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AL Player Spotlight - June 15, 2010

Michael Leone

Chris Tillman SP (BAL) - As I suggested after Tillman’s ’10 debut, he is likely to have little fantasy value this season. The early numbers on Tillman, as he pushed his ERA to 8.40 after last night’s start, are he is having trouble missing bats and his propensity to giving up the long ball is only compounding his problems. His first strike percentage of 51.4% is about 7 percentage points below the league average and indicates that hitters are in good counts against Tillman, which could help to explain his high LD% and HR/FB%. Secondly, Tillman is getting hitters to chase pitches outside of the strike zone about 1.7 percent of the time less than the MLB average (admittedly the MLB average is up this year, so that’s not that bad). What is really bad, though, is that hitters are making contact with Tillman’s pitches outside of the zone a whopping 84.6% of the time, which is nearly 20 percentage points higher than the MLB average. This speaks volumes towards Tillman’s early inability to put away hitters via strikeout and explains his pedestrian at best 4.2 K/9. Avoid Tillman this year, and see if he makes strides in his first strike percentage and contact rates on pitches outside of the strike zone. Those numbers will go a long ways towards helping to evaluate Tillman’s potential 2011 fantasy value.

David Hernandez RP (BAL) – It appears as if David Hernandez will temporarily remain the Orioles closer despite the return of Alfredo Simon from the DL. However, not only are Hernandez’s skills inferior as Tom pointed out a few days ago (5.98 K/9, 5.02 BB/9, 6.3 HR/FB%), but he is also due for some negative correction in a few areas. His current .257 BABIP is not sustainable and will rise in the near future. Likewise, Hernandez’s 6.3 HR/FB% will likely rise. The MLB average is around 10%, and Hernandez’s mark last season was 14.8%. When that corrects itself, it could lead to a sizeable increase in HR given up by Hernandez because he allows so many fly balls (about 14.31 per 9 IP). Simon does not have great peripherals by any means, but he likely won’t be the train wreck that Hernandez looks like he is heading towards.

Juan Pierre OF (CHW) - Now that he is getting consistent at bats for the first time in three years, Pierre is showing that his stolen base days are not over. He leads the majors with 25 steals and is 25 for 31 in stolen base attempts this season, giving him a success rate of 80.65%. Pierre certainly understands his skill set. He has a very good contact rate (92.6%) and very high GB% (59.5%). Both of those figures mean Pierre is giving himself every opportunity to use his speed to his advantage, and that’s key because he has absolutely no power whatsoever (.025 ISO). With this in mind, I think we should expect Pierre to continue on his current pace. He will be on first enough with his high contact and GB rates to attempt a good amount of steals, which he will do because of both his good success rate and Chicago’s philosophy on the running game. However, his current .248 BA will also stick because Pierre, never a source for power, is really struggling to put together many extra base hits, as indicated by his low ISO, and he has a LD% of 14.6%, which is about 10 percent lower than it has in the past couple of seasons. So, enjoy the steals as Pierre will be a consistent source of speed but don’t expect him to revert to his career .298 batting average.

Shaun Marcum SP (TOR) - Marcum bounced back from the worst game of his season (7 ER, 10 H in 4 IP) to earn the win in San Diego last night. Over 7 IP, he allowed just 2 ER while giving up 6 hits and walking none. I think Marcum will be a fine fantasy pitcher the rest of the season, but he’s showing some regression lately. For starters, despite giving up only 2 ER last night, Marcum gave up two long balls. That brings his season HR/FB% to 5.9%, which is 5.5 percentage points below his career mark, so more long balls may be in store for Marcum. Also, Marcum has stopped missing bats, which is not all that surprising considering his lack of velocity. He has just 7 combines strikeouts over his past 3 starts, lowering his K/9 to 6.86. As a result, he may have a few rocky outings here and there as he did versus Tampa due to the amount of balls he is allowing into play. The good news is that despite these negatives, Marcum’s outstanding control has led him to a top level K/BB ratio of 3.61, which will allow him to post successful numbers overall. Look for him to post a sub-4 ERA the rest of the way with a good WHIP, but don’t be surprised if his current 3.38 ERA ends up on the other side of 3.5 by season’s end.

Adam Jones OF (BAL) – Adam Jones continues to struggle, and there’s frankly not a lot to like here. He has a horrid EYE (.14). He puts the ball on the ground too much, and as a result he has below average LD and FB rates (17% and 35.6% respectively). Last year’s HR/FB% of 17.8% is looking like an outlier (11.8/6.9/10.1 in ‘07/’08/’10), although he is too young to tell for sure. Jones is just 24 YO, so it would be a HUGE overreaction to act like he’ll never be a useful fantasy player. However, for those looking for him to rebound healthily in the second half of this year, I just don’t see anything in the numbers that suggests it.

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