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Welcome to the J-Rod Show

Julio Rodriguez

Julio Rodriguez

Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball has been flush with uber-talented rookies making their debuts already this season. Bobby Witt Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Matt Brash, Hunter Greene, CJ Abrams, Jeremy Pena and so many more. The most impressive of the bunch though – at least from a fantasy baseball perspective – has been Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez.

The 21-year-old budding superstar earned a spot on the Mariners Opening Day roster with a terrific showing in Cactus League play where he slashed .412/.487/.794 with three homers, eight RBI and three stolen bases (in four attempts).

The strong spring performance shouldn’t have come as a surprise either – as the top prospect in all of baseball slashed a monstrous .347/.441/.560 with 13 homers, 47 RBI and 21 stolen bases in only 74 games between High-A Everett and Double-A Arkansas. How he has derived his fantasy value thus far though, has been a bit eye-opening.

Through his first 21 games, Rodriguez has slashed just .234/.306/.325 with a 30/7 K/BB ratio over 84 plate appearances. Not ideal. What he has done at an exceptional level though, is run. Rodriguez has successfully stolen a Major League-leading nine bases in nine attempts so far. Only Rodriguez, Jorge Mateo (7) and Harrison Bader (6) have more than five swipes on the season. The fact that he’s leading the league in stolen bases despite having an on-base percentage just above .300 bodes incredibly well for his future stolen base totals once he actually starts to get on base.

Rodriguez also finally displayed his prodigious power on Sunday afternoon. He clobbered his first career home run – a mammoth 450-foot three-run blast – off of Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara in the sixth inning. The pitch was a 97.0 mph fastball and was turned around with an exit velocity of 110.4 mph. Not too shabby. Perhaps he felt a bit disrespected by the fact that the Marlins walked Abraham Toro-Hernandez intentionally in front of him, choosing to attack Rodriguez instead. When asked after the game whether Rodriguez had ever had the batter in front of him intentionally walked at any level before, he responded, “Nah, that was a first, and that’s what they got”.

Rodriguez also singled in the second inning and again in the eighth inning – finishing the day 3-for-4. It was the first three-hit game in his career.

He wasn’t a secret on draft day. In fact, by the final days of NFBC Main Event drafts – after it was clear that Rodriguez had cracked the Opening Day roster – his average draft position climbed all the way to just inside the top-60 players overall. Even the fantasy managers that paid that extreme price have to be thrilled with the early returns through the first month of the season.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Josh Winder - 6 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 7 K, W (1), 33% CSW, 10 swinging strikes

The 25-year-old hurler looked mighty impressive in his first MLB start, though he was staked to a five-run lead in the top half of the first inning so that may have taken some of the pressure off. Winder averaged 94.9 mph with his fastball in this one – touching as high as 96.8. He owns a terrific 2.20 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 12/4 K/BB ratio over 16 1/3 innings to begin the season. Unfortunately, with Sonny Gray expected to return this week, Winder will shift back to his bullpen role.

Joe Musgrove - 7 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 0 BB, 8 K, W (4), 38% CSW, 16 swinging strikes

Joe Musgrove improved to 4-0 on the season with another dominant performance in Sunday’s victory over the Pirates. He generated 16 swinging strikes – six each on his slider and curveball – while posting an elite CSW of 38 percent. He now boasts a terrific 1.97 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 33/2 K/BB ratio over 32 innings through his first five starts of the season.

Kevin Gausman - 7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 10 K, W (2), 34% CSW, 22 swinging strikes

Gausman continued the impressive start to his Blue Jays career with another gem against the Astros on Sunday. He generated 22 swinging strikes in this one – 14 of those on his splitter alone – while registering a CSW of 34 percent. The move to the American League East hasn’t negatively affected him so far, as he holds a terrific 2.27 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and jaw-dropping 41/0 K/BB ratio through 31 2/3 innings through his first five starts.

Hitters with an EDGE

Aaron Judge - 2-for-5, 2 HR (8), 3 RBI, 2 R

Aaron Judge delivered his second multi-homer game of the season on Sunday, helping to power the Yankees to victory over the Royals. Judge got the Bombers on the board with a monstrous 453-foot bomb off of Daniel Lynch in the opening inning. He then plated a run with a ground ball in the seventh inning and finished his day with a 395-foot blast off of Josh Staumont in the ninth. He’s sizzling at the dish at the moment and is now slashing .300/.364/.663 with eight homers and 16 RBI.

Yadiel Hernandez - 3-for-4, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 2 R, BB

Coming out of nowhere, 34-year-old Yadiel Hernandez has started to turn some heads and draw the attention of fantasy managers. He had another three hits and a career-high five RBI in Sunday’s victory over the Giants. He’s now slashing an impressive .340/.368/.509 with a homer and 12 RBI in his first 15 games this season. He’s earning more playing time in the Nats outfield and could be worth a look in deeper mixed leagues.

Kyle Schwarber - 3-for-4, 2 HR (7), 3 RBI, 2 R

The 29-year-old slugger blasted a pair of long balls – both off of Mets right-hander Max Scherzer – in a losing effort. Schwarber just climbed to the Mendoza line with his three-hit effort on Sunday night, now slashing .200/.318/.520 to go along with seven homers and 16 RBI.

EDGE Priority Pickup

Ha-Seong Kim, 2B/SS/3B, San Diego Padres – Available in 80% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.

Maybe it’s time that fantasy managers need to take another look at Ha-Seong Kim. After coming over with tremendous fanfare following his domination of the Korea Baseball Organization, Kim struggled in his first taste of the MLB during the 2021 season. He had a rough start to the 2022 season as well, but things have come together over the last week or so. He’s now slashing .250/.339/.519 with three homers, 10 RBI and a stolen base. He’s still just 26-years-old, has three positions of eligibility – including middle and corner – and seems to have secured an everyday role in the Padres lineup. There could wind up being a tremendous amount of profit here.

Closing Time

Jordan Romano vs. Astros - 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 K (11th save)

Man, has this guy been good this season. Romano allowed a one-out double to Kyle Tucker – who then advanced to third with two outs – but Romano was able to strike out Jeremy Pena to preserve the one-run lead. He now leads the league with 11 saves while posting a tremendous 1.46 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 14/2 K/BB ratio over 12 1/3 innings. Elite.

Ryan Helsley vs. Cardinals - 2 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 4 K (1st save)

Now this was a dominant performance. Helsley came on with a two-run lead in the eighth inning and needed just seven pitches to retire the side in order – including a strikeout of Ketel Marte. It’s unclear if Oli Marmol considered going to Giovanny Gallegos in the ninth inning initially and then opted to keep Helsley in there after his terrific eighth inning, but the move paid off. Helsley struck out the side in the ninth to secure his first save of the season. His fastball averaged 100.6 mph in this one – hitting as high as 103.1 mph. Gallegos hasn’t pitched since Monday and wasn’t used in the ninth inning here. Perhaps there’s more to the story. Helsley was a very popular FAAB addition on Sunday night – and rightfully so.

David Robertson vs. Brewers - 1 1/3 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 3 K (5th save)

Robertson continues to see the bulk of the save chances for the Cubs – and has looked terrific while doing so. The veteran right-hander entered with two men on and two outs in the eighth inning and needed just four pitches to punch out Jace Peterson. He returned for the ninth, allowing just a one-out walk to Willy Adames but nothing more. Robertson has yet to allow a run through his first 10 innings on the season, registering a 0.60 WHIP and 14/4 K/BB ratio in the process while converting each of his first five save chances.

Ryan Tepera vs. White Sox - 1/3 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K (1st save)

Angels skipper Joe Maddon was hoping to avoid his late-inning relievers in this one, as Michael Lorenzen entered the ninth inning with a 6-0 lead in an attempt to secure a shutout. After three hits and a couple of runs in though, he turned to closer Raisel Iglesias. It was a rare off-night for him though – as can happen in non-save situations – and after striking out Reese McGuire for the second out, Iglesias allowed three straight hits, then walked Yasmani Grandal and beaned Jose Abreu, bringing in three runs and putting the tying run just 90 feet away. That’s when Maddon turned to Tepera who got Gavin Sheets to ground out with the bases loaded to end the game. There’s no closer controversy here, but Tepera is very obviously second in line for save chances.

Aroldis Chapman vs. Brewers - 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 K (6th save)

It wasn’t the smoothest of innings for Chapman in this one – as he surrendered a two-out single to Nicky Lopez and then walked Whit Merrifield, but he battled back to get Andrew Benintendi to ground out to end it. He’s pitching with much lower velocity than we’re used to seeing, but it’s hard to argue with results as Chapman has yet to allow a run through 9 1/3 innings on the season while posting a 1.07 WHIP and 11/7 K/BB ratio.

Taylor Rogers vs. Pirates - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K (9th save)

Taylor Rogers continued to get the job done on Sunday, retiring the Pirates in order in the ninth inning to protect a three-run lead. He needed just 13 pitches to get the job done – including strikeouts of Jake Marisnick and Cole Tucker. He has yet to allow a run through 9 2/3 innings to start his Padres career while registering a minuscule 0.52 WHIP.

Craig Kimbrel vs. Tigers - 2/3 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 0 K (4th save)

It didn’t look like there would be a save chance in this one, but Kimbrel was called upon after Jeimer Candelario homered and Willi Castro doubled off of Justin Bruihl in the ninth inning. Kimbrel did issue a two-out walk to Javier Baez to bring the tying run to the plate, but coaxed a weak pop out from Austin Meadows to end the game. Kimbrel has been great so far, posting a 1.59 ERA and 0.88 WHIP while converting each of his first four save opportunities.

Monday’s Matchup of the Day

Zac Gallen (ARI) vs. Pablo Lopez (MIA)

There are a few highly intriguing pitching matchups on tap for Monday – including Patrick Sandoval vs. Dylan Cease in Chicago – but the matchup in Miami looks to be must-watch television.

It’s the first time since 1985 (Fernando Valenzuela vs. Mike Krukow) that two pitchers (who have thrown at least 15 innings on the season) have met with their combined ERA’s adding up to a number less than one. Gallen enters with a 0.60 ERA while Lopez sports a ridiculous 0.39 ERA.

Something has got to give here, but runs scored are going to be at a premium. To be honest, I was a little surprised to see the over/under on this one open at 7.0, I thought that it would be 6.5 at least.

American League Quick Hits: Shohei Ohtani was removed from Sunday’s game against the White Sox due to right groin tightness. Fortunately, the two-way superstar believes that the issue is minor and hopes that he’s able to return to the lineup on Monday. … Wander Franco was scratched from the Rays lineup due to right hamstring tightness. He’s considered day-to-day… Bobby Witt Jr. was scratched from the Royals lineup on Sunday with a right wrist contusion. He’s expected to avoid the injured list. … The Royals promoted top catching prospect MJ Melendez from Triple-A Omaha after Sunday’s game. He should be added in all mixed leagues where he may be available. … Robbie Grossman underwent X-rays (which came back negative) after being hit on the hand by a Walker Buehler fastball on Sunday. He’ll undergo additional testing on Monday. … The Rays optioned Josh Lowe to Triple-A Durham. … J.D. Martinez (groin) returned to the Red Sox lineup on Sunday – and crushed a grand slam in the ninth inning. … The Rays placed Ji-Man Choi on the 10-day IL with loose bodies in his elbow… They recalled Isaac Paredes from Triple-A to take his place on the active roster. … Teoscar Hernandez (oblique) will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Tuesday and could rejoin the Jays before the end of the week. … The Rays designated right-hander Javy Guerra for assignment. … Miguel Sano is dealing with a knee issue and could be headed to the injured list. … The Angels optioned struggling starter Jose Suarez to Triple-A Salt Lake. … Noah Syndergaard (illness) is feeling better, but it’s still unclear when he’ll make his next start. … Andrew Vaughn (hand) sat out Sunday’s game against the Angels, though he was available to pinch-hit. … Joey Gallo was held out of the Yankees lineup with left groin tightness. He’s considered day-to-day. … Angels infielder Matt Duffy landed on the COVID-19 IL. Jack Mayfield was brought back from Triple-A to take his place. … The Astros are expected to activate Jose Altuve (hamstring) from the injured list on Monday. … Kyle Garlick was pulled from Sunday’s game due to right calf tightness. … Amed Rosario was held out of the Guardians lineup on Sunday due to left wrist soreness. … The Rangers optioned Willie Calhoun to Triple-A Round Rock. … The Yankees sent Clarke Schmidt to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. … The Indians designated Bobby Bradley and Logan Allen for assignment. … The Twins and Luis Arraez avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $2.125 million contract.

Byron Buxton clubbed his seventh homer in a lopsided victory over the Rays. … Kyle Tucker went 3-for-4 and swiped a pair of bases in a loss to the Jays. … Logan Gilbert allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings in a victory over the Marlins. … Michael Lorenzen carried a shutout into the ninth inning – ultimately allowing three runs – in a victory over the White Sox. … Adolis Garcia went 3-for-5 with a triple, four RBI and a stolen base in a victory over the Braves. … Miguel Cabrera blasted his first home run of the season in a loss to the Dodgers. … Triston McKenzie struck out seven over 6 1/3 scoreless innings in a victory over the Athletics. … Mike Trout homered and scored three runs as the Angels eked out a victory over the White Sox.

National League Quick Hits: Tommy Edman was removed from Sunday’s game with left hip flexor tightness. Apparently it has been bothering him for a while, but Edman thinks he’ll be fine after a day or two of rest. … Jonathan India landed back on the 10-day injured list with right hamstring tightness. … LaMonte Wade (knee) is expected to be activated from the injured list on Tuesday. … The Braves optioned Bryce Elder back to Triple-A Gwinnett after posting a 4.74 ERA 1.69 WHIP and 12/14 K/BB ratio over 19 innings in his four starts. … Jazz Chisholm was held out of the Marlins lineup on Sunday due to stomach distress. He’s considered day-to-day. … The Reds placed Jake Fraley on the 10-day IL with right knee inflammation. … The Dodgers activated Tommy Kahnle (elbow) from the 10-day IL. … Stephen Strasburg (neck) is scheduled to face live hitters for the first time on Wednesday. … Joe Ross (shoulder) will do the same. … The Mets placed Sean Reid-Foley on the IL with a partially-torn UCL in his elbow. Tommy John surgery looks like a likely outcome there. … Garrett Hampson (hand) is expected to return from the injured list on Monday.

Corbin Burnes struck out 10 batters over seven innings of two-run ball in a tough-luck loss against the Cubs .… Marcus Stroman fired seven shutout innings of two-hit baseball to earn a victory in that one. … Mitch Keller struck out five over six innings of one-run baseball in a loss to the Padres. … Christian Walker slugged his fifth homer in a loss to the Cardinals… Jordan Luplow swatted two homers in a losing effort there. … Harrison Bader clubbed his first home run of the season in a win over the D’Backs. … Max Scherzer struck out nine despite allowing three homers in a victory over the Phillies. … Jeff McNeil and Dominic Smith each tallied four hits to lead the Mets attack in that win. … Kyle Freeland allowed just one run over seven innings in a victory over the Reds. … C.J. Cron belted his eighth home run in that win. … Alex Cobb lasted just 2/3 of an inning in his return from the injured list, allowing five runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks. … Walker Buehler fired five shutout innings in a victory over the Tigers. … Josiah Gray allowed just one hit over six scoreless frames in a victory over the Giants.