Here are seven players for your consideration to either acquire or send packing.
Scott Baker – Right now his ERA is a poor 4.93 and his WHIP checks in at 1.36, not what owners were expecting when they drafted him in the middle rounds of their fantasy draft. But Baker has a 3.91 K/BB ratio and both his FIP and xFIP show a pitcher who should have an ERA in the 3.65 range. It has been feast or famine for Baker this year, with four Quality Starts and three outings where he gave up 5 ER or more. But this is the same guy who went 26-13 over the two previous seasons with a 3.94 ERA and a 1.184 WHIP. Baker has a .342 BABIP, so there is reason to hope the beatings will taper off once regression kicks in.
Edwin Jackson – Most fantasy owners did not expect a repeat of Jackson’s 2009, when he posted 13 Wins and a 3.62 ERA. But few expected him to be 2-5 with a 6.33 ERA in the third week of May, either. Jackson’s xFIP actually shows him as a better pitcher this year (4.08) than a season ago (4.39). Right now he is being hurt by the gopher ball, having allowed 8 HR in 54 IP. Six of those homers have come in home starts, as Jackson is adjusting to pitching in Chase Field. But Jackson has dramatically increased his GB/FB rate from 0.92 to 1.47 this year. His K/9 rate is up to 7.33 from 6.77 a year ago. If his HR/FB rate moves away from its current 15.1 percent, Jackson could see a huge boost in his fantasy value.
Magglio Ordonez – In 2007 Ordonez combined for 256 R + RBIs thanks in part to a .595 SLG. The following year he was down to 175 R + RBIs and a .494 SLG and last year those marks were 104 and .428, respectively. Ordonez is off to a fast start, one that has him on pace to better 2008’s numbers. There will be owners out there looking to sell high on Ordonez, but neither his BABIP (.323 vs. 318 lifetime) nor HR/FB (12.5 vs. 13.5) are unsustainable. His 1.35 BB/K is the best mark of his career as is his 90.2 Contact%. Since contact rate is one of the quickest stats to stabilize (150 PA), Ordonez’ is likely to maintain his improvement in this area for the remainder of the season.
Andrew McCutchen – A fast start has McCutchen on pace to shatter pre-season expectations. But if a .376 BABIP raises eyebrows for an unsustainable rate, the Dutton-Carty xBABIP model has McCutchen’s line so far this year producing a .323 BABIP. McCutchen’s power in 2009 in the majors caught a lot of people by surprise but he has matched that production so far this year, too. But it is unlikely that he will maintain an AVG 40-50 points higher than all of the projection systems forecasted for him. McCutchen should not be traded at all costs, but now is an excellent time to cash in on his great start.
Justin Morneau – He currently leads the league in AVG and is third in home runs. Morneau is achieving that with a .404 BABIP and career-high marks in both FB% (52.4) and HR/FB (20.0). A high BABIP usually does not accompany a high FB%. Of the eight batters with a 50 percent or better FB%, only three have a BABIP over .300, so it is very likely that at least one of these marks is going to have to give. Traditionally, Morneau has been an excellent RBI man. But even with his great start in AVG and HR, he is on pace to deliver fewer RBIs than either 2006 or 2008. Like McCutchen, Morneau is another guy who will produce good numbers throughout the 2010 season. But his trade value will never be higher.
David Price – Over-hyped in 2009, Price fell off the radar for a lot of fantasy owners heading into drafts this year. He has rewarded fantasy owners who did not give up on him with a fantastic start, as he is 6-1 with a 1.81 ERA. However, by xFIP, Price is not substantially better in 2010 than he was a season ago, when he finished 10-7 with a 4.42 ERA. This year’s xFIP is 3.98 while it was 4.49 in 2009. I would be a shade more aggressive shopping Price at this point than either of the hitters mentioned above.
Jeff Francis – After missing all of the 2009 season recovering from labrum surgery, Francis is back in the majors with the Rockies. The history of pitchers with this surgery is not encouraging but I like Francis’ chance to buck those odds and beat his RoS ZiPS projection of 4 W, 4.55 ERA, 60 Ks and a 1.41 WHIP.