Russell Martin: Martin went 0-4 with a pair of strikeouts against the Yankees on Friday. Martin has been terrible in 2018 and had slashed an unsightly .178/.333/.297 prior to Friday. Martin's .216 BABIP suggests that he's almost certainly been unlucky in this season, but his 18% line drive rate and 21% IF/FB ratio haven't helped his case. That being said, Martin's contact quality actually has actually been about average this season (32.8% hard hit rate, 23.7% soft contact rate), so his BABIP should rise significantly over the rest of the season (but probably not past his .283 career average). Martin has used an incredibly selective plate approach this season as he's posted a 33.1% swing rate (46% is average), but it's helped him post an impressive 14.3% o-swing rate (30% is average) that's driven him to a career best 17.1% walk rate (Martin has improved his walk rate in every season since 2015 and is now 9 points over the major league overage) but a worse than usual (still decent) 23.7% strikeout rate. Martin's performance will almost definitely improve over the rest of the season and his walk rate should stay high, but his tendency to keep balls in the infield and advanced age limit his overall upside.
Jordan Zimmermann: Zimmermann was fantastic on Friday and pitched 8 strong innings, allowing just one run and striking out 11 Rangers batters. Zimmermann has been in the midst of a solid bounceback season in 2018 and is on pace to finish the season with an ERA below 4.00 for the first time since 2015. Though Zimmermann's .288 BABIP suggests that he's benefited from some luck, he's posted a career best 20.8% soft contact rate (and solid 33.3% hard hit rate) while limiting damage on his fly ball heavy batted ball profile (0.48 GB/FB ratio) by inducing pop ups at an impressive 18% IF/FB rate. Despite a continued decline in his pitch velocity, Zimmermann has maintained a 22.6% strikeout rate on the back of his ability to make hitters swing at pitches outside of the strike zone -- his 34.1% o-swing rate is his best mark since 2014 when he posted a 22.8% strikeout rate. Zimmermann has effectively pushed back his career decline by pitching to soft contact and relying more on his off-speed pitches than his worsening fastball (Zimmermann's 40.2% fastball rate in 2018 is the lowest of his career). Don't expect Zimmermann to improve much as the season progresses, but he should finish the season as a productive fantasy asset.
Shin-Soo Choo: Choo went 2-4 with his 17th home run of the season on Friday. Choo has been an on base machine in 2018 and had amassed an impressive 44 game on base streak entering Friday's game. Choo will be limited to DHing for the Rangers until the All-Star break as he deals with discomfort in his quads. The minor injury shouldn't scare fantasy owners away from Choo though, as the 35-year-old appears unlikely to regress significantly over the second half of the season. Choo's .289/.399/.494 slash line and on base streak are fueled by a pair of skills that should transfer through the rest of the year: his ability to make hard contact and selective plate approach. Choo has posted an elite 46.3% hard hit rate so far in 2018 (Choo also eclipsed the 40% mark in 2016) and while his .345 BABIP is a little high considering his relatively ground ball heavy batted ball profile (0.90 GB/FB ratio), Choo should maintain a high BABIP in 2018 based on his contact quality. Choo has also always had a good batting eye and has posted an impressive 22.2% o-swing rate that sits in line with his career average as well as a selective 40% swing rate that helps boost his walk rate this season. Concerningly, Choo's contact rate is below average at 76.7%, but his high quality contact and the fact that his career average contact rate is 76.9% suggest that a low contact rate won't be an issue for him going forward. Additionally, Choo has always been more productive after the All-Star break (his career second half batting average sits nearly 30 points over his career first half batting average), so an even more productive second half may be in store for the outfielder.
Felix Hernandez: Felix lasted five innings against the Rockies and allowed eight hits while striking out two batters. As King Felix's velocity continues to decline, his move towards becoming a pitcher who relies on soft contact (like CC Sabathia has) has been a long time coming but it still hasn't come. Hernandez's average fastball velocity sits at just 90.3 MPH after averaging 91.29 MPH last season and 92.83 MPH in 2015, and with the decreased velocity has come a decrease in the pitch's effectiveness. After resisting that trend and relying more on his fastball in each of the past three seasons, Felix has finally begun tapering off his fastball usage this season. Problematically, the change hasn't helped because Felix has decided to throw his sinker more often as a result of less frequent fastballs. Hernandez's sinker is his only pitch that has been consistently less valuable than his fastball over the past few seasons (in fact, it's been his worst pitch for most of his career), and it's lost some of its vertical movement and velocity over time as well. Felix should probably start using his changeup more instead (his 3rd most frequently used pitch at 25.85%) based on its effectiveness this season, but even then Hernandez is unlikely to be a valuable fantasy player this season. Pitch selection aside (though it likely plays a significant role), Felix hasn't been able to induce desirable contact very well (16.9% soft contact rate, 39% hard hit rate) and has predictably seen his strikeout rate drop to 19.4%. Don't expect Hernandez to improve significantly this season, and fantasy owners should stay away from the former Cy-Young award winner.
Kevin Kiermaier: Kiermaier doubled and struck out twice against the Mets on Friday. Kiermaier has always been a valuable outfielder because of his top-tier defense, but the two time Gold-Glove award winner's mediocre hitting never made him an upper tier fantasy option. Kiermaier has been worse than ever at the plate in 2018, though he's played in just 26 games after suffering a thumb injury earlier in the season. Based on Kiermaier's performance so far this season, that thumb injury is likely still a lingering issue. The biggest indicator that Kiermaier is still bothered by his thumb is his strikeout rate; Kiermaier owns a career 20.3% strikeout rate but has struck out in 32.4% of his plate appearances this season. Kiermaier's increased strikeout rate points towards his thumb because his plate approach largely hasn't changed; Kiermaier's o-swing and z-swing percentages are right in line with his career averages (his o-swing percentage is actually a little better than his career average and his walk rate is up from last season), but his contact rate is 10 full points below his career average and is down for pitches both inside and outside of the strike zone. Kiermaier's decreased contact rate suggests that his thumb injury is affecting his swing, a theory that is further bolstered by the fact that Kiermaier has posted the most ground ball heavy batted ball profile of his career at 1.26 (0.94 career average, and he hasn't posted a GB/FB ratio above 1.00 since 2014 when it sat at 1.14), has seen his line drive rate fall to a career worst 11% (22% career average), and has posted a career worst 30.6% soft contact rate (24% career average). The All-Star break may give Kiermaier ample time to fully heal, so owners in deeper leagues and players looking for cheap DFS options should be on the lookout for a potential turnaround and signs of health from Kiermaier.
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