Byron Buxton- Byron Buxton is back in the big leagues, and fantasy owners will have to figure out what to make of the consensus top prospect on the planet. Buxton is an excellent example of a player that will have more immediate hype in real life due to his defense than he should on a fantasy roster. Obviously, with all his tools, he should be owned in all dynasty formats, but his value in re-draft leagues is questionable at best. Buxton hasn't hit above .300 at the minor league level since 2013, and while his .283/.351/.489 slash line at Triple-A is fine, it isn't screaming fantasy stud right now. Buxton should be able to provide some speed to fantasy squads during the last few weeks of the season, but he may not do enough to justify being held in re-draft formats.
Manny Machado- Manny Machado's age 23 season has turned into his breakout campaign. Machado had also hit for a reasonable average with a bit of power, but this season he is perhaps the second most valuable third baseman in fantasy behind Josh Donaldson. Machado has seen his ISO jump from .153 in 2014 to .217 in 2015. This jump has been the largest reason for his increased valuation in fantasy. He has 25 home runs to date, and he seems to be a fair bet to finish the season in the 30-35 home run range while also closing in on 20 stolen bases (16 to date). His contact rates are all seemingly in line with career averages, but one big difference is that he is not swinging and missing nearly as much in 2015. His swinging strike rate is down to 6.6% from 10.9% in 2014. This may indicate a better recognition of pitches, which would explain the increased production.
Justin Verlander- Don't look now, but Jusin Verlander has had a bit of a renaissance of late. He has had 7 or more strikeouts in his last three starts, and his K Rate has jumped to a very respectable 22.9% during the second half of the season. An interesting development to keep an eye on as the season wraps up is an increase in Verlander's velocity. His fastball is up to 92.7 from 92.3 average velocity. This is the first time in the last five years that we have seen a rise in average fastball velocity for Verlander. Verlander has gone from an asset with very little value in most leagues to a solid player to own in most formats. If he is still available in your league, he is worth adding based on his current performance.
Eric Hosmer- Last year, there was very few people lower on Eric Hosmer than me due in large part because of his 50+% ground ball rate. Hosmer hasn't improved on that specific percentage, but almost everything else in his game has seen a bump in 2015. His line drive rate is up to 25.1%, his HR/FB rate is up to 16.1% and he is showing substantially better plate patience with his 9.1% BB rate. The one thing that I'm concerned about with Hosmer on the longer term is his batting average sustainability. His .359 BABIP is 25 points higher than his previous career high. Over the course of this season, I would guess that the BABIP regresses enough to see a 10-15 point decrease in batting average. I would also be cautious expecting an elite batting average from Hosmer moving forward into 2016 as the BABIP just doesn't seem sustainable.
Blake Swihart- Blake Swihart has found success in the second half of the season. He has managed to hit .297 over the course of the second half, which is a huge improvement over his slow first half. The biggest problem for Swihart owners is that his success has been entirely batting average dependent. He has hit for very little power to speak of at this point. The problem with betting on Swihart moving forward is that the batting average has been largely BABIP driven (over .400 in the second half). While we don't have a large enough individual sample size for Swihart to judge his BABIP against past seasons, it seems unlikely that a catcher with limited speed will be able to maintain this high of a BABIP for the remainder of the season to sustain the success he has had of late.
Today's American League Player Blog is brought to you by Nicholas Rossoletti. You can follow Nicholas on Twitter @NRoss56.
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