We are about to enter the second month of the 2022 MLB season. While injuries continue to have big impacts on our fantasy rosters, slow starts are just as prevalent. Many are attributing these slower starts to the ramped-up, shortened, spring training. With that being said, now that players have had a month to “get back into form,” how much longer should we be waiting before it is time to panic?
In my previous installment of the panic button series, I highlighted Kyle Tucker, Marcus Semien, and Freddy Peralta. Since then, Tucker and Peralta have begun to show glimpses of their true talent while Semien is still trying to find his form. Now, we have three more players that spent the first-month struggling. How worried should we be? Have your panic button handy and let’s see if we should be pressing it.
No Need to Press
Bo Bichette entered this season as a fantasy darling to many. How can you fault them? The young, up-and-coming phenom has shown that he is going to be a star in this league for a long time. He also finds himself hitting in the middle of, arguably, one of the best lineups in all of baseball.
In April, Bo slashed .213/.237/.298 with two home runs. The biggest concern was the 26:3 strikeouts to walks he accumulated during that time. His K% ranks in the bottom 1/4th of all of baseball, while his chase rate is in the third percentile in all of the league. The biggest thing that Bo has struggled with thus far has been his timing and decision-making.
While he was struggling to find the consistency at the plate, his average exit velocity has been the highest of his career at 92.7 MPH. Pair that with a HardHit% of 54.8% and you can tell that Bo is ready to break out of that slow start he had to this season.
A few days into May, Bo Bichette is also passing the eye test. He continues to spray the ball to all fields and has an OPS of 1.250 for the Jays.
There is no need to worry about Bo. As the season continues to age, his numbers will continue to climb. If the Bichette manager in your league is smashing the panic button, go take advantage and add him at the discounted price and watch the investment pay dividends sooner, rather than later.
Press the Button, Gently
As recently as the last week of April, Marte had only accumulated three hits in the season and was hitting .115. He looks lost at the plate, and that is supported by the 25.5 K% and his career-high 34.1 chase%.
Marte is still ranking in the top half of the league in Average Exit Velocity, Max Exit Velocity, and HardHit%. He is also sporting an xSLG of a cool .293 but, since April 30th, he may have started to give us a glimmer of hope that he could be breaking out of it.
Ketel Marte breaks through at the perfect time 🤟 pic.twitter.com/dr7Ea9xcHb
— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) April 30, 2022
The Diamondbacks, as a team, are struggling to hit throughout the entirety of their lineup. Marte’s struggles have not done anything to help that. All the struggles have led to his slide down in the lineup to the sixth spot.
With the struggles of the team and a new approach that seem to have him pressing more than he has in previous seasons, I am willing to begin pushing the panic button for Ketel Marte.
However! Marte is a notoriously slow starter in his career:
This is the reason why the button has yet to be smashed down. As Marte continues to progress through the season, this highly-talented All-Star should return to form.
Keep it Close
Coming into this season, fantasy managers held Tyler Mahle in high regard. It showed when he was taken as the 35th pitcher on average in drafts before the season. With such lofty expectations, it seems justifiable that we should be worried about Mahle going forward.
Five starts into this season, Mahle has a 7.01 ERA in 25.2 innings pitched. The biggest concern thus far has been the number of walks that he has allowed in those five starts. His BB%, in this small sample size, would be the highest of his career at 11.7%. His K% of 21.7% is also lower than his career percentage of 24.7%.
While many go with the “box score” stats when evaluating players, let’s dive into the deeper numbers.
The ERA is ugly, there is no denying that. However, all of the expected stats look much better. The xERA is down at 3.70, while his FIP and xFIP sit at 3.19 and 4.45, respectively.
As Mahle progresses through this season, he will have to get better at controlling the runners on base. His strand rate is one of the worst in the league, hovering around 54%. Lastly, as many like to say, he is being BABIP’d to death with opposing teams hitting .388 against him when they are putting the ball in play.
While I am not ready to press the panic button on Mahle yet, I am keeping the button close to me. If he is still walking as many hitters as he has, and the strand rate doesn’t improve, strikeouts are the only thing he offers you. While those are valuable, it isn’t worth the price managers had to pay during drafts.
Photography by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)