Ivan Nova (SP-NYY)- Nova continued his strong month of June by throwing 7.1 solid innings against the White Sox on Thursday night. He did not earn a decision, but allowed just one run on six hits and three walks while striking out five. Nova has managed to lower his ERA to 4.03 by inducing more ground balls, which in turned has helped him to lower his home run rate. Nova's increased swinging strike rate (8.5 percent) has allowed him to have a career best strikeout rate (7.78 K/9), and his 3.87 xFIP indicates he should be able to sustain the recent streak he has been on. Yankee Stadium as not been very kind to him considering he has allowed nine home runs there in just 45.1 innings pitched, so owners should be wary to start him at home. However, he should maintain a strikeout rate above 7.00 K/9 and a ERA just under four with plenty of opportunities to win games even if he should encounter some problems.
Mike Trout (OF-LAA)- Trout went 2-for-5 with a home run, a strikeout and two RBI to help the Angels take a 9-7 victory over the Blue Jays last night. He has added upon his incredible rookie season hitting his eighth home run to go along with his 21 stolen bases, while improving his slash line to .345/.402/.543. There is no doubt that Trout has already become an elite fantasy player, and one could make an argument that he can be considered the best all around player in baseball considering he is fifth in terms of fWAR (3.9) having played just 54 games. His 14 percent HR/FB ratio is above average considering he is just a rookie, and with his speed and 25 percent line drive rate he will be able to maintain a very strong BABIP. Throw in the fact that he will probably steal over 40 bases baring injuries; there is nothing more owners could have asked for from the 20 year-old rookie.
Carlos Pena (1B-TB)- Pena went hitless in four plate appearances with two strikeouts in last night's game against the Tigers. He has only ten home runs for the season and he saw his slash line drop to .195/.339/.345. Pena's poor batting average can be attributed to a career worst 29.4 percent strikeout rate and a poor BABIP (.259) that has been hurt by a staggering 22.2 percent infield fly ball rate, which is nearly double his career rate. As a result his 13.9 percent HR/FB ratio has been greatly affected by his inability to produce deep fly balls. Pena's strikeout can improve considering his 13.5 percent swinging strike rate is below his career rate, and his chase rate has slightly improved from the last two seasons. However, it is becoming clear that Pena is not the same power hitter he once was, and he should not be starting for owners in any league at first base.
Joe Nathan (RP-TEX)- Nathan earned his 18th save of the season on Thursday night against the A's after tossing a scoreless ninth inning in which he allowed a hit and a walk while striking out a batter. He lowered his ERA to 1.87 for the season, and he has continued to produce one of the strongest seasons of any closer in baseball. With a strikeout rate of 11.30 K/9 and career best 1.07 BB/9, Nathan should be able to produce strong numbers for the rest of the season. He came into the game with a 14.9 percent swinging strike rate, his best since 2005, and his 70.2 percent first pitch strike percentage is tied for third best among qualified relievers. He has averaged 94 mph with his fastball this season (highest since 2007), and that increased velocity should make him the safest best among American League closers for the rest of the season.
Franklin Morales (SP-BOS)- Morales made his third start for the Red Sox on Thursday night against the Mariners, and delivered another strong outing. He threw seven shutout innings while allowing only three hits and two walks while striking out seven. With strong peripherals (9.50 K/9 and a 2.38 BB/9) and DIPS (2.65 FIP and 3.63 xFIP), Morales is making a strong case to remain a part of the Red Sox rotation. These peripherals show some real improvements, as Morales as improved his first pitch strike rate to a career best 62.4 percent and his swinging strike rate to a career best 11.7 percent. In addition, Morales has also improved his chase rate to a career best 35.7 percent. This would not be the first time we have seen a promising young left-handed starter to years to finally develop. At 26 years old, Morales has shown the skills to be able to hold on to a rotation start in his three starts and 41.2 innings pitched. Even if he is eventually removed from the rotation this season, I could see a team taking a chance on him next year.