Quick Hits on Slow starts by Top Picks

Owners tend to overreact in the early weeks/month of the fantasy season. Some slumping players drafted in the mid to late rounds have already found their way to waivers in some leagues (I snagged Ender Inciarte and Jake Faria in one). In the next week or so we could start seeing those higher draft choices being dealt for a bargain, or in some extreme cases, release outright.

Now is the time to start evaluating those slumping bats as we have a large enough sample size to make an educated guess. Should you sell-low on that early pick or hold? Which struggling stars should you target? These are a few of the question I hope to answer as I go around the diamond and take a look at those top-100 under-achievers.

Note: I will cover the infield today with the outfield and pitchers up in the coming days.

First Base

Joey Votto:  Zero home runs and an average below .250. In his defense the entire team is bad which can be contagious. A low hard hit rate, non-existent ISO combined with an extreme line drive approach and lack of fly balls is to blame. Good news his the contract rate is still solid as is the plate discipline. I can see buying low in the hopes he starts hitting the ball with authority, but I can also see selling in case he is following the career path of Miguel Cabrera – you can’t stay on top forever.

Anthony Rizzo:  One home run with a .150 batting average. Similar to Votto with a poor ISO and lower hard hit rate, solid discipline and contact. Bad luck appears to be the primary factor here (.161 BABIP). The early colder than normal weather could also be a factor. Plus, let’s not forget his average had extreme spikes last year but he finished strong. Buy low if possible, but sell at full cost if you own him.

Edwin Encarnacion: Four home runs with a .145 average. The power is still there, although ISO and hard hit rate is lower than normal, as is the overall contact. Strikeouts are also up and walk are down. Good news here: Bautista holds a career .239 average with 46 home runs in April – both the lowest totals for each month. Plus remember E.E. hit .200 with four home runs last April and he finish strong. Unlike Rizzo you have a buy-low opportunity here due to age. I would not sell, and do not give a discount if you do.

Third Base

Jose Ramirez: Four home runs, two steals, and a .188 average. Hard hit rate is down which somewhat explains why the line drives are down, and hard hit rate is down which isn’t good for home runs. However, ISO is still solid as is the fly ball rate, contact is a career best as is the walk and strikeout rates, and an unlucky BABIP (.143) should rebound soon. Buy-low with 2016 production in mind. Do not panic if you own him.

Anthony Rendon: One home run with a .286 average. All the underlying metrics check out except two, ISO and hard hit rate. Rendon’s ISO is at .125, where it was in 2013 and 2015. His hard hit rate (25%) is a career low and first time below .30%. I would expect both to increase, but not to 2017 levels. That puts Rendon in the 20 home range at best case scenario. If you can sell to an owner expecting 2017 production willing to pay a premium do it. Otherwise sit back and enjoy the solid overall production.

Alex Bregman: One home runs, two steals, and a .231 average. The batted ball profile is solid, contact is a little lower but still better than average, and he’s walking more than striking out. Like many hitters listed here today, the ISO is bad (below .100), hard hit rate is down (26.9%), and the BABIP while unlucky (.258) isn’t dragging him down completely. This is his second full season so sophomore slump? Did we elevate him too high too quick? I expect average and speed, but the power may not fully recover. He selling price is still high, but I can also see buying low if the price is right.

Miguel Sano:  Four home runs with a .214 average. He is still hitting the ball hard – this was never a question. However, the K% is up 10 points from the last two years (45.9), the line drive rate has disappeared, and the contact rate shows no signs of improvement. I don’t see a difference between Sano and someone like Chris Davis at this point and would trade him for anything of value. He may have one or two good batting average months, but you can live without what he’ll give you in the other months.

Second Base

Daniel Murphy: Murphy is now in extended spring training which will be followed by a minor league rehab assignment. Since he hasn’t played his value has not changed, but his current owner my be frustrated and willing to accept a deal. If you can get him at a discount, go for it.

Jonathan Schoop: One home runs and a .230 average. There is nothing positive to say when looking under the hood. Walks, strikeouts, hard hit, ISO, IFFB% – all higher or lower than they should be. Can all this be attributed to an oblique injury? That and a cold start would be a simple explanation. There were no red flags coming into his age 26-27 season. All this has created a classic buy-low opportunity, or at least at a discount. If I am selling depends on who I have currently filling in at second base.

Rougned Odor: Zero home runs and a .206 average. Another DL casualty. Odor was showing better walk and strikeout rates before going down with increased hard hit and fly ball rates. He was even swinging less, especially outside the zone, but that did little to improve the overall contact. Even if the power comes around will the new plate discipline stick? His BABIP was worse last year and he finished with a similar average. I’m not sure he has any sell-high left in him, and I would not recommend buying low either. My advice is get what you can and be happy.

Shortstop

Francisco Lindor: Two home runs, four steals and a .205 average. Lindor is striking out more and making poor overall contact – two areas he has had zero problem with in the past. Of almost all the players mentioned so far, he ranks near the top for players I would target. Even the slightest discount would be a win for you.

Corey Seager: One home run and a .243 average. Improvements in contact and strikeouts are the standout categories. All Seager needs is a little more hard contact and an increase in fly balls and he will be fine. Just don’t expect a jump from last year’s totals. Unlike Lindor, the expectations for Seager are higher so you will not get a discount. Sell only if you are getting full draft price.

Catcher

Gary Sanchez: Three home runs and a .182 average. An unlucky BABIP (.184) is the only thing I see really wrong. Hard hit rate is down but still strong, contact has improved without increased swings, strikeouts have improved, the poor line drive rate will  come up, and with those improvements we will see the IFFB% drop. He was already being billed as the new Buster Posey, and odds are the resident Yankees fan in your league reached for him so buying is out. As a catcher, though, you should always entertain trade offers.

Willson Contreras: Zero home runs and a .277 average. He is hitting the ball in the air more, but with less authority. The home runs will come, but I’m not sure he is at that level yet to be a consistent 20 home run threat. You’re going to get top-5 catcher production. All catchers are sell candidates for me, but Contreras is one of the few I might actually trust enough to buy.

*****

Check back in the coming days as I tackle outfield and pitchers. If you have a question about a struggling player not mentioned here (besides OF and SP), feel free to ask in the comment section below or hit me up on Twitter @TheJimFinch.

 

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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