Delmon Young OF (MIN) - I’m joining Drew on his island; Delmon Young has a good chance for a nice second half breakout. At age 24, he is showing some serious improvements in important areas of his game. For starters, he has finally learned some plate discipline. He has a career high BB rate (7.3%) and career low K rate (13.1%), good for a solid .62 EYE. Unfortunately, Young’s singles average of .204 has been extremely unlucky, when you consider his singles averages the past 3 seasons were .290, .292 and .300 while his EYE’s those seasons were .20, .33 and .13 respectively. Meanwhile, Young’s power indicators have increased as a result of his newfound patience. His ISO is a career high .181 and is trending upwards the last couple of seasons (.115/.142/.181), and the story is the same with his career high FB% (27.8%/34.1/38.9). Next, I would expect a solid increase in his current HR/FB% of 8.9% due to the fact that Young’s patience has improved along with his other power indicators, and his HR/FB% last season improved (along with his ISO and FB%) to a career best 11.4%. Frankly, Young is developing into a Pablo Sandoval type player. He still chases pitches, but his contact rate on pitches outside of the zone (74.2%) is well above the league average and much, much improved from years’ past. Sandoval is the same way, and it’s scary how similar both batters are in terms of EYE – right down to how it is achieved, chase percentage, contact rates and breakdown of GB/LD/FB splits. If Young is able to post numbers similar to Pablo the rest of the way, his owners will certainly be getting a high return on their investment.
Ian Kinsler 2B (TEX) – I think a big hot streak is coming for Ian Kinsler. It’s only a matter of time before his increased plate discipline pays off some serious dividends. Kinsler currently has a career best .95 EYE, something we normally see out of .300 hitters. Kinsler has obtained that EYE by being more patient at the plate. His current BB% of 13.4% is a career high and is a 4 percentage increase over his career BB rate. In many cases patience yields more power, but Kinsler has just a 2.3 HR/FB%. A combination of normal regression (Kinsler has a career 10 HR/FB%) and Kinsler’s patience could result in a power surge in the near future. This is a large part as to why Kinsler, in our updated June hitter rankings, is ranked 3rd among all 2B, despite having a roto value that currently has him ranked 24th amongst his peers.
Ervin Santana SP (LAA) - Despite allowing 3 walks versus just 2 strikeouts, Santana improved his record to 6-3 while lowering his ERA to 3.29. Now might be a good time to sell high on Santana if there are buyers out there. He entered the game with a FIP of 4.35. His actual ERA is lower thanks to a LOB% of 82.5% (career mark of 71.3%), and his BHIP of .274 is 30 points lower than his previous 3-year average. Expect regression to hit Santana sometime soon resulting in a final ERA around 4. As a couple of writers have alluded to already, Santana might serve fantasy owners best if they use him for spot starts only moving forward.
Francisco Liriano SP (MIN) – In case you hadn’t noticed, heeee’s back. The way Liriano has been pitching, I fully expect a sub-3 ERA and sub-1.20 WHIP the rest of the season. He is generating a lot of swings and misses thanks to getting hitters to go outside of the zone. Hitters have chased 32.2% of the time against Liriano’s pitches out of the strike zone, and he has been in command of at bats thanks to a 6 percentage increase in his first strike rate from last season. A large part of this is the result of better command of his slider. That has led Liriano to use his slider 32.7% of the time; he only used it 26.9% of the time last season. Liriano is putting it all back together, and he is once again one of the best pitchers in fantasy. The effects of Liriano’s increased chase %, first strike % and use of slider can be seen in his outstanding peripherals. He has an FIP ERA of 2.40 (4.87 in ’09), K/BB ratio of 3.47 (1.88) and 49.7 GB% (40.2). None of these stats take into account Liriano’s dominating performance last night in which he struck out 10 batters while walking only 2.
Daniel Bard RP (BOS) – We have noted in this space the past few weeks that Papelbon’s skills this season are deteriorating. Thanks to some good fortune, though, he has 13 saves and a 3.13 ERA. Should Papelbon continue to struggle with his peripherals though, that ERA is likely to rise in a hurry, and his save conversion percentage will certainly drop. Next in line for Boston (although Papelbon would have to be hurt – a definite possibility right now – or really blow up for him to lose the role) would be youngster Daniel Bard. His peripherals are better than Papelbon in almost every area. He has a higher K/9 (9.85 versus 7.04), lower BB/9 (2.86 versus 4.30) and higher GB% (47% versus 35.4%). If you have a spot on your team for Bard, pick him up. He may get some saves down the line, and in the meantime he should help your ratios.