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MLB Barometer: Cooking In Oakland

Eric Nehs

Eric Nehs

Eric Nehs writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

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CJ Wilson P, LAA
- Wilson held the Rockies to just one run over eight innings of work on Friday night to improve his record to 7-4. He lowered his ERA to 2.39, and he has quietly put together one of the best seasons of any pitcher in the American League. His 8.32 K/9 is the highest of his career as a starter, and his 59.1 percent first pitch strike rate (career high) indicates that owners could see a drop in his walk rate. His .240 BABIP and 77 percent strand rate have been favorable, but his 17.1 percent line drive rate is the second lowest of his career while his 53.7 percent ground ball rate is his highest as a starter. Look for Wilson to finish with an ERA around 2.90.

Alfonso Soriano OF, CHC - Soriano hit is twelfth home run of the season on Saturday against the Twins, and improved his slash line to .276/.320/.507 in 219 plate appearances. Available in 50 percent of Yahoo leagues, Soriano still has a ton of value in terms of home runs and he has been producing a steady amount of RBI throughout the course of the season. He won’t continue to produce a HR/FB ratio of 18.8 percent (a career high), but his career low fly ball rate (40.5 percent) should also improve over time. Soriano won’t net owners the stolen bases any more, but I expect him to finish the season with 25-28 home runs and a slash line around .270/.310/.495 if he is able to stay healthy.

Ryan Cook P, OAK - With Brian Fuentes blowing his third save of the season on Friday, the A’s might be looking to make another switch at the closer position. Cook has a 0.69 ERA in 26 innings for the A’s this season, and he might be able to take the role full time in the upcoming weeks. Melvin told the media before Saturday night’s game that he will use matchups in the ninth, but I would look for Cook to be the closer by the end of the season as Balfour and Fuentes should be dealt before the trade deadline. Cook needs to work on his control (5.19 BB/9), but he has been able to succeed by inducing weak contact throughout the season with a extremely low 10.7 percent line drive rate.

Logan Forsythe 2B/3B, SD - Forsythe has settled into second base for the Padres starting the last six games since being called up on June 3rd. He has produced a .409/.500/.773 slash line with a home run, four RBI and a stolen base in his 26 plate appearances. While he only produced hit for a .259 average with a home run in Triple-A this season, Forysthe did walk over 17 percent of the time and produced a .828 OPS in his five seasons in the minors. His plate discipline has been very impressive in his six games this season (16.8 percent chase rate), and his power should develop over time. Throw in an ability to produce double-digit home runs, and he is worth a look for owners looking for help at second base.

Daisuke Matsuzaka P, BOS - Matsuzaka made his first start since Tommy John surgery on Saturday, allowing four runs but striking out eight. The results may not look very pretty, but the veteran right-hander looked a lot better than his final line would indicate. He recorded a 11.25 percent swinging strike rate in the start, and he averaged 91.3 mph with his fastball (90.3 mph last season). Most importantly, he threw 52 of his 80 pitches for strikes. He should be a solid source for strikeouts in most leagues, and he is definitely worth a look for owners in deep and AL-only leagues.

Caution/Check Status

Dan Hudson P, ARI
- Hudson was shelled for six runs on eight hits in only 1.2 innings on Friday night, and saw his ERA rise to 6.06 for the season. While the line was ugly, the poor performance can be attributed to poor location and mechanics, and not because of recurring affects from his shoulder impingement. Hudson came into the game with an average fastball of 93.1 mph, which is right at his career average. Despite a career low strikeout rate (5.79 K/9), Hudson’s swinging strike rate is almost identical to his 2011 rate. Look for his strikeout rate to improve over the coming weeks, and his ERA should improve once his strand rate of 65.1 percent regresses.

Yoenis Cespedes OF, OAK - Cespedes suffered a strained left hamstring during the first inning of Oakland’s game against Texas on Thursday. He missed the first two games against the Diamondbacks in this weekend’s series, and is expected to miss the final one Sunday afternoon. He told the media on Friday he does not expect to head to the disabled list. Cespedes has put together a solid season so far with six home runs and four stolen bases with a slash line of .275/.338/.489, but owners should see how he responds next week. Matt Kemp’s re-aggravation of his injury proves that hamstrings can be tricky, and I would not be surprised to see Cespedes land on the disabled list despite his insistence otherwise. Johnny Gomes and Colin Cowgill would see some more time in the lineup as a result.

Gavin Floyd P, CHW - Floyd allowed four runs on four hits on Friday night against the Astros to see his record fall to 4-6 for the season. As has been the case over the last two seasons, Floyd ERA of 5.38 is significantly higher than his FIP (4.83) and xFIP (4.03). Despite posting a career best strikeout rate of 8.38 K/9, Floyd has been hurt by the home run ball (14 in 72 innings pitched). This is due in part because of a career worst fly ball rate (41.4 percent), but his HR/FB ratio should regress closer to his career rate of 11.6 percent. Floyd’s numbers have been inflated because of five poor performances in a row, but it is highly improbable he will continue this string of ineptitude. His peripherals are stronger than ever, and that will eventually lead to owners benefit in the coming months.

Justin Upton OF, ARI - It was not an easy week for Upton after being benched and called out by the Diamondbacks owners for his lack of performance. He comes into Sunday with five home runs, eight stolen bases and a slash line of .250/.351/.372 in 222 plate appearances. It looks like his thumb injury has zapped some of his power considering his career worst .122 ISO and 32.6 percent fly ball rate. The good news is that he has produced a 26.1 percent line drive rate, and that his swinging strike rate has dropped from 11.7 to 10.3 percent, which should eventually translate into a lower strikeout rate. Upton still has plenty of time to turn things around, and even if he does not replicate last season’s career year, he should finish with a 20 home run and 20 stolen base season.

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Jake Arrieta P, BAL
- Arrieta was sent down to Triple-A after his rough start against on Friday night. He allowed nine runs on eleven hits (two home runs), and saw his ERA jump to 6.32 while his record fell to 2-8. Arrieta’s peripherals are much improved in 2012 with career bests in K/9 (8.03 K/9) and BB/9 (2.80 BB/9). He has pitched much better than his ERA would indicate (4.20 FIP and 3.71 xFIP), and has been constantly hurt by an inability to strand base runners (56.3 percent). Home runs have been a problem, but I do not expect Arrieta to stay in the minors for too long considering he is a better option than Tommy Hunter. However, Zach Britton is lurking on the horizon.

Andres Torres OF, NYM - Jason Bay returned from the disabled list on Friday, and Torres is the Mets outfielder that will be hurt most by his return. Bay and Lucas Duda will play everyday in the corner outfield spots, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis has impressed the organization enough to remain the starting centerfielder. Torres just has not produced with a .209/.324/.313 slash line to go along with his one home run and two stolen bases. A .258 BABIP and 21.2 percent line drive rate indicate that he has been somewhat unlucky on balls in play, but his ground ball rate has spiked from 40 to 50.6 percent this season. He might get some time against left-handed pitchers, but with his drop in stolen bases, he possesses little value at this point in the season.

Kyle Drabek P, TOR - Drabek allowed three runs on six hits and four walks to the Braves on Friday night and did not earn a decision. He was unable to record a strikeout, and he saw his ERA jump up to 4.43 for the season. A 5.47 FIP and 4.89 xFIP indicate that Drabek won’t show much more improvement over the course of the season. He has thrown only 32 percent of pitches within the strike zone (lowest among qualified starters), and his 49.3 percent first pitch strike percentage is third worst. Furthermore, his strikeout rate of 6.18 K/9 is just not high enough to sustain that high of a walk rate. The Blue Jays sent him down after a similar performance last season, and Drabek could find himself in Triple-A once his .269 BABIP starts to regress.

John Buck C, MIA - Buck went hitless in four at-bats on Saturday night against the Rays with two strikeouts to see his slash line drop to an ugly .162/.294/.282. He has been primarily hurt by an extremely unlucky .196 BABIP, which should eventually improve. However, his 24.7 percent strikeout rate is still a problem, and his fly ball rate of 36.6 percent is his lowest since 2006. That drop means that it is likely he will finish the season with a home run total below 15, and thereby decreasing his value immensely unless your league isn’t a standard 5x5. Owners looking for catching help should stay away from the veteran backstop and look for other alternatives like Martin Maldonado.