Nick Pivetta, Philadelphia Phillies
Pivetta wasn’t drafted in most leagues outside of NL-only leagues. I drafted him in a few draft champions leagues, including our Scout 44s. Those are large rosters, so he’s likely sitting on the waiver wire in some leagues. Pivetta had a 6.02 ERA and 1.51 WHIP last season in 133 innings with the Phillies. The one thing that was a positive with Pivetta was a 24-percent strikeout rate and an effective slider. He’s 25 and averaged 94 miles per hour with his fastball. It’s only three starts, but Pivetta has shown improvement. He is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. In 16.2 innings, he has allowed 14 hits, two walks and struck out 19 and has yet to allow a home run. He has a hard hit rate of 20.9 percent and has improved his swinging strike rate 2.7 percent to 11.4 percent. He’s using a curveball more and he’s throwing more first-pitch strikes going from 59.3 percent to 66.2 percent. He’s worth adding if he’s on the waiver wire.
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1B Jose Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals
In one of my last auctions, I got into a bidding war for Martinez in a 15-team league. The price got to $7 and it was late in the auction and I stopped and lost him. Yes, I wish I went to $8. Martinez was one of the better bargains in drafts because it wasn’t clear how much he would play. After hitting a homer off Noah Syndergaard on Opening Day, the Cardinals announced Martinez would play first base every day. Martinez is batting .364 with four runs, three home runs, 14 RBIs and a 1.056 OPS. Martinez has six walks and four strikeouts and had one of the highest exit velocities last season.
SP Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles
Bundy was the fourth overall pick in 2011 and he’s living up to those lofty expectations. Bundy showed improvement in the second half last season when most thought he would wear down as he threw a career-high 169.2 innings. In three starts over 20 innings, Bundy has allowed 14 hits, three runs, walked five and struck out 25. He has a 1.35 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. Bundy has a 27.7 Bundy has improved his swinging strike rate to 17.1 percent and a big reason is the slider he’s throwing 26.1 percent of the time. He’s 25 and well on his way to a breakout season.
Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks
I wasn’t a fan of Ray’s price in drafts. He was my National League bust in our Preseason Pro Picks. It’s early, but people were paying an ace price for someone who had one good season and showed flaws despite the success last season. Through three starts, Ray’s velocity is down on his fastball from 94.3 to 92.4 miles per hour. Sometimes pitchers take several starts to get into full form, but it’s something to monitor. Ray’s walk rate last season was too high at 10.7 percent. He overcame it last season because of the high strikeouts, but it’s difficult to have long term success when you put that many men on base and work deep pitch counts. Ray’s walk rate is up to 15.5 percent. He’s going to get a lot of strikeouts with a 32.4 percent rate. When he allows contact, it’s hard contact. Last season it was 40.4 percent and this season he’s at 48.6 percent. Ray has pitched 15.2 innings in three starts. He couldn’t even get out of the fifth inning on the road against a bad Giants offense in his last start. The red flags were there before the season.
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
Once again, Buxton is off to a slow start. After a strong finish to 2017, Buxton was being drafted in the first four rounds of most drafts with the expectations of another leap forward. Buxton is batting .195 with two runs, no home runs, two RBIs, four stolen bases and a .476 OPS. Buxton batted .147 without a homer in the first month of the season last year. Buxton owners need to stay patient. It could be the cold weather affecting the slow start.
2B Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox
Moncada is striking out a ton. Moncada went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Thursday and has a 42.1 percent strikeout rate. While he has 24 strikeouts in 49 at-bats, he has walked eight times as he continues to hit lead off. Moncada is batting .184 with six runs, one home run and three RBIs. Moncada started slowly when he was called up last season and got better each month. When Moncada is making contact, he’s hitting the ball really hard with a 52 percent hard hit rate. Stay patient.