Eugenio Suarez (3B-CIN) continued his strong 2018 campaign, going 1-3 with a solo homer and a walk against the Pirates on Saturday. He now boasts a .299 batting average (.388 OBP) to go along with 13 home runs and 50 RBI on the season. Several things stand out when looking at his stats to date. First, he's slashed his strikeout rate considerably, from a career-low of 23.3% last season to 17.2% this year. Second, Suarez is making more hard contact than he ever has before, posting a 47.8% hard-hit rate (33.9% career, previous high in a season was 34.9% back in 2016). Third, he's making good use of that hard contact by hitting 39% flyballs, 23.3% liners, and just 37.7% grounders. As a result (fourth), he's boosted his ISO to what would be a career high of .264 (previous high was .200 last year). With these trends in mind, it appears that Suarez is on page for the best season of his career as he approaches age 27.
Sean Newcomb (SP-ATL) pitched six shutout innings to pick up the win against the Padres on Saturday, giving up just two hits and walking one while whiffing seven. The effort lowered his ERA to 2.70 and his WHIP to 1.18. Although Newcomb is talented, his 3.84 xFIP and 4.21 SIERA suggest that some regression probably lies ahead. Part of the issue is the number of free passes that Newcomb issues, although he has slashed the 5.13 BB/9 that he posted last year to 4.05 this season (he consistently posted a BB/9 above 4.50 in the minors). Another indicator of possible regression going forward is his .260 BABIP allowed, which is well below the .327 he recorded last year and the .304 that he recorded in 57.2 Triple-A innings in 2017 and the .302 that he posted in 140 Double-A innings in 2016. The things that work in Newcomb's favor include his solid strikeout skills (9.11 K/9 this year) and his ability to keep the ball in the park (0.56 HR/9 and 7.1% HR/FB), both of which are actually higher than what he regularly logged in the minors.
Willson Contreras (C-CHC) went 2-4 with an RBI against the Cardinals on Saturday. The 26-year-old has so far had a quiet 2018 campaign, as he is now batting .275 (.367 OBP) with just four homers and 23 RBI. While the average is line with his career clip (.276), he has hit for little power, logging a .161 ISO that would easily be a career low (his current low is the .206 he recorded during his 2016 rookie season). Part of the culprit is what would also be a career-low hard-hit rate (30% in 2018, 33.1% career), even though he is hitting more flyballs than he ever has before (37.3% in 2018, 31% career). After posting a HR/FB rate of 23.5% in 2016 and 25.9% last year, Contreras has recorded just a 6.3% HR/FB this season. The good news for fantasy owners is that the homers should come as summer arrives, as he has historically posted his best slugging rates in the months of June, July, and August (.500, .486, and .607) while he hasn't hit the ball as hard in April and May (.394 and .453, respectively). Based on his track record and the fact that you could possibly get him at a discount from a frustrated owner, I would consider making a move to acquire Contreras before he heats up.
Ian Desmond (1B-COL) went 1-3 with a walk against the Rangers on Saturday. He's now hitting just .205 on the season (.273 OBP), although he has smacked 14 home runs and swiped seven bags. Based on his power and speed contributions, as well as his meager .222 BABIP, I see him as a solid buy candidate. That BABIP figure is over 100 points below his career clip of .323, and his 34.1% hard-hit rate (which would be a career high) is encouraging. In addition to a having a bit of a strikeout problem (26.1% strikeout rate this year, compared to his 23.6% career clip), he's continued his 2017 trend of pounding the ball into the ground; he has recorded a 62.9% groundball rate to go along with a 17.6% line-drive rate and 19.4% flyball rate). Consequently, his HR/FB rate sits at an astronomical 42.4% (14.7% career). All that said, I would expect the average to rise going forward, probably as the power output regresses a bit, even as he continues to contribute some stolen bases. That he will play many of his games this summer at Coors Field may help to mitigate the inevitable HR/FB regression.
Kyle Hendricks (SP-CHC) logged a quality start against the Cardinals on Saturday, tossing six innings in which he gave up 3 runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out just three batters. He now has a solid 3.55 ERA and 1.15 WHIP on the season. After breaking out during the Cubs' run to the World Series in 2016, Hendricks has regressed a bit over the past couple of seasons to the point where it's debatable as to whether he's even a mid-rotation starter for fantasy purposes. He's not a strikeout artist, as his K/9 has tumbled to 6.88 (8.05 in 2016, 7.66 career) and his walk rate is up 2.08 in 2016, 2.17 career). His 4.05 xFIP and 4.04 SIERA agree that his surface numbers could be a little worse. One explanation is the 80.4% strand rate (77.8% career). Another is a BABIP allowed of just .247 (.270 career). So, expect a little regression going forward.
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