As we make our way into June of this 2021 MLB season, it’s around the time of the season when a lot of players get re-dropped. All of the struggling players who were dropped by a frustrated fantasy player and were promptly picked up by someone else are now being dropped again, as they have still failed to provide value to fantasy teams. Guys like Patrick Corbin and Gary Sánchez are prime examples of this, as there is a decent chance they have disappointed multiple people in your league by now.
However, some of these underperformers might still have something left in the tank, and they could still be on their way to turning things around for a big second half of the season. This brings us to this week’s edition of Patience or Panic, where we take a close look at a few struggling players to try and figure out how likely they are to bounce back from their current slumps. So let’s dive right in and examine three National League players who have either struggled mightily of late, or have simply failed to get anything going yet this year.
Alec Bohm (1B, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies)
.203 AVG, 19 R, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB
After an electric rookie season that saw him bat .338/.400/.481 across 44 games, Alec Bohm has struggled to find similar success so far in his sophomore campaign. The 24-year-old has had much more trouble putting the ball in play this year, striking out 27.8% of the time compared to just a 20% mark in 2020. He is also showing less discipline at the plate, owning a meager 5.4% walk rate versus 8.9% a year ago.
Aside from that however, Bohm is actually doing some really good things at the plate when he does connect with the ball. The former third-overall draft pick in 2018 is hitting the ball with an average exit velocity of 92.4%, good enough to be in the top 9% of baseball, despite his overall struggles thus far. Bohm is also making hard contact a strong 48.9% of the time, a slight improvement from his 46.8% mark last year.
As a result, it appears that Bohm has dealt with some tough luck through the early going, and that might soon turn around if he keeps smacking the ball even better than he did last year. After a somewhat lucky .410 BABIP in 2020, things have done a complete 180, as he has posted an underwhelming .263 BABIP this year that seems likely to go up a bit given how hard he’s hitting the ball. Similarly, his .427 expected slugging percentage, while not a fantastic number, is much higher than his actual slugging percentage so far of just .305. And with a .628 expected slugging percentage against offspeed pitches, it is clear that Bohm has the skillset to be a very strong, well-rounded hitter in the big leagues, and 2020 does not seem to be a fluke. Therefore, while I’m certainly benching him if possible until he turns things around, I remain very optimistic that he will be able to do so sooner than later.
Blake Snell (SP, San Diego Padres)
1-2, 5.55 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 70 K, 47.0 IP
After a really strong 2020 campaign that culminated in a dominant World Series performance that was infamously cut short, Blake Snell has failed to find the same success through these first two months of 2021. Despite striking out 70 batters across just 47 innings to this point, Snell has pitched to a subpar 5.55 ERA, and getting even worse in recent starts. The southpaw allowed 12 earned runs in his last two starts combined, being bounced from both games before the fourth inning was over. Snell allowed three free passes in each contest, something that has been a major problem for the 28-year-old the entire season. After posting a walk rate of 9.1% or lower in each of the past three seasons, Snell has struggled to a 14.2% mark through these first two months. He has walked multiple batters in every game except one, reaching a low point on May 7th at San Francisco when he walked six batters on the day. Due to these control problems, the former Cy Young winner has managed just one quality start through his first 11 outings of the season.
When Snell does get the ball over the plate, he’s being hit hard too, with opposing batters making hard contact 38.8% of the time, the worst mark of his career. He is managing to keep the ball in the park a bit better than last season however, as his 1.53 HR/9 is a solid improvement from the 1.80 mark he gave up a year ago. And with a 71% left on base rate, it makes sense that this number would show a bit of positive regression to his 82.9% average over the past three seasons, especially with his home run rate down from 2020.
Some other advanced metrics also believe he has pitched better than his results show so far, with a 3.95 SIERA and a 3.56 xFIP. While these numbers would still be a far cry from the Cy Young level pitcher you likely went out of your way to draft or trade for, this would be a more than adequate performance if he could get his ERA back down to this level. And based on his history, it would seem likely that his best has yet to come this year. Snell owns a career 3.81 ERA before the all-star break, with that number drastically improving to 2.70 after the break. So while it would be nice if he could do find that late summer form as soon as his next start, I feel confident in saying he will show noticeable improvement as the weather continues to warm up and the season gets deeper. The 32.1% strikeout rate has me believing he will eventually find the consistency to hopefully match his form of past seasons, and with a home start coming up against the Mets, I am optimistic that he will turn things around this week. Don’t give up on the former Cy Young just yet.
Jesús Aguilar (1B, Miami Marlins)
.254 AVG, 19 R, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 0 SB
Jesús Aguilar has had one of the stranger up and down seasons of anyone in baseball through the first two months thus far. After absolutely punishing the ball to a line of .303/.385/.590 with nine homers through May 13th, Aguilar is now sitting on a .254/.321/.462 line with the same nine home runs on the year. The 30-year-old is a miserable 7-for-51 since then, collecting just one double for his only extra-base hit and scoring only one run in that time.
The biggest change for Aguilar between being hotter than the sun to now being unable to do seemingly anything at the plate is his success, or lack thereof, against breaking balls. After batting .389 with a pair of homers off breaking balls in April, Aguilar is now failing to do anything with these pitches, batting .160 with 11 strikeouts and no homers in the month of May. And unfortunately, these struggles are a bit closer to the .245, .215, and .205 batting averages he posted against breaking balls in each of the past three seasons. I’m not sure exactly where the month-long dominance of those pitches came from, but the tremendous success he was having in that area does appear to be more of a fluke than a sign of things to come.
On the bright side, the rest of Aguilar’s numbers seem to be right in line with his career numbers, so it’s not as if he will remain a .137 hitter like he has been over the last two and half weeks. His 17.9% strikeout rate is actually the second-best of his career, though it has been regressing throughout this current slump, and his 28.5% chase rate is an improvement on his lifetime 31% mark. Overall, he hits for solid contact and will have the occasional power surge, but he won’t be the 2018 version of himself who crushed 35 homers. And batting in the heart of a Marlins lineup that has scored the fifth fewest runs in baseball this season does him no favors regarding his counting stats. He’s a fine player, and maybe someone to pickup for a week or two when he heats up at the plate, but his numbers at first base are very replaceable in fantasy, and there are almost certainly much hotter options available right now.
Featured image by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter and Instagram)