Tyler Naquin (CLE) - Over the last 30 days, Tyler Naquin leads all American League players with a .352 ISO, a measure of a player's overall power output. Helping to boost this number has been a torrid July with 6 home runs, 5 doubles and 1 triple in just 71 at-bats. We knew going into the year that Naquin would be in the mix for playing time with injuries to Michael Brantley and Abraham Almonte, but the rookie got off to a slow start to begin the year and was subsequently dropped in many leagues. The beginning of June marked the beginning of his turnaround, but it wasn't until the end of the month that he started hitting extremely well. So what can we expect the rest of the way? Naquin's .400 BABIP on a 39.1% hard hit rate might be a little inflated, but the power numbers he has shown might actually have some staying power. While he lacks elite hard hit rates and batted ball speed, Naquin has seemingly changed his approach at the plate to become more of a pull hitter over the last two months. We know hitters who pull the ball can leverage their entire body to "cheat" and give themselves a little more power than they normally would, so as long as he continues to pull the ball more than 40% of the time, I believe it's reasonable that we'll see 4-6 home runs a month from the rookie the rest of the way. Naquin went 1-for-3 with a run scored and a couple strikeouts on Friday.
Max Kepler (MIN) - Playing in a small-market for a non-contender tends to get you overlooked. That rings especially true for Minnesota's Max Kepler. Over the last 30 days, Kepler has shown some serious pop with a .352 ISO that has been fueled by 8 home runs, 4 doubles and 2 triples in 92 at-bats. Unfortunately, he has also hit just .239 over that same stretch and has just a .243 batting average on the season. So will he just a poor man's Jay Bruce (struggles against lefties, hits a lot of home runs, and struggles with his batting average)? The answer to this question is maybe, but there seems be a bit of bad luck in his current year small sample. The poor batting average has been partially fueled by his 21% strikeout rate, a mark that is easily the highest it has ever been at any level since he was in rookie ball. However, on the bright side, his contact rate is sitting at a better-than-league-average 80% and his swinging strike rate is also better-than-league-average at 8.8%. Typically these two statistics will be correlated with the strikeout rate. but in this case, these statistics tell us that Kepler's strikeout rate might be a little inflated. Pair that with BABIP of just .259, despite his great hard hit rate, and we're seeing a player who has suffered from poor batted ball luck. The interesting part is that we never saw big power numbers from him during the minor leagues, either. As a result, his 19.5% HR/FB rate is certainly due to regress, despite the fact he does have a strong 39.5% hard hit rate. What we're looking at is a player who will likely see a bit of a slow down in the power department, partially offset by gains in the batting average category.
Kevin Gausman (BAL) - Kevin Gausman allowed 3 runs in the first inning and another 3 runs in the 3rd before getting pulled. His final line read 3.0 IP, 6H, 6ER, 3BB, and 4K. He also allowed 3 home-runs, all of which were solo shots in the 1st. This outing was tied for his shortest of the year and is also tied for the most runs allowed in a start this season. Despite the lower ERA this season, most of Gausman's peripherals look identical to what he posted last year. The improvement in ERA from 4.25 to 3.77 (leading into today - now it's an ugly 4.18) can mostly be explained by normal regression taking his ratio closer to his xFIP. He will continue to be a good starting pitcher in fantasy leagues, but like most SP4 or 5's, you'll want to continue to play the matchups with him.
Jose Bautista (TOR) - Joey Bats led off tonight's game with a home run, his first since May 29th. The slugger missed over a month with turf toe, but returned to an ugly .224/.355/.448 slash line. Now 35 years old, Bautista could be more prone to injuries as his body ages beyond his prime. In general, we've seen a steep drop off in his power production this year, with his ISO dropping down to .215 from .285 and .239 the previously 2 seasons. The good news is, he maintains his elite chase rate (about 12% better than league average) and continues to have an above average contact rate. While the days of 40+ home runs are likely in the rear view mirror, Bautista still has the tools to contribute for your fantasy teams.
Jurickson Profar (TEX) - Jurickson Profar finds himself with more playing time now that Prince Fielder will miss the rest of the season with neck surgery. He has certainly taken advantage of every opportunity that has been given to him this year. On Friday, he went 2-for-3 with 3 runs scored, his 4th double and his 5th homerun of the season. Batting almost exclusively near the top of the order for Texas, Profar is a nice fantasy value for those of your who play in OBP leagues and particularly daily fantasy leagues. Severely under-priced at just $2,600 on FanDuel, Profar will face off against flyballer Ian Kennedy in Arlington Saturday night. Assuming he leads off or bats second, Profar is a great option for DFS.