Kyle Hendricks, SP, CHC
Hendricks dazzled the Wrigley Field faithful with a complete game shutout on Friday afternoon. He only struck out three batters and allowed just four base runners in the contest. What's more impressive is that it took him just 81 pitches to fully stifle what was a red-hot St. Louis Cardinals offense (2nd in WAR in 2019). The gem was the shortest shutout since 2012 and brought Hendricks to 2-4 with a 3.93 ERA on the year. Hendricks has always pitched to contact (career 7.65 K/9) which makes him a less tantalizing fantasy option, but he has posted a sub 3.5 ERA in each of the last three seasons, which makes him viable. It's tough for a soft throwing starter to be worthy of fantasy rosters, yet despite a career vFA of just 87.9 mph, Hendricks has been solid for three consecutive seasons. What's worrisome is that he is throwing even softer this season (86.8 vFA) and that he is posting what would be a career worst SwStr% of 7.6% (was 9.2% last season and 10.0% in '16). Hendricks is still owned in 75.3% of ESPN leagues, and though Friday's start is encouraging, he probably isn't worth ownership in most formats.
Jared Eickhoff, SP, PHI
Eickhoff continued his stellar start to the 2019 season on Friday night as he surrendered just one earned run across a strong 5.0 innings of work. He struck out 7 on the evening and allowed 6 base runners (3H, 3BB). The Phillies right-hander received a no-decision for his effort but lowered his ERA to an impressive 1.80 on the season. Eickhoff's control has been a bit of a problem (3.27 BB/9) this season; however his awesome K rate of 11.05 K/9 has overshadowed that in the early going. He has been doing a good job of getting ahead in the count (64.6% SwStr%) and making batters miss (13.1% SwStr%)--both of which are vast improvements over his career marks--but he has battled injuries for the past two seasons so it's difficult to predict how Eickhoff will hold up. He is only owned in 20.1% of ESPN leagues and might be worth considering, especially in deeper leagues.
Matt Carpenter, 3B/1B, STL
Carpenter's abysmal start to 2019 continued on Friday as he went 0 for 4 with a strikeout against the Cubs. He is now slashing .190/.312/.328 on the season and has 3 HR to go with a pathetic 5 RBI. Of course it is well documented how poorly Carpenter started last season, and how amazingly he was able to turn it around, so owners probably aren't ready to part ways with him yet but they are certainly getting impatient. The good news is that it took until mid-May for Carp to get going last season as he was batting .140 with a wRC+ of 59 and had just three home runs through May 15th a year ago. In fact, the underlying and batted ball statistics from Carpenter this season are almost identical to those of his through May 15th a season ago...take a look:
2018(140 PA): 25.3 LD%, 45.3 FB%, 39.5 Hard%, 7.9 Soft%, 28.6 K%, 16.4 BB%, 9.5 SwStr%, 20.7 O-Swing%
2019(134 PA): 27.9 LD%, 46.9 FB%, 39.7 Hard%, 5.1 Soft%, 26.1 K%, 15.2 BB%, 9.5 SwStr%, 20.9 O-Swing%
Last year after May 15th Carpenter slashed .287/.397/.587, hit 33 HR, and posted a stellar wRC+ of 160 over his last 537 plate appearances. So it's too early to jump ship yet and he can definitely turn it around, but to expect him to repeat those kinds of numbers is probably foolish.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, ATL
Donaldson went 3 for 5 with a double and 3 RBI on Friday evening. After missing the previous three contests due to injury (sore calf) the former MVP came out ready to hit against the Marlins. The big day brought the 33-year-old's average up to .275 and his .OBP up to a stellar .403 on the year. Donaldson certainly isn't the MVP candidate and fantasy stud he was a few years back; but he is still a productive 3rd baseman and has plenty of fantasy value. Thanks to his elite eye and patience at the plate (17.6 BB% was 3rd highest in MLB going into yesterday's games) Donaldson has been an on-base beast this season. He is also hitting the ball extremely well with (what would be) a career high 56.9% Hard%, however his power may be limited as he is also posting a much higher GB% than he has in years past (49.2% GB% v.s 43.0% career GB%). Donaldson should continue to produce at the top of the stacked Braves line-up and will continue to benefit greatly from hitting in front of the dangerous Freddie Freeman.
Jack Flaherty, SP, STL
Flaherty took the loss on Friday afternoon going 5.2 innings and giving up three runs. Other than an Anthony Rizzo three-run shot in the bottom of the third, the Cardinals youngster was quite fantastic against the Cubs' powerful line-up. He struck out 9 batters on the day, but surrendered 4 walks, which ultimately did him in (walked the two batters right before Rizzo's homer). Flaherty has really had a difficult time keeping the ball inside the ballpark so far in 2019; he came into Friday's start with the third worst HR/9 (2.01) among qualified starters across the majors. The good news is that most of Flaherty's advanced numbers are similar to those he put up in his sensational rookie campaign last season. His SwStr% is the exact same as last season (13.4%), while his O-Swing% (33.3%) and F-Strike% (66.2%) have actually improved...additionally Flaherty owns a 3.18 xFIP which is good for 11th among qualified starters, so you probably shouldn't worry about starting Flaherty going forward despite his unsightly 4.17 ERA.
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