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The Wheelhouse: Dexter's Lab

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

When asked about Dexter Fowler's fast start during a guest spot on The Fantasy Insiders podcast earlier this week, I rejected the idea that Fowler was a radically different player this season based purely on his statistical profile. However, something caught my eye later in the week and as Jason Collette pointed out in his last column, the process early in the season (for pitchers and hitters) is worth monitoring closely.

To that end, you should read this piece on Fowler from Rockies beat writer Troy Renck of the Denver Post.

Statistically, two things standout at the present time. First, Fowler's strikeout rate has been trimmed from 24.2 to 20.2%. Second, is that he's swinging at a much greater percentage of pitches in the strike zone (85.4%) nearly 18 percentage points higher than last season.

As good hitters should, Fowler has taken advantage of mistakes made by opposing pitchers early on this season going deep seven times against this particularly weak cast: John Axford (2x), Jason Marquis, Edinson Volquez (at Coors), Tyson Ross, Huston Street and Jeremy Hefner.

That list is more food for thought than completely writing off the power gains, but the over/under for season home runs would be at 19.5 if I am tasked with making the line. Where Fowler stands to see a bump in value regardless of his power level is from the presence of a healthy Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki behind him in the lineup. Further, he's already picked up three steals in 21 games, putting him on pace to crack the 20-mark for the first time since 2009 if he continues to run at his current rate.

Sugar, Sugar How You Get So Fly?

Consider me amazed that Jean Segura survived the ugly collision at second base on a late slide from Gerardo Parra a couple of weeks back. Going into the season, my concern was that Segura's primary asset (speed) would be underutilized because he was hitting eighth in the order. That changed quickly when Ryan Braun missed the early-season series against Arizona and Segura has been in the No. 2 spot regularly for the better part of the last two weeks.

His start to the season is an extension to his September numbers, and in the middle we saw good results in the Cactus League which were taken with the appropriate grain of salt. If he stays out of the No. 8 going forward (which is looking increasingly likely), he's capable of scoring 85-90 runs once the lineup behind him gets healthy while delivering 30-plus steals. Don't expect much power (check out the GB rate), and he's more of a .290-.300 type for me when the BABIP slides back from the current .391 mark, but Segura can hit the ball to all fields and looks every part of a player primed to deliver strong numbers in his first full big league campaign.

We've Seen This Movie Before, Giancarlo

If the shoulder injury (diagnosed as a contusion) pops up again, there might be reason to worry about Giancarlo Stanton. For now, it just looks like another slow start for the Marlins star outfielder.

Through 16 games (entering Friday) this season, Stanton is hitting .200/.324/.250 with a 10:22 K:BB, no homers, four RBI and just four runs scored.

This is hardly uncharted territory, however, as over the first 19 games last season Stanton delivered similar numbers: .246/.290/.308, 4:17 BB:K, no homers, five RBI. High strikeout rate hitters can run extremely hot and cold. Be patient.

Anthony Rendon gets the call...to sit?

This hamstring injury marks the fourth time in six seasons that Zimmerman is on the DL. Defensively, there were issues with his throwing even before this season and that's what made the two-year deal for Adam LaRoche a bit more surprising. Fortunately, none of Zimmerman's other DL stints were due to leg injuries, so this shouldn't be overwhelmingly serious.

Rendon was relatively cheap as a FAAB pickup in one-year leagues where he was available -- $3 in a pair of 15-team mixers because it's expected that he'll likely end up back in the minors after Zimmerman's 15 days. It's not a lock, however, as the Nats have a problem at second base with Danny Espinosa struggling (.170/.220/.340). If Rendon hits in this short opportunity, perhaps the Nats will consider the possibility of giving him a look at second base since he played there occasionally at Rice.

Only 35 games above High-A prior to his debut, but was considered advanced despite injuries in college. After a 2-for-15 start in his first four games, Rendon was held out of the lineup Thursday and Friday in favor of Steve Lombardozzi. The rookie may simply be optioned back to the minors once Zimmerman is ready to be activated in early May, but he should get another 7-10 days to make a case to stick around.

What is Hyun-Jin Ryu at season's end?

Through five starts, Ryu is generating plenty of buzz thanks to a 9.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 (3.41 ERA, 3.12 xFIP), but to me he's a top-40 starting pitcher from this point forward at best. I know the early results have been great, but the general divide about Ryu as a long-term option in the rotation is a big part of the reason I'm hesitant to buy in right now.

The control is legit and Ryu has a good changeup, but the rest of his arsenal leads me to believe that he's more of a 7.0-7.5 K/9 guy and there will be days where he gets hit around. I also have my doubts about how his physique impacts him as the weather warms up this summer, aside from the usual concerns that accompany rookie pitchers as big league hitters begin to get a book on them.

Hultzen or Walker?

Context really drives this debate, if we can even call it that. For 2013 only I'd rather have Hultzen. He seems to have ironed out the control issues that plagued him last season after his promotion to Triple-A with a 25:6 K:BB in 22.2 innings. Walker continues to flash excellent stuff, but still really lacks consistency, particularly with control as he's issued four walks in four of his first five starts (32:18 K:BB in 29 innings at Double-A Jackson). Considering his age (20), you have to wonder if he'll get anything more than a taste of the big leagues this season.

With Hultzen, there will probably be an innings cap (165-170?), but I want the guy who could make 15-plus starts in the big leagues this season in most of my formats rather than the guy who may only make a couple of appearances in September. In dynasty or other keeper formats, Walker is still my preference because there's a frontline starter ceiling with him, and I don't think that is a level we will ever seen from Hultzen. (Note: Hultzen was scratched from his most recent start at Tacoma because he couldn't get loose, there's no other information available on his status at this time.)

Keeping an Eye on...

Roy Halladay - After getting knocked around by the Braves and Mets in his first two stats, Halladay has rebounded to the tune of four runs allowed over his last three starts (21 innings) with a 16:5 K:BB and just eight hits allowed.

Jim Henderson - In addition to showing improved command with his curveball recently, comments from manager Ron Roenicke this week suggested that it will not take much for John Axford to get his closer role back. After opening the season by allowing runs in each of his first four appearances, Axford has tossed six scoreless frames with a 6:0 K:BB and just two hits allowed during that span. Henderson has been excellent through 10 games this season with a 14:2 K:BB and just one earned run allowed over 10 innings, but it sounds like he has a short leash as the Brewers' ninth-inning man.

Jose Valverde - Who isn't?

Robbie Grossman - On-base skills and the chance to lead off for a team that will be aggressive on the basepaths?

Blake Tekotte - For those scraping the bottom of the barrel in AL-only leagues, Tekotte may get a chance to play while the White Sox are without Dayan Viciedo. Injuries slowed him last season, but the former third-round pick had a .285/.393/.498 season with 19 homers and 36 steals as a 24-year-old in just 414 at-bats with Double-A San Antonio in 2011.

Wil Myers - He's heating up at Triple-A Durham over the last 10 games with a .342/.457/.605 line, two homers and seven RBI during that span. Meanwhile, the Rays are ranked 23rd in runs scored per game (3.68) though 22 contests.

Nolan Arenado - Ryan Wheeler was the replacement on the roster for Todd Helton, but it's not unrealistic to think that Arenado could get a chance to play in the big leagues even before Myers. Chris Nelson is sporting a .668 OPS and 4:16 BB:K in 59 at-bats as the Rockies' primary third baseman.

Mike Olt - Is he hurt? Does he need Lasik? Olt has a 9:32 BB:K and just one homer through 20 games (72 at-bats) in the Pacific Coast League. Last season, he fanned 101 times in 354 at-bats while carrying a .977 OPS at Double-A Frisco, but lack of contact early on is troubling.

Three to Click

Yu Darvish owning the Angels.

Five of Yu Darvish's pitches in one GIF. Consistent release point, much?

Phillies prospect Jesse Biddle destroyed Double-A Harrisburg this week with 16 strikeouts. Josh Norris of the Trentonian edited a great video of the performance. Entering play Friday, the 21-year-old Biddle leads the Eastern League with 30 strikeouts in 25 innings.

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