Brandon Morrow SP (TOR) - During Spring Training both Morrow and his manager, John Farrell, commented that they would like to see Morrow use his offspeed stuff more often and attempt to get some weak contact earlier in counts. Generally I don't put too much stock into these quotes, but given Morrow's early season performance they now seem impossible to ignore. Morrow is using his fastball less than ever before and throwing it a little less hard too. He is also using the slider a little bit less in lieu of his changeup and curve ball, which have a larger gap in velocity from his fastball. The results have been what Morrow and his manager intended: more control (2.70 BB/9), less strikeouts (4.05 K/9) and weaker contact (48.2 GB%, 10.8 LD%). The problem here is if you add all that up, you have a pitcher with an xFIP nearly a run higher than his previous 2 years. If I'm a Morrow owner I am slightly concerned as his upside has always been driven by an ability to miss bats, something he is now consciously trying to avoid. Oddly enough, though, owners have an opportunity to sell high as bizarro Morrow has had a good amount of luck early on (.190 BABIP, 84.2 LOB%) leaving him with a solid ERA of 3.71 and WHIP of 1.13.
Yu Darvish SP (TEX) - Wow! This was the outing that Yu Darvish owners have been waiting for. He dominated the Yankee lineup last night, striking out 10 batters over 8.1 scoreless innings. Darvish's command had previously been shaky, but he walked just 2 batters last night and threw an impressive 82 of his 119 pitches for strikes. Of the balls Darvish did allow into play, 65% of them were groundballs. Darvish also generated 15 swinging strikes, including 2 or more swinging strikes from 4 different types of pitches. I don't expect this type of outing from Darvish every time, but the one start does allay a lot of my concerns. Darvish was aggressive and attacked the strike zone against a strong hitting team, and I view him as a top 20 SP.
Ervin Santana SP (LAA) - Even in the somewhat pitcher friendly confines of Tropicana field the HR ball did Santana in. Despite having a solid 4:1 K:BB ratio on the night, Santana gave up 5 ER in 5 innings thanks to 4 HR allowed. While this is a huge problem, I would pick up Santana in standard leagues where he is dropped by impatient owners. His GB and BB rates are right in line with where they should be at, and the K% is only slightly deflated. What is really doing Santana in is a whopping 34.5 HR/FB%. His career mark is 10.2% and previous career high is 12.8%, so expect some regression here.
Henderson Alvarez SP (TOR) - Alvarez entered the year as an intriguing sleeper in the eyes of some, but he doesn't miss enough bats to be useful in standard leagues. This was fully evident last night as Alvarez did not strikeout a batter in 7 innings of work. In fact, Alvarez managed to achieve just 2 swinging strikes out of the 92 pitches he threw. This isn't a random one game problem. Alvarez managed just a 6.4 swinging strike % last season and entered today's contest with an even worse mark of 5.1%. Alvarez has some long term upside, if he could ever start missing bats, due to elite control (1.3 BB/9 in 13 starts) and an ability to generate ground balls (55.1 career GB%). For now, though, he should be ignored in standard leagues and considered a back end starter in AL only leagues.
Albert Pujols 1B (LAA) - Pujols continued his early season slump going 0-4 yesterday. The result dropped his average to .232, and he is still without a homer. It's always too early to panic on King Albert, but we also can't abstain him from criticism because of his status as a slugger. It does appear Pujols is declining. His ISO has fallen over the last 3 seasons: .331/.284/.242 (currently .108). Eric mentioned the declining walk rates the other day, and obviously this has had a negative impact on Pujols' EYE over the past several seasons: 1.93/1.80/1.36/1.05/.56 (2008-present). By no means am I actively shopping Pujols, but if someone thinks Pujols is just the same old slugger off to a slow start, it'd be foolish not to entertain offers.