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AL Player Spotlight - June 9th, 2010

Zack Greinke (SP—Royals) So far, Zack Greinke’s season hasn’t been the kind of year that we would expect having come off a Cy Young award. Yes, the record is pretty sad at 1-8 but we can probably say that that is partly due to the team he plays for and unfortunately it makes him look worse than he really is. Granted, he is not pitching as effectively this year as he was last. Greinke being big fan of FIP would tell you that his 3.90 FIP is concerning in that his ERA is slightly better at 3.60. Part of the reason for the elevated numbers from last year is that he has been more susceptible to the long ball having allowed 10 this season which is just one away from last year’s grand total. The other piece that contributes to his elevated FIP is that he hasn’t been able to get the strikeouts this year that he was able to achieve last season. In 2009, Greinke has a K/9 of 9.5 and this year it’s at 7.20. Still solid but not quite as dominating. It seems that most of his pitches have decreased in effectiveness from last year. For example the whiff rate on his slider last year was 23.4%. This season, it’s been cut in half at 12.7%. Hitters are connecting on Greinke’s pitches 86.7% of the time which represents a 9% increase from ’09. Also hitters have been able to fight off pitches out of the strike zone at a rate of 20% above last season which has enabled them to extend at-bats. This could also represent that Greinke’s stuff has less movement this year and is not fooling hitters the same way as last season. Still despite the higher stats, we know what Greinke can do. He’s an outstanding pitcher that plays for a poor team. He may not be able to get the wins that your fantasy team needs, but he should still contribute solidly in other areas. However, best not to expect a repeat of last year’s Cy Young season.

Jeff Niemann (SP-- Rays) Jeff Niemann notched his 6th win of the season on Tuesday pitching a complete game shutout and is now a perfect 6-0 on the season. On the year, Neimann has held opponents to a .207 and has recorded a super WHIP of 1.01. One of Niemann's strengths is that he has been able to pitch deep into games. In eight out of his twelve starts on the season, he has pitched 7 innings or more. Niemann has also been the beneficiary of pitching for a very strong offensive club that provides a lot of support and opportunities to notch wins. But look for Niemann to slide some in the future. His FIP stands at 4.31 compared to an ERA of 2.47 which is quite a disparity. He doesn't have a great K/9 which stands at 5.7 and his LOB% is concerning at 84.5% with a very low BHIP of .224. This won't be sustained over the long haul. Keep Niemann active but his next few starts should probably be against the Marlins. Watch the matchups carefully and don't be surprised if there are some rough patches ahead.

Nelson Cruz (OF—Rangers) Nelson Cruz's injuries have been interrupting a highly productive offensive season. The Rangers could be taking Cruz off the DL very soon as they open a series against the Marlins. Prior to his latest hamstring injury, Cruz had produced a slash line of .327/.405/.729. That slugging percentage is unreal. 63% of his hits on the season have gone for extra bases. Cruz has also been a decent source of stolen bases and could be good for 20+ steals. It's unlikely that Cruz will be able to sustain his ISO of .402 and his HR/FB of 30% but even if it slips some, Cruz has been one of the best power bats this season when healthy. Get him back in there as soon as you are able and he is ready.

Orlando Hudson (2B—Twins) Disappointing news for Orlando Hudson owners as the second baseman was placed on the 15-day DL with a sore wrist that was taking its time mending. Not sure why, but Hudson is one of those under-valued, under-appreciated middle infielders. Let's give this guy a hug. First off, he is a .288 lifetime hitter who is batting .305 on the season with a .377 OBP. He has a very good EYE of 0.77 and has been hitting line drives at a rate of 24.6% this year which easily supports a BHIP of .339. Out of the 49 games he has appeared in, Hudson has reached in 41of them which comes out to be 84%. And if we compare apples to apples, Hudson ranks 5th out of all major-league second basemen in OBP. Additionally, Hudson plays for a Twin offense that falls into his style a play where he is a valuable cog in the works. So if you are overlooking Hudson as a candidate for your team, look at him again and thrown O-Dog a bone once he's off the DL.

Carlos Pena (1B—Rays) Carlos Pena had one of his better games on Tuesday ripping 2 home runs with 5 RBI. But at the end of the day, I'm still having a tough time differentiating Mark Reynolds from Pena. Both are big home run hitters with big swings that strikeout a lot and hit for low average and poor contact rate. The good news is that Pena raised his average to .183. Oh yea, he's on a real tear (please note sarcastic tone). Pena is never going to hit that high for average, but even for him a LD% of 11.4 is low. He's been pounding too many balls on the ground at a 44.7% rate and not elevating the ball enough to smack those home runs. It's no wonder his BHIP stands at .201. To date, Pena has a RAR (runs above replacement player) of -3.4, You don't have to look very far to find an improvement over Pena. As an example the A's Daric Barton has an RAR of 14.4. or even Rockie Todd Helton's RAR of 0.3 is an improvement. Look for Pena to improve, but you will be stuck with strikeouts, and a fair to poor batting average. He's just not swinging the bat well enough right now to get those home runs on a consistent basis. Perhaps Tuesday's game will mark where Pena turns the corner on the first part of his season and at least salvages what's left.

There are over 100 player news blurbs posted in the member area each morning. Members can read the rest of today's player news by clicking here. Not a member? Join today.

You can also follow Richard on Twitter all season long @rsgross

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