Ronald Acuna (OF-ATL) continued to impress in his rookie season, going 3-4 with a double, a homer, and two runs scored against the Pirates on Sunday. The 20 year-old phenom now boasts a .296 average, 23 longballs, 50 RBI, and 11 stolen bases across 368 plate appearances. After entering the All-Star break with a .249 average, seven homers, and 19 RBI in 169 plate appearances, he's exploded since, entering play on Sunday with a .335 average, 15 dingers, and 30 RBI over 158 plate appearances. He's adjusted to the majors quickly, slashing his strikeout rate from 30.4% prior to the All-Star break to 20% since while raising his walk rate from 6.5% to 10% during that stretch. Meanwhile, he raised his hard-hit rate from an already solid 40.4% to a staggering 53.7% while trimming his groundballs from 43.9% to 39.3% and hitting more liners (20.5%, up from 14%). One can't help but be excited to see what he can do over a full season.
Ozzie Albies (SS-ATL) went 2-4 with an RBI and a stolen base as he hit out of the six-hole against the Pirates on Sunday. After hitting .281 with 20 homers, 55 RBI, 74 runs scored, and nine stolen bases over 432 plate appearances prior to the All-Star break, he's struggled a bit since, recording a .248 average, one homer, seven RBI, 16 runs scored, and three stolen bases across 141 plate appearances. He's been striking out a bit more often (19.1% during the second half, 16.4% before), making far less hard contact (27.4% since the All-Star break, 38.5% before), and is hitting more grounders (42.3% since the break, 37.7% before), at the expense of both liners (20.2% second half, 21.6% before) and flyballs (37.5% since the break, 40.7% before). His HR/FB rate has dropped from 14.7% to just 2.6%, and his ISO has evaporated from .235 to .060. One certainly couldn't have expected him to sustain anything near his first-half power output (he never before hit more than 15 homers in a season, after all), but the decline in average for a very good contact hitter is a bit surprising. But Albies is just 21 and has a track record which suggests that he has a bright future ahead of him - even if his output down the stretch in 2018 pales in comparison to what he did before the All-Star break.
Roman Quinn (OF-PHI) went 1-4 with a double against the Cubs on Sunday as he again batted leadoff for the Phillies. Quietly, Quinn recently carved out a prominent role for himself in a solid Philadelphia lineup, going 15-34 (.441) in his last 10 games played, with three doubles, two triples, a homer, five RBI, seven runs scored, and a pair of stolen bases during that stretch. The 25 year-old speedster doesn't strike out much (15.8% this season), but he's also not inclined to take many walks (2.6%). So long as you don't expect him to hit many homers (he has an 18.6% hard-hit rate and hits 52.6% of batted balls on the ground), you might want to consider adding him if you need help in the average and steals departments down the stretch. What he's done so far in the majors this season (.351 average and 6 steals in 76 plate appearances) in tandem with what he did in Triple-A earlier this year (.296 with 13 steals in 107 plate appearances) highlights what he can contribute to your squad. He's currently available in nearly 93% of ESPN leagues.
Kyle Freeland (SP-COL) surrendered three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out three in six innings of work against the Padres on Sunday. The 25 year-old lefty has put together an impressive 2018 campaign, especially for a pitcher who calls Coors Field his home, as he now has a 2.96 ERA and 1.24 WHIP on the season. However, he is probably be a better pitcher for reality than fantasy, as he doesn't strike out many batters (7.66 K/9). Moreover, the peripherals - namely his 4.24 xFIP and 4.32 SIERA indicate that he's benefited from some good fortune this season. His 82.2% strand rate and .281 BABIP allowed to opposing batters both reflect some good luck, as does his 0.79 HR/9 and 9% HR/FB. Interestingly, he's recorded a 2.27 ERA at home this season and a 3.44 ERA on the road, although his xFIP for both (4.16 home, 4.21 away) is close. For fantasy purposes, Freeland has taken a step forward from 2017 (4.10 ERA, 4.70 xFIP), but the numbers indicate that there could be significant regression down the stretch this season.
Jon Lester (SP-CHC) tossed 6 shutout innings against Philadelphia on Sunday, giving up eight hits and walking none while striking out seven. Although he posted an impressive 2.58 ERA and 1.19 WHIP during the first half of the season, his 4.61 xFIP suggested that some regression was in store, and there has been plenty of that since the All-Star break for Lester. Entering Sunday's outing, Lester had recorded a 6.69 ERA and 1.69 WHIP as he regressed as well as suffered from some poor luck (4.78 xFIP). His strand rate dropped from a high 83.6% during the first half to just 68.5% after the break while his BABIP allowed jumped from a low .253 to .347 during that same span. Although his K/9 and BB/9 have largely remained the same, his HR/9 allowed jumped from 1.05 to 2.23 as opposing batters started hitting more liners and flyballs as opposed to groundballs off of him. The good news is that he's begun to turn things around after a disastrous outing against Washington on August 11th (eight earned runs allowed over 3.2 innings pitched), logging three quality starts over his last four outings. Given the up-and-down nature of his season, fantasy owners should expect something in the neighborhood of his overall 4.56 xFIP down the stretch.
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