How about this for a stat of the night: Jackson Merrill homered yet again Thursday night, his ninth of the season and sixth in the past eight games. That gives Merrill six homers over the past eight games, making him just the second center fielder in MLB history to homer six times in an eight-game span at 21 or younger. The other one to do it?

Willie Mays. 

During the week of Mays' passing, and on the night MLB held a special game in Rickwood Field, the first game where Mays ever played as a professional, Merrill matched at least one of Mays' innumerable feats. That's pretty special. History doesn't necessarily repeat itself, but as Mark Twain is famously credited with saying, sometimes it rhymes. That's a pretty special moment. 

Merrill is, I don't think I need to say, not Willie Mays. But he's an awfully talented young player who is now on a four-plus WAR pace and seems to be figuring out how to turn a contact-oriented swing into one that can generate some power. Outside of the past week-plus, Merrill hasn't exactly taken the majors by storm, but he's suddenly on close to a 20-20 pace despite making his debut as a 20-year-old, and that might make him a pretty special player. 

The following contains everything else you need to know about from Friday's action around the majors, plus my usual preview of the upcoming weekend's most interesting pitchers, from the struggling aces we're hoping to see more from to the waiver-wire pitchers it might finally be time to buy in on. Let's get to it: 

Give us a reason to be optimistic 

Pablo Lopez, Twins @OAK, Sunday – I think this is like the fourth straight week I've included Lopez, but I haven't really lost faith despite his 5.63 ERA. Lopez isn't executing well right now, something Lance Brozdowski highlighted specifically with his four-seamer usage recently. Lopez's velocity and movement profiles still look almost identical to last season, so the answer is pretty simple: He just has to start pitching better. I can't guarantee he will, but I'm very confident it's coming. I know you're frustrated, but there's no world in which I'm dropping Lopez right now. Even if he struggles here. I'm aggressively trying to buy him. 

Jared Jones, Pirates vs. TB, Saturday – It's been a steady decline for Jones, who went from a 2.86 ERA in April to 3.55 in May and now, in June, a 4.60 mark. His control has regressed of late, and he's really struggling with left-handed hitters, which isn't terribly surprising for a guy who only throws his changeup 7.5% of the time. I still believe in the talent, but it also certainly looks like we may have gotten over our skis a bit early on – I may have compared him to Spencer Strider more than once. The Rays are a beatable matchup, and it'd be nice to see Jones do exactly that. 

Jesus Luzardo, Marlins vs. SEA, Saturday – Among the pitchers drafted as must-start options this season, Luzardo is probably the one I'm actually most panicked about. He has lost 1.5 mph on his four-seam fastball, taking it from a pitch that ranked 45th out of 70 qualifying four-seamers in whiff rate and 43rd in expected wOBA allowed last season to 70th and 65th out of 72 this season, respectively. His changeup and slider remain weapons, but if the fastball is going to be this bad, I'm not sure it matters. I need to see more fastball velocity from Luzardo, pronto. 

Yusei Kikuchi, Blue Jays @CLE, Sunday – It's hard to identify what the problem is for Kikuchi right now. His fastball has been a bit less effective on contact than last season, and his breaking balls haven't been quite as effective, despite similar velocity and movement profiles as last season. He's had a couple of rough outings of late, but on the whole, remains a very solid pitcher – probably one who will provide excellent strikeout numbers but merely decent ratios and the occasional blow-up. This is a tough matchup, so let's hope he can avoid one of those blow-ups here. 

Still worth rostering?

Jordan Montgomery, Diamondbacks @PHI, Friday – The thing that makes Montgomery tough to value right now is, the case for him in Fantasy the past couple of years has been more about him providing a safe, projectable floor, rather than a high ceiling, and now he's decidedly not doing that. There have been some promising signs of late, but he needs to string together a few more good starts in a row before we can get on board, really. The key to watch is the curveball, which has gained a couple of inches of break and has become a less effective pitch. He started to tighten that up in his last start, and if he can continue to refine that, he could still be a viable Fantasy option moving forward. 

Ryan Pepiot, Rays @PIT, Friday – I still want to believe in Pepiot, whose 3.42 expected ERA is more than a run better than his actual mark. His fastball is a legitimately elite pitch, with the best whiff rate among all four-seamers and the third-best expected wOBA, but I do wonder if his reliance on that pitch might not make him a bit too predictable. He's been moving in the wrong direction since a strong start but is still racking up a ton of strikeouts and limiting free passes. But at some point, you've gotta keep runs off the board, and he has just one quality start in five tries since coming off the IL. We can only project improvement on an unproven pitcher for so long before we give up. 

Jordan Hicks, Giants @STL, Sunday – I fully expect Hicks to have a good start here, and I just don't know how much it's likely to matter for Fantasy. He has a 2.82 ERA and ranks just 51st among starting pitchers in Roto scoring because he just doesn't provide much volume – Hicks hasn't gone more than 5.1 innings in any of his past nine starts. That limits his win potential and basically guarantees he won't provide many quality starts, which limits his value even in H2H points leagues, which should be his best format. I think he's probably someone who needs to be viewed as more of a streamer than someone you need to remain married to on your roster, given the low ceiling here. 

Drew Thorpe, White Sox @DET, Saturday – Coming off a five-walk, zero-strikeout effort, Thorpe should have a pretty short leash for Fantasy players at this point. This is a good matchup, and he's a good prospect, but he's the kind of prospect who gets a boost from projectability, rather than upside because his arsenal outside of his changeup is pretty pedestrian. It's possible he can make the profile play up with elite command, but … well, five walks, zero strikeouts. I'm willing to hang on to him to see if he can take advantage of the matchup, but if he doesn't shine here, Thorpe will be a pretty easy drop. 

Andrew Abbott, Reds vs. BOS, Friday – I'm gonna be honest, I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop with Abbott all season, despite the solid 3.42 ERA. He just isn't getting any strikeouts at all, and this approach seems totally unsustainable in that home park. He's gotten away with it so far, but there's little upside, and I'd be happy to drop Abbott for anyone with some upside. A poor showing here would probably lead many of you to start agreeing with me, I'll bet. 

Time to buy in? 

Reese Olson, Tigers vs. CHW, Sunday (64%) – Olson's a tough one to crack, because he has two exceptional secondary offerings in his slider and changeup, and then two fastballs that don't even generate 10% whiff rates right now. If he can get to two strikes, there's a lot to like here, but he's often giving up too much hard contact on his way there – his 46.5% hard-hit rate is in the bottom 9% among pitchers right now. I think on the whole, the profile should make him a viable starting Fantasy option, and one who is probably under-rostered right now. But we'd sure like to see more strikeouts from him, wouldn't we? 

Jonathan Cannon, White Sox @DET, Sunday – I'm trying to find reasons to buy into Cannon after he has gone 15.2 innings with one earned run allowed over his past two starts, but I'm just having trouble with it. He's had some pretty miserable numbers in the minors, allowing a 5.65 ERA across 19 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, and that alone is going to make it tough to buy in. He does have a nice heavy sinker that batters have struggled to do much with, and his sweeper looks like a pretty strong pitch – maybe not an elite swing-and-miss pitch, but a pretty good one otherwise. But the whole profile just doesn't do much to get me excited. I could be wrong, of course, and the matchup against Detroit bodes pretty well for Cannon as a streamer. But as someone who needs to be added 

Davidjohn Herz, Nationals @COL, Friday – I really wish Herz's first start after his breakout performance wasn't coming at Coors Field, because I pretty much don't think we can ever learn much from starts there, good or bad. The ball literally moves differently at Coors than it does anywhere else, so, even if Herz has a great start, it'll be hard to say whether it has any predictive value. Still, he's obviously a name to watch after that 13-strikeout showing against the Marlins, and we'd like to see him keep racking up big whiff numbers with his fastball and changeup.