Fantasy Baseball Takeaways: Cedric Mullins continues to be among season’s top surprises

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Maybe more players should give up switch-hitting.

Cedric Mullins continued his unexpected breakout season Monday in the Bronx against the Yankees with a stat sheet-stuffer of a night. The Orioles’ center fielder hit a solo home run, singled and stole two bases in Baltimore’s 7-1 victory. The homer was Mullins’ 18th. The two steals brought his total to an even 20.

Mullins’ dinger was one of four the Orioles hit on the night off of Andrew Heaney, who had a less than inspiring debut for his new club (as it turns out, putting a flyball pitcher in Yankee Stadium doesn’t solve his gopher ball issues). Austin Hays followed Mullins’ homer with the second of back-to-back shots in the third inning, and Ryan Mountcastle and Ramon Urias each added bombs of their own an inning later in the fourth.

The Orioles also got a surprising gem out of Jorge Lopez. Lopez carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Joey Gallo broke it up with a leadoff double. He walked five and wound up throwing 106 pitches over his six innings, so Lopez wasn’t going to come close to completing the no-no. Still, six frames of one-run ball for a guy who had completed six innings just three times all season was not something Yankees fans saw coming.

But let’s get back to Mullins.

The 26-year-old opted to give up hitting from the right side prior to the season, focusing on his stronger left side. To say that the move has worked would be quite an understatement. Mullins entered Monday’s game batting .323/.384/.511 with five home runs against left-handers. Both his home run and his single against the Yankees came off of southpaws.

Mullins needs just two more home runs this season to become a 20-20 player. He would become just the third Oriole to do so since 2000 and only the ninth to do it in franchise history. No Oriole has ever had a 30-30 season, and Mullins has a real shot to be the first.

Not bad for a guy who went undrafted in many fantasy leagues this spring.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Eric Lauer vs. PIT – 5 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 3 K

Lauer needed 84 pitches to get through his five innings, but he managed to hold the Pirates off the scoreboard in the Brewers’ 6-1 victory. The left-hander hasn’t given up more than two runs in any of his last six appearances to drop his ERA to 3.50, which is the lowest it’s been since May.

Chris Flexen vs. TB – 6 2/3 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 6 K

Flexen tossed a career-high 113 pitches in this one, posting a quality start to bounce back from a rough outing against the Astros his last time out. The right-hander has permitted two runs or fewer in seven of his last nine starts, lowering his ERA from 4.68 to 3.75. It was Flexen’s 10th win of the season.

Eli Morgan vs. TOR – 6 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 9 K

Morgan’s six innings represented the longest outing of his brief major league career, and he also tied a career high with his nine punchouts. The young right-hander almost got through six innings unscathed, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. slugged a two-run homer in Morgan’s final inning of work.

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Hitters with an EDGE

Eduardo Escobar vs. PIT – 2-for-2, HR, 3B, 2 BB, 4 RBI

New Brewer Escobar had a home debut to remember on Monday in the team’s win over the Pirates. He reached base in all four trips to the dish, tripling in a run in the sixth inning before providing a cushion with a three-run homer in the seventh. Escobar has gone deep twice already in his first four games with his new club.

Lewis Brinson vs. NYM – 2-for-4, HR, 5 RBI

Brinson put the Marlins up 4-0 on Monday before Mets starter Tylor Megill had even recorded an out, rocketing one to the opposite field and over the wall for his second career grand slam. The 27-year-old was actually batting cleanup for the Marlins in this one, although that’s more a reflection of where their lineup is at than anything Brinson has done.

Ty France vs. TB – 3-for-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI

France had an RBI single, an RBI double and a solo home run as the Mariners took the Rays down on the road Monday. The home run was the 11th of the season for France, who is batting .343 over his last 16 games. France’s OPS is up to .789, which is its highest mark since early May.

Priority Pickup

Jo Adell, OF, Angels – available in 89 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues

Adell was finally summoned from Triple-A Salt Lake by the Angels prior to Monday’s game against the Rangers. The 23-year-old earned the promotion by posting a robust .289/.342/.592 batting line with 23 home runs and eight stolen bases for Salt Lake. He did strike out at a 29.2 percent clip, but that strikeout rate has fallen each of the last three months. Given the swing-and-miss tendencies as well as his struggles last season, it’s no safe bet that Adell is ready to cash in on his immense potential at the major league level. However, the upside certainly warrants a roster spot.

Closing Time

It was Emmanuel Clase’s turn on the Cleveland Closer Carousel on Monday. James Karinchak pitched the seventh inning against the Blue Jays with the game knotted up at 2-2 at the time, and it was Clase who the Indians turned to in the bottom of the 10th after they took a 5-2 lead in the top of the frame. He executed a 1-2-3 inning to secure the win and his 14th save of the season. Karinchak has 11 saves.

Dylan Floro recorded a four-out save on Monday in the Marlins’ 6-3 win over the Mets. Interestingly, Anthony Bender was used in the seventh inning against 8-9-1 in the Mets’ order, with Anthony Bass sandwiched in between the two. Floro has been the team’s best reliever for the last several weeks and looks to be the favorite for saves with Yimi Garcia now with the Astros.

Spencer Patton picked up his first career save on Monday, finishing out the Rangers’ 4-1 victory over the Angels. The 33-year-old spent the previous four seasons in Japan but has pitched well during his first stint in the majors since 2016, holding a 3.15 ERA and 27/7 K/BB ratio over 20 innings. He looks to be at the top of the pecking order for saves with the Rangers in the post-Ian Kennedy era.

Tuesday’s Matchup of the Day

Lance McCullers (HOU) vs. Walker Buehler (LAD)

Not only is this a great pitching matchup, it’s also the first time the Astros have been to Dodger Stadium since being embroiled in the sign-stealing scandal. The two teams also have nearly identical records, with the 64-42 Astros sitting in first place in the American League West and the 64-43 Dodgers sitting just behind the Giants in the National League West. Buehler has been on fire of late, holding a 0.99 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 32/7 K/BB ratio over 27 1/3 innings covering his last four starts.

American League Quick Hits: The Yankees revealed after Monday’s game that Gerrit Cole has tested positive for COVID-19. He had been slated to start Tuesday, but obviously that won’t happen … Dane Dunning struck out three while spinning five frames of one-run ball in Monday’s win over the Angels … Gio Urshela (hamstring) is expected to be placed on the injured list … Randy Arozarena homered and reached base three times Monday versus the Mariners … Vladimir Guerrero Jr. clubbed his 34th homer – a two-run shot – and added a single Monday versus the Indians … The Rangers designated David Dahl for assignment Monday.

National League Quick Hits: Josh Hader landed on the COVID-19 injured list prior to the Brewers’ game Monday … Pete Alonso went 2-for-5 with a home run Monday against the Marlins … Though he struck out only two, Josiah Gray held the Phillies to one run over five innings Monday in his first start for the Nationals … Christian Yelich (COVID-19) is expected to be cleared to return by the end of this week … Steven Brault (lat) will make his season debut on Wednesday versus the Brewers … Andrew McCutchen landed on the IL Monday with left knee inflammation.

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