Zack Cozart (SS) CIN - Cozart singled and walked Monday, giving him a 6-game hitting streak and a very surprising 351/440/588 line through his first 116 PAs. We've crossed the threshold where most of the underlying data becomes statistically significant at this point, so how is a 31 year old SS getting this done? Some of it is bound to be luck-based.....as I mentioned a few weeks back, Cozart has had extremely low BABIPs for basically his entire career, but suddenly this season he's at .425 with a LD rate of 21.3%. Unsustainable, simply. However, let's not dismiss what Cozart IS doing. For the past four season, he's been cutting down the GB rate, hitting for harder contact virtually every season, and over the last two years he has cut his chase rate significantly (31.4% to 23.5%). The sum total here is that the batting average SHOULD be increasing somewhat (Cozart has always been an excellent contact hitter), and the power SHOULD be increasing by an even greater amount. This isn't to say that we suddenly have a .300/25 guy on our hands, but the adjustments that he has made, in my mind, vault him into top 10 at the position, but it puts him in solid mixed league consideration for sure. He's also priced at just $3500 Tuesday on Draftkings, and his career line vs LHP is 263/303/434. Last year his ISO was well over .200 vs LHP, this year it is over .300.
Alex Wood (SP) LAD - Basically everything is improving for Alex Wood, who struck out 11 Pirates Monday over 5 shutout innings, allowing 2 hits and walking one. The chase rate and swinging strike% are obviously on the move upward, to go along with a sizable velocity jump of 2.6 mph on the fastball. The GB rate is in the midst of its third straight increase of 3.5% or more, coming in at just under 60% currently. The K/GB combo is the most valuable around...right now Wood is offering just about everything but stamina, as he has topped 90 pitches only once. That will put a cap on his ceiling for now, but these gains look too "across the board" to be something that will go away in a few outings. I'm a buyer right now.
Buster Posey (C) SF - Posey doubled and homered against Jacob DeGrom and the Mets Monday, finally bringing his ISO firmly up over the .100 mark for the season. There has been a lot of discussion about Posey and the age decline curve of catchers, but although Posey may have (and I stress "may") had his best season at age 25 in 2012, there isn't really a ton of decline here. The batted ball distance and speed data look fairly constant, but what is noticeable is a higher GB rate last year and early this season. Until this April, which I would term merely a slump since he only hit 2 "barrels" according to Statcast thus far, Posey has been increasing his hard contact rate in each of the past 5 seasons. His contact rate has been generally improving as well. This whole "decline" theory seems to be wrapped around one number: two years of declining HR totals. I wouldn't be surprised to see that number bounce back some this year, as the data really doesn't support it, and if it doesn't I believe that the culprit will be more GB and fewer FB, not a declining ability to hit the ball hard. The general slight improvement of the catching position over the past few years devalues Posey a small amount to be sure, but he is still an elite player at his position, and I expect him to remain so for at least a few years yet.
Aaron Altherr (OF) PHI - Altherr has hit in all 6 games in May, going 9-21 with 3 2Bs and 2 HRs. With only 75 PAs thus far there's a bit of small sample size risk here, but Altherr has cut his chase rate, swing%, and GB rate while boosting his hard contact rate up to 42% and his exit velocity up over 91 mph. The BABIP is definitely inflated, but the LD rate of nearly 27% should keep it fairly high (last year's was very unlucky given his batted ball splits)...I'm intrigued to see what he can do if he continues to play every day, which he should even after Howie Kendrick returns. This is a player that has been slowly but steadily improving since around 2011, and I think that he has the ability to be a better than average OF option at this point.
Trevor Cahill (SP) SD - Cahill continued his excellent start at home, allowing just 1 hit over 5 1/3 shutout innings against Texas Monday to pick up the win. He did walk 5, but also struck out 7, giving him 6 BB and 20 K in 18 1/3 innings at home this year.....and just 1 ER. He hasn't been nearly as effective on the road although he has 24 K in 17 IP there, but the huge gains in chase rate and swinging strike% combined with the 57% GB rate make me think that might be more than just a "start at home" guy. He certainly should at least be that right now: next 4 scheduled starts are @CWS, MIL, @NYM, CHN. I like him for the MIL start next week...the other three I have varying degrees of trepidation for. The White Sox are last in the majors in BB, so I might gamble with him there, but the latter two outings are power and patience type lineups, so I might sit him for those.
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