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Questions answered
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - While there are some players you were able to queue up and draft without a second thought this spring, there were also plenty who you should have had questions about.

Seven weeks into the season, we're starting to get some answers.

Here are the 10 most debatable players from draft season, along with the questions we all were asking.

Tim Lincecum, RHP San Francisco Giants

Question: Will Lincecum rediscover his Cy Young form?

Answer: So far, no. Lincecum's K/9 once again is over 9.0, but his BB/9 is 4.19 and he has been extremely hittable. His line-drive rate is 27 percent. The right-hander's fastball velocity is sitting around 90 mph for the second straight season, which has made his changeup, which he is throwing at the same speed as he always has, less effective. Opposing hitters are chasing his pitches out of the zone just 24.8 percent of the time, his lowest since his rookie year.

R.A. Dickey, RHP Toronto Blue Jays

Question: How will Dickey follow up his Cy Young season in the AL East?

Answer: Dickey's numbers are terrible. He has walked 24 batters and allowed nine homers in 54 innings and has a 4.83 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. His chase rate, which was 34 percent last year, is down to 26.6 percent, and his swing-and-miss percentage is down two percentage points to 10.2 percent. An upper-back/neck injury might be the cause of his struggles, so we'll see if his effectiveness improves as the season goes on.

Justin Upton, OF Atlanta Braves

Question: Will a change of scenery help Upton reach his potential?

Answer: Unequivocally yes. The 25-year-old is leading the majors with 14 homers and has driven in 28 runs, scored 32 and stole three bases. While Upton's strikeout rate is 24.4 percent, he also has put up a career-high 16.1 percent walk rate. It's pretty clear at this point that Upton's extended slump last season was the result of a nagging thumb injury. Case in point: Upton felt comfortable enough to shed the padded brace on his thumb Aug. 25 last year and hit .301 with eight homers in 36 games from that point on.

Edwin Encarnacion, 1B Toronto Blue Jays

Question: Will Encarnacion maintain his 2012 level of production?

Answer: Encarnacion is tied for the AL lead in homers with 12 and has driven in 31 runs a year after setting career highs in homers and RBI with 42 and 110, respectively. He's only hitting .248, but that will come up as his .228 BABIP increases.

Kris Medlen, RHP Atlanta Braves

Question: Is Medlen as good as he looked down the stretch in 2012?

Answer: No, but nobody really is. After joining the starting rotation on July 31, Medlen went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA and an 84/10 K/BB in 83 2/3 innings. This year, he has a strong 3.02 ERA, but is 1-5 with a 1.32 WHIP and a 38/22 K/BB in 56 2/3 innings. Medlen's swing-and-miss rate is down from 10.1 percent to 8.2 percent since 2012, and his groundball rate has dipped from 53.4 percent to 43 percent. The right-hander has been lucky on balls in play, too, getting a .257 BABIP.

Chase Headley, 3B San Diego Padres

Question: Is the power for real?

Answer: The jury is still out on this one. Headley suffered a fractured thumb in March and missed the first two weeks of the season and has hit four homers in 101 at-bats since returning. The third baseman never hit more than 12 homers in a season prior to 2012 and had eight in 315 at-bats in the first half before crushing 23 round-trippers in 289 at-bats after the All-Star break. Headley does have a 14.8 percent HR/FB, which is higher than any other season besides 2012. Playing at Petco Park certainly doesn't help his homer total -- his HR/FB at home is just 7.1 percent.

Melky Cabrera, OF Toronto Blue Jays

Question: Was his 2011-12 success the results of being chemically enhanced?

Answer: You can make the case that Cabrera's elevated testosterone level helped his power numbers in 2011 and 2012 because he has one homer and a 2.5 percent HR/FB in 2013, but Cabrera has still improved as a hitter by leaps and bounds fr earlier in his career. He's getting good wood on the ball often, as evidenced by his 25.9 percent line-drive rate, up from 21.8 percent last year. His 63- point decline in batting average is more a result of having worse luck than last year than anything else. After hitting .316 (65-for-206) on grounders in 2012 and .311 (82-for-264) on groundballs in 2011, Cabrera has a .174 average on them in 2013.

Jon Lester, LHP Boston Red Sox

Question: Was 2012 an aberration or the new normal for Lester?

Answer: Lester's 2012 stats -- 9-14, 4.82 ERA -- appear to be a major outlier at this point. He's 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA in 59 2/3 innings this year. Prior to last year, the left-hander had stranded runners at better than 74 percent rate in every season of his career, but he had a strand rate of just 67.6 percent in 2012. This year, he has been at his best with runners on, allowing line drives at just a 16.9 percent rate in those situations and 13.8 percent with runners in scoring position and stranding 76.7 percent of baserunners.

Giancarlo Stanton, OF Miami Marlins

Question: Will Stanton see any pitches to hit in the Marlins' glorified Triple- A lineup?

Answer: Before his hamstring injury, not really. The percentage of pitches Stanton saw in the strike zone in his 88 plate appearances is .375, down from .416 last year. Based on his 67.1 percent first-pitch strike rate (60.9 percent in 2012) and 56 percent swing rate on pitches in the strike zone (66 percent in 2012), it seems like most of the strikes Stanton saw came on the first pitch, and then he saw junk the rest of the at-bat.

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF Boston Red Sox

Question: Was his 2011 season a fluke?

Answer: Yes, Ellsbury belting 32 homers in 2011 was extremely fluky. The outfielder had a 16.7 percent HR/FB that year, but his HR/FB in his other seasons combined is just 5.1 percent. And that isn't a small sample size, either; we have 494 flyballs on which to judge Ellsbury. He had just four homers in 323 plate appearances last year, but there was a chance that the separated shoulder he suffered in April sapped his power. However, with just one home run in 187 plate appearances this season, it's pretty clear that Ellsbury is not a 30-homer guy, even with a healthy shoulder.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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