Jeremy Hellickson (SP-TB)- The Mets offense roughed up Hellickson on Thursday to the tune of eight runs in 3.2 innings of work. He allowed nine hits (three home runs) and one walk while not recording a strikeout. While struggling in his last two starts, Hellickson has seen his ERA jump to 3.45 and his fall to 4-3 for the season. A 5.24 FIP and xFIP 4.86 are troubling considering he has benefitted from a strand rate of 81 percent this season. His .255 BABIP might be a skill a viable skill much like Matt Cain, but in his 303.2 career innings pitched, it is too small of a sample size to say that definitively. Hellickson has seen his numbers hurt by an increase in home runs allowed (career worst 13.2 percent HR/FB ratio) and his 44 percent fly ball means he will probably allow 25 or more this season. A lower swinging strike rate (7.9 percent) and zone percentage (42.5 percent) indicate his peripherals are not likely to improve over the course of 2012.
Austin Jackson (CF-DET)- Jackson went 3-for-4 with a double, a home run, three RBI, a walk, a strikeout and two runs scored in the Tigers 5-3 victory over the Cubs on Thursday. The home run was his seventh of the season, and he improved his slash line to .323/.400/.557. He has continued to make necessary adjustments in his approach at the plate in 2012, cutting his strikeout rate from 27.1 percent to a career best 19.2 percent in addition to improving his walk rate to 11.5 percent. Jackson's batting average will not probably stay above .300 since his .376 BABIP is likely to regress back to a .340 level but his improve strikeout rate should keep him in the .290 range. In terms of home runs, he came into the game with a career best 12.8 percent HR/FB ratio. That is 6 points higher than his 6.4 percent ratio in 2011, and that seems like a reasonable number for young hitter who is still developing. I expect him to set a new career high with 15-17 home runs, and if he didn't get hurt earlier, he could have reached the 20 home run plateau.
Jarrod Parker (SP-OAK)- Parker delivered one of his best starts of the season on Wednesday against the Rockies. He earned his third win of the season throwing seven shutout innings in which he allowed only one walk and three hits with six strikeouts. Parker, one of the frontrunners for the rookie of the year, now has a 2.82 ERA in 60.2 innings pitched, and he has significantly outperformed his DIPS numbers (3.58 FIP and xFIP). Parker continues to benefit from low BABIP (.257), despite entering the game with a 25.7 percent line drive rate. Owners should expect Parker's ERA to rise over the coming weeks as his 78.5 percent strand rate is bound to regress as well, but pitching in Oakland should allow him to keep his home run rate down. Parker's plate discipline numbers do not suggest any future improvement in his peripherals, so owners should expect an ERA around 3.70 by the end of the season.
Mark Reynolds (1B/3B-BAL)- Reynolds went 4-for-5 with two doubles, two runs scored, a home run and five RBI to help lead the Orioles to a 12-6 victory over the Pirates on Thursday night. The home run was his fifth of the season (second in three games), and he improved his slash line to .245/.369/.439. Reynolds had gotten off to another slow start to the season without hitting a home run in April, but the veteran now has a 20 percent HR/FB ratio over the last two months. Look for him to get to the 30 home run plateau once again as his 13.2 percent HR/FB ratio get improves closer to his career 20 percent rate, and he could produce his best average since 2009. His .345 BABIP look unsustainable, but a 25.2 percent line drive rate is the best of his career and he dropped his swinging strike rate to 12.6 percent (also the best of his career). With an improved chase rate (23.7 percent), Reynolds might produce his most consistent offensive season yet.
Mike Napoli (C/1B-TEX)- Napoli went hitless with two strikeouts in three plate appearances for the Rangers on Thursday night against the Diamondbacks. He is 1-of-16 over the last five games, and has seen his slash line drop to .246/.351/.469 for the season to go along with his 11 home runs and 29 RBI. Napoli's numbers have taken a hit in 2012 because of a 40 point drop in his BABIP, which was to be expected, and a career worst 28.9 percent strikeout rate. I expect Napoli's average to improve considering his swinging strike rate of 10.8 percent is the second rate of his career, and that his chase rate is the best since 2009. His batted ball rate are very similar to his 2011 ones, and his 23.4 percent HR/FB ratio is higher than his 19.3 percent career ratio. I expect Napoli to finish with 27-30 home runs this season, and a .270/.365/.500 type of slash line at the end of the season.
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