Juan Soto, OF (WAS)
Aided by some friendly winds, Soto filled up the box score in Washington's 9-8 win over Philadelphia. The 20 year old went 3-4 with a home run and three RBIs. He now has two games with at least one hit in the team's first five games of the season. He had three hits in each of those two games. So a little hit-and-miss on the DFS front in the early going. One of the key aspects that makes Soto so darn talented is his plate discipline. However, prior to Wednesday he was swinging and missing at an alarming rate, but in his productive performance against Aaron Nola and the Phillies, Soto only registered one whiff in five plate appearances. He was showing more patience with longer at bats and that's when he can exhibit his power. Losing Trea Turner to injury hurts because the Nationals opted for Brian Dozier (currently at .111/.158/.111) at the No. 2 spot in the batting order. The lineup is not what it was last year with Harper providing protection and Turner hitting in front, but Soto can hit. Soto can walk. Soto is good.
German Marquez, SP (COL)
In two starts in the state of Florida, Marquez is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA and 14 strikeouts. Tampa Bay was his victim on Wednesday, as he managed to avoid damage despite allowing three walks for the second straight game. He has such an excellent slider, a pitch he used 18% of the time last year, but continued to use it more and more throughout the season. On Wednesday 31 of his 91 pitches were sliders. He got perfect results (no batter got a hit off his slider). If it is a trend that he is going to up the usage of his slider, expect his strikeout rate to rise while his walk rate could also see an uptick. I'm telling you, this slider is flat out nasty. If only he could throw it every time, but he can't. Because, well, baseball.
Jon Lester, SP (CHC)
It is somewhat remarkable how Lester is able to minimize damage despite an inability to fool hitters. He allowed six hits and three walks on Wednesday but escaped with only two runs allowed in six innings. He added seven strikeouts for a solid day on the bump. Despite allowing all those baserunners, the only runs Atlanta scored against the veteran southpaw were solo home runs. Unfortunately, the Cubs bullpen vomited all over SunTrust Park and Lester was left with a no-decision. The velocity continues to diminish and his unwillingness to challenge hitters continues to increase, but so far he has managed to get away with it. How? Well, a strand rate in the 90's explains some of it. A 2.74-delta between FIP and ERA explains more of it. He's allowed 10 hits through two starts, and yet his BABIP allowed is .226. These are all blaring caution signs to get out while the going's good.
Michael Conforto, OF (NYM)
Kind of a strange start to the season for Conforto. He's getting hits, as he did on Wednesday (2-4 with his first extra-base hit of the season), but his power is mostly non-existent. Furthermore, his plate discipline has been horrible, but his .360 batting average is boosted by a cool .500 BABIP, making things look a lot better than they are. The concern is that, after seeing Conforto's hard hit rate go down in last year's campaign, it's down once again. Additionally, he continues to swing at pitches out of the zone, which can partly explain the weaker contact. What made Conforto so good in his college career and breakout season of 2017 was his ability to hit to all fields, particularly with power, but right now whether it's a result of continued shoulder issues or something else, Conforto only finds his power on the pull side. In fact, he is pulling the ball nearly half the time through the first week of the season. That's up from last year's career-high 43% pull rate. He should be fully recovered from a 2017 shoulder surgery, but he just doesn't seem to be the same hitter he once was. Still, he's only 26 years old and has already shown the ability to be a very good major league hitter.
Jameson Taillon, SP (PIT)
After a mediocre season debut last week, Taillon was excellent on Wednesday, going seven innings, allowing only three hits and one run. Until Paul DeJong connected for a solo home run in the 7th inning, Taillon was lights out. Unfortunately, as has been the case around the league it seems, the bullpen blew his win so he remains 0-1 on the season. Despite an increased swinging strike rate, he is actually registering less strikeouts. That should change. What also is changing is Taillon's reliance on his fastball. Following the trend around baseball, Taillon threw his heater less than half of the time on Wednesday, his second straight start with a sub-50% fastball rate. No surprise that it is resulting in more whiffs and more swings outside the strike zone. So far it's not showing up in strikeout totals, but once again, that should change.
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