Clayton Kershaw (SP - LAD) - Clayton Kershaw threw a gem against the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon, going 7 scoreless innings while yielding just 5 hits,2 walks and striking out 13. He has now gone 28 scoreless innings and has struck out 36 batters over his last 3 starts (24 innings pitched). To say Kershaw is in the zone is an understatement. Despite missing the entire month of April, Kershaw is 8-2 with a 2.04 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. Most impressive is his 94:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is largely driven by a 38% chase rate and 15% swinging strike rate while throwing pitches in the zone 51% of the time. He's doing everything he needs to do to defend his Cy Young crown.
Shelby Miller (SP-STL) - Shelby Miller had another forgettable afternoon and has put together a rather disappointing sophomore season for the Cardinals. On Sunday, Miller lasted through just 5 innings and was blasted for 6 earned runs on 7 hits and 3 walks. The performance was the epitome of his 2014 season that has seen him go 7-7 with a 4.10 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. His 16% strikeout rate and 12% walk rate are terrible and after tallying swinging strike rates of 12% in a cup of coffee in 2012 and 9% in 2013, he has dropped to just 7% this year. The homerun rates are in line with last year but batters are making contact about 85% of the time when they swing. His BABIP has actually been a little understated at .268 considering a 20% line drive rate. Compile all these indicators together and it's hard to build a case for improvement in the second half.
Dee Gordon (SS - LAD) - Dee Gordon went 1-for-5 with a strikeout and a caught stealing attempt on Sunday. It was the 4th time this month that Gordon has been caught stealing and he has tallied just 6 steals in the month after swiping 34 bags in April and May. Alexander Guerrero is expected to resume baseball activities soon and could hit his way to the major leagues by late summer. Going into the year, it was thought that Guerrero would possibly challenge Gordon for playing time at second base. Given the injury history of the Dodgers' infield (Hanley, Uribe, etc) as well as his performance this year, Gordon's playing time should be safe. Gordon's excellent contact skills (89% contract rate & 5% swinging strike rate) coupled with tendency to hit ground balls more than half the time help keep his batting average high and help support an above average on-base percentage of .348 despite below average walk rates.
Javier Baez (SS - CHC) - Digging through Twitter this afternoon, I discovered a tweet by John Arguello, a Chicago Cubs blogger, that pointed out that Javier Baez is hitting .366 with a 15% walk rate and .458 OBP since Kris Bryant joined Triple-A. While the sample size is small, just 10 games, the results are a promising step forward for the Cubs top prospect who struggled at Triple-A to begin the year. Before Bryant joined the team, Baez's walk rate was a measly 7% on the season and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was 85:16. While he has still been striking out at high rate, his has also cut his strikeouts down to 25% in the 10 games that he has played with Bryant in the lineup. The timing of this improvement probably has no true correlation to Bryant joining the team, but it's good to see the Cubs' future (and future of many fantasy baseball clubs) teaming up well together.
Bryce Harper (OF -WAS) - Bryce Harper is expected to be activated off the disabled list on Monday. He missed over 2 months of action after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb in April. Thumb injuries are sometimes concerning for hitters because they can affect the way the batter grips the bat. Harper didn't show any ill-effects from the injury on his rehab assignment this past week when he went 9-for-14 with 4 homeruns and 10 RBIs in Single-A and Double-A, including 3 homeruns in Saturday's game. Harper owners should activate him and re-insert him into their lineups for the upcoming week. Harper started out the year slow on the power front, hitting just 1 homerun in 91 plate appearances while posting a .133 ISO. Through the season's first month, his HR/FB ratio was just 5% versus his career average of 16% so it's reasonable to expect improvement there going forward.
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