Manny Machado: After a slow start to the season, Machado launched a pair of home runs in Friday's game against the Yankees and should continue to heat up over the course of the season. Machado posted a relatively disappointing 2017 season with a career worst .259 batting average but finished the season strong with a .290/.326/.500 slash line in the second half of the 2017. Despite ranking in the top-15 in average exit velocity and owning a solid batted ball profile with a 22% line drive rate, Machado's BABIP sat at a near league average .300 last season, so even if he posts a similar year from the plate, Machado's overall production should improve this year. 2018 is a contract year for Machado as well, so expect the 25-year-old to stay hot and finish as one of the top infield options in the league this season.
Michael Brantley: Brantley was activated from the DL prior to Friday's game against the Royals and made his 2018 debut with a solid performance, going 1-4 with an RBI double. When healthy, Brantley is one of the more reliable options in the league and should be expected to finish the season with a batting average near .300 with double digit home run and stolen base totals. Last season, Brantley posted a .299 batting average with nine home runs in 90 games, though his .325 BABIP and career high GB/FB ratio suggests that his average will regress a bit this season. Still, Brantley looked fully healthy in his season debut and should be a solid asset this year -- just don't expect him to stay healthy for the whole season.
Jose Ramirez: Jose Ramirez has had a rough start to 2018. Entering Friday's game against the Royals, Ramirez was slashing .043/.185/.174 with just one hit in six games. Ramirez broke out in 2017 and hit .318 with 29 home runs and a .957 OPS and although he is expected to regress this season, the 25-year-old should turn his season around and finish as one of the better fantasy players in the league. Considering his impressive 87% contact rate and solid hard hit rate of 34%, Ramirez's .319 BABIP from last season seems sustainable and he should be able to hit around .300 again this season. The career high 29 home runs that Ramirez hit last season probably won't happen again as they came on the back of a career high 10.5% HR/FB ratio (more than twice his previous career high), but Ramirez is just 25 years old and should be able to put up 20-plus homers again this season. Though he has started slow, he has begun to heat up with a 1-3 showing on Friday to go along with a walk, RBI, run scored, and stolen base. Expect Ramirez to continue to heat up as the season progresses and if you can, buy low on Ramirez while he's still struggling.
C.C. Sabathia: Sabathia entered Friday's start against the Orioles with an encouraging 2018 debut, allowing one earned run with five hits and two walks over five innings. The 37-year-old went just four innings against the Orioles and allowed three runs on four hits with now walks, though he should be slightly more effective than that in his starts over the rest of the season. There is some concern for Sabathia's health though, as he underwent an MRI on his right hip following the game. C.C. has effectively reshaped his arsenal after a disastrous few seasons to deal with his constant decline in pitch velocity, and the work paid off after he posted his first season with a sub-4.00 ERA since 2012 last year. Sabathia induced ground balls at a high rate and was able to cause soft contact a decent amount of the time by allowing a 27% hard hit rate, but his .278 BABIP was likely unsustainable and his FIP of 4.49 suggests that some regression should be expected. Look for C.C. to have a solid season this year, but don't expect anything much better than an ERA in the mid to low 4.00's with low strikeout numbers.
Whit Merrifield: Merrifield was a popular sleeper pick in many leagues, and with good reason. The 29-year-old hit .288 last year with 19 home runs and 34 stolen bases and should carry over much of his success into this season. Merrifield posted a strong 28% line drive rate to go along with solid hard contact numbers while cutting down on strikeouts and increasing his fly ball percentage. While his .288 average may drop a bit this season, his .308 BABIP is sustainable and Merrifield should hit around .280 with double digit home runs and 20 plus stolen bases. While he has started slow this season, Merrifield notched a pair of hits and scored a run on Friday and should be a productive fantasy asset this season.
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