Jacob deGrom, SP (NYM)
Finally Jacob deGrom made his season debut. After the Mets' series against Washington was postponed last week, the two-time Cy Young award winner had to wait until Monday to return to the field, which ultimately turned him into a two-start pitcher this week. However, if we've learned anything from deGrom's Hall of Fame career, it's that he is one of baseball's best pitchers and yet he can't buy a win. He was spectacular again on Monday throwing six scoreless innings while striking out seven batters. Alas, it wasn't enough as the Mets' bullpen blew the 2-0 lead he left with, thwarting his chance for a win. Wins are a crapshoot, and there's nothing he could do about it. But what he can control, the question is: can he get even better? After three straight seasons with a sub-2.50 ERA and a strikeout rate over 30%, it's difficult to imagine there's another level, but the 32 year old may be in position to eclipse his already spectacular production. deGrom managed to increase his velocity every year since 2016, peaking in 2020 with an average fastball velo of 98.6 mph. Well deGrom looks to be adding more to that, hitting 102-mph multiple times in spring training and once on Monday. Combine that top-notch velo with a devastating slider and a mix-it-up changeup and deGrom can truly become even better.
Anthony DeSclafani, SP (SF)
DeSclafani was solid yet unspectacular in Monday's game at San Diego. He limited the Padres to only one run, but he walked four and allowed four hits while striking out four batters in five innings. The Padres offense is stout so there is enough to feel good about, although the Giants' bullpen blew a one-run lead so DeSclafani has to settle for a no-decision in his first start of the season. DeSclafani was miserable in 2020, eventually losing his role in the starting rotation and then losing his role in the Cincinnati Reds' organization. He signed a one-year deal with San Francisco and earned a spot in the Giants' rotation after finishing spring training with a 2.79 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 9.2 innings. DeSclafani didn't lose any velocity off his fastball last season, but it was far less effective. He allowed a .484 batting average (.579 wOBA) off his fastball in 2020 after allowing .255 (.325) in 2019. Opponents' success against his fastball will be important to track through DeSclafani's first several starts.
Christian Yelich, OF (MIL)
Yelich continued his slow start, finishing hitless in four plate appearances on Monday. He did walk once and score, but he struck out three times, lowering his early-season batting average to .200. He is striking out more than half the time. Yelich was unbearably bad in the first half of 2020 and although he improved, he was nowhere near his MVP-level performance of his first two seasons in Milwaukee. Yelich began his career as a contact-first lefty with above-average power and speed. When he was traded to the Brewers, he became strictly a home run hitter who could also steal bases, but contact was less significant. Because he hit the ball with such authority, the lower contact rates didn't really impact his overall profile. In fact, he was hitting it so hard (and in a much more hitter-friendly ballpark) that his batting average showed drastic improvement. However, that dip in contact rate was so extreme last year, falling below 70% for the first time in his career. Yelich will not return first-round results with a 68% contact rate. The power will still be there and he can chip in some steals, but the extreme departure from good contact is concerning and must be remedied before Yelich can return to his elite fantasy production.
Evan Longoria, 3B (SF)
Longoria caught a lot of people's attention with home runs in each of the Giants' first two games. Now people are really paying attention after his third homer of the season in Monday's game at San Diego. Longoria took Adrian Morejon deep in the 4th inning, a solo shot that improved his OPS to 1.438. Longo's Giants career has mostly been injury-filled and underwhelming. He hit 20 home runs once and his on-base percentage declined due to lower batting averages and walk rates. However, the veteran showed some signs of power in 2020. He hit seven home runs but was among the league leaders in exit velocity, barrel rate and xSLG. If that continues Longoria can still be a worthwhile asset, but whether he can stay healthy and whether he can continue to find power are very real questions.
Chris Taylor, 2B (LAD)
This is supposed to be the season Chris Taylor has an everyday role, and so far he has started four of the Dodgers' five games. Monday was his first start in the infield after playing the outfield during the Dodgers' first series. However, he was forced to leave the game in the 3rd inning after getting hit by a mid-90's fastball from Frankie Montas. The Dodgers committed to Taylor after the utilityman showed improvements in a number of statistical categories last season. He improved his barrel and hard hit rates while enhancing his EYE. Taylor's batted ball profile has always been intriguing, which explains why the line drive hitter posts consistently high BABIPs. However, his guaranteed role probably elevated his ADP higher than it should have gone. Everyday at-bats don't guarantee 20/20 seasons. Furthermore, his leash is longer than it's been, but it isn't infinite. Zach McKinstry, Sheldon Neuse, AJ Pollock and multiple other players are continued threats to his job security.
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