Bryant went 0-3 with a walk against the Brewers on Friday. Bryant's power is back in full force after a relative down year last season, but the 27-year-old's batting average sat at just .250 entering Friday's game. Bryant's plate discipline skills are as strong as ever, and although his contact rate has shifted to rely slightly more heavily on contact on pitches outside of the strike zone and his line drive rate is down slightly, Bryant's .267 BABIP is 74 points lower than his career average. It's worth noting that Bryant's career average xBA is only .261 though, and his xBA so far this season is .264. Still, expect Bryant's batting average to rise over the rest of the season, and he should maintain the level of power that we saw in his first three years in the league.
Castillo shut the Giants out over six strong innings on Friday and struck out 11 batters in the process. Castillo has been off to a brilliant start to the season and took a sparkling 1.97 ERA into Friday's matchup. The 24-year-old's peripherals are back to his 2017 levels (even better in some categories, as his strikeout rate, o-swing rate, and swinging strike rate have all improved), but Castillo isn't the same pitcher that he was two seasons ago. After posting a zone rate above 44% in each of the past two seasons, Castillo has thrown pitches in the strike zone only 34.9% of the time this season, leading to an increased walk rate but also less contact. Additionally, Castillo has altered his pitch mix, favoring his changeup far more frequently than he did two years ago (and even last year) while relying less on his fastball. The result has been increased whiffs (Castillo's changeup generates a ton of swings and misses), more ground balls, and less hard contact -- all welcome changes after last season's struggles. Castillo has been pitching like an ace in every respect so far this season, and although he'll likely take a slight step back over the rest of the year, an ERA below 3.00 with a strikeout rate around 30% is far from unrealistic at this point.
Dietrich went 0-3 with a walk against the Giants on Friday. Dietrich has been off to a strong start to the season with a 1.034 OPS, but the 29-year-old is due for some significant regression. Dietrich owns one of the more interesting combinations of stats in baseball with a .180 BABIP and .429 ISO, and both numbers will likely change dramatically over the rest of the season. Starting with his BABIP, Dietrich's 86.8 MPH average exit velocity is below the league average and his 20% line drive rate and 26% IF/FB ratio don't support a high BABIP, so although Dietrich's BABIP will undoubtedly rise over the rest of the year, don't expect it to rise over .300 if he continues hitting this way. On to his ridiculously high ISO, Dietrich's slugging percentage is held up by an absurd 35.7% HR/FB ratio which, considering his pedestrian average exit velocity and 26.7% soft contact rate, is likely to fall substantially over the rest of the year. It's not all bad for Dietrich as he has improved his plate discipline skills (Dietrich's o-swing rate is down 4% while his z-swing rate is up 2%), but expect heavy regression in the power department and sell high if you can.
Sanchez allowed three runs over 4.1 innings against the Dodgers on Friday. Sanchez put together a surprisingly strong campaign last season, but the 35-year-old has struggled so far this year. Although Sanchez was likely due to take a step back this season, he has posted similar underlying numbers so far this year and relied on a similar pitch mix (though his cutter usage is up again this season). Sanchez has struggled to induce strikeouts at the same rate that he did last season (a rate that was in line with his underlying performance), but his o-swing and contact rates have improved while his swinging strike rate has held constant. Sanchez has been throwing in the zone and getting ahead in the count less frequently this season, leading to more walks, but his strikeout numbers should rise regardless. In terms of his batted ball profile, Sanchez has done a similarly strong job limiting hard contact this year, but his line drive and fly ball rates are up. Sanchez probably won't post an ERA south of 3.00 again this year, but he's a solid buy low candidate who should produce a strikeout rate around 24% with a decent ERA, especially if he starts locating his pitches more effectively.
Murphy went 1-5 with a double and 3 RBI against the Padres on Friday. Injuries have held Murphy to just 15 games so far this season, and the 34-year-old took a paltry .192/.271/.365 slash line into Friday's game. Murphy has been hitting the ball about as hard as he did last season, but has seen his performance held back by a .182 BABIP that should rise over the rest of the season. Although Murphy's power has been declining in recent years (and looks to be continuing to do so, although it's still a small sample and his hard hit rate has been increasing recently), his increased launch angle and move to Coors Field should offset some of his impending decline. Even with diminished power, Murphy is a high contact hitter who sprays the ball to all fields, so he retains a high floor. Don't expect an OPS north of .900, but Murphy's BABIP should rise towards his .299 mark from last season, and improvement from last year's overall numbers is likely.
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