Wandy Rodriguez SP-HOU:
I think it’s safe to say the light-bulb is officially on. It seems like Andrew and I have been alternating opportunities to praise Wandy and let you all know that this finally appeared to be the season he was going to put it all together. After watching Wandy dominate during a day game at Coors Field, I think it’s safe to say at age 30 the light-bulb has finally come on for the LH and he’s gone from an elite spot starting pitcher while at home to just an elite pitcher overall. Rodriguez struck out 11 over 7 innings, allowing just 5 hits, 2 earned runs and not walking a batter to pick up his 4th win of the season. The boatload of K’s brought his K Rate back up to .92, nearly matching the .96 of last season and the zero BB performance lowered his BB Rate to .29 which would continue the 4th consecutive season of improvement in that area, but the biggest news is Wandy’s improving GB Rate. After a few years in the low 40%’s, Wandy’s gotten his GB Rate back into the mid 40%’s and its showing in his results as his HR/9 has dropped from 1.3, 1.1, 1.1, 0.9, to 0 here in 2009. Sure he’s had some good luck early in the season noted by his .271 BABIP against, 0.81 Strand Rate, and 0.0 HR/FB Rate, but his continued improvement in his already very good peripherals and his early season ability to dominate on the road as well as at home suggest this IS the year for Wandy.
Garrett Atkins 3B-COL:
Back in the spring, Mike Leone touched on Atkins declining power rates and evaporating EYE as reasons for concern surrounding Atkins heading into 2009. Five plus weeks into the season and we’re seeing some of those trends continue. While Atkins has seen his plate discipline recover some (.71 is back in line with 2007, but short of 2006’s 1.01), the power continues to fall precipitously. Atkins is seeing a big rise in his GB Rate (47% from 37%) and a similarly significant drop in his extra base hit rate (7.1% from 9.2%) and this comes on the heels of some erosion in these peripherals in 2008. Now Atkins is typically a slow starter who heats up in the summer months, so I’m not ready to say he’s “done” (like I did with Big Papi), but I’m starting to think a line closer to his 2005 line is in the forecast for Atkins .287/.347/.426; a line that didn’t include much power (13 HR’s in 138 games) and just 62 Runs and 89 RBI’s. He’s not going to be a front-line 3B this year and has suddenly become droppable in shallow 8 and 10 team formats. To get a read on value he’s likely closer to Adrian Beltre, Hank Blalock, and Mark DeRosa than he is to the group he was drafted around: Ryan Zimmerman, Chipper Jones, and Aubrey Huff.
Russell Martin C-LAD:
Martin is LOCKED IN right now as another 3-4 effort with a SB brought his May line to .472/.604/.528. That isn’t a typo as his .604 OBP in May is buoyed by a ridiculous 12:3 BB:K Ratio in his first 12 games. While Martin owners can take solace in the ridiculous hot streak that has brought his batting average and EYE back in line, I’m still concerned about the longer-term picture. Martin’s GB Rate is at a career high 53.5% and it’s had a direct impact on his power rates. His slugging is down to a measly .342 thanks to a Juan Pierre-esque 5.3% extra base hit rate. This matches a longer trend for Martin of declining power. His extra base hit rates since making his debut in 2006 have been: 9.6%, 10%, 6.9%, 5.3%. At 26, Martin should be entering his peak age in terms of power, but the rising GB Rate and declining extra base hit rate, suggest just the opposite. If Martin can’t hit for power, he’s going to be extremely SB and Run dependent in his production and he’ll have an extremely hard time living up to his draft position.
Dave Bush SP-MIL:
Just as I’m ready to write Dave Bush off, he gets red hot. I had touched on Bush after his near no-hit bid against the Phillies in late April citing the erosion in his K Rate last season and his continued struggles with men on base as reasons to be leery of Bush’s seemingly always enticing peripherals. But 4 starts later, Bush has gone on a run and brought his K Rate back in line with his 2006 and 2007 seasons when he teased with great peripherals and even more importantly, Bush is showing improvement with runners on base allowing just .546 OPS against this year with men on. Both of these are noteworthy as Bush had always had great peripherals before but always battled higher than expected ERA’s because of a huge discrepancy in his ability to pitch out of the stretch. If that problem is corrected, and early on this season it has been, Bush can be a productive back-end starter in mixed formats. He is benefiting from some good luck in his BHIP% allowed early on this season (.217) that is driving his WHIP down by at least a tenth of a point, but even if this regresses Bush has a chance to post a high 3’s ERA, low 1.20’s WHIP with 140-150 K’s on the season. Unfortunately, it looks like I was a bit too harsh on Bush a few weeks back, he’s suddenly regained pretty significant fantasy value.
Mat Gamel 3B-MIL:
The big news from a prospect standpoint on Thursday was Mat Gamel’s promotion to the big leagues. Gamel’s a monstrous hitting DH playing 3B, as evidenced by his .336/.428/.647 line at AAA that also included 8 errors in his first 33 games. Gamel’s promotion is really for the upcoming interleague games next week where he’ll act as the Brewers primary DH, but he’ll get his feet wet in a pinch hitting role and an occasional start over the next week leading up to those games. Gamel is an outstanding prospect from a fantasy perspective, where we don’t care about defense, but Ken Macha and the Brewers appear committed to keeping Bill Hall at 3B right now and it’s going to take a monstrous effort in Gamel’s first few opportunities to change their mind. In dynastic formats and deep keeper leagues he’s a must add, but in most traditional formats he won’t earn enough playing time immediately (and risks being sent down after interleague play) to immediately consider.