Coco Crisp (OF - OAK): For the first time in a long time we saw some life out of Coco Crisp. Crisp homered, tripled, walked and drove in 4 while scoring a run. The two extra base hits doubled Crisp's total for the year which speaks to the heart of his struggles. Crisp's plate discipline indicators are all in-line. He's walking in 6.5% of his PA's (career 7.5%, last year 7%) and striking out in 12.1% of them (career 13%). He's chasing just 19.7% of pitches outside the strike zone (career 20.4%) and making contact on 90.1% of his swings (career 85.9%). With all his plate discipline indicators and results largely in line Crisp's problems this year have centered around hard contact. Crisp's LD Rate has fallen to just 15.3% (career 19.4%) and he entered yesterday's game with a miniscule .018 ISO (that tripled to .059 yesterday). Even with the struggles Crisp has remained active on the base-paths swiping 7 bases in 33 games. With an improvement in his LD Rate and the power rebounding Crisp's opportunities on the base-paths should also increase. He's a 1-2 category player in traditional mixed leagues but a valuable one based on his elite SB potential. Despite the slow start the fact that the plate discipline indicators look in-line, I'm treating Crisp as a nice buy-low for those in need of speed.
Will Middlebrooks (3B - BOS): One of the challenging things with fantasy owners and young players is managing expectations. Will Middlebrooks shattered many expectations as he's burst onto the scene hitting .321/.345/.557 through his first 110 PA's. While the performance has been great, the indicators have been just OK. Middlebrooks 3.6% BB Rate leaves a lot to be desired as does his 26% K Rate. Middlebrooks isn't a free swinger (29% chase rate) but contact issues (75.4% contact rate) have plagued the plate discipline numbers. Middlebrooks has made up for the shaky plate discipline with great LD rates (22%) and immense power (.236 ISO). The ISO would appear to be inflated by a 23.1% HR/FB Rate and as a result the power pace should slow. In addition to a slower HR pace, Middlebrooks will eventually see erosion in his batting average. It's extraordinarily unusual for a player with such poor EYE (0.14) to generate a .300+ average and his current .394 BABIP supports the idea that he's played over his head. Expectations for Middlebrooks have been so high that I've actually received questions on why he's "struggled of late" because he's hit just 2 HR's in his last 18 G (.328/.338/.453 in that span). Middlebrooks isn't quite ready to maintain the type of production he's had to date as his peripherals suggest he's more of a .270/.290/.450 type hitter. While the Red Sox appear committed to giving Middlebrooks everyday AB's the rest of the year, fantasy owners should consider cashing in on his strong start.
Jake Peavy (SP - CHA): It looked like Thursday might be one of those nights where Jake Peavy starts experiencing a bit of the ERA regression he's due. Peavy was unusually wild, walking 5, and gave up 3 ER's in the 2nd inning; but he settled down and managed to get through 6 innings with those 3 ER's allowed. He surrendered just 4 hits and struck out 4, managing to escape with his ERA just over 3. The interesting thing about Peavy's 2012 season is how similar it is to his 2011. Peavy struck out 7.66 K/9 (20% K%) last year and is now at 7.84 K/9 (23% K%) after last night's performance. Similarly his BB Rate (5.1% last year, entered 5.1% this year) and GB Rates 32.5% this year (38.5% last year) were all in line. Even Peavy's LD Rate (22.9% last year, 21.1% this year) was nearly identical. So what's yielding the different results? A .243 BABIP (.317 last year) and 74.8% LOB% (63.9% last year). The LOB% has normalized to a point that is more representative of Peavy's skill set but the BABIP is unusually low and should regress closer to the .317 mark Peavy had last year. Once that happens the WHIP will get closer to 1.20 and Peavy's ERA will settle in around the mid 3's. As we mentioned in the starting pitcher notes, Jake Peavy has the talent to perform as a top 10 pitcher, but will likely settle in around the Top 30. Throw in some added health risk with Peavy and you've got an ideal sell-high candidate.
Roy Oswalt (SP - TEX): Last week on our SiriusXM program we had Round Rock play-by-play announcer Mike Capps to talk about Roy Oswalt's debut. Capps noted that Roy's change-up command and fastball velocity was surprisingly strong in the first outing and compared the start to a front-line starter's first start in spring training (stuff was there, command was inconsistent). Start #2 was an equally mixed bag for Oswalt as he surrendered 5 ER's on 6 hits and a walk over his 4 innings of work. He did strike out 4 but a grand slam to Royals top prospect Wil Myers accounted for much of the damage. The Rangers had planned on a July 1st target date for Oswalt's first major league appearance but that was before Derek Holland hit the DL with a shoulder strain. It will be interesting to see if Oswalt's timetable is ramped up as a result. From a fantasy perspective Oswalt has the chance to act as a solid back-end rotation starter in traditional formats. His always strong command coupled with adequate K and GB Rates will allow him to compete for a league average ERA even while pitching in Arlington. The Rangers offense should provide plenty of run support making him a noteworthy contributor in Wins. The biggest difference in his value will come from the K's. If Oswalt's K Rate can stick around 7 K/9 he'll remain a solid fantasy asset, but if they dip closer to the low 6's (as they did in his 2011 in Philadelphia), the league change and tougher home park could adjust his value back down to spot starter. In my 10 team leagues I was not running out and adding Oswalt, but in deep 12 team leagues or deeper I would consider him an immediate add. It will likely take Oswalt two more starts to get stretched out so while the Rangers initially had a July 1st target date there is a chance the Derek Holland injury pushes that return closer to late June.
CC Sabathia (SP - NYY): The big man in NY needs some support. Sabathia is quietly putting up perhaps the best year of his career and thanks to an aging and horrific defense behind him Sabathia's ERA now sits about 50 points above his xFIP. Once again last night Sabathia was brilliant. He struck out 12 of the 30 batters he faced (40% K%), walked just 1 (3.3% BB%) and generated a 47% GB Rate. Somehow those peripherals turned into 3 ER's, 7 hits and his 3rd loss of the season. A .412 BABIP for the outing and a measly 37.5% LOB% took away from one of the more dominant starts of the year. For the season a low LOB% and a mildly elevated BABIP are costing Sabathia about 50 pts of ERA and 5-10 pts of WHIP. He's improved his K%, while maintaining his elite control and GB Rates. His only weakness is the difficult home environment he pitches in and the inconsistent defense behind him. A notorious 2nd half stud I can think of just 3 SP's I'd personally rather have than Sabathia the rest of the way (Kershaw, Verlander, Hamels). Even with his awesome name value, he's undervalued.
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