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Another week of the 2018 regular season is in the books, which means another opportunity for players to heat up and cool off at the plate and on the mound for fantasy baseball purposes.
Each week throughout the regular season, we’ll highlight 20 players (10 position players and 10 starting pitchers) who have either enjoyed the last seven days of play or are thankful that they’re over. To qualify for this list, hitters had to accumulate at least 15 plate appearances during the prescribed time period, while starting pitchers had to log at least 7 innings.
In addition to identifying some players to keep an eye on as the fantasy baseball season heads into Week 4, we’ll also add some interesting statistics for a few in particular.
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All Chin Music Baseball readers are eligible for a free $3 entry when you sign up and make your first deposit using the promo code CHINMUSIC.
We’ve already dedicated some virtual ink to Charlie Morton (and the rest of the Houston Astros rotation) this year, but his transformation has been breathtaking to watch. Sure, that 0.72 ERA will go up a little bit once his 99.1% strand rate normalizes (68.7% career rate, 73.0% in ’17), but he’s not making things easy for hitters.
Morton’s 33.3% strikeout rate and 6.1% walk rate would both be improvements over last year’s marks (26.4% and 8.1%, respectively). He’s also induced ground balls at a 60.3% clip to go along with generating soft contact 27.6% of the time.
Even if Tyson Ross‘ performance goes downhill from here, this first month has been a lot more fun compared to a rough 2017 campaign. He’s thrown at least 6 innings in each of his first 4 starts and has produced a 2.81 ERA that’s supposed by a 3.43 SIERA.
The biggest difference so far is a decreased reliance on his fastball and an increased reliance on his slider. Ross has thrown the ol’ number one 45.1% of the time in 2018 (56.6% in ’17) while his slider rate has jumped up to 47.2% (33.7% in ’17).
Despite having a bounce-back season in 2017, Jed Lowrie‘s fast start to 2018 is easy to overlook because he’s out in Oakland and isn’t that prototypical big name. That hasn’t stopped him from racking up 23 RBI, which is the best in baseball.
The veteran switch-hitter’s .403 BABIP is due to stabilize, but his 43.8% hard-hit rate is worth noting, which would easily be a new career high if he can sustain it.
Yasmani Grandal is hoping to notch his third consecutive season of 20-plus home runs, and he’s off to a terrific start. He’s launched 3 dingers off the strength of a .447 wOBA and 190 wRC+. In just 70 plate appearances, the backstop has been worth 1.1 fWAR. He produced 2.5 fWAR in 482 plate appearances last year.
Like Lowrie, his .409 BABIP is a little high, and while his 44.7% hard-hit rate is also very high, it’d be better if his 51.1% ground-ball rate went down a little bit.
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Brandon Finnegan‘s season got off to a late start, but that doesn’t take any of the sting of an ERA above 10.00 away. Various injuries have limited to the southpaw to just over 20 innings since the start of 2017, but the results haven’t been pretty.
During that span, he has a 6.64 ERA, 6.13 SIERA, 22.2% strikeout rate, and 21.2% walk rate. One of the more concerning statistics, though, reveals his inability to get ahead in counts — his first-pitch strike percentage is just 46.5%. The league average in 2017 was 60.8%.
Alex Cobb‘s career with the Baltimore Orioles has gotten off to the worst start imaginable. I mean, there’s no possible way to paint a positive picture about a 15.43 ERA. He hasn’t gotten out of the fourth inning in either of his two appearances, and while it’s still early, a 50.0% hard-hit rate allowed ain’t pretty.
The right-hander has thrown his fastball 58.9% of the time so far this year, which would be a big rise in frequency compared to the rest of his career (46.7%). He’s only used his curveball at a 19.2% clip after using it at a career-high 34.2% rate last year, but that may also be because opposing hitters have posted a 586 wRC+ against it in the early going.
Jay Bruce had one of the best power years of his career in 2017 — his 36 homers were a new personal high, as was his 40.7% hard-hit rate. He’s begun his 2018 campaign slow, hitting just 1 homer to go along with a 19.6% hard-hit rate in 75 plate appearances.
His approach at the plate with regard to selectivity has been sound, though. Bruce’s 25.0% chase rate is much lower than the 31.3% rate he posted last year, which has led to a 10.7% walk rate entering action Sunday (9.2% in ’17).
Domingo Santana also enjoyed a huge power performance last year, as his 30 dingers more than doubled his career total entering the season. We wondered during the offseason whether it was the start of a new trend of an aberration, and a slow start has only intensified that debate.
He’s posted just a .014 ISO through his first 82 plate appearances, hasn’t hit a homer yet, has maintained a low fly-ball rate (29.2%) with a decreased hard-hit rate (31.3%) and an increased ground-ball rate (54.2%). That’s not the kind of start he was looking for.
Who will be hot and who won’t be by this time next week? Time will tell, but while we wait, sign up for DRAFT today and get a $3 free entry by using the promo code CHINMUSIC.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book about how to become a sports blogger. You can sign up for his email newsletter here.