Jeff Francoeur (OF - KC): I'm still waiting for the prolonged strikeout prone slump that obliterates the hot start from Jeff Francoeur but he keeps staving it off. Looking at Francoeur's peripherals the only significant improvement that stands out is in his ISO, which has jumped from a career .162 to an outlandish .286. It's not surprising to see some jump in Francoeur's power as he's entered his age 27 season, but that type of jump looks out of character. If we dig deeper we see that Francoeur has been more selective as his chase rate has dropped 4% and his swing rate has dropped a whopping 9% down to 61%. Meanwhile his contact rate has improved to over 82%. On the surface it looks as if Francoeur has made adjustments to find his pitch to drive and is driving it with more authority early on. However you look deeper and you see his outside-zone contact rate has actually increased to over 75%, suggesting he's still making plenty of contact on the tougher pitches to drive. His HR/FB Rate of over 21% (career 10.3%) certainly suggests he's had some good fortune with balls leaving the yard and coupled with a drop in his FB Rate this season (36%, career 39%), the big spike in power seems especially unusual. The statistical picture is a bit muddied when looking at the peripherals but overall I see more reason to suggest the start is a bit more fluke than real. He's certainly worth riding while hot, but as a long-term asset I'm still very skeptical. I'd expect he finishes with something close to a .275 average with 20-25 HR's and 75 Runs and 85 RBI's. It's worthy of mixed league consideration as a back-end OF, but if I owned Francoeur I'd certainly be trying to sell high.
Grady Sizemore (OF - CLE): It's been a pretty fun ride for Sizemore owners since his return from the DL. On Sunday he launched his 5th HR of the season in a 3-5 effort that included another 2B as well. He now has 15 XBH's in just 73 AB's, good for an ISO well over the .300. Although Sizemore's still just 28 (going on 29) and it's reasonable to assume some power growth in his skill-set, it's unlikely that the career .206 ISO will be able to hold above .300. Couple the seemingly unsustainable power rates with some poor plate discipline (just a 5.4% BB Rate, a 28% chase rate, and just 74% contact rate and there's a budding case for Sizemore being a sell high candidate. I'll also note while Sizemore has historically derived a lot of value from his legs, he's yet to successfully steal a base (just 1 attempt). Sizemore's going to be a very valuable OF for the rest of the year, but couple the high K Rate with a littered injury history and owners may be able to move Sizemore for an equal caliber talent in return with much less risk. For example, could you move Sizemore for teammate Shin Soo Choo? If so, I'd suggest moving forward. As a Sizemore owner myself, I'm going to start floating some high-reaching offers out there. If I can capitalize and spread the risk thinner, all the better; worst case scenario I keep a likely Top 20 OF the rest of the way.
Adrian Beltre (3B - TEX): I mentioned on this week's podcast that I thought Adrian Beltre was a tremendous buy-low candidate and since I haven't touched on him in a few weeks I figured I'd take the opportunity to put into writing the reasons why I feel Beltre is such a great candidate. Beltre's cut his chase rate back down to 32% (36,39 prev 2 years) and his contact rate is up to 88% (a career high). Despite the more contact-oriented approach he hasn't forfeited any power (.215 ISO nearly in line with last yr's big power year). The big power has been supported by a 47% FB Rate (career high) which is a good approach for playing in Texas. More FB's has impacted his batting average some, but that should be offset by the improved contact rate. It hasn't yet because of a .214 BABIP. This will regress back towards his career .292 BABIP and we'll see the batting average get back up into a palatable range. He's already performing well in the counting categories (20-7-26) which figures to only improve once his luck turns on balls in play. With 3B becoming a tough position for fantasy owners to find solutions, Beltre is a premium 3B potentially trading at a slight discount. Act now.
Kyle Farnsworth (RP - TB): As a life-long Cubs fan my mind has a hard time processing Kyle Farnsworth as a reliable end-game relief option that relies heavily on pitching to contact. It's like someone telling you Dennis Rodman had joined the monastery. But that's been the case with Farnsworth. He's yet to walk a batter this season, continuing the big improvements he made in his control last season and he's completely reformed his approach; using a recently developed cutter nearly 35% of the time. The cutter appears to be helping Farnsworth generate more ground balls as his GB Rate has jumped to a whopping 62%. While the K Rate has fallen to just over 4 K/9, a 62% GB Rate with TB's very good infield defense can work just as well. The whole approach is so different and the results are so wildly different than Farnsworth's track record that I wonder if we're seeing some unusual indicators as a result of the extremely small sample (less than 11 IP). Regardless Farnsworth's locked into the closer's role and pitching quite effectively. Whether he'll continue to do it with GB's or revert to his power-pitching strikeout ways, he looks like good enough to hold the job all year long.
Danny Valencia (3B - MIN): It's been a slow start to Valencia's season but you wouldn't know it if you watched him on Sunday. Valencia went 2-4 with a HR and 3 RBIs and raised his 2011 line to .230/.304/.363. Interestingly enough Valencia's indicators have actually shown vast improvement over his strong debut last season, which was largely fueled by good fortune. This season he's improved his BB Rate, approaching 10%, and cut his K Rate down below 13%, while keeping the ISO in roughly the same range as last season. In addition he's upped his LD Rate to over 23%, but has just a .237 BABIP to show for it. Valencia's not a star, but he's deserved much better than the early season struggles suggest. Those in AL Only leagues should float an offer out there to a Valencia owner and see if you can get him on the cheap.