We have a ton of performances to talk about from this weekend's action, the first games back from the All-Star break. But before we get to all that, here's a few big news items you need to know about:

  • Shane Bieber was placed on the IL with right elbow inflammation. That's a pretty big concern, obviously, especially given Bieber's less-than-spectacular play so far. He'll be shut down for the next two weeks before determining if and when he can throw, which might put him out of commission until mid-August in a best-case scenario. 
  • The Reds are calling up Christian Encarnacion-Strand. Strand was recently ranked as the No. 12 prospect left in the minors by Scott White, and he's hitting .321 with a 1.012 OPS in Triple-A this season. It's not entirely clear where he's going to play everyday, if he is at all, but given his skill set and home park, Encarnacion-Strand is worth adding in pretty much all Fantasy formats because there's certainly big potential here.
  • The Pirates are calling up catcher Endy Rodriguez, pitcher Quinn Priester, and infielder Liover Peguero. Rodriguez is the clear name to know about for Fantasy, and is worth adding in most two-catcher leagues despite a somewhat down 2023; he's still hitting .268 with six homers and four steals, with a skill set that could make him a standout if he hits. Peguero and Priester are both more like NL-only targets, though we'll see what Priester can do when he makes his debut Monday against the Diamondbacks.

There was plenty of other news to know about from this weekend, so make sure you tune in to Monday's episode of Fantasy Baseball Today for more. And, obviously, make sure you've got the right lineup set for Week 17 with Scott White's sleeper pitchers and sleeper hitters, as well as his two-start pitcher rankings. I'm Chris Towers, and here's what else you need to know about from this weekend:

Weekend standouts

Pitchers, Part 1: Waiver targets

Grayson Rodriguez, Orioles – Rodriguez is going to be recalled for Monday's game against the Dodgers, and while that's a pretty tough landing spot, I think you've got to view him as pretty much a must-add player. He's available in 34% of CBS Fantasy leagues, and while there's some risk after he posted a 7.35 ERA in 10 starts during his first stint in the majors, it's unlikely we're going to see another pitcher with this much upside who is widely available again this season. Rodriguez struck out 54 batters in 37.1 innings since being sent back down and could be a big-time difference maker in the second half of the season.

Alec Marsh, Royals (6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 K vs. Rays) – I'll give Marsh this – while he hasn't been a particularly good pitcher for most of his minor-league career (5.72 ERA), he's always been pretty good at racking up strikeouts (28.5% strikeout rate). Still, this showing, against a team like the Rays, is one of the biggest surprises of the season to date. Marsh racked up 15 swinging strikes, including nine with his fastball, in the tough-luck loss. I don't really think there's much reason to expect this to be sustainable, but he did pitch well in Triple-A before his promotion, albeit in a small-sample size. In 12-team leagues, I'm not really looking to add Marsh, but I might take a cheap flier in a 15-teamer. 

Kutter Crawford, Red Sox (6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 9 K at Cubs) – Crawford has shown some flashes, but had struggled prior to the break, giving up nine runs in 15.2 innings in his last three starts. So, of course he goes out and throws his best start of the season despite his fastball velocity being down 1.6 mph in this one. Crawford got five whiffs on both his four-seamer and cutter in this one, but the most impressive thing was six whiffs on just eight sweepers. It's a pitch Crawford introduced in June and has had very strong success with, including a 42.9% whiff rate before Sunday's start. It's a small sample size, but it looks like a legitimate weapon for him, one that could unlock another level. I haven't had much interest in Crawford before this, but I'm giving him another look. 

Josiah Gray, Nationals (5 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K at Cardinals) – Gray has completely remade himself, from a guy with basically just two pitches to a pitcher with one of the deepest arsenals in the game. I'm just not sure it's made him appreciably better. Gray was out-performing his peripherals for a long time, and now after a bit of a bump in June, his strikeout rate is starting to come back to earth. I think he's still pretty interesting, but like Mitch Keller this time a year ago, he still has work to do to prove the changes can lead to improvement. 

Kyle Hendricks, Cubs (4.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 4 K vs. Red Sox) – I said in Friday's newsletter I didn't love starting Hendricks in this matchup, so I'm neither surprised nor disappointed by this outing. He's pitching to contact more than ever before (which is saying something), and while he still has elite control and manages damage on contact well, it's not a profile I especially want to trust against tough matchups. He should be useful moving forward, but you definitely need to keep an eye on the schedule with him. The good news? He has the Nationals this week, who are 25th in wOBA against RHP this season. 

Michael Kopech, White Sox (0.2 IP, 1 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 0 K at Braves) – Kopech's velocity was down before he went on the IL, but it was reasonable to think the time off may have helped him rediscover it. That wasn't the case, as he averaged just 94.5 mph with the pitch, his third-lowest mark of the season. Kopech typically throws that pitch 60%-plus of the time, so there isn't much margin for error here. Kopech's run of four starts with at least nine strikeouts between mid-May and early-June is hard to ignore, but I just don't have much faith in him. Maybe you don't want to drop someone with upside, but I'm certainly not actively looking to pick him up right now. 

Kenta Maeda, Twins (3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 6 K vs. Athletics) – Coming off his best start of the season, this was definitely a disappointment from Maeda. The control just wasn't there for him, and given his recent injury history, the Twins are going to be careful about  having him throw too many high-stress innings, hence the early hook here. I still think Maeda has some potential worth getting excited about, but this was certainly a disappointing showing against one of the easier matchups out there. 

Graham Ashcraft, Reds (6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K vs. Brewers) – I don't think it matters much, but Ashcraft now has three quality starts in a row, allowing one run in each game. That's also come with just 11 strikeouts in 18.2 innings to seven walks, which is the primary reason I don't buy it, of course. In theory, Ashcraft could be the kind of pitcher who doesn't necessarily need a lot of strikeouts to thrive, but in practice, he still tends to get hit pretty hard, despite how wicked his stuff looks. His 5.50 expected ERA matches his 5.95 actual ERA, and suggests that we don't really need to take this run seriously. 

Johan Oviedo, Pirates (7 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 10 K vs. Giants) – Here's a fun fact: Oviedo is one of just 32 pitchers this season with multiple starts of 10 or more strikeouts. Of those 32, he ranks 31st in overall strikeout rate. I don't really know what to make of outings like this from Oviedo, but in the five starts after his previous 10-K outing, Oviedo had a 7.23 ERA and 17 strikeouts, with 15 walks in 23.2 innings. I think it's probably fair to ignore this outing. 

Dean Kremer, Orioles (6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K vs. Marlins) – I pretty much say the same thing about every Orioles pitcher: "Start them at home." Guys like Tyler Wells and Kyle Bradish may be better than just streaming status, but Kremer probably isn't. I'm not taking much from this. The Marlins are still a pretty good matchup. 

Pitchers, Part 2: Relievers to add

Aroldis Chapman, Rangers – Chapman got a save Saturday, with Will Smith working five outs across the seventh and eighth innings, which was pretty interesting to see … until Smith was called on to close out a one-run game Sunday. Chapman could figure into the ninth inning occasionally for the Rangers, as his addition gives them a bit more flexibility in how they use Smith. But I'd bet on Smith still getting the majority of the saves here, but it'll be something of a shared situation. 

Yimi Garcia, Blue JaysJordan Romano had an MRI on the back injury that forced him from the All-Star game, and it apparently showed little of concern. However, it was enough to keep him out of action this weekend, with Yimi Garcia getting a save Saturday and Erik Swanson cleaning up a ninth-inning mess for a save of his own. If Romano were to miss time, I think those would be the top options, and I'm not sure which I would prefer. Hopefully, Romano's injury ends up as insignificant as the team thinks and we don't have to find out. 

Kyle Finnegan, Nationals – Hunter Harvey felt soreness in his right forearm and triceps Saturday and though X-rays came back negative, he's still expected to need an IL stint. Finnegan should get another chance to save some games, though he's by no means a must-add pitcher. 

Pitchers, Part 3: The rest

Spencer Strider, Braves (6 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 10 K vs. White Sox) – Strider is still the top pitcher in Fantasy, but these kinds of starts have been more frequent than expected this season. Strider has a 4.35 ERA since May 1, and it's not just all bad luck – his expected wOBA on contact is .413, well above the league average of .368 (and his own mark of .343 from a year ago). It's a good thing he doesn't tend to give up much contact. 

Corbin Burnes, Brewers (6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 13 K at Reds) – I still expect Burnes to be one of the five or so best pitchers in Fantasy moving forward, and this was nice to see. He's been excellent across three July starts now, with a 1.89 ERA and 26 strikeouts to eight walks in 19 innings. Hopefully this is the start of a big second half. 

Framber Valdez, Astros (6.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 13 K at Angels) – Valdez kind of looks like a new pitcher. He's still one of the premier groundball generators in the game, but that's a skill you didn't used to have to qualify; his groundball rate has dropped from 67.4% to 56%. He's made up for that with a career-high 27.4% strikeout rate, and, on the whole, it's a tradeoff we'll take, but it could lead to issues with homers (two in this outing), something we've never really seen from Valdez before. 

Max Scherzer, Mets (7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K vs. Dodgers) – Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start Friday due to neck soreness, but clearly it wasn't that big of a deal. His velocity was right where it normally would be, and while Scherzer wasn't exactly dominant in terms of swings and misses, he limited the Dodgers to very little hard contact. It wasn't quite vintage Scherzer, but after some frustrating stretches, it was nice to see anyway. 

Carlos Rodon, Yankees (5 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K at Rockies) – Rodon hasn't been himself yet, but I don't think there's much to worry about. The first start back from the IL is always one I'm willing to give a mulligan on, and then his second came at Coors Field, which we know not to take too much from. Despite that, he still had 12 swinging strikes on 88 pitches, including nine on 20 swings on the slider. Much better days are ahead. 

James Paxton, Red Sox (3 IP, 3 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 K at Cubs) – Paxton has mostly been tremendous this season, so this was a rare bump in the road. I'm pretty confident it isn't much more than that, but his velocity was down about 1 mph, which is something to watch. Paxton matched his season-high in walks, and acknowledged that he "didn't feel quite right" after the start, so we'll be watching his next start a bit more closely than usual. 

Zach Eflin, Rays (3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 0 K at Royals) – Eflin's another pitcher who admitted after his start that he, "just felt a little off." Again, it's not something I'm panicking about, but it's fair to be disappointed with a zero-strikeout effort. The good news is, Eflin's velocity was fine, so I don't think there's too much to worry about, but we'll keep a closer eye on his next start, too. 

Freddy Peralta, Brewers (6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K at Reds) – The overall numbers don't necessarily support it, but Peralta is pitching a lot better of late. Since the start of June, he has 55 strikeouts in just 43.2 innings of work, including more K's than innings in four of his past seven. There have been some control issues to go along with it, but the arrow does appear to be pointing up here – it helps that his fastball velocity has been up a bit recently, including 0.4 mph Saturday. 

Andrew Abbott, Reds (6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K vs. Brewers) – No pitcher is ever a finished product, but especially not one eight starts into his MLB career. But Abbott has really struggled with consistency so far. The results here weren't bad, but the lack of strikeouts is certainly a concern, especially with Abbott's fly-ball heavy approach. I still feel pretty comfortable starting Abbott, but he's not yet the ace he might have looked like a few starts ago. 

Justin Steele, Cubs (6 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 6 K vs. Red Sox) – Given how good Steele has been this season, he's allowed one off start, I think you'll agree. I do have some concerns about just how sustainable his success will prove to be moving forward, but this start doesn't really change that. Steele is someone I expect to be worse in the second half than the first, but that probably means more like a 3.50 ERA. 

Kodai Senga, Mets (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K vs. Dodgers) – I wrote about Senga as a second-half bust candidate last week, so of course he went out and did this. Of course, I did say this: "If [Senga] solves [his walk problem], he could take off." That's now three starts with two or fewer walks in a row. We know the swing-and-miss stuff is here, so if he limits the free passes, Senga could be excellent. 

George Kirby, Mariners (5 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 4 K vs. Tigers) – And on the other side of the spectrum, Kirby is a pitcher I think would benefit from being a bit more willing to issue a free pass or two. Kirby is a good pitcher, but I think how much he pitches in the strike zone makes him a bit too hittable, and we've seen that a bit of late, with his ERA up to 4.10 since June 1. Seeing as how his xERA is 3.98, that's not a total surprise. 

Kyle Bradish, Orioles (7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K vs. Marlins) – I keep doubting Bradish, and he just keeps making me look bad. The thing I have to give him is, he's become a much better strikeout pitcher of late, with 51 in 47.1 innings since the start of June. I still think he's someone I don't want to start on the road (four of his past six have been at home), but he's making me start to rethink that.

Bryce Miller, Mariners (5 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K vs. Tigers) – Scott White had Miller as a second-half bust candidate of his own, and I've expressed skepticism about him plenty of times, too. The problem for Miller remains the secondary stuff – he just hasn't shown an ability to get swinging strikes with his non-fastball pitches. He did get four swinging strikes with his slider Sunday, however he also gave up an average exit velocity of 93.8 mph on his non-fastball pitches. I just don't think the arsenal is there for Miller to live up to our hopes. 


C.J. Abrams, SS, Nationals – Abrams got moved up to the leadoff spot just before the break, and he's responded with multiple hits in five of six games at the top of the lineup. He's on a pretty quiet 15-homer, 25-steal pace, and the increased opportunities at the top of the lineup will only help the rest of the profile. I don't necessarily buy Abrams as a must-start Fantasy option, but he's a former top prospect who is just 22 still, so I'm adding him in a few spots just in case. 

Bryce Harper, DH, Phillies – Harper ended his longest personal homerless streak Saturday and went 6 for 13 across four games. He hasn't played the field yet, but manager Rob Thomson hinted that Harper should be able to play first base soon enough, which would be a nice little bonus for his value once he gains additional eligibility. I expect a big second half from Harper. 

Zachary Neto, SS, Angels – Neto's IL stint came at bad time, as he had hit three homers in four games prior to his oblique injury. He agreed, as he hit another homer in his second game back Saturday and was back hitting leadoff for the Angels. Neto makes a decent amount of contact and hits the ball reasonably hard, with his .257 xBA and .454 xSLG looking solid enough to put him into starting MI territory in category leagues, especially with five steals in 58 games, too. 

Alex Kirilloff, 1B, Twins – Kirilloff hasn't had quite the impact we hoped, but he's starting to show signs of figuring things out. He homered Sunday and is now hitting .286/.375/.464 since the start of July. He needs to hit the ball with more authority moving forward to be much more than a fringe Fantasy option, but we know the potential is there – he's a career .354/.459/.663 hitter in Triple-A despite a bunch of injuries. If you're looking for an OF stash with upside, Kirilloff has it. 

Masataka Yoshida, OF, Red Sox – Yoshida is on some kind of heater right now. He had multiple hits in eight straight games before going hitless Saturday, and then he had three hits, including a homer Sunday. He's been everything the Red Sox could have asked for, and he's even showing some over-the-fence pop and stolen base potential lately, with three steals in his past 10 games. He looks like a must-start OF in all formats. 

Nathaniel Lowe, 1B, Rangers – It was a disappointing first half for Lowe, but he came back from the break locked in, going 6 for 11 with a homer and three RBI in his first three games. Lowe took a big step forward last season, in large part because he was much more aggressive, especially on pitches in the strike zone, but he's regressed in that regard so far. Hopefully this is a sign of him snapping out of it. 

Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Yankees – I still believe in Stanton, but it's been a pretty rough go of things for quite a long time – he's hitting .188/.274/.415 over the past 365 days entering Sunday. However, this weekend was a good one, as he homered twice in Coors Field. Hopefully that's what he needs to wake up, because a healthy, locked-in Stanton still hits the ball harder than just about anyone. I think he's a decent buy-low if you need power. 

Steven Kwan, OF, Guardians – It's been weird to see Kwan, one of the premier contact hitters in the game, struggling with batting average for so much of the season, so Sunday's 4-for-5 effort was much more like it. He's hitting .327 since the start of July now, and I think Kwan remains one of the best bets for batting average, despite the struggles for much of this season. 

Kerry Carpenter, OF, Tigers – I don't really have much question about whether Carpenter is going to produce when he's in the lineup – he's got a .266/.320/.517 line and 17 homers in 81 games in the majors so far. So, I'm certainly not surprised that Carpenter homered three times this weekend, especially with the Mariners throwing three right-handed starters out there. The problem is he just doesn't play against lefties, which inherently limits his Fantasy upside. Carpenter is a nice option in categories leagues, but he probably won't have the playing time to really help in points. 

Taylor Ward, OF, Angles – If not for Mike Trout's hand injury, Ward might be struggling to find playing time right now, given how much he struggled to open the season. However, he's taking advantage of the opportunity lately, hitting .354 so far in June, including six hits during three games against the Astros this weekend. His overall numbers are still pretty middling, though the underlying metrics are a bit more positive, ranking in the 62nd percentile in expected wOBA. Ward still has some upside if you're looking for it on the wire.