Jonathon Niese (SP-NYM): Niese dominated the Phillies with a CGSO, allowing only 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 5 in picking up his 6th win of the season. Niese has now given up only 6 earned runs in 29 innings since his return from injury with a 28:6 K:BB ratio. The lefty has shown some strides the previous two seasons with his K and BB rates, pushing his K% to the brink of the 20% you want to see from your starters. He had posted a rate well below that at 16% before going on the DL with shoulder discomfort, so he could very well have regained his strength in time to continue his progression as a pitcher. Roll with him.
Alex Wood (SP-ATL): Wood continued his strong rookie campaign, tossing 5 and 2/3 scoreless innings in picking up his 3rd win of the season. Since the Braves drafted him in the 2nd round last year, Wood has done nothing but dominate at each level and he continues to impress at the MLB level. Through 63 and 1/3 innings he has posted a 2.27 ERA/2.95 xFIP, a 49% GB rate, and a 66:20 K:BB ratio. Wood is a divisive prospect, with many scouts seeing him as succeeding now because of deception that will likely dissipate with time, while others see him as the real deal who can make a solid #2/#3 starter. I fall somewhere in between, although I lean more towards the optimistic crowd. Lefties that AVG 92+ on their fastball with above average secondary offerings tend to last, and the Braves obviously know how to develop young pitching. There will be some regression, but I wouldn't expect much more than the 2.95 xFIP indicates.
Trevor Rosenthal (RP-STL): Rosenthal continued his dominance in the pen, tossing a scoreless 8th inning to pick up his 27th hold. With Edward Mujica likely gone in the offseason, Rosenthal is one of the leading candidates to close, and with one of the game's best fastballs, why not? The Cardinals could experiment with him in the rotation, but proactive owners in those keeper/dynasty leagues may want to snatch him up for 2014 as he could be a top-tier closer. You have to love the 33.6% K-rate to go with a 6.6% BB-rate.
Marlon Byrd (OF-PIT): The Pirates acquired Marlon Byrd yesterday from the Mets (along with John Buck) for prospect Dilson Herrera. I see this trade as a relatively neutral one for Byrd. While PNC Park suppresses right-handed power, he may receive a slight bump with a better supporting cast that should provide him with more opportunities for counting stats. With that being said, I was bearish on him before the trade and still remain so. Despite being the 25th ranked OF on ESPN's Player Rater, his ISO is .90 points higher than his career AVG and his BABIP is 25 points better than his career pace, while his .20 EYE is nearly half of his career norm. And this is all in his age-35 season.
Will Venable (OF-SD): Venable went 3 for 5 with a run scored to continue his solid fantasy campaign. This pushed his season line to .278/.319/.509 with 19 homers, 15 steals, 46 RBI, and 53 runs through 123 games. Venable has showed considerably more power this season, increasing his ISO by 66 points, and with that he has propelled himself to 27th on the ESPN Player Rater among OF's for the season. However, his EYE has decreased from .44 to .23 and his already mediocre contact rate hasn't improved. I'm skeptical he can maintain such a pace down the stretch and into 2014.
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