After a sparse Monday on the MLB calendar, every team was back in action on Tuesday, and with the stacked schedule came several notable pitching performances. The good side included Robbie Ray and Framber Valdez (who we'll get to below) along with seven scoreless innings from Walker Buehler, just one unearned run allowed by Matthew Boyd and seven innings of one-run ball from Tyler Glasnow. On the bad side, we saw Aaron Nola struggle (more on that below) as well as Martin Perez rocked to the tune of six earned runs in just two innings against the Astros.

Notable hitting performances included Patrick Wisdom cranking his eighth home run in just 15 games with the Cubs, Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna destroying baseballs for their 17th and 18th home runs respectively, Brandon Crawford slugging a pair of homers on a day he set a Giants record and Pete Alonso tallying his first two-homer day of the season.

The yikes play of the day for Fantasy managers: Ke'Bryan Hayes having a home run taken off the board for failing to touch first base. And not that it has an impact in Fantasy leagues, but Royals prospect Bobby Witt had the same thing happen on Tuesday after the umpire ruled (maybe incorrectly) he didn't touch home plate on his home-run trot. On a day where Shane Bieber failed to strike out at least a batter per inning for this first time this season, the inability to correctly round the bases on home runs stuck out as the strangest trend of Tuesday.

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Ray continues to shine bright


Blue Jays SP Robbie Ray has been the post, post-hype sleeper of the year -- by far -- and he was at his most dominant of the season on Tuesday night. Ray went 6 1/3 innings and allowed just five hits and one earned run. Oh yeah, and he didn't walk a single batter while racking up 13 strikeouts! He also generated 22 swinging strikes on 102 pitches, with 14 coming on the slider. The new Robbie Ray throws the ball in the strike zone and hitters can't get to him. Specifically, his fastball is simply just always in the strike zone.

Ray now has 82 strikeouts to just 14 walks over 64 1/3 innings this season, an absurd 11.5 K/9 rate. More importantly, he has a 2.1 BB/9 rate, which has never been below in his entire career. Ray is in the 84th percentile in walk rate. Fun fact: Ray has a better walk rate than Shane Bieber right now.

Ray is simply throwing the ball in the strike zone and despite giving up a lot of hard contact when batters connect, he's not allowing his pitches to get hit often at all. Chris compared the rise of Ray this season to what we've seen from Trevor Bauer over the last few seasons. It makes a lot of sense. Ray has always had great stuff, but the issue has always been the command. While he may not have elite command right now, he has borderline elite control and that seems to be working for Ray now.

Valdez continues to look like a borderline ace

Astros SP Framber Valdez was at one point rumored to have his season in jeopardy after a preseason injury, but he's back and maybe better than ever. Against a difficult Red Sox lineup, Valdez went 7 1/3 innings and allowed just five hits, no walks and one run. He struck out eight batters and induced 18 swinging strikes on 96 pitches (nine on the curveball and seven on the sinker). Valdez continues to generate a ridiculous number of groundballs but is supplementing it with a healthy portion of swinging strikes and total strikeouts -- dare I say that's the exact profile of a potential SP1 ace?

He's had starts against the Padres and Red Sox (twice) now -- pretty tough -- and yet he holds a 1.47 ERA with a 0.87 WHIP through three starts. Valdez has a 76% groundball rate with 22 strikeouts to just four walks. At this point it's time to get really excited if you hung on to Valdez as a high-upside bench stash after grabbing him in the final rounds of your draft.

More news and notes

  • Rockies SS Trevor Story did not return as expected on Tuesday but is still "very close" to returning.
  • Cardinals SP Jack Flaherty is likely out for the rest of the first half with that oblique injury, which means we likely won't see him until mid-July at the earliest.
  • Reds SP Sonny Gray was removed from Tuesday's start with groin tightness. He's set to undergo an MRI.
  • Cubs SP Adbert Alzolay was placed on the IL with a blister he suffered in Monday's start.
  • Rangers OF Joey Gallo was removed for right groin tightness.
  • Reds 1B Joey Votto was back and batting cleanup Tuesday. 
  • Red Sox OF J.D. Martinez returned to the lineup.
  • Giants 1B Brandon Belt was back and batting cleanup Tuesday. He finished 3 for 4 with a walk and three runs scored, thanks largely to Brandon Crawford's two-homer night.
  • Astros DH Michael Brantley returned from the IL.
  • Astros SP Lance McCullers will make a rehab start Thursday.
  • Mets 2B/OF Jeff McNeil could start a rehab assignment Friday.
  • Padres OF Trent Grisham will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A in the coming days.
  • Phillies SS Didi Gregorius could begin a rehab assignment by the end of the week.
  • Dodgers SS Corey Seager's broken right hand is healing quicker than he initially anticipated, though he remains without a timetable for return.
  • Indians SP Zach Plesac will begin throwing this week. Remember, he's the guy who broke his thumb aggressively taking his shirt off.
  • Blue Jays C Danny Jansen went to the IL with a right hamstring strain. Riley Adams was called up in his place and was batting .250 with a 1.010 OPS in 19 games at Triple-A.
  • Tigers 1B/3B Jeimer Candelario was placed on the bereavement list. Isaac Paredes was recalled.
  • Pirates SP Mitch Keller was reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list.

Prospect updates

  • Twins SP prospect Matt Canterino was diagnosed with right elbow inflammation after undergoing an MRI, which is unfortunate because he was dominating high-A ball.
  • Marlins SP prospect Braxton Garrett has been recalled and is likely to start Wednesday. He had a 3.28 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP through five starts at Triple-A.

Regression candidates

Each of these hitters are overperforming their xBA by at least 40 points:

Each of these hitters are underperforming their xBA by at least 47 points:

A buy-low candidate based on xERA:

  • Phillies SP Zach Eflin (4.10 ERA, 3.56 xERA, 3.28 xFIP)

Two sell-high candidates based on xERA:

What to make of Nola's struggles


Phillies SP Aaron Nola was selected as a high-end SP2 or a low-end SP1 in all drafts, and the expectation was that you'd be getting consistency. The opposite has been true in 2021 and Nola struggled once again on Tuesday against the Braves. Nola gave up four runs in just five innings to go along with seven hits and two walks. He struck out seven batters but he also allowed two more long balls. 

Nola now has a 4.06 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, and here are the biggest differences in his profile in 2021:

  • He has career-low 41% GB rate (49.8% for his career) and a career-high 38% FB rate.
  • He is allowing a .320 BABIP (.293 for his career).
  • His four-seam fastball is giving up a lot more hard contact.
  • His changeup has lost some of its dominance with a .748 OPS against. That's been sub-.600 each of the past two years.

As Chris noted, despite the high BABIP he is actually giving up more flyballs and he's also not really giving up home runs. He's allowing one homer for every flyball -- nothing wrong with that. One thing that stands out to Chris is that he's allowed 10 infield hits, and that's something worth looking at. Has the Phillies defense just been particularly bad in his starts? Because they haven't graded out too poorly overall. Nola remains an enigma and at this point nothing more than a hold. You can't sell him, and it's hard to have confidence in buying either.

Chris is putting a 3 or 4 (out of 10) on his Worryometer for Nola. Take that for what you will.

Waiver wire possibilities

  • Angles OF Justin Upton has eight hits over his last six games and four of those have been homers. He is 63% rostered.
  • Indians SS/OF Amed Rosario since the start of May: .303 batting average with two homers and five steals. He is 30% rostered.
  • Cubs 1B/3B Patrick Wisdom hit his eighth homer in just 15 games and is now batting .385. He is 52% rostered.
  • Mariners SS J.P. Crawford is now batting .352 with two homers and one steal over his last 15 games. He is 21% rostered.
  • Orioles SP Bruce Zimmermann (5% rostered) in his last three starts: 2.98 ERA with 20 K in 15.1 IP.
  • Tigers C Eric Haase has eight hits over his last six games, including six homers. He is 27% rostered.
  • Angels C Max Stassi has eight hits and three homers over his last five games. He is 15% rostered.
  • Braves C William Contreras has an .806 OPS after hitting his sixth homer. He is 40% rostered.