Major League Hitters Limping to the Finish Line

We are heading into the home stretch of the fantasy season. H2H leagues are in their final weeks before the playoff, and roto and point players have about six weeks to either maintain their lead or gain those needed points to overtake the leader. Now is not the time to be complacent with your roster. Every surge, and in today’s case slump, needs to be closely monitored and addressed quickly.

What a player is doing overall means very little at this point. Sure, that .280 with 20 or more home runs and 50-60 runs and RBIs looks fine, but what was that same player doing one month ago? If you haven’t been keeping up with the day-to-day you may be rostering, and worst yet starting, a player who is doing more harm than good in your everyday lineup.

While there are a large number of players that fall into the slumping category, specifically post all-star, I am just going to focus on a handful that are either highly owned and started in too many leagues or I have received recent inquiry about. If you have not found a replacement for them yet, now would be a good time to start looking before it’s too late.

Yoan Moncada (.151/.275/.279)

Moncada was batting .238 at the break which isn’t great to begin with. Owners tolerated the average because Moncada is 1) a highly touted prospect and 2) was producing double-digit power and speed numbers. Moncada is one of eight second base eligible players who have achieved that mark so far this season, and while the run and RBI totals have been solid, they are not special (16th and 21st respectively at 2B).

What owners may not realize is that Moncada has just 3 home runs, 2 steals, and 14 combined runs and RBI since the all-star break. Since the break he has a 38.2% strikeout rate, 29.2% hard contact rate (down 10 points from the first half), .151 ISO (down 90 points), 18.8% soft contact (up 7 points), and a 14.9% line drive rate (down 9 points). That’s not good for a player with a contact rate below 70%. The BABIP has been unlucky (.222), he is walking more (14.7% – up 5 points), and he is going the opposite way more.

Soft hit balls are not going to help him, and until he figures out how to hit the ball hard again that line drive rate isn’t moving and those balls are not going to clear the fence. He does have hits in his last five games so maybe he is coming out of it. Until he shows something substantial over a two-week stretch he should be on your bench, or maybe even on waivers if there is a hot MI bat out there.

  • Potential f/a replacements: Ian Kinsler, Johan Camargo, Tim Beckham

Matt Kemp (.162/.234/.279)

Kemp is the guy I was vaguely referring to in the intro. He is batting .282 with 17 home runs, 66 RBI and 51 runs scored. I was all over him early after a hot spring and so far he has not let me down – that is until recently. Since the break he has 2 home runs and 15 combined runs and RBI, and he is 3 for 3 over the past 14 days. You can blame a wonky ankle if you’re sympathetic, but his problems were building long before his ankle ouchie.

Most of Kemp’s issues are that the luck he was experiencing in the first half has taken an about-face. The BABIP went from .362 to .184, line drives from 25.9% to 17.6%, hard contact from a career high 44.7 to 33.3 (just below his career average), ISO from .212 to .118. His overall contact never changed, just how hard he was hitting the ball. That hard hit rate is now back to average. He has been hitting a ton in the air (47.1%), but with the decrease in hard hit and ISO they aren’t going anywhere. You could point to his increased walks as a positive, but a positive in runs doesn’t help when you’re getting negatives everywhere else.

Kemp has started 7 of the past 12 games which means his team is moving on, and with the talent they have in Los Angeles it is doubtful Kemp goes back to being a full-time player and fantasy threat. It was nice while it lasted, but it’s time to cut bait.

  • Potential f/a replacements: Manuel Margot, Randal Grichuk, Nick Williams

Yuli Gurriel (.165/.183/.177)

Gurriel has been a decent CI player this year, going into the break with a .310 average, 6 home runs, 3 steals, and 52 RBI. Not the power numbers you were expecting, but overall productive and he wasn’t hurting you. That average is down to .282 which some may find acceptable, but a 20 point drop in a month is a cause for concern, especially when he hasn’t hit a home run and has stolen only one base.

The 4.2% walk rate, which couldn’t get any worse, sits at 2.4%, the ISO disappeared (really, it literally disappeared 0.13), he traded in 10 points on line drives (now 9.9%) to fly balls (42.3) – this would normally be good except for the ISO, slight drop in hard hit, and six point increase in soft contact. Someone needs to call Bagger Vance because Gurriel lost his swing.

Joe Mauer has been a better corner man since the break – maybe that will put things into perspective for you. Correa is back which means Bregman slides back to third base. Altuve will be back soon, and with Tyler White attempting to prove he belongs (and doing a decent job at it), Gurriel could be pushed behind Marwin Gonzalez in the pecking order. There has got to be something, anything on waivers, that can give you more down the stretch.

  • Potential f/a replacements: Eduardo Nunez, Joey Wendle

Shin-Soo Choo (.202/.333/.348)

When Choo is healthy his is a legitimate 20 home run threat and more often than not will produce a solid batting average. Health is the key word as we’ve all seen what he will do when he isn’t healthy. Worst part about Choo is that he has a tendency to downplay or even hide and injury simply because he doesn’t want to come out of the lineup. I applaud the dedication, but when you start hurting the team (and infuriating fantasy owners) it really isn’t appreciated.

Anyway, prior to the break Choo was cruising along nicely with a .293 average, 18 home runs, 43 RBI, 54 runs scored, and he even chipped in a few steals. That’s why when you look at his .275 average now with 20 homers, 68 runs and 56 RBI you think everything is hunky dorey. That’s because he’s still scoring runs as the walk rate hasn’t changed and he still makes decent contact. The line drive rate slipped, but he’s only a few points off his career average which keeps the RBIs coming in. We can’t even blame it on BABIP luck because while his BABIP is down in the second half, a .291 is in line with the past two seasons.

Part of the issue is strikeouts, going from 21.9 to 30.6 (something we haven’t seen since the minors). The ISO dropped to .146 which isn’t horrible for him, but the drop in hard hit from the 40s we’ve become accustom to, to 26.3 is troublesome. It all went into medium contact which is part of the reason why the line drives didn’t move all that much. But that much drop in power combined with the strikeouts – one has to wonder if there is an undisclosed injury behind this slump. Bench Choo, but unlike the players above he is too valuable to drop. If he doesn’t improve by the end of August, though, all bets are off.

  • Potential f/a replacements: Jackie Bradley Jr., Mark Trumbo, Steven Souza

Ian Desmond (.216/.284/.311)

Like Moncada, Desmond wasn’t exactly hitting for average before the break (.235), but he did have 18 home runs, 13 steals, and 50+ in both the run and RBI categories. Do you know how many home runs he has after the break? One, and that was on July 22nd. Five days later he posted his third RBI and hasn’t had one since. And he didn’t get his second steal of the second half until last Friday.

Don’t blame the BABIP, they were almost identical in the first and second half. Don’t blame contact (well, not completely). The overall contact hasn’t changed in five years; he has been more aggressive in the zone but hasn’t made as much contact there. Strikeouts? They are actually down in the second half, bordering on what he delivered in his early days with the Nationals. The hard hit rate did drop four points to 32.1, but that’s still better than the three previous seasons.

Part of Desmond’s issue is last year he turned into an extreme ground ball hitter (62.7%). This year hasn’t changed much (63.7%), but that number continues to grow (67.9% post all-star). While the BABIP hasn’t changed much between the first and second half, it is still low so maybe there is some bad luck. On the other hand, I did say the contact didn’t change much, and his contact rate isn’t very good to begin with so maybe it isn’t bad luck. Maybe this all has to do with his sudden inability to hit righties (.206). We’ve seen this before (2015) so owners shouldn’t be too surprised.

Like Choo I would not drop Desmond, but he would definitely be riding the pine until further notice. Colorado is on the hook for three more years so Desmond will get his licks in, but with the Rockies battling the Dodgers and Diamondbacks for the Western Division we could see Desmond take a seat a little more moving forward.

  • Potential f/a replacements: Daniel Palka, Trey Mancini, Lucas Duda

Kyle Seager (.197/.247/.368)

As a former Seager owner this one hurts to write. We all expected the batting average to rebound this year, not to regress even further. But that’s exactly what has happened. Seager is owned in 73% of Yahoo leagues and his start rate is over 60. That means either there are a lot of neglectful owners or a lot of owners still holding out hope.

The ISO is down but still high enough for the long ball. The batted ball profile hasn’t changed overall; he’s even hitting the ball harder in the second half and the soft contact is a career low. He is striking out more overall, but that rate has dropped in the second half close to his career and the walks have seen a bump. Even the contact rate hasn’t changed much, down a few points from his career but equal to last season. However, he is swinging more which does bother me some. Players, most times aging players which is a category I don’t see Seager in, increase their swing rate, but they usually see an increase in contact as a result. Seager isn’t getting that

The only thing I can see wrong with Seager is an unlucky BABIP (.250, .262 1st half, .197 2nd half). That was what many were thinking last year too (.262) so maybe there is something else going on here beyond the numbers. The only reason to hold Seager at this point is the possibility he goes on a tear – last year he had 8 home runs and 20 RBI while batting .237 in September. The flip side is September is his worst month for batting average (.247 career). Bench him, but don’t drop him until September.

  • Potential f/a replacements: Johan Camargo, David Freese, Joey Wendle

 

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Jim Finch

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The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball. You can also find me at FanRagSports.com