James Shields: Shields allowed eight runs (two earned) over 4.2 innings while taking the loss against the A's on Friday. Shields hasn't been posted an ERA below 4.00 since 2015, and that streak will likely continue through 2018. The 36-year-old had posted a 4.63 ERA entering Friday's start, and he will likely get worse as the season progresses. Shields has been lucky on a number of fronts so far in 2018, perhaps most significantly with balls in play. Despite allowing a 32.8% hard hit rate (and inducing a paltry 14.9% soft contact rate) and pitching in front of a horrible White Sox defense, Shields has posted a .254 BABIP (it doesn't help that he owns a .297 career average and has allowed a 0.60 GB/FB ratio either). That number will likely rise over .300 over the rest of the season, and that alone should seriously depress Shield's already uninspiring fantasy prospects. Still, Shields' situation is even worse when you consider his 6.8% HR/FB ratio; his career average sits at 9.2% and he traditionally allows less hard contact than he has this season. Combine all of that with Shields' lackluster strikeout numbers and you get an undesirable starting pitcher poised to get worse. There's really no reason to keep Shields on a fantasy roster in most leagues at this point, and fantasy owners should either sell while they can or drop him.
Jeimer Candelario: Candelario went 0-4 with a strikeout in Friday's loss to the Indians. Candelario is in the midst of a productive rookie season with the Tigers and had posted a solid .252/.358/.483 slash line entering Friday's game. There's a lot to like about Candelario's solid 2018 season as well as the 24-year-old has posted an impressive 37.2% hard hit rate while maintaining a healthy 0.74 GB/FB ratio and 24% line drive rate. Candelario also doesn't appear to be benefiting from a significant amount of luck as the third-baseman has posted a reasonable .305 BABIP and 3.7% home run rate (12.3% HR/FB ratio), so as long as he continues to hit the ball well, Candelario should produce at roughly this rate all season. One concerning issue for Candelario is his strikeouts (25.3% strikeout rate), but his strikeout rate isn't bad enough to stop him from being productive and is an expected growing pain for the hard hitting rookie. Expect Candelario to continue to be a valuable fantasy asset as the season progresses.
Wade LeBlanc: LeBlanc pitched poorly on Friday and pitched just 4.2 innings, allowing six runs in a high scoring game against the Red Sox. LeBlanc has been a pleasant surprise for the Mariners this season and had posted a 2.63 ERA entering Friday's start. Expect LeBlanc's strong season to continue as well as the 33-year-old has posted mostly sustainable peripheral statistics so far and has found success with his slider (which now makes up 31 percent of all of his pitches -- up over eight percent from last season) which has allowed an impressive .211 batting average against. Additionally, LeBlanc's command has been great in 2018 as he's posted a strong 3.71 SO/BB ratio. That being said, LeBlanc's breakout season isn't without issues. LeBlanc has done a poor job inducing soft contact (17.1% soft contact rate) and owns a fly ball heavy batted ball profile (0.57 GB/FB ratio), so his .266 BABIP will likely rise over the rest of the season. Still, LeBlanc should finish the season as a valuable fantasy asset even as his performance likely takes a slight step backwards.
Wilson Ramos: Ramos accumulated a trio of singles in a 3-4 night against the Yankees on Friday. After getting eye surgery in 2016, Ramos has been one of the premier hitting catchers in the league and took a .288/.337/447 slash line into Friday's game. Though he has posted an impressive 38.8% hard hit rate and decent 1.05 GB/FB ratio, Ramos' .331 BABIP suggests that he's been a little lucky on balls in play, and his 40.8% o-swing percentage is concerning (and fuels his near 20% strikeout rate). Ramos should be expected to regress slightly over the course of the rest of the season and will likely continue to strike out at a relatively high rate, but his ability to make strong contact (solid hard hit rate, 26% line drive rate, 6% IF/FB ratio) should allow him to finish as an upper tier catching option for fantasy owners.
Kyle Seager: Seager went 0-5 with a pair of strikeouts against the Red Sox on Friday. Seager has struggled so far in 2018 and had slashed just .228/.279/.424 with a career worst 21.2% strikeout rate prior to Friday's game. Fortunately for Seager owners, the third baseman is likely to turn his performance around as the season progresses. Despite owning an impressive batted ball profile (38.2% hard hit rate, 8.4% soft contact rate, 0.59 GB/FB ratio), Seager has posted an unsustainably low .250 BABIP that should eclipse his .283 career average by the end of the year. Seager's poor strikeout numbers are likely to improve as well as his 27.6% o-swing and 81.1% contact rates are in line with his career averages but his strikeout rate remains unusually high. Expect Seager to improve significantly over the rest of the season, and buy low if you can.
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