Michael Brantley (OF-CLE) went 3-5 with a solo home run and two runs scored against the Tigers on Wednesday. He now boasts a season batting average of .338 (.376 OBP), six homers, and 28 RBI as he tries to put injury-plagued 2016 and 2017 campaigns behind him. The 31 year-old is doing what he does best, making plenty of contact (7.1% strikeout rate), although his walk rate of 5.7% would be the lowest of his career (7.8% career BB%). Brantley's BABIP of .328 (actually lower than his .338 average) isn't far off his career rate of .313 (he posted a .325 BABIP and .299 average in 375 plate appearances last year), so his average shouldn't come down much going forward. One of the most encouraging things about his performance to date has been the uptick in power, as his .216 ISO eclipses what he posted during his breakout 2014 campaign in which he hit 20 homers. His 37.6% hard-hit rate indicates that he's squaring up on more balls (28.8% career rate, 33.8% in 2014) while his HR/FB of 12.5% is closer to his 2014 rate of 12.7% than his career clip of 7.8%. So long as he stays healthy (far from a sure thing), it looks like 2018 Michael Brantley could be even better than MVP-candidate 2014 Michael Brantley (minus some stolen bases - he stole a career-high 23 in 2014, but has only one so far this year).
C.J. Cron (DH-TB) went 2-4 with a solo homer and three runs scored against the Royals on Wednesday. After starting off the season with a solid April (.281 average, seven homers, and 19 RBI entering May), Cron has only gotten hotter, and is now hitting .327 with three homers and seven RBI so far in May, giving him an overall line of .289, 10 home runs, and 26 RBI. While he is walking a bit less often (4.6% rate in 2018, 4.9% career) and striking out a bit more frequently (23% this year, 21.5% career), Cron is logging what would be a career-high batting average, on-base percentage, and ISO. The average will likely drop some given that his BABIP of .321 exceeds his career BABIP of .300, although he's posting a career-high hard-hit rate of 39% (previous high was 35.8% last year). Finally given regular playing time, Cron is flourishing in Tampa Bay... yet he's pretty underowned in fantasy (only owned in 37.9% of ESPN leagues). Quit waiting for him to cool off and add him already.
Logan Morrison (1B-MIN) continued his climb back toward relevance on Wednesday, going 2-3 with a homer, two RBI, and a walk against the Cardinals. After an abysmal start to the season (he entered May with a .145 average, two home runs, and seven RBI), so far in May he is batting .300 with three homers and eight RBI. His 20.8% strikeout rate shows that he's been striking out just a little more often (19.2% career) while his walk rate of 10.4% is nearly identical to his career 10.5% rate. The real problem has been Morrison's BABIP, which sits at .231, as compared to a career BABIP of .271. This is partly due to a hard-hit rate (33.3%) that would be his lowest since 2015 and what would be a career-high soft-hit rate (23.7%). His infield flyball rate sits at a whopping 20%. Based on his work so far in May, it appears that Morrison is progressing toward the mean and should be more of an asset going forward in 2018.
Trevor Bauer (SP-CLE) dominated the ghost of the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, tossing eight shutout innings in which he struck out 10 batters while giving up just four hits and walking none. Bauer is enjoying a fine 2018, as the outing lowered his ERA to 2.59, which is largely supported by a 2.81 FIP. The xFIP is a less-pretty 3.51, in large part because he has halved the rate at which he gives up home runs (.46 HR/9 in 2018, 1.06 career). Otherwise, his peripherals generally support the excellence on the surface, as his K/9 sits at 10.22 (8.80 career, 10.06 last year), his BB/9 is at 3.20 (3.68 career, 3.06 in 2017), his BABIP allowed of .278 is a bit below his career rate of .300 (.337 last year), and he is stranding 76% of baserunners (72.8% career, 76.8% in 2017). His fastball is up a full tick from last year (95.4 MPH, up from 94.3 MPH in 2017), although he's throwing it less often (35.9% this year, 38.5% career) while throwing more curveballs (30% in 2018, 19.1% career) and some sliders (16.5% this year, 10.4% career). As his performance to date this year is very much in line with his dominance after the All-Star break in 2017, I think it's safe to say that the 27 year-old has finally arrived as at least a #2 starter in fantasy.
J.A. Happ (SP-TOR) baffled Mets hitters on Wednesday, tossing seven shutout innings in which he struck out 10 batters while walking none and giving up just two hits. The effort lowers his ERA to 4.15 and his WHIP to 1.13 while boosting his K/9 to 11.42 and lowering his BB/9 to 2.25. Those numbers alone reflect that he's having a good season, but his 3.79 FIP and 3.02 xFIP suggest that some bad luck has inflated his ERA. His strand rate is actually a little on the low side for him at 73.8% (74.7% career) and his BABIP allowed of .298 is just a tad high (.291 career). The culprit here is probably the long ball, as Happ's HR/9 sits at 1.56, well above his career rate of 1.10 and opposing batters' HR/FB of 22% is more than double his career rate of 10.6%. Seeing as he's given up a hard-hit rate of 30.3% (in line with his career 29.7% hard%) and is allowing fewer flyballs (34.5% in 2018, 39.2% career), one could see Happ's ERA dropping further going forward.
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