Cody Bellinger, LAD
Cody Bellinger’s insanely productive rookie season is setting him up for a disappointing second season. His power numbers last year were extremely high, and even more so for a rookie. He hit 39 home runs and had an isolated power of .315, which is more than double the MLB average of .140. Now he is regressing significantly in what led to the high home run total with a HR/FB% that has dropped significantly from 25 to 10 percent. This shows that his rookie season’s HR/FB rate won’t be sustainable throughout his career, and pitchers are starting to learn how to pitch to him. They are getting him to Bellinger more ground balls, and in effect, fewer fly balls. This is part of the growing pains of a young MLB player and shows that it will be more of a challenge for Bellinger now that pitchers know his tendencies. He is still a hitter with great power but will not duplicate his success from last year. In fact, Bellinger will struggle to top even 30 home runs. I would advise trying to trade Bellinger to an owner that believes he can get back to his 2017 form.
Trevor Story, COL
Trevor Story is off to a hot start in 2018 and filling it up in multiple categories. He is Top 20 in HRs, Top 10 in RBIs, and Top 20 in stolen bases. That makes him a dream Fantasy player, as he’s taken full advantage of Coors Field. In just 18 games at Coors Field, Story is batting .322 and has eight home runs. Those numbers are tough to sustain, but he will continue to benefit from playing in Coors Field for half of his games on the season. Looking at his stolen bases, in 103 less games so far compared to last season, Story has already tied his stolen base mark of seven. He is a perfect 7-for-7 on his stolen bases opportunities, and looks capable of getting up to 20 stolen bases this year. The power numbers could be due to him pulling the ball a career high 51 percent of the time after pulling it 38 percent last year. Also, the fly ball rate is the sixth highest among MLB hitters giving his owners a chance at a home run every night out. Story is going to continue his great Fantasy season mainly thriving in Coors Field and will be one of the few players that finish with 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases. If his owner isn’t fully bought into him this year, I would go out and trade for him.
Jonathan Schoop, BAL
Jonathan Schoop had a career season in 2017 but got off to a really slow start in 2018. Through his first 14 games, Schoop had just a .230 AVG and one home run. Then, he was put on the shelf for 20 games due to an oblique injury. Since returning in May, Schoop looks to be back to his 2017 form. He has hit two home runs and has a .290 batting AVG in the seven games since his return from injury. I expect his batting average to continue to rise to around the .290 mark we saw last season, and has the power for another 25-plus home run season. The struggles have come against right-handed pitchers, but throughout his career, he has fared well against them. He has only a .211 batting average against RHPs compared to a .290 AVG last year. Schoop will have positive regression in those matchups, making him a great buy low candidate in Fantasy.
Paul Goldschmidt, ARI
A slow start for Paul Goldschmidt has us wondering if the new humidor for the Diamondbacks is hurting his numbers. Based on his numbers in Arizona so far, you would think that the humidor is the sole reason for his slow start. In his 24 games at home, Goldschmidt has just a .139 batting average and yet to hit a home run. Those numbers are certainly alarming, but I would not completely panic. Goldschmidt is too elite of a hitter for him just to forget how to hit because of baseballs being stored in a humidor. There is also the mental aspect of it, and that certainly can be affecting him. However, does this mean he will be less productive this season due to the humidor? Honestly, I think so, because the ballpark has had a complete swing in hitting production, so it will affect a hitter that plays there half of the season. Last season, Chase Field produced the fourth most home runs and the third most runs per game. Currently in 2018, it has produced the second fewest runs, and eighth fewest home runs.This shows how big of an effect the humidor has. A positive note for Goldschmidt is that his HR/FB% is at a career low 11.8, so he should see some positive regression there. With everything in mind, I do expect him to pick it up, but it will be a disappointing season from what we have become accustomed to. If you are a Paul Goldschmidt owner and can get close to his value at the beginning of the season in a trade, I would trade him.
Luis Castillo, CIN
One of the pitchers in the league that is due for one of the biggest decreases in his ERA is Luis Castillo. In his first nine starts Castillo owns a 6.02 ERA, but looking at his xFIP and SIERA, he is pitching much better than what his ERA implies. His xFIP stands at 3.73, which is near MLB average for pitchers, and his 3.86 SIERA is very close to MLB average as well. Castillo still has shown good strike out stuff generating MLB’s fourth highest swinging strike rate of 15.6. An issue for him has been some bad luck with the amount of home runs he has allowed. He has the second highest home run to fly ball rate of 22.0, which is up five percent from last season. Also, he has struggled leaving runners on with his LOB% down 15 percent from last year. It is currently 65 percent, which is not good at all and eighth worst among pitchers. I expect Castillo to see positive regression in the amount of home runs he allows and to do a better job of stranding baserunners. With so much variability in Castillo’s nine starts this season, he is a great buy low candidate that will turn it around. I would go and take a chance on the young star pitcher.
Sean Newcomb, ATL
A pitcher that has shown some of the biggest improvement since last year is Sean Newcomb. The success has come primarily from his fastball, which has saved the ninth most runs out of all pitchers just behind Charlie Morton. Also, he has set up his fastball more by throwing his changeup 10.9 percent more often compared to last year. The fastball has slowed down by 0.7 mph and his changeup has sped up by 1.5 mph. This could be tricking the hitters with more proximity in their velocity, whereas most changeups are farther separated in velocity. Newcomb’s changeup confidence has increased during each inning of his ongoing 20 inning scoreless stretch. In the last two starts, he has thrown his changeup more than 30 percent of the time, and comparatively last year in 19 starts he threw it more than 20 percent of the time just twice (CBS Sports). However, Newcomb still has struggled with a walk rate of 11.6, but generating more ground balls, leading to double plays has helped him counterbalance it. I expect Newcomb to come back to earth a bit as the year goes on, but the signs of improvement are noticeable, and I would hold on to him in Fantasy.
Main Image Credit: AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo