Fantasy Baseball: Buy or sell hot starts from Tyler Glasnow, Maikel Franco and five others

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We're just about 10% of the way through the MLB season, which is as good (and arbitrary) as any place to pause and examine some of the hot starts around the league, to see whether you should buy into them. Let's take a look at seven of the biggest surprises so far: 

Command and control have always been problems for Glasnow, but he's been just about exactly what we would have hoped for in the early going. Just compare the zone profile for his fastball and curveball this season, compared to 2018:

2019

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2018

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Two things stand out immediately: The fewer pitches wide of the strike zone, especially to the arm side; and the number of high fastballs and low curveballs. Given Glasnow's high release point, this is exactly what we'd want to see from him, and you don't even mind the number of fastballs in the strike zone because he's so tough to square up anyway. Here's an example of that:

I mean … good luck!

Will Glasnow continue to run an elite walk rate? Almost certainly not, given his track record. However, since getting to Tampa he has a 3.34 ERA, 29.4% strikeout rate and 7.6% walk rate, with a roughly average ground-ball rate; that would put him somewhere between teammates Charlie Morton on the lower end and Blake Snell on the higher end, which would make him a very good Fantasy option.

Buy or Sell: Buy

We've seen stretches from Franco where he has hit for big power, but when you're looking at his numbers so far, it's not the .568 SLG or four homers that stand out; it's the 11 walks to four strikeouts. Franco has always been a pretty good contact hitter, but a huge jump in walk rate would surely be a sign of some expanding skill set, no?

Not in this case. While he does have 11 walks, more than one-third of last year's total, seven have been of the intentional variety. So, that's not much of a skill improvement, and Franco's batted-ball profile remains as disappointing as ever  -- he already has six infield fly balls compared to his four homers. This is, unfortunately, a mirage.

Buy or Sell: Sell

Even as someone who was high on Bellinger, it's hard to believe just how good he has been so far. Sure, it's only 17 games, but Bellinger has struck out in just 11.8% of his plate appearances so far. We knew the potential for a huge power-speed combination was there, but after watching him strike out 16 times in 16 games in the postseason, another significant reduction in strikeout rate was hard to see coming.

The most promising thing might be that 27.6% of Bellinger's plate appearances have come against lefties to date, so it's not like he's just avoided them. This won't keep up, but it's not out of the question to think Bellinger might be more of an average strikeout rate hitter, which would make his potential even more exciting.

Buy or Sell: Buy

On the surface, things look fine for Bumgarner, who has a 3.12 ERA and better than four strikeouts for every walk issued through his first four starts. You'd like to see more than one win for his troubles in four starts, but all in all Bumgarner looks like a risk that has paid off. On the surface.

Things get ugly once you dig deeper. Bumgarner is inducing a career-low groundball rate, and isn't making up for the increased loft hitters are generating with more infield fly balls. And he hasn't gained any life on his fastball, and hasn't done enough to move away from it, producing a pretty similar pitch distribution as he had last year.

And what he did last year won't work. The 3.99 FIP said it loudly, and the 4.42 SIERA screamed it. With things looking more or less the same in the early going, you'll want to get something for Bumgarner while you can, before he turns into someone you'll only feel comfortable starting at home.

Buy or Sell: Sell

One of the signs of how baseball at the highest levels is changing can be seen in what happens when pitchers move from the rotation into the bullpen and then back. Unsurprisingly, most pitchers tend to pitch more effectively out of the bullpen; you can throw with more effect, you only see hitters once and aren't expected to leave anything in the tank. What we're seeing lately, however, is more and more pitchers taking what they learned in the bullpen and applying it as a starter.

So, while in the past you might try to preserve one of your pitches for later in the start to give hitters a different look, now you are incentivized to give it your all from batter one. In McHugh's case, that hasn't led him to recapture the velocity of his time in the bullpen, but he has held on to the slider-heavy approach. He's throwing it 41.9% of the time, and adding in a cutter 11.2% of the time, as well; his fastball usage rate is down to 31.7%.

You probably aren't going to see a complete game anytime soon from McHugh, but he's picking up whiffs at a huge rate and should remain a dependable starter moving forward. This trick works.

Buy or Sell: Buy

And that trick should work for Rodon, too. It would be unfair to say he's been a one-pitch pitcher, but … it's probably not totally incorrect. His fastball has always had life, but the star of the show has been his slider. So he's just throwing it a ton more, up to 41.2% of the time in the early going. You'd still like to see him refine his changeup, but if all it ever becomes is a show-me pitch to right-handed batters, that might not be the worst outcome as long as he keeps feeding hitters from both sides a steady diet of that slider. Don't expect a 2018 Patrick Corbin breakout, but that's the road map he's following.

Buy or Sell: Buy

It's been a bumpy road for Matz from top prospect to where he is now, but he just may have figured something out here. He's struck out 19 batters in 16.1 innings, and now has a 2.10 ERA over his past 10 starts, with a 29.5% strikeout rate. His late-season breakout in 2018 was fueled in part by doubling his slider usage, but he's gone about it with increased reliance on his changeup in the early going so far. The nice thing is that we know he's got that slider in his back pocket to break out if he needs it, and it's a lot easier to see a successful path for Matz moving forward at this point. I'm not entirely sold just yet, but considering his draft cost, I'm pretty confident he's going to return quite a bit of value for you.

Buy or Sell: Buy

Fantasy Writer

Though he can be found covering three different sports depending on the time of year, there is one unifying theme in how Chris Towers approaches sports; "Where's the evidence?" It doesn't matter how outlandish... Full Bio

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