I have really enjoyed the first month of the 2018 season so far. My Red Sox are killing it, Ohtani has been fun to watch/follow and we all finally got to see the Pablo Sandoval pitching debut we have been waiting on since he debuted in 2008. If you haven’t yet seen the video of his killer curve, do yourself a favor and check it out:
We have also seen some pretty weird things on the season as well, especially in the last week. While the Twitter beef between Trevor Bauer and the Astros was interesting to see, Ken Giles punching himself in the face after a tough inning is definitely my favorite moment thus far (Sorry Sean Manaea’s No-Hitter):
Either way, 2018 is looking like it will be a spectacular ride and there’s nothing like a stock report to help you make it that much better for your fantasy team’s performance this year. As always, if you have a player you would like profiled or have a question about, feel free to post in the comment section or reach out to me on Twitter @hedenson18 with that or any other questions. To the report!
Lester has the reputation of being a fantasy and real life ace, and over the past 7 days he has lived up to those titles, posting a 2.13 ERA over 12.1 IP along with a glittering WHIP of 1.11. His overall numbers look great too (2.73 ERA, 27 K’s, 33 IP), a welcome sign for many owners since his 2017 was a bit of a disappointment (4.33 ERA, 180 K’s, 180.2 IP). Unfortunately for Jon and his owners, I am not sure his current level of production is going to hold due to a variety of factors.
While he has seemed very good over the past week, his advanced markers during that time (6.25 FIP, 5.51 xFIP, 5.21 SIERA) all hint that his performance has not been as good as perceived. The same is true for his overall season numbers (4.56 FIP, 4.64 xFIP, 4.61 SIERA), making it seem pretty likely that Lester will regress sooner or later.
Both his LD% (22.9%) and Hard% (31.3%) are up on the year, and he has also seen a pretty big hit on his SwStr%, which has dropped to 9.6% from 10.9% last season. Lester is also posting his highest BB/9 (3.55) since 2011, and overall it seems like he is becoming more the pitcher we saw last season as opposed to the upper tier pitcher we saw before.
While the overall picture for Lester points to regression, he can still be a useful fantasy starter moving forward provided your expectations are at the right level. Ride out his hot streak, and if you can capitalize on it by dealing him while his value is high, go for it.
Robertson has quietly put together a solid 2018 so far, slashing .314/.455/.529 over the first month with 3 jacks and steal to his name. His past 7 days have been much of the same, seeing him notch a home run alongside a .308/.419/.538 line during the Rays hot streak after a dismal start to the season. Despite having about 30-50 fewer AB’s that many players, he actually stacks up pretty well to some pretty strong names at the cornerstone so far in 2018:
His LD% is way up so far in 2018 (28%), and he is enjoying a 5% increase in his Hard% compared to 2017. He has been much more selective this season (7.6% SwStr%, 18.1% 0-Swing% in 2018; 9.4% SwStr%, 24.2% O-Swing% in 2017) and has been walking an elite 18.2% of the time as well. His BABIP is high (.404), and he has never been a huge threat on the base-paths in his professional career, so he will most likely see that go down a bit as the season progresses.
There’s a lot to like in Robertson’s profile, and the Rays recent better play has me thinking he will get more productive opportunities with his AB’s as the year goes on. Definitely someone to look into if you need IF help, he could continue to surprise the rest of the way.
Heaney has only started once in the past week, but he made use of his one appearance, tossing 5 frames, giving up 1 run and striking out a whopping 9 batters. Heaney is someone I am very excited about moving forward in 2018. You may ask why I would be thrilled to own a pitcher who currently owns a 6.91 ERA and 1.53 WHIP, but if you dig beneath those numbers there is a lot to like about Heaney and his potential for the rest of the way in 2018.
The first part of Heaney’s game that interests me is his current strikeout production, which has seen him mow down 34.4% of batters faced on the season. His SwStr% is in line with what he posted during his abbreviated 2017 season (13.3%), and he is seeing a higher rate of guys chasing out of the zone against him, posting a 34.4% O-Swing% compared to 30.1% in 2017.
His other pitching metrics like his performance much better than his current ERA (3.66 FIP, 2.35 xFIP, 2.64 SIERA), and he has been particularly unlucky in regards to his Strand rate, which is currently 50.6% and well below the league average. He has also been getting ahead of batters at a higher rate so far in 2018, notching a first pitch strike in 64.1% of plate appearances this season, which is always a positive for a pitcher.
Despite all of these positive signs, Heaney does have some warts as well, especially regarding his overall health. Heaney’s career high in IP in a season is 105.2 (2015), and he has tossed only 43 innings since then. The other is that all of the above information is taken from a pretty small sample size (14.1 IP), so there is no guarantee that his current production metrics will continue when extrapolated over the season. Heaney is someone I would take a flier on, because if he can stay healthy at all this season he really could be a cheap, valuable source of K’s.
Of all the surprises this season, the struggles of Anthony Rizzo has to be the biggest for me. I expected great things from him in 2018, but he has been a non-entity so far, offering little value for his owners in fantasy. Rizzo has hit only 2 HR on the year, and is struggling in pretty much all areas of hitting, posting a .154/.258/.231 line at the dish. He has already done a stint on the DL this year, and may still be struggling with the effects of that currently.
While slow starts happen to everyone at one point or another, this level of production from Rizzo has some owners thinking of jumping ship in case this continues for the rest of the season and beyond. I am not sure that is the right move. Rizzo has been a bit unlucky this year, posting a .164 BABIP in his 19 games. That’s a pretty unlucky level, and should improve as the season progresses. His batted ball profile is almost exactly what it was last year, and even with his slow start his Hard% has only dropped about 3% from 2017.
His walks have cratered so far in 2018, dropping almost 9% from 2017, but while his K% has jumped slightly this season, his SwStr% has actually dropped from 7.6% in 2017 to 6.7% in 2018. To me it looks like Rizzo is still struggling with a bit of bad luck and the injury he had earlier in the year, and barring continued or exacerbated injury issues throughout the season, I expect him to return to previous performance levels.
The Fightin’ Phils are looking good this season, currently only a couple of games back in the NL East. Arrieta, on the other hand, has not looked too good over the past week, stumbling to a 5.91 ERA in his two starts. More worrisome has been his utter lack of ability to strike anyone out during this stretch, sitting down only 4 batters for a 3.38 K/9.
His overall stats show some worrisome trends as well. His K% is down over 6% from 2017 and his 6.3% SwStr% isn’t helping things out. He is walking more batters (8.6% 2018, 7.8% 2017), and even though his total ERA (3.49) is pretty solid, his advanced metrics are back and forth on his performance (3.27 FIP, 3.97 xFIP, 4.18 SIERA). He has also been a bit lucky so far on the home run side of things, and will likely not continue his current HR/FB rate of 4.8% (around 10% is normal).
One area that should improve for Arrieta is his L0B%, which is currently a paltry 57%. This will return to normal levels over the season, so he should see a bit of a boost once that occurs as he keeps more runners on the bases. His Hard% is also down about 12% so far in 2018, with all of that change going into an increase in Med% (65.1% in 2018, 50.5% in 2017).
Arrieta still has the chance to be a solid SP this season, but his current profile without the strikeouts limits his value a good deal. This is someone I would look to deal if the opportunity presents itself.
Polanco’s fire has cooled since his hot start to the season, and he has limped to a .179/.281/.321 line with 1 HR and 0 steals over the past week. His overall production (.192/.303/.423) is not much better, though he has definitely been hitting a lot of bombs (6) on the season so far. His increase in power has come on the heels of a pretty large FB% (50.6% in 2018, 37.5% in 2017) and an almost 10% increase in Hard% as well.
This focus on power has really affected his LD%, which is currently languishing at around 13%. It has not had too much of an effect on his K%, which while elevated still sits at only 22.8% overall. Polanco is walking a lot more so far in 2018, basically doubling his BB% as compared to 2017.
This higher rate of walking would typically make me expect him to have even higher SB output due to being on base more, but Polanco has swiped only 1 bag after the first month. He has also not rated very well on the base-paths, posting a 2.6 Spd score (measures overall speed and base running ability). In his best SB years he posted rates of 6.3 and 5.6, so this drop make it look like steals may cease to be a part of his game if this continues.
Without the speed part of his game, Polanco’s value takes a decent hit as most owners draft him as a source of power and speed. I expect his BABIP (.197) to improve as the season progresses, but worry about his overall fantasy value moving forward.
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