McClanahan piled up seven strikeouts over seven innings of two-run baseball in a victory over the Red Sox. … Anthony Rizzo went 2-for-5 and crushed his fifth home run as the Yankees clobbered the Guardians. .... Andres Gimenez went 2-for-4 with a two-run triple in a losing effort. … Zack Collins went 2-for-5 and crushed a game-tying three-run homer in a loss to the Astros. … Jeremy Pena blasted a walk-off two-run homer off of Jordan Romano to beat the Blue Jays in the 10th inning. … Liam Hendriks allowed three runs (two earned) over 1 1/3 innings in a loss to the Twins. White Sox manager Tony La Russa announced after the game that Hendriks was dealing with back tightness and getting treatment. … Lucas Giolito struck out nine over four innings of one-run ball in his return from the injured list. … Trey Mancini went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer in a loss to the Angels… Jo Adell blasted a grand slam to power the Angels to victory there. … Stephen Piscotty slugged a two-run homer to beat the Rangers. … Ty France went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer as the Mariners topped the Royals.
National League Quick Hits: Alex Cobb (groin) is scheduled to throw a light bullpen session on Monday. … Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed on the IL. … Reds manager David Bell indicated that Jonathan India (hamstring) could be activated from the injured list and return to the lineup on Tuesday. … Tyler Stephenson (concussion) may not travel to Colorado on the team’s upcoming road trip. … The Padres placed Luke Voit on the 10-day IL with a biceps tendon injury. … Lucius Fox was pulled from Sunday’s game after vomiting on the infield grass during the first inning. … The Reds claimed Matt Reynolds off of waivers from the Mets. … Taijuan Walker (shoulder) is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Monday and could rejoin the rotation next weekend. … The Reds plan to push back Hunter Greene’s next scheduled start to give him some extra rest. … Victor Robles was held out of Sunday’s lineup with groin tightness. He’s expected to return on Tuesday. … Josh Bell (hamstring) is expected to return to the Nationals lineup on Tuesday. … The Dodgers placed David Price on the COVID-19 injured list after a positive test.
Chad Kuhl hurled six innings of one-run ball to beat the Tigers on Sunday. … Charlie Blackmon went 4-for-5 with two RBI and a stolen base in that victory. … Nick Lodolo notched his first Major League victory, limiting the Cardinals to one run over 5 2/3 innings while striking out seven. ... Yadiel Hernandez went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBI in a loss to the Giants. … Jesus Luzardo struck out eight over five innings of one-run ball in a victory over the Braves. … Austin Riley went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer in a loss to the Marlins. … Garrett Cooper went 3-for-4 and drove in a pair of runs for the Marlins in that one. … J.D. Davis went 2-for-3 with a homer, walk and two runs scored in a victory over the Diamondbacks. … Tylor Megill struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball in a win against the Diamondbacks. … Clayton Kershaw hurled five innings of one-run ball in a victory over the Padres. … Sean Manaea was tagged for seven runs (six earned) over 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Dodgers.