Hey there, everyone. It's Chris Towers again. In Friday's Fantasy Baseball Today newsletter, we're recapping Thursday's action, with an eye on a struggling superstar and some recent prospect call ups. Plus, we have Week 15 preview content -- and make sure you check out Scott White's Week 15 two-start pitcher rankings plus his sleeper hitters and pitchers for the upcoming week, which we talked about on Friday's podcast on Apple and Spotify. But before we get to all of that, a quick question ... 

Just how good is Spencer Strider?

We have to come up with a cool nickname for Strider. I would suggest something from Lord of the Rings – "Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir of Isildur, King of Gondor" – but I did say we need a cool nickname for him, not just one that someone who saw Fellowship of the Rings five times in theaters thinks is cool. 

Strider deserves the coolest nickname we can possibly bestow on him after he established a career-best in strikeouts for the second start in a row, this time striking out 12 Cardinals in six shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks in the outing. Strider has managed the transition to a full-time starting role unbelievably well, with a 2.83 ERA and actually a higher strikeout rate (39.2%) as a starter than he had as a reliever (38.9%). 

Strider still throws like a reliever, all max effort with effectively just a fastball and slider – he threw eight changeups Thursday – so it's fair to wonder whether he can hold up to this kind of approach in this role in the long term. It's a seemingly high-stress approach, and while he's had no split issues to speak of so far, this kind of limited repertoire can lead to those. However, the stuff is so overwhelmingly dominant right now that I had to move him into my top 30 at starting pitcher after this start

Worried about Acuña?

Acuña went 0 for 5 Thursday, is hitting .272/.367/.426, and, as podcast listener Clint wrote in to, he just doesn't look right. The 17 steals in 50 games are nice, and he's on pace for right around 100 runs over a 150-game pace, but the power and RBI haven't been anywhere close to what we've expected. It would be easy enough to write this off as Acuña not being right coming off that torn ACL, except that he's arguably been more aggressive as a baserunner than ever without any noticeable dip in his efficiency. So, what's up?

Personally, I think he's mostly fine. I know sometimes you want us to tell you your star is struggling and there's a good explanation for it, but the truth of the matter is, Acuña looks like himself, more or less. He ranks in the 82nd percentile in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, which is down slightly from 2021, but hardly alarmingly so, and his strikeout rate is basically identical to what it was a year ago. He's hitting the ball on the ground a bit more often than we're used to and to the pull side of the field a bit less often, which probably helps explain why the over-the-fence power has been a bit lacking for Acuña, but there's nothing here to necessarily suggest you should be panicking. 

Remember how we told you not to overreact to the 60-game season in 2020? Acuña is basically at that point in his season. These things happen, but there's no reason to be concerned about him moving forward. He's still solidly in my top five in both Roto and H2H points formats. 

What you need to know for Week 15

Schedule notes

Best hitter matchups

  1. White Sox @CLE4, @MIN4
  2. Royals DET4, @TOR4
  3. Padres @COL4, ARI3
  4. Tigers @KC4, @CLE4
  5. Guardians CHW4, DET4

Worst hitter matchups

  1. Angels HOU3, LAD2
  2. Nationals SEA2, ATL4
  3. Twins MIL2, CHW4
  4. Brewers @MIN2, @SF4
  5. Reds @NYY3, @STL3

Two-start streamers

Checking in on recent call ups

Let's take a look at some of prospects who have been called up lately to see how they are doing:

  • Michael Harris hit his sixth home run Thursday and continues to look like a star, hitting .292 with six steals as well. He hits the ball on the ground a bit too much but has solid expected stats that mostly back up what he's done. If you're looking for a red flag, he's an incredibly aggressive swinger, with the sixth-highest chase rate in the majors. That plate discipline could catch up to him. 
  • Adley Rutschman went 1 for 4 with his fourth home run Thursday. His overall numbers aren't great, but Rutschman is hitting .259 with all four of his homers plus 10 doubles in his past 22 games. He's making contact, often good contact, and he's playing a ton – sixth-most PA among catchers since his call up. The degree of difficulty for what Rutschman is doing right now is incredibly high and still points to super-high upside. 
  • Vinnie Pascquantino went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and is now hitting just .133 through 30 at-bats. However, he has as many walks as strikeouts, with a 94.9 mph average exit velocity, so there aren't too many red flags here. I think he'll be fine, and is worth adding where available (65% roster rate). 
  • Oneil Cruz sat out one half of the team's double-header Thursday, going 1 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts, and he's now hitting .203 with a 33% strikeout rate in 17 games. The quality of contact has been excellent, but he's probably been a bit too passive at the plate – he's swinging at just 52.7% of pitches in the strike zone, which would be the lowest rate in the league if he qualified. His 72.1% contact rate is below average, but isn't especially worrisome, so I'm actually not particularly concerned right now. He's still a must-roster player. 
  • Darick Hall came to the majors with the least hype of this group, but he's hit four homers in eight games. That's come with a ton of strikeouts (38.7%), and there are still questions about whether he'll play against most left-handed pitchers, but Hall is worth a look in deeper leagues at least. 

Injuries, news and notes 

  • Kevin Gausman threw on flat ground Thursday and is scheduled for a bullpen Friday to determine when he will make his next start.
  • Tyler O'Neill could be reinstated from the IL on Friday against the Phillies
  • Jazz Chisholm is scheduled to play in a game at the rookie-level Florida Complex League on Saturday. He'll probably need a few games to get back up to speed, so he'll be a risky play for Week 15. 
  • Bobby Witt Jr. has missed two straight after getting hit by a pitch on his hand Tuesday. It doesn't seem too serious, but it's a concern. 
  • Chris Sale will likely be activated to make his season debut Tuesday, though it's possible he will make one more rehab start. He threw 72 pitches in his previous rehab outing, so he's pretty close to being stretched out. Even with Sale likely back, Brayan Bello will make another start Monday against the Rays, however it'll be interesting to see what they opt to do when Nathan Eovaldi returns – he made his rehab debut Thursday. 
  • Aaron Judge was out of the lineup Thursday due to lower-body soreness. 
  • Jeremy Peña was scratched due to health and safety protocols. Apparently, he's traveling with the team for their weekend series, so he could play. 
  • Marcus Stroman is expected to be activated and start this weekend against the Dodgers, 58% rostered, but I'll need to see him pitch well before I look to add him where available. The upside generally isn't that high with Stroman, and his margin for error tends to be pretty slim, so I'll let him make a start before I make a move. 
  • Roansy Contreras pitched one of his best games of the season and then was optioned right after. He'll be shut down but will still travel with the team through the All-Star break, when he is expected to be recalled. Probably just a workload management thing. 
  • Jurickson Profar was carted off the field after colliding with teammate CJ Abrams. Profar took a shot to the head, and it was a pretty scary sight all around. 
  • Mitch Haniger could return by the end of July. He's missed a couple months with an ankle sprain. 
  • Jesus Luzardo will throw a bullpen session Friday. He's been on the IL for nearly two months with a forearm strain.
  • Michael Lorenzen was placed on the IL with a right shoulder strain, retroactive to July 4. He's droppable, despite having some upside appeal. 
  • Mike Soroka was hit in the knee by a comebacker while throwing live batting practice and does not have a target date for a rehab assignment. This guy just cannot catch a break coming back from successive ruptured Achilles. 

The call to the bullpen 

  • STL: Giovanny Gallegos entered the seventh with a one-run lead and gave up a solo homer to tie the game. Ryan Helsley recorded seven outs spanning the eighth and 10th innings, giving up an unearned run, and then Packy Naughton eventually converted the save in the 11th. Gallegos has just one save since May 20 and has worked the eighth inning or earlier in 12 of 15 appearances since. 
  • LAD: Kimbrel entered with a three-run lead, struck out the first two batters, but then couldn't finish it off. Alex Vesia came in to get the final out. Kimbrel had that back injury last weekend after getting hit by a line drive, so I wonder if he's just not 100%. 
  • HOU: Ryan Pressly struck out one for his 18th save.
  • PIT: David Bednar picked up his 14th save.
  • NYY: Clay Holmes picks up his 16th save. Aroldis Chapman didn't pitch in this one. 
  • DET: Gregory Soto gave up a run but picked up his 17th save. 
  • PHI: Seranthony Dominguez clean ninth for his third save. He's too under-rostered at 42%. 
  • BAL: Jorge Lopez got his 15th save.
  • COL: Daniel Bard got his 17th save