Chase Utley 2B (PHI) - For those of you who have stashed Utley all season long, you may be finally rewarded. The Phillies could activate Utley Wednesday. While Utley owners must be rightfully excited, expectations must be realistic as Utley is no longer the stud he once was. From 2005-2009 Utley posted ISO's year in and year out between .219 and .249. That power fell off dramatically in 2010 as Utley posted a .169 ISO; things did not get any better last year as his ISO was .166. Utley is an example of a player who sacrifices power for contact as he ages. His contact rates were the two highest of his career the past two seasons, but the quality of contact was poor. Not only did Utley have the 2 highest chase rates of his career the past 2 seasons, but his contact rate on chased pitches grew from 65.2% in 2009 to 76.2% and 77.3% in 2010 and 2011 respectively. I'm not optimistic that the 33 YO with health problem sees his power bounces back. So, even if Utley returns Wednesday and stays healthy ROS I am not expecting anything more than a .275-10-10 line with modest RS and RBI totals.
Dallas Keuchel SP (HOU) - In just his second career start Keuchel pitched a complete game. He allowed only 1 ER, but I wouldn't rush to the wire to grab Keuchel. In 7 starts at AAA in 2011 he posted a 7.50 ERA, and even before getting called up this season he had an unimpressive 4.26 ERA in 13 starts. Through his first 2 Major League starts, if we ignore the low ERA, about the only skill Keuchel has shown is the ability to keep the ball on the ground (48.9 GB%). He has as many walks as strikeouts thanks to a dreadfully low 3.21 K/9. The low K rate is not a surprise given that Keuchel's 2011 K/9 at AAA was 3.75, and this season at AAA it was 5.15. I don't see much upside here.
Andrew McCutchen OF (PIT) - McCutchen blasted his 13th homer of the season yesterday, and he is breaking out power wise as the Fantistics crew had predicted in the pre-season. McCutchen now boasts a .345/.404/.586 line. However, as much as I like McCutchen this pace is sure to slow down. The increase in BA is partially explained by an increased ISO, but why else is it 60 points above his career mark. Well, McCutchen's singles average is a whopping .341 and that is not sustainable. His career singles average is .255. Expect McCutchen to hit right around .290-.300 ROS. Also, expect the HR pace to slow a little bit. Pre-season I expected improved power out of McCutchen, but if we are being realistic, asking McCutchen to maintain a HR/FB growth from 12.2% last year to 19.1% this year is probably a bit too much. Look for that HR/FB rate to be closer to 15% ROS and for McCutchen to fall short of his current 30 homer pace.
Johnny Cueto SP (CIN) - Cueto was phenomenal yesterday. He threw 7 shutout innings allowing just 3 hits and a walk while striking out 9. This is the third straight year that Cueto is outperforming his FIP and xFIP as well as the third straight year he has posted a favorable HR/FB% (8.6/5.8/5.7) despite having a home park that yields homers quite easily. With that said, Cueto is still likely to regress. When I see his skill set (league average K%, above average walk and GB rates) I keep expecting to see an ERA around 4. Given Cueto's history I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and call for a ROS ERA in the range of 3.25-3.50. No matter his ability to beat his FIP and xFIP, Cueto is not maintaining a 2.21 ERA. He may be able to maintain a friendly HR/FB%, but I'd still put his current 5.7% mark as the floor on that. He has consistently posted above average LOB%, but even this year's mark is almost 7 points above his career mark. In other words, expect Cueto to regress, just perhaps not as much as you'd expect at a first quick glance of his profile.
Edwin Jackson SP (WAS) - Jackson turned in a strong performance for the Nationals, allowing 1 ER in 6.1 IP. He posted a 5:1 K:BB ratio for the game. Jackson lowered his ERA on the year to 2.91, but despite a 2.91 ERA compared to last season's 3.79 mark he is pretty much the same pitcher. His K% is up slightly from 17% to 18.2% and BB and GB rates essentially the same. The biggest reason for Jackson's strong early stat line is some good fortune. His BABIP of .228 is 77 points below his career mark, and his LOB% of 77% is 5.1 points above his career mark. Once those numbers normalize, Jackson's ERA is sure to be on the rise. This is a clear cut sell high opportunity.