Homer Bailey (SP - CIN): Coming into the season I was pretty optimistic there was some post-hype sleeper potential in Homer Bailey. He had finished the 2010 season really strong and had made improvements in both his BB and K Rates. He started out the year banged up but got off to a good start once off the DL in May posting a 22:5 K:BB Rate in his first 30 innings. Unfortunately the injury bug didn't stay away very long as Bailey was placed on the DL again with a shoulder injury. In his rehab though Bailey didn't feel any discomfort the Reds noticed he was short-arming the ball a bit more and since he's come back the peripherals haven't been the same. It had yet to really hurt Bailey but he had posted just a 20:11 K:BB Ratio in 31 1/3 innings. In addition to the strikeouts coming back down and the BB's jumping up, Bailey has had a really hard time keeping the ball on the ground. In May he posted a 44% GB Rate, but in June and July it was under 35%. He had posted just a 4.31 ERA in this stretch but the signs suggested a bit worse. On Thursday it appeared all the regression came at once as Bailey was rocked for 9 ER's on 12 hits and 2 BB's in just 4 innings of work. I don't want to speculate on injury with Bailey but the distinct difference in his performance since returning from this latest shoulder issue makes me wonder if he's fully recovered. He still has upside but at this point he should be left on the bench or the waiver wire until the K's tick back up and the BB's come back down.
Tyler Colvin (OF - CHC): The Cubs called up Tyler Colvin from AAA after trading Kosuke Fukudome to the Indians on Thursday afternoon. Colvin didn't draw the first start in RF (that priveledge went to Blake DeWitt), but he figures to get an extended look now that Fukudome is out of town. Colvin opened a lot of eyes last year when he knocked out 20 HR's in less than 400 PA's. The performance as a rookie was enough to get some attention, but the fact it didn't jive with Colvin's minor league track record (.275/.316/.466) had many debating whether Colvin was breaking out or if the season was a fluke. This year Colvin's doing everything he can to prove it was a fluke. He struggled at the big league level to replicate the power he put together last season and was demoted back to AAA where his performance hasn't exactly warranted optimism (.256/.270/.478). The likely increase in playing time will catch NL Only owners attention, but be careful with expectations for Colvin. His lack of plate discipline has led to high K Rates and exposed his power at the big league level. He's a one-trick pony in the HR department and with that performance not guaranteed, there's more downside to upside than owning Colvin.
Shaun Marcum (SP - MIL): Marcum appears to have recovered nicely from the hip/neck/shoulder issues he had been dealing with as he tossed his 2nd consecutive quality start on Thursday and hasn't allowed more than 3 ER's in any of his last 4 starts. Marcum limited the Cubs to 2 ER's on 7 hits and a walk over 6 innings, while striking out 4. I used the phrase "appears to have recovered" because there are some indicators with Marcum because there are some lingering concerns I have in Marcum's peripherals and his history. Since returning from the three start stint when Marcum left games early, he's posted a K Rate of just 6.6 K/9. He's still showing his usual good command, but his HR Rate has also risen of late. Throw in a history of Marcum fading in the 2nd half (4.29 2nd half ERA, 3.36 1st half ERA) that is coupled with a legitimate deterioration in skill (7.8 K/9 in 1st half, 6.9 K/9 in 2nd half), and I'm seeing reasons owners should consider selling high on the 10-3 Marcum. With the recent improvement in performance, now may be the opportune time to capitalize on Marcum's value.
Wandy Rodriguez (SP - HOU): Back at the beginnig of July I pointed out some potential areas of correction in Wandy's peripherals that would eventually unveil him as more of a #3 fantasy starter than a #2. Since that post on July 1st, Wandy had posted a 6.00 ERA that got much of Wandy's production right back in line with his peripherals. On Thursday night, Wandy got back on track tossing his 2nd consecutive quality start (both on the road too) and this time against an imposing offense. Wandy limited the Cardinals to just 1 ER on 5 hits and a walk over 7 innings, while striking out 6. The outing was good enough for his 7th win on the season and lowered his ERA to 3.47, which is right around what we'd expect going forward. For the year he's seen his K Rate and GB Rates drop, which he's offset a bit with improved command. The overall package has been right in line with past years, but there's some reason for concern that may suggest Wandy's showing some subtle signs of slow deterioration at the age of 32. His swinging strike rate is down for the 2nd straight year and is now in line with 2006 and 2007 levels which were the last two years he posted an FIP above 4.00. He's a more refined pitcher than he was in '06 and '07, but these are the warning signs that Wandy is likely past his peak years. Those in deep keeper leagues should consider this when assessing Wandy's value this offseason. This year I think he's already taken the step back from back-end #2 to mid-rotation fantasy starter and while I don't think he falls off a cliff, I'm not expecting a bounce back either. He's begun his descent.
Mike Stanton (OF - FLA): There are some pretty intriguing indicators suggesting Stanton is starting to put things together in a pretty big way. We all know the deal with Stanton; he's an immense power talent who has had issues making contact at the big league level. The whole package has been more good than bad, but the high K Rate has left owners a bit naked in the batting average category. In July, however, Stanton has taken his K Rate from typically over 28%, down to 26%, and he's upped his BB Rate to over 11%. The 26% K Rate is still high but even marginal improvements on balls in play can lead to a big spike in Stanton's power and that's exactly what we're seeing. He homered for the 4th time in 6 games on Thursday and now has 8 for the shortened month of July. Along with the fewer K's in July, the batting average has ticked up slightly as he's hit .267/.347/.558 in July. With the improvement in the walks, the strikeouts, and the power Stanton looks to be on the verge of touching that 40-50 HR potential that lies inside.