Francisco Lindor, SS (NYM)
Lindor is lost. He is hitless in his last 25 plate appearances with six strikeouts. After signing a massive contract with the Mets just before the season started, Lindor is floundering, hitting the ball on the ground too much and demonstrating almost none of the power he displayed during back-to-back-to-back 30-homer campaigns from 2017-19. Oftentimes after signing big contracts, players can underperform, whether based on pressure or lack of focus. That doesn't necessarily appear to be the case with Lindor. He is still hitting the ball hard while making excellent contact. In fact, he is actually exhibiting far more patience this season. He is only swinging at 44.3% of pitches. That is by far a career low. He is chasing less and walking more. For most players, that would be a pretty good development. I'm not so sure that's true with Lindor, however. Lindor inherently makes excellent contact (he has a career contact rate over 84%; his career batting EYE is 0.58). Lindor's power improved as he became a little more aggressive. Sure, his swinging strike rate went up slightly, but it is still very good and it led to less ground balls, enhanced hard-hit rate and ultimately more home runs. Lindor will inevitably see positive regression when his .181 BABIP levels and his 4% HR/FB rate improves, but the real key is a more aggressive approach from the uber-talented shortstop.
Tyler Anderson, SP (PIT)
Anderson stifled the Padres offense for six innings before the wheels fell off in the 7th. A no-hitter was derailed when Wil Myers singled and then after a sacrifice fly scored Manny Machado, Austin Nola doubled home San Diego's second run and sent Anderson to the showers. Anderson's final line is still very impressive: 6.2 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 5 K. Anderson's strong start to the 2021 season is surprising, but the most head-scratching development is his drastic improvement in swinging strikes. His CSW% is a career-high 30% and that is bolstered by a 14% swinging strike rate. He is getting batters to chase at pitches outside the zone and opposing hitters are making 73.2% contact on pitches inside the zone. Anderson's fastball velocity continues to decline, but he is actually using his 4-seamer less. Instead, he is using his cutter more, up from 18.1% in 2020 to 28.3% in 2021. His spin rate is up on the cutter and his batting average allowed is down from .359 in 2020 to .233. The cutter induces more ground balls and weaker contact. If he can continue to develop that pitch, Anderson's notable start to the 2021 campaign can certainly continue.
Hector Neris, RP (PHI)
Neris recorded his sixth save of the season, the first of more than three outs. Neris came on in the 8th leading 4-2 with runners on the corners and one out. He allowed the inherited runner on 3rd to score before picking off the runner at first. He made things interesting in the 9th, loading the bases with two outs before striking out Lorenzo Cain to end the game, his third strikeout in the appearance. It was an encouraging bounceback after Neris allowed a game-winning home run to Michael Conforto on Saturday. Overall he has a 1.88 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 14.1 innings. The key improvement from last season is walks. He has a 6.9% walk rate after scuffling through a 12.6% walk rate in 2020. His velo is down this year, but improved command is leading to less contact on pitches in the strike zone. That also comes with heavier usage of his splitter, a pitch he relied heavily upon in Monday's outing. Closers are volatile and Neris' leash isn't super long, but better control leads to better results for the Phillies stopper.
Brad Miller, 2B (PHI)
Miller received his first start since Friday. He was 1-for-3 with a run scored, hitting out of the 2-position for the first time this season. Miller was a late signing this offseason and an afterthought in most fantasy drafts, even deeper ones, but he has been productive as a fill-in at 2nd base for Jean Segura. His batting EYE is abysmal as his 14.5% swinging strike rate is well-above his career mark and his contact rate is a career-low 66.7%, but he is crushing the ball when making contact. He has always had power (he hit 30 homers with Tampa Bay in 2016), but his quality of contact is very impressive through the first month of the season. If he qualified for the statcast leaderboard, Miller would rank in the top-15 among all hitters with an average exit velocity of 92.8 miles per hour. His barrel rate is 13% and his sweet spot% (batted balls with a launch angle between 8 and 32 degrees) is 43.5%, which explains his 39.1% line drive rate. Line drives are the best batted balls and Miller is turning those into hits. So while his .458 BABIP will obviously regress, the way he is hitting supports a strong BABIP. The biggest concern is playing time, and when Segura gets healthy, which looks like it will be this week, Miller could be back riding the pine.
Nolan Arenado, 3B (STL)
Arenado went yard for the fifth time this season. The Cardinals' cleanup hitter hit a three-run home run off Joey Lucchesi in the 3rd inning of St. Louis' 6-5 win. He also walked once in the game, raising his OPS to .821. Let's start by throwing 2020 out for Arenado. It was a miserable year for most of us. It was a miserable season for Arenado. In 2021, Arenado's quality of contact and plate discipline is much more similar to the rest of his career. However, his surface statistics are actually more similar to that disappointing 2020 campaign. Why? Well, that's what happens when a slugger leaves Colorado for St. Louis. The impact of playing half his games in Coors Field is indicated in his power regression. His five home runs are significantly behind the pace of his best years in Colorado. This is the case in spite of career average marks in exit velocity, hard-hit rate and barrel rate. He is still productive, but MLB-average home runs and batting average may be the new normal for the new Cardinal.
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