With fifteen 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 16:
1) Kyle Seager (2B/3B, SEA): Up through mid-June, Seager played up to his draft position. Recently he’s taken off, playing himself into a higher tier of third basemen. And thanks to his 2B eligibility in most leagues, Seager is now worth far more than his draft-day value. With 15 HR, 44 RBI and 53 R, he is among the top five of all second basemen in those categories. In the last 14 days, Seager has batted .449 with five HR and 10 RBI to reward his owners heading in the All-Star break. He's hitting well off left-handed pitching, having hit five of his 15 HR off lefties, and more importantly he's playing every day without any sort of platoon. Seager's batted ball numbers show incremental improvements from 2012, with his line drive rate rising three points up to 24%, and his HR/FB at 12.3% which is well within the range of sustainability. The Mariners lineup is third in MLB with 114 HR, which demonstrates that changes to Safeco are already paying dividends for Seager, and should continue to do so in the second half.
2) Desmond Jennings (OF, TB): The Rays' front office guys continue to prove that they are brilliant. They let Carl Crawford walk a couple of years ago, knowing that Jennings was waiting in the wings. Now, Jennings is building off of last year, and showing that he is a legit five-tool player. His 61 runs are top 10 in all of MLB, and he rounds that out with 10 HR and 15 SB. His average is at .265 now, which is pretty low overall, but is also a big leap from his .246 BA in 2012. With most of his batted-ball statistics remaining similar to last year, the most significant change is that he is striking out much less and working a few more bases on balls. From a splits perspective, he is mashing lefties while struggling a bit against righties. Jennings will need to balance that out to produce a higher batting average and realize his full potential. Still only 26 years old, he is developing into a keeper player with the ability to generate numbers similar to Andrew McCutchen.
3) Ivan Nova (SP, NYY): Nova is still owned in fewer than 50% leagues, but that won’t remain so for much longer. Much like last week’s top riser, Jeremy Hellickson, Nova suffered from some early poor starts only to rebound strongly in the last month. In his four starts since returning from the DL, Nova is 2-1, and he's allowed three runs or fewer in all four starts while going eight-plus IP in two of those games (including a complete game 11-K performance). He is primarily a two-pitch pitcher, sporting a 93.5-mph fastball and 80-mph curve, with an occasional change-up and slider that he is using to produce a K per IP. Although Yankee Stadium is a HR-friendly ballpark, Nova is getting more than 50% groundballs and maintaining a flyball rate below 25%, both of which help to limit the damage. Although he pitches in one of the best divisions in baseball, Nova should be owned in more leagues than he is. He’s comparable to Josh Johnson, who is owned in many more leagues than is Nova, but that disparity should correct itself before too long.
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