After Carlos Gomez hit .278 with 14 homers and 26 stolen bases over 252 at-bats after the All-Star break last season, he entered 2013 as a relatively trendy sleeper, and if anything, he’s actually exceeded the hype. Gomez is on pace to finish the season with a line of: .305-91-26-80-40. His 97:18 K:BB ratio isn’t ideal, but Gomez has been successful on 85.0% of his past 118 SB attempts, which is a remarkable rate, and here are his slugging percentages dating back from 2009, respectively: .337, .357, .403, .463 and .557. That’s a trend going in the right direction for a 27-year-old just now entering his prime who has 17 homers, 23 doubles and an MLB-leading nine triples this season, when he’s been the eighth most valuable fantasy hitter, according to Baseball Monster. Despite an shortened month thanks to the All-Star break, Gomez has five homers and 10 steals in July. He also continues to play fantastic defense, especially according to advanced metrics (his 32.3 UZR since 2011 ranks fifth-best in baseball despite limited playing time. And Dustin Pedroia is the only player ahead of him who plays something other than a corner spot). Gomez is a developing star who provides a rare power/speed combo (he’s currently the only player in MLB with 15+ homers and 25+ steals) that makes him a top fantasy performer, and if you also factor in his base running and defense, it’s actually not crazy that he has the third-highest WAR among all players this season.
Jose Fernandez entered 2013 as a 20-year-old with just 138.1 career minor league innings. His numbers were dominant (2.02 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 4.23 K:BB ratio), but it made no sense on the surface to start his arbitration clock on a team clearly rebuilding and among those favored to finish with the worst record in baseball. Of course, the obvious counter to that is the Marlins having no intention of rostering someone like Fernandez on their team when things like Super Two status would matter, so might as well showcase him now. But most prospects fail when first brought up, even top ones, let alone pitchers still unable to drink legally. But Fernandez has exceeded all expectations, as he currently sports a 2.71 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while recording 124 strikeouts over 119.2 innings. He’s been particularly dominant since June started, as he’s posted a 1.87 ERA and 0.91 WHIP with 72 strikeouts over 67.2 innings. Fernandez punched out 13 batters during his last outing, which was the most by an NL right-hander under age 21 since Kerry Wood in 1998. Fernandez has a whopping 94.8 mph average fastball velocity and an 9.4 SwStr% combined with a 1.36 GB/FB ratio, so he clearly looks like the real deal. The only negatives that can be said at this point are that a terrible Marlins team has hurt him in the wins category, and he’s going to be on an innings limit down the stretch.
Fernandez’s lackluster seven wins are no doubt disappointing, but he plays for a team that has scored 50+ fewer runs than the next worst in baseball, and those seven wins are more than: A.J. Burnett, who has four wins with a 2.96 ERA while pitching for a team that leads the NL Wild Card by 4.0 games; Chris Sale, who has six wins with a lower ERA and has thrown 17.1 more innings; Cole Hamels, who has four wins with a 129:39 K:BB ratio; Stephen Strasburg, who has five wins with a 2.85 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. Strasburg has allowed two runs or fewer in 15 of his 20 starts this season! Playing for a team that was one of the favorites to win the World Series entering 2013. If that’s not bad enough, consider these two other nominees: Yu Darvish has won two games since May 16 despite recording a 2.66 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 86 strikeouts over 71.0 innings while playing for a team eight games above .500. Matt Harvey has a strong argument as the best pitcher in baseball this season (Clayton Kershaw has the best counter, and even he’s on pace to finish with a modest 15.5 wins on a team that projects to win its division) with a 2.11 ERA, 0.88 WHIP. Harvey leads MLB in FIP (2.05), xFIP (2.58) and opposing slugging percentage (.275). Harvey has allowed two runs or fewer in 15 starts this season. He has eight wins.
This is the Bubble Wrap Bike. “Jealous much?”
So I tried “Popeyes” for the first time recently (I had always been partial to “Church’s Chicken”) and was pretty impressed, albeit not quite as much as this person. Still, it was no doubt legit, and I’m pretty fired up for their new waffle battered tenders.
Many (including myself) expected the Blue Jays to be major contenders this season, but they sit 14.5 games out of first place in the AL East at the end of July (Many also (including myself) predicted the Nationals to make the World Series. And the team that’s won two of the past three WS is also a clear seller at the trade deadline. The Mariners currently have a better record than the Angels. Baseball, as always, remains incredibly unpredictable). But back to Toronto, since I wanted to point out just how many things have gone wrong for a team that looked so promising on paper entering the year. Jose Bautista has been fine, although his .842 OPS is his lowest since 2009, and Edwin Encarnacion has proven last year was no fluke (fantasy owners have to be thrilled with his production, as he’s on pace to finish with 45 homers and 130 RBI despite a modest .278 BA. He’s also walked six more times than he’s struck out). But after that, it gets ugly: Jose Reyes suffered a gruesome ankle injury, costing him 67 games; after “winning” the batting title last season, Melky Cabrera is hitting just .281/.322/.363. He’s a corner outfielder with three homers playing in Rogers Centre that has the second-highest HR Park Factor in major league baseball in 2013; Brett Lawrie, who posted a .953 OPS as a 21-year-old rookie two years ago, currently sports a .207/.273/.391 line (again, while calling baseball’s second-best hitter’s park home); J.P. Arencibia has a 107:14 K:BB ratio; after being successful on his previous 19-of-21 SB attempts, Maicer Izturis is 0-for-4 since joining Toronto; after winning the Cy Young award last season, R.A. Dickey has a 4.86 ERA and 1.30 WHIP while experiencing a major dip in velocity. He hasn’t had a single start without issuing a walk, and if Dickey didn’t allow one run over his next 108.0 innings, he’d still finish with a higher ERA this season compared to last; Brandon Morrow has suffered through an injury plagued campaign, posting a 5.63 ERA and 1.49 WHIP over 54.1 innings; Josh Johnson has won one game over 14 starts and sits with a 6.08 ERA and 1.57 WHIP (including allowing 19 earned runs over his past 13.2 innings). In case I haven’t been clear, the Blue Jays’ season hasn’t gone quite as planned.
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Over his last four starts, Chris Archer has allowed one run over 31.0 innings, resulting in a 0.29 ERA and 0.61 WHIP with a 4.3 K:BB ratio. In fact, if you date his recent hot stretch back to the start of July, he’s 4-0 with a 0.73 ERA and 0.65 WHIP over his past five starts. Archer entered the year No. 53 on Keith Law’s prospect list, but his numbers this season in Triple-A were hardly overwhelming (3.96 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 2.26 K:BB ratio). Archer has a 6.25 K/9 rate since joining Tampa Bay, and he currently sports a .216 BABIP (that would easily be an MLB-low if he qualified. However, this isn’t necessarily a deathblow. If you check out the league leaders in this category, there’s something that really jumps out. They consist mostly of really good pitchers). Moreover, it’s also worth pointing out among the aforementioned five starts, four of them came against opponents ranked in the bottom-10 in runs scored in MLB (although to be fair, one of those also came as a right-hander pitching in Yankee Stadium, when he tossed a complete game shutout while allowing just two base runners). Still, there are plenty of positives, as Archer plays for a team that has a terrific track record in developing young pitchers. Tampa Bay also provides strong defense, and Tropicana Field has become quite the pitcher’s park. Archer’s K rate may not be impressive, but he has averaged 95.0 mph with his fastball, which would be third highest among all starters if he qualified, and his career 8.2 SwStr% suggests he’s not a fluke, although obviously it’s probably best to expect some regression is in store.
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Quick Hits: I traded Dan Uggla seemingly right after he got new contacts, so it’s been frustrating to see him hit eight homers over his last 25 games. It hasn’t been all good, however, as he’s batting .195 over that span, striking out 27 times over 87 at-bats. Moreover, he’s scored just 11 runs over his eight-homer stretch after crossing the plate 86 times despite a .220/.348/.384 line last season, and he’s also on pace to record fewer RBI than he did in 2012 despite a 45-point increase in slugging percentage (he already has two more homers this season compared to last in 185 fewer ABs). Uggla’s 32.0 K% is the fourth-worst in baseball. Why again do I own him in so many fantasy leagues?...With Joe Nathan surprisingly on the trade block, Joakim Soria isn’t a bad stash right now for those hunting for saves. He hadn’t appeared in a game since 2011 before this month, but he’s yet to allow a run over 5.2 innings and has exhibited solid enough velocity during his return from Tommy John surgery. Tanner Scheppers appears to be the current in house favorite to replace ninth inning work, but he has a modest 33:17 K:BB ratio over 47.2 innings, whereas Soria has a career 2.36 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. Still, I find it hard to believe Texas would really move Joe Nathan, as it doesn’t make much sense…Derek Jeter’s home run Sunday broke a Yankees 28-game homerless streak by right-handed batters. In fact, the team hit as many homers by RHB on Sunday (two) as they had combined since May 15.
Longread of the Week: Remade in Taiwan: Manny Ramirez’s Season Abroad.
And if you happen to also play fantasy football (or just a fan of the random links), here’s my first NFL column of the year.
Quick Hits Part Deux: At this point, Jonathan Villar should be owned in all but shallow leagues. He had eight homers and 31 steals over 339 at-bats in Triple-A this season, and while that came in the PCL, he’s just 22 years old and plays shortstop. He’s already racked up 193 stolen bases throughout his minor league career. The switch-hitter has been handed an everyday job as Houston’s leadoff hitter, and while Villar has already struck out an alarming 13 times over 26 at-bats, he’s also recorded four steals (while getting caught twice) over his first seven games in the big leagues, so he’s clearly going to run wild…The A’s have a .652 winning percentage in July (which would be the best in baseball this season by a wide margin. The Cardinals currently have the highest at .602). Oakland has done this despite an MLB team-worst .251 BABIP over that span (next lowest is .268). Go figure…I wanted to further bury my Giants by pointing out how they have just seven home runs in July with a pathetic .085 ISO, but the Yankees, who have the benefit of the DH and play in a park that couldn’t be more extreme in favor of hitters in comparison to San Francisco, have hit just nine home runs and have a .087 ISO this month. Wow…More fun with July stats: The Rockies have scored the third fewest runs so far this month. Put differently, their team wRC+ is 55. The next lowest is 74 (Twins)…Logical thought would be anyone leaving Coors Field would lose fantasy value, but Eric Young Jr. has been given the opportunity to be an every day player since joining the Mets (batting leadoff even), and he’s gone from afterthought to valuable asset as a result. Obviously, Young isn’t going to provide any power (he has six career homers over 909 career at-bats), but since joining New York, he’s been on a pace to finish a full season with 105 runs scored and 62 steals. That isn’t sustainable, but with 17 walks and 17 SB attempts over 34 games, it’s clear he’s going to remain a fantasy factor over the rest of 2013.