Mike Trout (OF - LAA): The fantasy world has been captivated by the strong start of phenom Bryce Harper, but I remain steadfast in my belief that Mike Trout is the premier fantasy asset between the two this year. Trout didn't help me cause much on Sunday as he went 1-4 with 3 K's. Alarmingly Trout has struck out in 27.3% of his PA's despite a chase rate of just 23.1% and a swinging strike rate under 5%. Those are elite skills and don't really jive with this high K Rate early on. Along with good plate discipline skills Trout's batted ball data shows he's not having difficulty adjusting to big league pitching. Trout's posted a 30% LD Rate early on which suggests his .286 BABIP has been rather unfortunate. The .200 ISO Trout is posting is also just fine early on. While the K and BB Rates with the small sample size haven't been inspiring, the underlying skills Trout has shown have been impressive. Anecdotally, I've watched a ton of Trout's AB's early on and while I may be a biased observer (huge fan), my feeling that he's ready has been confirmed in the AB's I've watched. In the recent hitter rankings release Anthony Perri had Trout as a Top 35 OF the rest of the way and frankly I see no reason he can't be. I think Desmond Jennings production last year is a fair comparison and expectation for Trout from here on out. Continue to hold through some of the rough patches and I would aggressively target as a buy-low.
Matt Moore (SP - TB): Oof. After proclaiming Matt Moore a strong buy-low candidate on Twitter and even acquiring him in a long-term keeper league earlier this week, Moore went out and lay what has to have been one of the worst starts of his professional career. Moore allowed 8 ER's on 7 hits and 3 BB's over 4 2/3 innings while striking out 4. Moore still flashed the dominance we're accustomed to, generating 15 swinging strikes on his 105 pitches, but made too many mistakes up in the zone. Moore only generated a 25% GB Rate during the outing and this has been a problem for Moore throughout the season (31.8% GB Rate for season). In the game Moore allowed a 31% LD Rate which coupled with the high FB Rate led to 3 XBH's allowed. Moore's stuff is tantalizing and the swinging strike rates confirm he has the chance to be elite, but he's struggling with command right now and it's resulting in XBH's coming in bulk. On a per batter basis (18% K Rate, 11% BB Rate) aren't particularly impressive for the consensus top pitching prospect in all of baseball. While the underlying indicators don't offer a ton of reason for optimism, I'm still buying on Moore where I can. It's unusual to find his strikeout potential (12+ K/9, 30+ K% each of last 3 minor league seasons) pitching in a favorable home environment with a good defense behind him. Moore's bout with command issues might make me consider picking my spots with him a bit more, but I'm not shying away from my preseason conviction. If you're a Moore owner your risk tolerance will dictate how you choose to deploy him going forward, but I would absolutely remain patient with the young arm.
Chris Davis (1B - BAL): In what has to be one of the most unusual stat lines in major league history Chris Davis went 0-8 with 5 K's and a GIDP, creating 9 outs in his 8 AB's and yet earned the Win in the stat-column on Sunday. Davis came in to pitch the 16th and 17th innings after the Orioles had exhausted their bullpen and went on to post a 2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 2 K line that has me wondering if he has a future in the pen as well! As a pitcher Davis threw an 89 mph two-seam fastball and flashed a pretty good change-up that got two strikeouts, including Adrian Gonzalez. Of course you're not particularly interested in Davis' prospects as a pitcher, so let's take a look at him as a hitter. Davis has gotten off to a hot start this year (.299/.343/.526 even after the 0-8) and given his tantalizing power and great LD skills he has owners buying in again. A quick look at Davis' peripherals show that he's made small strides in his contact rates but continues to chase way too many pitches outside the strike zone (38+%). The improved contact rates have helped allow his great LD skills (29%, career 23.3%) to hold up a respectable batting average, despite striking out in 25% of his PA's. While the indicators show some small strides, I'm skeptical of buying in on Davis. He's had over 1000 PA's at the big league level and every big league shot he's had has resulted in similar results - streaks of power, but ultimately too many contact and pitch selection issues that overwhelm the power/ld combination. Still just 26, there's hope that Davis has turned a corner, but I'd want to see it shining through in his approach and so far it really hasn't. His pitch selection remains questionable and his contact rates (even with small improvements) are well below average. I'll need a more sustained level of performance along with some indicator growth for me to hop aboard. In deep leagues the power and the home park earn him attention, but in traditional 10 and 12 team leagues he's a guy you can ride while hot and ditch when the contact issues start up again. With a schedule this week that includes 3 LHP which Davis has hit .242/.285/.427 with a 33% K Rate, I'd strongly consider benching him.
Brian Dozier (SS - MIN): The Twins promoted one of their top prospects, Brian Dozier, and named him the starting SS going forward. Dozier burst onto the scene last year in the Twins minor league system when Dozier posted an .890 OPS through High A and AA. At AAA this year Dozier has hit .276/.339/.371 struggling to carry over the power he demonstrated last season, but showing solid plate discipline. It's difficult to expect Dozier, who has just 470 PA's above A ball, to adapt quickly and make a fantasy impact for mixed leagues. But those in AL Only formats where playing time will drive value, should certainly know Dozier's name and likely get a claim in. The Twins have rightly shifted Jamey Carroll to a utility role and there's really no competition for Dozier's playing time the rest of the year. With the Twins in a rebuilding mode Dozier should get plenty of leash. His bat may not be ready to make a large fantasy impact (mixed leaguers can ignore), but his playing time should be solid. I think a .275/.325/.385 type line seems like a reasonable expectation. With a little bit of speed (45 SB's in 345 minor league games), Dozier could swipe 10-15 bags in his major league time this year.
Clay Buchholz (SP - BOS): If you didn't know who I was writing about and I simply put these indicators out there in a line: 5.51 K/9 (12.5% K%), 5.23 BB/9 (11.9% BB%), 49.6% GB Rate, 6.3% Swinging Strike Rate, would you even consider them a viable mixed leagues start? The answer is quite obviously no. Even Clay Buchholz performance last year (6.53 K/9, 17% K%, 3.38 BB/9, 8.8% BB%, 50% GB Rate, 8.4% Swinging Strike) looks more reminiscent of a Derek Lowe type fantasy starter than anything special, but because Clay Buchholz was a former top prospect and because he had a wacky 2010 when his performance far exceeded his peripherals, everyone attaches the name Buchholz with fantasy value - when in fact you shouldn't. Buchholz was knocked around again yesterday by the Orioles allowing 11 of the 20 batters faced to reach base safely and seeing his ERA on the season rise to 9.09. His past indicators made him a borderline mixed league starter for 10 and 12 team formats and with erosion in those indicators there's little reason he should be on anyone's radars in those formats. In deeper leagues, Buchholz's previous history would've played fine, but this year with his velocity holding the dip he had last year and his ability to miss bats dwindling, fantasy owners should look towards him with a leery eye. The Red Sox have maintained Buchholz's rotation spot isn't in jeopardy, but his skill-set suggests it should be. Don't get caught up in the name value and focus on the numbers. When you do that it's easy to see Clay Buchholz doesn't belong on fantasy rosters.
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