Patience or Panic 6/14: Conforto, Keuchel, Sanchez
It’s officially the middle of June and most teams have already played around 70 games. We are nearly at the halfway point of the season, time really flies when you are way too much baseball. As always we are back with another edition of Patience or Panic where we attempt to look under the “Sabermetric” hood so to speak to attempt to identify players we should be showing patience because better times are ahead, or we are hitting that panic button. Today we are examining three guys who each produced electric 2017 seasons. Each has had their struggles so far this year whether it be recovering from an injury or just plain regression to the norm, but enough of the chit-chat, let’s get to the real meat of the article.
Michael Conforto – .212 AVG, 7 HRs 23 Rs, 16 RBIs, 1 SB
As a Mets fan, this pains me to write, I wanted to continue living in an ignorant bliss that Michael Conforto would push through his shoulder injury and he would turn back into the player he was in 2017. So far that has not been the case. The left-hander is showing clear signs that his shoulder is still paining him and it is very apparent in his batted ball profile. His exit velocity has dropped to 86.5 MPH, down nearly 3 MPH from his 2017 season. His hard-hit rate (balls hit 95+ MPH) has significantly decreased as well, down from 43.5% in 2017 to 31.5% this year. On a more positive note, Conforto has shown an ability to walk with a career-high 14.8% walk-rate. Conforto should continue to see at-bats in the middle of the Mets lineup and even despite how inept the lineup maybe he should continue to see run and RBI opportunities.
There is clearly still work to do for Conforto to get back to what he was in 2017, he could provide a cheap source of counting stats in the middle of the Mers order for deeper leagues. I still have faith in his long-term outlook but in redraft leagues, I think it’s time to cut bait even if it pains me to say.
Dallas Keuchel – 85 IP, 3- 8, 4.45 ERA, 66 Ks, 1.32 WHIP
I have talked about this before regarding Keuchel, but every year his groundball-rate is below 60% he has produced an ERA of 4.5 or greater. So far in 2018, his groundball rate is 54.4%, the lowest it has been since his debut season in 2012. In his last five starts the Astros starter has been getting torched producing an ERA of 7.33 with a 1.77 WHIP in 27 innings. Keuchel’s sinker still induces ground balls but not at the rate that it did last season, it’s average launch as increased from -9° to -3°. The change in launch angle comes with an increase in exit velocity against his sinker jumping up to 90 MPH (84 MPH in 2017). Overall batters are hitting Keuchel harder in general, his exit velocity in 2017 was 84.5 MPH good for top-q0 in the majors. Now it has increased 3.7 MPH all the way up to 88.2, higher than league average.
To make it worse for Keuchel his K-rate has dropped all the way down to 18.1%. That strikeout rate is the 18th worst among qualified starters. The former Cy-Young award winner seems to be living off his name for fantasy relevancy. We are looking at a pitcher whose WHIP is bottom-30, K-rate is bottom 20 while maintaining a mid-4 ERA. I’m fine with watching and waiting with Keuchel, but another poor outing or two and I’m dropping him.
Gary Sanchez – .190 AVG, 12 HRs, 33 Rs, 35 RBIs, 0 SBs
You aren’t going to cut Gary Sanchez, I know it, and you know it. With the current landscape of catchers, it will take a slump to end all slumps for Sanchez to no longer be mixed league relevant. Sanchez is trying his best to make that slump happen, since May 22 he is slashing .075/.197/.094 with just one extra-base hit in 61 plate appearances. Sanchez has been seeing a higher number of breaking balls this season compared to 2017. He has struggled versus the pitch with a slash line of .184/.212/.286 and a whiff rate of 20.3%. This is a new development in Sanchez profile because he had previously hammered sliders. In 2017 he slashed .302/.328/.550 versus the pitch with a 145 wRC+.
There is some positive news for Sanchez fans. He is still hitting the ball hard with an 89.8 MPH exit velocity, and a 41.7% hard-hit rate. He has run into his fair share of bad luck so far with an xSLG of .500, 70 points higher than his current slugging percentage and a xwOBA 42 points higher than his wOBA. Sanchez will continue to see at-bats in the middle of one of the most prolific lineups in baseball, and with his increased ability to draw a walk, he should see plentiful opportunities to rack counting stats. If Sanchez doesn’t as finish a top 3 fantasy catcher at the end of the season, I would be shocked. It’s not pretty now but hold on to Sanchez because it’s a graveyard out there at catcher.