Kyle McClellan (SP - STL): The magic of Dave Duncan is about the only explanation I can have for the success of converted reliever Kyle McClellan. McClellan posted his 6th quality start in 9 tries on Thursday afternoon, limiting the Astros to just 2 ER's on 5 Hits over 8 innings. He struck out 5 and didn't walk a batter, marking the first time McClellan had struck out more than 3 batters in a game since April 11th. Despite middling K and BB indicators (4.17 K/9, 3.26 BB/9 prior to yesterday's outing), McClellan has survived thanks to a heavy dose of ground balls and perhaps an even heavier dose of good luck. McClellan's 51% GB Rate is elite and warrants mentioning that it's improving in May (up to 56%), but his 81.5% LOB% and .273 BABIP aren't sustainable. McClellan's current FIP sits at 4.77 and his xFIP stands at 4.35, while his ERA sits at a tidy 3.45. As a ground-ball oriented pitcher that pitches heavily to contact, McClellan's performance is heavily impacted by fortune and so far it's been quite good. When things even out over time, he'll regress towards a high 3's, low 4's ERA with a WHIP in the mid 1.3's. There will be value in NL Only leagues, but in mixed leagues the league average ratios coupled with below average K Rates make McClellan an unattractive fantasy commodity. With a 6-1 record and a 3.45 ERA McClellan is a prime candidate to sell high on as all the indicators suggest he's out-pitching his skill-set.
Adam LaRoche (1B - WAS): LaRoche owners are used to a slow start to the season, but after going 0-4 on Thursday, his line dropped to an appaling .172/.284/.262. For his career LaRoche has posted a .761 1st half OPS and .889 2nd half OPS and has a sub-.745 OPS for the first two months of the season. Looking at the indicators LaRoche's slower start than usual is actually coupled with better indicators than usual. LaRoche has improved his plate discipline cutting his chase rate down to just 20.7% and improving his contact rate to over 78%. Both are above his career averages and have resulted in a BB Rate well above his career average, pushing 14%. In addition to the improvements in plate discipline, LaRoche has maintained a strong LD Rate, nearly 19%. The big issue with LaRoche appears to be an increased outside zone contact rate that has jumped above 60% (career 52%). As he's making more contact outside the strike zone, its sapped his power and is largely responsible for his sub-.100 ISO. Given the historical slow starts for LaRoche and the surprisingly solid indicators, I'm willing to give LaRoche a pass. In NL Only leagues, I think he's a strong buy-low candidate, while those in mixed formats may be able to simply add LaRoche off the wire. He typically gets going in late June and I'd expect that to be the case again this year. Stay patient if you're a LaRoche owner.
Jair Jurrjens (SP - ATL): Jurrjens made it 7-7 in QS to start the season, limiting the Diamondbacks to just 2 ER's depsite allowing 9 base-runners in 6 2/3 innings. It's been a pretty consistent trend for Jurrjens who has now allowed 7 or more base-runners in 5 of those 7 starts, yet hasn't allowed more than 2 ER's in any of them. As you can imagine his LOB% has been unsustainably high early on (80+%) and as a result Jurrjens' ERA is about a full run lower than it should be, just based on Strand Rates alone. Dive deeper into Jurrjens' BABIP allowed, entered the game at .263 (career .282) and you see some further room for regression. Now Jurrjens has made big strides in his command (1.45 BB/9) and his GB Rate (49.6%) thanks to increased usage of his 2-seam fastball. Considering he's throwing more pitches outside the zone (43% in the zone this yr, career 50%) than ever before I question whether he'll be able to maintain the BB Rate, which throughout his major league career has been extremely consistent (3.23, 3.35, 3.14, 3.25). If the command fades, the WHIP will continue to trend back to the mid 1.2's we're accustomed to seeing while the ERA will trend back into the mid 3's. Jurrjens is still a very wortwhile fantasy starter because of his great contributions in the ratio categories and his high QS%, but his low K Rate (sub-6.00 K/9) provides a ceiling of a mid-rotation fantasy starter. With a 1.80 ERA and 1.00 WHIP through his first 7 starts his vaue may not be higher. I continue to recommend Jurrjens as a sell high candidate even with another favorable start (@PIT) on the docket next week. As someone who is heavily invested in Jurrjens, I'm not rushing out to sell him, but I am floating out offers for higher K pitchers who have had some bad luck early on. Guys like Matt Garza, Brandon Morrow, etc are targets for me.
Josh Collmenter (SP - ARZ): Thursday night was my first extended look at Josh Collmenter and I was impressed with what I saw. There's a little bit of Chris R. Young in Collmenter's delivery that makes it tough for hitters to see and his change-up has tremendous fade and comes from an unusual arm-angle. He hasn't generated many K's early on in his rookie campaign but he has limited solid contact and kept balls on the ground (15% LD Rate, 55% GB Rate). This trend continued on Thursday night as Collmenter got 11 of his 18 outs in the infield (unusually 5 of those were infield foul outs). He needed just 76 pitches to get through 6 innings, throwing 57 of those pitches for strikes and not walking a batter. He's now posted a 15:1 K:BB Ratio in 30 big league innings. While the lack of a big K Rate will eventually catch up to him, he has a chance to succeed as a matchups option with the great command and GB Rates. While I liked what I saw on Thursday night, I can't say I'm diving in head first. At the minors, Collmenter posted a 3.0 BB/9 rate and surrendered 1.5 HR/9, suggesting the exceptional command and GB Rates early on might not be sustainable. In the short-term while teams haven't seen him I'd consider taking advantage as his unusual delivery seems to have hitters off-balanced, but over time I have to think those minor league numbers are worthwhile warning signs. He'll get a start in Coors his next time out against a Rockies team that did see him for 2 (clean) innings earlier this month. I'd be hesitant to use him in that outing even though I'm short-term optimistic on Collmenter overall.
Mike Stanton (OF - FLA): I noted on twitter last year that I wished I could place a bet on Mike Stanton to break the HR record and wondered what kind of odds I'd get. The comment was meant to show just how much confidence I have in Stanton as a prospect and the fact I can't remember seeing a power prospect quite like him. After a slow start to the season, Stanton's gotten things going in May. He knocked out his 6th HR of the month on Thursday night and has hit safely in 14 of 17 games, posting a .290/.343/.645 line in May, while also cutting his K Rate down to 24%. For the season he's improved his ISO, his BB Rate and his K Rate, while cutting his chase rate to 29%. He still has contact issues and always will, but his immense power potential will overwhelm the issues in the batting average department. He's on pace for a 90-35-95 season at age 21 and has already racked up 31 major league HR's in just 139 games. He's a monster.