Kris Bryant(3B-CHC): Kris Bryant went 4-for-5 with two homers, a triple, three runs and four RBI Friday vs. the Pirates. While Bryant's surface stats lag behind last year's, the peripherals suggest that positive regression has arrived and is here to stay. How much is the question. I'm encouraged by his 16 percent walk rate (up over five percentage points from 2016) and that fact this his swinging strike and chase rates are both down nearly three percentage points from last season. But the decline in the slugger's BABIP and HR/FB rate looks in part due to the dip in his hard hit rate from 40 percent to 30 percent and his pull rate from 47 to 38. To me this suggests that the adjustments pitchers have been making with sequencing and location have been working, and it's on Bryant to adjust. I believe in the pedigree and the EYE, and see him putting it together in a big way (along with most of the Cubs) in the second half.
Dan Straily(SP-MIA): Dan Straily won after allowing one run on four hits (one homer) and no walks with three strikeouts over 8 1/3 innings against the Giants. Straily continues to enjoy a .243 BABIP despite a 34 percent hard hit rate. His career baseline is .254 thanks to his fly ball heavy approach, but the increase in that hard hit rate combined with more contact allowed on the ground should lead to a 20-30 point spike in the BABIP in the second half. His strikeout rate looks legit, making him a must-own in standard formats, but those protecting ratios may want to stream him for favorable matchups at home.
Jose Pirela(2B/OF-SD): Jose Pirela went 1-for-4 with a solo homer against the Phillies. The 27-year-old journeyman has been receiving regular at-bats (at mostly left field and second base) near the top of the lineup for the Padres and is taking advantage. While he has enjoyed an inflated .363 BABIP, he his also carrying a 35 percent hard hit rate and a 46 percent ground ball rate, which should allow him to mitigate any regression in the AVG. He demonstrated an ability to control the strike zone in the upper minors, so I see him improving upon the 22 percent strikeout rate and he continues to settle into a regular role. He can contribute 10 homers with a handful of stolen bases in the second half, making him a solid number five OF in standard ROTO formats.
Dexter Fowler(OF-STL): Dexter Fowler (heel) went 1-for-4 with a solo homer vs. the Mets. While this is an encouraging return from the DL, I'm concerned about the foot injury, which the Cardinals' staff has said is likely to linger throughout the season and require constant treatment. Fowler is enjoying the league-wide bump in power with spikes in his hard hit and fly ball rates, so the 25-homer pace looks real, but the decline in speed and stolen base potential also looks real. Combine that with the glut of bodies in the Cardinals outfield and I see Fowler as more of a number five OF in standard ROTO leagues.
Austin Slater(OF-SF): I'm not sure I see a better FanDuel play than a Giants stack against the struggling Jeff Locke, and chief among the slew of options to choose from is Austin Slater ($2400). The youngster has crushed left-handers in 2017 with the Giants (after doing so at Triple-A), posting .388 wOBA against with a 48 percent hard hit rate since receiving the call. Locke has allowed 20 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings on the road this season, including a 35 percent hard hit rate with .351 wOBA vs. right-handers. The venue isn't ideal for Slater, but Locke has been struggling, and the Giants bats (including left-handers) have a chance to post big ROI's.
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