Jhoulys Chacin (SP - COL): Chacin's struggles continued on Thursday as he 5 ER's on 4 hits and 7 BB's over 4 2/3 innings of work. It marked the 4th time in the last 5 outings Chacin has surrendered at least 4 ER's and the 3rd time in the last 6 outings he's walked 6 or more batters. The drop-off in command isn't exactly surprising for Chacin as it's always been his one major weakness. He entered the season having issued 4.4 BB/9 at the major league level and hadn't allowed less than 3.7 BB/9 at a level above AA. For the season his swinging strike rate has regressed down to 9% and his first strike % is at a career low 52%. His chase rate is back down below 26% and his contact rate has risen for the third consecutive year. Chacin has shown a big improvement in his GB Rate this year (57%) and done so by trading more GB's for LD's, a positive move that has helped keep his BABIP down to just .230. Some of that is still good fortune as his expected BABIP is closer to .250-.260. While the GB's are an improvement, all the other skills are starting to show signs of significant deterioration. Kudos to our own Mike Leone for preaching Chacin as a sell high candidate back in the middle of May. If you didn't take his advice then, owners may want to see if they can take advantage of selling Chacin after a favorable matchup next week @LAD.
Brandon Belt (1B - SFG): I was the guy swooning all over Brandon Belt after his initial call-up this year, noting on twitter that I thought he had the potential to be an impact bat, so I'm sure its puzzled many of my followers why I've been so quiet on the Belt front the 2nd go around. The truth is I'm a little gun-shy on call-ups this year since so few have made an impact and more than anything I'm a little nervous about getting too enthused with Belt again given the relative logjam of options at Bruce Bochy's disposal for corner OF and 1B. With all that said, my belief in Belt's bat is still there. Belt went down to AAA and hit just like he did last year, posting a .324/.462/.549 line that came with a .90 EYE. The numbers were almost identical to his 2010 AAA line which suggests Belt's rapid 2010 ascension through the minors wasn't a fluke at all. Belt's first tour through the big leagues was better than his production would've suggested. He demonstrated good plate discipline, only chasing 23% of pitches outside the zone and walking at a tremendous 12% clip. The big issues with Belt's first trip through were his pop didn't translate immediately because he hit too many balls on the ground (50%). If he can simply correct the stroke and get more LD's and FB's, Belt could explode. He'll still be a bit limited by his home-park which negatively impacts LH power and his supporting cast but Belt's not that far away from making an impact in fantasy. In 12 team leagues and deeper I think he's worth an immediate speculative add, especially for teams trying to solidify their 1B or CI position. I'm not sure if it clicks now, but there is a lot of good evidence suggesting Belt's close.
Cameron Maybin (OF - SDP): Maybin made the Marlins pay for trading him to San Diego this past offseason. He finished off the series going 9-15 with 5 Runs, 3 RBI's, and 5 SB's, while playing tremendous defense in CF. For the season Maybin's made some small strides forward, but still hasn't taken the big jump many expected. He's improved his K Rate and his BB Rate, largely thanks to a more aggressive approach that has seen him trying to make more contact early in the count. The power continues to lag which isn't surprising since Maybin's hitting over 53% of his batted balls on the ground. The good news for fantasy owners is that he's been able to improve his value mightily by moving to the low run-scoring environment in PETCO. Maybin's running at a higher rate than he's ever ran before as the Padres team as a whole leads major league baseball in SB's. As a result, Maybin's going to hold some value for rotisserie owners in need of speed. He's on pace to approach 30 SB's this season and while he's a bit behind pace, I actually think he'll get there. There won't be much production in any other category, but Maybin has another 10+ SB's in him the rest of the year if you're in need of speed.
Jonathon Niese (SP - NYM): Niese stayed pretty hot on Thursday as he limited the Cardinals to 3 ER's over 6 innings, allowing just 5 hits and a walk, while striking out 7. The outing marked the 7th straight start in which Niese walked 2 or less, a really significant improvement in command. I've touched on Niese in the past noting that he was a bit of a tease in my eyes as he always allowed high LD Rates and struggled enough with command that a high WHIP mitigated some of the intriguing GB/K combination. The improvements in command though don't appear to be a short-term phenomenon. This is the 4th straight month in which Niese's BB Rate has dropped and for the season his strike % is up to 65%. I am a bit concerned that the improved strike % is coming from more chases (and in total more foul balls) as Niese isn't generating as many swings and misses or first pitch strikes, but four straight months of improved command has my attention. If Niese can keep the BB Rate below 2.5 BB/9 (something he did just once in his entire professional career), he moves from a matchups option to a legitimate #3 SP. I'm still skeptical the improvement in command is here to stay but he's deserving of a stash in all formats to find out. He'll get a tough test in Cincinnati his next time out against a lineup that has been very good against LHP this year (.820 OPS, best in the bigs against LHP).
Ryan Vogelsong (SP - SFG): If you're a Vogelsong owner I think it's time to get what you can. Vogelsong's had an incredible run of success this season posting a 2.02 ERA and 1.19 WHIP through his first 15 starts. However, of late, there are some indicators suggesting the performance is about to fall-off considerably. I noted earlier in the season that Vogelsong's performance was particularly surprising to me because he's never shown consistent command of the strike zone and this year he suddenly was. Well the last four outings he's walked 14 in 25 1/3 IP (4.97 BB/9). While the BB rate has risen, Vogelsong's K Rate has also started to decline, dipping down to 5.31 K/9 in July. He's getting a lot of ground balls but with more BB's and fewer K's, he can suddenly turn into a Jake Westbrook-type, and in fact his 4.54 FIP in July suggests as much. He's been so good and its been all profit for his owners, that now is the ideal time to deal before things fall apart. From here on out he's just a matchups option at best and a middling one at that. If you can move him as a solid #4 SP take the chance to do so now.