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MLB Barometer: Vote of Confidence

Eric Nehs

Eric Nehs writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


Matt Harvey P, NYM - Harvey made an impressive debut on Thursday night against the Diamondbacks, throwing 5.1 shutout innings while allowing only three hits and three walks. He struck out 11 hitters, and posted an impressive 17 percent swinging strike rate in his start. Harvey's stuff was very impressive as he averaged 94.9 mph with his fastball and recorded an 18 percent swinging strike rate with the pitch. Additionally, Harvey's slider had a 21 percent swinging strike rate and was the great equalizer. His change-up needs some work, and there is some concern about his command. However, his 60 percent first pitch strike percentage was strong for a MLB debut.  He definitely has earned consideration as a pickup especially with starts at San Francisco and San Diego coming up.

Travis Snider LF, TOR - Snider was recalled from Triple-A just over a week ago and has hit .267/.303/.633 with three home runs and eight RBI in just 33 plate appearances for the Blue Jays. With a career HR/FB ratio of 14.6 percent, the 24 year-old outfielder should be able to provide some power for owners needing some depth in the outfield. Snider's main problem is his high strikeout rate, in which he has a 27.1 percent career strikeout rate for his major league career. He will get to see a majority of the playing time in left field with Jose Bautista still on the disabled list, and if he continues to perform, should get to keep his job once Bautista returns. Snider already has a 13 percent swinging strike rate in his eight games, but a .367 ISO has done a good job in covering it up.

Bronson Arroyo P, CIN - Arroyo improved his record to 6-6 and lowered his ERA to 3.76 (his best since he first joined the Reds in 2006) after throwing 6.1 shutout innings against the Rockies in Colorado on Friday. With a strikeout rate of 6.15 K/9 and a league average .293 BA-against, the veteran has brought himself back to fantasy relevance inducing more swinging strikes (7 percent) posting a career best walk rate of 1.52 BB/9. The drop in usage of his fastball, which is at a career low 33 percent, in favor of more breaking balls and cutters is somewhat responsible for the improved peripherals. His 3.96 FIP and 4.11 xFIP do not suggest much regression over the coming months, and he is readily available in most leagues if any owners looking for decent options in the coming weeks. I recommend starting him on the road where he has a 3.39 ERA.

John Jaso C, SEA - Jaso has put together a strong month of July hitting .326/.441/.523 with two home runs while seeing a majority of the playing time at catcher with some appearances at DH sprinkled in. For the season, he is hitting .287/.392/.476 with five home runs and a stolen base in 200 plate appearances. Jaso can continue to produce a strong batting average and OBP for owners with his 14 percent walk rate, and his 24.8 percent line drive rate. Owners should not expect many home runs for the rest of the season considering his HR/FB ratio of 13.6 percent is nearly double his career rate, and his 26.3 percent fly ball rate is the worst of his career. He is best utilized in daily leagues where owners can sit him when the Mariners are scheduled to face a left-handed starter. He is available most leagues, and could help any owner looking for an upgrade at the position.

Matt Moore P, TB - Moore delivered another a strong performance on Saturday night this time coming against the Angels. He threw 6.1 shutout innings while allowing only four hits and two walks with six strikeouts. The rookie left-hander now has a 4.01 ERA in 119 innings pitched along with a 7-7 record. Moore's DIPS (4.17 FIP and 4.52 xFIP) might suggest he not pitching as well as his numbers would indicate, there are plenty of reasons to remain optimistic. DIPS depend heavily on peripherals, and Moore's 4.31 BB/9 looks as if hit is hurting him. However, his 61.4 percent first pitch strike rate and 49 percent zone percentage indicate he should have a better walk rate by the end of the year. His strikeout rate is still above average (8.47 K/9) and his 11.7 percent swinging strike rate is also strong (tied for ninth among starters entering Saturday). Moore is still a stronger play at home where he has a 3.61 ERA, but I wouldn't hesitate to start him anywhere.

Caution/Check Status

Zach Britton P, BAL - Britton struggled through his third start of the season on Friday night against Oakland allowing six runs in 5.2 innings of work. With a 1-3 record and a 5.74 ERA, Britton looks as if the long layoff has taken its toll. His 5.82 FIP and 5.29 xFIP suggest that Britton has pitched as poorly as his ERA and record would indicate, but there a few signs that indicate Britton might be ready to return to the form he displayed in early 2011. In terms of fastball velocity, he came into the start averaging 92.6 mph, which is higher than the 92.1 mph he averaged last season. Additionally, his 7.5 percent swinging strike rate and 30.8 chase rate have improved from last season that should lead to an improved strikeout rate. His 66 percent ground ball rate is a good sign for his skill set. Look for improvement with his control before he can become a realistic option, but he is definitely to keep on a watch list for now.

Dan Uggla 2B, ATL - Uggla's terrible July continued as he went hitless with a strikeout in three plate appearances against the Phillies on Saturday night. He has produced a paltry .104/.277/.149 slash line with one home run during the month to drop his overall line to .209/.346/.361 for the season. With only 12 home runs in 408 plate appearances, Uggla is on pace to produce a career low in home runs. I'm not ready to write off him just yet, as we have seen him go on tears in short periods of time. However, his HR/FB ratio has dropped to career low 11.6 percent because of a career high 19.5 percent infield fly ball rate (9.7 percent for career) with a 38.1 percent rate this month. Furthermore, he is striking out a career high 28.2 percent is also very troubling.

Joe Kelly P, STL - Kelly saw his record fall to 1-4 on Saturday after allowing three runs in six innings of work against the Cubs. Kelly, who has a 2.94 ERA in 51.2 innings, has helped to solidify the back end of the Cardinals rotation despite not getting much run support. However, do expect Kelly to continue to produce an ERA under 3.00. His 4.25 FIP and 4.33 xFIP suggest some regression in the coming weeks as his .278 is below average considering his 22.5 percent line drive rate and his 76.5 percent strand rate is above average. While Kelly has shown above average stuff with a fastball averaging 93.8 mph and three solid off-speed pitches, his strikeout rate of 5.57 K/9 leaves something to be desired. He is worth an add in deep leagues, but owners should still be a little wary with only nine major league starts to his name.

Alex Avila C, DET - Avila went hitless in three plate appearances with a strikeout on Saturday against the Blue Jays to see his slash line drop to .238/.341/.381 for the season. He has seen all of his offensive numbers drop this season, including his home run power (only six for the year). Avila has hit only one home run over his last 29 games, which is mostly due to the fact that his fly ball rate has dropped from 40.5 percent in 2011 to 27.5 this year. While some of this has come at the expensive of hitting more line drives (4 percent), he has seen a 10 percent jump in his ground ball rate from last season. His 12.8 percent HR/FB ratio is close to his career rate of 13.1 percent, and this ground ball increase can help to explain the drop in his BABIP to .293. Not many were expecting him to reproduce a .366 BABIP, but I expected something close to his .322 career rate.


Dallas Kuechel P, HOU - After a strong start to his rookie campaign in June which included a complete game win, Kuechel has finally come back down to earth with three sub par performances in a row. His latest coming on Thursday night in which he allowed five runs in six innings to the Pirates. The rookie left-hander has a 4.63 ERA (6.55 FIP and 5.76 xFIP) in 35 innings this season with terrible peripherals (3.34 K/9 and 4.89 BB/9). Not blessed with strong stuff, Kuechel features a fastball that averages 87.8 mph along with a cutter, curveball and change-up. The fact he has benefitted from a .228 BABIP and 78.2 percent strand rate already means that there are some even rougher starts ahead. Owners should take note and stay away no matter what the matchup.

James Loney 1B, LAD - Loney did not start in Saturday's game with a left-handed starter on the mound, but he did have a pinch-hitting appearance in which he grounded out. He now has a .254/.308/.333 line with two home runs in 303 plate appearances this season, and is in danger of losing more plate appearances to Juan Rivera despite being a superior defender. This has been Loney's worst offensive season to date posting a terrible .079 ISO and wRC+ of 68. He is the worst offensive player at the position, and has seen his HR/FB ratio drop to a career low 2.6 percent (7.6 percent for career). I doubt he remains on many rosters at this point in the season, but owners in any league should jettison him. Rivera continues to see more playing time, and the Dodgers are said to be involved in trying to get another bat in the outfield. Another bat would mean a murkier situation for the 28 year-old.

Aaron Cook P, BOS - Despite impressing with three quality starts for Boston from late June to mid July, Cook has finally come back down to earth in the AL East. He was hit hard on Friday night allowing six runs on seven hits, two home runs and a walk in four innings of work against the Yankees. The sinkerballer has been able to succeed until now with a career best 0.90 BB/9, but a career low 2.6 percent swinging strike rate (5.7 percent for career) has lead to a career low 0.90 K/9. In his first season in the AL, Cook has shown that his stuff does not translate as well to this league and could be a fantasy presence if on a National League team other than Colorado. He has generated a 60 percent ground ball rate, which has kept his BABIP low (.235). With inability to record any strikeouts becoming a serious trend, he has no fantasy value in any league.

Jason Bay LF, NYM - Bay went hitless in four plate appearances with two strikeouts on Saturday night against the Diamondbacks to see his slash line drop to a meager .164/.238/.318 for the season. While the good news is that he has five home runs in 122 plate appearances (14.1 percent HR/FB ratio is his best since 2009), his average has plummeted thanks to a career worst 28.2 percent strikeout rate and .183 BABIP. His BABIP is certainly unlucky, but his 10.5 percent line drive rate indicates that he is just not hitting the ball well. The other piece of good news is that the strikeout rate looks to be fixable. His 9.6 percent swinging strike rate is below his career rate of 10.6 percent, but his chase rate of 20 percent is his lowest since 2009. He just needs to be more aggressive with pitches in the strike zone. His 35.9 percent swing rate is a career low. One has to wonder how long Terry Collins will keep trotting him out there.