We are finally reaching a point where it makes more sense (though it is still really early) to put stock into player performances so far on the season. I would still typically argue against making drastic moves this early (especially as it relates to stars), but hunting that waiver wire for new value is something you should definitely be on top of right now.
Read on for a few players who are screaming for your attention and for a couple who need you to look away. 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. We will be working our way around the diamond so you can submit your player requests in advance.
- Brandon Lowe
After a solid dip into the big leagues in 2018 (.233/.324/.450 with six home runs), Brandon Lowe has come out strong in 2019, already one slam away from equaling his power production last season (in 26 fewer games). Lowe is slashing .300/.358/.617 and has provided some value on the bases as well, swiping two bags so far.
He needs to cut down on his strikeouts (31.3% K%) if he is going to be affective the rest of the way and needs to tone down some of his chasing at the plate (19.9% SwStr%). Expect a dip in both his ISO (.317) and batting average the rest of the way, but be sure to buy in on Lowe if he is available in your leagues. He offers an interesting mix at 2B and has enough power to be a secondary option for your OF as well.
- Matthew Boyd
Boyd has done his part to keep the Tigers among the league leaders in ERA (3rd overall with a 3.00 Team ERA), posting a 2.96 mark in his four 2019 outings. He has also sent batters back to the dugout with impunity, striking out 36% of batters faced. The ability to make batters miss (16.1% SwStr%, 41.4% O-Contact%) and avoid free passes (7% BB%) has made Boyd a force to be reckoned with thus far.
SIERA (2.78) is a big fan of his work so far, though it will be interesting to see if he can continue to avoid big hits (5.3% HR/FB%) to the extent that he is right now. Relying more on his fastball (47.6% in 2019, 34.2% in 2018) and slider (37.3% in 2019, 30.8% in 2018) while spotting his curve has worked out well, especially given the devastating nature of the latter two pitch (Slider: 45.6% Whiff%, 34.7% PutAway%; Curve: 54.5% Whiff%, 66.7% PutAway%).
- Pablo Lopez
Do not let the 5.85 ERA (3.31 SIERA) scare you away from this Miami arm. While Lopez has struggled to make it further than five innings pitched in his four starts on the season, he has shown an increased ability to strike out batters that makes him an interesting flier the rest of the way.
After sitting down 18.6% of batters in 2018, Lopez has 26.4% shaking their heads in 2019. He has paired that with a minuscule walk rate (3.5%) and is doing a better job limiting the long ball so far as well (10 HR/FB% in 2019, 15.7% HR/FB% in 2018). He is barely rostered in most leagues (5% Yahoo, 3.2% ESPN) and is worth a shot if you have an open roster space.
- Kris Bryant
I am officially worried about Kris Bryant. I wrote about Bryant during my November position reviews, noting some concerning trends about his power since the second half of 2017. Since slamming 18 home runs in the first half of 2017, the Chicago 3B has seen his power slowly erode. Bryant’s 2017 first half ISO (.259) and HR/FB% (17.8%) slipped during the rest of the campaign (.222 ISO, 13.8% HR/FB%), starting a process that has continued into 2019. Bryant’s ISO (2017 First Half: .259, 2017 Second Half: .222, 2018 First Half: .202, Second Half: .150), Average Exit Velocity (89.3 MPH in 2016, 87.1 MPH in 2017, 85.8 MPH in 2018), and Hard Hit% (36.4% in 2017, 33.5% in 2018) have all slowly declined, especially during the second half of his injury-plagued 2018 season.
This downward trend becomes more concerning when considering his production so far in 2019. Through 16 games, Bryant is slashing .219/.324/.344 with one home run. His power continues to be absent (.125 ISO, 29.5% Hard Hit%) and he has struggled to keep the ball off of the ground (45.7% GB%). His average exit velocity has rebounded (88 MPH), but his Barrel% has dipped (-2.7% in 2019), resulting in worrying expected outputs based on contact (.221xBA/.327 xwOBA/.396 xSLG).
16 games is a small sample of the season, but the fact remains that Bryant has notched only four home runs since the second half of 2018 (48 total games). Without above-average power, Bryant is nowhere near the level of player most owners paid for in the draft. This may be a blip in his production the rest of the way but I am out on Kris Bryant shares until he shows that power is still alive and well.
- Nick Pivetta
Pivetta was a surprising source of strikeouts last season, whiffing 27.1% of batters faced in 2018. His 4.77 ERA was somewhat high, but SIERA’s (3.51) view of his season made him an interesting arm coming into this season. Sadly, Pivetta’s 2019 started badly, culminating in his demotion from the Phillies this week. In four starts this season, the floundering Phillies surrendered 17 runs, walking eight men in the process.
He’s been tagged for five home runs (2.45 HR/9) and has struggled to put batters away, striking out only 17.2% of hitters and seeing a large decrease in his SWSTR% (-3.5% in 2019). His 8.35 ERA and 2.13 WHIP of tough to look at, even considering other measures of his performance (6.41 FIP, 4.89 xFIP, 4.89 SIERA). The demotion obviously kills Pivetta’s value for the time being, though this does not mean he won’t offer any moving forward.