Kevin Youkilis - In his debut with the White Sox on Monday, Kevin Youkilis finished 1-for-4 and hit from the No. 2 hole in the lineup. I really like seeing Youkilis in the 2-spot as he should get good pitches to hit ahead of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. If he sticks at that spot, expect a few less RBI but a few more runs scored. It remains to be seen if the 33-year old can regain his former hitting ability as he entered Monday's game with just a .144 ISO, .233 BA and .377 SLG%. He's been injury-prone throughout his career and he's showing the least amount of patience of his career with just an 8% walk rate. While his LD rate has remained at 20%, his GB rate has jumped to 50% while his FB rate has fallen to only 29%. These changes in his balls in play are concerning, especially because grounders aren't going to be much help to the slow-footed third baseman. The numbers look bad and make me believe a change in scenery isn't likely to have the type of positive impact many believe it will.
Hiroki Kuroda - The Yankees' Hiroki Kuroda took on the Indians on Monday and yielded 1 ER and whiffed 7 in 7+ innings of work. During the first two months of the season, Hiroki Kuroda struggled in his adjustment from the NL to the AL. He was missing fewer bats and giving up more HRs en route to posting an ERA of 4.56 ERA through May 21. Since his start against the Royals that day, Kuroda has reverted back to the old Kuroda from the past few seasons with the Dodgers. He's allowed 9 ER over his past 42 innings and has improved his strikeout rate from in the mid-5.00s to 6.51 for the season. Kuroda has been particularly difficult to hit during his past four outings as he's whiffed 28 batters in 27 innings. The right hander's overall numbers are starting to mirror his performances from 2008 to 2011 and he should be in your lineup against most opponents at this point.
Francisco Liriano - Against the White Sox on Monday, Francisco Liriano allowed 1 ER and struck out 5 en route to getting the win. Liriano continues to be a maddening pitcher for fantasy baseball managers, but he's someone who has been showing steady improvement since the beginning of the season. Since April, Liriano's strikeout-to-walk rate has improved from 0.92 to 1.80 in May to 2.60 this month. Meanwhile, opponents' OPS against the southpaw has dropped from 1.047 in April to .773 in May to just .513 this month prior to yesterday's outing. So, while the overall numbers (5.05 walk rate and 5.30 ERA) look bad, there's reason to believe Liriano is starting to turn the corner. Pitchers with whiff rates around 9.00 aren't found on the waiver wire every day, so if the lefty is lingering in your league's free agent pool, grab him now.
Jake Peavy - Jake Peavy tossed 6 innings against the Twins on Monday, striking out 7, walking 1 and allowing 10 hits. We keep waiting for Peavy to regress and, based on his indicators, it's difficult to believe he can continue posting an ERA under 3.00. Entering Monday's outing, Peavy owned a .235 BABIP and 33% GB rate while his FIP was 3.25 and his xFIP sat at 4.08. It'll be nearly impossible for Peavy to maintain a BABIP under .250 when his GB rate is under 35%, especially considering his whiff rate is under 8.00. Another alarming trend for Peavy is his strikeout-to-walk rate has dropped from 6.60 in April to 4.43 in May to just a 1.92 entering yesterday's outing. More walks and fewer strikeouts almost guarantee Peavy is going to see his ERA rise in the coming weeks. This is the time to sell high, if you haven't already.
Justin Masterson - After struggling in April and May to the tune of 5.40 and 4.93 ERAs, Justin Masterson has been outstanding through 4 June starts, entering tonight's matchup versus the Yankees. During 29 innings this month, Masterson's ERA is a minuscule 1.24 and he's posted a 4.50 strikeout-to-walk rate to go along with a 0.86 WHIP. For the season (15 starts), Masterson now owns strikeout (7.12), walk (3.70) and HR (0.65) rates right in line with his career norms. He continues to rely on strong GB rates to keep hitters at bay and his 3.98 ERA is just a tick above his 3.92 career mark. While I wouldn't start Masterson today against the potent Yankees' lineup, he should be in your lineup against most teams moving forward.
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