With seventeen full weeks of the 2013 season in the books, today RotoBaller casts a critical eye on three players who are on the rise heading into Week 18:
1) Jayson Werth (OF, WAS): Even at the time the Nats signed Werth to a 7-year $126M, deal the consensus was that Werth couldn't possibly play up to the value of deal. Now into the third year of that contract, Werth is finally giving the Nats at least one honest year of good baseball. In the last two weeks, he’s batted .351 with nine runs, five HR and nine RBI, and overall has a .305/.374/.506 line with 15 HR and 42 RBI. This is one of the first times all season that the Nats are playing with a healthy lineup and Werth is in the middle of it all in the five-hole with plenty of RBI opportunities. His LD rate of 23.3% is the highest it has been since 2007 and his HR/FB rate is almost identical to what it was in his 2009 career season when he hit 36 HR. Unlike last year when Werth struggled against right-handed pitching, Werth is more balanced this year with a .299/.323 RHP/LHP split. Pencil him every day in all formats as a solid #3 OF.
2) Jose Fernandez (SP, MIA): He turns 21 on July 31, so when you’re reading this give him a cheers and think about what you were doing with your life at 21 years old. On a putrid Marlins team, Fernandez is going toe-to-toe with Giancarlo Stanton for the face of the franchise. He is 7-5 with a 2.71 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, and an outstanding 124 K. Rather than having a mid-season swoon, he’s only gotten stronger. Since the All-Star break, Fernandez has won twice, an eight-IP, 13-strikeout performance against Pittsburgh. He throws 95 mph heat and has a curve, slider and changeup to mix things up. Going through Fernandez’s game log, you quickly realize that he doesn’t just feast on poor teams. He’s put together a quality starts against St. Louis and threw a gem in Colorado. Plus, he takes care of business against the weak teams too, dominating in his three starts against the Mets and Padres. He is still too cheap for the Marlins to ship off, so he should be on the Fish for several more years. Watch for the Marlins to monitor his innings and possibly shut him down toward the end of the year, but definitely buy on this guy in keeper formats.
3) Nick Franklin (SS/2B, SEA): He's one of the more unheralded rookie call-ups this year, so don’t despair if you hadn't heard of him until recently. He’s putting up five-category stats with a .277 BA, 10 HR, 32 RBI and five SB in only a third of a season. And with only about half as many plate appearances as most of the second basemen he is competing again, he nevertheless sits at No. 6 among them with his 10 HR, with four of those coming in the last two weeks. A switch-hitter, Franklin has generated most of his power from the left side, hitting nine of his home runs off of right-handed pitching. Considering that the majority of pitchers he faces will be RHP, this bodes well for the future. Until he proves that he can hit lefties consistently, you may want to sit him in those matchups. With such a small track record, it’s difficult to say whether this will continue-- after all, he was never a home run hitter in the minors, and he’s striking out more than he ever did at any other professional level, so there seems to be something a little different about his plate approach so far in the big leagues. For now, keep him and ride it out. Depending on how he ends the season he could well be one of the top second basemen on draft day next year
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