Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The Tampa Bay Rays have won 23 of their last 27 games and star third baseman Evan Longoria is hitting .200 with a .648 OPS in July. So who's behind the surge?
Below, we'll take a look at five guys who have contributed to the successful stretch and examine their fantasy values going forward. It shouldn't be a surprise that four of them are pitchers.
Jeremy Hellickson, SP - After allowing eight runs in 5 2/3 innings June 13 against the Kansas City Royals, Hellickson was 4-3 with a 5.67 ERA. In his last seven starts, however, the right-hander has gone 6-0 with a 2.09 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Hellickson's ERA is still high at 4.48, and his strand rate is low at 68.9 percent. He has been terribly unlucky with runners in scoring position (RISP) -- even though his line-drive rate in those situations is 20.8 percent, his BABIP is .362. The right-hander's FIP is 3.80 and his xFIP is 3.82, so he should be able to get his ERA below 4.00 before the season comes to a close.
Matt Moore, SP - Moore started out 8-0 with a 2.18 ERA, allowed 19 earned runs on 26 hits in 12 1/3 innings in his first three starts of June and has gone 6-0 with a 2.30 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP over his last seven turns. That adds up to a 14-3 record and a 3.41 ERA for the 24-year-old southpaw. Moore's 4.15 BB/9 is still too high for comfort, however, and he has benefited from a .219 BABIP with RISP despite posting a 24.7 percent line-drive rate in those situations. He does get a lot of weak flyballs -- 42.1 percent flyball rate, 7.2 percent HR/FB overall; 42.5 percent flyball rate, 6.5 percent HR/FB with RISP -- which helps his BABIP. Still, if you can sell him for an ace who walks fewer batters, go for it.
Wil Myers, OF - The big prize from the James Shields trade has lived up to expectations so far. After a brief slump had his average down to .247 and his OPS to .663, Myers has gone 25-for-54 (.463) with four doubles, four homers, 14 RBI, 10 runs, five steals and a 1.267 OPS over his last 14 games. Myers' strikeout rate for the season is still 22.4 percent, which jives with his Triple-A rate, but he has struck out in just 13.1 percent of his plate appearances during his hot streak. The power -- seven HR, 20 percent HR/FB -- is real, but his .331 average isn't. He has a .386 BABIP and his 12.4 percent swinging-strike rate isn't indicative of a hitter with a low K rate. Of the 23 batting-title qualifiers who have a 12.4 percent swinging-strike rate or higher, just one -- Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles -- has a strikeout rate under 20 percent and just four -- Baltimore's Chris Davis, Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez, Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez and Atlanta's Chris Johnson -- are hitting .300.
David Price, SP - Since returning from the disabled list on July 2 from a triceps injury, the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner has looked like his old self. In 48 1/3 innings, Price has gone 5-1 with a 1.68 ERA, a 0.70 WHIP and a 35/1 K/BB. The left-hander has deserved his .209 BABIP in July, as he has limited line drives to a 14.9 percent rate. And while Price has allowed six homers this month, the damage has been limited due to his microscopic walk rate; five of those longballs were solo shots. The left-hander's fastball velocity is down two mph from last year, which has forced him to rely more heavily on his cutter and changeup; he also has basically abandoned his slider altogether. It looks like his new approach is working just fine. Fantasy owners should expect ace- like numbers the rest of the season.
Chris Archer, SP - Among the proven talent like Price and Hellickson and highly touted young pitchers like Moore in Tampa Bay's rotation, Archer has managed to stand out as the best of the lot for the last month. He's a prospect in his own right, but he has spent seven years simmering in the minors until getting a shot at the rotation this year. He had a 5.03 ERA and a 6.41 BB/9 over his first four starts this season, but is 5-0 with a 1.31 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP and a 2.06 BB/9 over his last seven. Archer's K/9 is just 6.25 despite possessing a 95 mph fastball and a plus slider and his 5.00 BB/9 in 769 2/3 minor league innings looms large, but so far he has limited batters from putting good wood on the ball -- his line-drive rate is 16.5 percent, and his HR/FB is 7.0 percent. He won't carry the same trade value as Moore, so you're better off holding him.