RA Dickey P, NYM - Dickey pitched the best game of his career on Wednesday throwing a complete game one-hitter against the Rays. He struck out 12, and improved his ERA to 2.20 for the season. He is the beneficiary of an 81.3 percent strand rate and .258 BABIP, but his DIPS do not foretell much regression in 2012. He has averaged a .277 BABIP over the last two seasons, and a 12 point increase during the year should not affect his ERA considering his batted ball rate is nearly identical to last season. His career best strikeout rate of 9.00 K/9 is not a fluke considering he has improved his swinging strike rate to a career best 12.6 percent. His walk (1.90 BB/9) and ground ball rates (51.8 percent) are exactly the kind one would expect from a top tier pitcher. I find it amazing that he is still available in 12 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Andrelton Simmons SS, ATL - Simmons went hitless in three plate appearances with a strikeout against the Orioles on Saturday night, but the rookie shortstop has impressed in his first 50 plate appearances this season with a .311/.380/.533 slash line and two home runs. While it is highly unlikely that he will continue to hit for the same amount of power (he never had more three home runs in a single season in the minors), Simmons has shown a good eye (10 percent walk rate) and an ability to make contact (5.4 percent swinging strike rate). He should help owners stolen base totals (10 stolen bases in 43 games in double-A this season) as well. Look for him to hit .280-.295 in the eight spot for the Braves the rest of the season.
Vin Mazzaro P, KC - Mazzaro improved his record to 3-1 in Friday’s start against the Cardinals after throwing six shutout innings. With a 2.57 ERA in 21 inning for the Royals, Mazzaro looks as if he as solidified a spot in the rotation, and there are some improved numbers that indicate he might be able to put together a solid season. In terms of peripherals Mazzaro will not be a fantasy force -- he should average 5.50-6.0 K/9 and a walk rate around 3.50. However, an improved ground ball rate (54 percent) because of the increased amount of two-seam fastballs should give him a new advantage. While he may not be a factor in standard leagues, he is worth a look for owners looking for pitching in deep and AL-only leagues.
Trevor Plouffe 3B/2B/SS/OF, MIN- Plouffe’s surge during the month of June may be one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season. He has hit nine home runs and produced a slash line of .396/.420/1.042 in 50 plate appearances. With 14 home runs and a .234/.321/.571 for the season, Plouffe has secured the third base job for the Twins and his eligibility at second base, shortstop and the outfield only provide more value for fantasy owners. His HR/FB ratio of 25 percent will eventually regress, but owners should be excited by the fact he has increased his fly ball rate to a career best 49.6 percent. In addition to the improved power, Plouffe has shown improvement in terms of plate discipline with a career best 26.9 percent chase rate and 7.8 percent swinging strike rate.
James McDonald P, PIT- Although McDonald lost his third game of the season on Friday night against the Indians, he was able to put together another quality start, allowing just two runs in six innings of work. He has been successful due to the implementation of his slider, which he started using as his primary off-speed pitch in late April. His swinging strike rate has improved to 9.1 percent, and his chase rate is his best as a full time starter (31 percent). McDonald has benefited from a lower BABIP this season, but while that could be partially attributed to luck it is worth noting that the Pirates defense has greatly improved in 2012. He is still available in over 19 percent of Yahoo leagues, and his numbers should continue to translate no matter how small the league.
Adrian Gonzalzez 1B/RF, BOS- Gonzalez went hitless in four plate appearances in Saturday’s game against the Cubs, but he did draw two walks in the game. The veteran first baseman looks like a shell of his former self in 2012, with a .261/.316/.405 slash line and five home runs in 285 plate appearances. His .312 weighted on base average is the worst since becoming a full time starter, and much has been made about his recent 100 plate appearance streak without drawing a walk. He is chasing more pitches out of the zone than ever before (35.7 percent rate), and making more contact on those pitches (75.6 percent). Even though he is hitting more fly balls this season (37.5 percent), his HR/FB ratio has dropped to a career worst 6.5 percent. Looking at his spray chart, only eleven balls have reached the warning track this season at what would be the equivalent of Fenway Park’s dimensions. His shoulder must be causing more problems than we are being led to believe.
Jeremy Hellickson P, TB- Hellickson delivered his worst start of the season on Thursday against the Mets allowing eight runs on nine hits in only 3.2 innings pitched. Hellickson saw his ERA increase to 3.45, and his recent stretch might indicate that his ERA will finally start to emulate what DIPS has been saying about his performance for the last two seasons. He has benefited from an unusually high strand rate for his career (81.5 percent), while also keeping opponents BABIP extremely low (.237 for career). There is not enough of a sample size to suggest that Hellickson possesses these skills as opposed to just being fortunate. Considering his swinging strike rate has dropped from 9.7 percent to 7.6 percent and his zone percentage has dropped, I don’t foresee his peripherals improving either.
Ryan Zimmerman 3B, WAS- Zimmerman, who went hitless in six plate appearances for the Nationals on Saturday, continues to look lost at the plate. His slash line dropped to .234/.306/.330, and he only has three home runs in 219 total plate appearances. A.272 BABIP indicates that he has been somewhat unlucky, but Zimmerman came into Saturday’s game with a 16.7 percent line drive rate (below average) and very high ground ball rate (51.3 percent). A .096 ISO is unacceptable, and one has to think that he is not playing at 100 percent. Owners should send Zimmerman to the bench if they have not done so already.
Bruce Chen P, KC- Chen had a dismal start on Saturday against the Cardinals allowing six runs on six hits (two home runs) without recording a strikeout. He saw his ERA jump to 5.02, while his record remains at 5-7. Chen might be a risky start for the foreseeable future, but there are some numbers that indicate he can improve. His walk rate of 1.88 BB/9 is the best of his career, and a career best 64.1 percent first pitch strike rate and a 35 percent chase rate are mostly responsible. In addition, his FIP (3.95), xFIP (4.43) and K/9 (6.2) are better than his numbers last season. A below average 64.5 percent strand rate has hurt Chen’s overall numbers, but he is also lucky have a .302 BABIP considering he came into the game with a 24 percent line drive rate.
Coco Crisp OF, OAK- Crisp went hitless in three plate appearances with a walk in Saturday’s game with the Padres, and owners saw his slash line drop to .192/.258/.247 for the season. Crisp’s most valuable asset is his speed, and with his inability to get on base this season, he has seen his stolen base total drop. He has 10 in 41 games this season and it looks as if he will be unable to match his total of 49 from 2011. As would be expected with this poor of an average, Crisp has been somewhat unlucky with balls in play (.211 BABIP). However, his batted ball rates are troubling. His 15.9 percent line drive rate is tied for the lowest of his career, and his 50.9 percent ground ball rate is the highest of his career. Furthermore, his 14.3 percent infield fly ball rate is his highest since 2006. Owners might want to look elsewhere for stolen bases.
Christian Friedrich P, COL- After getting pounded by the Angels last Sunday, Friedrich followed up with an average performance on Saturday resulting in his third loss of the season. While some owners might point to DIPS to indicate Friedrich has a chance to improve, there is other evidence to indicate that he is not as valuable as one might think. His 9.00 K/9 has been impressive through 45 innings. However, he came into the game with an 8.7 percent swinging strike rate, which is somewhat below average considering his strikeout rate. In addition, his .360 BABIP shouldn’t be considered very unlucky considering he came into the game with an astronomical line drive rate of 32.1 percent. That line drive rate is likely to regress, but that would also mean an increased fly ball rate and more home runs. He has already allowed six in his eight starts.
Cameron Maybin OF, SD- Maybin has been unable to get any traction this season, producing a .207/.290/.315 slash line with three home runs in 244 plate appearances. A .248 BABIP has contributed to his poor average (down from .338 last season).His batted ball rates are very similar to last season, except for his line drive rate being down two percent. A regression in BABIP was coming this season, but Maybin is too fast to be producing this low of a number. I do expect him to hit around .235 to .245 for the season, as his BABIP increases and his strikeout rate improves. His 8.8 percent swinging strike rate is the lowest of his career, and it should translate into a better strikeout rate over time (19.9 percent so far). Furthermore, Maybin’s stolen base totals (14 in 16 attempts) are down with the drop in OBP. His speed is the one-reason owners still keep him around. Those should improve as his batting average improves, but it will be hard for him to reach 40 again this season.
Jason Vargas P, SEA- Vargas took the loss in Friday’s start against the Giants after allowing four runs on ten hits (two home runs) and two walks while only striking out one in eight innings of work. While Vargas has a solid ERA of 3.95, his 4.55 FIP and 4.43 xFIP are more indicative of the season he is likely to end up with. His .258 BABIP has anchored his ERA, and he has been serving up home runs at a greater pace despite pitching in Safeco Park. His 11.8 percent HR/FB ratio is his highest since 2009, and I foresee him allowing 30 home runs this year considering his 42 percent fly ball rate. In addition, his strikeout rate is likely to decline considering his 5.8 percent swinging strike rate is two percentage points lower than last season, and the lowest since joining the Mariners.