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MLB Barometer: Take A Holliday

Eric Nehs

Eric Nehs

Eric Nehs writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

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Jason Hammel P, BAL
- Hammel continued his dominant 2012 campaign Friday night against Washington, allowing just one unearned run in eight innings. He struck out ten without issuing a walk and improved his ERA to 2.61. Hammel has been able to succeed by implementing his two-seam more often, which has lead to career best ground ball rate (53.1 percent). Furthermore, he is throwing harder than in seasons past averaging a career best 93.6 mph on his fastball. While benefitting from an above average strand rate (79 percent), Hammel’s below average BABIP (.267) might be skill-induced considering his 16 percent line drive rate is the third lowest among qualified starting pitchers. Owners should not expect him to finish the season with an ERA below 3.00, but there should be little doubt he can post a strong strikeout rate and keep his ERA within the 3.10 to 3.30 range for the rest of the season.

Matt Holliday LF, STL- Holliday went 4-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and two RBI to improve his slash line to .297/.376/.494. Along with his 12 home runs and 46 RBI, Holliday continues to be one of the more productive fantasy outfielders. With a .343/413/.529 slash line in June, the 32-year old outfielder has shown no signs of slowing down even though his .197 ISO is the lowest of his career. His batted ball rates are almost identical to last season’s, and his 15.8 percent HR/FB ratio is right in line with his career rate of 16.2 percent. His nine percent swinging strike is the lowest of his career, and I do expect to his batting average to finish around .310 by the end of the season along with an uptick in home runs as his ground ball rates have decreased in each month.

Travis Blackley P, OAK- Blackley delivered a strong outing for Oakland on Thursday against the Dodgers, allowing only one run in eight strong innings of work. He now has an ERA of 3.89 in 39.1 innings of work for the A’s and Giants this season along with strong DIPS (2.87 FIP and 3.90 xFIP). His recent string of solid outings should allow him to hold on to a spot in the rotation, and his ability to generate ground balls (51.2 percent) should allow him to pitch well in a pitcher’s ballpark. He won’t produce a strikeout rate better than 6.00 K/9, but he has the chance to be this year’s version of Ryan Vogelsong. He has drastically improved his control (2.29 BB/9), and he has been incredibly tough on left-handed hitters (2.08 FIP and 2.92 xFIP against them).

Franklin Gutierrez CF, SEA- Gutierrez returned from the disabled list just ten days ago, but he has already made a splash in his 35 plate appearances hitting two home runs and producing .290/.353/.516 slash line. Throwing away a disastrous 2011 season, Gutierrez has the capability of providing some 12-16 home runs along with 15 stolen bases as a reserve outfielder for many owners. Coming into today, he is only owned in 2 percent of Yahoo leagues, and could be worth a pickup for any fantasy owners looking to improve his or her outfield depth in deeper leagues. His defense in center field will insure him playing time, and he could be provide 6-9 home runs the rest of the way along with 8-10 stolen bases. His batted ball rates are a little troubling, but nine games is way too small of a sample size to base any firm conclusions.

Glen Perkins P, MIN- Perkins earned two saves this week filing in for Matt Capps, who has been dealing with a right-shoulder problem and is listed as day to day and made an appearance in a non save situation on Saturday night. Perkins, who has become the hardest throwing reliever in the Twins bullpen since making the move from the rotation in 2010, would be better suited to the role than Capps. He now has a strikeout rate of 11.74 K/9 and has induced swinging strikes at a 14 percent rate. Perkins' success in the role should make him the closer in waiting if Capps is traded before the deadline, or if his shoulder issues linger for the season. Either way, Perkins should remain on owners radars over the course of the next month.

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Roy Oswalt P, TEX
- Oswalt made his first start of the season on Friday night for the Rangers. He held the Rockies to one run on nine hits in 6.2 innings pitched with six strikeouts to earn the victory. Oswalt has immediate fantasy impact for any owner looking for upgrades to starting pitching, and numerous injuries this season has exacerbated the difficulties in finding back end rotation talent. Oswalt is not the same starter he was two seasons ago let a lone seven years ago in his prime. His average fastball velocity dropped to a career low to 91.4 MPH last season, and his start last night indicates that he will probably average a similar rate again. In addition, his 6.8 percent swinging strike rate and pitching in a tougher league should translate to an ERA between 3.75 and 4.00.

Logan Morrison LF, MIA- Morrison’s struggles at the plate continued in the Marlins 7-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday, as he went hitless in four plate appearances with two strikeouts. His slash line dropped to .235/.319/.402, and he has seven home runs in 236 plate appearances this season. Morrison continues to be one of the more frustrating players in the league considering his peripherals are above average (10.2 percent walk rate and 16.9 percent strikeout rate) and improving. What is troubling is a low BABIP (.252) is contributing to his poor batting average for the second straight season and is starting to become a trend. Howerver, his improved fly ball rate (39.5 percent is a career best) should eventually lead to better power numbers and it is not coming at the expense of contact (career best 85.5 percent). There are enough signs for owners to continue to be patient, but Ozzie Guillen is starting to sit Morrison against left-handed starters more often.

Shaun Marcum P, MIL- The Brewers placed Marcum on the disabled list over the weekend with tightness in his right elbow. The organization expects him to miss only one more start, and he should be activated by June 30th. Marcum told the media earlier this week that there is no structural damage, but owners might be somewhat concerned considering the veteran underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008. In terms of velocity, Marcum's average fastball and cutter are very similar to his numbers from last year. However, he has upped the usage of his slider this season to a 17 percent rate (10.3 percent in 2011). I would expect Marcum to stay away from the pitch when he returns from the DL, but his repertoire his diverse enough where his numbers should not be greatly affected. I wouldn't hesitate to throw him back into the starting lineup upon his return, but owners should be vigilant for any setbacks over the next week.

Yorvit Torrealba C, TEX- With the Rangers placing Mitch Moreland on the disabled list because of a strained hamstring, Torrealba figures to see more time in the Rangers lineup with Mike Napoli playing a lot more first base. Torrealba went 1-for-3 in Saturday’s game with a RBI to bring his slash line to .228/.302/.333 in 132 plate appearances to go along with his two home runs and ten RBI. The veteran catcher has shown a better eye at the plate this season with an 8.3 percent walk rate, and his 9.6 percent HR/FB ratio indicates he can provide some pop for any owner looking for a stopgap catcher over the next week or two. A .273 BABIP should allow for improvement in terms of batting average, as he is closer to a .260/.310/.355 type of hitter. He isn’t a starter by any means, but he is a cheap option in daily drafts.

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Jair Jurrjens P, ATL
- Jurrjens returned to the Braves rotation replacing the injured Brandon Beach on Friday night after spending two months in Triple-A. He performed admirably against the Boston lineup allowing just one run on three hits in 7.2 innings pitched. Despite the quality start, owners should refrain from adding him to rosters. Like his previous starts in April, Jurrjens’ fastball velocity averaged 88.9 mph and he only recorded three swinging strikes against the Red Sox. His overall swinging strike percentage of 3.8 percent does not bode well for his strikeout rate, which is already at a career low 4.50 K/9. While his walk rate should improve over the course of the season, his batted ball rates indicate a starter who will struggle to keep his ERA under 4.60.

Brennan Boesch RF, DET- Boesch went hitless in four plate appearances in Satruday’s game against the Pirates and saw his slash lined drop to .239/.275/.360. June has been his third straight month producing an OPS below .700, and his home run (seven) and RBI (26) totals are not impressive enough to warrant him playing time. His batting average as been affected by a career worst BABIP (.267) despite producing batted ball rates very close to his career ones. Boesch is not much more than a .720 OPS type of hitter anyway, and I would consider him nothing more than a fourth outfielder on a good team. There are other outfielders on the waiver wire worth taking a chance on. In addition, he could lose playing time in favor of the Don Kelly, Ryan Raburm and Andy Dirks (once he returns from the disabled list).

Alex White/Jeff Francis/Christian Friedrich/Josh Outman/Jeremy Guthrie P, COL- Jim Tracy’s announcement that he would be employing a four-man rotation for the near future came as a shock to everyone this week. The move huts Guthrie’s value the most, as he is moved to the bullpen, but the rest of the rotation significantly loses value. Each pitcher will be restricted to 75-80 pitches (even though Outman threw 92 pitches on Saturday), and therefore might not qualify for wins despite pitching well in starts under five innings. The move might work in terms of collective strikeouts, but limiting pitchers to 75 pitches and having them work every four days will not improve velocity or the quality of stuff. The best advice is to stay away from Rockies starters for the time being.

Nick Hundley C, SD- Hundley went hitless in two plate appearances for the Padres on Saturday night and saw his slash line drop to a dismal .165/.229/.258. With only three home runs and 20 RBI in over 200 plate appearances, Hundley has been one of the biggest busts at the catcher position in 2012 in large part to a dismal .197 BABIP. While I have to believe that his BABIP will improve, his career worst 5 percent HR/FB ratio, 30.8 percent chase rate and 11.8 percent swinging strike rate indicate he is struggling in all aspects of his approach at the plate. It is gotten worse with every month, and is has coincided with a decrease in his line drive and fly ball rate and a increase in his ground ball rate. It seems as if most owners have already dropped him from rosters, but he should be avoided in daily drafts. John Baker has seen more and more playing time over the course of the month, and I would expect that trend to continue.