Jered Weaver (SP - LAA): Weaver has picked up right where he left off since coming back from the DL, allowing just 1 ER in 12 2/3 innings while recording 23 fly-ball outs and posting a solid 3.0 K:BB Rate. Weaver continues to defy many of the peripherals thanks to an unusual ability to limit HR's, despite the high FB Rate. A big part of the success has been a typically strong infield-fly-ball rate (Career 13.4%) which has decreased to just 10.6% this year. The drop in infield-fly-ball rate isn't the only area Weaver's peripherals have shown some modest deterioration. Weaver's swinging strike rate is down to just 7% (career 9.4%) and his LD Rate allowed is a career worst 22.3% (career 18.6%). Weaver's performance has yet to be impacted thanks to a .231 BABIP and miniscule 5.3% HR/FB Rate. While Weaver has been able to keep those numbers down historically (.273 BABIP, 7.5% HR/FB Rate), the deterioration in his batted ball data makes me think he may be more prone to a step backwards this year. He remains a solid Top 10 SP the rest of the way, but Weaver is the kind of SP I wouldn't mind moving for one of his counterparts in the Top 10 with more stable peripherals.
Alex Avila (C - DET): I'm sensing quite a bit of panic surrounding Alex Avila and I'm wondering if that panic is the result of completely unrealistic expectations for the 25 year old catcher. Avila was phenomenal last year as he hit .295/.389/.506, but the performance was inflated by a .366 BABIP and .211 ISO that looked out of place with the rest of Avila's major and minor league career. A career .282/.373/.424 minor league hitter, Avila's 2012 line of .247/.335/.402 looks only modestly off, perhaps just as much as the 20 point BABIP difference between his 2012 line (.309) and his career line (.327). Unfortunately those who drafted Avila expecting a replication of his .895 OPS were set up for failure from the start. Assessing Avila going forward I think a .255-50-15-55 type pace is pretty reasonable and would fit Avila in around the back-end of the Top 10 fantasy catchers. Owners should still stay the course for Avila, but simply adjust expectations going forward.
Jesus Montero (C - SEA): A couple weeks ago Eric Nehs touched on the alarming and, frankly, incredible splits Jesus Montero has posted this season. When facing LHP Montero has been every bit the top prospect many expected, hitting .359/.390/.564 while posting a phenomenal 33% LD Rate. Against RHP, however, Montero is hitting .209/.249/.316, making Montero look more like Cliff Pennington than Robinson Cano. Watching Montero's AB's closely this season I can confirm that these results aren't surprising. I went as far as telling Mike Leone yesterday I didn't want to have to watch another Montero AB vs. RHP all season. Montero's approach RH has been horrific. He'll basically swing at anything and pitchers continue to fling sliders low and away and let Montero roll over them all day long. If Montero's going to grow into the hitter we all think he can be an adjustment will need to be made. Even with the horrific approach against RHP Montero is on pace for a .249-50-16-60 type season that would be fine as a Top 10 catcher option. His ability to DH and build a games advantage is certainly boosting a sub-par offensive year (.629 OPS) but those playing in traditional formats can deal with it in the short-term. In the long-term changes are necessary for growth. As a Montero owner I'm continuing to hold, recognizing the production has been adequate and upside remains, but watching Montero has become increasingly frustrating and I'm now limiting it to AB's vs. LHP.
Shin Soo Choo (OF - CLE): Back in April I called Shin Soo Choo the easiest draft day bargain I've seen in fantasy baseball over the last few years. Choo was amongst the most consistent performers from both a skills perspective and production perspective in 2009 and 2010 before an injury-riddled 2011 brought doubt in fantasy owners' minds as Choo hit .259/.344/.390. Even though Choo's production fell off, his plate discipline remained constant and almost all of the decline was directly attributable to a drop in his ISO. Given Choo had experienced wrist/hand injuries in 2011, it was likely a healthy Choo would see the pop rebound. A consistent 3rd-5th round producer in 10-team mixed leagues Choo was suddenly falling into the 8th round of drafts because of tunnel vision on his 2011 production. Early in the year it seemed some of those doubters had legs to stand on as Choo slumped out of the gates posting a modest .697 OPS (.085 ISO), but since then the performance has picked up in a big way (.306/.385/.511). For the season Choo's production looks nearly identical to his 2009-2010 lines both from an indicators and production perspective. During those two seasons Choo averaged a .300-85-21-88-22 fantasy line, earning Top 40 status as a hitter. I expect that type of production to come to fruition again this year with a heavier distribution on the Runs total and lighter on the RBI's due to his positioning in the leadoff spot. He remains a solid Top 20 OF, with Top 15 OF upside the rest of the way (as we ranked him in our June ranks).
AJ Griffin (SP - OAK): We spent a little bit of Sunday's SiriusXM show dedicated to discussing the recent SP call-ups (Cashner, Bauer, and AJ Griffin). While Bauer and Cashner have all the prospect hype behind them, the one I was most eager to discuss was AJ Griffin. When Griffin was promoted a few weeks back I have to admit I hadn't even heard of the A's prospect. I looked up Griffin's minor league #'s quickly and became intrigued by the solid combination of strong control (1.7 BB/9), strikeouts (8.7 K/9), and keeping the ball in the park (0.7 HR/9) that he posted in 281 career minor league innings. I've watched parts of Griffin's first two outings at the big league level and while his stuff (89.7 mph FB) certainly doesn't jump off the pitch, he's demonstrated strong "pitchability". He mixes in a hammer curveball along with a slider and change and is willing to throw them at any time. A 51% GB Rate through the first two outings is encouraging and suggests he could succeed even without elite strikeout rates (18.2% K%, 6.6% swinging strike rate). He'll benefit from pitching home games in a friendly environment which should also help support the ratio production. While the upside may be limited to a back-end rotation starter, I think Griffin is a nice add candidate for those looking for SP depth in 12 team leagues and deeper. The stuff won't blow hitters away but if he stays stingy with the BB's and keeps the ball on the ground he should be able to post a sub-4 ERA in Oakland with a sub-1.30 WHIP.
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