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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: May 30-June 5

We've almost hit the two-month mark of the 2013 season, and it's usually at this point when fantasy owners finally give up on guys who have been dead weight since Opening Day.  Sure, some of these drops will come back to haunt you (i.e. if you sold low on Albert Pujols last May) but in a lot of cases, you're saving yourself several more weeks of fantasy malaise as you wonder why your second-round pick suddenly can't hit the ball out of the infield.  As always, we here at TPIITP look at the players who you can safely give up on and those who you should grit your teeth and keep for just a while longer.

McLovin: Every week I feature a player whose good performance can be believed since their peripherals are pretty normal, and last week I chose to highlight David DeJesus over Nate McLouth.  There was no particular reason behind my choice and I just figured I'd save McLouth for this week's column...and of course, then spent the week hoping that McLouth kept hitting.  There are few superstitions more powerful than the sportwriter's "oh, I'll save my story on him for later" curse, but thankfully, McLouth delivered yet another strong week and looks like an even better fantasy option than he did seven days ago. 

McLouth took a .289/.372/.434 line, 34 runs scored, 15 steals and four homers into Tuesday's action and looks all the world like the player he was during his fantasy heyday of 2007-09.  This doesn't mean there aren't a few outlier numbers --- his 11% strikeout rate is well below his 17% career average, his contract rates are all career highs, and he has a 1.45 grounder/flyball ratio when his career rate in that category actually swings in the other direction at 0.94.  This all said, the answer to those stats simply could be that the lightbulb has come on for McLouth in Baltimore, as he has a .790 OPS in 417 PA since joining the Orioles last season.  The stolen base has made a triumphant comeback to McLouth's arsenal and with 15 swipes already (in 16 attempts), he's on pace to smash his career high of 23 steals.  McLouth's OPS could drop 50 points and his speed would still make him a viable option for a fantasy outfield spot.  All that's left is if he avoids the dreaded "Mark Praised Him In A Column" curse that I seem to have bestowed upon Jason Heyward.

De Aza's Diz Asta: Hey, remember when I was talking about players you can give up on now that we're two months into the season?  Alejandro De Aza, come on down!  After posting a .291/.361/.435 line over 756 PA in 2011-12 and stealing 38 bases in the process, De Aza looked like a good bet to score runs and swipe some bags atop the White Sox lineup in 2013.  Instead, the Sox have been collectively terrible at the plate, with De Aza's paltry .243/.286/.411 line fitting right into this modern-day creation of the Hitless Wonders (minus the World Series title, I'm guessing).  De Aza does have seven homers this season after hitting just 13 dingers in his previous 973 career PA, but this minor power boost doesn't offset that otherwise ugly batting line.  It's not even a question of bad luck for De Aza, as his .302 BABIP indicates.  Five steals and a bit of extra pop don't make up for his shortcomings so if you've held onto De Aza for this long, it's time to give up the ghost.

Cain Is Still Able: Matt Cain has been disappointing a lot of owners who expected him to anchor their starting rotations but aside from a couple of troubling peripherals, he's still throwing the ball pretty well.  Cain's 5.00 ERA is much higher than his 3.94 SIERA or 4.08 xFIP, his K/BB ratio is in line with his career numbers, his fastball velocity is only down a bit (91.1 mph to 90.8 mph) from last season and really, if you just subtract two garish April starts against the Cardinals and Brewers from his record, Cain's real-life ERA would be pretty strong as well.

So what's the issue?  Oh, just the fact that Cain has finally marked by the home run demon.  Cain has allowed a league-leading 13 homers this season, leading to a 1.7 HR/9 rate that is more than twice his career average.  While it could be argued that Cain was due for some regression after years of getting somewhat lucky with his HR/FB totals (pitching at AT&T Park really helped in this regard), I would guess that Cain's gopher-ballitis is just temporary.  As his home runs rates normalize, so will his real-life ERA.  It would be pointless to deal Cain now since you wouldn't get nearly fair value for him, so buck up and keep him on your roster while he sorts himself out.  He hasn't given up any homers in either of his last two starts, for example.  And hey, compared to Ryan Vogelsong or Tim Lincecum, Cain's problems seem pretty minute. 

Gerardon't Get Too Comfortable: There are a lot of moving parts to the Diamondbacks' outfield situation but it's pretty clear that however Kirk Gibson chooses to juggle Jason Kubel, A.J. Pollock, Cody Ross and (when he gets off the DL) Adam Eaton, the one constant in the Arizona outfield will be Gerardo Parra.  Not only is he one of the league's best defensive center fielders, Parra has also broke out at the plate this year, hitting .307/.372/.460 with 32 runs scored.  Most importantly for Gibson, Parra also has a 94.8% Grit Index and a 3.02 Uniform Dirt/Hustle ratio, which are clearly more important than any mainstream sabermetric evaluation.

Anyway, Parra has long been a sneaky decent fantasy play against right-handed pitching, as he has a career .771 OPS against righties as compared to a .647 OPS against southpaws.  Those splits are even more pronounced this season, as Parra is hitting .262/.377/.292 against lefties and .328/.369/.540 against righties.  It's good that he's getting on base against everyone but his lack of power against left-handers, his career splits and his .354 BABIP tell me that Parra is due for a bit of a regression.  This would be a good time to sell high on Parra since while the D'Backs are comfortable playing him every day, he hasn't quite proven himself as a lineup fixture in fantasy leagues.




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