Votto went 2-5 with his first home run of the season against the Pirates on Saturday. Votto posted a career worst slash line last season but still managed to slash .284/.417/.419 with more walks than strikeouts. Based on his relatively low slugging percentage and career worst 6.7% extra base hit and 1.9% home run rates (4.8% HR/FB ratio), Votto was suffering from a lack of power last season. A deeper look at the numbers shows that Votto's power was still strong last season, though, as the 35-year-old posted an impressive 41% hard hit rate (9.1% soft contact rate) with an average exit velocity in line with his career average. Votto's lack of home runs and extra base hits is especially odd when considering that he didn't hit a pop fly once last season -- a 41% hard hit rate with no pop-ups should not translate to an extra base hit rate and HR/FB ratio lower than the league average. Votto's trademark plate discipline skills are still elite and his power hasn't degraded as much as last year's numbers suggest, so expect a bounceback season in 2019.
Corbin pitched six innings and allowed three runs on six hits and one walk against the Mets on Saturday while striking out nine. Corbin has followed up his impressive 2018 season with a pair of solid starts to open 2019. Projections nearly unanimously expect Corbin to take a step back this season, but just how far he falls is significantly more uncertain. Corbin's slider carried him to a 15.6% swinging strike rate (second to only Max Scherzer), a 66.8% contact rate (second only to Blake Snell), and a 38% o-swing rate (best in the league among qualified starters). Those rates will likely come back down to earth slightly this year as hitters adjust to Corbin's arsenal, but there's only so much hitters can do against a slider as dominant as Corbin's. More concerning is Corbin's batted ball profile; hitters posted a 41.7% hard hit rate with a 27% line drive rate and 7% IF/FB ratio against Corbin last season, but the 29-year-old escaped with a .304 BABIP and 6.3% HR/FB ratio (that's essentially the same HR/FB ratio as Zack Wheeler, who posted a 24.8% hard hit rate). With the expected regression on balls in play, Corbin will have to adjust his arsenal to stay ahead of opposing hitters. Fortunately for fantasy owners, Corbin is reintroducing his changeup this season, and early season results show that it's a different pitch (in terms of velocity and movement) than the changeups that he threw in past years that generated poor results. Expect Corbin to see his strikeout numbers fall slightly with a higher BABIP and HR/FB ratio, but he should still finish the season as a solid third tier or fringe second tier fantasy starter.
Ramos didn't reach base in four plate appearances against the Nationals on Saturday. Ramos has been off to an impressive start to the season and he's done it by hitting the ball extremely hard and making frequent contact. A small sample size has led to some interesting numbers from Ramos so far this year -- the 31-year-old has yet to whiff at a pitch inside of the strike zone (100% z-contact rate) and has posted a ridiculous 8.3% strikeout rate. Ramos' ground ball heavy approach may hold him back (career 1.23 GB/FB ratio, 1.24 last season, 2.00 so far this year), but he's posted an average exit velocity above 90 MPH in three of the last four seasons (with his injury shortened 2017 campaign being the outlier) and makes contact at a solid rate (79.5% career contact rate, 77.5% last season, 82.5% so far this year), so he ranks among the top fantasy players at his position. Barring any injuries, Ramos is essentially a lock to be a top tier fantasy catcher this season and should be expected to continue playing well (although he'll obviously regress from his hot first week).
Buehler got the win on Saturday and allowed one run over five solid innings. Buehler is fresh off of a dominant rookie season that saw him post a 2.62 ERA and finish third in NL ROY voting. The 24-year-old boasts a fastball that touches triple digits and a handful of capable secondary pitches highlighted by a strong slider and an even better curveball, and he should have another strong season in 2019. As impressive as his arsenal is, Buehler will likely take a step back this season as his .249 BABIP was fortunate even with his 23.1% soft contact rate (35.4% hard hit rate) and 1.00 GB/FB ratio, and the pitcher's 77.2% contact, 32.6% o-swing rate, and 11% swinging strike rate likely wasn't enough to support his 27.9% strikeout rate over a larger sample size. Injuries may also be a concern for Buehler as his workload increased by nearly 80 innings between 2017 and 2018, but the correlation between workload increases and injuries is fairly weak anyway. Expect another strong season out of Buehler, and he should be a valuable fantasy starter again this year.
Goldschmidt went 0-5 with a strikeout against the Cardinals on Saturday. Goldschmidt has been off to a tremendous start to his Cardinals career and owns an OPS north of 1.000 despite a low batting average and a high strikeout rate. Goldschmidt's power has been ridiculous over the first week of the season, and the 31-year-old has posted some absurd numbers including a 71.4% hard hit rate (and 0% soft contact rate), a 97.7 MPH average exit velocity, and a 28.6% barrel rate. The extent of Goldschmidt's power surge is obviously related to the small sample size, but some of his underlying numbers suggest that he may be changing his approach to add power this season. Goldschmidt has increased his launch angle so far this season for what will be third consecutive year if it persists, and he's also been significantly more aggressive at the plate -- a trend that has continued from the end of last season. As a result, increases in home runs and strikeouts are likely for Goldshmidt this season, and he should produce another 30+ home runs with the potential for a career best extra base hit rate this year.
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