Giancarlo Stanton RF, MIA- Stanton continued his torrid streak this week improving his slash line to .296/.360/.568 to go along with 11 home runs, 34 RBI and two stolen bases. Stanton's ISO (.272) is now in line with his rate from last season (.275), and his HR/FB ratio of 22.9 percent is also in line with his career ratio of 23.8 percent. Stanton's average has improved due to a slight drop in his strikeout rate from 27.6 percent to 23.7 percent (and improved swinging strike rate of 13.9 percent), and importantly a 10 percent drop in his ground ball rate with a 10 percent increase in his line drive rate. His 26.2 percent line drive rate could sustain an above average BABIP of .342, and give Stanton his most complete season in the majors.
Dan Haren P, LAA- Haren pitched one of the best games of the season on Thursday night against the Mariners, a complete game shutout with 14 strikeouts and zero walks. Despite a higher ERA (3.76 ERA) and diminished fastball velocity (averaging 88.7 mph), Haren should still be considered an elite fantasy starter. His 3.26 FIP and 3.36 xFIP suggest that his ERA will continue to fall over the course of the season due in large part to increased strikeout rate (8.21 K/9). He has been generating more swinging strikes (10.5 percent is the second best of his career), and he has actually thrown more first pitch strikes and overall strikes than last season when he had a 1.21 BB/9.
Devin Mesoraco C, CIN- Mesoraco hit two home runs this week for the Reds, including one last night to improve overall line to .215/.307/.385 to go along with three home runs and eight RBI. Ryan Hanigan has started seven more games than Mesoraco due in part to Dusty Baker's confidence in him, and Mesoraco's lack of production at the plate. However, a .216 BABIP indicates that Mesoraco has been extremely unlucky with balls in play. The rookie catcher has very strong peripherals with a 10.7 percent walk rate and 16 percent strikeout rate, and a 14.8 percent HR/FB ratio and 38.9 percent fly ball rate could translate into 15 home runs if Baker can give Mesoraco just one or two more starts a week. This recent surge at the plate might give Baker the push he needs to throw Mesoraco into the fire more often.
Dillon Gee P, NYM- Gee's 4.92 ERA might not be impressive, but his victory over the Padres on Friday was one of his best starts of the season. Gee now has a 3.76 FIP and 3.21 xFIP in his 56.2 innings pitched this season, and his strikeout rate of 8.26 K/9 is a career high. He has shown better velocity this season, and his implementation of his slider has allowed him to post a career best 10.5 percent swinging strike rate. His numbers have been hurt by a below average strand rate (67.4 percent), a high HR/FB ratio (16.3 percent) and a .325 BABIP. Along with a career best ground ball rate (55.4 percent) those other rates will regress, and it is entirely possible to see him have an ERA below 4.00 by the end of the season.
Joe Nathan P, TEX- Nathan, who hasn't allowed a run since May 13th, might be considered the best closer in the American League now considering the injuries others have sustained. He has gotten his fastball back to where it was before his 2010 Tommy John surgery, and his 15.3 percent swinging strike rate is the second best of his career. With great peripherals (10.98 K/9 and 0.98 BB/9), he should lower his ERA to the 2.00- 2.10 range for the season. If any owners are considering dealing for a closer in the upcoming weeks, Nathan would be the first one on my list. There is no doubt he will remain the closer for the Rangers, even if Neftali Feliz is moved back to the bullpen after his DL stint.
Ike Davis 1B, NYM- The Mets announced this week that the organization has no plans to send Davis back to the minors, but Terry Collins also announced that Vinny Rottino would see some more action at first base against left-handed pitchers. Davis has already show better plate appearances during this weekend's series against the Padres, and has improved his line slightly to .173/.230/.307 with his five home runs and 20 RBI. Davis' career high strikeout rate of 27.3 percent is part of the reason for his struggles at the plate, and his 10.3 percent swinging strike rate is also a career high. He has been chasing more pitches out of the strike zone with a career high chase rate of 31.3 percent, which has also led to his walk rate to be cut in half to 6.8 percent. His batted ball rates are almost within his career numbers, which leads me to believe his BABIP (.208) will keep improving over time. However, his plate discipline will dictate whether he finished with a .220 average or a .260/.340/.430 type of line.
Brandon League P, SEA- Eric Wedge announced that League is out of the close role after blowing his fourth save of the season after allowing three runs (two earned) on two hits and two walks in the ninth inning against the Angels. He now has a 4.43 ERA in 20.1 innings with poor peripherals (5.75 K/9 and 5.31 BB/9), and his 4.78 xFIP suggests he pitched as poorly as his ERA suggests. His swinging strike rate has dropped from 10.4 to 7.3 percent, and his ground ball rate has dropped from 57.1 to 44.4 percent, which is a career low. While Tom Wilhelmsen's ERA might not look much different (4.44), his 3.23 FIP and 3.17 xFIP suggest that number will regress and he has the peripherals (11.10 K/9 and 3.33 BB/9) more suited to the role. It sounds as if Wedge wants to put League back in the role, but Wilhelmsen could force the issue if he pitches well.
Paul Goldschmidt 1B, ARI- Goldschmidt has greatly improved his production during the month of May producing a .813 OPS to bring his slash up to .248/.324/.380 for the season. However, the first baseman continues to struggle with his power numbers (.132 ISO) and has only hit two home runs in 145 plate appearances compared to his eight last season in 177 plate appearances for the Diamondbacks. Strikeouts continue to be a problem for Goldschmidt (28.3 percent rate), which means that his batting average continues to rely on a high BABIP (.345). His batted ball rate remain almost identical expect for his HR/FB ratio, which has dropped from 21.1 percent to 6.3 percent. His 10 percent increase in his infield fly ball rate to (12.5 percent) helps to partially explain that drop.
Jon Lester P, BOS- Lester saw his record fall to 3-4 after getting touched up for seven runs on six hits (three home runs) and three walks in just four innings against the Rays on Friday night. He has seen his velocity drop in each of the last three seasons (92.5 mph is his average fastball for 2012), and his 7.7 percent swinging strike rate is the second lowest of his career. That has lead to a career worst 6.05 K/9. A 66.5 percent strand rate has hurt his overall numbers, but his 4.31 FIP and 4.05 xFIP show some decline. Lester has gotten away from his cutter this season (his best pitch over the last three seasons), as his 16.4 percent rate is his lowest since the 2006 season. That could indicate that he just does not feel right mechanically, or that the pitch has taken its toll on him over the last few seasons.
Clayton Richard P, SD- Richard saw his record fall to 2-6 for the season after the Mets scored four runs on five hits (two home runs) and three walks in six innings of work. Richard, who now has a 4.76 ERA in 64.1 innings this season, has benefited from a .266 BABIP while being simultaneously hurt by a 61.67 percent strand rate. Look for an increase in his strikeout rate considering his swinging strike rate is the best of his career. I envisioned him being a solid option in standard leagues before the season, but I have to downgrade him to a matchup type of starter at best. He has struggled on the road allowing eight home runs in 37 innings away from Petco Park. He also will do well in matchup against a left-handed heavy lineup with his 2.60 xFIP against left-handed hitters this season.
Alex Gordon LF, KC- Gordon was one of my top 2012 candidates to see a drop in offensive performance from 2011, and he has not disappointed so far in 2011. His slash line currently sits at .226/.322/.356 to go along with his four home runs, 17 RBI and one stolen base. Gordon was the beneficiary of a .358 BABIP last season, but a .277 BABIP in 2012 has allowed his numbers to significantly drop. The fact remains that Gordon is better than his current numbers, but he is not the type of hitter who will put up consistent seasons like the one he produced in 2011. His increased ground ball rate (44.8 percent) is partially to blame, but his power numbers have suffered because he is hitting fewer fly balls and most of those fly balls have been on the infield (infield fly ball rate of 23.8 percent). I still see him improving on those numbers, but owners should be expecting more of a .250/.340/.420 line with 16-19 home runs.
Ross Detwiler P, WAS- Davey Johnson announced that Chien-Ming Wang will take the fifth spot in the rotation with Detwiler being moved to the bullpen. Detwiler struggled in his outing on Friday night against the Braves allowing three runs on only 4.1 innings pitched. Wang has a lot less fantasy value than Detwiler because of the former's inability to record strikeouts. In 48.2 innings pitched for the Nationals this season, Detwiler has complied a 3.88 ERA along with a 3.50 FIP and 3.83 xFIP. At best Wang will provide an ERA similar to Detwiler's with a strikeout rate almost cut in half. Detwiler will be the first pitcher used if an injury is to occur to anyone in the rotation, but I expect him to take that spot away from Wang by the second half of the season.
Johnny Damon LF, CLE- While most owners did not expect Damon to be a fantasy savior, many thought he would be at least relevant in 2012. Damon has yet to produce a stolen base or a home run in 20 games (81 plate appearances) and has produced an anemic .153/.247/.194 line. He won't continue to hit .154 for very much longer as his .180 BABIP will have to improve, but he has not hit the ball with much authority this season. His 16.4 percent line drive rate is a career low, and Damon has yet to hit a fly ball to the equivalent of Cleveland's warning track this year. With a complete lack of power and speed, Damon holds absolutely no value for owners and it would be smart to cut loose the outfielder if he is still on your roster.