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Struggling Stars and How to View Them

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening — whichever is applicable to you. No matter how many times I fly, the view at the land below never ceases to amaze me. I find it remarkable that life’s most mesmerizing views can be seen from a window around 15 inches tall and 10 inches wide. From the small towns to the bright lights of the big cities I find myself piecing together the lives of those below me.

Is that the cul-de-sac where the neighborhoods best gather for pickups games until dark? How many teams gather at those baseball fields on a daily basis? So many questions come through my mind as the hours of my flights so quickly pass.

In the row to the right of me sits a man with the window shade down. The fatigue on his face evident, and you quickly realize this space in time offers him a rare opportunity for sleep. In the row in front of me is a professional type. While I’m not exactly sure of what this person does for a living, it resonates loudly just how passionate he/she is about their profession. Into the laptop screen they delve with complete attention, oblivious to anything that could detract from the task at hand. The hours of the flight all to quickly become minutes as the work has yet to be finished.

As we near the end of May, most MLB teams have played around 50 games. For fantasy owners those “small sample sizes” are becoming a little bigger. Slow out of the gate is becoming “What is wrong with ______?”.  To summarize: Fantasy Players across the country have firmly pressed the panic button.

This State of Panic is not reserved solely for late round roster fillers anymore. The pressure to produce is most intense on players you considered your team building blocks. So naturally, given the pressure involved, when those players don’t produce as expected, ones patience begins to be tested.

Today I wanted to recap about a dozen players whose ADP ranked them in the Top-100 in NFBC drafts. I focused on the players who have been relatively healthy and whose lack of production has effectively been detrimental to your team. I also give my personal take as to my level of concern and what I feel the rest of the season may provide us. Preseason ADP in parenthesis.



The Early 2017 Deplorables

Edwin Encarnacion (26):  .217/9/21/20/1

On the bright side, the Indians offense has his counting totals providing more value than his hitting tool currently deserves. Known as a slow starter, E5 has greatly disappointed owners who perceived him to be a potential first round talent. He is still drawing walks, but a huge strikeout spike and contact woes are very concerning.

I’d be willing to cite contract pressure if the issue was chasing balls out of the Zone, but a decrease in Contact has fueled the rising strikeout totals. Concerned? Absolutely, but I also feel his situation with the Indians provides a very secure production source.

Carlos Gonzalez (63): .252/4/22/16/0

The overall plate discipline has slightly improved, and no decline in contact is a plus. I would certainly consider myself a buyer, but to what extent remains in question. Trends of ground ball increase continues in the early stages of 2017, and the current rate would suggest last seasons 25 home runs seems much more attainable than the 40 home run mark of 2015. 

A decrease in Opposite Field hitting could cap the average potential, but I’m not quite ready to establish a new spray chart for CarGo just yet. There is also the contract issue to consider. He is a free agent after this season, and if Colorado falls out of contention a change of address could be in order.  There is enough to have me hopeful in what the rest of 2017 has to offer, but I am still somewhat hesitant.

Kyle Seager (65): .252/4/15/22/0

Nearly identical statline to CarGo outside of a Run for RBI swap. At 29, I don’t anticipate that Seager has surpassed his prime. Growing fly ball tilt has batting average at a risk if Hard Hit and/or Line Drive rate takes a dip. Both have occurred thus far leaving .252 as the result, and minimal power is the result of a 6.8% HR/FB rate that sits well below his career 11.2% mark. The Mariners will play better, the counting stats will come, and by seasons end you’ll be looking at the .270-25 HR player you’ve come to expect.

Rougned Odor (36): .207/6/23/19/4

Overall counting numbers you can live with, but hovering around the Mendoza Line isn’t quite efficient.  A .229 BABIP seems to suggest a batting average spike can occur. Most bought Odor for the 30 home run potential from 2016, and I expect those owners to be disappointed. With contact and chase rates remaining steady I feel confident stating that Odor will be one of those players who achieves good things despite it – his good just won’t be 30 home run good.

Gregory Polanco (61): .252/1/15/9/6

Huge gains in K% provides a very optimistic outlook. The problem is huge ground ball gains has zapped the power and capped the counting stat potential. It’s early, but those 22 home runs from last season seem to fall under the outlier label. Should Polanco maintain his current ground ball rate then seven home runs could be the cap. On the plus side, his career BABIP could be surpassed and you could be looking at a 30 stolen base threat who hits north of .270.

Kyle Schwarber (74): .186/7/21/19/0

Plate discipline is a mirror image from his last taste of major league action in 2015. The contact rate needs to improve in order for the batting average to surpass .250. That improvement has been established in the early going of 2017, as has his SwStr% of just over 10.00. From an analytical standpoint I’d much rather see improved approach without the results than I would improved results without a sense of validity to them. There is little hesitation for me to suggest the 20+ home run pop will emerge and the Run/RBI totals will follow.

Alex Bregman (89): .261/3/16/14/4

Simply a victim of too much hype. By all accounts Bregman has improved as a player. The walk rate is up, strikeout rate is down, and to further verify his adjustments; mark his improvements in SwStr%, Contact, and Swing %. Once again the improvements  are apparent, but the numbers have yet to translate.

With the Astros depth of talent and varying lineup options, the ho-hum production results in a lower batting spot, effectively limits just how much value can be had in those departments.  The draft day price will not be approached, but even without any improvements you could be looking at a Top-125 player from this point forward.

Jake Arrieta (32): 4.80 ERA/1.40 WHIP

After last seasons rough second-half I was gun-shy on Jake to begin the 2017 season. The draft day price tag had him eliminated from my consideration early in the process. Last seasons 3.47 BB/9 scared the life out of me. Big gains in both K/9 and BB/9 have me feeling very optimistic. Batted ball profile seems to be the biggest detractor at this point as Arrieta’s GB% (41.3) and FB % (37.3) far exceed what you’ve come to expect.

The increase in fly balls has fed into the home run totals which have ultimately been his undoing. With a three-year track record of nearly a 50% ground ball rate I’m rather confident Arrieta will once again resurface as a potential staff ace – perhaps this time with some value to be found.

Justin Verlander (42): 4.39 ERA/1.34 WHIP

Statistically better than Arrieta, but the underlying data looks much less promising. For those velocity readers out there, Verlander is just fine. He has gained nearly 1.5 MPH on his fastball, I suppose his trade-off was in control where Verlander has seen his BB/9 balloon to 4.23. Less chases out of the zone and less pitches in the zone has Verlander playing with danger. According to xFIP, Verlander has turned himself into an ERA north of 5.

The sudden nature of the control issues leads me to believe something mechanical or a minor injury could be to blame. Either scenario would lead me to believe better days lie ahead if and when the hypothetical adjustments are made.

Masahiro Tanaka (78): 6.56 ERA/1.60 WHIP

I’m not sure Bob Ross could cover Tanaka’s work with a masterpiece. In short, he’s been really bad. Some site velocity gains as a positive. If you’re of that camp enjoy the 1.2 MPH gain from last season. Otherwise you’re holding on to LOB, BABIP, and HR/FB rates to convince yourself the past lies in the future.

Similar to Verlander, an unknown injury would not surprise me in regards to Tanaka. Steady to improved Swing and Contact numbers suggest in many ways that he’s the same player we’ve come to value. Continue to run him out every 5th day and remind yourself to trust the process.

Jose Quintana (100): 4.82 ERA/1.30 WHIP

Stop me if you’ve heard this before  “_______continues to struggle with control.” It’s certainly been a common theme of this post. Like Verlander and Tanaka, the quality of stuff doesn’t seem to be the culprit as Swing rates and contact totals remain fairly neutral. The 3.50 BB/9 is a full walk above his career mark and nearly 1.5 more than his previous two-year total. Combine increased base runners with a decrease in LOB% and you’re going to get a spike in ERA.

With one being luck and the other with a more positive track record a turnaround could be right around the corner. One area of pause for me, however, could be in GB/FB rate. A drastic fly ball gain last season has been followed up by a career low .89 mark to this point.  That rate in that ballpark is certainly not something I would find appealing. Better days lie ahead, but I still feel better about both Verlander and Tanaka going forward.

*****

Fantasy owners take different approaches on struggling players. Look no further than the player capsules themselves. While most supported a potential resurgence, a cause for doubt was apparent in each and every one. As noted earlier we are approaching the 50 games mark for nearly all teams. So how do you handle these cases?

Has your frustration reach the point where you want change for the purpose of change. In leagues everywhere some of these names have hit the wire for this very reason. These owners have took a $1 investment and gave it up for .20 cents on the dollar. Not exactly the most sound approach if you ask me.

The view from 15K feet can be quite breathtaking, yet not everyone takes the time to appreciate it. There are valid reasons as to why owners willingly rid themselves of struggling players such as these. It’s the same reason why so many flyers utilize their time for much-needed rest and catching up on last-minute details. People make decisions based on whats better for them and remain committed to seeing it through.

Executing your plan is always the right move, but maximize your efforts anyway you can. Somewhere in your league someone views Kyle Schwarber as the Postseason hero with 30 home run pop while another values Edwin Encarnacion just the same as you did on draft day. They are the same people who stare in wonderment at the potential the world offers. 80 cents on the dollar is right there for the taking, you just have to take the time to enjoy the view.

 

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Josh Coleman
Father of four SP1 children. Replacement level husband to a top tier wife. I love my family, value my friendships, and spend as much time as possible (too much according to the aforementioned Mrs. Coleman) dedicated to the pursuit, of another Fantasy Championship. I'm the oddball at the bar who prefers Fantasy Baseball to Fantasy Football.
Josh Coleman

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2 comments on “Struggling Stars and How to View Them

  1. Cool airplane story. So basically every struggling top 100 batter will rebound? Is this an optimistic Christian fantasy blog?

  2. What can I say, I’m the eternal optimist. Honestly I’m more hopeful of some than others but feel all show enough positive things to suggest better days are ahead. While I ended up painting a utopian world for all, my intention was to let those disgruntled owners know someone in their league still hold these players in high regard. Can you direct me to this Christian blog? I’d love to explain how the fall of ABC Family is directly tied the current state of this country. As always thanks for reading and I hope you find it at least mildly entertaining.

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