Paul DeJong (SS-STL)
DeJong belted his second home run in the last four games, finishing Saturday's game 2-4 with two RBIs. He is now top-5 in all of baseball in home runs with six. After hitting 38 long balls between AAA and the majors last season, it's time we start recognizing his power is real. The problem is we also have to recognize his plate discipline, which is also real. Really bad. His strikeout rate is up from last year (28% to 42%). Right now his BABIP (.344) is right in line with last year's, but it's hard to believe that will continue with an inflated fly-ball rate (51.4%) and his current pull-happy approach. It's why if he doesn't fix his batting EYE, his average and OBP are going to drop even further than they are right now (.235 and .297, respectively). Bottom line: appreciate the home runs, expect little else.
Yu Darvish (SP-CHC)
Saturday was another less-than-stellar performance by Darvish, his third non-quality start in four appearances. Darvish gave up five runs (all with two outs in the 5th) in 4.2 IP. He gave up five hits, walked four and struck out four. Is Yu Darvish just a 4-inning pitcher now? Maybe he should be. Check these numbers out: in his first two times through the lineup this season, Darvish has a 1.53 ERA. Third time through? That ERA spikes to 54.00. Yes, most pitchers struggle the third time through, but those numbers are a bit extreme. What's weird is Darvish doesn't have a history of such drastic struggles. Because he isn't going deep into games, his average velocity is higher than ever but his walks are way up, too. As for his struggles the third time through the lineup, it's really only two innings so it's possibly just an anomaly. His 4.61 xFIP on the season suggests his stats could revert to more palatable numbers. There is real concern here, however.
Bryce Harper (OF-WAS)
I'm about to embark on a journey where I explain why you might want to take caution with Bryce Harper, the NL leader in WAR and wOBA. First of all, let's address one little facet of the conversation: this is a SMALL SAMPLE SIZE. Is that clear? Okay, good. 2016 was Harper's worst year by a long shot. In that injury-riddled campaign, Harper finished with a triple slash of .243/.373/.441. It was definitely an outlier in Harper's otherwise magnificent career. However, 2018 is looking more like 2016 than his MVP-caliber season of 2015. Perhaps the most striking similarity are his batted balls. His 2018 line-drive rate (16.7%) is the lowest of his career, just below his 2016 rate of 17.2%. This is part of the reason his BABIP was so low in '16. It's even lower so far this season (.208). On the flipside of all this, Harper was below average against fastballs in 2016 and he's crushing them this year. His hard-hit rate (37%) is fine, actually above last year's, but his HR/FB% is unsustainably high. That's the reason he's leading the majors in home runs. His low line-drive rate and BABIP are reasons for his sub-.300 batting average (after going 0-2 on Saturday, his BA is .277). The concern here is if he doesn't start driving the ball more, his home runs will plateau while his batting average will stay lower than his career mark of .285. Now in fairness, it's probably not prudent to read much into line-drive rate less than 100 plate appearances into the season. Plus, there are plenty of reasons for optimism: his Batting EYE is nearly 2, his ISO is almost .400 and his chase rate is steady. Again, it's a small sample size, but maybe someone sees the "Forty Homer Harper" and is willing to trade the house for him. Perhaps something you should consider.
Freddie Freeman (1B-ATL)
After striking out four times in his first nine games, Freeman now has seven strikeouts in his last five. The good news is he picked up a couple extra-base hits on Saturday against the Mets. After hitting 28 homers in 514 plate appearances last season, the 28 year old only has two long balls so far this year. That's why his ISO is nearly 100 points less than last year. He's still hitting the ball hard and spraying it all over the field and a 7.7% HR/FB rate suggest the homers will come. Another interesting note, Freeman has a reverse split thing going on this year: he's hitting .333 with one of his home runs against lefties whereas he has a career wOBA vs LHP (.340) that is 50 points less than his wOBA vs RHP (.390). One of his doubles tonight was off southpaw Jerry Blevins.
Asdrubal Cabrera (2B-NYM)
Cabrera went 2-4 with two RBIs in New York's loss to Atlanta on Saturday. He now has 11 hits in his last six games. The common consensus heading into the season was Asdrubal Cabrera was one of those late-round, low ceiling/high floor guys. Little did fantasy owners expect the Mets infielder to lead the National League in WAR as we approach the end of April. Yet that's the case. Cabrera's walk-rate is his lowest since 2010, but his strikeout-rate is also solid at 14.5%. His contributions are mostly coming through balls in play. His BABIP (.361) is higher than his career norm, but almost all his other BIP peripherals appear to be pretty sustainable. The one exception is HR/FB, which is 15.4% (2017: 9.7%). As the BABIP drops, so will his average. As the HR/FB rate levels off, his power numbers will regress. With that being said, he could be in for one of his best seasons at 32 years old. An entirely reasonable line for 2018: .290/.360/.460 with 20+ home runs and more than 75 runs and RBIs.
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