In case you missed it: Javier Baez's big fantasy start and more
• After a slow start, few players have been as hot as Javier Baez, who’s hitting .378/.391/.978 over the last 10 games, with seven homers, 13 runs scored and a whopping 17 RBI over those 45 at bats. He’s 25 years old, hitting second in a loaded lineup, eligible at both 2B/SS and looks ready to explode. Baez’s plate discipline remains a weakness, but he’s improving, and he also ranks No. 2 as the biggest groundball changer so far in 2018, when his 13.8 Brls/PA ranks seventh among hitters (Teoscar Hernandez is first!).
Baez strikes out frequently, but since his rookie season, he’s hit .276 over 1,038 ABs, so it’s not like he’s a huge batting average risk, and more steals should be on the way. While skeptics could point to his unsustainable 33.3 HR/FB%, optimists could counter with Baez’s 187 wRC+ despite just a .292 BABIP (although not quite as extreme as Bryce Harper’s 189 and .216). He hits the ball with authority (40.0 Hard%) and far (avg HR distance 416 feet) and currently leads MLB in RBI (23) and triples (three) while third in slugging percentage (.736). Don’t feel the need to sell-high with Baez, as he’s going to be a monster this season and looks like a league-winning pick.
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• Brandon Belt homered for the fourth straight game Sunday, but a different at bat in which he recorded an out was more memorable, as it lasted 21 pitches and set an MLB record. Belt looks healthy, hits second against righties and sports a .386 OBP, so a career-year looks to be in store. AT&T Park limits his fantasy upside, but Belt should be owned in more than 46 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• Sean Manaea spun a no-hitter over the weekend, and it came against an offense that entered as hot as any in recent memory.
• David Dahl was recalled after Carlos Gonzalez hit the DL (and Gerardo Parra was suspended), and while his playing time isn’t a sure thing, and he was off to a slow start while dealing with an illness in Triple-A, he’s got enough upside (at least when hitting at home) to be added in all leagues. Dahl is owned in just a quarter of them.
• Delino DeShields returned from the DL, and hopefully the hamate bone surgery doesn’t limit him at the plate. He’s hitting leadoff and still possesses plenty of stolen base potential and is available in more than half of leagues.
• Walker Buehler is getting his first major league start Monday, and while it may be just a one-time thing for now, he’s well worth stashing in leagues with deeper benches. He’ll be worth using permanently even in shallow leagues at some point this season.
• Jack Flaherty is in a similar situation, as he also could get a spot start this week. He posted a 9:1 K:BB ratio over five innings during his first start earlier this year and has dominated Triple-A, so he needs to be added in all leagues. Adam Wainwright was really struggling before suffering elbow inflammation, so Flaherty’s stay in the rotation could easily be extended.
• Josh Hader recorded his third save of the season over the weekend, with all three coming with two innings pitched. He’s not acting as a typical closer, but Hader is quite clearly one of the very best relievers in baseball right now.
• Speaking of relief pitching, Matt Harvey has officially been moved to the bullpen, getting bumped for Jason Vargas. What a fall.
• Here’s a study revealing team’s closer to winning tend to get more favorable umpire calls in extra innings. Interesting that they don’t get paid overtime during such cases.
• Shohei Ohtani moved to cleanup in Sunday’s lineup, and his average exit velocity (95.1 mph) ranks top-10 in baseball. He had a tough matchup Sunday against a resurgent Johnny Cueto, who looks healthy again and like one of the biggest draft day steals so far.
• Aaron Judge is on pace to finish with a line of .324-146-49-122-16.
• Hyun-Jin Ryu turned in his third straight impressive performance over the weekend after a poor first start, as he sports a 25:4 K:BB ratio over the 19.0-inning span. He’s proving to be a shrewd pick for someone who was practically free at draft tables.
• I really liked Lucas Giolito as a breakout this year and apologize if you took my advice to draft him. After a 1:7 K:BB ratio outing Saturday, he’s up to 19 walks over 20.0 innings. This isn’t a poor luck issue. What a disaster.
• Pounding the strike zone is going out of style.
• Patrick Corbin had yet another dominant performance Sunday (11:1 K:BB over six innings) and now owns a 1.89 ERA and 0.66 WHIP with 48 Ks over 33.1 innings this season, ranking as the No. 1 fantasy pitcher.
• Archie Bradley picked up his second save over the weekend, something that could be more common moving forward with Brad Boxberger struggling (he’s taken a loss in two of his last three appearances).
• After another big weekend, Manny Machado has five homers over his last four games and is up to .356/.434/.713 on the year. He’d be a first round pick if a fantasy draft were held today, which makes his upcoming trade situation especially interesting.
• Another possible future trade candidate off to a huge start, Mike Moustakas now has 44 homers over his past 640 at bats. His average exit velocity (93.8 mph) ranks top-15 in MLB, so maybe he’ll be treated differently during next year’s free agency.
• Yadier Molina has carried over last year’s power surge and has recently been moved to the second spot in St. Louis’ lineup. He’s been incredibly valuable considering just how dreadful fantasy catchers have been. Only Molina (No. 27 overall) and Yasmani Grandal (No. 51) rank in the top-250 among catchers who were commonly drafted (Buster Posey is next at No. 265).
• Christian Villanueva leads MLB in slugging percentage (.774). That number jumps to 1.000 at Petco Park (and down to .517 on the road).
• If Jose Berrios’ start wasn’t already impressive enough with him missing so many bats, he’s also allowed the second-lowest average exit velocity (80.9 mph and sandwiched between Andrew Heaney and Hector Neris, although we are talking about a minimum of just 25 batted ball events).
• Miles Mikolas had another strong start Sunday, and he owns a 20:2 K:BB ratio on the year, which means his ownership (42 percent) is far too low.
• Julio Teheran tossed seven scoreless innings against the Mets and has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last three starts after a rough start to the season. Teheran’s ERA likely won’t be too great given his vulnerability to lefties and pitching in SunTrust Park, but he’s up to 27 strikeouts over 27.0 innings and sports a career-best 12.8 SwStr%. Hopefully owners remained patient.
• Kenley Jansen allowed back-to-back singles to open the ninth Sunday night but recorded his first save in nearly two weeks regardless. Jansen, who opened last year with a 50:0 K:BB ratio, currently owns a 6.23 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP, and his Brls/PA allowed (10.0) ranks 13th worst among pitchers, so it’s a good thing his leash is long.
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