Trevor Bauer: Bauer was strong again on Friday as he allowed just one run over eight innings while striking out 12 Tigers batters. Bauer has been fantastic so far in 2018 and had posted a sparkling 2.77 ERA over his first 12 starts. There's a lot to like in Bauer's breakout year as the 27-year-old completely revamped his slider over the offseason and has seen tremendous success with the pitch so far this year (.130 slugging percentage against) while making it more of an emphasis in his arsenal. Additionally, Bauer's average fastball velocity is up this season and it now sits over 95 MPH. Bauer's peripherals (.301 BABIP, 2.69 FIP) also back up his impressive early season performance, but his batted ball profile is somewhat concerning as he's allowed a 39.9% hard hit rate compared to a paltry 15.2% soft contact rate. Still, Bauer's 5.4% HR/FB ratio isn't unreasonable (though it may rise if he can't limit hard contact at a better rate) and his 29.6% strikeout rate is sustainable -- especially considering his improved array of pitches. Bauer's concerning hard hit rate should catch up to him as the season progresses, but his strong strikeout numbers and improved pitches should allow him to finish the season as a strong fantasy option.
Mike Trout: Trout went 0-4 with two strikeouts on Friday against the Twins. Though Trout has reportedly focused on (and succeeded in) improving his defense in 2018, the 26-year-old is still having an MVP caliber season at the plate and remains the most reliable top tier fantasy player around. Trout has almost no holes in his offensive game at this point, and he's gotten even better this season as he's increased his hard hit rate to a lofty and career best 45.9%. On top of hitting the ball harder this season, Trout has also made contact more frequently (career best 84.9% contact rate) and has walked more often than he's struck out. Trout is also again a threat on the basepaths and had already reached double digit steals for the season (11) entering Friday's game. Perhaps the most impressive aspect about Trout's historically great 2018 season (during which he has been on pace to break Babe Ruth's record for single season WAR) is that his .311/.444/.662 slash line appears to be entirely sustainable if not a little low considering his .327 BABIP -- a number he's surpassed in five of the last six seasons with a worse batted ball profile. Trout is far and away the best fantasy player you could own, and that isn't likely to change any time soon.
Gary Sanchez: Sanchez went 0-4 with a pair of strikeouts on Friday against the Mets. Sanchez has been mired in a rough 2018 season and the catcher had slashed just .201/.303/.455 entering Friday's contest. Fortunately for Sanchez owners and Yankees fans, Sanchez appears to have been hit with some bad luck that accounts for much of his struggles. Despite owning a healthy 35% hard hit rate and 0.71 GB/FB ratio (though his 18% line drive rate and 21% IF/FB ratio are less than desirable), Sanchez has posted an unsustainably low .208 BABIP (.304 in 2017) so far this season. Sanchez's plate approach doesn't appear to be an issue (career best 12.4% walk rate, 31.3% o-swing percentage) either, and his home run rate and HR/FB ratio are both at reasonable rates considering his batted ball profile and career averages. Throw in the fact that he's just 25 years old and hits in the heart of one of the most dangerous lineups in the major leagues and you have a prime buy-low candidate with immense bounceback potential over the course of the rest of the season.
Yoan Moncada: Moncada went 0-4 with three strikeouts on Friday and again proved why he can be a frustrating player to own. The 23-year-old has MVP level potential at the plate and has posted an almost ideal batted ball profile that features elite hard hit and soft contact rates (42.3% and 10.3%, respectively), a healthy dose of fly balls and line drives (0.63 GB/FB ratio, 28% line drive rate), and a .347 BABIP that fits with his batted ball profile. Unfortunately, Moncada also strikes out in 33.9% of his plate appearances and his slash line sits at just .242/.319/.435 for the season. Encouragingly, Moncada has actually improved his o-swing percentage this season, but his contact rate is down. Moncada is still young and has work to do before reaching his potential so this season may not be the time to rely on him, but he should be a priority in keeper leagues because he will be one of the best players in the league once he gets his strikeout rate down.
Dylan Covey: Covey pitched a gem against the Red Sox on Friday and held the team to just four baserunners and no runs over six innings. After struggling in seven starts last season, Covey has rebounded well so far in 2018 and had posted a 2.82 ERA over his first four starts this year. While it is a small sample size, Covey's hot start to 2018 has a lot to like. The one time first round draft pick has actually been unlucky with a .324 BABIP and although he's allowed a fairly high rate of hard contact (39.7% hard hit rate), he's also done a good job inducing soft contact (20.6% soft contact) and has kept the ball on the ground at an impressive rate (1.65 GB/FB ratio, 15% line drive rate). Covey isn't without red flags though; the 26-year-old has allowed a ridiculous 92% contact rate on pitches in the strike zone and his numbers from last season are concerning (that being said, Covey is a different pitcher this season as he's featured his effective sinker significantly more often than he did last year and has almost entirely phased out his once frequently used four-seamer). Covey is a guy to watch, and he could become a dark horse rookie of the year candidate if he continues to pitch as well as he has so far this season.
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