Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees
He got off to an unsurprisingly slow start after returning from a back injury, but Hicks has three homers over the last week (with nearly as many walks as strikeouts) and appears healthier (he attempted his first SB as well). He combined for 38 homers and steals with 90 runs scored over just 480 at bats last season and is hitting second or third in New York’s lineup. No park in baseball has increased home runs more than Yankee Stadium over the last three seasons, and the switch-hitter can take advantage from both sides of the plate. Hicks has a lengthy injury history, but his exit velocity is a career-high early on, and there remains a lot of upside if he can stay healthy for a stretch.
Leaving the Astros and their secret pitching sauce and with a limited sample of dominant pitching as a starter, Morton wasn’t a top priority on draft day, especially after joining the AL East during the offseason. But he’s never been better, as the righty sports a 2.30 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP to go along with a perfect 7-0 record (he hasn’t taken a loss over his last 20 starts dating back to last year). While last season’s career-best fastball velocity has taken a small step back this year, Morton’s further increased use of his curveball has resulted in a career-high 12.9 SwStr%.
His 2.69 FIP ranks fourth among starters, and his 30.4 K% is top-10 (just ahead of Stephen Strasburg and Jacob deGrom). Morton has never thrown 175 innings in a season, so he’s a health concern, but his performance sure looks legit (his .279 BABIP is a bit on the low side but similar to his hit rate last year, and the Rays are fielding a very good defense this season). Durability would be the only possible pause for the 35-year-old hurler, who otherwise should be treated as a truly elite starter these days.
With the trade to Philadelphia, Bruce finds himself on a Phillies team suddenly missing Andrew McCutchen and Odubel Herrera in their outfield and in a park that’s boosted homers for left-handed batters an NL-high 25% over the last three seasons. Bruce is clearly playing out of his mind since the deal (four homers with 11 RBI and just one strikeout over 21 at bats), but he’s bounced back this season after looking finished in 2018, with an expected slugging (.562) that’s in the top 6% of the league and a Barrel% (17.9) that’s in the top 3%. Batting average will be an issue, but Bruce is going to launch a lot of homers in Citizens Bank Park.
Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs
It took longer than hoped, but Kimbrel finally signed, and he joins a first-place Cubs team with a perfect need at closer. It will take a couple of more weeks, but patient fantasy owners are finally going to be rewarded in a big way. Pedro Strop will soon lose all of his value as a result. Dallas Keuchel also deserves an upgrade purely on signing, as the starter joined the Braves and will now benefit from pitching in the National League for the first time in his career.
He enters this stage of the season with a disappointing .815 OPS and some discouraging Statcast peripherals (Seager owns a .234 expected batting average and sports his lowest ever average exit velocity with a launch angle that’s notably increased this season), but few hitters in baseball have been as hot lately. Over the last 10 games, Seager has MLB-highs in batting average (.484) and slugging percentage (.903) against right-handed pitchers, and his poor April can be excused coming off the lost 2018 and surgeries. He’s certainly moving in the right direction.
Over his first 120 at bats, Chavis hit 10 homers and posted a .905 OPS, but the rookie is batting .156/.191/.222 with zero homers and a 46.8 K% in a dozen games since. In fact, over the last two weeks, his Well-Hit average (.062) is tied for second-worst in MLB. Chavis has a lot of promise and even hit cleanup Sunday, but there are going to be growing pains for the rookie, and his current slump is an ugly one.
This section could expand with just Red Sox, with Mookie Betts reverting to the 2017 version and not meeting his ADP expectations, Rick Porcello owning a 4.69 FIP and failing to record more than five strikeouts in six straight starts, and Andrew Benintendi sporting a rising K% and a .248 expected batting average to go along with modest production from someone in his situation. Nathan Eovaldi also recently had a setback during his rehab, and J.D. Martinez’s back issue has quietly become a serious concern for his owners, so it’s downgrade time in Boston right now (get well soon Big Papi).
Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners
He’s had his moments since coming from Japan, but Kikuchi has really run out of gas recently, as he’s allowed six homers while recording just two strikeouts over his last three starts, sending him to many fantasy waiver wires. His fastball has averaged 93.0 mph, and he’s produced a modest 8.1 SwStr% and an ugly 5.26 FIP. The recent stretch has to bring in questions of his health, as Kikuchi has allowed a whopping 35 baserunners over the last 10.0 innings.
Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies
He’s gotten off to a rough start in the big leagues, posting a .561 OPS with 19 strikeouts over 55 at bats. Daniel Murphy has also started hitting again and no longer appears hindered by his finger injury, so first base isn’t an option either. Still, Ryan McMahon hasn’t exactly stepped up as a superior alternative at second base, and Rodgers has a strong pedigree and minor league track record (although strikeouts were always a problem) and most importantly, has an upcoming homestand in Coors Field, so he deserves some patience in fantasy leagues.
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