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SP Ivan Nova, Pittsburgh Pirates
Nova certainly loves pitching in the National League. He was excellent when he was traded from the Yankees last season and it has continued in 2017. Nova is 2-2 with a 2.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and a 15:1 K:BB ratio in 27 innings. He has allowed two home runs. The low strikeouts are a bit of a concern, but he limits the walks and home runs. The 5.9 percent swinging strike rate is well below the 9.4 percent mark from last season. Nova had seven strikeouts in his last start against the Yankees over seven frames. He pitched 11 games with the Pirates last season and went 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 52:3 K:BB ratio in 64.2 innings. We have seen the excellent control over a period of starts and I believe he will produce similarly to the way he did with the Pirates last season. Nova is a Fantasy asset in mixed leagues.
OF David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks
Peralta disappointed last season mostly due to injuries and was was limited to just 48 games. As a result, he was a bargain on draft day since people forgot he had an .893 OPS in 2015. Peralta is healthy and off to a good start, batting .341 with 13 runs, three home runs, seven RBIs and three stolen bases with a .944 OPS. Peralta has a hard hit rate of 42.2 percent and usually hits second, between A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt, one of the best spots to bat in all of baseball. Not only is the top of the order strong but the Diamondbacks entire offense is excellent, especially at home. It also helps that they are very aggressive on the base paths. Peralta can add double-digit steals to his already great numbers!
SP Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks
Ray was a popular sleeper pick by many and I wasn't buying. I didn't draft him anywhere. The strikeouts are definitely appealing after Ray struck out 218 in 174.1 innings last season. While that's great, there's more categories that count. Ray had a 4.90 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. However, his supporters will point out that he had a 3.76 FIP, 32.6 percent fly ball rate and an 11.6 percent swinging strike rate with a 94 miles per hour fastball. The Ray contingent is feeling good right now as he sports a 2-0 record, 3.42 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 28.6 percent fly ball rate and 11.4 percent swinging strike rate. Still, not much has changed. He's throwing his fastball less and curveball more, but he has a 5.32 BB/9, a high WHIP and a 45.6 percent hard hit rate. Ray has faced the Dodgers twice and they are terrible against left-handers and the Giants twice, a bad offense, and still has a high WHIP and walk issues. The home environment in Arizona does him no favors and unless he improves his walk rate and allows less hard contact, I don't see him being the pitcher some believe him to be. While the strikeouts are nice, he's going to be a WHIP killer. Sell while you can.
SP Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers
Things are worse than the surface numbers indicate. Hamels is 2-0 with a 3.03 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP. What's the problem? When we open the hood, it doesn't look good. Hamels has 15 strikeouts in 32.2 innings. That's extremely low for a guy who has been right around a strikeout per inning for several seasons. Now, it's 4.13 per nine innings. The average fastball is down to 91.8 miles per hour and the swinging strike rate of 7.5 percent is well below his mark of 12.2 percent last season. The walk rate of 3.45 BB/9 was uncharacteristically low last season and it's 3.31 in 2017. Hamels has been fortunate with a .219 BABIP and the 5.12 FIP is a bad indicator as well. Hamels has a 36 percent hard hit rate and that's the worst of his career. He has pitched 183.1 innings in nine straight seasons, including seven consecutive of at least 200. It catches up to everyone at some point and it might be taking a toll on Hamels. It's only five starts, but there are bad signs here. Three of them came against the weak offenses of the Twins, Royals and Angels. Sell if you can.
SP Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants
Samardzjia has been terrible. He is 0-4 with a 7.40 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and a 30:9 K:BB ratio in 24.1 innings. The 11.1 K/9 is higher than his 8.1 K/9 career average and the walk rate of 3.33 BB/9 is higher than the last few seasons. Samardzjia has been hurt by a .359 BABIP, 1.85 HR/9 and a 58.1 percent strand rate. A 34.3 percent line drive rate and a 29.4 percent HR/FB rate are going to decline. He has faced two tough offense so far, having faced the Rockies and Diamondbacks twice, including a start in Colorado and Arizona. He allowed eight hits, six runs and three home runs in 5.1 innings against the Diamondbacks and allowed seven hits and seven runs in 5.1 innings at Coors Field. He was better in the two starts at home in San Francisco. It's a slow start for Samardzjia and he will improve.
1B Hanley Ramirez, Boston Red Sox
The good news is Ramirez has stayed healthy enough to play. The bad news is the production hasn't been there. Ramirez is batting .235 with five runs, one home run and seven RBIs with a .621 OPS. He has a 14.9 percent strikeout rate and a 8.1 percent walk rate. A .268 BABIP is below his career mark of .325. He has a 22.8 percent line drive rate, which would be the best rate of his career. He has a 36.8 percent fly ball rate, which is higher than the ones he posted in recent seasons. Ramirez has a 38.6 percent hard hit rate, the highest for Ramirez since 2013. Despite all those positive signs, Ramirez isn't putting up good stats. Ramirez will be fine and this is a good time to buy low.