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Look Who’s Streaking: All Hail the Halos’ Taylor Ward

In this season-long series, we’ll be taking a look at players who are streaking – both hot and cold. The idea is fairly simple. We’ll highlight players who are streaking in either direction and dig deeper into their performance, with the ultimate goal of aiding lineup and waiver wire decisions.

It’s early in the season, and we’re still in information-gathering mode. While it’s worth noting player performances, it’s also important to understand that most stats have yet to stabilize. Continue to trust your draft process and try to not overreact to information at this point in the season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some players who are streaking!

Look Who’s Streaking!

Running Hot

Taylor Ward (OF – LAA)

Taylor Ward – not to be confused with teammate Tyler Wade – is a man on fire. He started the season on the IL, but hit a home run in his April 16 season debut and hasn’t looked back. In 53 plate appearances, Ward has four home runs, 13 runs, 11 RBI, and one stolen base. He’s also slashing .381/.509/.762 with a .381 ISO. Sure, this is partly fueled by a .414 BABIP and the sample size is small, but there are encouraging signs under the hood.

Ward is walking more than he’s striking out and he’s hitting the ball hard – his 18.2% barrel rate is 94th percentile. Additionally, he’s making above-average contact and his 18.1% O-Swing% is elite. Ward is hitting primarily in the top-third of the order, and with the Angels leading the league in runs scored, Ward should be able to take advantage. We’ll see regression with his batting average, but if Ward’s plate discipline metrics stick, we’re looking at a solid across-the-board contributor.

Charlie Blackmon (OF – COL)

Charlie Blackmon started the season cold, but he’s recently started to come alive. Since April 18, Blackmon has four home runs, 10 runs scored, seven RBI, and one stolen base – accounting for nearly all of his total production for the season. He also has a .382 ISO and 1.084 OPS during this span. Even with the cold start, Blackmon’s quality of contact metrics on the season are solid. He’s making contact in the zone at a 92% rate and has a better than average chase rate (30.4% O-Swing%) and swinging strike rate (7.7%).

Blackmon isn’t flashy, and will no longer provide double-digit steals. But he bats near the top of the lineup, still has some pop in his bat, and will give you a plus batting average. Oh, and he’s one of the more durable players in the league. If you need run production, he’s as steady as they come.

Connor Joe (1B, OF – COL)

Sticking with the Colorado Rockies, I want to quickly mention Connor Joe. Technically, I’m not sure Joe is on a hot streak, as he’s been running hot since the start of the season. But he’s still available on some waiver wires and really shouldn’t be. In 83 plate appearances, he’s slashing .270/.349/.514 with a .243 ISO and 138 wRC+. Joe is playing everyday, is leading off, and has a hit in all but three of 18 games played. His 9.6% walk rate and 18.1% strikeout rate are consistent with his career numbers, and he has strong contact and whiff rates. Do yourself a favor and double-check your waiver wire to see if Joe is there.

Daniel Vogelbach (1B – PIT)

I’m not sure many people pegged Daniel Vogelbach as a leadoff man to start the season, but so far, it seems to be working for him. Vogelbach has a hit in eight of his last nine games and a .365 OBP and 153 wRC+ across 63 plate appearances. While this is all good, it’s worth noting his .368 BABIP is 119 points higher than his career .249 mark – meaning regression is likely coming.

Vogelbach is a power bat with strong quality of contact metrics. He has a 92% Z-Contact%, 80% contact rate, and 6.5% SwStr%. As long as he continues to lead off and carry a strong batting average, Vogelbach’s hot streak is worth riding. Just keep in mind he’s a career .214 hitter, so be ready to jump ship once he starts to cool off.

J.P. Crawford (SS – SEA)

J.P. Crawford is on a roll. He’s slashing .343/.444/.567 with a 206 wRC+ across 81 plate appearances. Crawford has always had a solid plate approach, but he’s kicked it up a notch so far this season with a 12.3% walk rate and 9.9% strikeout rate. Crawford isn’t a big power bat but does have some pop. His 5.0% barrel rate won’t blow the doors off, but it’s double his career mark and he already has three homers on the season.

Crawford makes a bunch of contact in the zone, and his better-than-average chase rate (25.3%) and swinging strike rate (8%) are consistent with his career numbers. Crawford’s an across-the-board contributor, with his production dependent upon his lineup position. Last season, he scored 89 runs mainly out of the leadoff spot. This season, he’s been more of a middle-of-the-order bat. No matter where he hits, Crawford will be an asset. And he’ll likely throw in a handful of steals as well!

Running Cold

Joey Votto (1B – CIN)

Joey Votto has been ice cold to start the season. He has an ugly .129/.299/.145 slash line with a 47 wRC+ and .016 ISO across 77 plate appearances. Votto has an elite 15.6% walk rate, but his 29.9% strikeout rate is uncharacteristically high. Additionally, he’s not hitting the ball hard (23.1% hard hit rate) and his 51.3% GB% is 11 points higher than his career rate.

There’s no reason to think Votto can’t turn things around. He’s a seasoned veteran who’s coming off a 36-homer season. Also, Votto has been mighty unlucky this season – his .205 BABIP is a whopping 136 points lower than his career .341 mark. If you drafted Votto, trust your draft process and hold – especially in deeper leagues. In shallower leagues, he should be benched until he starts to turn things around. And who knows, maybe this weekend’s series in Colorado will do just the trick.

Bryan Reynolds (OF – PIT)

Bryan Reynolds has been struggling at the plate to start the season.  He’s striking out at a 30.6% rate (career 21.7%) and has an underwhelming .120 ISO and .582 OPS.  Known for being a strong asset in batting average, his current .197 batting average is a far cry from his career .285 mark.

Reynolds’ 38.6% hard hit rate is in line with his career rate.  However, looking at his batted ball profile, he’s hitting fewer line drives (15.9%) in favor of more ground balls (47.7%).  It’s early in the season and Reynolds is a steady contributor who’s too valuable to give up on.  Continue to hold him in 12-team leagues and deeper.

Charlie Morton (SP – ATL)
Charlie Morton has been having a rough go of it this season. In four starts, he has a 7.00 ERA and 1.78 WHIP across 18 innings pitched. Morton throws his fastball and curveball a combined 80% of the time, and the velocity and spin rates on both pitches look fine. The main issue plaguing Morton is that he’s walking batters at a 12.8% clip. That, combined with a lack of strikeouts (17.4% K%), leaves him with an ugly 4.7% K-BB% to start the season.

Morton isn’t getting batters to chase pitches – his 23.2% O-Swing% is 12th percentile; and his 8% SwStr rate falls short of the double-digit rates he’s been putting up since 2016. It’s understandable if you want to bench Morton until he turns things around, but he’s too talented to drop. If anything, he makes for a good buy-low candidate. Put those trade feelers out there!

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