It’s been over a year since the outset of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and a growing number of organizations have been able to relax coronavirus health and safety protocols by hitting the 85-percent vaccination threshold. However, Tuesday’s update from Padres manager Jayce Tingler that superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. has tested positive for COVID-19, served as the latest reminder that the pandemic will continue to significantly impact the 2021 campaign.
“Naturally, you’re punched in the stomach a little bit,” Tingler told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “First of all, you want to make sure for Tatis Jr. in this situation, is he feeling okay? It was good to see him over FaceTime, and he’s feeling well. But you know he’s crushed inside, mentally.” If there is a sliver of positive news from San Diego, it’s that Tatis Jr. is currently asymptomatic, and didn’t violate any COVID health and safety protocols, according to Tingler’s comments. The 22-year-old franchise cornerstone, who signed a massive 14-year, $340 million extension in February, and has blossomed into arguably the highest-profile player in the game nationally over the last few months, has already been placed on the COVID-19 injured list and will be quarantined away from the club for the immediate future. Players placed on the COVID-19 injured list can be activated sooner than 10 days, but only if they’ve received multiple negative tests and passed a series of other league protocols.
It’s an extremely tough break for fantasy managers (and baseball fans in general) as the 22-year-old five-category stalwart could potentially miss up to nine games, which also encompasses six games (including three in the high-octane offensive environment of Coors Field) against the rebuilding Rockies during that span. Barring any further developments, he should be ready to return by the time the Padres open up a three-game series against the Mariners on Friday, May 21. In addition to Tatis Jr, utility men Jurickson Profar and Jorge Mateo were also placed on the COVID-19 injured list on Tuesday afternoon due to contact tracing. They’re eligible to return at any time as long as they continue to produce negative tests. Both would be in line for an expanded role in Tatis Jr.’s absence. In the meantime, it will be Ha-seong Kim taking over as the team’s interim shortstop. Perhaps the largest beneficiary will be second baseman Jake Cronenworth, who appears to be the most likely candidate to step into the coveted second spot in the Padres’ lineup moving forward.
The fallout continued later on Tuesday evening as outfielder Wil Myers was removed from Tuesday’s game against the Rockies after it was discovered that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer was also lifted due to contact tracing. According to multiple reports, Myers is asymptomatic, but he’s been placed on the COVID-19 injured list and will be sidelined until he can pass the necessary protocols. There could be additional developments coming out of San Diego in the next few days, so it’s a situation that fantasy managers will need to monitor closely moving forward.
Athletics Putting Pressure on Oakland
According to a report from Jeff Passan of ESPN on Thursday afternoon, the Athletics will start exploring relocation possibilities with the permission of Major League Baseball in an clear attempt to pressure local government officials to finally move forward with legislation, which has been trapped in bureaucratic gridlock for years, to approve construction of a brand-new ballpark in downtown Oakland at the Howard Terminal site. The franchise, which has called Oakland home since 1968, recently asked the city council to vote on a $12 billion mixed-use project as part of the plan for the ballpark, so it appears that they are prepared to put some extra pressure on the situation with Major League Baseball encouraging their efforts. We’re still a few hyperspace jumps away from a serious relocation push, but that won’t stop prospective sites -- including Las Vegas, Montreal, Portland, Nashville, Vancouver and North Carolina -- from being mentioned as possible destinations. It’s unclear exactly how serious the Athletics’ threat is at this moment, but they’re certainly attempting to leverage local officials into approving funding for a new ballpark.
Per Passan’s report, the Howard Terminal project -- in which the A's have proposed privately funding a $1 billion stadium and spending more on a development that would include 3,000 units of affordable housing, office and retail space, and a hotel -- represents the team’s latest effort to replace 55-year-old RingCentral Coliseum and is viewed as the most likely project to succeed. It’s unclear what the exact timeline is for local officials to move forward on a potential vote, but the clock is ticking, and the Athletics, whose lease at RingCentral Coliseum is up at the conclusion of the 2024 campaign, appear poised to amplify the rhetoric concerning a potential relocation later this decade.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Shohei Ohtani vs. Astros
7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K
39% CSW, 15 swinging strikes
There were a ton of outstanding pitching performances on Tuesday evening, but nothing really compared to the pitchers’ duel that fantasy managers were treated to between Ohtani and McCullers Jr. at Minute Maid Park. The 26-year-old two-way sensation recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts, induced 15 swinging strikes -- his highest single-start total since April 8, 2018 -- and finished with an elite 39 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). Just unreal. He’s the most exciting player in the game right now.
Lance McCullers Jr. vs. Angels
8.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
36% CSW, 13 swinging strikes
Meanwhile, McCullers Jr. wasn't about to be out-dueled in this one. He also matched a season-high with a nine-strikeout effort in his longest outing of the 2021 campaign. The 27-year-old righty has yielded three earned runs or fewer in six of his seven starts this season. Ohtani is lined up to face the Indians at home on Tuesday, while McCullers Jr. will square off against the Rangers at home on Sunday.
Shane Bieber vs. Cubs
6.2 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
29% CSW, 13 swinging strikes
Bieber extended his major-league record streak to 20 consecutive starts with at least eight strikeouts in this one, but he needed a whopping 121 pitches, the most by any starting pitcher in a single outing this season, to get the job done. It wasn’t his most dominant performance of the season, but it speaks volumes that a pedestrian outing consists of pitching into the seventh inning, allowing two runs and striking out eight batters. He’s so good, folks.
Adbert Alzolay vs. Indians
6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
35% CSW, 18 swinging strikes
Alzolay recorded a career-high 18 swinging strikes and finished with an elite 35 percent CSW in his best outing of the 2021 campaign so far. The 26-year-old righty wasn’t perfect, as evidenced by a solo homer to Jose Ramirez and a two-run blast by Cesar Hernandez, but he generated an eye-popping 15 whiffs on his slider alone, and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in five consecutive starts. There were questions regarding whether he would stick in the Cubs’ starting rotation at the outset of the regular season, but he’s proven that he belongs so far. He’s in line for a tasty matchup on the road against the Tigers on Sunday.
Logan Webb vs. Rangers
6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K
36% CSW, 14 swinging strikes
Finally. Webb appeared to be on the precipice of a sustained breakthrough in spring training, but couldn’t parlay that momentum into the regular season. Yet, injuries to several veteran arms in the Giants’ rotation have kept the door ajar for him to continue making starts at the big-league level, and he’s shown considerable improvement his last few times out. The 24-year-old righty recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts over six frames in this one. Based on several advanced metrics, like FIP and DRA, he’s pitched far better than his bloated 4.74 ERA would suggest. He’ll face an extremely tough test on the road against the Reds on Tuesday.
Chris Bassitt vs. Red Sox
7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 10 K
34% CSW, 12 swinging strikes
It’s almost too easy or simplistic to say that Bassitt remains severely underrated at this point, but there’s still some truth to that statement. He hasn’t flown under the radar in fantasy circles for quite some time, but it’s fair to say that he doesn’t get mentioned among the elites in the game, when he probably should be moving forward. The 32-year-old righty was virtually flawless, as a mistake to Rafael Devers in the seventh inning represented the lone extra-base hit he allowed over seven stellar frames. It was his first double-digit strikeout performance since September 7, 2019. He’ll look to keep the momentum going in a road tilt against the Twins on Sunday.
Jordan Montgomery vs. Rays
6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
35% CSW, 17 swinging strikes
Montgomery flummoxed the Rays on Tuesday evening, inducing 17 swinging strikes and finishing with a 35 percent CSW in his third meeting against the division-rival squad this season. He tied a career-high with nine strikeouts and only allowed three baserunners. The 28-year-old lefty coughed up a towering solo shot to Mike Zunino in the third inning, but managed to keep the Rays off the scoreboard otherwise. He’s lined up to face the Orioles on the road his next time out on Sunday.
Robbie Ray vs. Braves
6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 10 K
32% CSW, 18 swinging strikes
Seriously, how tight are his pants? It’s wild. The 29-year-old southpaw is in the middle of one of the best stretches of his entire career, especially from a control standpoint. He’s issued one free pass over his last four starts combined, dating back to April 24. He’s also recorded nine strikeouts in three of those four outings as well. It’s difficult to say that he’s solved the omnipresent control issues that have plagued him throughout his career, but he’s clearly figured something out. Maybe it’s the pants. We’ll find out on Sunday when he faces the Phillies at home.
Freddy Peralta vs. Cardinals
7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
36% CSW, 17 swinging strikes
Peralta was completely overpowering, generating 17 swinging strikes and finishing with a sublime 36 percent CSW. He allowed only three baserunners and needed only 97 pitches to navigate seven shutout frames. It was an impressive bounce-back performance after being lit up for five runs over four innings against the Phillies in his previous start. He’ll take on the Braves at home on Sunday.
7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K
42% CSW, 13 swinging strikes
Bumgarner was staked to an early lead and proceeded to relentlessly pound the strike zone, throwing a whopping 62 of 84 pitches for strikes. He recorded a season-high nine strikeouts and scattered four hits over seven flawless frames. The 31-year-old southpaw has allowed one run or fewer in five consecutive starts dating back to April 18. He's in line for a home matchup against the Nationals on Sunday.
Yusei Kikuchi vs. Dodgers
6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 11 K
32% CSW, 17 swinging strikes
Kikuchi yielded six hits, including a solo homer to Max Muncy in the fourth inning. He generated a season-high 17 swinging strikes and finished with a 32 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). The 29-year-old southpaw has been on an impressive run of late, completing seven frames, while also allowing three earned runs or fewer in three consecutive starts. He’s in line for a tasty matchup against the Tigers at home on Monday.
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Hitters with an EDGE
Ronald Acuña Jr. vs. Blue Jays
2-for-4, 2 R, HR, RBI
Acuña Jr. connected on a 95 mph fastball from lefty Robbie Ray, launching a line-drive, 412-foot rocket into the left-center field seats in the third inning. It was his major league-leading 11th round-tripper of the season. The 23-year-old five-category fantasy superstar has gone deep three times in nine games this month. He’s put up video game numbers over the first six weeks of the 2021 campaign, hitting .311/.407/.656 with 32 runs scored, 11 homers, 23 RBI and six stolen bases across 145 plate appearances.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. vs. Braves
3-for-5, R, HR, 3 RBI
Guerrero Jr. walloped an opposite-field, two-run blast -- his eighth round-tripper of the season -- off Bryse Wilson in the sixth inning and also hammered a 116.3 mph RBI single against lefty A.J. Minter in the eighth inning. The 22-year-old burgeoning slugger has recorded a hard-hit rate over 50 percent, while also significantly raising his average launch angle, fueling a massive uptick in over-the-fence power so far this season. He’s recorded an absurd 41 batted balls with an exit velocity in excess of 100 mph over 34 games, and has shown zero signs of slowing down after a sizzling start to the 2021 season.
Manny Machado vs. Rockies
2-for-4, 2 R, HR, 5 RBI, BB
Machado clobbered a two-run homer off Antonio Senzatela in the fifth inning and also scorched a three-run triple in the sixth inning to collect a season-high five RBI in the Padres’ lopsided win over the Rockies at Coors Field. The 28-year-old third baseman has been tearing the cover off the ball, recording 61 batted balls with an exit velocity in excess of 95 mph this season. That’s the second-highest total in baseball, trailing only Ronald Acuña Jr. who has 62 so far.
Jorge Soler vs. Tigers
2-for-5, R, HR, 6 RBI
On a night in which starting pitchers dominated across the baseball landscape, Soler wisely waited to do all of his damage during a two-inning span against the Tigers’ bullpen. He kicked off the epic seven-run comeback by crushing a three-run homer off Joe Jiménez in the eighth inning and also added a game-tying, three-run double in the ninth inning to force extra-innings. The 29-year-old slugger has gotten off to an exceptionally slow start at the dish, slashing .200/.280/.374 with three homers and 22 RBI over 136 plate appearances overall.
Based on where he was being selected, on average, in fantasy drafts this spring, there wasn’t much optimism within the fantasy community that veteran left-hander Jake McGee would emerge as a reliable mixed-league closer. Yet, he’s been one of the most reliable closers in the entire game over the first six weeks of the 2021 campaign. With the exception of a single blowup outing in non-save situation at Coors Field last week, he’s been phenomenal, converting 10 of his 11 save chances. He slammed the door against the Rangers on Tuesday afternoon, preserving a two-run lead to collect his 10th save of the year. The 34-year-old lefty owns a 4.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 23/4 K/BB ratio over 16 innings this season.
The dynamic tandem of hard-throwing right-hander’s James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase combined to record the final seven outs of the Indians’ one-run victory over the Cubs. Karinchak came on to strand a pair of baserunners in the seventh inning and worked around a leadoff walk to spin a scoreless eighth inning. Meanwhile, Clase surrendered back-to-back one-out singles in the ninth inning, but managed to coax a game-ending double-play ball off the bat of Matt Duffy to ice the victory. There isn’t a better relief duo in the game right now.
Aroldis Chapman extended his scoreless streak to 14 innings by tossing a shutout frame against the Rays, preserving a two-run lead to net his eighth save of the season. The 33-year-old southpaw has yielded only four hits, while recording a surreal 30/5 K/BB ratio over 14 frames this season.
Jake Diekman issued a pair of walks in the ninth inning against the Red Sox, but managed to hang on, twirling a scoreless frame to record his fourth save of the year. There’s been a pretty even distribution of save chances between Diekman and righty Lou Trivino in Oakland over the last few weeks. Both relievers should be rostered in deeper mixed leagues.
Orioles closer Cesar Valdez was charged with a loss after allowing two runs on three hits in a blown save against the Mets. He coughed up back-to-back hits to Kevin Pillar and Jonathan Villar before serving up a game-tying RBI single to Dominic Smith. He had a chance to send the game to extra innings, but Patrick Mazeika fielder’s choice brought home the winning run later in the frame. It was his third blown save of the year.
With Julian Merryweather and Rafael Dolis sidelined due to injury, Jordan Romano has taken over as the undisputed closer in Toronto moving forward. He was summoned to protect a two-run lead against the Braves on Tuesday evening, and managed to spin a scoreless frame, despite allowing a pair of baserunners. It was his first save of the season. He’s certainly worthy of a roster spot for fantasy managers in deeper mixed leagues.
Alex Reyes notched five strikeouts over two scoreless innings on Tuesday evening, to pick up a win over the Brewers in an extra-inning marathon. The 26-year-old righty has allowed only one run over 19 innings to go along with a 24/16 K/BB ratio this season. He still has some control lapses to iron out, but he’s been virtually unhittable in shorter bursts as the Cardinals’ primary closer this year.
Kenley Jansen fired a perfect ninth inning on Tuesday, protecting a two-run lead against the Mariners to net his sixth save of the season. The 33-year-old veteran stopper was summoned to face the heart of the Mariners' lineup in the top of the ninth inning and needed only 14 pitches (eight strikes) to retire the side in order. He struck out Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis to open the frame before getting Kyle Seager to pop up to short to end the ballgame.
EDGE Priority Pickup
Robbie Grossman, OF, Tigers
Grossman went 2-for-5 with five RBI on Tuesday in the Tigers’ win over the Royals. The 31-year-old outfielder has compiled nine RBI over his last six games. He’s a certifiable on-base machine and has also displayed a propensity to run, swiping seven bases in 34 games this season. He’s worthy of a roster spot for fantasy managers in deeper mixed leagues.
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Wednesday’s Matchup of the Day
The twin-billing is taking place in Coors Field, but it still wouldn’t be shocking to see Darvish and Snell attempt to go the distance in each of the seven-inning contests, especially with the Padres missing several key offensive pieces due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the organization.
American League Quick Hits: Yankees activated 1B Luke Voit from the 10-day injured list. The 30-year-old first baseman, who led the majors with 22 round-trippers during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, has been out since undergoing surgery in late-March to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee … George Springer (quad) is scheduled to resume running on Thursday … Angels manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday that Anthony Rendon (knee) made it through fielding work without issue earlier this week … Mitch Haniger launched a pair of solo homers, but it wasn't enough to propel the Mariners to a win over the Dodgers … José Ramírez launched his 10th round-tripper of the season and Cesar Hernandez swatted a two-run dinger in the Indians’ victory over the Cubs …David Dahl went 2-for-3 with a solo homer and a stolen base in the Rangers’ loss to the Giants … José Abreu went 2-for-3 with a two-run tater and Yasmani Grandal hit a three-run homer, lifting the White Sox past the Twins … Aaron Judge and Gary Sánchez went deep in the Yankees’ win over the Rays … Yuli Gurriel slugged a three-run homer and Kyle Tucker belted a solo shot in the Astros’ win over the Angels … Rafael Devers drilled his ninth long ball of the year in the Red Sox’ loss to the Athletics … Taylor Ward went 2-for-3 with a solo homer in the Angels’ loss to the Astros … Jorge Polanco went 2-for-4 with a solo shot in the Twins’ blowout loss to the White Sox … John Means posted three strikeouts over six scoreless frames in a no-decision against the Mets … Dylan Cease struck out seven batters over five innings of three-run ball in a no-decision against the Twins … Matthew Boyd struck out five batters over six shutout innings in a no-decision against the Royals … Luis Patiño was charged with two runs (one earned) with three strikeouts over four innings in a loss to the Yankees … Josh Fleming yielded one run over four innings in a bulk relief appearance against the Yankees … Aaron Hicks was scratched from the Yankees' lineup Tuesday due to a right shin bruise … Gio Urshela (knee) returned to the Yankees’ lineup Tuesday after missing a handful of games … Enrique Hernandez (hamstring) is expected to come off the injured list when he's first eligible next week … Jose Iglesias (back) could return to the Angels' lineup as early as Wednesday … Twins activated Luis Arraez from the 7-day concussion injured list … James Kaprielian will be called up to start for the Athletics on Wednesday in Boston … A.J. Puk (biceps) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Las Vegas later this week … Blue Jays optioned RHP Nate Pearson to Triple-A Buffalo … Rays designated Yoshi Tsutsugo for assignment.
National League Quick Hits: Mets placed Jacob deGrom on the 10-day injured list with right side tightness … J.T. Realmuto has been diagnosed with a bruised muscle on the inside of his left knee after being struck by a foul tip during Tuesday’s game against the Nationals … Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Tuesday that Christian Yelich (back) is currently doing “all baseball activities.” The 29-year-old outfielder has played only two games since April 11 due to a lingering lower back issue … He also added that Corbin Burnes (undisclosed) will likely start Thursday against the Cardinals … Javier Baez (back) was a late scratch from the Cubs' starting lineup on Tuesday against the Indians … Cubs manager David Ross said Kris Bryant was dealing with “sinus stuff,” which caused his early exit from Tuesday night's game against the Indians … Jeff McNeil went 2-for-2 with a double before exiting Tuesday’s game against the Orioles with body cramps … Gavin Lux walloped a go-ahead, three-run homer, lifting the Dodgers to a comeback victory over the Mariners … Trea Turner went 3-for-4 with a solo homer -- his eighth long ball of the season -- in the Nationals’ loss to the Phillies … Jesse Winker went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer in the Reds’ loss to the Pirates … Bryce Harper clobbered his seventh homer of the year in the Phillies’ win over the Nationals … Tyler O’Neill hit a three-run homer and Paul Goldschmidt swatted a two-run homer in the Cardinals’ win over the Brewers in extra-innings … Marcell Ozuna blasted a solo homer in the Braves’ loss to the Blue Jays … Asdrúbal Cabrera went 4-for-5 with a three-run homer, powering the Diamondbacks to a blowout win over the Marlins … Adam Frazier went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer, leading the Pirates past the Reds … Jesús Aguilar went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in the Marlins' loss to the Diamondbacks … Walker Buehler struck out eight batters and yielded four runs over seven innings on Tuesday in a no-decision against the Mariners … Kwang-Hyun Kim struck out six batters over 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Brewers … JT Brubaker yielded one run over six innings to pick up a win against the Reds … Marcus Stroman allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Orioles … Bryse Wilson struck out five batters over six innings in a no-decision against the Blue Jays … Chase Anderson allowed two runs over five innings in a win over the Nationals … Pablo López was shelled for six runs on Tuesday in a loss to the Diamondbacks … Brandon Belt was removed from Tuesday's game against the Rangers due to "mild" left side tightness … Albert Almora left Tuesday night's game against the Orioles after colliding with the center-field wall. X-rays turned up negative on his shoulder and neck … A.J. Pollock (hamstring) remained out of the Dodgers' starting lineup on Tuesday … Stephen Strasburg (shoulder) threw a simulated game on Tuesday … David Price (hamstring) threw a successful bullpen session on Tuesday … Reds’ lefty Amir Garrett began serving a five-game suspension Tuesday … Cardinals placed Carlos Martinez on the 10-day injured list with a right ankle sprain and recalled Johan Oviedo from Triple-A Memphis … Pirates activated Gregory Polanco from the injured list … Omar Narvaez (hamstring) is on track to be activated this week … Brandon Nimmo (finger) could return from the injured list this weekend … J.D. Davis (finger) won't be ready for activation when first eligible on Wednesday … Cubs placed Jake Marisnick on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain … Drew Smyly's next start has been pushed to Friday versus the Brewers … Trevor Rogers’s next start has been pushed back to Thursday against the Diamondbacks … Jordan Zimmermann has announced his retirement from baseball.