Bryce Harper - Give this kid credit, he's got moxie. After getting plunked by Cole Hamels on the first pitch of his first AB on Sunday, Harper went to third on a Jayson Werth single and then stole home when Hamels tried to pick off Werth at first base. Harper finished the game 2-for-3. Entering Sunday, Harper had accumulated 29 plate appearances - an incredibly small number - but was showing some very positive signs. He had a walk rate of 17% against a 13% strikeout rate. He owned a .174 ISO and .435 SLG% and was hitting a respectable .261. While all those stats don't really mean anything at this point, they do point toward a player who, at 19-years old, isn't overwhelmed by playing in the big leagues. Now that Jayson Werth is out for at least six weeks with a broken wrist, Harper will definitely stay with the big league club for awhile. That said, Harper's value in one-year leagues is limited to a reserve outfielder role even if he continues to hit near the top of the Nationals' lineup. Of course, in keeper leagues, Harper is a stud and should become a star in the next couple of seasons.
Mat Latos - If you're a starting pitcher and in need of a confidence boost, there's not much better than facing a Pittsburgh lineup without Andrew McCutchen. That's exactly what the Reds' Mat Latos got on Sunday and he took full advantage by allowing zero earned runs and striking out 11 in six innings of work. Latos entered yesterday's start with a significantly lower strikeout rate (5.65) and strikeout percentage (14%) compared to his career norms. He also, of course, owned a terrible 5.97 ERA and 1.26 HR rate. Add in a high BABIP (.330) and low strand rate (66%) and you can see Latos has been pitching poorly and dealing with poor luck. In 2010 and 2011, Latos posted xFIPs in the mid-to-low 3.00s, so I expect him to start turning the corner soon and becoming a solid SP. Beating the Pirates isn't anything to get too excited about, but it's certainly a step in the right direction for a pitcher who hasn't been himself so far in 2012.
Adam Wainwright - Adam Wainwright entered yesterday's start against the Astros with a 6.75 ERA, but also owned a 2.80 xFIP and most of his peripheral stats looked solid. So, while I wasn't worried about Wainwright, hopefully his fantasy owners can relax a bit after he shut down Houston by yielding just one earned run over seven innings and striking out seven. Wainwright has a strikeout rate over 9.00 and a 23% strikeout percentage to go along with a walk rate that's below 3.00. The problem, for Wainwright, has been the gopher ball. He had given up seven HRs in just 26 innings prior to yesterday's start. For his career, Wainwright has never had an issue with allowing HRs, so all signs point toward the right hander experiencing positive regression in the coming weeks. If a manager in your league is losing patience with Wainwright's poor ERA, definitely try to take advantage as he's a great buy-low candidate.
Bryan LaHair - The Cubs' first baseman continued his torrid hitting by collecting three hits and a walk against the Dodgers. He's now hitting .390 with seven HRs and 16 RBI to go along with a .478 OBP and .779 SLG%. Reread those numbers and think about how absolutely ridiculous they are. At 29-years old, this season was likely LaHair's last chance to prove himself as a major leaguer and, so far, he's surpassing everyone's expectations. In the minors between 2009 and 2011, LaHair connected for 89 HRs and batted between .289 and .331, but didn't get any opportunities at the major league level. As you probably guessed, the Regression Train is going to knock LaHair upside down very soon. He entered Sunday's game with a .513 BABIP (!) and .397 ISO (!) despite a 32% strikeout rate. He also owns a 26% line drive rate to go along with an absurd 37% HR/FB rate. Clearly, he won't come anywhere close to maintaining those numbers, but he should remain a decent first base option for the rest of 2012.
Ricky Nolasco - Ricky Nolasco tossed seven innings and allowed just two earned runs to go along with three strikeouts versus the Padres on Sunday. Nolasco now owns a 1.11 WHIP and 2.72 ERA in 39 innings. However, the right hander's been pretty fortunate based on his .255 BABIP, 83% strand rate and xFIP which is close to 4.00. Additionally, Nolasco's strikeout rate has dropped each of the past two seasons and, this year, he owns a whiff rate around 5.00. On the positive side, he's done an excellent job of piling up ground balls as evidenced by his 51% GB rate. Unlike Matt Cain, who always manages to post ERAs below his xFIPs, Nolasco is the opposite - he can't get his ERA below his xFIP. During the past four seasons, Nolasco has posted xFIPs under 3.69, but he's only recorded ERAs under 4.00 in one of those years. If I'm a Nolasco owner, I am trying to sell high on him right now because it's doubtful he'll be able to maintain anywhere close to his current performance.
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