Jason Kubel (OF - ARZ): Kubel's been a frustrating fantasy player to own this season as his playing time has been inconsistent due to some nagging injuries and when he's been in the lineup his performance hasn't lived up to 2012's production. Kubel has seen a modest jump in his swing % which has resulted in fewer BB's and strikeouts (despite holding onto the significant deterioration in contact rates he saw last year). He's putting more balls in play which should result in a higher batting average but a slightly underwhelming BABIP has held back the average. The bigger problem for Kubel is his HR/FB Rate has come back down after peaking at 19% last year. The 11% HR/FB Rate this year is a bit below average and given Kubel's posting a 50% FB Rate and a 24% LD Rate, he appears pretty close to putting it all together. Once the HR/FB Rate starts normalizing the extreme number of FB's he's hitting should produce a homer binge which along with a correction in his BABIP will help drive the average back into the .270's. In deeper leagues Kubel is a nice buy low while those in shallow leagues can check their waiver wire as Kubel may be available for some short term help.
Freddie Freeman (1B - ATL): Freeman hasn't been able to build on his breakout 2012 as his power numbers have been down since returning from an oblique injury suffered early in the season. Outside of the power outage everything else looks perfectly in line. Freeman is still posting elite LD Rates (28+%) and his chase rate, contact rate, and BB Rates are all in-line with last year's breakout. His HR/FB is noticeably down (5.7% vs. 14.8% last year) and appears to be one of the main drivers to the drop in ISO. Given all of Freeman's other indicators are in-line I wouldn't worry too much about the early season power outage. The HR/FB Rate will eventually regress, making Freeman a prime buy-low candidate.
Starlin Castro (SS - CHC): Castro's had a really disturbing start to his 4th full major league season. He's striking out at a career high (15.7%) and much of the increase in K Rate is due to a career worst contact rate (80.2%, career 84%). With Castro swinging through more pitches the AB's are ending sooner and his already low BB Rate has tumbled further. Since Castro doesn't walk and isn't a big bopper so much of his fantasy production is tied up in contact rates and batting average. While the contact rates are the biggest problem it's not helping that when he makes contact he's making weaker contact than ever before. Castro had posted a 20% LD rate in each of his first three full seasons but this year is down to just 16.8% as he's seen his FB Rate jump. The decreased LD Rate has flowed through to the BABIP and impacted Castro's batting average and on-base percentage. With fewer opportunities on base the steals are down and of course so are the runs and rbi's. Like Jay Bruce it's unusual to see the contact rates drop for such a young hitter and as a result I'm a bit stumped on how to treat Castro going forward. My base-line expectations have been taken down, making me hesitant to buy low, but I'm also not so afraid that I'd consider selling at any cost. With the issues at SS this year, Castro still ranks in the top 12 at the position and one of the top 10 just got demoted (Rutledge). Castro owners should probably just ride this out and hope for improved contact rates and more line drives from Starlin.
Chase Headley (3B - SD): One of the sneakier fantasy studs from 2012, Chase Headley has gotten off to a nice, albeit late, start to his 2013 season. Headley made big strides in his power rates last year spurred on by what many deemed an unsustainable 21.4% HR/FB Rate. Headley had always had great plate discipline and above average speed, but the lack of power from a corner infielder was holding back his fantasy profile. Coming into 2013 all of the questions around Headley were focused on the power output in 2012. Was it real? Was it a fluke? The early returns in 2013 suggest the power growth was real, but perhaps exaggerated by the unusually high 21.4% HR/FB Rate. Headley's maintained a .175 ISO in the early-going but done so with just a 14.3% HR/FB Rate. Both metrics are significant advances over Headley's pre-2012 production but obviously fall short of 2013. If Headley maintains this level of production we're looking at a 20-25 HR candidate which along with the high teens in SB's makes him a legitimate Top 10 3B who has the upside to challenge the top 5.
Starling Marte (OF - PIT): Marte snapped out of a bit of a mini slump (7-38) with a 2-3 effort on Thursday that came in a 4-2 win over the Cubs. Marte even had a walk which is just his 10th of the season. Marte's early season performance was way above his head and I'd expect further regression to continue as players with a (0.20 EYE) simply don't maintain .300 batting averages at the major league level. This isn't to say Marte isn't a nice breakout or valuable fantasy commodity but his base-line pace is something closer to a .280-90-14-55-25 over the course of the season. Ranked as a top 20 overall player currently, I'd have a hard time expecting even top 15 OF production from him the rest of the way. Once the BABIP regresses the Runs and SB pace will slow considerably and Marte's fantasy value will normalize.