More was expected of Matt Moore last season, as the highly touted prospect was a preseason Rookie of the Year favorite of many. Moore finished his rookie campaign 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA and a 175:81 K:BB ratio in 177.1 innings, and while he showed flashes of dominance, Moore often struggled to work deep into games thanks to a high pitch count. On Monday, Moore threw a career-high 117 pitches over eight innings as part of the Rays 5-1 win against the Yankees. The 23-year old struck out nine and walked three to become the first Rays starter to win his first four decisions of the year. On the season, Moore is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA and 29:14 K:BB ratio over 26 innings and looks like a guy ready to take the next step. The walks are still too high and Moore has been lucky thus far (99.1 percent strand rate; .143 BABIP), but he's gone six innings or more in three of his four starts, and -- outside of a six-walk game against the Rangers -- has walked three batters or less in three of four. Back in January, I wrote how Moore would be a top-20 pitcher in 2013. Right now he's looking like an AL Cy Young candidate, but will need to show better control to get the hardware.
I was of the belief that a large part of Matt Carpenter's preseason hype was due to his multi-eligibility at first, second, third and outfield, but boy was I wrong. I should have done a little more research. When will the Cardinals stop producing top-notch position players? Answer: Never. Carpenter is hitting .265/.342/.441 with two home runs, 16 runs and seven RBI. He's in a 4-for-33 slump right now after a red-hot start, but he has scored five runs over that span because he's still walking a fair amount. Between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, Carpenter walked in over 22 percent of his plate appearances. In OBP leagues or leagues that reward walks (like points leagues), Carpenter's value is greater. I expect him to accumulate 500 plate appearances, which should produce 70 runs and a handful of steals. Now would be a good time to buy low on Carpenter. It probably wouldn't take much to get him. He makes for the perfect middle infielder or super utility player.
I'm a big Daniel Nava fan, but I never know what to do with the guy. The Red Sox won't give him full-time at-bats because of a .210/.321/.353 career line against lefties, and I don't play in many leagues where it's a viable option to platoon two players -- like say, with his Boston platoon partner, Jonny Gomes -- because of limited bench space. (Maybe I need to play in deeper leagues.) I do own him in one 15-team league, however, and I'm thoroughly enjoying his .320/.429/.600 line with four home runs, 10 runs and 14 RBI. The Red Sox sent down one-week wonder Jackie Bradley Jr., so Nava will get the majority of playing time in left field for Boston against right-handed pitchers. He's the owner of a 20.8 percent career strikeout rate, but he's making better contact thus far in 2013 and his strikeout rate is 14.3 percent. The four home runs are a nice surprise (he hit six homers in 317 plate appearances last season), but you shouldn't expect any more than 10 if he get 450 at-bats. In the Official Fake Teams H2H Points League, Nava is 20th among outfielders, and coming from a fifth outfielder on most fantasy teams, that's pretty damn special.
There are a few Toronto starters I could choose from here. While R.A. Dickey hasn't been his Cy Young self and Josh Johnson's move to the AL has been a complete disaster, Brandon Morrow has easily been one of the more frustrating starters to own. I have many shares of Morrow and none of Johnson, so I'm inclined to believe a bounce back for Morrow is more likely, but the truth is, I'm not all that confident in one. I even dumped Morrow in a 12-teamer and picked up Edwin Jackson, which is probably a lateral move, but Jackson's striking out hitters while Morrow isn't. In four starts, Morrow is 0-2 with a 5.57 ERA (4.99 xFIP; 4.68 SIERA) and 15:6 K:BB ratio in 21 innings. His velocity is roughly the same from a year ago, but his swinging strike rate is down to 6.5 percent, which represents a career low. He's not getting as many ground balls and batters are making contact on 74.5 percent of pitches outside of the zone, which has led to 30 hits already. In his career, Morrow has tended to flip-flop good and bad years, and while that's probably just a coincidence, that ugly trend is already showing its face again in 2013. You can't start Morrow while he's going like this, especially with his next start scheduled at Baltimore.
I don't like putting Yonder Alonso here because he's one of my favorite players. It's still early in the season and in his career, but Alonso has showed no power in his first two-plus seasons in the bigs. His home park has something do with that, but in 735 at-bats, Alonso has only hit 16 home runs. After posting a .120 ISO in 2012, Alonso has started off the new year at .130. He has the ability to spray the ball to all fields, but it has yet to show up in his batting line (.261/.316/.391). I think the skills ultimately win out, but I'm less positive that Alonso reaches the 15-home run plateau this season. I was expecting Alonso to be a middle of the lineup run producer, but with an 18.2 percent line drive rate to start the year, I'm less confident in that now. There's still plenty of time to turn his season around, however.
Michael Morse is someone that you hopefully stayed away from in points leagues, as a high-strikeout, low-walking fool with a knack for prolonged slumps. After hitting six home runs in his first nine games, Morse is 5-for-35 with no home runs, nine strikeout and two walks in his last eight. I believe in the power and still see 30 home runs coming from the Seattle lumberjack, but it's not enough to make up for the 26.7 percent strikeout rate and four percent walk rate that he currently holds. After a 0-for-5 last night against Brad Peacock and the Astros, Morse is hitting .214/.267/.500. He has one run and one RBI in his last eight games. The time to sell Morse is gone, so now you'll have to hope for another hot streak of home runs. When that time comes, sell, sell, sell!
Alex Kantecki is a contributor for Fake Teams, Big Leagues Mag, Dobber Baseball and Vigilante Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotodealer.