Aaron Judge slugged his way into the hearts of fantasy players with (a then record) 52 homers as a rookie in 2017, but he hasn’t quite been able to reach those same heights since. He appears determined to change that.
Judge led the charge for the Yankees offense on Sunday against the Red Sox, going 2-for-5 with two homers, five RBI, and a walk. He connected for a three-run homer in the second inning before adding a go-ahead two-run blast in the eighth. Both of the home runs were loud and the second one traveled an estimated 468 feet to distant left-center field.
Judge has now homered in five straight games, making him the first Yankees player to pull of the feat since Alex Rodriguez in 2007. There were all sorts of questions about Judge’s fractured right rib and if he’d even be able to play this season, but he’s letting his bat do the talking right now.
Judge had an ADP (average draft position) of 44.7 in Yahoo fantasy leagues this spring/summer, ahead of teammate Giancarlo Stanton but behind the likes of Kris Bryant, George Springer, and Charlie Blackmon. Those who took a chance amid the uncertainty are being rewarded in a big way.
Yo No More
Yoenis Cespedes’ tenure with the Mets has come to an unexpected and bizarre end.
It was learned late Sunday afternoon that Cespedes opted out of the remainder of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, though in typical Mets fashion, the events of the day turned into a sideshow. Shortly after the start of Sunday’s game against the Braves, the Mets released a statement saying the veteran slugger failed to report to Truist Park and they were unable to get in touch with him.
Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen provided the definitive update on Cespedes following the team’s 4-0 loss to the Braves, saying that they only learned of his decision when his agent told them midway through the game. It was fair to wonder why the Mets didn’t wait until after gathering all the facts to make any sort of statement, but that’s not how they wanted to play it.
Cespedes had his salary for this year reduced due to an encounter with a wild boar on his ranch last year which left him with multiple fractures in his ankle. Still, he was slated to make a prorated base salary of $4.07 million this year, which he’ll now forfeit by opting out.
Van Wagenen told reporters after Sunday’s game that they had no indication Cespedes was going to opt out, but Mike Puma and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the veteran slugger had confronted Mets officials in recent days about playing time and his ability to reach certain performance bonuses.
Cespedes was slated to get the day off Sunday after beginning the season hitting just .161/.235/.387 with two homers and 15 strikeouts through just 34 plate appearances. J.D. Davis covered designated hitter duties in the game, but the Mets have multiple options for filling the spot with Cespedes now out of the mix. Dominic Smith would seem to benefit the most with the sudden change and he’s worth a try in deeper mixed fantasy leagues.
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Clayton Cruises in Return
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw didn’t show any signs of rust in his return from the injured list on Sunday, tossing 5 2/3 scoreless frames as part of a 3-0 victory over the Diamondbacks.
Kershaw was a late scratch from his Opening Day start against the Giants on July 23 after he came down with some back tightness as a result of a weight room workout. Fortunately, he was able to make quick progress, clearing the way for his return on Sunday.
Kershaw was very efficient against Arizona’s lineup, allowing just three singles while striking out six and walking none. He threw 57 out of his 81 pitches for strikes while inducing 14 swinging strikes.
The most encouraging part about Kershaw’s outing was his velocity, as the gains he made in spring training stuck. He averaged 92 mph on his fastball and topped out at 93.3 mph. This comes after he averaged 90.4 mph on his fastball last season. Surely there was some adrenaline flowing, but it appears his offseason work at Driveline Baseball is paying off.
Kershaw carried an ADP (average draft position) of 36.5 in Yahoo leagues this spring, making him the ninth pitcher off the board on average. If he can stay healthy and the velocity sticks around, he could prove to be a bargain.
Concern Over Ohtani
Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani failed to record an out in his return from Tommy John surgery last weekend, but things got even more concerning in his start on Sunday against the Astros, so much so that he was sent for an MRI on his right arm.
It started out well enough. Ohtani needed just eight pitches to get through the first inning, including a strikeout of George Springer. However, he failed to locate in the second inning and was ultimately pulled after just 1 2/3 innings of work. While he didn’t allow any hits in the outing, he walked five batters, including two with the bases loaded before Joe Maddon brought the hook. He threw just 25 of his 50 pitches for strikes.
Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com notes that Ohtani topped out at 97.1 mph in Sunday’s outing, but he saw some serious drop-off in the marathon 42-pitch second frame. His final three fastballs checked in at 89.6 mph, 89.1 mph, and 89.7 mph. That’s troubling right there.
Ohtani was sent for the MRI after reporting discomfort in his arm, though Angels manager Joe Maddon said what he saw looked like “fatigue.” That’s understandable given the odd ramp-up associated with this season. Normally, Ohtani likely would have received a handful of minor league rehab starts to get him back up to speed, but this year is anything but normal. The Angels just have to hope that it’s nothing serious.
American League Quick Hits: The Angels placed Mike Trout (paternity leave) on the restricted list on Sunday, though the expectation is that he’ll return to the starting lineup Tuesday. … Xander Bogaerts went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers in Sunday’s loss to the Yankees. … Alex Bregman went 2-for-6 including a solo homer and a go-ahead RBI single in the Astros’ 6-5 win over the Angels in 11 innings on Sunday. … Adalberto Mondesi exited Sunday’s game against the White Sox with a quad contusion. … Aroldis Chapman (COVID-19) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Monday in New York. … Joey Gallo went 3-for-4 with a three-run blast in Sunday’s win over the Giants. … Ramon Laureano slugged a go-ahead three-run homer in a win over the Mariners on Sunday. … Josh Donaldson (calf) remained sidelined Sunday. … White Sox call-up Nick Madrigal went 4-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored in Sunday’s win over the Royals. … Mitch Garver popped his first homer of the season — a solo shot — in Sunday’s win over the Indians. … The Astros placed closer Roberto Osuna (elbow) on the 10-day injured list, clearing the way for the recently-returned Ryan Pressly to potentially take his spot at the end of games. … Chris Bassitt limited the Mariners to just one run in 5 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts to earn his first victory of the 2020 campaign. … Albert Pujols launched a grand slam for career homer No. 658 on Sunday. … Astros manager Dusty Baker said Sunday that Cristian Javier will “probably” start Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. … Kyle Lewis hit his third homer of the season Sunday against the Athletics and has now hit safely in 10 straight games to begin the season. … Framber Valdez was a hero out of the Astros’ bullpen on Sunday, allowing just an unearned run over 6 1/3 innings while striking out eight. … Dylan Cease notched his first win of 2020 after allowing two runs over six innings against the Royals on Sunday. … Tigers hurler Tyler Alexander struck out 10 batters over 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief against the Reds on Sunday, including nine straight Ks to set a new MLB record for relievers. Hall of Famer Tom Seaver still holds the all-time record for all pitchers with 10 consecutive strikeouts. … Tommy Milone allowed just one run over five-plus innings with eight strikeouts in Sunday’s win over the Rays. … Danny Santana landed on the 10-day injured list on Sunday with a right forearm strain. … The Twins place right-hander Homer Bailey on the 10-day injured list with right biceps tendinitis. … Chase Anderson (oblique) expected to be activated from the injured list this week. … The White Sox released right-handed reliever Kelvin Herrera after he was designated for assignment. … Indians manager Terry Francona is scheduled to be examined for a stomach issue at the Cleveland Clinic on Monday.
National League Quick Hits: Multiple reports suggest that the Cardinals have additional positive COVID-19 cases. … Mookie Betts doubled and homered in Sunday’s game against the Diamondbacks due to swelling in his left middle finger, but he’s considered “day-to-day” per Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. … Cody Bellinger slugged his first homer of the season on Sunday. … Stephen Strasburg (hand) is expected to throw another bullpen session on Wednesday … Ozzie Albies was absent from Sunday’s lineup due to lingering soreness in his right wrist. … Javier Baez delivered a walk-off single as the Cubs topped the Pirates 2-1 in 11 innings on Sunday. … Kris Bryant missed his second straight game on Sunday due to illness, though COVID-19 tests have come back negative. … Nick Castellanos cracked two homers and drove in three runs as the Reds took the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Tigers. … Corey Seager sat our Sunday’s series finale against the Diamondbacks with a left quad cramp, but he could return as the designated hitter on Monday against the Padres. … Joey Votto was placed on the 10-day injured list Sunday after reporting symptoms, but there hasn’t been a positive COVID test. … Trevor Bauer went the distance for the seven-inning shutout in the second game of a doubleheader against the Tigers on Sunday, fanning seven batters along the way. … Mike Moustakas exited Sunday’s doubleheader against the Tigers after he was hit in the left forearm by a pitch, but he’s considered day-to-day after Reds manager David Bell said he was struck in a muscle opposed to bone. … Ryan Braun was placed on the 10-day injured list Sunday due to an infection in his right index finger. … Daniel Murphy went 4-for-4 with a solo homer in Sunday’s victory over the Padres. … Kevin Newman showed signs of life Sunday against the Cubs, going 2-for-4 with a solo homer against the Cubs. … Nationals manager Davey Martinez expects Howie Kendrick (back) to return to the lineup this week. … Anthony DeSclafani (oblique) was handed a no-decision in his return from the injured list Sunday against the Tigers, despite not allowing a run over five innings. … Will Smith (COVID-19) will face live hitters on Monday … Shogo Akiyama delivered a go-ahead RBI single in game one of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Tigers. … The Pirates placed right-hander Mitch Keller on the 10-day injured list Sunday after he left Saturday’s start with a left oblique strain. … Antonio Senzatela struck out six batters over six innings of one-run ball in a win over the Padres on Sunday. … Drew Smyly (finger) will be shut down for the next 7-10 days. … Scott Oberg was transferred to the 45-day injured list by the Rockies on Sunday due to a recurrence of blood clots in his right arm. … Jairo Diaz is most likely to close for the Rockies with Wade Davis hitting the injured list with a right shoulder strain. … The Marlins claimed left-hander Brian Moran off waivers from the Blue Jays as they attempt to plug holes on the roster due to a COVID-19 outbreak. …Keone Kela (COVID-19) has been cleared to return to workouts. … Craig Mish of SportsGrid reports that the Marlins are expected to call up prospect outfielder Monte Harrison to make his major league debut this week in Baltimore. … The Pirates acquired reliever Tyler Bashlor from the Mets for cash considerations … The Mets acquired outfielder Billy Hamilton from the Giants for right-hander Jordan Humphreys.