Matt Carpenter (3B-STL) went 2-5 with a double and a run scored against the Reds on Sunday. The effort raised his batting average to .236 while his ISO now sits at .193. After hitting a horrid .145 in May, Carpenter turned things around in May with a .297 average, five homers, 11 runs scored, and 11 RBI, and that success has largely continued into June, in which he is now batting .270 with a homer, a pair of RBI, and seven runs scored while hitting atop the Cardinals lineup. The strikeouts have been a problem for him in 2018, as he has whiffed at what would be a career-high 24.9% overall, although he's trimmed that figure to 22.2% in June. His .292 BABIP indicates that there is further room for his average to rise, as his career BABIP is .319. Meanwhile, Carpenter is posting what would be a career-high hard-hit rate of 48.3% (previous high was 42.2% last year) while hitting 48.6% flyballs (40.3% career rate), so he should also continue to hit for some power going forward. If you need help at 3B or could use an upgrade at the CI slot, I'd certainly consider trying to acquire him as a solid buy-low candidate before he heats up any further.
Brandon Crawford (SS-SF) went 4-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBI against the Nationals on Sunday. He is now batting .338 with 30 RBI and an ISO of .198 on the season. Although Crawford has had solid seasons before (such as a 2015 campaign in which he hit .256 with 21 homers and 65 RBI), his numbers so far in 2018 are a bit surprising, especially the batting average. That, of course, is inflated by an unsustainable .401 BABIP which, as it regresses toward his career clip of .303 will bring his average down toward his career .257 rate. And other than the .205 ISO that he posted in the aforementioned career year of 2015, Crawford has never recorded an ISO north of .156 in a single season; so while he could sustain some measure of his current power output, I wouldn't exactly count on it. In his defense, he is making more hard contact than he ever has before (38% this year, 30.3% career) while hitting lots of line drives (28.4%), some flyballs (32%), and not a ton of grounders (39.6%). So although it doesn't seem probable that he can sustain what he has done so far, it is possible that 2018 could nevertheless be his new career year.
Max Muncy (3B-LAD) went 1-2 a home run, two RBI, and a pair of walks against the Braves on Sunday. The red-hot Muncy is now batting .272 (.395 OBP) with a dozen homers and 28 RBI in just 152 plate appearances with the Dodgers this season. The home run total already matches the number that he hit in 379 plate appearances in Triple-A last season, and is the most he has hit in a single season since he smacked a total of 25 between High-A and Double-A in the Athletics organization in 2013. Just as he did throughout the minors, Muncy is displaying tremendous plate discipline, as he is walking at a 16.4% clip while striking out an acceptable 24.3%. His BABIP is just .286, so his batting average isn't inflated, and he's making hard contact at a 43.2% rate and hitting 47.7% flyballs. We've seen overlooked or post-hype players (such as Chris Taylor and Justin Turner) blossom when given an opportunity with the Dodgers, and Muncy has a shot to be the next one. He's certainly worth the add to see if he can continue to perform at a high level; he's still available in just over 75% of ESPN leagues.
Carlos Martinez (SP-STL) struggled against Cincinnati on Sunday, giving up 5 runs on 4 hits and 7(!) walks while striking out 5 batters in just 3.2 innings of work. Although his ERA rose to only 2.50 after the rough outing, his 3.64 FIP and 4.33 SIERA indicate that there are some underlying problems. As Sunday's effort indicated, walks have been an issue for him this season, as his BB/9 now sits at an ugly 5.31 (his career BB/9 is 3.30). He's striking out batters at roughly the same clip that he has in the past (8.90 K/9), although he's been stranding a few more runners than usual (78.7% clip in 2018, 76.7% career) while his BABIP allowed of .262 is well below his career rate of .299. His average fastball velocity has plummeted to 93.1 MPH from 95.6 last year, and he is throwing a new pitch, a cutter, 15.8% of the time. He was recently on the DL for a lat injury, so he may still be recovering from that or simply being careful, but the season-long trends are nevertheless troubling. If you are confident that the talented Martinez will rebound, I won't fault you for holding or buying. But I also won't blame you if the considerable dip in velocity and increased control problems tell you to sell.
Ross Stripling (SP-LAD) performed well against a talented Atlanta lineup, hurling 6.2 innings in which he allowed two runs on four hits and no walks while striking out six batters; his lone mistakes resulted in solo shots by Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies. He's been nothing short of excellent this season, as he now boasts a 1.52 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 10.80 K/9, and 1.65 BB/9. He's certainly enjoyed some good luck, as evidenced by his 2.33 FIP and 2.67 SIERA, which reflect his high 91.1% strand rate and slightly low 9.4% HR/FB clip. On the other hand, he's making a lot of his luck by whiffing batters at 30.7% clip, not walking many batters, and mixing his pitches - he's tossed 39.5% fastballs, 31.6% sliders, 18.4% curveballs, and 10.5% changeups. And there has been a bit of misfortune working against him, as opposing batters have recorded a .311 BABIP against him in 2018, as compared to his career BABIP allowed of .297. My biggest concern is how he will hold up as the season progresses; he's never pitched more than 127.2 innings in a single season, which he did across High-A and Double-A ball way back in 2013 (he pitched only 77.1 total innings last year). But owners should enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts - it's been a great one so far.
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