Jeff Samardzija: Samardzija was rocked on Monday and allowed five runs on eight baserunners over just four innings while taking the loss against the Phillies. Even without Monday's dud, Samardzija has had a rough start to the 2018 season. Entering Monday's start, the 33-year-old had posted a 5.27 ERA and a poor 1.20 SO/BB ratio. Unfortunately, Samardzija's slow start appears poised to continue through the season. One major red flag is Samardzija's velocity; his four seamer has lost over a full MPH on average so far this year and his pitch velocities are down from last season across the board (this may be the result of his offseason shoulder injury, but if he can't regain his velocity then Samardzija is in serious trouble). To deal with his loss in velocity, Samardzija has significantly increased his sinker usage. Problematically, Samardzija's sinker has always been one of his worst pitches and it's been worse than ever this year as he's allowed a .500 batting average against through his first three starts of the season. As a result, Samardzija has allowed a 34.9% hard hit rate and paltry 9.3% soft contact rate to go along with a disappointingly reasonable .333 BABIP. Furthermore, Samardzija's 1.5% home run rate and 3.8% HR/FB ratio should both increase substantially as the season progresses -- especially considering his propensity to allow hard hit balls and heavy fly ball approach (0.45 GB/FB ratio). Samardzija should improve his walk rate (15.4% compared to a 7.1% career average) throughout the season, but getting rid of him should be a priority for fantasy owners who haven't already done so unless they have faith that his velocity decline will reverse direction as he regains his health.
Evan Longoria: Longoria had a rough day at the plate on Monday, going 0-4 with a pair of strikeouts against the Phillies. Longoria hasn't had a great start to the 2018 season from a fantasy perspective, but bad luck and an inability to draw walks have crushed him so far this year. Longoria has struggled to draw walks this season and has posted a poor 2.5% walk rate that should climb up towards his 6.5% average from the last two years throughout the season. In addition, Longoria has been hitting the ball hard this season to the tune of an elite 47.7% hard hit rate (which may fall towards his 34.9% career average), but his BABIP sits at a career worst .272. Longoria's batting average should rise significantly if he can keep putting the ball in play (he has been at a 66% clip which is in line with his career average) and hitting the the ball as hard as he has been, so expect him to improve as the season progresses.
Stephen Strasburg: Strasburg was solid on Monday as he went seven full innings and allowed three runs on seven baserunners (one walk) with five strikeouts. Strasburg has had a strong but less than dominant start to the 2018 season, but he should improve as the season progresses. Strasburg has been victimized by an unsustainably high 13.3% HR/FB ratio considering his solid batted ball profile (23.8% soft contact rate, 24.6% hard contact rate) and his 4.2% home run rate should additionally fall considering his 0.82 GB/FB ratio (his 0.68 GB/FB ratio and more reasonable 8% HR/FB ratio led to a 2.5% home run rate in 2016). Strasburg's .263 BABIP should regress towards his career average of .297 as the season progresses, but his impressive strikeout totals (10.4 SO/9, 4.91 SO/BB ratio) are still in tact and he should be a fantasy ace as his home run rate falls during the rest of the season.
Christian Villanueva: Villanueva has been a pleasant surprise in 2018 after a strong 10 game debut last year, though much of his success appears to be unsustainable. Villanueva's calling card is his power, but his 23.7% HR/FB ratio is unsustainable especially considering his impressive but not exceptional 35.3% hard hit rate and 20% soft contact rate. Villanueva hasn't been particularly productive aside from his power as he boasts a .327 ISO and .592 slugging percentage along with a 27% strikeout rate, so as his home runs decline so will his value. Selling high appears to be a good idea at this point.
Eugenio Suarez: Suarez impressed on Monday as he hit his fifth home run of the season as part of a 2-4 night at the plate to go along with two runs scored and an RBI. Suarez has already struggled with injuries this season but has been productive when on the field and could get even better as the season progresses. Entering Monday's game Suarez had been tearing the cover off of the ball to the tune of a 52.8% hard hit rate (that may fall towards his 33% career average) but posted a .286 BABIP -- a far cry from his .314 career average and what would be expected given his batted ball profile. Suarez has improved his SO/BB ratio in each of the past two seasons and has shown signs of improvements in that category again this season as it sat at an impressive 1.18 entering Monday. Overall, Suarez's increased power and plate discipline make him an excellent fantasy option and his early season success should carry through the rest of the season.
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