John Gant: Gant got shelled by the Dodgers on Saturday and allowed six runs on ten baserunners over just 4.1 innings of work. Gant has been in the midst of a strong season overall and he's gotten better over every month of the year, but he shouldn't be entirely trusted by fantasy owners over the rest of the season. Over the course of the season, Gant has seen two trends help his performance: he's gained some movement on his pitches and he's been locating his pitches lower in the zone as the season has progressed. Despite these improvements though, Gant hasn't seen his o-swing, contact, ground ball, or hard hit rates improve significantly over the course of the season, but his ERA has continued to drop. Additionally, Gant's only above average peripheral is his contact rate, and his extended hot streak appears to be supported as much by luck as anything else. Gant has benefited from a .244 BABIP and 4.9% HR/FB ratio for the season while allowing a 44.6% hard hit rate that would rank as the worst in the league if he qualified and indicates that both his BABIP and HR/FB ratio are unsustainable. Coming into Saturday's start Gant had only pitched in 102 innings, so a late season regression appears imminent. Stay away from Gant over the last month of the season.
Jesus Aguilar: Aguilar went 3-4 with a double and a pair of singles against the Pirates on Saturday. Aguilar hasn't been great so far in September, but he should be a strong fantasy contributor through the rest of the season. Though Aguilar's hard hit rate had dropped substantially since a high in late August, it is trending back upwards again and sits at a strong 38.6% rate over his last fifteen games. Additionally, Aguilar's contact rate has trended upwards recently and has sat at a better than his season average 76.8% over his last fifteen games. Furthermore, the Brewers face a mostly hitter friendly schedule through the rest of the season (three of their remaining four series are against pitching staffs that rank in the bottom half of the league in ERA), so Aguilar's performance should trend upwards over the rest of the season. Expect Aguilar to finish the season on a hot streak, and keep an eye on his progress going forward.
German Marquez: Marquez took the loss against the Giants on Saturday and allowed three runs and eight baserunners over six innings of work. Marquez has been dominant over the second half of the season, and he's done it by improving his ground ball, o-swing, and contact rates significantly over the course of the year. Interestingly though, Marquez has largely abandoned his best pitch so far in September (his curveball) in favor of his still very effective slider. Even still, Marquez has seen his trends continue to improve recently (his ground ball rate has sat over 50% over his past 15 games and his contact rate has been at a season best and very strong 71.2% over the same timespan), though his hard hit rate has been trending upwards. Daily fantasy players should look to target Marquez over his next couple of starts but consider passing on him over the last week of the season as the Coors Field effect has had a significant impact on Marquez's performance this year (5.14 home ERA, 2.83 road ERA), and the Rockies continue a road stretch with seven more games before heading home to finish the season.
Michael Conforto: Conforto went 0-4 with a strikeout against the Red Sox on Saturday. Conforto has been streaky this season and appears to be on his way down from a recent hot stretch. After posting a ridiculous 60.5% hard hit rate over a 15 game stretch in mid-August, Conforto has seen his hard hit rate tank to a 29.8% rate over his past 15 games, and his overall numbers will likely tank with it over the rest of the year. To make matters worse, Conforto's ground ball rate rose while his hard hit rate fell, and his overall batted ball profile indicates that his performance should fall over the rest of the year. Conforto's contact rate has been trending upwards recently but has still only averaged 74.8% over his past 15 games and likely won't do him many favors based on his lackluster contact quality and batted ball profiles. Don't expect Conforto to keep his hot streak going through September, and stay away from him unless he shows signs of heating up again (Conforto's hot streaks tend to last 10-15 games, so he might get hot again before the season ends).
Jon Lester: Lester pitched seven strong shutout innings with nine strikeouts against the Reds on Saturday. Lester fought off poor peripherals to post an impressive first half before imploding in July and August, but he has posted some encouraging trends recently and owned a 2.31 ERA over his first two September starts. Notably, Lester's hard hit rate has fallen steadily since peaking in July, and it's sat at a solid 30% over his last 15 games. Additionally, Lester has increased the usage of his cutter so far this month, and it's been among his best pitches at limiting extra base hits and generating whiffs. Factor in Lester's not horrible and trending downwards (over his last two starts) 80.3% contact rate, declining pull rate, and horrendous start to the second half and you get a likely undervalued player who could become a useful fantasy asset down the stretch. Don't expect Lester to pitch like an ace over the rest of the season, but he should be a usable player through September and be under consideration as a solid buy low candidate.
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