Yoenis Cespedes (OF- Oakland)
Yoenis Cespedes had a monster game today going 2 of 5 with 2 doubles and 5 RBI's. This performance brought his BA up to .262 to go along with 7 HR, 23 runs and 27 RBI's. After batting just .240 last year, Cespedes has been a more disciplined hitter in 2014 as he has brought his walk rate up to almost 10% and reduced his K rate from 24% last year to 16.9% this year. His ISO stands at .236, partly because he has started to hit fly balls at an impressive 50.4% rate. If this keeps up, with his natural power, we could see his first season with more than 30 HR's. Another indicator in his favor is an increase in his contact rate from a poor 73% last year to a more league average 80.2% this year. At 29 years old, we are likely to see his best season across the board this year. If he can continue to improve on his selectivity at the plate, he could develop into the prototypical power hitting OF with a batting average that will not be a drain on your team.
Hiroki Kuroda (SP-NY Yankees)
Hiroki Kuroda picked up his 3rd win of the year today to even his record to 3-3. He has an alarming 4.61 ERA and an average 1.23 WHIP. Hiroki's owners are wondering if this might be the start of a major decline for the 39 year old pitcher who had a 3.31 ERA last year and seem unaffected by the move from the Dodger to the AL East. While Kuroda's age certainly puts him in the danger zone, he is pitching much better than his record indicates. A poor 61.6% LOB rate this year has elevated his ERA and will certainly normalize for a pitcher who has a career 72% average. His xFIP stands at .346 which is probably a strong indicator of where his ERA will wind up at the end of the year. His walk rate is at a career low and he is striking out batters at the same rate as last season. His velocity is just where it was last year so no danger signs there. I think this is just a situation where a pitcher has had some bad luck early and the trending will be in the positive direction as we move deeper into the year. Remember this is a vastly improved Yankee hitting team so he will also benefit there as well. If someone has dropped him in your league go grab him.
Michael Brantley, (OF-Cleve)
Michael Brantley has emerged this year to lead the Cleveland Indians in almost every offensive category. Going 2 for 5 today with his 8th HR and 31st and 32nd RBI, Brantley has continued to rake. At 27, this surge in offense is surprising for a hitter who always produced a respectable average and delivered double digit steals but never hit more than 10 HR's in a season. Needless to say his .210 ISO is unexplored territory for him and represents almost twice his career number. His plate discipline has been very good with an almost 1 to 1 ratio of walks to strikeouts. Brantley has always been an elite contact hitter with a career average of 91.2%. There has been no appreciable increase in his FB% to account for the increased power surge. When I saw him at the plate it just seemed like he had better mechanics than last year and he was staying on the ball longer in the zone. This might just be the natural development of a talented hitter at the right stage in his career. Not to put a damper on any of this, but it has to be noted that his 101 mph batted ball speed on the HR's he has hit this year, would not suggest that he will develop into a major power hitter.
Josh Donaldson (3B-Oakland)
Josh Donaldson capped a fantastic series against Cleveland this weekend scoring 4 runs and knocking in 1. He is batting .280 on the year with 10 HR, 38 runs scored and 35 RBI's as an encore performance to his All Star and breakout season last year. There was some concern that Donaldson might be a one year wonder and that he could not keep the production up this year. First of all, his breakout really started in the 2nd half of 2012 so there was more of a track record for this kind of output than he was given credit for. He does tend to be a bit streaky so that perception sometimes works against him. Although his line drive rate has fallen this year, he has been able to resolve his tendency for a high IFFB% which he has decreased by a resounding 8%. His average LD% and contact rate will likely prevent him from ever hitting .300 again-- he profiles as more of a .270-.280 hitter--but his power is real and he is a strong producer with runners on base. Those of us who invested in him or carried him over this year will be nicely rewarded.
Brian McCann (C- NY Yankees)
Brian McCann was one of the more heralded signings for the Yankees in the off-season. At 30 years old, and with a park better suited for his HR swing, great things were expected. So far with 6 HR on the year, the power numbers are off but not glaringly so, but it is his BA which has really fallen off the cliff. McCann was hitting under .230 coming into today's game which is way under his .276 career average. I think concerned fantasy owners should not panic. McCann has not helped his cause with a career low 4.1% walk rate which is an indicator of an overanxious hitter. This nervous approach is supported by a career high 33% O Swing rate which shows that he is swinging at pitches outside the strike zone at a higher rate and an artificially high IFFB rate of 15.7%. The real culprit has been a .225 BABIP which will certainly improve significantly and when it does we will see a corresponding rise in his BA. McCann's strong contact rate of 85%, which is at his career average, is a clear indicator that better days are ahead for McCann and his owners.
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