Jorge Soler (OF-MIA) went 3-5 with a 2-run shot against the Rockies on Thursday. The 31 year-old slugger is seemingly in the midst of a comeback season as he now boasts a .261 average to go with 15 homers, 32 RBI, and 29 runs scored through his first 205 PA of the campaign. Soler's 24% strikeout rate is an improvement on last year's 29%, better than his 27% career clip, and is very close to his career low (just under 24%) from 2021. He's back to punishing the baseball (43% hard-hit rate in 2023, was under 40% in 2021 and 2022) while lofting a career-high 49% flyballs. He's even tempered his swinging-strike rate to a career-best 11% clip while posting a career-high 75% contact rate. So long as he can stay healthy - a big ask since he's surpassed 500 PA only twice since he reached the majors back in 2014 - it appears that Soler should continue to be a fantasy asset.
Kyle Gibson (SP-BAL) blanked the Yankees over 7 innings on Thursday evening, scattering 2 hits and 4 walks while fanning 3. The 35 year-old righty fired 56 of his 96 offerings for strikes in the outing. Despite the shutout performance, fantasy owners should not rush to add Gibson, who owns a 3.82 ERA, 6 K/9, 3 BB/9, and 4.62 xFIP across 11 starts (66 IP) on the campaign. He hasn't been bad, but the K/9 does not help in fantasy, his control has been meh as usual (3.2 BB/9 career), and his contact rate is up to a nearly-average 80% while he misses few bats (9% swinging-strike rate). The significant gap between the ERA (3.82) and xFIP (4.62) does suggest that some regression should be coming with a 75% strand rate a bit high for Gibson (71% career) and his HR/9 a touch low (9% in 2023, 14% career), with metrics such as FIP also not liking low strikeout and high walk rates. However, he does have a favorable matchup at home against Cleveland on the books early next week, and I would consider using him as a streamer for that one (because the Guardians offense is offensive).
Luke Weaver (SP-CIN) took a no-decision against the Cardinals on Thursday despite putting together a strong start in which he fired 6.1 shutout innings in which he scattered 3 hits and a walk while fanning 6. The righty fired 60 of his 86 offerings for strikes in the contest. Weaver has improved as the season has unfolded and now owns a 5.45 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, and 4.35 xFIP across 7 starts (38 IP). The gap between the ERA and xFIP especially points to an 18% HR/FB inflating his ERA, so it's encouraging that he's served up just 1 dinger in his last 3 outings after coughing up 8 in his first 4. As the season has progressed, his swinging-strike rate has climbed and now sits at 11% - not great, but respectable - while opposing hitters are making less hard contact against him in May (39%) than they did in April (53%). Things are trending in the right direction for Weaver, who is scheduled to face the Red Sox in Boston next week.
Braxton Garrett (SP-MIA) was solid although unspectacular in a turn in Denver on Thursday, giving up 2 runs on 6 his and 3 walks while striking out 3 over 5 IP. He tossed 47 of his 82 pitches for strikes and allowed a homer in the outing. The 25 year-old lefty now owns a 4.50 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, and 3.57 xFIP through 9 starts (48 IP) on the year, with a big stinker against Atlanta in early May (4.1 IP, 11 ER, 14 H (including 4 HR), 2 BB, 3 K) elevating the ERA. Otherwise, he has been largely solid or better, allowing more than 2 runs in an outing only one other time. His average fastball velocity remains down at barely 90 mph (was 91.5 across 88 IP last season), but Garrett has shown improved control (BB/9 was 2.5 last season) while missing bats at a respectable rate (12% swinging-strike rate) and inducing grounders at a decent 46% clip. He does face a test against the Padres at home next week.Matthew Liberatore (SP-STL) should be considered as a DFS or streamer option on Friday as he is slated to face the Guardians in Cleveland. The 23 year-old southpaw had a forgettable relief appearance his last time out as the club sought to merely give him some work between starts (1 IP, 2 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K vs the Dodgers) but his first MLB start was good (5 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 3 BB, 6 K against the Brewers) after he dominated Triple-A lineups to open the campaign (3.13 ERA, 11 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 3.32 xFIP in 46 IP). This call is at least as much about Liberatore's opposition, however, as Cleveland's offense is putrid, ranking dead last in the majors with a team OPS of .637, including a slightly worse (and still MLB worst) .633 team OPS against lefties. Oh, and at home? The Guardians have a terrible .627 team OPS (yes, also worst in baseball). Liberatore is currently rostered in just 7% of ESPN leagues.
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