With twelve full weeks of the 2013 season in the books, today RotoBaller casts a critical eye on three players who are on the rise midway through Week 13:
1) Jay Bruce (OF, CIN): It’s was only a matter of time before Bruce ended up in the Three Up list. He is a prolific power hitter with extraordinary streakiness to either excite you or drive you nuts, depending on the week. In the last 14 days, Bruce has gone bonkers with the bat, hitting 8 HR and driving in 14 RBI. Unfortunately, seven of those eight dingers were solo shots, with the other being a two-run job. Bruce may seem old because he came into the league at age 21 in 2008, but the reality is that he’s in his age-26 season and should produce like this year for many years to come. Bruce deserves to be in the same category as Giancarlo Stanton and he should be valued as such. His line drive rate has risen steadily over the last 3 years, from 16.8% in 2011, to 20.2% in 2012, to its present mark of 26.4%, which helps explain the improvement in BA at .279, fully 20 points over his career average. Don’t sell high if you are in keeper league-- understand Bruce's true value, and if you absolutely must move him, demand high-end talent in return.
2) Glen Perkins (RP, MIN): Closers with gaudy numbers are to be expected, and Glen Perkins nicely fits that bill. He’s a two-pitch pitcher-- a fastball/slider guy-- and that works when you all you need to do is hurl one inning and you can afford to throw as hard as you can. Perkins has emerged as a top reliever this year who meets all the criteria you want in a closer. He has a fastball that regularly touches 95 mph, greater than 1.0 K/IP, and a WHIP below 1.00. His 19 saves and 2 blown are primarily due to a ridiculous 38% K/5% BB rate. Among closers, his 14.6 swinging strike rate is in the top 5, behind only Jason Grilli and Aroldis Chapman, both of whom are premier relievers this season. And batter’s contact rate at pitches in the strike zone continues to drop from 88% in 2011 to 81% so far this year. The Twins have indicated that their rebuilding plan includes a space for Perkins, so no need to worry that they will use him as trade bait later this year.
3) Ian Desmond (SS, WAS): Desmond started the year strong with a .301 BA in April, then stumbled all of May with a .220 BA, and now has stabilized into one of the game’s more consistent and top-performing shortstops. So far in June, he’s batting .333 with 6 HR and 20 RBI, all while the Nats' offense scuffles along without Bryce Harper. Desmond produces similarly against both righties and lefties, with no discernable difference in his home/away splits, which means there are no obvious holes in his game and that he is a must-start in all formats. His line drive rate has jumped 4 points from last year, up to 21.6% while nearly all other rate metrics (BB, K, BABIP, SBO) are identical to 2012. One would hope that over time he would lower his K rate and raise his BB percentage, but ultimately if he produces a .280 BA, 25+ HR, 80+ RBI and 15+ SB, you can live with the strikeouts.
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