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By the Numbers: Will the hits keep coming?

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Justin Upton has been a riddle to his many owners this season, so why not start things off with a Justin Upton-related riddle?

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What do Upton, Josh Thole and Darwin Barney all have in common? When you drafted Upton, you were probably hoping the answer was "nothing." Unfortunately, all three hitters share a paltry 4.6 Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27). That's a pretty good catch-all measure of offensive value -- or lack thereof -- but if you break it down to smaller components, the picture for Upton doesn't get any prettier. He is walking and stealing bases, but otherwise, there is little that is separating Upton from a bevy of light-hitting catchers and middle infielders.

It's no secret that the 24-year-old has been been one of the hugest disappointments over the first two months of Fantasy, but that doesn't mean that his season is a lost cause. Actually, if you dig deep into Upton's stats, there are some promising signs. That makes him one of the best buy-low candidates in Fantasy right now.

In this week's review of top buy, sell and hold candidates, we'll uncover those hitters who look like under- and overachievers in the batting average category. Each hitter featured here has a BABIP rate that looks primed for a major shift, though in a few cases, that appearance could be deceiving. Whatever impact an adjustment in BABIP would have for each hitter's overall batting average, it should also make a difference in his other Fantasy stats as well.

Here are this week's top buy, sell and hold targets. All stats are current for games through Wednesday, June 6.

Top buy candidates

Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks: Upton's struggles at the plate have gotten so bad that he has been benched, and Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson told the Arizona Republic that Upton may sit for as many as four or five consecutive games. If he's not playing, he's not helping Fantasy owners, but once Upton regains regular starts, there are reasons for optimism. While Upton is striking out more often this year than last, he should be making up for it with the more favorable line drive and popup rates he has been posting. Instead of improving on last season's .322 BABIP, Upton's rate is just a middling .305. Owners should expect a surge in batting average, and better yet, if Upton eschews liners and reverts back to being more of a flyball hitter, his power numbers should soar, as his home run per flyball ratio is solid at 10.4 percent.

Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Rays: Even though he is hitting for good power and making contact at a decent rate, Zobrist has fallen below the Mendoza Line yet again with a .199 batting average. While a 15 percent line drive rate and an 8 percent popup rate don't portend for a decent BABIP in the .280-.320 range, the BABIP gods have bestowed a .219 mark on Zobrist, which seems more than a little punitive. Even though he's not getting many hits on balls in play, Zobrist has already managed to clout 10 doubles and three triples. Once hits start falling in at a higher rate, the extra bases could start coming at a fast and furious pace. Zobrist will come much more cheaply now than after a power surge comes, and that explosion could happen at any time.

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Logan Morrison, OF, Marlins: Since May 1, Morrison has hit just .171, and a .203 BABIP is largely to blame. His batting average wasn't undeservedly low, as Morrison's line drive rate has taken a dip since the season's first month. However, owners should put more stock in Morrison's longer-term track record of reliable gap power than in a five-week slump. Persistent soreness in his right knee may have something to do with his struggles, but according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, team trainers have said that Morrison could be fully healed within a few weeks. If you buy Morrison now, you may subject yourself to more of his struggles in the short term, but he could provide a windfall at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Jemile Weeks, 2B, Athletics: Weeks has been slow to rebound from a miserable April, but even in his difficult early weeks, he's been making frequent contact. The problem has been in an unexpected area: getting hits on ground balls. Weeks is speedy enough to hit over .300 on grounders, just as he did in his rookie season, but he's been held to a .221 average so far this year. Weeks has been slowly bringing that average up, so if you're going to deal for him, it's best to do it quickly before his overall batting average starts to take off.

Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS Rockies: Scutaro has been a good doubles hitter the last few years; Coors Field is a great doubles park. The move to Colorado looked like a brilliant one for Scutaro, but with just eight doubles and two triples through his first 54 games, the returns have been a bit of a letdown. With only 16 strikeouts in 213 at-bats, contact hasn't been a problem, but a .272 BABIP has likely robbed Scutaro of five or six additional base hits. Given that he owns a 23 percent line drive rate, that estimate may even be conservative. However, if we give Scutaro just five more hits, he's batting .282 instead of .258, and a couple of those hypothetical hits would be hypothetical doubles. Scutaro looks like he's just a tweaked BABIP away from matching or exceeding his typical numbers from the last three seasons.

Top sell candidates

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: With a .371 batting average over his last eight games, Rollins is starting to rebuild his value. It's the perfect time to sell the veteran shortstop, as there are still a number of troubling trends in his stat lines. Over the last couple of seasons, we have witnessed the gradual but steady deterioration of Rollins' plate discipline, as his strikeout, walk and outside-the-zone swing rates are all going the wrong way. Rollins' .247/.295/.344 slash line is distressing enough to his Fantasy owners, but it could actually be a lot worse. He has propped up his batting average and slugging percentage with a near-normal .285 BABIP, but his 27 popups (and 14 percent popup rate) to date are anything but normal. Barring an overhaul of his approach at the plate, Rollins' streak probably won't last long, so look to deal him as soon as possible.

Carlos Ruiz, C, Phillies: With a .358 batting average, 8 homers and 32 RBI, Ruiz has become an unlikely hero for the Phillies. However, he has just one home run over his last 16 games, and he is far from a lock to hit over .300 from here on out. Ruiz continues to be a superb contact hitter, but that skill has carried him to just a career .273 batting average. A .365 BABIP has launched him to the upper echelons of the batting average leaderboard, but he doesn't have an exceptional line drive or popup rate to support it. With no clear improvement in his skill set, look for Ruiz to hit more like himself over the rest of the season.

Michael Saunders, OF, Mariners: In three partial seasons before this year, Saunders had never hit higher than .221. So what's so different in 2012? He has improved his contact rate markedly, but that only goes so far in explaining his current .277 average. Saunders is hitting .350 on balls in play, but he is still profiling more like the hitter who posted sub-.270 BABIPs in each of the last two seasons. As has been the case throughout his career to date, Saunders is posting a below-average line drive rate, and roughly one in every eight hit balls has been a popup. Saunders' 20-20 potential makes him Fantasy-relevant, but his batting average and run production are likely to be less enticing to owners going forward.

Rafael Furcal, SS, Cardinals: Furcal still has wheels, so it would be easy to assume he can get hits on balls in play simply by virtue of his speed. His 15 percent line drive rate is not far out of his recent norms, but a .310 batting average on grounders has lifted his BABIP to .339 and his overall batting average to .313. As speedy as Furcal is, he has not hit above .275 on ground balls in any of the last three seasons. Though he has three .300-plus seasons in his past, Furcal now profiles more like someone in the .270-.280 range for overall batting average.

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals: The last time I wrote a Buy/Sell/Hold column on hitters, Moustakas made the "Sell" list, and he's back for a second helping. In the previous column, I had some doubts about his doubles power. In the three weeks since then, Moustakas has hit .237 with just three doubles. His .241 BABIP over that span is more fitting for his flyball-hitting style than the .345 rate he carried into mid-May. Moustakas' ownership and activation rates have actually grown during his three-week correction period, so owners have hardly been deterred by the slippage in his batting average. He's still cranking out homers, but owners impressed by his power may be overestimating his value. See if you can find one and deal him before his perceived value drops.

Hold these hitters

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Melky Cabrera, OF, Giants: I doubted Cabrera's apparent breakout last season because I didn't think he'd be able to carry over his .309 batting average on grounders to this season. Apparently, Cabrera was just warming up last year, because he's hitting .357 on ground balls so far in 2012. While his 2011 mark didn't match up with his averages from prior seasons, Cabrera does possess the speed to leg out infield hits (he already has 16 this year, compared to last season's career high of 28). Once again, I don't expect Cabrera to keep up his incredible pace, but even if he "regresses" to last year's level, he's worth hanging on to unless you can get proven elite talent in return.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks: Goldschmidt is no stranger to the strikeout, so owners might view his current .288 batting average as a fluke, especially since he hit just .250 last year. However, it might be his 2011 average that was the aberration. Goldschmidt hit well above .300 as a minor leaguer, as he posted high averages on balls in play. Over his first 96 big league games, the slugger has done a consistently good job of avoiding popups, and in this season in particular, he is showing the line drive power that he displayed in Double-A. Especially after struggling early, Goldschmidt might look like a sell-high, but he is actually just settling into the potential that he showed during his meteoric rise as a prospect.

Erick Aybar, SS, Angels: Like Cabrera, Aybar has enough speed to collect some infield hits, but as an extreme ground ball hitter, Aybar has not been an especially good hitter on balls in play. This year he is outdoing himself -- though not in a good way -- putting 62 percent of his hit balls on the dirt, while scorching less than 10 percent of them for line drives. Maybe Aybar can re-establish his prior level of line drive power, modest as it was, but at least for now, owners can know that his .219 batting average and .281 slugging percentage are not products of bad luck.

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: Ichiro is the anti-Melky. Whereas Cabrera defied his track record by hitting for a high average on grounders last year, Suzuki broke a long-standing pattern of high ground ball batting averages by hitting just .263 on wormburners. Rather than reverse the trend, Suzuki is now the owner of a subpar ground ball batting average (.185). He may turn things around somewhat, but it's hard to ignore that he has lost at least 40 points off his ground ball batting average in each of the last three years. This just might be as good as it gets for Suzuki.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Twins' Glen Perkins says he's 100 percent
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:37 pm ET) Twins reliever Glen Perkins said he's 100 percent heading into the season, according to MLB.com.

Perkins missed the last two weeks of the regular season due to a forearm injury, but said that's no longer a problem. He took two weeks off once the season concluded, and went for a precautionary MRI just to make sure the injury wasn't serious. "I took two weeks off and started doing shoulder stuff as part of the rehab to strengthen it and everything went well," Perkins said. "I started throwing again in mid-December. The way I've been able to ramp up throwing, everything has been good."

The 31-year-old Perkins posted a 3.65 ERA over 61 2/3 innings last season.


Tigers' Miguel Cabrera not expected to miss much time with injury
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:41 pm ET) Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera is not expected to miss much time with his ankle injury, according to the Detroit Free Press

Cabrera had ankle surgery to remove bone spurs shortly after the season, and has been recovering during the offseason. He was recently cleared to ditch his walking boot, and will be re-evaluated by team doctors on Feb. 15. General manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters Cabrera shouldn't miss much time due to the injury. "We're hopeful at that point he gets turned loose," Dombrowski said. "If he's not ready for Opening Day, it's going to be very, very close."

The 31-year-old Cabrera hit .313/.371/.524 over 611 at-bats last year. 


Twins' Joe Mauer says his legs feel strong heading into 2015
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:23 pm ET) Twins first baseman Joe Mauer said his legs feel strong heading into 2015, according to the Star Tribune.

Mauer was able to fully participate in an offseason training program after injuries prevented him from doing so last year. Mauer said his left knee, which has given him trouble in the past, feels strong now. :It’s tough to hit when the knee I’ve had problems with isn’t right," Mauer said. "That’s where you get your power from and the ball jumps. I feel good. I’m excited to get out there."

The 31-year-old Mauer is coming off a season in which he hit .277/.361/.371 over 455 at-bats.


Report: Yankees looking to void milestone bonuses for A-Rod
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:05 pm ET) The Yankees are looking to void milestone bonuses in Alex Rodriguez 's contract, according to the New York Daily News.

When Rodriguez signed his deal with the club in 2007, it contained bonuses as Rodriguez tied or passed the top home run hitters. Rodriguez, who has 654 career home runs, is just six away from tying Willie Mays, which would trigger a $6 million bonus. He is also set to receive an additional $6 million once he ties Babe Ruth, and another $6 milliion if he ties Hank Aaron.

The team, however, now views those bonuses as worthless due to his 2014 suspension. The team will argue that these bonuses were signed under false pretenses. The club is apparently willing to fight the player's union over the decision should Rodriguez file a grievance. 

Rodriguez, who hasn't played since 2013, has already found it difficult to mend the fences with his team. Rodriguez proposed a meeting with the club where he would publicly apologize for his actions last season, but the team declined the offer. "This is a relationship that is never going to be repaired," one source told the Daily News.


Orioles, Ryan Flaherty avoid arbitration
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:42 pm ET) The Orioles have avoided arbitration with infielder Ryan Flaherty, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. 

Flaherty will make $1.075 million next season. He can make an additional $25,000 if he receives 400 plate appearances. The 28-year-old Flaherty hit .221/.288/.356 over 281 at-bats last year.


Angels' Josh Hamilton setting lofty goals for 2015
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:30 pm ET) Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton is ready to set some lofty goals for 2015, according to MLB.com.

Hamilton said he's aiming to hit .300, with 30 home runs and 100 RBI this year. After struggling through injuries in 2014, Hamilton said his offseason has been mostly normal. The 33-year-old hit .263/.331/.414 over 338 at-bats last year. 


Angels' Jered Weaver bulked up during offseason
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:57 pm ET) Angels pitcher Jered Weaver decided to bulk up during the offseason, according to MLB.com.

Weaver went from 199 pounds to 224 pounds during the offseason. He said the goal was to get bigger and stronger so that he can pitch deeper into games next year. The 32-year-old Weaver posted a 3.59 ERA over 213 1/3 innings. 


Brewers have discussed Francisco Rodriguez
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:15 pm ET) The Brewers have discussed reliever Francisco Rodriguez, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The news shouldn't come as a major surprise. Rodriguez has been linked to the club since the team traded Yovani Gallardo, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio basically confirmed the news, saying agent Scott Boras contacted the team following the Gallardo trade in order to try and convince them to sign some of his players. Attanasio didn't rule out the move, and said general manager Doug Melvin is considering everything. "Frankie [Rodriguez] had an 89 percent save percentage and the guy has never been on the disabled list," he said. "We know he likes Milwaukee."

Rodriguez posted a 3.04 ERA over 68 innings last year. 


Twins' Mike Pelfrey feels 'normal' heading into camp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:59 pm ET) Twins pitcher Mike Pelfrey feels "normal" heading into camp, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The 31-year-old Pelfrey was knocked around in five starts before undergoing elbow surgery last season. He's been able to rehab during the offseason, and should be 100 percent heading into spring training. Pelfrey said he started throwing Dec. 1, and admitted he feels "normal" now. 

Pelfrey posted a 7.99 ERA over five starts last season.


Mariners sign Endy Chavez to minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:06 pm ET) The Mariners have signed outfielder Endy Chavez to a minor-league deal, according to the Tacoma News Tribune

The 36-year-old has been linked to the club recently, and finally decided to return. He spent the first month of last season in the minors, but joined Seattle in late May. Chavez hit .276/.317/.371  over 232 at-bats. The deal includes an invite to spring training. 


 
 
 
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