Michael Bourn CF, ATL -- Bourn went 3-for-6 with his first home run, two runs scored and two RBI in Saturday’s game against the Cardinals. He now has 11 stolen bases and nine RBI to go along with his .333/.399/.422 slash line. Bourn continues to be one of the top stolen base threats in the majors, and he has improved his average through an improvement in his strikeout rate. With a 19.4 percent career strikeout rate, his 14.7 percent rate in 2012 represents a career low. A 7.2 percent swinging strike rate is not too far off from his 7.9 percent career rate, so I would expect his average to eventually drop to .300, but an improved walk rate (9.8 percent) should get him to 60 plus stolen bases once again.
Stephen Strasburg P, WAS -- So much for Strasburg trying to pitch to more contact in 2012. He struck out a season high 13 batters in Thursday’s start against the Pirates in six innings. He allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and three walks. Strasburg now has a 1.64 ERA, and his 2.11 FIP and 2.54 xFIP are third and second best respectively among qualified starting pitchers. His 10.43 K/9 is not as high as his rookie season in 2010, but he is throwing more pitches in the zone this season and using his fastball more frequently. There are still reports that Strasburg will be on a innings limit for the season, but 160 innings of this type of performance is worth whatever owners had to spend in the draft.
Allen Craig 1B/OF, STL -- Craig went 1-for-3 with a RBI and two strikeouts in the Cardinals loss to the Braves on Saturday night, improving his slash line to .324/.390/.765 for the season. He has four home runs along with 13 RBI and one stolen base in only 41 plate appearances. Craig holds an enormous amount of value in some leagues because of his versatility at first base, second base and the outfield. He will eventually lose some at-bats when Lance Berkman comes back from the disabled list, which could happen before Sunday’s game. However, Craig’s performance will likely force Mike Matheny’s hand. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carlos Beltran play some center field, and it is a possibility that Craig could see some time at second base. With a .441 ISO and 36.1 percent HR/FB ratio, Matheny will have to find a way to keep the bat in the lineup.
Addison Reed P, CHW -- No one benefits more than Reed, Chicago's newest closer, with Chris Sale’s move back to the rotation. Reed has not allowed a run in 10 innings this season (1.05 FIP and 2.43 xFIP). Reed has been primarily a fly ball pitcher in his brief stint (46.3 percent career rate), but his ability to record more than a strikeout per inning and his above average control should benefit him in the role. He remains Chicago's best option in the role (other than Matt Thornton), and I envision him holding onto to the job for the rest of the season (health permitting).
Andy Dirks LF, DET -- Dirks has played himself into the Tigers starting lineup, as he is now seeing action as the everyday left fielder with Delmon Young moving to DH. He has improved his slash line to .379/.423/.652 in 71 plate appearances, and he has three home runs and 11 RBI to go along with that strong line. Dirks doesn’t possess much plate discipline (4.6 percent career walk rate), but he has shown an uncanny ability to make contact this season. He has a miniscule 5.6 percent strikeout rate, and he came into Saturday with a 5.1 percent swinging strike rate. While he hasn’t stolen any bases yet, ZIPS projects him to steal 12 this season in 412 plate appearances. Owners shouldn’t expect 20 home runs, but he should provide great value as someone who could produce 15 home runs with a .280/.325/.440 type of line.
Andy Pettitte P, NYY -- Pettitte makes his first start since 2010 today against the Mariners after coming off a season in retirement. His 2010 numbers included a 3.28 ERA (3.85 FIP and 3.89 xFIP) along with a 7.05 K/9 and 2.86 BB/9 in 129 innings pitched. Pettitte was known as a ground ball pitcher for most of his career, but his 2009 and 2010 ground ball rates were the lowest of his career. If that trend continues in 2012, it will hurt him in Yankee Stadium. Owners should expect his velocity to be down as well, which should lead to one of his lower strikeout rates. Pettitte might be able to bring it into another gear, but owners should be cautious until he shows what kind of stuff he has over his first few starts.
Brandon Belt 1B, SFG -- Belt went 1-for-5 with a triple, a RBI, a run scored and a strikeout in Saturday’s game against the Diamondbacks. He now has a.246/.347/.354 line with zero home runs and a stolen base in 76 plate appearances. Belt has improved his walk rate and strikeout rate in 2012, but a jump in his ground ball rate from 42.3 to 52.1 percent has hurt his overall power numbers. His ISO has dropped from .183 to .107, and a .333 BABIP along with a 17.5 percent swinging strike rate indicates that a batting regression is more than likely to take place. Considering Bruce Bochy already has a history of cutting Belt’s playing time, it is conceivable that Brandon Pill and Aubrey Huff will see some more time at first base.
Henderson Alvarez P, TOR -- Alvarez faced the Twins on Thursday, and delivered another strong outing. He allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits and three walks with two strikeouts in seven innings. He has a strong 2.61 ERA in 48.1 innings for the Blue Jays, but there are some troubling numbers that indicate a regression is more than likely to take place over the upcoming week. Alvarez has been extremely lucky in terms of stranding runners (88.7 percent), and his BABIP of .212 is likely to increase even if he has been inducing weak contact (58.2 percent ground ball rate and 13 percent line drive rate). Furthermore, his 2.61 K/9 will eventually come to haunt him. A 5.25 FIP and 4.66 forebode some rough spots ahead.
Patrick Corbin P, ARI -- The rookie left-hander has held his own in three starts for the Diamondbacks this month. He earned his second win of the season against the Giants on Friday night holding them to one run on three hits and no strikeouts in seven innings of work. He struck out four and improved his ERA to 4.50. With Daniel Hudson coming back from the disabled list by the end of the month, the Diamondbacks have made no indication whether Wade Miley or Corbin will be sent down. Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs are also lurking in Double-A, but Corbin’s xFIP of 3.70 indicates owners could see his performance improve once his HR/FB ratio of 15.4 percent normalizes. A 48 percent ground ball rate indicates more good things, but owners should be troubled by a 5.2 percent swinging strike rate and 51.5 percent first pitch strike percentage. Those figures suggest Corbin’s peripherals will worsen, but he has definitely earned the change to receive more starts.
Clint Barmes SS, PIT -- Barmes went hitless in three at-bats with a RBI and a strikeout in Saturday’s game against the Astros. He has two home runs with six RBI and a slash line of .153/.184/.286 in 105 plate appearances. While Barmes has been extremely unlucky on balls in play .186, a 25.7 percent swinging strike rate has also hurt his batting average. A 15 percent swinging strike rate (a career high) and 48 percent chase rate indicates his strikeout rate is not a fluke. Owners should also expect a slight drop in home runs from last season. His HR/FB has remained the same, but his fly ball rate has dropped from 48.7 to 38.6 percent (his lowest since 2003).
Josh Beckett P, BOS -- Beckett's Thursday performance against Baltimore signaled a low point for the season. His velocity has been notably down this season with a career low average fastball of 91.3 mph. With the diminished velocity, Beckett has a career low strikeout rate of 6.75 K/9. The cutter has been his new-found weapon (career high 23 percent usage rate), and the usage of the pitch has coincided with a drop in his ground ball rate over the last two seasons (38.6 percent in 20121 is a career low). I do expect a rebound in his strikeout rate, as his 9.5 swinging strike rate is still strong, but the increased fly ball rate indicates he could surpass the 36 home runs he allowed in 2006.
Orlando Hudson 2B, SD -- Hudson went hitless in four at-bats with four strikeouts in the Padres loss to the Phillies on Saturday. His slash line dropped from to .209/.328/.336 to go along with his home run and two stolen bases. An increased strikeout has rate (20 percent in 2012 is a career high) has hurt Hudson, but his .247 BABIP and 23 percent line drive rate indicates he has been unlucky with balls in play. He will hit nine home runs at the most, and provide a .250/.315/.345 slash line. With a drop in his stolen base numbers, it is hard for any owners to justify a roster spot at this point. Look for Andy Parrino to take some more playing time away over the course of the season.
Ubaldo Jimenez P, CLE -- Jimenez's record fell to 3-3 after allowing seven runs on nine hits and five walks in 4.1 innings against the Red Sox on Friday night. He struck out four and saw his ERA jump 5.18 for the season. There has been nothing positive about his season (5.70 FIP and 5.84 xFIP), as his average fastball velocity has dropped to a career low 92 MPH. His walk rate of 6.75, strikeout rate of 5.40, and 39.4 percent ground ball rate are career worsts. His 20 percent chase rate and 6.0 percent swinging strike rate indicate these peripherals are not likely to rebound. It might be time for owners to cut their losses and move on to other starting options.