Mike Soroka, SP (ATL)
You would think Soroka is solidifying his spot in the Braves rotation. Each start he seems to get better: six strikeouts in his first start, seven in his second, eight in his third. He also pitched a little bit further into the game each start. That trend continued on Saturday as Soroka went seven innings, allowing two unearned runs while striking out six. He's picked up a little bit of velocity on his 4-seam fastball, but he's using it less, relying more on his sinker, which is resulting in a higher ground ball rate, similar to his minor league seasons. Soroka's sinker is really effective this year so it's incredibly encouraging to see him recognize the success of the pitch and rely on it more. The youngster is figuring things out, getting better and laying claim to one of Atlanta's rotation spots.
Trevor Williams, SP (PIT)
Oakland scored three runs off Williams in the first inning, but then he settled down, finishing the game with four runs allowed in six innings of work. Williams is making a habit of outperforming his xFIP. Last year there was a 1.43 delta between xFIP and ERA. This year it's at 0.57 after Saturday's start where his ERA was 6.00 but his xFIP was 3.49. Part of the reason for the consistent overperformance is a HR/FB rate under 10%, which is important for a flyball pitcher like Williams. However, this year Williams has shown more strikeout capability, lifting his swinging strike rate to right around 10%. He's increased his chase rate every year of his career, and he's combined that with a precipitous drop in walks. Furthermore, Williams is pitching in the zone more, getting ahead of hitters and thereby getting more swings so as long as he continues that trend, he should be able to go deeper and deeper into games, something that was a problem at times last year. In 2019, Williams has gone at least six innings in every start.
Eduardo Escobar, 3B (ARI)
Escobar was a bit of a disappointment on Saturday, finishing 1-4 with a walk and a run scored. He came into a tasty matchup with eight hits and three home runs in his last four games, but was quiet in an otherwise strong offensive performance by Arizona in Denver. Escobar has evolved into a must-start in season-long leagues. As for DFS, he has definitive splits to recognize. He's crushing lefties this season (.492 wOBA, 209 wRC+) and performing much better at home than on the road (.306 ISO vs. .203 ISO). Overall, while boosted by a .356 BABIP, Escobar is hitting the ball harder than ever and producing more power, so use the splits to your benefit.
Jorge Alfaro, C (MIA)
Alfaro was quiet on Saturday, finishing 0-4 with a run scored, but he's been very good over the last month. Since April 6, Alfaro is slashing .339/.397/.532. He has four home runs and a 154 wRC+. Yes, his BABIP is an astronomical .500 during that stretch, but his hard hit rate is 52.6%, his line drive rate is nearly 30% and he's spraying the ball all over the field. Alfaro's career BABIP is .411. That's weird, but it is partly explained by his ability to hit the ball to all fields (teams don't shift against him) and his improving hard hit rate. Don't get me wrong. That BABIP is still too high, but my point is it does have some basis. He still strikes out a ton and his counting numbers are limited by the poor lineup around him, but Alfaro is quietly putting up top-10 numbers at the catcher position.
Kyle Schwarber, OF (CHC)
After his six-game hitting streak was snapped on Friday, Schwarber delivered another 0-fer on Saturday, although he did walk and score a run in Chicago's 6-5 win over St. Louis. He still only has four home runs this season, but his ISO is .286 over the last 10 days. Furthermore, while the change is only slight, his swinging strike rate IS down and his contact rate is nearing 75%. There are positive signs of growth here, and there is too much power in his bat to suggest these low homer totals are justified. In fact his launch angle, which previously never dipped below 11.5, is currently at 7.6. He still has a solid barrel % and his xWOBACON is well above average so a simple adjustment to his launch angle could produce very favorable results.
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