David Murphy (OF - TEX): There might not be a more disappointing pickup that I make all season than David Murphy. As most know, prior to Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton going down I had touted Murphy as a potential 20-20 candidate with full playing time and someone to immediately grab when the eventual injury popped up for Cruz or Hamilton. When Hamilton's injury broke I grabbed Murphy in almost all my leagues and since then (April 12th), Murphy has "rewarded" my faith by hitting .228/.305/.298. Perhaps the most frustrating part of Murphy's extended slump has been that his skills have all been in-line with previous years. His BB Rate is up modestly, his K Rate is down modestly, he's chase rate is modestly higher (just 2%) and his LD Rate is down modestly (19.1% vs. 17.6%). The one area where Murphy is showing significant difference is in his power rates. Murphy posted a .158 ISO last season and for his career has posted a .171 ISO, but this year he's down to just .092 and it's largely due to a huge rise in his GB Rate (44% to 56%). As we've talked about before it's nearly impossible to hit ground balls for extra base hits and with the increased GB Rate we've seen Murphy's power rates dwindle as well. Some will say Murphy has been exposed as a part-time player but he got full-time in June and August last season and posted OPS of .746 and .942 respectively. His struggles appear to be mechanical given the high GB Rate, but with Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz both nearing a return owners have to wonder how much time Murphy will get in the lineup to work through these issues. In 10 team leagues he's droppable for those looking to hotter alternatives. I still believe in Murphy's skill-set, but this marks the 4th consecutive year of his ISO dropping. In deep leagues I'm still holding as I think he might hold playing time in CF with Borbon still injured, but in 10 and even 12 team leagues owners can rotate away from the ice cold Murphy.
Jed Lowrie (SS - BOS): Back in April when I was raving about Lowrie as a potential Top 10 SS the rest of the way I was enamored with his strong plate discipline and improving power. The strong peripherals he posted in limited time last year had continued early on this season and largely been consistent with Lowrie's strong minor league career. Since the calendar turned to May though Lowrie's peripherals have deteriorated. He's striking out in over 27% of his AB's and his slugging % has shrunk below .380. The swing data backs up a lot of the issues Lowrie's been having. He's chasing more pitches outside the zone and his contact rate has fallen back down to 82%. While the peripherals back up the ugliness in the recent performance, I still remain confident in Lowrie going forward. He's had an extended track record of success at the minor league level and even with the recent slump has posted a tremendous .297/.366/.507 line over his last 336 PA's. The slump has me looking at Lowrie a bit closer and certainly has me concerned, but I'm sticking with the talent and believe he'll get a meaningful boost with respect to fantasy value thanks to his home park and supporting cast. The one split I'll point out that is concerning surrounding Lowrie is much of his production as a major leaguer has come against LHP. For his career Lowrie has posted just a .659 OPS against RHP while posting a .997 OPS against LHP. With just 1 LHP scheduled to start against the Red Sox in the next 12 games, Lowrie owners may want to pick their spots in the short-term while he's slumping. Lowrie's 2-5 effort last night came with 4 AB's against LHP.
Delmon Young (OF - MIN): Young has been horrendous since his return from the DL, going 3-22 with 10 K's in his first 6 games back. The ugly slump paired with a small sample size due to injury has turned Young's peripherals around in a quick manner. His K Rate is now up over 24% and his ISO is a minuscule .038. Despite the recent slump and the corresponding horrific indicators, I'm somewhat optimistic Young will eventually get things together. He's chasing fewer pitches outside the zone and while his contact rate has tumbled of late, it was pretty good prior to the DL stint. While I do believe Young's skills will rebound the bigger concern for Young is how dependent his production was last season on the rest of the Twins lineup. With 21 HR's, 5 SB's, and just a .333 OBP, almost all of Young's value was derived from his 112 RBI's. With Joe Mauer sidelined, and Justin Morneau slumping early in the season, the Twins lineup has been remarkably thin, posting a team OBP of just .294. Even if Young is able to get back to the power production of last season, he'll see far fewer opportunities to drive in runs and positively impact his value. The fact that I'm not concerned with Young's ability to bounce back, doesn't mean his fantasy value will bounce back. The fewer RBI opportunities will limit Young's upside to that of a .285-20-75 type player. I'm not outright selling Young for cents on the dollar, but I am concerned in leagues that I own him. I'm reserving until I see improvement in the contact rates and improvement in the Twins lineup and would be willing to trade Young if a decent offer came by.
Frank Francisco (RP - TOR): Francisco was roughed up on Friday night allowing 2 hits, a BB, and 3 ER's (2 courtesy of a Chris Johnson HR) while only recording 1 out in the 9th inning of a tie game. It marked the 4th time in the last 8 outings Francisco had allowed a run as BB's and HR's continue to undo him. Francisco's walking over 5 batters per 9 and his high FB tendencies are being exaggerated by a tough home park for FB pitchers. Francisco entered Friday's contest with a HR/FB Rate above 25%, a rate that will go up a bit after allowing another HR on a fly ball. Over time that number will regress and the HR pace will diminish, but the bigger issue is the continued free-passes Francisco allows. Early on he's throwing less pitches in the strike zone, getting fewer chases, and generating fewer swinging strikes overall. Batters are waiting him out and making him throw strikes and he's paying for it. With a career BB Rate above 4 and a career FB Rate above 45%, Francisco's skill-set doesn't mesh well with his home park. He certainly has a better skill-set than Jon Rauch to be a closer, but its not an elite skill-set overall. As a result we may see some continued turnover between the two in the closer's role and the party may even expand to include Jason Frasor at some point. I still think Francisco is the guy to own here, but it's going to be a wild ride in Toronto all season long. FWIW Jon Rauch also registered a blown save in the 8th inning of Friday night's game.
Erik Bedard (SP - SEA): It was a good night for the two man bandwagon that Joseph Hettler and I have created for Erik Bedard. Bedard absolutely dominated the Padres in PETCO allowing just 3 hits and 2 BB's over 8 shutout innings. He needed just 92 pitches (64 for strikes) to get through the 8 innings and did so with 9 strikeouts. Over Bedard's last 4 starts he's now posted a 24:6 K:BB Ratio in 27 IP, posting a 1.33 ERA and 0.78 WHIP during that span. The outings have largely been in friendly pitching environments (@DET, 2 in SEA, @SD) which has helped limit Bedard's biggest issue this season, the HR Ball; but considering he should pitch half his games in SAFECO this year we'd expect some help on limiting the long-ball. The bigger issue for Bedard will be keeping his own damage, through the walks, to a minimum. With just 6 BB's in his last 27 IP, the command is starting to trend back in line with his days in Baltimore. I'm still not at the point where I'd call Bedard anything more than a matchups play with upside, but he should be owned in all formats. He'll get another favorable matchup next week @MIN in which he should be safely deployed.