Rizzo went 1-3 with a home run against the Angels on Friday. After a pair of top-five MVP finishes, Rizzo has seen his OPS decline in each of the past two seasons and had his ISO drop from .252 (2016) to .187 last year (it sits at just .171 so far this season). Fortunately for fantasy owners, there isn't much to suggest that Rizzo is really going through a power outage. Rizzo's hard hit rate and average exit velocity have remained effectively constant over the past three seasons, but his HR/FB ratio dropped over three points last season (from 2017) despite no change in his IF/FB ratio or hard hit rate. Rizzo's barrel rate did drop last season, and that can likely be traced back to his slightly more aggressive plate approach that resulted in a career high 75% o-contact rate -- contact that he may have been better off forgoing in favor of better pitches to hit if he wanted to focus on power (though it did help push his strikeout rate down to a career best 12%). Rizzo has posted numbers that suggest that he will likely continue last season's plate approach, so his power numbers might be slightly depressed again this year. Still, Rizzo should offer plenty of power with very few strikeouts and a batting average north of .280, and he should be a top tier first baseman again this season.
2019 has been unkind to Wheeler so far, but the 28-year-old got the win on Friday, pitching six innings of two run ball with eight strikeouts. Wheeler rode his improved fastball to career year in 2018 that saw him post a 23.4% soft contact rate that ranked third best in the league and nearly equaled his similarly impressive 24.8% hard hit rate (best in the league). Wheeler threw is fastball over 58% of the time last season (his highest rate since 2013 and up over 20% from the previous season), and his average fastball sat at 96.56 MPH last year -- a 1.04 MPH increase from 2017. It's a small sample, but Wheeler's fastball velocity is up again this season, now averaging 97.37 MPH. Wheeler's reliance on his fastball did result in struggles as he went through batting orders for the third time, but even his performance in that split was strong. Interestingly, Wheeler's fastball has been the root of his problems this season despite its added velocity as hitters have been slugging .591 against the pitch so far this year. It's not time to panic yet, but if hitters have adjusted to Wheeler's fastball then he could be in trouble this year. Monitor the situation and see if Wheeler adjusts (bringing his sinker back might help), but be wary of using him until he does.
Donaldson went 2-4 with a double and a run against the Mets on Friday. Donaldson's .184/.326/.237 slash line may not bear it out, but the 33-year-old has been hitting the ball very well so far this season with a strong plate discipline profile. Donaldson has been more selective at the plate so far this season as his o-swing rate has dropped by 4% while his z-swing rate has risen by 1%, and he's benefited from an increased contact rate and lower swinging strike rate as a result. Additionally, Donaldson's contact has been strong as he's posted a 51.9% hard hit rate and 94.7 MPH average exit velocity. Donaldson's numbers have been suffocated by a high IF/FB ratio (21%) and low line drive rate (19%), but those numbers will likely trend towards his career averages as the season progresses. Donaldson's power is still strong and his plate discipline and contact skills have improved from last season, so buy low on him if you can.
Pomeranz pitched five solid innings and allowed two runs with five strikeouts against the Rockies on Friday. Injuries and poor performances forced Pomeranz into the bullpen for the Red Sox last season, but he's back in the starting rotation (this time for the Giants) this season and will look to rebound from last season's struggles. Encouragingly, Pomeranz has seen his velocity rise back up to pre-injury levels, and he's also begun emphasizing his curveball more. Not only does Pomeranz's curveball generate whiffs at a high rate, but it also induces a high rate of ground balls and could help Pomeranz limit home runs this season -- a problem that plagued him last year. With his recovered velocity and adjusted pitch mix, Pomeranz should be able to post numbers similar to his 2015-2017 stretch -- an ERA in the mid-3.00's with solid strikeout numbers -- and be a solid fantasy contributor. Additionally, look to stream Pomeranz in lefty-heavy lineups as the 30-year-old is particularly effective against left handed batters (Pomeranz will likely draw his next start against the Nationals who have just two lefties in their lineup).
Dozier went 0-4 against the Pirates on Friday. Dozier was expected to rebound this season after injuries hampered his performance last year, but his early performance has been lacking. Dozier's poor 28.6% hard hit rate is lower than his even more disappointing 32.1% soft contact rate, and his average exit velocity sits at just 86.2 MPH -- 0.5 MPH lower than last season's mark. Coupled with the fact that Dozier has been drilling balls into the ground (0.3 degree average launch angle, 2.11 GB/FB ratio, 7% line drive rate), Dozier's early season performance is even a little lucky considering his 2.4% home run rate. Last season, Dozier cited a knee injury for his slump, and Dozier's numbers suggest that he may still be hurt. Dozier's poor contact is one indication that he might still be injured as his ground ball rate spiked towards the end of last season while his line drive rate fell. Another indication that Dozier is still hurt is his ability to make contact on pitches outside of the strike zone; Dozier reported that his injury affected his swing, and that could cause him to have a more limited range with his bat. This is reflected in the numbers as Dozier's o-contact rate has been dropping steeply since mid-August and has continued into this season despite a largely unchanged o-swing rate. It's unclear what injury Dozier is actually dealing with (he suffered a bone bruise in May of last season, and then a separate injury in mid-August), but something isn't quite right with the 31-year-old. Considering his history, Dozier probably won't wind up on the IL, but stay away from him until he shows signs of turning his performance around and regaining his health.
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