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By the Numbers: Rounding up the sophomores

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From Mike Trout to Mike Fiers, rookies have been stealing the headlines this season. Players who entered the season as prospects are now starting to establish themselves and Fantasy owners are already anticipating how well they might be able to perform as sophomores. We will have to wait until next year to know how what their fates will be, but the wait is over for getting the verdict on last season's rookie crop.

The 2011 season had its own impressive cohort of rookies, and now that many of them have played the better part of two years in the majors, we can do a better job of gauging their long-term value. This week, we'll assess the body of work turned in by 14 hitters who exhausted their rookie eligibility a year ago. Some have also exhausted Fantasy owners with their sophomore-year letdowns, while others have taken their games up a notch. Lurking behind the wavering Fantasy stats are the skill indicators that can give us a better indication of how these young stars will perform in 2013 and beyond.

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I haven't forgotten the 2011 rookie class of pitchers; we'll look them over next week. But for now, let's give the hitters our full attention. Stats are current for games played through Tuesday, August 7.

Dustin Ackley, 2B, Mariners: Most of the hitters reviewed here have experienced some change in their skill profile this season, but Ackley's peripherals are practically clones of last season's. That might come as a surprise, because his Fantasy stats have not been up to his 2011 standards. Ackley's decline is largely tied to his sluggish doubles rate, as he is on pace for just 23 two-baggers. That rate, in turn, is the likely result of a .064 BABIP on flyballs, which is roughly half of a normal rate. Given that Ackley is right around his home run pace from a year ago, a decrease in power doesn't seem to explain his lack of doubles. That makes Ackley a strong bet to rebound rest-of-season and next year as well.

J.P. Arencibia, C, Blue Jays: Probably more than anyone else on this list, Arencibia has met -- but not exceeded -- the expectations he set for owners with his 2011 performance. Arencibia has hit for a higher average this year, though he has offset that with fewer walks. With similar power numbers to last year, his OPS is up only 25 points. Arencibia's hand injury has put a dent into his 2012 Fantasy value, and the potential emergence of prospect Travis d'Arnaud puts next year's value in some doubt. Assuming Arencibia finds a way to claim regular at-bats, he should be the borderline No. 1/No. 2 catcher he was this year, with a little bit of upside, as there is room for him to cut back on his strikeouts.

Allen Craig, OF, Cardinals: If owners were left with any doubts about Craig's ability to hit for power and average in the majors after a truncated 2011 season, he answered those doubts this season. Over a larger number of plate appearances, Craig has increased his home run per flyball (HR/FB) ratio, as well as his line drive and walk rates this year. Those improvements have allowed Craig to withstand some expected BABIP regression, and he is posting a very similar OBP and SLG to those of a year ago. Owners can expect similar production in 2013 and should target him as a No. 2 mixed league outfielder.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves: Though Freeman's overall numbers have not improved substantially since his rookie year, owners can take encouragement in the fact that he's kept pace while dealing with a variety of health issues. He has shown that last season's 21-homer performance was no fluke, as he has held his flyball rate and HR/FB ratio constant, and his doubles rate has experienced a dramatic spike thanks to an enhanced display of line drive power. Freeman is still only 22, so he still has time to improve his contact skills and take another step forward with his home run power. 2013 could very well be a major breakout for the Braves' first baseman.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks: Based on his minor league stats, Goldschmidt appeared to have the potential to hit for a much higher average than he did last season. He has made good on that promise, striking out at a lower rate and hitting more line drives, and the result has been a .308 average through his first 97 games. Goldschmidt's return to line-drive hitting has netted him 33 doubles to date, and a 25-home run season is still very much within his grasp. Goldschmidt may have reached his ceiling in terms of batting average, but there could still be more home run power to come. He is already a viable first baseman in practically all formats, and a year from now, he could easily be a must-start in all leagues.

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Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers: Though he is barely hitting A.J. Ellis' weight and has already missed more than a month with an injured thumb, it hasn't been all bad for Gordon this year. He has improved his success rate on stolen bases, increased his walk rate and swung at pitches outside the strike zone with less frequency. Gordon's biggest problem is that he has whiffed on those errant offerings at a much higher rate this year. While this might be a lost season for the 24-year-old, Gordon has already shown us that he can be a very good contact hitter who puts his speed to good use. Among an increasingly thin and unpredictable corps of shortstops, Gordon could be a real steal in drafts and auctions next season.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals: Hosmer could be the most disappointing sophomore hitter of all, and at the very least, he is in the discussion. While he has been choosier in his pitch selection, there hasn't been any payoff for Hosmer's patience. Though he is drawing more walks this year, Hosmer's power has been on the wane, as 56 percent of his hit balls have been grounders. Owners looking for a power surge from Hosmer will have to look hard for the evidence to support their hopes. He didn't display much power during his brief time in Triple-A, and his best power numbers came while playing at a good hitter's park in Double-A. Hosmer built his reputation as a prospect largely on high batting averages that were partly supported by good contact rates and partly by high BABIPs, the latter of which can be volatile. Hosmer is still young enough to develop power, but drafting him on the assumption that he will do it next year would be a risky move.

Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays: It's not uncommon for young players to get trigger-happy once they settle into a big-league role, chasing pitches they'd be better off leaving alone. This has been the case for Jennings, as he has dramatically increased a outside-the-zone swing percentage that was among the majors' lowest last season. A near-doubling of his popup rate has been one of the consequences, and not surprisingly, so has a drop in power. All is not lost for Jennings, as he has increased his flyball rate this year, showing his potential for a turnaround sometime this season. According to the ESPN Hit Tracker, Jennings has yet to hit a short-distance home run this year, and with a handful of "cheapies," his stat line would get a significant boost.

Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays: Like Jennings, Lawrie has been much less selective as a sophomore than as a rookie, and it's had an even greater impact on him than on his Rays counterpart. Aside from a brief span during mid-June, Lawrie has yet to get into a power groove this year, and while his walk rate has withered away, he has packed on 11 percentage points to his ground ball rate. According to the pitch value data on FanGraphs, Lawrie killed two-seam fastballs last year, but this year pitchers have adjusted and given him fewer to hit. Now that he has been placed on the disabled list with a rib injury, Lawrie's letdown of a season just got even worse. Given that his best power year by far in the minors came in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, owners should bring a healthy dose of skepticism about Lawrie's chances for a return to his 2011 level to their 2013 drafts.

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Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals: Moustakas' power is easier to trust than Hosmer's, as he put it on display at Triple-A, and he is more of a flyball hitter. Now that his fluky early-season numbers, featuring a .315 April batting average, have been washed out, Moustakas is sitting outside the top 15 third basemen in standard Rotisserie and Head-to-Head scoring. That doesn't mean he should be relegated to late-round or waiver status in standard mixed leagues next year, as he should continue to increase his power while making marginal improvements to his batting average. However, his upside for 2013 is that of a middle-rounder.

Josh Reddick, OF, Athletics: The offseason move to Oakland looked like a potential disaster for Reddick, but O.co Coliseum's spacious dimensions haven't hurt him one bit. Reddick has responded with 25 home runs through his first 106 games, and to look at his recent trends, his growth appears to be sustainable. After a difficult first tour at Triple-A Pawtucket, Reddick hit for more power in each of two subsequent seasons. He has followed a similar pattern in his development as a major leaguer, and this year, Reddick is hitting with far more power to center field. His current slash line of .260/.333/.518 represents a level that he should be able to sustain over the next few years, making him no worse than a borderline No. 2/No. 3 outfielder.

Ben Revere, OF, Twins: Revere is a very good contact hitter, but unless he becomes a great contact hitter, owners shouldn't count on him for a string of .300-plus seasons. His BABIP history suggests that his current .360 rate will not the norm going forward. As you would expect from someone with Revere's speed, he hits for a high average on grounders, but his utter lack of power makes it unlikely that he can sustain a high BABIP for an extended period. Revere will continue to be a good source of steals and runs, but with a batting average though could sink into the .270s for the rest of the season, he will be more of a marginal option, even in standard mixed Rotisserie leagues.

Mark Trumbo, 1B, Angels: Don't look now, but Trumbo has an OBP that is 24 points above the league average. The knock on the Angels' slugger had been that his plate discipline was so poor that he would always be a liability for the batting average and OBP categories. This season, Trumbo has swung less and walked more, and he's hitting for a higher average after rebounding from last season's fluky-low .277 BABIP. Trumbo's power is unquestionably legit, so there is little reason to doubt Trumbo's status as a top 10 first baseman.

Jemile Weeks, 2B, Athletics: Weeks' Jekyll-and-Hyde act over his first two seasons mirrors his inconsistent minor league track record, so it's hard to have confidence in his ability to replicate his better performances with regularity. It seems odd that the speedy Weeks is hitting only .232 on grounders, but he didn't always register high BABIP rates in the minors, so he shouldn't be counted on to hit for average like he did as a rookie. As someone who can steal bases, make frequent contact and draw walks, Weeks still has the potential to be a solid second-tier second baseman, but until he develops some consistency, he is too risky to use in standard mixed leagues.

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
Red Sox closer Koji Uehara not utilizing fastball this season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) Red Sox closer Koji Uehara has been throwing an unusual amount of offspeed pitches to start the season. Uehara has thrown fastballs on just 15 percent of his pitches this season, compared to 50 percent over the last three years, according to the Boston Herald.

Manager John Farrell isn't reading too much into it.

"He's going to go with what he feels," Farrell said. "Every 3 mph is about a foot distance in traveling to home plate. So there's a little bit different reaction time. But regardless of velocity there still needs to be the use of (the fastball) just to create separation between his fastball and his split."

Uehara is 1-1 so far this season with a 4.15 ERA and three saves in 4 1/3 innings.


White Sox send reliever Daniel Webb back to Triple-A
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) White Sox reliever Daniel Webb , who was called up Sunday as the 26th man for the team's doubleheader against the Royals, was sent back down to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. 

Webb pitched in 57 games last season for the White Sox but was one of the team's final cuts in spring training. 


Diamondbacks struggling to fill in void at third base
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale knew his team wasn't going to go the entire season without an injury. But the skipper was hoping to avoid the issue he currently has at third base, according to AZCentral.com.

With Jake Lamb on the disabled list with a foot injury, Aaron Hill and Yasmany Tomas have struggled to put it together, combining for a .559 OPS in the last five games.

"Yeah, that's huge," Hale said. "You're going to have injuries all year. There's going to be a multitude of them for every team. If you can't make the adjustment — if guys can't come in and fill the void — then you're going to be in trouble as a club."

Tomas is hitting .286 in 14 at-bats this season while Hill is scuffling along at .156 in 45 at-bats.


Phillies pitcher Chad Billingsley allows seven runs in rehab start
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Phillies pitcher Chad Billingsley allowed seven runs in five innings of work in his third rehab start in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, according to Philly.com.

Billingsley, who is currently on the 15-day DL with an elbow injury, added three strikeouts and two walks in the appearance. He has yet to appear in a major league game since 2013 while dealing with multiple elbow injuries.


Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez still working out of funk
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez has yet to put things together at the plate so far this season. Gonzalez is hitting just .197 with two home runs in 66 at-bats and it's wearing on him a bit, according to the Denver Post.

"I'm not in a good place. I'm still hitting (.197)," he said. "But I'm happy that I'm healthy, and that I'm playing, and that we are winning. I think we are having a good month so far as a team."

Manager Walt Weiss thinks he's really close to seeing Gonzalez get all the pieces together and go on a run.

"I saw real good signs from CarGo, hitting the ball hard the opposite way," Weiss said. "It wasn't just the couple of hits he got. It was the way he got them. Those are things that he had been working on. Then, to get results like that, is always encouraging."

Report: Josh Hamilton trade expected to be completed Monday
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) The trade of outfielder Josh Hamilton from the Angels to the Rangers is expected to be completed Monday, with Hamilton then reporting to Texas' spring training site in Arizona to continue his rehab from offseason surgery, per MLB.com. 

The trade was rumored to have been completed Sunday, but complications arose in finalizing the deal. The Rangers are expected to hold a press conference announcing the trade on Monday. Hamilton is expected to play several games in Triple-A before being called up to the Rangers. 


Dodgers' Jimmy Rollins not concerned with early slump at the plate
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins isn't worrying just yet about his struggles at the plate, according to the Orange County Register.

"Well, some people like to panic. That has never been my MO," he said. "I have, what, 50, 60 at-bats, I'm not sure. So if these are my worst 50 at-bats this year – I'm glad they're happening now. (If they are his worst at-bats) it’s going to be a very good year."

Rollins is hitting just .186 in 70 at-bats so far this season. He believes he's still been taking good swings at the plate, just not finding the gaps in the defense.

"It's hard to compute if you just look at numbers," he said. "I'm getting myself in good counts, just not finishing it off. I know it's coming. I'm hitting some off the end, some are getting in just a little bit. But the swing path is right. It's just a click here, a click there.

"The process is good. You have to continue to trust in the process and believe in the process. You get oriented in just results – especially at times like this – then you're trying to make all these technical changes and that's when you go from one to two to 100. So the process is right. Executing it is about fine-tuning."


Angels OF Matt Joyce hopes hit signals end of slump
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) Angels outfielder Matt Joyce saw his eight-game hitless streak come to an end Sunday with an eighth-inning single that ended an 0-for-26 skid. The right fielder, who figures to be a fixture in Los Angeles' lineup with the expected departure of Josh Hamilton, said he hopes the small start will lead to bigger things, according to the Los Angeles Times

"Sometimes it's a tough game," Joyce said. "It seems like you try everything, and you put in so much time and effort and work, it gets to be frustrating. It gets to be hard to swallow and accept it, and hard to keep showing up and grinding it out."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he will continue to stick with Joyce, who is hitting just .140 on the season. 


Mets starter Jonathon Niese struggles vs. Yankees
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) Mets starter Jonathon Niese was not sharp Sunday in the finale of the Subway Series against the Yankees, lasting just five innings while allowing six runs and eight hits. Niese was betrayed somewhat by his defense, which committed four errors behind him, leading to two unearned runs. 

Niese was spotted a 2-0 first-inning lead, but he quickly gave it back, allowing a first-inning homer to Alex Rodriguez and then giving up four second-inning runs as the Yankees broke the game open. 

"You can't look into it too deeply," Niese said to MLB.com. "It's a loss. It's a tough loss. Obviously we want to win, but we've just got to get through it, learn from it, move on and play better."

Niese, who threw 86 pitches, saw his ERA rise to 2.74 in absorbing his first loss of the season. 

"I just wish I could have a couple pitches back," Niese said. "But I threw them. The results were what they were. I've just got to move on."

Niese will look to get back on track Saturday against the Nationals.


Nationals considering keeping Yunel Escobar at third base
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Nationals manager Matt Williams will have a decision to make when his regular third baseman Anthony Rendon comes back from injury. With Rendon on the shelf, Yunel Escobar has shifted to third and Williams is considering leaving him there even after Rendon returns, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The team is unsure yet what will happen when Rendon returns, but one theory has Escobar staying at third and Rendon shifting to second base, according to Heyman.

Escobar is hitting .292 with five RBI in 65 at-bats while slotted at third base.


 
 
 
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