David Wright (3B - NYM): The news flow on David Wright has been steadily positive this week as we heard early in the week that he was cleared to resume baseball activities and on Wednesday the Mets provided a timetable for Wright's rehab schedule. He's aiming to get back into games by the middle of next week, which would allow him to rehab through the weekend prior to the all-star break and return shortly thereafter. Since news of Wright's injury first broke I've been perhaps overly pessimistic in his potential return date as I've lacked confidence in the Mets training staff to accurately diagnose and treat a potentially serious injury. At this point though it looks like they have things under control. What to expect when Wright returns? Well so far this season we've seen Wright's contact rate maintain the drop down it took last year, which in-turn has pushed Wright's K Rate near 30%. A career .302 hitter, Wright's contact woes the last two years have made it so that he'll have a hard time approaching .280. In addition the contact issues, Wright's power hasn't been the same, largely because he's been hitting too many balls on the ground. It's possible the elevated ground ball rate, and power outage in total, are a result of Wright's back injury, but we saw Wright's Slugging % drop from .532 to .466 in the 2nd half last year. It's certainly possible Wright regains his 2006-2008 form, but the indicators over the last three years have taken steps backwards. As Wright has entered his peak years, his power has declined and his contact skills have eroded. With 3B so thin, owners probably will ride it out with Wright and hope for the best, but I remain pessimistic he returns to his elite form and I worry about potential injury recurrence issues.
Jason Heyward (OF - ATL): Heyward has hit .264/.350/.358 in his 53 AB's since returning from the DL, posting a 11.7% BB Rate, 24.5% K Rate, and .094 ISO. The numbers are down a bit from Heyward's overall performance this season, which is down from what many expected to be a breakout sophomore season. The problem once again with Heyward has been health. Heyward missed 20 games last season and played through much of the season hurt and this year he's had a similar 1st half. From a skills perspective, Heyward's taken a step backwards in his 2nd season. His contact rate is down 4% and he's chasing 4% more pitches outside the zone, while swinging at a whopping 67% of pitches in total. His K Rate hasn't risen but he's working from behind more often and making weaker contact overall. His LD Rate is down from 17.8% to 13.7% and he's hitting more ground balls than last year (over 56%). The current skill-set doesn't translate to an elite hitter but given Heyward's obvious tools, I'm willing to take a shot buying low. He may not be a top tier OF, but he's got that kind of upside if things can come together. It's a speculative play but if you can nab Heyward at the price of a Top 40 OF, instead of a Top 20 OF, now may be a smart time to try to acquire Heyward. He hasn't reported any pain or set-backs since returning and originally planned on returning only once he got back to 100%. As a result, I'm willing to take a chance on a talented under-performer in Heyward if I can get him at a deep discount.
Casey McGehee (3B - MIL): If only 3B wasn't so shallow. I was one of the first to note reasons for concern back in early April with McGehee's statistical profile (unfortunately I put it together soon after drafting him in a number of leagues). I noted McGehee's dipped ISO last season and how much of the strength in the ISO was derived from one month, indicating that perhaps we were starting to see the clock strike midnight on McGehee's Cinderella MLB story. He never posted a minor league slugging % above .429 and then topped .460 in two big league seasons. Unfortunately while I was on the potential risks early, I've been slow to cut bait. 3B has been so thin this year that any potential bounceback from McGehee while hitting 5th in the Brewers lineup would be enough to warrant attention. In most leagues I've been able to find a caddy for McGehee in some of the recent call-ups, and in leagues where I was able to get Sandoval or Zimmermann back, I ended up cutting bait. I'm not really high on McGehee's prospects for the rest of the season as his LD Rate and ISO continue to decline, but I'm not ready to fully trust recent call-ups like Mike Moustakas, Lonnie Chisenhall, etc as my only 3B option. I've been left somehwat in limbo with McGehee and while I've had a hard time cutting bait, I understand owners moving on. The power he demonstrated in 2009 isn't coming back and any bounceback will likely be modest. Joe Ribando suggested moving back at the beginning of June (unless absolutely desperate) and I'm now ready to echo those sentiments.
Geovany Soto (C - CHC): The power is starting to come in bunches for Geovany Soto. Soto ended the Cubs-Giants series with a walkoff pinch-hi 3-run HR in the bottom of the 13 inning. He's now collected 5 XBH's in his last 5 games and finished the month of June with 10 XBH's in just 81 AB's. This is coming off a DL shortened May in which Soto racked up 6 XBH's in just 29 AB's. Soto's still struggling with strikeouts, but there's even some small signs of hope there as he's struck out just twice in his last 16 AB's. Soto's BB Rate, K Rate, and ISO are all close to in-line with his breakout 2008 campaign, but a .259 BABIP and some poor performance with RISP (.204/.350/.306) has left Soto's fantasy owners wanting more. As the BABIP regresses, I'd expect Soto's average to work itself into the .250's and with a bit better performance w/RISP we'll see the RBI #'s start to climb as well. Soto remains a strong buy-low candidate as a Top 10 catching option.
Wandy Rodriguez (SP - HOU): I really wish I had been able to see the Rangers Thursday lineup on Monday when I was setting my lineups. With the Rangers resting Nelson Cruz and instead starting David Murphy (who can't hit LH's), Wandy Rodriguez's matchup went from unfavorable to intriguing and sure enough he capitalized on it. Wandy shutout the Rangers over 7 innings, allowing just 4 hits and 3 BB's, while stirking out 4. He relied heavily on the GB getting 12 ground outs and 3 double plays in his 7 innings, while improving his record to 6-4 on the season and lowering his ERA to a tidy 2.97. Wandy seems perpetually underrated because of the team he plays for and his relative inconsistency (within seasons), but he's working on his 4th straight season with an ERA under 3.60 and his 4th straight season with an xFIP between 3.48-3.75. Year-to-year he's been remarkably consistent with skills, but the perception is he's inconsistent because of home/road splits and a horrific 1st half last year. While the inconsistency isn't a reason for concern, there are some reasons to consider selling high on Wandy after the 7 shutout innings. Wandy's K Rate has dropped from 8.22 K/9 to under 7.35 K/9 as hitters have increased their contact rates by 3 percentage points against Wandy, up to 84%. In addition Wandy entered Thursday's start with an 85% LOB% that is 14 percentage points above his career average and suppressing his ERA by more than half a run. Wandy's still very solid, but at 32 there's some small signs of deterioration that suggest he's more likely to be a #3 starter going forward than a #2. If you can find an owner that's valuing him as a Top 20 SP the rest of the way, there may be an opportunity to sell high.