Josh Bell (1B - PIT) - Bell is making the star turn here in 2019, at least as far as I can tell. The 26 year old doubled and hit his 9th homer of the year on Wednesday, a massive 472-foot blast into the Allegheny in the 9-6 loss to Texas. Bell's hard contact rate has jumped about 10% so far this season, the flyball rate has bumped up to almost 40%, and the HRs are coming in bunches now. He's 10th in exit velocity as well, so this isn't anything fluky at all.....he looks like a legitimate 35-HR threat, and the little bit of contact that he's sacrificed by swinging a bit harder doesn't seem to be impacting his AVG all that much. I think he's a standard league starter at 1B, and that's high praise honestly.
Brandon Woodruff (SP - MIL) - Woodruff was brilliant on Wednesday, striking out 9 Nationals over 6 innings while allowing just 1 run to move to 5-1 on the year. He was routinely 95-98 with his fastball and flashed a plus slider against RHB, and this hasn't been anything new of late, as in his last three outings he's gone 16 innings and fanned 23 batters. He does allow a bit of hard contact, and mixed with a low GB rate that gives him a lower floor than many, but I like what I've seen seeing here and I think he merits a waiver claim in most formats.
Jerad Eickhoff (SP - PHI) - Eickhoff tossed 8 shutout innings against the Cards on Wednesday, and while he only fanned 4 batters, he did generate 12 swinging strikes on just 106 pitches, which is pretty close to what he was averaging coming into the contest. That figure is a major jump from his last significant MLB action (2017), and he's managing this on the strength of his improved breaking pitches, as the fastball velocity has actually dipped down under 90 mph. He has been so good thus far.....he's only allowed 1 run in 25 innings outside of Colorado this year, that I feel like I might even trust him in next week's two start week against MIL and COL, both at home. The hard contact rate has dropped down under 30%, and combined with the improved control and K rate I think we are seeing a true step forward.
Matt Strahm (SP - SD) - Strahm tossed his 4th straight quality start on Wednesday, holding the Mets to 2 runs over 6 1/3 innings although he did end his 32 1/3 inning walkless streak in the 7th. A lot of the peripheral indicators aren't all that impressive for Strahm, as the bat-missing ability has declined with the velocity, and the hard contact rate and flyball rate are both elevated. His massive spike in slider usage has helped him, as that's become his second best offering as the fastball quality has declined, but the fact that he's been fortunate in all of these road starts will likely help keep his raw stat s on the positive side of things, as his home park will shelter him quite well in general. He's probably a bit overvalued right now, but I do think Strahm is a reasonable #5 starter in most formats....the control is great, the home park is favorable, and the supporting offense is much improved this year.
Jason Heyward (OF - CHC) - Heyward's numbers are slowly drifting back down toward his career norms, even with his 6th homer of the season on Wednesday (winning the game in the 11th). He's still walking more than he's striking out, illustrating the excellent contact ability that he's retained through all of the struggles. He already has 4 steals this year as well, which is more than he's run in a few years. The power is mostly based on the highest flyball rate of his career to this point....the hard contact rate and exit velocity aren't anything special, and there's still a ton of soft contact from Heyward (over 20% consistently). Could he get back to the performances from his Brave tenure? Sure, I don't think that's beyond his capabilities, but for those still wishing upon his age-20 season and extrapolating from there....sometimes the career year happens before the career. He could give you average production everywhere with a bit better than that in AVG, but that's probably the ceiling.
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