Kelly Johnson (2B - ARZ): Over the last two weeks Johnson's has done his best to make up for a horrific first six weeks of the season hitting .346/.393/.865 with 13 XBH's (6 HR's) in a 52 AB span. The rather ridiculous surge in power has helped Johnson post 14 Runs and 15 RBI's over the last 13 games, putting up a good months worth of production in a quick 2-week span. "Streakiness" is nothing new to Johnson as he posted 3 months with a Slugging % above .550 and 3 months with a Slugging % below .420 last season. As a result, the extreme hot and cold streaks make it a bit difficult to assess Johnson's value going forward. Earlier in the season I noted Johnson's free-swinging approach that was resulting in more chases outside the zone and less overall contact, predicting this might be a lost season similar to the 2009 season with the Braves. Clearly that isn't the case as Johnson's power remains and despite the contact issues he's now on pace for a 28 HR-23 SB-90 R campaign that while causing problems in the batting average category will be quite productive overall. The good news is with the power still there Johnson, on the whole, should be a productive option at 2B or MI; however, owners should keep a reserve option on-hand to plug in when Johnson's streakiness turns against them. It will be a roller coaster ride with Johnson and ultimately the batting average category will be a challenge, but the production in HR-R-SB should help make up for any of the negative impacts in the batting average category. If you wanted to move Johnson after a hot streak and try to recoup value with a more consistent 2B option, it's an understandable play, but most likely the best bet will be to ride out Johnson and stay on the lookout for alternative options to pair alongside him when things deteriorate. Usually Johnson's K Rate will be a strong indicator. In the early stages of Johnson's big breakout 2 week stretch his K Rate dropped from over 30% to under 15% over an 11 game stretch. Over the last 10 games the K Rate has crept back up to over 30%, indicating a cooling off period is likely on the horizon.
Jordan Zimmermann (SP - WAS): Make it six consecutive quality starts for Jordan Zimmermann as he limited the red-hot Diamondbacks offense to just 1 ER on 6 hits and a walk over 7 strong innings. He struck out 4 as he continues to show adequate K Rates since the end of April and improved his record to 3-6 on the season. Zimmermann continues to get away with his high FB Rate (44%) thanks to some good fortune in his HR/FB Rate (3.6%) as he made it consecutive starts without allowing a HR. The HR's will eventually be an issue and keep his ERA in the mid 3's, but with a great BB Rate (sub-2.0 BB/9) and promising K Rate (8.1 K/9 since end of April) makes him a tremendous mid-rotation fantasy starter, with the upside to be a #2. He was severely underrated coming off a shortened 2010 campaign that marked the end of his recovery from Tommy John surgery and looks very much like the real deal. I think a 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 8.0 K/9 the rest of the way is a fair expectation for Zimmermann, making him a borderline #2 starter in fantasy. He'll face some regression in his HR/FB Rate but that should be offset by his unusually low LOB% and in-total keep his ERA in the mid-3's.
Ubaldo Jimenez (SP - COL): With quality starts in 3 of his last 4 outings and a 22:8 K:BB Ratio in his last 30 IP, Jimenez looks like he's on his way back to form. So why is it that I think this is a better opportunity to sell and recoup value with Ubaldo than to ride it out and enjoy a high-end SP the rest of the way? Well it's pretty simple, the velocity hasn't come back. Even in Wednesday night's shutout where Jimenez did touch 96 mph in the 9th inning, his average fastball velocity was down at 94 mph, basically where it's sat all season. In addition, Jimenez generated just 4 swings and misses out of his 106 pitches. Early in the season when Jimenez was really struggling, his K Rate (as measured per inning) remained relatively high. What was lost in the equation though was the fact that while his K Rate looked fine as measured on a per-inning basis, it had fallen dramatically on a per-batter basis. Last year Jimenez struck out 24% of the batters he faced, this year that number has dropped to 20%, a measure Jimenez hasn't seen since 2008. Taking it a step further and looking at the swinging strike %, Jimenez previous low (in 2008) was 8.9% and has been between 8.9% and 9.8% throughout his entire career. This year his swinging strike % is down to 7.6%. Without the velocity and the ability to miss bats, you're relying on Jimenez's command and hoping his GB Rate rebounds: two skills that haven't been there early on. With a 2-start schedule on-tap and two very favorable matchups (LAD, @SD), I'd float Jimenez out there in trade rumors now and look to trade him immediately after next week's deadline. I still think he can be a solid matchups option, but if you can convince another owner he's back to being an ace, I'd cash in. Without the consistent elite velocity, Jimenez isn't the same guy.
Lance Berkman (OF - STL): After a rather insane April, Berkman came back to life in May, posting a still solid .262/.463/.415 line that included 11 Runs, 3 HR's and 14 RBI's. The month was still a productive one for fantasy owners, but was in a different universe from his .388/.453/.765 April. From a skills perspective Berkman felt the effects of other pitchers approaching him much more carefully. His BB Rate rose above 27% and his K Rate jumped above 21%. With fewer pitches in the zone, he saw his ISO drop from .360 to .154 in May. The .154 ISO is slightly below last year's .166 ISO which might make owners a bit nervous, but I remain confident Berkman can be somewhere in-between the outrageous March/April and the good, but not great, May. Prior to the trade last year to the Yankees, Berkman was on-pace for a 25 HR-90 RBI campaign in a weak Astros lineup. In an improved Cardinals lineup and with a healthy knee, I'd imagine Berkman can up that pace to 30 HR-100 RBI and that's what I'd expect the rest of the way, something along the lines of a .280-50-16-65 for the rest of the season. The big risk, as we've noted many times all spring and in-season, with Berkman will be his health. If he can stay healthy he'll be quite productive, but if owners want to cash in on the strong start to the season and sell high, it would be advisable.
Aubrey Huff (1B/OF - SF): It took Aubrey Huff two days in June to equal the number of HR's he hit in the first two MONTHS of the season. After homering on Wednesday, Huff banged out 3 more HR's on Thursday in a 4-5 effort that included 6 RBI's. It's obviously been a great start to the month for Huff, but is it an indication that he's back? I'm not sure. Heading into yesterday's game Huff's peripherals were way down across the board. He's walking less, striking out 4% more, chasing 8% more pitches outside the zone, and making contact on 2% less of his swings, while his ISO had dropped nearly 80 points. Some of the indicators will improve after the big night, specifically the ISO, but the overall pattern still shows deterioration in skill and continues this unusual trend Huff has had of "on-again, off-again years". While I'm sure a number of fantasy owners are running to the wire to pick Huff back up, I'm not one of them. Even with consecutive strong nights, Huff's overall skill-set looks to be similar or worse than the statistical profile he posted in 2009 when he hit .241/.310/.384 with the Orioles and Tigers.