Jarred Cosart (SP-HOU): Jared Cosart had quite the debut last night, tossing 8 scoreless innings and outdueling David Price in picking up the win. The rookie allowed 2 hits and 3 walks while striking out 2. Cosart's prospect star had faded a fair amount coming into the season, with many tabbing this as a make-or-break-season for him, citing his need to miss more bats. So far, Cosart has delivered, increasing his K-rate from 17.8% at AA to 23.2% in AAA, and more impressively, doing it in the hitter-friendly PCL. However, as we saw last night, Cosart struggles at times with his control, especially of his curveball, which has led to a 12.5% BB-rate this year. And while the line doesn't show it, Cosart got away with a few command issues with his fastball, mistakes that likely won't be missed as he continues to go through the league. I like Cosart as a long-term prospect. If things click, he could be a #2 starter, and even if they don't, he could be a nice weapon at the back of a pen with his 97 MPH fastball. While he was optioned back to AAA after the game, he should return shortly after the break, and is worth holding onto in deeper mixed leagues and all AL-only leagues for his upside.
Doug Fister (SP-DET): Doug Fister was better, allowing 2 earned runs on 8 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings to pick up his 7th win of the year. This was a much-needed start after he had allowed 19 earned runs in his previous 22 1/3 innings. Overall, the peripherals suggest that this should be a sign of things to come. The control artist continues to be stingy with the free-passes (4% BB-rate) and continues to induce groundballs at a fantastic rate (56.1%). With an inflated strand-rate and BABIP, his expected numbers such as FIP, xFIP, and SIERA (as per Fangraphs) are all at or even lower than what they were last season. If you can find a disgruntled owner, I'd buy low.
Alcides Escobar (SS-KC): Alcides Escobar turned in another pedestrian night at the dish, going 1 for 4 with a strikeout and continuing what has been a disappointing 2013. While his EYE has improved this season, his line sits at .246/.279/.330. The biggest reason for this looks to be the alarming 8% increase in his FB rate, which has contributed to a 70-point drop in his BABIP. The evidence seems to suggest that 2012 was more of an outlier than a step in the right direction. The numbers look eerily similar to those he posted in 2010-11. I see a minor course correction, but I wouldn't pay for anything more than a .260 AVG. Especially with the Ned Yost moving him down to 7th in the lineup against righties for the foreseeable future. With his split this season--.770 OPS against lefties vs. .538 against righties--you can understand the logic.
Josh Hamilton (OF-LAA): Josh Hamilton cooled down at the plate last night, going 1 for 4 with his 91st strikeout of the season. The effort pushed his season line down to .230/.289/.423 with 14 homers, 39 RBI, and 48 runs with an abysmal .29 EYE through 86 games. While much has been written about Hamilton, he is a difficult player to project, as various ailments and annoyances have thrown off his equilibrium to different degrees for various lengths of time throughout his career. I've watched many of his AB's throughout the season, and to me, he actually looks the best physically that I've seen in his entire career. During the past few weeks, he isn't missing as many mistake pitches as he was earlier in the season, and the results show it, with a 1.000 OPS in July with 4 homers. However, he also isn't hitting pitches out of the zone with authority like he did in years past, and he has continued to struggle against lefties. Put it all together and I see a solid yet unspectacular second half, one good enough to get him to .255/.320/.490 with 30 homers for the season.
John Lackey (SP-BOS): John Lackey tossed 7 quality innings to continue his bid for comeback player of the year. The veteran allowed 2 earned runs on 3 hits and 4 walks while striking out 5. Lackey has turned himself into a must-start option in all leagues. His fastball velocity has been solid, ranging from 92 on the low AVG to 94 on the high. He continues to gain sharpness with his secondary offerings, as opponents are hitting .221 and .186 off of his slider and curveball, respectively (as per Brooks Baseball). He looks in the best shape of his career and is performing at a level even higher than in his glory days with the Angels. I wouldn't sell for anything less than 95 cents on the dollar of his current production value.
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