Jorge de la Rosa, Rockies
de la Rosa sure has played roster hot-potato for a lefty cooking in the low-90’s, having been a part of four trades while seeing time in the Arizona, Boston, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Colorado systems. The 28 year-old, as covered in great detail by Eno Sarris, has kicked off the 2009 season with a 2.99 FIP, 9.49 K/9 and 3.38 BB/9 in 42.2 innings. de la Rosa has been fortunate in the home run department (0.42 HR/9, 4.9 HR/FB%), but his XFIP (based on K’s, BB’s and a normalized HR rate) still checks in at a tidy 3.70. If de la Rosa can keep the walks at a moderate rate, he could be an asset in most any league.
Joe Mauer, Twins
I know- Mauer has long been a fantasy darling, as a line-drive hitting backstop with excellent control of the zone. But the 26 year-old’s power outburst to begin the ’09 season bears mentioning: he’s already popped 6 out of the park in 73 plate appearances (this after hitting a combined 16 dingers in over 1,100 PA’s during the 2007 and 2008 seasons). Don’t expect him to suddenly go all Mike Piazza on the league, but Mauer would only add to his immense value if he could loft 20 big flys in addition to his high-contact, patient act at the dish.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
Ubaldo has done a better job of limiting the base on balls in recent starts, with 22 K’s, 6 walks and 6 runs allowed in 27 frames during the month of May. Like de la Rosa, Jimenez has had some good luck on flyballs (0.20 HR/9, 2.4 HR/FB%), but his XFIP is a decent 4.43 despite a disastrous April (16 runs, 19/17 K/BB in 19 IP). The combination of whiffs (8.02 K/9) and worm-burners (50 GB%) makes the 25 year-old Dominican Republic native an intriguing trade target.
Jayson Werth, Phillies
The whole “is player X overrated/underrated” debate is obviously subjective, but Werth has to place among the more underappreciated talents in the game. How many people realize just how valuable this rangy, 6-2, 225 pounder has been for the Phillies since 2007? A 3.4 Win player in partial playing time in ’07, Werth posted a 5.3 WAR season for the Phillies in 2008 (tied with Jimmy Rollins for 2nd in a star-studded lineup), and he’s produced 1.4 wins already in 2009. With a .415 wOBA (.294/.396/.540) and 8 steals in 9 attempts, Werth is producing in every facet of the game. He’s even making a little more contact (23.8 K%, 29.9 career average), while raking against righties (.849 OPS) in addition to his usual lefty lashing (1.142 OPS).
Rick Porcello, Tigers
Porcello has gone from Seton Hall Prep to viable major league starter in less than two seasons, as the 20 year-old sinkerballer has allowed 2 runs in 18 innings during the month of May. Porcello isn’t blowing batters away (5.67 K/9), but he’s stingy with the free passes (2.95 BB/9) and generates grounders (53.6 GB%) with the sinker, a mid-70’s curve and a low-80’s changeup. Porcello is doing a better job of throwing his three quality offerings (particularly his curveball) from the same arm-slot. Check out his release point chart against the Yankees, in a 3.2 inning, 6 run drubbing on April 29th…
…and his release point in a 6-inning, 1 run gem against the A’s on May 16th…
Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
There has been a general malaise over the South Side bats in 2009 (the Pale Hose rank 26th in wOBA), and Ramirez is one of the main culprits. Ramirez has been slightly more “patient” in ’09 ( we’re speaking in incredibly relative terms here: 5.6 BB%, 37.2 Outside Swing Percentage in 2009 compared to 3.6 BB% and a 42.7 O-Swing% in ’08), but the “Cuban Missile” has failed to launch, with a sickly .243 wOBA. His BABIP sits at a very low .238, so some positive regression should be expected. Still, his .051 ISO is downright Bloomquistian. This is what you sign up for if you gamble on a batting average-dependent player: when those hits don’t fall in, that player’s value craters.
Todd Wellemeyer, Cardinals
Just when it looked like Wellemeyer might establish himself as a competent mid-rotation cog (4.51 FIP in 2008), he has gone and reminded everyone why he’s a former Cub, Marlin and Royal. His K rate has dipped from 6.29 per nine in ’08 to 5.28 in ’09, with his BB/9 inflating from 2.91 to 4.11. Wellemeyer’s go-to secondary offering last year was a mid-80’s slider (thrown 23.6% of the time), but his slider usage is down this season (12.9%), as is its velocity (83.1 MPH). In place of the hard breaker, the 30 year-old has mixed in a few high-80’s cutters and some high-70’s curves. The kitchen sink approach does not appear to be working.
Josh Fields, White Sox
The former first-rounder out of Oklahoma State has been a wreck at the plate this season, whiffing 32.8 percent of the time while making Scott Podsednik look like a power hitter (.096 ISO). That’s quite the fall for a guy who authored a .236 ISO during the 2007 season. At 26 years old and coming off a mundane season spent at AAA Charlotte in 2008 (.347 wOBA, .772 OPS), Fields isn’t such a highly-regarded youngster than he can continue to post oh-fer’s and stay in the lineup. He’s not on the Drew Henson path of doom quite yet, but he might want to take a few snaps in between BP sessions.
Armando Galarraga, Tigers
As a free-talent pickup from Texas, Galarraga was a pleasant surprise for the Tigers in 2008 while many other Detroit hurlers crashed and burned. A good deal of regression should have been expected this season (Galarraga’s 3.73 ERA far surpassed his 4.88 FIP), but we weren’t quite anticipating this kind of spontaneous combustion. While Verlander, Jackson and Porcello deal, 2008’s nominal ace has a 5.62 FIP and a walk rate closing in on five batters per nine innings. His last outing on May 17th was a 0.2 inning, 5-run disaster against the light-hitting A’s.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, Padres
The Crushin’ Russian has not lived up to his nickname so far in 2009. Kouzmanoff’s Isolated Power figure comes in at just .101, continuing a three-year downward trend: his ISO was .182 in 2007 (his first full season in the big leagues) and .173 in 2008. The 28 year-old’s wOBA’s have dipped from .339 in ’07, .316 in ’08 and just .284 in 2009. The Padres are giving some thought to putting Chase Headley back at the hot corner, to make room for mammoth 6-6, 275 pound prospect Kyle Blanks in left field (it’s a stretch, but he’s more athletic than you might think). Kouzmanoff will need to show something in the coming weeks if he hopes to avoid being usurped.