Mostly MLB Notes: Streaking Adam Jones, prospect talk and a look around the league

After posting a 22:0 K:BB ratio in June, Adam Jones has a 12:6 rate in July and more importantly, a .306/.368/.581 line with five homers over 62 ABs. I’m not sure what to make of him, as it’s pretty hard to argue against someone who’s on pace to finish with a .294 BA, 33 homers, 111 runs scored, 113 RBI and 15 steals. He’s currently the sixth most valuable fantasy hitter, according to Baseball Monster. He’s somehow done this with an 18.3 K%, 3.3 BB% and a 13.3 SwStr%, but it’s not like he’s a glaring sell-high candidate either. His current .322 BABIP is right in line with his career mark (.317), and while the poor plate discipline hurts his OBP, Jones also has 24 doubles to go along with his 20 bombs, leading to a .500 slugging percentage. Moreover, playing for a Baltimore team that’s scored the fourth-most runs in major league baseball has really helped his counting stats (he has just 13 fewer RBI this season compared to last in 240 fewer at-bats and with a lower OPS). My guess is Jones hits more in the .275-.280 range rather than .300 the rest of the season, but his other fantasy goodness should remain mostly the same. He’s going to be a top pick in 2014 fantasy drafts.

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I was skeptical Gio Gonzalez could maintain last year’s extremely high level of pitching in 2013, as it’s tough to post a 2.89 ERA (and even tougher to post a 1.13 WHIP) with shaky control (3.43 BB/9), and after he ended April with a 5.34 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, those concerns looked prescient. However, since then, Gonzalez has posted a 2.04 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with 89 strikeouts over 92.2 innings. After winning 21 games last season, Gonzalez has just seven victories so far in 2013, but that’s a function of Washington’s extremely disappointing offense and obviously can’t be held against him (although this has undoubtedly hurt his fantasy value). His control remains below average (he currently sports a 3.54 BB/9 rate and hasn’t gone a single game this season without issuing a walk), but he’s also impressively posted the same exact ERA as he did last year despite already allowing more homers (a pure regression issue. His HR/FB ratio is a solid 9.9%) in 2013 than he did all of last season. Gonzalez has a 24.4 K%, a 9.4 SwStr% and a 1.37 GB/FB ratio, so he’s clearly established himself as an elite starter even if the walks continue to be on the high side.

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Prospect Talk: Henry Urrutia posted a .365/.427/.531 line over 260 at-bats in the minors this year, which was his first taste of American baseball. The Cuban defector is 26 years old, so his learning curve may not be as steep as other prospects. There’s not much SB upside, but Urrutia is going to be given an opportunity for regular playing time against right-handers, so he’s an interesting flier in deeper fantasy leagues...Byron Buxton is batting .320 with nine home runs, 78 runs scored, 65 RBI and 35 steals in just 359 at-bats. He’s 19 years old. Fantasy owners can go ahead and start salivating…Billy Hamilton has to be one of the more disappointing players in baseball this season, as he’s taken a major step back while transitioning into the outfield. He’s hitting .246/.305/.335 over 349 ABs during his first stint in Triple-A, although his 56 steals look even more impressive when you consider the low OBP. And at least his five homers are already a career high. Still, just 22 years old, Hamilton’s speed makes him a potential elite fantasy asset, but it’s discouraging that his bat may never lead to every day playing time in the big leagues…Mike Olt has heated up lately, but with a .213/.317/.422 line over 230 at-bats in the hitter-friendly PCL this year, he’s not a must fantasy add, even if the trade to the Cubs leads to a call up soon…Oscar Taveras’ ankle injury is quickly turning 2013 into a lost season. Matt Holliday going to the DL makes it especially frustrating for those who’ve stashed Taveras…Over his past seven games, Wil Myers is batting .536 (15-for-28), even contributing three steals. Still, especially considering how Jurickson Profar has performed, this year’s rookie class of hitters has about as much in common to last year’s as these two.

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Dan Straily came somewhat out of nowhere in 2012, striking out 190 batters over 152.0 innings while posting a 2.78 ERA across Double and Triple-A (including 66.2 innings in the PCL as a 23-year-old). He was solid enough during his major league debut last season, somehow recording a 3.89 ERA despite allowing 11 homers and 16 walks over 39.1 innings. He also was much worse with RISP (.317 BAA) than with the bases empty (.207). (Seriously, how did he do that?) Scouts were never overly impressed with Straily’s stuff, which is why he wasn’t considered a top prospect and his sudden K spike in the minors came as such a surprise. And after sitting with a 7.27 ERA over his first five starts this season, the skepticism sure seemed warranted. However, since then, he has a 2.80 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with a 3.1 K:BB ratio over 61.0 innings. Michael Salfino’s latest “Pitching By The Numbers” suggests his ERA should move down from here on out. Straily’s 11.5 SwStr% would be the ninth-best in baseball if he qualified, so he absolutely should be owned in more fantasy leagues than he is right now.

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Quick Hits: Chase Utley remains injury prone, but if you prorated the 34 year old’s stats over 600 at-bats, you’d get this: .279-101-30-83-16. In other words, he remains a star when on the field, and that’s before considering him playing such a thin position. Utley also remains terrific defensively, and dating back to 2006, he’s been successful on 95 of his past 103 SB attempts, which is a 92.2% rate…Chad Gaudin entered this season with a career 4.63 ERA and 1.51 WHIP over 739.1 innings. He currently has a 2.15 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, and this has come with him moving into the starting rotation, something he previously hadn’t done since 2009. Gaudin has without question taken advantage of AT&T Park, posting a 0.55 ERA over 33.0 innings at home, but he’s also suddenly become death to right-handed hitters, holding them to a .159/.201/.273 line. He’s the new Ryan Vogelsong…Over the first 89 games this season, Brett Gardner had 11 steals. He has six stolen bases over his past seven contests. He’s also on pace to finish with 12 homers and 89 runs scored. He’s already matched his previous career-high for extra-base hits in a season with 34 in just 364 at-bats…There’s little reason not to expect Scott Kazmir to break down soon enough, but as of now, he’s become interesting even in medium-sized mixed leagues. Over his past six starts, he’s recorded a 1.95 ERA and 0.87 WHIP with a 28:10 K:BB ratio over 37.0 innings…The Astros box score Saturday night had to be one of the craziest ever. The team’s pitchers recorded 15 strikeouts, allowed just one hit (Erik Bedard chose to leave with a no-hitter intact), committed zero errors and yet somehow lost 4-2. Crazy.

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Quick Hits Part Deux: After averaging 51.4 steals over the past five seasons, Michael Bourn is on pace to finish with just 21.5 stolen bases in 2013. He’s had a DL trip, but that’s hardly been uncommon in the past, and his current .332 OBP is right in line with his career rate (.338). To make matters worse, the Indians have the sixth most stolen bases among all teams in baseball this season. Before the end of August last year, Bourn had a career SB success rate of 82.1%. Since then, it’s been 62.1%...Kris Medlen has been pounded for 10 runs over his last 9.1 innings during his last two starts (he allowed fewer runs during the 12 games he started all of last season!), but this is someone who has a 2.48 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with a 3.8 K:BB ratio over his past 254.0 innings who might very well get bumped from Atlanta’s starting rotation. That’s a team with a “problem” no other has in baseball (Paul Maholm’s trip to the DL may prevent this)…Forget Cole Hamels’ poor luck when it comes to win/loss record, look at A.J. Burnett. Hamels’ peripherals may be better, but he’s allowed 67 runs this season compared to 41 by Burnett, who has a 3.07 ERA while pitching for a team with the third highest winning percentage in all of baseball. Burnett sits with just four wins on the season and has won one game since May 3. It’s almost as if the statistic isn’t telling…Justin Smoak has been playing a lot better recently, and his massive righty/lefty splits (.306/.409/.520 vs. .183/.275/.225) is actually a good thing for those who play in daily leagues…If I were in a draft today, I'd make Hanley Ramirez a top-10 pick.

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Quick Hits Part Tres: I’m a Yasiel Puig believer, but he’s batting .254/.286/.356 with a 21:3 K:BB ratio over 59 at-bats in June. Put differently, his 33.3 K% this month would rank third worst among all hitters this season. One other underrated aspect about the phenom’s scorching start to his career – he has a not-so-impressive 2.0 GB/FB ratio…Over his past six starts, Felix Doubront has a 1.83 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start since May 8 (although to be fair, there was a stinker mixed in). The recent improvement has coincided with an uptick in velocity. Doubront should also continue to benefit from strong run support, as the Red Sox have scored the most runs in baseball this season by a wide margin…Mike Moustakas is hitting .059/.165/.059 in 68 at-bats with RISP this season. With RISP and two outs, he’s hitless over 29 ABs. Wow…Albert Pujols has grounded into more double plays this year (18) than he’s hit home runs (16). Among active players, only Miguel Tejada has hit into more DPs…I’m beginning to think there might be causation between Pablo Sandoval’s weight and performance...I’m not convinced it means anything moving forward, but it’s interesting to note the huge discrepancy in the average true distance of home runs hit by Justin Upton and Dominic Brown this season…I must admit, I’m pretty surprised by the Ryan Braun sudden suspension, but I guess it makes sense for him to cut a deal and minimize the length of the suspension in a year in which he’s dealing with an injury and with the Brewers having nothing to play for. Of course, that gives his fantasy owners no solace.

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