As with the last few weeks, I have kept the Downgrade and Check Status sections together. Being close to the beginning of May does not mean small sample sizes are not in play.
Ross Detwiler P, WAS - Detwiler has continued to look strong for the Nationals, and he delivered another strong start on Friday night against the Marlins. He threw six innings of shutout baseball lowering his ERA to 0.74. Detwiler is generating more swinging strikes this season (8.7 percent), and his pounding the strike zone more often (56.7 percent of pitches in the zone). Most importantly, Detwiler has improved his ground ball rate from 43.3 percent to 64.7 percent (a career best). That rate along with his miniscule 9.5 percent line drive rate explains his low BABIP (.234). He wonít continue at this pace, but he is worth a pickup in standard leagues for owners short on starting pitching.
Buster Posey C, SF - Posey has bounced back nicely from his broken ankle this season producing a .386/.426/.500 slash line with a home run in 47 plate appearances. He has looked strong behind the plate (except for Saturdayís game ending error), and has stolen a base already. He came into Saturdayís game with a 25 percent line drive rate indicating that he has been hitting the ball with authority. Iím little a bit worried about his 56 percent ground ball rate, and his increased strikeout rate since his BABIP that is north of .450 is eventually going to drop. At this point, I think Posey owners should be happy with the amount of games played and his performance so far.
Wily Peralta P, MIL - With Chris Narveson lost for the season because of rotator cuff surgery, the Brewers have called up Peralta up Triple-A. Marco Estrada made the spot start against the Brewers on Saturday, but Peralta could take his spot in the rotation going forward. Peralta has a 2.12 ERA (2.91 FIP) in Triple-A this year in three starts, and finished with a 2.03 ERA (1.78 FIP) in five starts last year with Triple-A. He throws a fastball that is in the 90-95 mph range along with a slider and change-up. He generates a lot of ground balls, and posted a 8.08 K/9 last season. He has tons of talent, and I think the Brewers will give him an extended look in the rotation with Narveson out.
BJ Upton CF, TB - Upton returned to the Rays starting lineup on Friday night after spending the first couple of weeks on the DL with a lower back injury. He went 0-for-3 in his first game back, but had a productive night on Saturday going 2-for-3 with two RBI and walk. While he will never hit for much of an average because of his career 24.8 percent strike out rate, he should provide 17-20 home runs the rest of the way with 35 or more stolen bases. He is extremely patient at the plate, which makes his OBP reasonable, and he is still young enough at 27 to make adjustments to improve his contact rate. I wouldnít be surprised to see him finish with a .260/.345/.430 type of line by the end of the season.
Brandon Beachy P, ATL - Beachy improved his record to 2-1 on Friday night after tossing 7.1 shutout innings against the Diamondbacks. He lowered his ERA to 0.47 in the process, and mixed up his pitches effectively. I have been impressed with his results considering his fastball velocity has decreased from 92 mph to 90.8 mph this season. As a result he isnít generating the same amount of strikeouts (6.52 K/9), but he has improved his ground ball rate drastically from 33.8 percent to 50 percent. His ground ball rate along with his 11.8 percent line drive rate has contributed to a .204 BABIP. I think he can duplicate his 2011 ERA even with the drop in strikeouts if he can maintain a similar ground ball rate for most of the season.
Matt Wieters C, BAL - Wieters went 1-for-3 on Saturday night with a home run and three RBI to improve his slash line to .283/.377/.630. Along with his five home runs, Wieters looks like he has transformed himself at the plate since last August. Coming into Saturday, his .412 wOBA ranked fourth among major league catchers and he has shown improvement in his plate discipline dropping his chase rate by seven percentage points to begin the season and doubling his walk rate. In addition, he has been somewhat unlucky in terms of his batting average considering he has a .276 BABIP despite a 30 percent line drive rate. At 25, Wieters looks as to finally have made the jump to an elite fantasy catcher.
Hector Noesi P, SEA - Noesi was roughed up by the White Sox on Friday night to the tune of six runs in a 1.1 innings pitched. Noesi handled the Oakland Aís in his second start of the season, but against stronger lineups, he has wilted. He has a 9.49 ERA in 13.2 innings (5.92 FIP and 5.22 xFIP), but his control has been issue so far. His 4.31 BB/9 is below average, and his decreased swinging strike and chase rates indicate a regression in his 7.30 K/9. Furthermore, his 26.2 percent ground ball rate indicates more trouble ahead and his home run total will be considerably high for a pitcher spending half of the season in Safeco.
Frank Francisco P, NYM - Francisco has been struggling of late allowing a run in his last four starts, and he now has an 8.53 ERA in 6.1 innings pitched this season. Francisco should be able to right himself considering he has been recording swinging strike at a 14 percent rate before Saturdayís game, and that his control stats has been in line with his previous years. Francisco will not continue to produce a 55.6 percent strand, and his .400 BABIP will also regress with more innings under his belt. The real question is whether Terry Collins will keep the veteran in the role, or start to give some opportunities to Jon Rauch.
Mitch Moreland 1B, TEX - Moreland continued to struggle this week and comes into Sundayís game with the Tigers with a slash line of .161/.257/.258 and one home run in 35 plate appearances. While Moreland has been striking out at a 20 percent rate, nothing else has really changed about his batted ball data with the exception for hitting a few more ground balls. His average is the product of an extremely low .176 BABIP, and I am confident that he will produce a much like his 2011 season. However, with a deep lineup and bench, it is entirely possible that he will lose some playing time. Napoli could play more first base with Torrealba behind the plate. Moreland has one thing going for him. The Rangers hot start allows Ron Washington to be patient.
Josh Collmenter P, ARI - Collmenter was touched up for four runs in 5.1 innings pitched against the Braves on Thursday night, and it looks as hitters are not as fooled by his funky motion in 2012. Collmenter over performed in 2011 because of a 1.63 BB/9 (3.1 BB/9 in his minor league career) along with a 7.7 percent HR/FB ratio and .255 BABIP. Opposing hitters are chasing fewer pitches out of the strike zone, His chase rate has dropped from 33.7 percent to 22.4 percent, and fly balls are finally getting out of the ballpark this year. Of course, he will not continue to have a 23.5 percent HR/FB ratio. He should finish with an ERA close to 4.50 by the time the season ends.
Seth Smith OF, OAK - Smith has gotten off to a slow start with the Aís producing a .195/.346/.195 slash line with zero home runs in 52 plate appearances. Letís start with the good news. Smith has cut down his strikeout rate 17.4 to 11.5 percent, and his plate discipline has double improving his walk rate from 8.6 to 17.5 percent. However, with an improved patience he has shown almost no power since moving to Oakland. He has yet to produce an extra base hit, which stems from the fact that his ground ball rate has jumped from 38 to 52.8 percent while his fly ball rate has dropped from 40.4 to 28 percent.
Ivan Nova P, NYY - Nova improved to 3-0 and lowered his ERA to 3.79 after Fridayís start against the Red Sox. While some of his numbers have been impressive (9.49 K/9 and 0.97 BB/9), there are some metrics that have me worried about his future performance. He hasnít been able to keep the ball down in the strike zone, as his 39.3 percent ground ball rate is a steep drop from his 52.7 percent rate from last season in addition to allowing four home runs in 19 innings. In addition, his improved peripherals are just a mirage. His swinging strike rate is down slightly from last season (6.3 percent in 2012; 6.8 percent in 2011), and his first pitch strike rate is nearly as identical as last season. I expect his ground ball rate to get back to his normal levels, but his peripherals will also see a regression.
John Mayberry OF/1B, PHI - Mayberry came into the season with a great opportunity to prove to the organization that he can be an everyday player with the departure of Raul Ibanez and Ryan Howardís injury. Instead, he has produced a .179/.179/.205 slash line with zero home runs and two RBI in 39 plate appearances with the Phillies. Things have gotten so bad that Charlie Manuel decided to give Juan Pierre the start in left with Cory Luebke on mound on Saturday night. His batted ball rates are virtually identical to last seasonís, but he has chased a lot more pitches out of the strike zone (29.9 to 43.5 percent from last season). He has yet to walk this season, and his strike out rate has increased from 18.8 percent in 2011 to 30 percent. I think itís time for owners to cut their losses.