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Three Up, Three Down: Blake Snell Blossoms Into An Ace

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THREE UP

Blake Snell, LHP, Rays

The 2015 Minor League Player of the Year is blossoming into the ace he was projected to be. Over his last 28 starts dating back to last year, Snell is 16-5, 2.44 with 187 strikeouts in 165.2 innings. With a 96 mph fastball, a swing-and-miss curveball and slider and a changeup batters are hitting just .188 against per Brooks Baseball, there is no weakness in Snell’s arsenal, and he’s pitching like it.

Jason Heyward, OF, Cubs

Don’t look now, but the J-Hey kid has rediscovered how to hit. After batting .243/.315/.353 the last two seasons, Heyward has bounced back to hit .285/.342/.431 this season. It’s not a fluke, either. Heyward’s hard-hit percentage is up to 43.2 percent this year according to Statcast, compared to 30.9 percent in both 2016 and 2017. With his turnaround season, the former No. 1 overall prospect has become a key cog in baseball’s highest-scoring offense.

Max Muncy, 3B/2B, Dodgers

First it was Andrew Toles. Then it was Chris Taylor. Seemingly every year recently the Dodgers find a discarded player in their 20s and turn them into standouts. This year it’s Muncy. The 27-year-old was released by the A’s after the 2016 season and spent all of 2017 in Triple-A. Naturally, he now has a 1.027 OPS that would rank third in baseball—just ahead of J.D. Martinez, Nolan Arenado and Jose Ramirez—if he had enough at-bats to qualify. A four-time A's Top 30 prospect, Muncy incorporated a more pronounced leg kick with the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate last year, and it’s unlocked a level of impact previously unseen.

THREE DOWN

Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Orioles

Schoop’s breakout 2017 was supposed to portend a bright future. Instead, he’s come to symbolize the Orioles' failures. Schoop has hit .144/.217/.299 since June 1, a stretch during which the Orioles have gone 7-20. He’s not striking out more than usual—he’s just not hitting the ball very hard. Per Statcast, Schoop’s 30.6 hard-hit percentage is down from 37.2 last year and ranks 217th out of 280 eligible hitters in the game.

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Rays Ready For Year Two Of 'The Opener'

The bullpenning strategy was met with skepticism at first, but Kevin Cash and the Rays are ready to go for the second year of openers.

Starling Marte, OF, Pirates

The Pirates' tailspin hit rock bottom with a 17-1 shellacking at the hands of the Dodgers on Monday. A 12-22 slide has wiped out their early season success, and Marte has been front and center. Since returning from the disabled list in late May, Marte has hit .200 with a .590 OPS. It’s gotten so bad the Pirates are sitting him down for a few days, in hopes that a reset can get him back on track.

Bartolo Colon, RHP, Rangers

Big Sexy continues to entertain at 45 years old, but he’s also increasingly not getting the job done. After an impressive start to the season, Colon has a 7.36 ERA in his last six starts, with opponent’s batting .357 off of him. While Colon has repeatedly beaten Father Time in the past, he’s been pitching recently like the end is near.

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