Kris Bryant (3B-CHC) showed signs of life at the plate on Friday against the Diamondbacks, going 2-4 with a double, an RBI, and a walk. Especially after he slogged through a disappointing 2018 campaign in which he hit .272 with 13 longballs and 52 RBI across 457 plate appearances, Bryant's sluggish start to the 2019 season - a .235 average, a long homer, and 8 RBI - is concerning. He never hit many grounders prior to this season (34.4% career groundball rate), but so far in 2019 he's hit 45.7% worm-burners while logging what would be career-low line drive (19.6%) and flyball (34.8%) rates. These are the sorts of things that are suppressing his BABIP to a low .289 (career .344). His 34.8% hard-hit rate isn't bad - and is certainly better than last season's pedestrian 31.2% - but it's a far cry from the 37.5% and 40.3% that he recorded during his rookie season and sophomore campaign, respectively. At 27, Bryant's now a few years removed from his best season (.292 average, 39 homers, and 102 RBI in 2016), but he merits a long leash given his past production and the fact that he may still be trying to get his feet underneath him after a left shoulder issue robbed him of a big chunk of last season.
Brian Dozier (2B-WSH) went 1-4 with his second home run of the 2019 campaign against the Marlins on Friday. His first year with the Nationals has not gone well at all, as he's now batting just .182 with a pair of RBI and 1 stolen base to go with those 2 dingers. Lots of things are trending in the wrong direction for the 31 year-old, as his 23.7% strikeout rate is on pace to be a career high while his 5.1% walk rate is well below his career 9.6% clip. Moreover, his hard-hit rate has cratered to a below-average 29.7% while he's suddenly become groundball-oriented, logging a 56.8% grounder rate (37.7% career) so far in 2019 while hitting just 10.8% liners (19.2% career) and 32.4% flyballs (43.1% career). So, on the surface and underneath the hood, Dozier has fallen off a cliff. And the peripherals give no real reason for us to just expect him to turn it around.
Kyle Hendricks (SP-CHC) tossed a gem against Arizona on Friday afternoon, finishing 7 scoreless innings in which he allowed 3 hits and walked a pair while recording 11 strikeouts. After a rough start to the season that gave him a 5.40 ERA (5.38 xFIP) entering play on Friday, Hendricks in many ways got back to his usual ways against the Diamondbacks. In his first few outings to start the season, he had surrendered an unusually high percentage of line drives (26% in 2019, 21% career) and flyballs (38% in 2019, 30.3% career) and therefore induced relatively few grounders (36% in 2019, 48.7% career), but on Friday he got opposing batters to hit 63.6% grounders. The 11 strikeouts are an anomaly for Hendricks, though, as his career K/9 sits at 7.61. His ERA now sits about where it should at 3.54 based on his current xFIP (4.00), so that is now pretty much in line with what he's done the last couple of seasons. So long as you expect that - with a far more modest strikeout rate - going forward you shouldn't be disappointed.
Jordan Lyles (SP-PIT) tossed 6 shutout innings against the Giants on Friday, giving up 4 hits and walking 1 while striking out 6. He now boasts a 0.53 ERA so far in 2019, with a 9.53 K/9 and 2.65 BB/9 jumping off the page as good signs. However, his 3.73 xFIP draws our attention to a .237 BABIP allowed and a 100% strand rate. Yes, 100%. I don't think he can keep that up. The 28 year-old did show some promise over 87.2 innings of work last year, especially by boosting his K/9 to 8.62 after logging a sub-6.5 K/9 prior to last season. Interestingly, his average fastball velocity is down to just 92 MPH this season after sitting at about 94 last year, and he's completely abandoned his slider and has thrown his curveball a career-high 32.9% of the time. Ray Searage has worked wonders with other pitchers in Pittsburgh, so it's worth watching to see how Lyles does going forward - but I'm not buying in on him yet.
Caleb Smith (SP-MIA) performed well again, this time giving up just 1 run on 5 hits and no walks while striking out 8 Nationals on Friday. The outing lowered his ERA to just 2.35 on the season to go along with a stellar 11.35 K/9 and vastly improved 2.35 BB/9, and his 2.90 xFIP indicates that he's really been just about that good. While the strikeouts were there when he began to break out last season (10.24 K/9), the big concern about the lefty was his control, as he recorded a 3.84 BB/9 over his 77.1 innings pitched. Although he's a flyball-oriented pitcher (you know, when he's not whiffing guys) with a 45.9% flyball rate this season (50.8% last year), he does have the advantage of calling Marlins Park his home, and he does limit opposing batters to a roughly league-average 31.6% hard-hit rate. Amazingly, Smith is widely available in fantasy leagues; he's currently rostered in only 21% of ESPN leagues, for example. If he's a free agent in your league, it's time to make the add.
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