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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 5, 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.
The most national publicity Brandon Belt received was for the 21-pitch plate appearance he was part of last weekend. While that trip to the plate ended in a lineout, he still has the highest wRC+ among qualified hitters over the past seven days.
His 183 wRC+ on the year is on pace to easily be a new career high, and he’s been accomplishing this through changes in his batted-ball profile. Heading into Friday, Belt’s 21.3% ground-ball rate is the lowest in baseball, while his 53.2% fly-ball rate and 47.9% hard-hit rate are among the top 15.
Michael A. Taylor is starting to shake what was a slow start by hitting his first two home runs of the season this week. Him getting on base is crucial for the Washington Nationals. His three stolen bases over the past seven days are tied for second in baseball, while his 9 thefts overall are also tied for second (with teammate Trea Turner the only one ahead of him).
Marco Gonzales‘ most recent outing against the Chicago White Sox was easily his best of the year. What’s been noticeable about his last two starts, though, is a rise in strikeouts — he’s whiffed 8 hitters in each appearance. It’ll be interesting to see how much of his 27.6% strikeout rate he can sustain moving forward if his swinging-strike rate doesn’t change from its current 9.7% mark.
A happy trend for Gonzales is the drop in hard contact allowed. Through two starts, opposing hitters had a 53.1% hard-hit rate and 9.2% soft-hit rate against him. Over his last three starts, those numbers have both improved to 26.5%.
After seemingly taking a step forward in the second half of last year, Blake Snell has kept that momentum going in April. The southpaw owns a 2.54 ERA that’s supported by a 3.53 SIERA, along with a 29.1% strikeout rate and 9.1% walk rate.
While Snell’s curveball was his most successful pitch in 2017 when looking at opponent wRC+ (29), it was the least-used offering in his arsenal (10.3%). So far in 2018, he’s thrown it 14.7% of the time, second to only his fastball. The results have been good, too — opponents have mustered a -31 wRC+ against it.
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With 8 wins in their last 10 games, the St. Louis Cardinals find themselves tied at the top of the National League Central with the Milwaukee Brewers thanks to a 15-9 overall record. It’s even more impressive since two crucial cogs of their offense have been cold. This isn’t anything new for Marcell Ozuna, though, who owns a 61 wRC+ through his first 100 plate appearances with the club.
After walking at a career-high 9.4% clip in 2017, he’s drawing bases on balls just 3.0% of the time so far this year. While his BABIP isn’t terrible at .304, it’s encouraging to see that he owns an 11.3% soft-hit rate and 45.1% hard-hit rate. It’ll be helpful once he raises his 28.2% fly-ball rate a tad. That number has never finished below 30.0% for Ozuna in a single season.
Justin Upton isn’t the only Angels player struggling at the plate over the past week. However, dealing with the Houston Astros’ ridiculous rotation for part of that time helps explain things.
Los Angeles’ left fielder is off to a bit of a sluggish start — 95 wRC+ and .163 ISO in 112 plate appearances — but we can at least be encouraged by a batted-ball profile similar to last year despite a .275 BABIP (.341 in ’17).
This is not the Sonny Gray the New York Yankees were hoping for to start the season. He’s never finished a year with his ground-ball rate dipping below 52.7%, but that number is currently at 46.6%.
It’s also rather troubling that he’s walking hitters at a 14.6% clip. It seems like a big issue is getting ahead in counts early — his 50.0% first-pitch strike rate would be the fifth-worst mark in baseball if he qualified for the ERA title. Knowing that, it’s not shocking that opposing hitters are chasing just 23.2% of Gray’s pitches out of the strike zone (31.6% in ’17).
Jordan Zimmermann‘s year has been weird, don’t you think? He owns a 7.91 ERA, which would be second-worst among qualified pitchers entering Friday’s action. However, he also owns a very reasonable 3.75 SIERA. He’s accomplished this with an improved strikeout rate (24.4%) and walk rate (5.6%).
Unfortunately for him, though, he’s allowing 2.33 homers per nine innings of work off the strength of 47.6% fly-ball rate and 38.1% hard-hit rate allowed.
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.