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MLB Barometer: September Surgers

Eric Nehs

Eric Nehs writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


Chris Sale P, CHW - Sale has put together a Cy Young worthy season in his first full year as a starter, and the 23 year-old left-hander threw six shutout innings on Friday night to earn his 17th win of the year. Despite never throwing more than 71 innings in any professional season, Sale has shown no signs of tiring after throwing 176 this season. He is still averaging 92 mph on his fastball, and his 10.3 percent swinging strike rate is almost identical to his career rate of 10.6 percent. With the White Sox still fighting for the division, Sale will continue to get the ball every fifth day two of his next starts will be against the Royals and the Indians. For those looking for top starters in daily draft leagues, he would be one of my top starters.

B.J. Upton CF, TB - Upton has been on a tear since the calendar turned the page to September. The soon to be free agent outfielder has hit seven home runs along with a .283/.340/.783 line and stolen five bases during the month to bring his seasonal totals to 23 home runs, 30 stolen bases and a .250/.302/.448 slash line. He is likely to surpass his career high in home runs (24) some time this season, and his numbers remained somewhat consistent with his ones from last season despite that fact that he is chasing more pitches out of the strike zone this season. Whether or not he comes back to the Rays next season, owners will be able to count on him for 22-25 home runs with 30 plus stolen bases and a .245/.315/.435 type of line.

Kris Medlen P, ATL - Since Medlen moved to the rotation at the end of July, he has yet to allow more than two runs in any of his nine starts. His best start Friday night in which he allowed just one run over seven innings while striking out a career-best 13. Medlen has a 1.62 ERA in 117 innings along with an impressive 2.34 FIP and 3.00 xFIP. His 84.6 percent strand rate might see some regression over his last few starts, but an impressive 52.7 percent ground ball rate and a below average line drive rate (19.3 percent) indicates that opposing hitters have not squared up the ball well. With two of his next starts possibly coming against the Marlins, he would be close to the top of my short list to make two starts during a championship run.

Lonnie Chisenhall 3B, CLE - Chisenhall returned to the Indians lineup on September 10th for the first time since breaking a bone in his forearm in late June. The young third baseman will be the Indians starting third baseman for the rest of the season with the exception against some left-handed pitching. He has a .287/.326/.483 line with four home runs, 11 RBI and two stolen bases in 30 games this season (92 plate appearances), and he could be worth an addition for the stretch run. Chisenhall has strong contact numbers (5.7 percent swinging strike rate), and should be able to maintain an average above .275 with his low strikeout percentage (15.2 percent). He won't be much help in OBP leagues (4.3 percent walk rate), but he has shown decent pop during his brief stint this year (.195 ISO).

Caution/Check Status

Andy Pettitte P, NYY - The Yankees announced that Pettitte would return from the disabled list on Tuesday and pitch against the Blue Jays. Pettitte won't have much of an impact for fantasy owners in that first start, considering that he will be on a pitch count around 70. Pettitte has an impressive 3.22 ERA (3.40 FIP and 2.96 xFIP) in 58.2 innings this season along with a career best 9.05 K/9 and 11.1 percent swinging strike rate. The Yankees will be able to get in two more starts for the 40 year-old during the regular season against either the A's/Twins and Blue Jays. I would hold off on starting him this week, but he could be a solid play for those heading into the championship week.

Domonic Brown OF, PHI - Brown went hitless with a walk in four plate appearances in the Phillies Saturday night loss against the Astros, and he has yet to make an impact like many hoped he would after the trades of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. Brown has a .237/.331/.363 slash line with three home runs and 18 RBI in 154 plate appearances. While he has improved his strikeout rate (14.9 percent), his BABIP of .263 has suffered because of increased ground ball rate (48.3 percent). His 29.5 percent fly ball rate is a career worst, and his HR/FB ratio continues to hover around 9 percent. The truth is that Brown has not posted an ISO above .200 (except in brief rehab visits) since he was in Triple-A in 2010. His .266 BABIP could improve over the course of the next three weeks and could be a .275/.375/.420 type of hitter, but I'm starting to believe his power numbers will be below average for the position.

Jacob Turner P, MIA - Turner delivered his best start of the season on Friday night against the Reds tossing seven shutout innings in which he allowed only two hits and two walks while striking out three. It was his second quality start against a National League division leader, but I have been concerned about his lack of velocity and below average strikeout rate during this season. His fastball sat between 89-92 mph on Friday, and his strikeout rate currently sits at 5.94 K/9. His 9 percent swinging strike rate indicates that number could improve next season, but I'm starting to believe that Turner does not have the repertoire to record a strikeout rate above 7.00 K/9 in the majors. He has been prone to the home run (17.8 percent HR/FB ratio), and his .229 BABIP is bound to see some regression over his last three starts.

Adam Lind 1B/DH, TOR - Lind is currently hitting .242/.299/.408 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 288 plate appearances for the Blue Jays this year. His line has not been very impressive after getting to such a slow start over the first two months of the year, but he has been in the number four spot in the lineup behind Edwin Encarnacion since returning from his injury at the end of August. His stock has certainly fallen and I am unsure about his standing within the organization for 2013, but owners looking for any help in terms of RBI and home runs might want to take a look. His HR/FB ratio is still above average at 14 percent, and his 7.6 percent swinging strike rate is his lowest in three seasons indicates that his strikeout rate could improve over the next few weeks.


Jason Berken P, CHC - In his first start for the Cubs on Saturday after being claimed on waivers from the Orioles, Berken was touched up for six runs (two earned) on eight hits, one home run and one walk in four innings of work. He has a 7.20 ERA in five innings of work between the Cubs and the Orioles. Owners in very deep NL-only leagues could have thought he could have been a cheap option for a spot start considering his 3.60 ERA in triple-A, but he only recorded four swinging strikes against a struggling Pirates lineup. He averaged just below 91 mph with his fastball in the start, and his change-up and slider were not very effective according to linear weights.

Johnny Giovatella 2B, KC - Giovatella was given the Royals starting job at second base after Chris Getz went on the disabled list with a fractured thumb. While I never mentioned Giovatella previously in the barometer, I thought he could make an impact at the position despite his unsuccessful brief stint last season. He managed to hit .323/.404/.472 with 10 home runs and seven stolen bases at Triple-A, but he has yet to contribute meaningfully to any category this year going .237/.275/.303 with one home run and three stolen bases in 44 games. Giovatella's strong contact rates in the minors have not translated as well to the majors, as his 18.5 strikeout rate pales in comparison to the 9.5 percent rate he produced in triple-A. With a .066 ISO and .260 wOBA, he should be avoided in all leagues.

Andrew Cashner P, SD - Cashner was roughed up on Friday night against the Rockies; his second start since returning the disabled list. He allowed six runs on 10 hits (one home run) while striking out two in 3.2 innings of work. One bad start should let owners question his bright future, but since returning from the disabled list I've charted his fastball from 90-96 mph. In his starts before going on the disabled list, I had the pitch between 96-101 mph. Cashner might be somewhat cautious about aggravating his shoulder injury, and he certainly can get hitters out with a fastball that averages 93 mph. However, his 11.7 percent swinging strike rate is likely to decrease over his next few starts.