Jurickson Profar (2B - TEX): With the Rangers placing Ian Kinsler on the DL they've promoted top prospect Jurickson Profar to hopefully take his place in the lineup. I say hopefully because Profar didn't draw the start on Sunday night and Ron Washignton has had a questionable history of playing recently promoted prospects (once already with Profar and another time with Mike Olt). Profar hasn't put up eye-popping numbers at AAA this year (.278/.370/.438) but a 0.88 EYE buoyed by a 12.7% BB Rate demonstrates and advanced approach and some of the totals are being limited by a lower ISO than the last few years. I, personally, think Profar is ready to make an impact with his bat and his glove at the big league level and the big question is where will playing time come from. Short-term we have an opportunity here with Kinsler, but long-term with the Rangers getting production out of 1B (Moreland), 2B (Kinsler), SS (Andrus), 3B (Beltre), and DH (Berkman) there isn't an ideal landing spot for Profar's bat. The Rangers would like to have the flexibility to move Kinsler to LF and replace a struggling David Murphy, but Kinsler has been resistant to a change. As a result, Jurickson is likely to have short-term value and how much will be determined by Ron Washington's willingness to play him, but for the rest of this season his fantasy value remains murky. In all leagues he's worthy of a pickup as sometimes playing time presents itself in mysterious ways, but owners should be careful to assume Profar is a long-term solution to a weak spot on your roster.
Yoenis Cespedes (OF - OAK): It's been a strange start to the season for Cespedes whose 2-4 effort that included the game-winning HR pushed his 2013 line to .208/.269/.442. Cespedes is still showing the immense raw power that helped him hit 23 HR's in just 129 games last year as he's posted a .233 ISO and he's actually tightened his strike zone considerably (30.4% chase rate), but his batting average has remained low due to a paltry .202 BABIP. It would be easy to write that off as bad luck but Cespedes has posted a miniscule 13.6% LD Rate and almost 20% of his fly-balls have been of the infield variety. His expected BABIP is closer to .260 which suggests he's due for some regression but nothing that would drive his batting average close to the .292 mark last season. I'm writing most of it off to Cespedes missing time early in the season and his timing being off as a result. He's posted a 20.8% LD Rate here in May, which is in-line with his performance last year. I actually think Cespedes is a pretty nice buy-low candidate as a result of the poor batting average and the time missed early in the season, even if the current peripherals suggest his poor performance is earned for the most part.
Paul Konerko (1B - CHW): I'm trying to remain patient with Paul Konerko who I had ranked as a Top 15 1B coming into the season but admittedly it's getting more difficult by the day. Konerko took another 0-4 on Sunday to drop down to .224/.280/.340 on the season. The entire White Sox offense has been a disaster, but at 37 there are understandable concerns about whether Konerko is going through a steeper age-related decline. I threw out most of last year's 2nd half because Konerko had a wrist injury he played through that required offseason surgery. This year Konerko has seen his chase rate rise modestly (30.3%) and his contact rate drop to 80%. He's swinging a bit more often (45%) which could be the result of deteriorating bat speed as I've speculated with other aging sluggers in the past. Still, Konerko has posted strong batted ball data. He's recorded a 25% LD Rate and 46.6% FB Rate. His 7.4% HR/FB Rate is half of what he put up last year and half of his career average. The 25% LD Rate should result in something significantly greater than the current .250 BABIP. It's very likely that the days of Konerko hitting 30 HR's and driving in 100 are gone, but his current peripherals still feel like a .285-60-25-80 are within reach. I still see Adam LaRoche type value out of Konerko which would likely put Konerko towards the teens of your 1B rankings. I continue to preach patience with Konerko owners at least until we see the strong LD and FB Rates flow through to the BABIP and HR/FB Rates.
John Lackey (SP - BOS): Lackey worked 6 very efficient one-hit/shutout innings against the Twins on Sunday before the game experienced an extended rain delay and Lackey was removed. Lackey's posted impressive peripherals so far this season. He's induced a 49% GB Rate to go with a 8.82 K/9 and 2.20 BB/9. Add it all up and you have a 3.09 FIP and 3.22 xFIP which supports his current 3.31 ERA. These numbers are strikingly similar to some of Lackey's peak years and much of it appears to be driven by an increase in his slider usage which is generating more GB's than ever before. I'm a bit hesitant to fully buy-in to Lackey's improvements which suggest he's a sub-3.50 ERA pitcher going forward, but I am ready to suggest he's a back-end starter in all formats. Even if the K Rates slow down, which I think they will based on just average swinging strike rates, the strong command with the improved GB Rates should play well. He should be owned in all formats as a spot starter.
Matt Moore (SP - TB): For the second consecutive start Matt Moore pounded the strike zone, something that will be integral to his success going forward. Moore threw 64 of his 106 pitches for strikes and walked just 1, while limiting the Orioles to 1 ER on 5 hits over 7 innings of work. Moore has a history of difficult peripherals in the first two months of the season before turning things on in the summer. If you look at his career FIP by month you'll see the following: March/April - 4.25, May - 5.02, June - 4.05, July - 3.32, August - 2.69, September/October - 3.86. A big part of that is Moore tends to improve his command as the season goes on (4.57 BB/9 - 1st half, 3.52 BB/9 - 2nd half) and with consecutive starts with 2 BB's or less perhaps we're seeing the beginning of it now. It's one of the reasons I'm not as concerned about the big gap between Matt Moore's peripherals and his performance to start the season. Many will point to the 4.19 FIP and 4.25 xFIP as indicators that Moore's 2.29 ERA is sure to rise, and it probably will, but I think the severity of the regression will be mitigated by the likelihood his peripherals improve as the season progresses. Ultimately I think the ERA settles into the low-to-mid 3's with a K/9 above 9 and a league average WHIP. He remains a Top 25 SP in my opinion because of the elite K Rate.