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.