Brian McCann- July was the best month of the year for Brian McCann, who finally showed some of the offensive capability that made him a high-priced free agent in the off-season and a top 10 fantasy catcher during draft season. The good news for McCann owners is that there may be more room for positive regression as we head towards the finish line. McCann's contact rates have basically begun to line up with his 2013 numbers with the exception of his HR/FB Rate, which remains at a career low of 8.4%. While July wasn't particularly a productive home run month for McCann, he was making a lot more solid contact with a 28.4% Line Drive Rate. It would make sense that as McCann's other contact rates have normalized so too will his HR/FB Rate. While it is becoming less and less likely that we will see 20 home runs from McCann this season, he should be able to his another 6-8 bombs the rest of the way while maintaining his current average. Overall, I like McCann as a potential source of offense behind the plate the rest of the way. You may be able to buy him cheap for the stretch run if people are still upset with his overall production although most owners should recognize his bat is heating up a bit after a .299/.323/.414 July.
Nick Markakis- Nick Markakis has had a nice bounce back season after his offensive totals were down across the board in 2013. While his HR/FB rate probably won't ever get back to his 11.1% rate of 2012, his 7.2% rate of 2014 is a nice increase from the 5.7% in 2014, and there is a legit chance that Markakis can reach 14-16 home runs on the season, which would be his highest total since 2011. Additionally, his BABIP is close enough to his three year average that there is very little reason to believe his .287 batting average will regress considerably over the course of the next 8 weeks. Overall, we are looking at an OF that should end the season as a solid contributor in runs and batting average while putting out around 15 home runs. Considering his 2013, he has had a nice age 30 season. Fantasy owners should continue to deploy him for the rest of the season, and his value for 2015 is back to a must-own 3rd or 4th outfielder in deeper mixed formats.
Jake Marisnick- With Dexter Fowler still being several days away from a rehab assignment according to the Astros, rookie Jake Marisnick will continue to get a look in centerfield. Marisnick is a new player to AL-Only owners, and owners in keeper formats may be tempted to roster the rookie in hopes of catching lightening in a bottle. My thoughts are that Marisnick may have value in 2015, but to date, he has shown little in his major league sample size. When he is right, Marisnick is a solid speed threat with a little bit of pop. He has managed 10 home runs and 24 stolen bases in Triple-A this season, and any real value will eventually come from this combination. Right now, he just seems lost at the plate. His 32.3% K Rate in the major leagues isn't supported by his major league sample, but he probably won't get a long enough look with Houston for that to regress. His 4.8% BB Rate, however, is troubling bcause it is supported by his larger sample of data, and it indicates an inability to get on base. If Marisnick can't get on base, his value as a speedster is greatly limited. Overall, he doesn't have much in the way of 2014 value, and he should only be owned in keeper leagues if you are in full-on rebuild mode right now with little concern for current results. Even then, there are probably better options to own for the time being. I would like to see a better representation of his talent at the big leagues before allowing him to claim a roster spot.
Kennys Vargas- The Minnesota Twins have decided to give prospect Kennys Vargas a shot at some plate appearances during the stretch run, and he has enough power to be worth discussing as an addition in deeper formats. Vargas was particularly impressive with his performance at Triple-A where he reduced his K Rate to 16.8% while maintaining a 10.6% BB Rate. He has shown solid power at all levels, but in a short sample, he hasn't show that improved plate patience in the big leagues. He is striking out 33.3% of the time while not taking a walk to date. The 15 plate appearance sample isn't exactly noteworthy, and his power is enough that he is worth keeping an eye on. He should be able to find significant playing time between 1st base and DH for the remainder of the season as Minnesota tries to figure out what its roster will look like in 2015. The combination of power upside and playing time makes him a name to know. Keep your eye on Vargas especially in dynasty/keeper formats where he may have additional value moving forward in 2015. Just don't fall victim to the "shiny new toy" syndrome and drop someone with substantial value for him.
Evan Longoria- Six weeks ago, I wrote a piece detailing how Evan Longoria's disturbing 2014 season and his lack of power has been tied largely to a strange change in Longoria's plate discipline. For whatever reason, Longoria is swinging a lot more than he has in the past. His total Swing Rate is up to between 47-48% when his career average is between 43-44%. Despite this increase in his swing rate, he is actually striking out less this year than in 2012 or 2013. He is swinging more, making contact at about the same rate, yet he is not making contact with as much authority as he is hitting more ground balls and has a 10.1% IFFB Rate. I would not be surprised to find out that Longoria is struggling with his vision or another physical ailment. He is not old enough that we would expect to see a dramatic decrease in bat speed nor does his contact rate indicate something like that. It is more likely that he is either not recognizing the ball quickly enough or he is cheating on fastballs to make up for a perceived inefficiency. Either way, Longoria will be lucky to hit 20 home runs in 2014, and he will almost assuredly have the lowest slugging percentage of his entire career. Hopefully whatever is bothering Longo can be figured out before 2015.
Today's American League Player Blog is brought to you by Nicholas Rossoletti. You can follow Nicholas on Twitter @NRoss56.
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