I’ve gotten a lot of questions about Carlos Gonzalez just about all year. I liked him in the preseason quite a bit and he’s been struggling somewhat so far this year, batting just .232 over the past month (though he’s got 20 runs, so that’s cool). Monday night was no different, as he went 0-4 on the night, and CarGo owners are panicking. In fact, my colleague here, Ben Pernick, who writes Patience or Panic said he’s on the side of panicking with CarGo. Here’s what I’m here to tell you: calm down, it’ll be ok. Here’s why: Looking at most of CarGo’s stats, things actually look pretty decent. The walk rate is at a career-high, the strikeout rate is in line with his career, his pull rate is at a career-high (that’s a good thing for power), his whiff rate is the lowest it’s been since 2013, and his chase rate is the lowest it’s been since 2012. So everything that would signal CarGo is getting old and losing bat speed just isn’t there, if anything, he’s more disciplined at the plate this year than he has been in awhile. So what’s wrong? If you take a look at his quality of contact, that’s where the problem lies, in two stats: A hard hit rate of 29.5% (the lowest of his career) and a HR/FB rate of 9.1%, which is low considering his career HR/FB rate is 18.8%. These are odd and out of the norm for CarGo, and I think there’s reason to believe he could heat up, and I will point you to the year 2015 as to why. From the beginning of the season in 2015 until June 5th, CarGo was bad. He was batting .233 with just four home runs, a hard hit rate of 28.4% (a career-low at the time), and a HR/FB rate of just 11.1% (again, low for him). Sound familiar? From June 6th through the end of the year, CarGo batted .288 with 36 home runs, a hard hit rate of 36.9% and a HR/FB rate of 30.3%, ending the year with 40 home runs and a .271 average. So if you gave up on him in June of 2015, you looked like an idiot by the end of the year. Don’t look like an idiot this year.
Let’s look at some of the other performances from Monday:
Matt Kemp (OF, ATL) – 2-5, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI. Kemp’s power is real, and I don’t think you need me to tell you that, the guy’s been crushing home runs forever. What’s interesting about this year is the batting average, and I think that’s going to come down for two reasons (that are related). First, there’s the fact that his ground ball rate is actually up from last year, and then there’s the .384 BABIP. Kemp used to steal a lot of bases, but he’s not fast anymore, and there’s no way he’s going to keep lucking out on those BABIP balls. As that comes down and normalizes, so will the average. The power is still fantastic, so I’m not saying sell him quick, but if you can find someone who’s buying the power and the average, I’d do it.
Nick Markakis (OF, ATL) – 1-3, 1 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI. Markakis has quietly been having a nice little year, doing what he’s always done throughout his whole career. He’s not going to give you any power, but he’ll get on base, hit for a good average, drive in runs and score runs. In a deeper league, you could do a lot worse, he’s a good high floor/low ceiling guy.
Addison Russell (SS, CHC) – 1-2, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI. I know, you don’t know what to do with Addison Russell, I get it. I think most people are a bit confused as to what to do with a lot of Cubs, but Russell has been one of the more frustrating. First, the positives: his plate discipline has gotten better. Chase rate, whiff rate, and strikeout rate are all at career lows. However the hard hit rate is down, ground balls are up, and the BABIP, while still a low .261, isn’t low enough that it justifies his bad average. The other source of his problems is the 9.1% HR/FB rate, which when compared to his 14.2% rate from last year when his power finally started to develop, is low. But that’s also coincided with the lower hard hit rate. I do think the average will come up with the BABIP a bit, and the plate discipline stats are encouraging, but I think the breakout year we were hoping for just isn’t happening. I still think he could bat in the .240s the rest of the way and end the year with 15ish home runs and RBIs in the 70s (that Cubs offense has to pick up soon, right?) but it’s not what we thought it would be so far. I hope he can pick it up, he definitely has the skills to do it, he’s only 23, but so far it’s not looking great.
Asdrubal Cabrera (SS, NYM) – 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. I’m only bringing up Cabrera because of the ridiculous night he had on Monday hitting two home runs. In a deep league, maybe he’s worth your time if you’re desperate because he could end the year with 15ish home runs, but the batting average and everything else is pretty uninteresting.
Trey Mancini (OF, BAL) – 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI. I talked about Mancini in detail in my last Batter’s Box, and here he is reemphasizing my point for me. Dude has great power, and he’s playing consistently in a good offense, he should be owned in more leagues.
Avisail Garcia (OF, CWS) – 2-5, 1 R, 3 RBI, 1 SB. If you’ve been riding the Avisail Garcia train, then it’s been a fun ride so far. But beware, it’ll cool down, as he’s not going to maintain his .404 BABIP, and while he’ll probably have a high HR/FB rate, I don’t think it’s gonna stay at 21.3%. Still, he looks like he’ll end the year with a decent average and 20 home runs, he’s still worth owning, but if you can find someone to sell high to, I’d do it.
Delino DeShields Jr. (OF, TEX) – 1-3, 1 R, 1 SB. DeShields has been great, and he’s always been a fantastic source of speed, but the .294 average has been nice too. That’ll likely come down as even someone with his speed won’t maintain a .410 BABIP, but he’s still an excellent source for stolen bases if you need it.
Nomar Mazara (OF, TEX) – 1-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI. Mazara has had a pretty nice year so far, and I have no reason to believe it’s not legit. The average might come down a slight bit, but I could still see him batting in the .270s-.280s the rest of the way. We’ve known the power is real, so that’ll keep up too. Mazara’s a great talent and I think last year’s numbers with a better average is what we’ll see by the end of the year.
Rougned Odor (2B, TEX) – 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB. Yea, it’s been rough owning Odor. The power has been there, but the average has been awful, but I believe it’ll get better for two reasons. First, he’s got a BABIP of .240. While he’s typically had a sub-.300 BABIP because he’s a power hitter, .240 is still low. But the biggest indicator that the average will get better is this: despite the fact that his hard hit rate is in line with his career, his infield fly ball rate has skyrocketed to 24.4%, compared to 8.4% last year. There is no way that’s going to keep up, and as those infield fly balls turn into deeper fly balls, his average will creep up. I think Odor is a decent buy low if you can make it work.