When David Price toed the rubber against the Angels on Sunday, he was coming off his best start of the season, a complete game against Seattle that saw him give up one run on six hits and strike out 12 without issuing a walk. It dropped his ERA from 4.53 to 4.02 and had his owners breathing a sigh of relief. I mean after all, this was a guy they very well chose to anchor their staff in a mixed league.
Unfortunately, the Angels greeted him rudely to the tune of a season-high 11 hits en route to giving up six runs (five earned) over 6.2 innings. This start made it the third time he gave up at least five earned runs in his first 10 starts, leaving him with just five quality starts on the year. His 77 strikeouts over 69.1 innings makes it a little more tolerable, but what, if anything is wrong?
Last season, Price started out badly as well, posting a 5.24 ERA over his first nine starts. He then landed on the DL for six weeks with a strained triceps and returned with a vengeance, posting a 10-8 record with a 3.33 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 7.28 K/9. His strikeouts were down, but overall his Fantasy owners were undoubtedly overjoyed after such a rough start.
This is a different year, though. Back in 2012, Price was averaging a career best 95.5 MPH on his fastball. Just two years removed he is down to 92.5. Knowing that, it’s fair to wonder if he is indeed pitching hurt, especially when you consider that he will be a free agent after the 2015 season and looking to cash in on what may be his only chance at a big payday.
The lack of zip on that fastball has him giving up a career worst HR/9 of 1.43. To put that into perspective, his career mark is 0.83 HR/9, and since arriving in the bigs that number has been above 1.00 just once, back in ’09 in his first full season in the league. Concern should be the word of the day here. When I see things like this, I practice the better safe than sorry method. I’d look for a trade after his next solid start. If he rebounds, congrats to my trade partner, if not, I’m not sorry.
With three home runs on the season, it’s safe to say Prince Fielder is off to a brutal start by his standards. In fact, since his arrival as a full time player in ’06, he has hit three or less homers in a one month span nine times in his career. Four of those nine times were in April. Sure, we are now half way through May, but my point is this; Fielder has started slow before. And even with those slow starts, he has never failed to hit at least 25 homers or drive in 83 runs. He is just 30 years old. The tales of his demise are greatly exaggerated. If you own him, you best hold tight. He has also managed to hit 10 or more homers in a month five times. The long balls are coming. If the Fielder owner in your league is looking to get out from under him, now is the perfect time to make the move.
The Toronto Blue Jays trail only the Colorado Rockies in homers thus far. While power was expected from Jose Bautista (11), Edwin Encarnacion (9) and to a lesser extent Colby Rasmus (9), it’s pretty safe to say no one was expecting to see eight homers from Juan Francisco over his first 91 at-bats. Fantasy owners have sure taken notice, as his ownership has gone from two percent in Week 1 to 58 percent in Week 9. Has this 26-year-old taken a step forward in his development, or are we just looking at a run of the mill hot streak from a guy with plus power? In my eyes the answer is simple, and it’s the latter. For starters his .391 BABIP is going to come down, and with it will come his respectable .292 average. For his career his BABIP is .329, a drop to those levels will pull his average down into the .240 range. Then, when you take into consideration that he has struck out in 33.7 percent of his plate appearances, you have yourself an answer folks.
There aren’t many bats out there that are off to a better start than Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz. Through his first 163 at-bats the 33-year-old is baitting .273 with 12 homers and 37 RBI. Cruz is a professional hitter, posting a .268 average over his 3,047 career at bats. Because of this, we know what to expect of him. His career best for homers in a season is 33, which he hit back in ’09 with the Rangers. He also has never driven in more than 90 runs in a season. Right now, he is on pace to hit 46 homers and drive in 143 runs coming off a PED suspension. If this is not the absolute best time to sell high, I don’t know when there will be better. Float him out there on your trade block with a message that another owner inquired about him and you want to see what you can get for him. Proceed to take the best offer and run.
An opposing pitcher’s lack of desire to throw you a fastball can mean one of two things. They either believe you can handle and drive the pitch consistently, or they know you can’t hit breaking or offspeed pitches. As a rookie last year, Wil Myers hit .293 with 13 homers and 53 RBI over 373 plate appearances; he saw fastballs just 49.6 percent of the time because opposing pitchers knew he was able to drive the pitch. This season, he is seeing fastballs just 47.5 percent of the time. Only Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez sees fewer. The results haven’t been pretty, as he is batting just .243 with four homers and 20 RBI. Numbers tell me that opposing pitchers are throwing him first pitch strikes 62.4 percent of the time, and then spend the rest of the at-bat dealing him sliders, curveballs and changeups. Myers needs to either start swinging at first pitch strikes to even the score, or he is going to have to do a better job working the count back in his favor to see better pitches to hit.
I would be lying if I didn’t say I was puzzled by Cleveland’s move to bring in John Axford over the offseason. His great season in ’11, in which he saved 46 games for the Brewers, has looked like the outlier all along; his awful start this year only further proves that point. Axford’s career 4.27 BB/9 belongs nowhere near a closer role. Free passes are death to closers. When he was removed from the role on May 10 for poor performance, manager Terry Francona promised a committee approach. Cody Allen is best suited for the full time gig, but lefty Bryan Shaw got the only save chance this bullpen has had since Axford’s removal. This to me signals that Francona truly will play matchups for the foreseeable future. Left-handers are seldom used as full time closers because good ones are used as specialists by their managers, usually against right-handed hitters. Because of this, if you are going to take a flyer it needs to be on Allen. And unfortunately if you own Axford, you need to hold tight. His ability to get the strikeout means that if he gets on a little roll, he may sneak back into the role again.
To start, I am going to tell you that in the 12 leagues I participate in I have zero shares of Mike Morse. Because of this, my opinion is completely unbiased. Consider it a public service announcement. Sell him. Do it now. His value will never be higher this season. Right now, he is posting a .283-21-10-28-0, the kind of numbers than rank him as a Top-20 offensive player. He has flashed this ability in the past; see his 2011 season with Washington as a reference. I do not doubt his ability to hit. What I do doubt is his ability to remain healthy and stay on the field. Since 2005, Morse has been able to play in over 100 games just four times. There is enough history here to go out on a limb and say that he misses at least a month sometime between now and October. Why not get top dollar for him now, before it happens?