Billy Butler (DH - KC): Butler is having one of the stranger 2013 campaigns. Butler has dramatically tightened his strike zone (26.2% Chase Rate) and is swinging at a career low 40% of pitches overall. As a result, he's dramatically improved his BB Rate (13.9%, career 9.1%). The change in approach has certainly made him a tougher out, but it appears to have sapped a big portion of his power as well. Butler's posting a career worst .122 ISO, thanks in part to a career high 51% GB Rate. Butler is still hitting a ton of line drives, but as he's worked deeper into counts he's sacrificed some power and also seen a natural rise in his K Rate. It's hard to see much reason for optimism with Butler's fantasy value given his ISO has steadily declined each month this year. If Butler can find the right combination of patience and aggressiveness we could see the power unlocked again, but the persistent high GB Rate will always inhibit his fantasy value. He entered the season as a back-end Top 10 1B option and he still possesses that upside, but there are no signs of it being unlocked any time soon.
Josh Donaldson (3B - OAK): Perhaps one of the most deserving non-all-stars in the league this year, Donaldson continued his great season with a 2-4 effort on Sunday that included a walk. Donaldson's season has been incredible on so many fronts, but the thing I've enjoyed most about Donaldson's breakout is how consistent he's been. Donaldson has posted an OPS of .855 or better in each month while also showing a tight range for his BB% (9-11.2%) and his batted ball distribution. The consistency in the performance only reaffirms my belief that it is "real". With Donaldson locked into the middle of a great A's lineup, he remains a solid bet to continue his Top 10 production at the 3B position from here on out.
David Price (SP - TB): It has to be nice to continue your rehab at the big league level. Since coming off the DL Price has faced the Astros and the White Sox (and his next scheduled start is against HOU as well) and he's responded by yielding just 1 ER in 16 IP with a 15:0 K:BB Ratio in his return. Price has been remarkably efficient with his pitches since returning, just pounding the strike zone. He finished off a complete game effort on Sunday with just 98 pitches allowing 1 ER on 8 hits, while striking out 5. Looking at Price's peripherals, I'm still skeptical his K Rate will hold at the levels of years past with his swinging strike rate in decline, but the ERA will almost assuredly work its way down below 3.50 as the season progresses. Price's early season "struggles" were attributable to an elevated HR/FB Rate (14.3%, career 9.5%) and BABIP (.339, career .290) despite no significant signs of allowing additional hard contact (19.6% LD Rate, 18.5% career LD Rate). He remains in fine form and should deliver that form over the course of the 2nd half.
Jurickson Profar (2B - TEX): Thanks to some injuries and creativeness with the Rangers management, Jurickson Profar has been able to stay at the major league level and pick-up as many starts as he's getting days off. This was the first big concern upon promotion but as we get exposure to Profar at the big league level we're now left with a second concern; can he hit enough to warrant fantasy value? Profar went 0-4 with a BB and 2 K's on Sunday and is now down to .246/.320/.360 on the season. Digging in on the plate discipline data, Profar has shown an above average understanding of the strike zone (27.5% chase rate) and an above average contact rate (84.1%). Despite the strong plate discipline, his 19.8% K% is an alarming jump from the 14.5% K% he posted at AAA. It appears Profar's biggest challenges are taking too many pitches in the strike zone. When he does put the ball in play, he's done it with authority (24.1% LD Rate), but a modest .294 BABIP appears to be holding him back a bit. Perhaps some of this is due to Profar's inconsistent AB's or just a learning curve he's going through at the big league level, but right now his peripherals are far more compelling than his production. I remain optimistic about his readiness and his skills, but skeptical of the playing time. With Lance Berkman taken out of the equation it will be interesting to see if Profar's playing time becomes more consistent. If so, I think we'll start to see the production pick-up considerably.
Doug Fister (SP - DET): For the 3rd time in his last 4 outings Doug Fister allowed 6 ER's in a start. As a Fister owner and an analyst that has called Fister a sneaky #2 fantasy starter, this is frustrating. Fister's K Rate has declined markedly since the end of May and with more balls in play, Fister is experiencing pressure on both his WHIP and ERA. He's still posting a great GB Rate and great low BB Rates, but if the K Rate doesn't come back he's more of a matchups starter than anything close to a #2. Looking back over the recent struggles it's all come against CLE, TOR, and BOS which are three of the top offenses in the league. Perhaps Fister is a matchups starter whose performance early in the season was being exaggerated by a friendly opening schedule (NYY, TOR, @SEA, @LAA, ATL, HOU, @WSH, HOU)? I'm starting to think so. I still think Fister has value as a mid-rotation starter in traditional formats, but I think owners need to be more selective when deploying him. His next start will come at home against Texas, which is one in 10 and 12 team leagues I'm strongly considering skipping.