Batter’s Box: I never broke the Shaw — I am the Shaw!

This is about the time of year when people start asking “is Player X broken, or should I hold on and hope for a turnaround?” It hasn’t quite been a month yet, but it’s been long enough that folks are antsy about their poor starts and want to take action now to stop the bleeding. It’s an understandable thing, but unfortunately, I’m here to tell you that sometimes you have to just let it keep happening.

Even though players are getting to their 100th PA, we still don’t usually have enough to say that something is definitively broken or fixed. In some cases, we see something so awesome or outrageous that it requires action (for example, the hot start of Matt Boyd in Detroit), but for most others, we can’t tell if something’s wrong, or if they’re just going through a hot or cold patch.

Take Travis Shaw (2B/3B, Milwaukee Brewers), who went 1-4 with a HR, R and RBI last night—he’s coming off back-to-back 31+ HR campaigns that came with a .340+ OBP. The last few weeks have been far from what owners expected when they drafted him, and his .182/.276/.286 line and 32.2% strikeout rate are giving folks quite the scare about his decline. Here’s the thing—he’s only 29, and we’ve only seen about 3 weeks of action. It sounds trite, but he’s been a fantastic player for the Brewers in the 196 games he played prior to 2019, and just because he’s had a rough 3 weeks doesn’t mean that he can’t be a fantastic player again. His HR last night was a good start, and we’re still at a point where a hot 2-3 game stretch has a dramatic impact on the numbers. He’s still a top 10 second baseman for me and a top 15 third baseman. You can’t cut him, and you shouldn’t bench him unless you have a really nice option available. If you have a worried owner in your league, though, it may be the time to go and acquire his services.

Dexter Fowler (OF, St. Louis Cardinals) – 4-5, 3 R, HR, 4 RBI. I had almost forgotten that he was back in baseball after such a rough 2018. He’s slashing .313/.403/.433 and is playing nearly every day for the Red Birds, which is almost as surprising as having 5 multi-hit games in his last 8 starts. There’s 15 HR/8 SB upside in the 33 year old, but even in his prime he was a walking IL stint waiting to happen. Folks in 12 and 15 team leagues with 5 OF spots can consider him to fill a void created by injury, just don’t be too afraid to cut him if the playing time dries up or if he hits the IL.

Jorge Polanco (SS, Minnesota Twins) – 4-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. The .392 batting average and .712 will come down, sure, but the xBA and xSLG indicate that a high average and slugging are well deserved. I think he could end the season close to .280, and while he doesn’t have a steal yet, 15+ HR and 10 SB are very realistic. I think he’ll score plenty of runs as well as the No. 2 hitter for the Twins. That’s a quality SS in 12-teamers

Eduardo Escobar (3B, Arizona Diamondbacks) – 3-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB. He’s hitting in the top half of the Diamondbacks’ order and doing a fairly decent job of it. He’s a useful backup at SS and 3B in most 12+ team leagues, particularly those that require a CI and MI in the lineup. The small spike in walk rate in 2018 and 2019 is a nice touch, making him just that much more viable. 20+ HR and a handful of steals with an average BA and OBP isn’t exciting, but the 150 R+RBI should be there for the second straight season thanks to batting primarily out of the 2 and 5 spots.

Gregory Polanco (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates) – 2-4, 2 R, 2B, BB. Welcome back, Gregory! The perennial breakout candidate had yet another injury last season, this time to his shoulder. It required surgery, but he’s back and ready for action. He only played in 130 games in 2018, but showed some growth in power and patience, and could take another step forward as soon as this season. If he can play 130 games again (a fairly significant “if”), I could see 25 HRs and 15 SBs with a .340 OBP. I could also see less than 100 total games played. In a world where IL spots are at a premium, another injury could put owners in a very tough spot. While he’s healthy, though, he’s worth owning/starting in most formats.

Tyler White (1B, Houston Astros) – 2-2, 2B, 2 BB. I liked White as a safe CI or backup 1B in a lot of 12+ team leagues this off-season because I assumed he’d hit a bit and find himself in the #6 spot in the Astro’s lineup. That has worked out poorly, as he’s been relegated to the 8th spot and has just 2 hits for extra bases in 43 PA. While I spent the beginning of this article preaching patience, this type of player is just fine to drop in all but the deepest of leagues—especially if someone like Ji-Man Choi is still out there.

Jose Abreu (1B, Chicago White Sox) – 3-6, 2 R, HR, 5 RBI. This was his 3rd HR of the season, though the batting average and strikeout rate are not what people were looking for in the popular rebound candidate. The early expected stats show he should have a pretty good slugging percentage, but his batting average is… not looking great. He’s another guy you have to hold due to the potential, past consistency and price you paid, but you’re allowed to be mad about it.

Ryan Braun (OF, Milwaukee Brewers) – 2-4, R, HR, RBI. I’m loving the 5 HR and 19 RBI, but I’m less than thrilled about the depressed walk rate, elevated strikeout rate and dreadful BA and OBP. He does have 2 HR in his last 3 outings, though, and stole his first base of the season in that span as well. A turn-around should be on the way for the elder outfielder, and his track record suggests he should hit 20+ HR and steal 10+ bags when all is said and done, even if he plays in only 130 games.

Cole Tucker (SS, Pittsburgh Pirates) – 1-3, 2B, BB. He’s a popular topic in conversations so far because of his freshness and swagger, but I have him pegged as more of a speedster with limited power. A full season might yield 20 swipes or so, but the power won’t be there. That’s useful in a 15-team format where speed is always at a premium, but in 10 and 12-teamers, you can skip this one. Do check out his swagger, though. The kid is fresh to death out there.

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

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Comments


Barrett

Jorge Polanco has been a top 25 hitter dating back to August 2017 according to FG:

JORGE POLANCO STATS

I think you’re a little low on your “quality SS in 12-teamers”? Sure, the rest of the Twins lineup needs to produce in order to knock him in and he’ll never get a ton of RBIs if he’s at the top of the lineup, but I really think everyone is selling him short. He’s 25 years old and is showing more and more each day that he’s got it figured out and isn’t just on a streak.

Scott Chu

Great observations, Barrett. I love Polanco and am excited about his production, but my placement of him as a top 12 SS is about as high as I could go. 12th would put him behind Bregman, Machado, Story, Lindor, Baez, Turner, Mondesi, Bogaerts, Correa, and Seager. I have him ranked closer to Villar, Segura, and just ahead of the struggling Torres. He’s not 12th because I don’t believe — he’s 12th because the position is stacked.

I do have him a bit higher in points leagues, though — his low strikeout, high contact profile plays well in that format.

Barrett

I guess we’ll see where you place him when/if Machado and Bregman and Baez lose the SS position eligibility after this year. I didn’t even think about those guys when I was putting together my top 10 SS list.

Andrew

Really looking for steals and maybe some help in AVG and runs so, would you rather have Cole Tucker or Jorge Polanco? I have Ahmed Rosario as my “main” SS

Scott Chu

Hi Andrew, good question. BABIP has a lot of things that go into it, and while I expect that BABIP to come down, that doesn’t mean the rest of the performance will suffer terribly. Even if he settles into a .280-.300 hitter with a 500 SLG, which is a big drop from where he is, he’s still very useful.

Nick F

Well sure, but he is creating his own luck in that category. these aren’t bloop singles falling in, he is tagging the ball. Hard hit % is way up and he’s also pulling the ball more. that’s a good combination right there. I did just deep dive into his plate discipline numbers…i expected to see gains, but they weren’t there. thats a BIT concerning, but he’s still walking at a healthy 10% clip and only striking out 14%.

Andrew

Thanks for the response.

I’m going to look a bit more into his numbers too but based on your summary, I think he’ll make it onto my team soon.

To create space for him, I’m looking at dropping Rosario or Tucker (or possibly Schoop but he’s my “backup” 2B). Any thoughts? I know you said Rosario was the best option but he’s been decent lately and if he could move up in the order, he’d be in a great position to earn runs right?

Dan

I love Polanco as well. I agree with the borderline top 12 though unfortunately, unless this new found power is actually legit. He could hit .320 this year but if the expectation is 15 HR/10 SB, he’s basically DJ LeMahieu. Plenty useful in real life, but fantasy ceiling is low because you want guys to typically have power or speed. I’ll be rooting for Polanco though!

Scott Chu

Great points, Dan! That’s a big part of the reason why I like him in Points, as it’s less discriminatory to high average 15 HR/10 SB guys like Polanco and LeMahieu.

Also, while top 12 sounds harsh, it’s SO deep at SS right now. The list above didn’t even include early standouts like Tim Anderson, who is well on his way to another 20 HR/25 SB year, or Paul DeJong, who has a cool .330/.390/.593 line as the Cardinals #3 hitter.

Scott Chu

As to your Polanco v Rosario predicament, give me Polanco. Rosario will steal more bases (20-25, probably), but hit fewer HRs (10 is the high end) and have a lower BA (.260-ish sounds right).

Andrew

I can survive the lower HR totals and BA as my team is strong in HRs with a decent BA the past couple of weeks. The SBs are a huge value as outside of Yelich, my only hopes are Chapman, Conforto, and maybe McCutchen.

I’m punting saves for the moment so, SBs are a pricey stat to drop even though they’re unpredictable.

Doug B

Polonco by a mile… buuuuut…

I know it’s very, very early yet in his MLB experience, but don’t sleep on Danny Santana (Tex) for MI steals and maybe AVG for the moment. He’s even shown some pop AWAY from Tex’s home park now.

He’s qualified as an OF on most fantasy hosting sites, but he’s filling in for Odor and should have 2B in most of them by the end of the week. Stash him and/or use him in Util/OF for his speed and line-up spot (2nd) while people don’t know who he is, then plug him in at MI or 2B for speed when he gets qualified, while it lasts… He also may very well stick with the team and see a lot of time if he keeps up his torrid pace at the plate.

Just going to say here, with that home park, I like Tex going for multi-positional guys with pop and/or speed like Asdrubal and Santana… They might be able to out-slug the Rays, even if their pitching comes nowhere close. Fantasy owners are often quick to ignore teams that won’t succeed, even if their players will, and people in keeper and dynasty situations really shouldn’t be doing this. While that may work for pitchers, it certainly doesn’t for position players.

(*add in obvious caveat that MLB doesn’t have a book on him yet, and that pitchers will adjust as their analytic departments get more data.)

theKraken

Tucker is not a terribly small guy. I think he is exactly the type that can hit for a bunch more power in MLB than he ever did in the minors. Like most prospects he is probably a fringe MLB player, but I think anyone can trade Ks and AVG for power if they ever want to and he could probably do that as well. I’ll pass on the swag.

Scott Chu

Hey theKraken — if the ball really is as juiced as they say, you might be right. His prospect profiles never gave him much of a power grade, but in today’s environment, you never really know.

Doug B

You also don’t like “progressive stats” in these write-ups, to the point where you actually suggest PL provide less of them, so I’m not sure how much weight I’d put into your analysis. Good luck to you in this season of fantasy.

Saint

Hello Scott,

Great take on Shaw. I’ve have no thoughts about abandoning him. I was wondering what your thoughts are on Puig. Change to a better park, more guaranteed playing time, and contract year has produced dismal results. Fortunately I’m rolling with Yelich, Brantley, and Domingo on my OF with Puig as the only player on my bench.

Your thoughts ROS on Puig would be greatly appreciated.

Scott Chu

Hi Saint, thanks for the compliment! Glad to see you’re holding Shaw. Similarly, I think you need hold Puig for most of the same reasons — because it’s April 23rd. His strikeouts are worrisome, though. I’ll pass this along to Gabe Zammit — he runs our weekly mailbag piece and might have some deeper insights than I can provide here.

For anyone else reading this, if you’re looking for more than a run-on sentence or two, emailing [email protected] or sending your question to @gabezammit on Twitter is a great idea! I’ll be pretty wrapped up into Fantasy Curling this week (which I seem to have accidentally invented), so I’ll only have a few minutes to research this stuff. I’ll still answer, of course, but it may not be the deepest of replies (though realistically, I’m not that deep to begin with).

Chris Tankerton

I have Shaw Cano Kike and Pinder Segura Anderson and Tucker, so plenty of options at 2nd and Short. I also have a deep bench. Assuming space for stashing, would you trade Kike for Scooter Gennett? His injury possibly lingering seems high being thats normally the case.

Scott Chu

Hi Chris — No, I would not make that trade. Ultimately, I think you’d be adding risk for very little reward. I’d rather have the sure, healthy thing in Hernandez (and the OF eligibility) than the hope that Gennett comes back healthy and produces (and even if he does, would it really be THAT different from what Kike could do?).

Doug B

Right… This isn’t a pitcher like Ryu with a severe groin injury, it’s a MI that needs to move around a lot on defense with fast reaction times AND hit. You can’t grade them on the same scale.

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