Pablo Lopez (SP-MIA) stifled the Nationals on Friday, as he tossed 7 scoreless innings in which he scattered 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out a pair. He was efficient, as he needed just 79 pitches to get through the outing; he tossed 50 of those for strikes. The 25 year-old is building upon his breakout 2020 campaign in which he posted a 3.61 ERA, 9.3 K/9, and 2.8 BB/9 across 11 starts (57.1 innings); a 3.73 xFIP indicated that the ERA was about right. Now in 2021, Lopez currently owns a 2.34 ERA, 8.8 K/9, and 2.6 BB/9 through his first 6 starts (34.2 innings). However, it is worth noting that his 3.34 xFIP points to an 83% strand rate in particular (70% career) suppressing his ERA some. Given that his performance so far in 2021 lines up well with what he did last year, there should be fewer and fewer questions about Lopez's legitimacy as a fantasy asset. I wouldn't hesitate to run him out there at home against the Diamondbacks next week.
Francisco Lindor (SS-NYM) continues to struggle in his first season with the Mets, as he went 0-5 with a strikeout against the Phillies on Friday. The 27 year-old now owns a paltry .189 average to go with 1 homer, 3 RBI, and 8 runs scored through his first 88 plate appearances of the season. His strikeout and walk rates are an identical 12.5% and his hard-hit rate is 41% per Statcast - exactly where it was at the last 3 seasons. So, what's the problem? A career-high 53% groundball rate helps to explain the lack of power output. But his career-low 31% pull rate indicates that he's not simply yanking grounders into a shift. Lindor's 15% liner rate is uncharacteristically low (21% career) and Statcast does show that his barrel rate (2%), average exit velocity (88mph), and launch angle (7) are all down from what he posted in recent years. Ultimately, given his track record as a fantasy asset one has to assume that Lindor will come around.
Nolan Arenado (3B-STL) went 2-5 with a pair of doubles and 2 RBI against the Pirates on Friday. The 30 year-old has been just okay in his first season with the Cardinals, as he is now batting .255 with 4 dingers and 15 RBI through his first 110 plate appearances of the season. His strikeout rate is a touch high at just over 17% (15% career) and he's also not quite drawing walks as usual (6% in 2021, 8% career) while his 37% hard-hit rate per Statcast is only slightly below his 38.5% average since 2015. Arenado has been a bit flyball happy this year (51% in 2021, 43% career) as well as far more pull-oriented than usual (55% in 2021, 42% career). To date, his production is very much on par with what he did in 2020 (.253 average, 8 longballs, and 26 RBI across 201 plate appearances), so it will be interesting to see if he can heat up to perform at a level comparable to what he did in 2015-2019.
Tyler O'Neill (OF-STL) went 3-4 with a homer, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored against Pittsburgh on Friday. The 25 year-old has now popped 5 homers and stolen 2 bases in just 56 plate appearances in 2021, but has hit only .241 in doing so. The strikeouts have long been an issue for O'Neill (35% career strikeout rate in the majors), and that has continued into 2021 as he now owns a 38% strikeout rate so far. He's shown very little patience at the plate (2% walk rate) but has tattooed the ball to the tune of a 53% hard-hit rate when he's made contact. But contact is a major issue, with a 60% contact rate and 22% swinging-strike rate on his ledger. Given the big holes in his swing, O'Neill should remain on fantasy league waiver wires.
J. T. Brubaker (SP-PIT) gave up 3 runs on 7 hits while walking none and fanning 7 Cardinals on Friday. The 27 year-old righty tossed 52 of his 80 pitches for strikes and surrendered one homer in the outing. Brubaker has impressed to open the 2021 campaign, as he now owns a 2.63 ERA, 9.9 K/9, and 1.7 BB/9 through his first 5 starts (27.1 innings). His 3.20 xFIP indicates that a 91% strand rate is suppressing his ERA some, although his HR/FB is high at 21%. One has to like how Brubaker can miss some bats (11% swinging-strike rate) and induce worm-burners (54% groundball rate). He's certainly at least interesting now for fantasy purposes, so we will have to see how he fares in his next start; he lines up for a tough one in San Diego next week.
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