An in-depth look at some important Fantasy trends
Now six weeks into the season, some new players are starting to catch our eyes. New approaches for hitters and more patience at the plate has led to career highs, whereas other hitters are severely slumping. Also, some pitchers are exceeding their expectations so far. Command issues are hurting other notable pitchers as well.
Matt Davidson’s Power Surge
After a breakout season in 2017, Matt Davidson is on pace to have another career year. The numbers that really stick out for Davidson show his improved patience and eye at the plate. Last year, he swung at pitches outside the zone 33% of the time, but has gotten that down to 23% this season. This has led to more contact at the plate and an absurd 50% hard contact rate. Also, the walk rate has jumped from 4% to 14%. As a result, his On-Base Percentage is up to .376 from .260 last season. It is great to see the progression in Davidson’s game, and they seem to be long-term fixes. He is well on his way to a 30-plus home run campaign, and will be an underrated asset in Fantasy this season.
Matt Davidson: 19 walks over 443 plate appearances in 2017
Matt Davidson: 18 walks over 122 plate appearances in 2018
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) May 9, 2018
Brett Gardner Slumping
Gardner has really struggled in the first six weeks of the season. He is batting .203 with one home run in 31 games. The good news is that the Yankees have showed continued faith in him, and he is still batting first in the order. One of the issues has been producing too many ground balls. He is hitting them at a 51% clip, up from 44% last year. Gardner still has the upside to turn it around batting leadoff in the high-powered Yankees offense. It remains to be seen if his production is starting to fade because of his age, but it is too early to tell. Gardner will feel the pressure soon and could be pushed down the lineup or they could even bring up prospect Clint Frazier down the line. With how consistent Gardner has been throughout his career and the confidence so far from the Yankees, I expect him to break out of the slump. He is a good target to trade for if an owner is worried about him.
Michael Conforto’s Slow Start
Another player that has been in a slump is Michael Conforto. However, if you look at his numbers there is not anything too alarming that sticks out. One of the biggest discrepancies is the hard contact rate being down to 31%. That should be due for positive regression, as it has been around 40% throughout his career. In 2016 Conforto went through a bad slump, but he told the New York Post, “It’s a completely different situation this year, coming off the surgery, limited spring training, limited offseason, so it’s tough for me to compare.” I think he will get back to the success he had in 2017. He is another good buy-low candidate if you can get him in a trade and he should start heating up soon.
Jorge Soler Dominating Lefties
Jorge Soler has made a huge turnaround after a very disappointing 2017 season. Last year in 35 games with the Royals he batted just .144. He has more than doubled that with a .308 average so far with great success against left-handed pitchers. Soler owns a .410 average and a .530 wOBA against left-handed pitchers, which are elite numbers. He has benefited from his strikeout rate dropping to 25% after a 32% K rate last season. Also, after the disappointing campaign last year, Soler went back and retooled his swing, where he “learned to stay back on his load leg and improved his timing.” (Kansas City Star). With his patience improving at the plate, he is a hitter with serious power that will continue to blister balls. I expect his batting average to come back down to around .270, but the power should remain and makes him worthy of owning on Fantasy teams.
Fernando Romero Impressing
Fernando Romero was a highly-ranked prospect in the minors with good strikeout stuff, but just lacked command. In the first two MLB starts, the command hasn’t been great, with six walks, but he has produced a 12.9% swinging strike rate. His pitches are definitely MLB starter caliber and the strikeout capability gives him certain upside. Romero is currently owned in 70% of CBSSports.com leagues, but should be owned everywhere.
Rick Porcello Back to Basics?
Is Rick Porcello getting back to his Cy Young form? His numbers so far this season have actually been better than his Cy Young year. His ERA currently sits at 2.14 and he is getting back to producing a lot of ground balls. The main struggles from Porcello last year came from allowing more fly balls, leading to home runs. He has turned that around with his ground ball rate going back to his career average and allowing only 27% hard contact, which is down from 38% last year. There is some regression due for Porcello with how good he’s been, but he certainly has the capability of hovering around a 3.00 ERA and getting a lot of wins for the Red Sox. Porcello will finish as a Top 20 pitcher.
Jose Quintana Control Issues
It has been an up-and-down season for Quintana. He has pitched two really good games. going six-plus innings and allowing no runs. On the other hand, he has two bad starts, allowing six and seven runs. What has hurt him has been less command to start the season, with a career high 4.7 walks per nine innings. That is a sizeable jump from his career average of 2.4 walks per nine innings, and he will be able to fix it as the year goes on. The ERA has suffered at 4.99, but he has been a 3.57 pitcher throughout his career. He stands as a nice buy-low candidate if you can poach him in a trade off another owner. Quintana has been a model of consistency throughout his career and will turn it around soon.
Bud Norris Fooling Hitters
Norris is thriving in the closer role for the Cardinals. Through 17.1 innings pitched, he has been striking out batters at a career high rate of 33%. He has gotten seven of the nine saves for the Cardinals and has yet to blow a save opportunity. Norris also has a career high swinging strike rate, and O-Swing rate. Hitters haven’t been able to locate his pitches whether they are strikes or balls. The bad news is that Greg Holland is expected to take over the closer role in the near future. If Holland struggles when given opportunities, there is a chance that Norris could beat him out for the spot again. I would hold onto Norris until Holland officially secures the closer role, and then drop him when that time comes. Norris is currently dealing with a triceps injury but reportedly may be able to return by Thursday.
Hector Neris A Buy-Low Candidate?
Another player due for positive regression is Hector Neris. He has really struggled with his command with a 15% walk rate, but he has only an 8% walk rate in his career. He is still striking out batters at a good rate, and allowing a career low 20% hard contact rate. Neris will figure out his command issues and have more save opportunities on an improved Phillies team. He is another good possible buy-low candidate before his command improves and his ERA starts to drop.
Brett Gardner Featured Image: (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)