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Patience or Panic 5/11

A former MVP candidate and a top-20 arm - Patience or Panic?

Welcome back to another edition of Patience or Panic! Over a month in and we’re starting to see trends establish themselves more and more every day, and we’re starting to see more of what we can expect the rest of the season as opposed to what was just a hot start. As expected it’s been a lot of fun, and we still have plenty more games for things to be even more fun as the season progresses.

That being said, we have a fresh batch of players for this week’s piece, including a one-time MVP candidate and a starting pitcher who is expected to be a hot commodity this trade deadline. So let’s get to it!

 

Ketel Marte, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks

 

Back in 2019, Ketel Marte burst onto the scene with a .329/.389/.592 slash line, a career-high 32 home runs, and finished 4th in MVP voting. He had a down year in the shortened 2020 season but bounced back in 2021 with a .318/.377/.532 slash line and it looked like he was back to star status.

Despite the Diamondbacks getting out to a surprising above-.500 start at the beginning of this 2022 season, Marte has not been a big part of that, as he’s slashed just .211/.298/.376 with 2 homers so far.

That’s about where the bad starts and ends for Marte’s season though. His hard-hit rate sits at 46% which is very good and he isn’t hitting the ball on the ground more than any other year in his career. His walk rate is also up near 10% which is where it was when he was an MVP candidate, while his rate of soft contact is at 15% —  also in line with his career norms.

On top of the strong peripherals, Marte is also starting to heat up. In the last two weeks, Marte has slashed .310/.408/.619, hitting both homers and 5 of his 10 doubles.

The Diamondbacks are off to a surprising start despite Marte’s early struggles and as he starts to come around it isn’t crazy to think that will buoy Arizona even further.

Verdict: Patience

 

AJ Pollock, OF, Chicago White Sox

 

At the eleventh hour right before the season started, the Chicago White Sox were finally able to unload the contract of closer Craig Kimbrel in order to shore up their hole in the outfield by acquiring AJ Pollock from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

While he hasn’t been an All-Star since 2015, Pollock has been one of the most consistent hitters in the league over the last handful of years, registering an OPS no lower than .795 (min. 50 games) since that 2015 season and slashing .290/.342/.547 in the past two seasons with the Dodgers.

However, things haven’t gotten off to that kind of start in Chicago. Pollock made it two games into his White Sox career before having to spend a couple of weeks on the injured list, and since returning has struggled to find himself at the plate, with a current slash line of .186/.210/.271.

The peripherals don’t paint a much prettier picture, Pollock is currently walking at a dismal 3.4% rate (which would be the lowest of his career) and striking out 23.7% of the time (which would be the highest of his career). His rate of hard contact is just 25%, the lowest of his career.

There is a slight glimmer of hope, Pollock’s expected batting average and expected slugging percentage are leaps and bounds ahead of what his actual number is. Fangraphs projects the outfielder for an expected BA of .250, which admittedly still isn’t a spectacular number, but way more in line with what the White Sox and their fans were expecting. His expected slugging meanwhile, sits at .494 which is obviously MUCH better than his current .286 mark.

The thing is, at 34-years-old and with one stint on the IL on the books, how likely is it that Pollock can reach those expected numbers? He did hit his first home run earlier this week but his .175/.191/.275 line over the last two weeks is still absolutely terrible.

Verdict: Panic

 

Frankie Montas, SP, Oakland A’s

 

The fun part of this entry is that the A’s fans reading this aren’t worried about their pitcher’s production for the sake of the Oakland A’s and their success, but rather for his trade value.

It’s no secret that the A’s are in the early stages of a full-scale rebuild after they sold off franchise cornerstones Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, as well as ace Sean Manaea.

Oh and then spent basically no money over the offseason.

The next logical step is to deal Frankie Montas. Pitchers always have value, it just depends on the price. Montas has true shutdown ace potential, but he is prone to the occasional blowup and is a bit of a rollercoaster.

For example, in his start earlier this week against the Tigers (one of the most abysmal offensive teams in the league), Montas allowed 4 runs and walked 3 in 6 and 1/3 innings of work.

But the start before that against the Rays (one of the hottest offenses in the league over the last two weeks), he went 7 shutout innings walking 1 and striking out 6.

As mentioned earlier pitchers will always have value, especially those with multiple years of control left like Montas. It’s just a matter which version of the pitcher teams think they’re getting and if the acquiring front office thinks they can get him to be consistent.

The thing that helps Montas is that his peripherals are all very good to great. His chase rate is excellent (90th percentile), while the spin rate on his fastball is solidly above average, in the 67th percentile, and his velocity is as well (72nd percentile). Even if there is the occasional slip-up like there was against the Tigers, any team acquiring Montas is going to be getting a pitcher with all the tools to consistently pump out lines like the one against the Rays.

So don’t worry A’s fans, you should be getting a haul back no matter what.

Verdict: Patience

Graphic by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)

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