The start of the season seems like a distant memory. Fans enjoyed the return of baseball and put aside the slower starts for star players around the league. This series has highlighted high-profile players that were taken at high ADPs and struggled out of the gate.
As the season has rolled on, many of those players have found their groove and are making positive impacts on fantasy rosters. In other cases, we had players start the season strong and have slowly tapered off as we entered the beginning of June. Should we be pressing the panic button on these three players? Let’s take a look.
Byron Buxton started 2022 with a bang. He went into May with a .271/.340/.729 slash line with six home runs in 53 plate appearances. In typical Buxton fashion, the injury bug bit him on a slide into second base against the Red Sox. However, he was able to avoid a trip to the injury list and has stayed relatively healthy since.
To date, he is now sitting at a .217/.298/.507 line and striking out 27.5% of the time. Even with the recent struggles, Buxton is hitting the ball harder than he has over his eight-year career with a 92.6 average exit velocity thus far.
One thing that stands out is his Zone Swing%, which is sitting at a lowly 68.2% when you compare it to the 77.6% he had last season. His overall Swing% of 47% is also down in comparison to his career average of 51%.
For Buxton, it seems as if his patience is not paying off right now. He’s walking at a career-high of 7.6% but that isn’t going to help fantasy managers feel any better. A potential injury is always in play and, as I had mentioned with Wander Franco in my last article, that could be the reason for the struggles. We would be worrying, but I would not hit the panic button just yet.
When Will the Blue Bird Sing?
Teoscar Hernández has been one of the more undervalued players in baseball over the past two seasons.
Over 802 plate appearances between 2020 and 2021, he hit .295/.345/.538 with 48 home runs, ranked 15th in all qualified hitters with a 134 wRC+, and posted a maximum exit velocity in 2021 ranking in the 96th percentile. Heading into June, he was hitting .170/.240/.261 and only two home runs. He was, however, out for a significant amount of time with an oblique injury.
Since his return, he is still only slashing .206/.257/.343.
His batted ball profile is interesting. The 40.9% Topped% of batted balls is 12.2% higher than his career average. The average distance of his balls put in play has dropped 9.6% from last season and he is hitting the ball, on average, 1.5 MPH slower than he did in 2021.
Hernandez is also seeing a different pitch mix this season. After crushing fastballs at a .333 clip, pitchers have adjusted and are now throwing breaking balls at the highest percentage that he has seen in their career.
Like Buxton, the oblique—and a sudden mention of a possible lingering hip issue—could be the reason for the dip in production. Due to that, I’m willing to give Teoscar the benefit of the doubt. However, if he isn’t able to adjust to the change in pitch mix, I am ready to hit the panic button on the Blue Jays outfielder.
Can We Continue Keeping a Brave Face?
It has been a real struggle for Charlie Morton so far in 2022. With him clearly not passing the eye test, advanced metrics are also forcing fantasy managers into a situation where they have to decide what to do with the Atlanta starter.
Over 54.1 innings in 2022, Morton has a 5.63 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 54 strikeouts, and 25 walks. Another noticeable thing about Morton this season is the fact that he has not been able to go deep into games as he usually had over the past couple of seasons.
The inflated 10.2% walk rate is a big cause for concern. His go-to curveball is still showing eye-popping numbers in terms of spin rate but he has not been able to generate the whiffs he normally has over the years. The Whiff% is down from 28.9 in 2021 to 22.7% this season.
The HardHit% is also alarming. Ranking in the 33rd percentile of all qualified pitchers, batters facing Morton are teeing off more often than not. The curveball velocity is also 1 MPH faster than average compared to last season.
Morton suffered a fracture in his leg last season during the World Series. He did mention that the lockout did delay his rehab and he could just be still trying to find his footing.
I’m hitting the panic button with Morton. As of right now, there aren’t many indications that he is making any progress toward breaking out and I am willing to wipe my hands clean at this point in the season.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire