Reynaldo Lopez: Lopez entered the 2018 season as a former top prospect who had yet to capitalize on his full potential with a chance at getting bumped to the bullpen. Through his first four starts of the season, Lopez finally appears to have broken out and has posted a sparkling 1.50 ERA and may be able to maintain quality production throughout the year. While Lopez's .175 BABIP is unsustainable, some of his success this year can be traced to the introduction of an effective slider in his arsenal. Lopez started using a slider this season and it has been his second most effective pitch at limiting hits and has generated a solid 11.1 whiff rate. Lopez's slider has made his arsenal significantly more effective as a whole as the 24-year-old has gotten into 0-2 counts more than he ever has and is posting a career high strikeout rate so far while throwing fewer pitches in the strike zone than ever. With another solid outing on Friday, Lopez's ERA now sits at 1.78, though he allowed 10 hits with just two strikeouts over 6.1 innings. Lopez probably won't be an ace for the rest of the season as his BABIP regresses (though it should still land below .300 given his 23.7% soft contact rate and 28.8% hard contact rate), but expecting a productive and valuable season out of Lopez is reasonable at this point.
Blake Snell: Snell has been hot since the final stretch of the 2017 season, and the 25-year-old opened 2018 with an impressive 2.54 ERA over his first five starts. Snell was again strong on Friday, going 7.1 innings while allowing just two runs on six baserunners and striking out nine. Snell will probably regress as his .234 BABIP rises towards his .281 mark from last season, but he has done a good job limiting hard contact with a 27.9% hard contact rate so far this year and has improved his command to account for a career best 3.2 BB/9. In addition, Snell has seen an uptick in his pitch velocities this year and has seen improved performance from his fastball and strikeout rate as a result. While Snell is more of a fly ball pitcher than anything else, his ability to limit hard contact has accumulated a career 6.6% HR/FB ratio so his 7.9% ratio in 2018 should be sustainable. Snell likely won't be an ace for the rest of the season as his BABIP is likely to rise and his SO/BB ratio should fall, but expect a productive and valuable season from the lefty pitcher.
Carlos Gomez: Gomez has been off to a slow start to the season that continued on Friday, but he should turn it around as the season progresses as the 32-year-old has been extremely unlucky so far. Through his first 22 games of the season, Gomez has posted an impressive hard hit rate of 37.9% and a 0.43 GB/FB ratio but owns a .236 BABIP, 3.1% home run rate, and a 7.1% extra base hit rate. As long as Gomez continues to hit the ball hard and put it in the air, all of those numbers should rise substantially. Despite his slow start and tendency to strike out often, expect Gomez to rebound this season and produce solid numbers while being a solid fantasy asset. Buy low if you can.
Chris Tillman: After struggling with injuries and posting a 7.84 ERA last season, many fans hoped that Tillman would rebound in 2018, though his metrics suggested otherwise. Tillman has spent his first four starts of the season proving why he shouldn't be rostered this season, posting a 9.87 ERA with just eight strikeouts to 11 walks over 17.1 innings. Despite his poor start, Tillman was dominant on Friday, allowing just one hit and no runs over seven innings against the Tigers. Tillman has largely been victimized by a continuation of a decline in his fastball velocity, and it now sits at under 90 MPH on average after averaging nearly 93 MPH during his strong 2016 season. Even so, Tillman has used his fastball more than any other pitch and as much as last season. As a result, Tillman has allowed hard contact at a high 41.4% rate and has allowed a career worst .380 batting average on his fastball this season. Tillman's .385 BABIP is a little high and his command will probably improve towards his career 1.96 SO/BB ratio, but given his poor ability to limit soft contact and weak fastball it likely won't fall much as the season progresses. Given his poor skillset, Tillman is unlikely to rebound this season and shouldn't be rostered in most leagues this season.
Jed Lowrie: Lowrie has been red-hot to start the 2018 season and would finish with career highs in batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage if the season ended on Friday. Lowrie's batting average should fall significantly as the season continues though as the 34-year-old has benefited from an unsustainable .397 BABIP -- though his 48.8% hard hit rate backs up a high BABIP. Lowrie's 5.1% (14.1% HR/FB ratio) home run rate should also fall towards his 2.2% career mark, but even with regression Lowrie should finish with a batting average above .290 and hit 20-plus home runs while acting as a threat on the bases. Expect Lowrie to continue to be a solid fantasy asset this season, just not quite as productive as he's been to start the season,
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