Risers:

Didi Gregorius

After having a terrific 2017, most fantasy owners expected a bit of a regression for Gregorius this season. It’s only been two weeks, but it looks like there might actually be more upside in his bat. His walks are way up and his strikeouts are down. The knock on Didi has been that he doesn’t walk. If this kind of plate discipline continues, Didi could have incredible numbers this season. He already has three HRs after hitting 25 last season. His hard hit rate and 20% HR/FB rate are off the charts. No one is going to keep this kind of pace, but it sure looks like Didi owners need to adjust their expectations for what the 2018 version of Gregorius is worth to your fantasy team.

Justin Smoak

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Getty Images

A lot of fantasy owners probably thought Smoak’s 2017 was mostly ‘Smoak’ and mirrors. Okay, I couldn’t help myself with the cheesy pun. 30 year old breakouts don’t happen too often and first base is such a deep position that Smoak probably flew under the radar in your fantasy draft. He’s come out of the gates hot in 2018 with a .333 batting average and a .244 ISO. He hits the ball hard as often as almost anyone in the league at a 39% rate the last couple of seasons, and he actually is above that right now at nearly 42%. When Smoak hits the ball, he mashes. He might not be on the level of Freddie Freeman or Paul Goldschmidt, but if you missed out on the studs, you’re probably happy with what you found in Smoak.

Gerrit Cole

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Gerrit Cole is a good pitcher that is still just 27 years old. He was traded to one of the best teams in baseball and has come out looking like the ace that everyone thought he could be in Pittsburgh. He’s getting nearly 20% swinging strikes and has a 1.43 FIP. He struck out 11 Padres over seven innings in his last start and will look to continue his dominance on Friday in a favorable matchup against the Rangers. He’s probably elevated himself into the top 10 at starting pitcher.

Fallers:

Jacob Faria

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Faria was crushed by the Red Sox in his last time out allowing eight runs and five walks while only lasting 1.2 innings. He’s not getting opposing batters to swing and miss with a only 3% swinging strike rate and has a 48% hard contact rate. The velocity is down a tick, but that’s not all that uncommon in the first couple of weeks of the season. Just looking through the numbers, he is not throwing his slider as much as he did last year. The slider velocity is down two MPH from a year ago, and he may not trust it like he has in the past. If Faria’s slider is not an effective pitch, then Faria is going to struggle. The upside is still there, but his value could very well be contingent on his slider.

Ian Happ

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Early reports out of spring training suggested that the Cubs finally chose their leadoff man and it was going to be Ian Happ. Happ had 24 HR and 8 SB last year and hit .253 at age 22. The upside is tremendous. Unfortunately, Happ plays for the Chicago Cubs and Joe Maddon. Everybody knows that Maddon is as experimental and unpredictable with lineups and playing time as anyone in the game. That’s fine for Joe. He’s a great manager and he’s not managing our fantasy teams, but he absolutely has killed the value of Ian Happ. He only had 413 at bats last season and sure enough, Happ is not playing every day. If you play in a daily league, Happ will still be useful, but he will be frustrating to own in weekly leagues.

Ryan Zimmerman

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Rob Carr/Getty Images

Zimmerman had the huge bounce-back season in 2017, but most were skeptical of it happening again at age 33. He’s hitting .111 with one home run and a .139 ISO to start the season. He’s probably not this bad, but the Nationals are not in a position to keep running him out there on a daily basis with no results. Matt Adams has already started to spell him and his OBP skills at least contribute when he’s in the lineup. First base is too deep for you to have to count on Zimmerman except in NL-only leagues. He could emerge as a decent CI option at some point, but there is a chance that Zimmerman is not that useful in 2018.

Featured image courtesy of: David Dermer/Associated Press

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