Jose Abreu: Hope all those owners that were worried by Abreu’s slow start held onto their stock in the 30-year-old, as he homered for the second straight day, giving him four homers in the past week. Abreu has brought his batting average all the way up to .270 (from .157 on April 18) and his slugging percentage all the way up to .470 (from .176 on April 18). Abreu’s plate discipline numbers actually look a little better than in seasons past, as his swinging strike rate is currently at a career-low 9.7 percent. If he is able to maintain such a low figure, he might be able to hike his average back over .300, as it was in his rookie season. Abreu has seen a slight slip in his hard hit ball rate this season, and it is the fourth straight season he has trended down in that direction, so it’s worth keeping an eye on. If he holds this type of profile, he may be more of a 20-HR, .300-BA type rather than the 25-HR, .280-BA type that was projected before the season.
Jake Arrieta threw a quality start, but was un-Arrieta-like. He went 6 IP with 3 ER and an impressive 7 strikeouts. His ERA on the season remains elevated at 4.63. Fortunately, his SIERA is a fair bit lower at 3.23, and his K rate is actually the best it’s ever been, over 10.5 per 9 innings. I would say we have some serious positive regression coming, but my lone caution is that Arrieta is only generating 42.6% of his outs as groundballs. Now I say only because historically he’s been at 49%, 56%, and 53%. This is making him far more susceptible to home runs (up to 1.9 per 9, more than double his career average). So what does this mean? His results are prone to be more volatile, either for the positive or negative. I’m still a confident Arrieta owner going forward, but the landscape for how he’ll succeed may be changing.
Cole Hamels, SP, TEX: Hamels is expected to miss about 8 weeks with an oblique strain, which means he likely won’t be back until at least July. Things weren’t going very well for Hamels anyways, as his 3.03 ERA was quite deceiving. He has an awful 4.13 K/9 this season to go with a 7.5% SwStr%; in 11 previous seasons, his career lows were 7.76 and 11.5% respectively. And his .219 BABIP is not something that will usually hold up with a 36.0% Hard%. Don’t feel bad at all dropping Hamels, if you don’t have any DL slots available.
Tim Beckham (SS) TB – Beckham continued his hot hitting, walking and doubling in two runs against the Marlins on Monday night. Beckham’s contact rate is prohibitive to consistent production in terms of AVG, but we are definitely getting a taste for the kind of pop that he possesses, as his hard contact rate of 49.1% is tied for 12th in MLB, while his avg exit velocity is 26th. He’s reached base in 10 straight currently, and until Matt Duffy returns he does merit a spot in most formats. Duffy isn’t too far off however, although they certainly could rotate enough people through the DH slot to keep Beckham playing most of the time, but that situation will have to be monitored when it comes about.
Jonathan Villar (SS-MIL) – Villar was 2-for-3 with a walk, HR #4, two runs, and two RBI Monday. He’s stil batting just .213/.283/.364 after this one, but he does have six multi-hit games in his last 11 games, raising his BA from 75 points in the process, so Villar appears back on track. He’s just 3-for-26 versus southpaws, which is a concern, as is his 31.7% K%, which is up from 25.6% last year when he struck out a whopping 174 times. Villar has been a huge disappointment on the basepaths as well, swiping just five bases after leading the league with 62 a year ago. He also had a .369 OBP a year ago, so if he can get that number up significantly, the steals will come, but I’m not expecting 50 the rest of the way regardless. Maybe 30-35 more?
Red Sox manager John Farrell announced that Sandy Leon will no longer be the Red Sox primary catcher, but will start when either Chris Sale or Rick Porcello is on the mound. Meanwhile, Christian Vazquez will get the majority of the starts. Leon can be safely dropped in most formats as playing in only 40% of the games is not likely to lead to enough fantasy production. The diminished role for Leon is a result of his 9-51 start in which he managed only 3 XBH’s and walked just once. We knew he would fall from his .392 BABIP from last season, but maybe we didn’t realize how much. With a career .247/.308/.354 slash line, there’s no reason to assume he’ll win back the starting catcher job in the near future.
Anthony Rendon (WAS) – On Sunday, we witnessed the most impressive offensive display by a single player in over 100 years. Anthony Rendon went 6-for-6 with 3 home runs, 10 RBIs, 5 runs, and a double in a win against the Mets. He raised his slash line from .226/.316/.250 to an actually respectable .278/.356/.411. It was a historic day, but that type of change also shows you the danger of analyzing your players off small samples – even a sample as large as a month. Rendon was frustrating a lot of callers on our XM show over the last two weeks. Some people even called because they considered dropping him. He’s obviously not getting dropped now, and I do believe he will bounceback from his early season struggles. Sit tight on your struggling players, don’t make rash decisions and trust your pre-draft analysis. There’s still plenty of time.
Jason Heyward (CHC) – Jason Heyward continued his hot-hitting by knocking a single in Saturday’s game. Heyward has hit safely in all but 3 games this season and has a respectable .278/.345/.418 slash line in what’s lining up to be a bounce back season in 2017. Heyward has maintained his strong batting approach with a 7% walk rate and 17% strikeout rate. On almost identical hard hit rate and batted ball profiles, Heyward has a BABIP that’s over 50 points higher than in 2016. His current rate of .311 is much more in line with his career .302 mark than his .266 posting last season. Knowing that his other indicator stats remain largely unchanged, that says that this season’s “breakout” is more about regression back the mean than a meaningful adjustment at the plate.