Too good to be true?
A closer look at red-hot Melky Cabrera, Mark Trumbo and Chris Sale
Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera leads the NL in batting (.367), Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo has the third highest OPS in the AL (1.007) and White Sox left-hander Chris Sale has the lowest ERA (2.05) in the AL. Can they sustain their high level of play?
1. Melky Cabrera: You buying or selling?
Eric Karabell (@karabellespn ), ESPN.com Fantasy: I'm buying on the Melk-man. I don't think he'll continue on quite the path to .360 or 230 hits, but this is a late-blooming switch-hitter who had a breakout 2011 for the Royals, and he's doing it again. Good for the Giants! I expect Cabrera to contend for the batting title and -- gulp -- continue to hit third in the playoffs when the Giants make it in.
San Francisco Giants
Hudson Belinsky (@hudsonbelinsky ), Halos Daily: Buying. Make no mistake about it, Cabrera isn't going to hit .366 forever. His .408 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) screams regression, but he could level out as a guy who gets on base somewhere in the .350 range. With average defense in left field, he should be a 4-win player this season.
Jorge Arangure (@jorgearangure ), ESPN The Magazine: Buying. Kind of. The obvious mark to dismiss Melky's hot start is his obscenely high .408 BABIP. This is not sustainable. But what's for discussion is how high his normal BABIP has risen. In a 2011 that was described by many as fluky, Melky had a .332 BABIP, almost 50 points higher than the previous two seasons. It just may be that Melky has gotten serious about the game and that he's become an above-average hitter.
2. Mark Trumbo: You buying or selling?
Karabell: I'm buying on Trumbo, too, at least the power part of his game. He's a potential 40-homer guy, but I can't see a .300 batting average. He's walking more and also swinging at better pitches, but when the .370-something BABIP falls, I expect Trumbo to hit around .270. Hey, that's still better than expected! The Angels really shouldn't play Vernon Wells over him.
Belinsky: Buying. Trumbo is another beneficiary of an outrageous BABIP, but he's also made tremendous strides with his plate discipline, swinging at fewer pitches outside of the strike zone and working longer counts. The walk rate doesn't have to be tremendous, so long as he continues to wait for pitches he can drive.
Arangure: Buying. Again, I'll bring out the BABIP argument (.374) to say Trumbo won't hit this well all year. But what appears to be real is Trumbo's newly found plate discipline. This season, according to FanGraphs, Trumbo is swinging at 5 percent fewer pitches outside the strike zone than he did last year. This perhaps shows us a young hitter who is learning the strike zone.
3. Chris Sale: You buying or selling?
Karabell: I'll complete this rampant buying spree with Sale, as well. I'm not sure why there was so much overreaction on Sale's elbow issue a month ago. Most pitchers will say they deal with occasional soreness. I'll take the under on Sale topping 175 innings, because that would be a lot in his situation, but 16 wins, 170 whiffs and a 2.80 ERA seems legit. Hey, so are the White Sox.
Chicago White Sox
Belinsky: I hear there's value in tall left-handers who can miss bats and don't walk a ton of batters, so I'll buy here, too. The concern for him is whether or not he can start long term, but I'm sure the White Sox will use him as a starter until he proves that it's not going to work. In the meantime, I'll take the kid with the 2.52 FIP 11 starts into the season.
Arangure: Selling for now. It's not that I don't think Chris Sale is a talented pitcher, but I'm concerned that he will wear down toward the end of the year. Never in his almost three-year professional career has Sale pitched more innings than he's already pitched this season. He's not an incredibly sturdily built person anyway, so I'm guessing the White Sox will face a tough choice in September should they continue to be in playoff contention and Sale's innings continue to mount.