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MLB Barometer: Debut of a Prodigy

Eric Nehs

Eric Nehs writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


Roy Halladay P, PHI - After dealing with a shoulder problem and performances unlike any we were used to seeing from the multiple Cy Young Award winner, Halladay finally looks to be back to his old self. He delivered his best performance of the season on Friday night against the Cardinals, allowing just one run on two hits without a walk and eight strikeouts in eight innings. His velocity is still not where it has been in the past (averaging 90.9 mph with fastball and 88.8 mph with cutter), but his 10.5 percent swinging strike rate is the second best rate of his career. His curveball has gotten better since returning from the disabled list, and he had a 32 percent swinging strike rate with the pitch Friday night. With just an 8.1 percent line drive rate this month, hitters have been unable to square up Halladay and he should be a must start for the rest of the season.

Michael McKenry C, PIT - McKenry has yet to wrestle the full time job away from Rod Barajas despite hitting 11 home runs and producing a .279/.343/.571 slash line in 166 plate appearances. Despite hitting two home runs this month, the 27 year-old has only received four starts behind the plate this month. His .293 ISO and 142 wRC+ are superior to the numbers Barajas has produced, and I would not be surprised to see him getting more playing time as the season winds down. However, his 21.2 percent HR/FB ratio will regress, but his 49.5 percent fly ball rate should lead to a few home dingers the rest of the way. He is worth the pickup in leagues with daily lineup changes along with daily draft leagues.

Clay Buchholz P, BOS - Buchholz delivered one of his best starts of the season on Friday night against the Indians. He allowed two runs (one earned) on just two hits without issuing a walk and striking out six. While a 4.24 ERA/4.64 FIP/ 4.42 xFIP might not be anything to write home about, Buchholz has looked like a different pitcher since June delivering quality starts in eight of his last 10 performances. Not coincidently, his rebound coincided with the implementation of a splitter. His change-up has natural cut and is usually in the 78-82 mph range, while the splitter has gotten more swinging strikes by moving more to the glove side in the 84-87 mph range.  His ground ball rate has also improved over his last few starts, and owners can expect his HR/FB of 13 percent to regress closer to his 10.6 percent career rate.

Manny Machado 3B, BAL - The Orioles called up Machado this week to take over most of the time at third base while Wilson Betemit and Mark Reynolds split time at first base. His first two games have been impressive, as he has a .417/.417/1.167 line with two home runs and five RBI in 12 plate appearances. I wasn't entirely convinced Machado was ready to see full time action with his .266/.352/.438 slash line, but his 10.2 percent walk rate and 15.3 percent strikeout rate indicate a strong approach. He should be able to steal a few bases (13 in 109 games in Double-A), and is definitely worth a pickup for the time being. He will continue to receive most of the playing time considering he is already the strongest defender the Orioles have at the position, only appearing in a handful of games there in his career.

Jim Henderson P, MIL - Henderson may have earned the loss on Saturday night in extra innings over the Astros, but the 29 year-old rookie earned two saves this week and might continue to see more save opportunities as John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez have continued to struggle over the last few weeks. Henderson features a fastball that averages 95 mph, and a good slider that has helped him record a swinging strike rate of 13.8 percent coming into Saturday's game. His control has been shaky in the minors (4.13 BB/9 this season in Triple-A), but a 73.3 percent first pitch strike percentage has been impressive even considering the extremely small sample size. The Brewers have had success in getting saves from relievers who have come out of nowhere, and I would expect Henderson to get most of the opportunities over the last month and a half.

Caution/Check Status

Ryan Cook P, OAK- Bob Melvin announced to the media on Saturday that Ryan Cook will not be in a save situation over the next game or two, and Grant Balfour was handed the ninth inning role in Saturday night's game against the White Sox. Cook has a 2.72 ERA (3.74 FIP and 4.27 xFIP) and 12 saves in 49 games and 49.2 innings pitched, but he has blown four of his last six save opportunities and has struggled throughout the month. A .208 BABIP and 81.4 percent strand rate have helped to keep Cook's ERA from heading over 3.50 for most of the season, but his 15.3 percent line drive rate and 11.3 percent swinging strike rate indicate his recent stretch is not indicative of his true talent. I'm not sure what to make of this situation moving forward, but I would not recommend jettisoning Cook as of yet.

Curtis Granderson OF, NYY - August has not been as kind to Granderson as in recent months, producing a .189/.286/.378 slash line with two home runs in 42 plate appearances, dropping his season line to .240/.336/.490. Despite his struggles, he has still hit 30 home runs while stealing eight bases and driving in 66 runs. His strikeout rate is at a career worst (as a full time player) 27.7 percent, and his 11.1 percent swinging strike rate is his highest since 2006. However, I still expect Granderson to rebound somewhat, considering his 25.2 percent line drive rate has only lead to a .278 BABIP. His stolen base totals have already dropped his value from last season, but he should still reach the 40 home run plateau and finish with a .250/.345/.500 type of line.

Bud Norris P, HOU - Norris did not earn a decision on Friday night against the Brewers, but did earn a quality start after allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits in seven innings. Norris was able to lower his ERA to 4.93, but his FIP (4.11) and xFIP (4.00) indicate he has pitched better than his line would indicate. His BABIP could be considered a little high (.315) and his strand rate of 69.6 percent has also hurt his overall numbers. His strikeout rate of 9.20 K/9 remains strong despite his average fastball velocity dropping from 92.6 mph in 2011 to 91.8 mph. He has not produced an ERA below 4.00 in any month except for May, but an improved ground ball rate in August (58.3 percent) could lead to his strongest month yet.

Rafael Furcal SS, STL - After a strong start to the season, Furcal has provided very little value by not producing an OPS higher than .600 over the last two and a half months. His slash line has dropped to .263/.333/.338 for the season, and he has remained stuck on five home runs since the end of June. While Furcal still has the full time job at shortstop, Mike Matheny has been playing Daniel Descaslo more and more at the position over the last few weeks. Owners should expect Furcal to finish the season with a similar slash line, but he might be able to swipe a few more bags while in the lineup. It is worth keeping an eye on the situation. Furcal is .120/.214/.120 in August.


Cole DeVries P, MIN - It was only a matter of time until DeVries would deliver another dud of a performance and he did not disappoint against the Rays on Friday night, allowing eight runs (seven earned) in just 1.1 innings pitched. He entered the game with a 3.81 ERA for the year, but now has a 4.77 ERA/5.50 FIP/4.69 xFIP in 60.1 innings pitched this season. Friday's performance will skew his strand rate to a below average 66 percent, but he has continued to get lucky by having a .250 BABIP despite having a 25.8 percent line drive rate. DeVries is an extreme fly ball pitcher (45.5 percent), and while his 15.5 percent HR/FB ratio should regress, he is likely to still allow more than a home run per every nine innings.

Chris Young OF, ARI - Young has officially lost the full time job in center field, as Kirk Gibson announced he will be in a platoon situation with Gerardo Parra. Young had been one of the bigger fantasy disappointments this season, hitting .209/.305/.414 with 11 home runs and six stolen bases in 272 plate appearances. His power numbers have remained strong despite his struggles (11.6 percent HR/FB ratio and .209 ISO), but Young has been hurt mostly by a .232 BABIP (career worst) and 22.1 percent strikeout rate. Considering his 7.2 percent swinging strike rate is a career best and his BABIP is 40 points below his career rate. I'm still holding out hope Young can produce some stronger numbers and regain the full time job. He is still worth a play in daily leagues against left-handed pitching, where as he has a .258/.347/.449 line.

Tyler Chatwood P, COL - Chatwood's most recent performance against the Giants (five shutout innings) should not fool anyone despite his ability to generate ground balls (58.7 percent). His 5.06/5.42/4.77 pitching line is all one needs to know about the right-hander, as he has a below average strikeout rate (4.64 K/9) with a poor swinging strike rate (3.9 percent) and has displayed poor command (4.65 BB/9 and 43.4 percent first pitch strike percentage). His sinking fastball could be a weapon in Coors Field, but his secondary pitches are so subpar he has just a paltry 17.9 percent chase rate. With starters unable to go more than five innings and his awful peripherals, I wouldn't take a chance on Chatwood in any league including daily drafts.

Anthony Gose OF, TOR - Gose has received plenty of playing time with the numerous amounts of injuries to the Blue Jays roster, but the top prospect has looked overmatched at the plate in his brief stint so far. While he does have four stolen bases, Gose has yet to hit a home run and has a slash line of .203/.242/.254 in 64 plate appearances. He has struggled putting the ball in play posting a whopping 39.1 percent strikeout rate along with a 71.1 percent ground ball rate. Small sample sizes are one thing, but Gose looks as if he needs at least another half of a season in Triple-A. His 15.6 percent swinging strike rate indicates his astronomical strikeout rate is deserved, and his plate discipline could also use some more work.