Today I’ll touch on the call up of Mike Moustakas, the struggles of Trevor Cahill and Ichiro Suzuki, the continued dominance of Justin Verlander and the fact that there is an NL batter who is excelling right under everyone’s nose.
Back in March I warned people not to reach for Trevor Cahill in Which Pitchers Should I Target? I then ranked Cahill as my 50th best pitcher in my Top-100 Starting Pitchers piece. People sent me some nasty notes saying I was stupid and completely overlooking the great work Cahill did in 2010 (18-8, 2.97 ERA, 1.11 WHIP). It’s still early, but I see vindication on the horizon. Cahill has lost his last four decisions and he has looked atrocious over his last four starts – 7.25 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 1.07 K/BB ratio. On the year Cahill still owns a strong 3.18 ERA an a passable 1.32 WHIP, but I’ll continue to warn you that I’d be surprised if his ERA doesn’t end up being a run higher than it was last year.
Without looking, who is leading the NL in OPS? If you guessed Lance Berkman (1.080) you’d be right. Some of you may have gotten that one, but tell me, who is sixth in the NL? If you haven’t looked at the list the past couple of days there is no way you would know that it’s the Rockies… Todd Helton (.928). Helton was horrible last year with a .728 OPS in 398 at-bats, but it seems like everyone just wrote him off coming into the year because of his age (38 in August) and back woes despite the fact that he was pretty darn good two years ago (.904 OPS). If you grabbed him late in your mixed league, great job.
Ichiro Suzuki is hitting .252 on the year including an impossible to believe .132 in June and .189 since the start of May in what has been the worst slump of his life (I contracted his t-ball coach to confirm). Ichiro is 37 years old, but can a guy who has 10-straight years of hitting .300 with 200-hits suddenly just stop hitting? I think it’s doubtful. His walk rate is better than normal, and his K-rate would be his best mark since his 2001 season. He is hitting more balls than ever on the ground (62 percent this year versus 56 for his career), but given his skill set that is better than the alternative of him hitting the ball into the air. Ichiro has seen a gradual reduction in his line drive rate the past few years, but his 17.6 percent mark is slightly better than the 17.3 percent rate from last season, yet somehow his BABIP has dropped from .353 to .273. Given that his career BABIP mark is .354 and that he has never finished a year below .316, I believe that mark, and his average, will rebound. He wont hit .328 this year – his career mark – but I think .300 is still doable.
Justin Verlander is 5-0 with a 2.37 ERA over his last eight starts to improve his yearly totals to 7-3 with a 2.89 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 93 Ks in 102.2 IP (8.15 K/9). Flat out, the guy is an ace.
ROYALS CALL UP SLUGGER
Mike Moustakas was called up by the Royals Thursday as they continue to switch gears midstream by calling up all their youthful talent. Here are my thoughts on the slugging third baseman.
The second player taken in the 2007 draft, Moustakas hit .322 with 36 homers and 124 RBI last year – in just 118 games mind you – to be named to just about every minor league all-star squad you can think of. He started out this season a bit slowly, but after hitting .356 over his last 10 games he upped his average to .287 in Triple-A with 10 homers and 44 RBI in 55 games. The young third baseman has power, plus power actually, and he should be able to flash that immediately with the Royals. For a slugger he also does a fairly good job at avoiding the whiffs, though that doesn’t mean he is ready to be a .300 hitter in the big leagues – he isn’t.
With third base being a minefield this season of injury and poor performance, Moustakas is a name you need to take immediate note of. In my recently released ROTW Rankings: Hitters piece, I listed Moustakas 19th at the position. Why so low? I honestly didn’t think he would be up for another month. At this point I have no problem moving him up to 15th on that list which means he is obviously an immediate add in 15 team leagues, and if you are in a 12 team league that uses corner infielders, he would also be a must add. Of course, this thumbs up shouldn’t be offered without my standard “be careful he is just a rookie with no big league experience” line. I’m predicting success here based on his skills and pedigree, but that is by no means a guarantee that he will live up to the hype in 2011.
By Ray Flowers