Winker went 2-4 with his seventh home run of the season against the Cardinals on Friday. With a .200 batting average and .720 OPS entering Friday's game, Winker is one of the best buy low candidates around. Much of Winker's slump can be attributed to an unsustainably low .157 BABIP that has persisted in the face of his excellent batted ball profile that includes a 49.1% hard hit rate, 90.1 MPH average exit velocity, 26% line drive rate, and 3% IF/FB ratio. Also encouraging is Winker's plate discipline profile; the 25-year-old's already impressive plate approach has improved so far this season as he's been more aggressive with pitches in the strike zone without chasing bad pitches much more frequently than last year. Expect Winker's performance to improve substantially over the rest of the season, and buy low if you can.
Archer allowed six runs over four innings and struck out only three batters against the Dodgers on Friday. For years, Archer has relied on a high powered fastball to produce high strikeout numbers and solid FIP's that consistently outperform his mediocre ERA. Archer took a 2.74 ERA into Friday's game though, and the 30-year-old has gotten his average exit velocity down to 86.5 MPH (2.5 MPH better than last season and 1 MPH better than the league average) on the back of his slider. Archer's hot start hasn't come with particularly encouraging underlying numbers though; his slider has been driving the decrease in well hit balls, but it's the same pitch as it has been in the past, except that he's using it less frequently. More concerning is that Archer's fastball velocity is down again this season, and his strikeout potential is down as well. Archer has benefited from a 75.7% z-contact rate so far this season (Scherzer led the league with a 77.5% mark last season, and Archer's career average sits at 84.6%), and his 72.3% contact rate will likely rise over the rest of the season as a result. To make matters worse, although his hard hit rate is down, Archer is still allowing a 26% line drive rate, 9% IF/FB ratio, and 10.5% barrel rate, so his .259 BABIP is likely to rise as well. Archer's hot start can mostly be traced back to luck on balls in play along with increased whiffs on strikes (a trend that will likely reverse considering that Archer's arsenal only got worse over the offseason), so sell high if you can.
Reyes went 0-3 against the Nationals on Friday. Reyes finished last season on a high note and has been hitting the ball well so far this season. Although Reyes has posted a disappointing .219 batting average so far this season, his average is suppressed by a .182 BABIP that should rise well over .300 by the end of the season (and should be well over .300 right now). So far this season, Reyes has posted an impressive 58% hard hit rate (6% soft contact rate), strong 30% line drive rate, and elite 22% barrel rate. Even more encouraging is that Reyes appears to have improved his plate discipline; Reyes is chasing bad pitches slightly more frequently than he did last season, but he's also swinging at pitches inside of the strike zone significantly more frequently, leading to an improved contact rate (up to a respectable 74%). Reyes' better than average strikeout and walk rates are likely fortunate, but likely increases in those categories will be more than offset by his likely to rise BABIP. Expect a big season out of Reyes, and he could finish the season among the league's upper tier offensive outfielders (an OPS around .850 is a reasonable expectation).
Scherzer allowed two runs over seven innings while striking out ten against the Padres on Friday. Scherzer has surprisingly struggled so far this season and took a 4.45 ERA into Friday's game. Unsurprisingly, there is little to be concerned about Scherzer's slow start as his velocity, pitch mix, pitch movement, and command are still as strong as ever. Scherzer has been getting hit a little harder than usual, but his main issues revolve around bad luck and poor defense as he's posted a .395 BABIP and 63.5% strand rate. Scherzer's health might be worth keeping an eye on as he tweaked a chest muscle last week and is at an age where injuries can be more frequent and significant, but there's little to suggest that Scherzer is in danger of any further injury. This will likely be a short lived slump for Scherzer, and the 34-year-old should finish among the top candidates for the NL Cy Young Award again this season.
Walker walked and scored in four at-bats against the Cubs on Friday. Walker has shown flashes of elite power in the past, but 2019 is the first time that he's put together an impressive major league stretch longer than about 10 games. There's little doubt that Walker can hit the ball hard -- his 95.2 MPH average exit velocity (92.3 MPH career average, though that's only 85 games) -- but his plate discipline and contact skills kept him from regular playing time and consistent offensive production. Walker has significantly altered his swing and batting stance since joining the Diamondbacks in 2017 though, and the adjustments allow him to make contact at a substantially higher rate than he did in the past. Walker has also become more patient at the plate and is chasing bad pitches less frequently, helping decrease his high strikeout rate that sat at 41.5% last season (in 37 games). As exciting as Walker's developments are, he is still benefiting from a .431 BABIP and has posted a 66.1% contact rate and 16.5% swinging strike rate so far this season. Walker has a shot at 30 home runs if he maintains consistent playing time over the whole season, but don't expect a batting average above .260, and he'll likely strike out at around a 30% clip.
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