Justin Smoak (1B - SEA): The Smoak monster has been unleashed over the last 12 games (.313/.365/.646) as Smoak has launched 5 HR's and driven in 15. Is this the beginning of something clicking for the young 1B prospect or simply a hot streak? Digging in on the peripherals Smoak has made a bit more contact (17% K Rate) during the streak, but his BB Rate (7.6%) hasn't shown much growth. Expanding the sample set to the month of May (.255/.303/.451) doesn't inspire much room for optimism either as Smoak's BB and K Rates are practically identical to his April performance. His ISO has spiked back up to .196 but it comes from a 20% HR/FB Rate as he's actually hit more balls on the ground (48% GB Rate) in May than he did in April (38%). With prospects like Smoak we often look for any sign that the young player could be putting it together and while the data might not always reveal the truth, the evidence we do have suggests Smoak's experiencing more of a hot streak than a true breakout. In deep leagues owners should continue to hold and hope the light bulb clicks while getting 20 HR power from a batting average risk, while those in 10 and 12 team leagues can look at Smoak as a stop-gap experiencing a hot streak.
Alex Cobb (SP - TB): Alex Cobb's start on Wednesday was almost a perfect foil to his previous start in Boston when Cobb allowed just 1 ER on 3 hits, despite walking 4 over his 5 innings of work. On Wednesday Cobb allowed 4 ER's on 9 hits while walking 1 and striking out 4 in 5 innings of work. Cobb has kept the ball in the yard since being promoted from the starting rotation (0 HR), but opposing hitters haven't had much trouble seeing him early on (23% LD Rate, 6% swinging strike rate). The inability to miss bats has impacted Cobb's efficiency which is why he's failed to make it past 5 innings against the two AL offenses he faced. There is plenty to like about the 12 start sample Cobb has given at the major league level the last two years (3.49 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 55% GB Rate), but his below average K Rates (16.2% K%, league average 19%) and tough matchups in the AL East make him little more than a back-end option for deep leaguers. His inability to generate swinging strikes or make hitters chase pitches outside the zone have led to poor command (3.62 BB/9) at the major league level which coupled with the high GB Rate will lead to challenging WHIP contributions. His ERA will be held down by his ability to keep the ball in the park, but with sub-standard K and WHIP rates we're looking at a 2-category contributor as a SP. Cobb's fine in home matchups against most non-AL East opponents and he's a tremendous #6 starter for any team to have, but don't overrate his fantasy prospects. In traditional 10 and 12 team leagues he's a pitch-and-ditch candidate and in deeper leagues he's a back-end spot starter.
Nick Markakis (OF - BAL): News broke on Thursday afternoon that the wrist injury Nick Markakis is dealing with is actually a broken hamate bone. Pablo Sandoval owners are perhaps most familiar with this injury, but it's one that will sideline Markakis for at least 3-4 weeks and has the chance to linger beyond that. For a player that had been showing some signs of reversing the disturbing decline in his power rates through his peak years (.196 ISO this year), the injury is particularly damaging. Even if Markakis is able to return in a timely fashion there are likely residual effects from the wrist injury that will hamper his power production. While Markakis was on pace for his first 20+ HR season since 2008, even seeing a recovery back to his .280-75-15-75-10 pace the last few years would be a worthwhile level of production upon his return. Fantasy owners can do little but wait on Markakis return, but the injury at the very least should result in owners downgrading their power expectations for Markakis from here on out.
Wil Myers (OF - KC): We had a pretty Royals-centric show last week on SiriusXM's Fantasy Channel as I lamented the struggles of Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer to start the season, while also speculating on the future arrival of prospect Wil Myers. Myers is someone fantasy owners need to acquaint themselves with in part because of his production in the minors this year (.337/.404/.707) and in part because Yahoo's player database apparently hasn't gotten the memo that Myers hasn't caught a game behind the plate since 2010. Myers, with C-eligibility in Yahoo leagues, is a potential impact bat for all fantasy leagues. The question of timing for a Myers promotion as well as opportunity continue to confuse the picture, but I have started stashing in some Yahoo formats (including my Sirius Hosts League team which Mike Leone and I are doing our best not to run into the ground). Myers has been converted into an OF and the Royals are now trying him some at 3B in AAA as they search not only for a long-term position for Myers (probably RF), but to increase his value both in trade and to the current club. With Alex Gordon (signed thru 2015) and Jeff Francouer (thru 2013) locked in at the corner OF spots and Billy Butler (2014), Mike Moustakas (2017) and Eric Hosmer (2017) locked in at the corner spots, Myers long-term and short-term opportunity may be blocked. Ideally the Royals would flip Myers or one of the other young bats for some SP help and help clear this log-jam, but it appears in the immediate future Myers is being groomed as a utility option. This means his bat could be on the horizon shortly after the super-2 deadline clears in a few weeks. If Myers was an OF he'd be a viable stash candidate with more certainty on his call-up time, but with the C-eligibility he's almost a must-stash in 12 team leagues or deeper with 2 catcher spots.
Dayan Viciedo (SP - CHA): I was particularly excited about Dayan Viciedo coming into the season before I realized he had lost 3B eligibility long ago. Viciedo's 2011 season (.255/.327/.314) at the major league level was underwhelming, but masked some impressive growth that started at the AAA level (8.9% BB Rate) and continued on at the major league level (8.0% BB Rate). The growth in the BB Rates was important for a player who had always demonstrated power (.492 Slug at AAA) but lacked plate discipline (3.9% career BB Rate). With Viciedo entering 2012 at age 23, it figured improvements in plate discipline and natural development would lead to an improved all around performance. While Viciedo's performance has grown nicely (.291-22-11-28-0), the manner in which it's grown has been mildly disappointing. Viciedo's big power potential has been unleashed (.515 Slug), but his plate patience has disappeared (2.4% BB Rate). A look at Viciedo's plate discipline indicators shows a chase rate in-line with past years, but elevated swing rates and elevated swinging strike rates. With Viciedo taking fewer pitches and swinging through more of them (12.2%) it's no surprise his BB Rate has plummeted. It IS however a mild surprise that the K Rate (20.6%, career 21.3%) hasn't shown much erosion. Throw in an elevated HR/FB Rate (26.8%) for a player who hits too many balls on the ground (48% GB Rate) and we're likely looking at a player whose performance relative to their indicators is likely at a high. Viciedo's raw power and bat skills (20% LD Rate) should translate to a .275-25-80 type pace, good enough for a back-end OF in traditional mixed leagues, but the recent surge appears to have exaggerated his skill-set. If Viciedo can rediscover the plate discipline he demonstrated last year, he could transform himself into a legitimate .295-30-90 type player, but early indications are that 2011 season may have been the anomaly.
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