Skaggs returned from a hamstring injury Wednesday against the White Sox and pitched brilliantly, allowing two runs on five hits and one walk and striking out six in 7 2/3 innings. Skaggs needed threw only 88 pitches before being lifted, but the 22-year-old left-hander could have gone the distance if it wasn't his first start back. Skaggs is a former top prospect with the Diamondbacks who has found the strike zone in Anaheim. The better command (2.87 BB/9) has also come with fewer strikeouts, but that's a trade-off fantasy owners will have to take for better ERA and WHIP ratios. Skagg's velocity is up from 89 mph to 91-92, and he's pounding the ground more than ever with a 52.6 percent groundball rate. In 2013, Skaggs allowed seven home runs in 38 2/3 innings, but this year he's allowed just six in 84 1/3 innings. With the Angels in the playoff chase, Skaggs will be a huge key in their hunt to get to the postseason. Moving forward, I think Skaggs can be a top-40 pitcher. And he's still available in 95 percent of ESPN leagues and 89 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Duda was a popular sleeper last season, and he was clearly the better option than the Mets other sleeper first baseman, Ike Davis. But, like Davis, Duda wasn't very useful either, slashing .223/.352/.415 with 15 home runs and 33 RBIs in 100 games. Even with a poor batting average, Duda has been a reliable on-base guy, with a career .341 OBP. His strikeout rate has also dropped significantly this year, from 26.6 percent to 21.7. And the power is still there, too, with 12 home runs in 78 contests and a .212 ISO. That puts Duda on pace for 23 home runs, a number I think he can realistically reach. At the very least, I think we're looking at Duda's first 20-home run season. Don't use him against left-handed pitching (.159/.275/.227), but expect another 10-12 home runs and 40 RBI from the first baseman going forward, giving him a potential 20/80 season. If you need a corner infielder, Duda is still available in 70 percent of ESPN leagues and 83 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Two years ago, Jackson was on the cusp of super stardom, batting .300/.377/.479 with 16 home runs, 103 runs, 66 RBIs and 12 steals. Jackson was once again valuable in 2013, but hit .272 with four fewer home runs. In 2014, Jackson has regressed significantly, posting a .245/.310/.358 line and three home runs in 76 games. Jackson has been shuffled around the lineup, hitting leadoff over the weekend and ninth on Monday. He was back at leadoff Tuesday, however, and recorded his third multi-hit game since the start of June. Jackson is still getting everyday at-bats, but if he continues to struggle, he could take the back seat to the surging J.D. Martinez and Rajai Davis. Hunter is back in an everyday role after missing a week with a hamstring injury, so Brad Ausmus will have to balance an underperforming outfield. Even with everyday at-bats, Jackson is going to struggle to hit 10 home runs. And he doesn't appear to be the 20-steal threat he once was in 2009-2011 with the Yankees. In 12-teamers, it's safe to drop Jackson.
Since striking out 11 Padres on June 6, Roark has strikeout totals of 4, 4, 3 and 2. Roark has come away victorious in three of those four starts, but the 27-year-old right-hander was knocked around against Cubs last week, giving up four runs on 10 hits in six innings. Roark just didn't miss enough bats (7.6 percent swinging strike rate), and his lofty win total is a big part of his early season success in standard 5X5 formats. Roark is currently the No. 33 starting pitcher on the ESPN Player Rater, one spot ahead of teammate Jordan Zimmermann). I see Roark struggling in the second half when he faces teams for the second or third time. He put up a 2.17 ERA in June despite allowing a .259 BAA (his highest in three months), and he could hit an innings limit in August and September (He's never pitched more than 160 innings in any year). See if you can sell Roark's fast start, favorable ballpark and sub-3.00 ERA. *I recommended picking up and starting Roark just three weeks ago, but I was hoping for more strikeouts. It's all about making in-season adjustments as a fantasy owner, myself included.
*Stats from FanGraphs.