Patience or Panic 6/19: Mazara, Profar, Mikolas
It’s week 12 of the fantasy baseball season, which means teams in standard 12-team head-to-head leagues are beginning to play each of their opponents for the second time. This also means that we are now into the second half of the regular season. If your team finds itself out of the playoffs as of today, it is likely a result of some under-performing players that have failed to live up to their expectations to this point in the season. With some of these players, it might be wise to keep waiting it out under the belief that sooner or later, they’ll pick up the pace and start performing at the level you were hoping for from the beginning. With others however, it might be time to cut bait if you think their current production levels will continue throughout the second half of the year. And with that in mind, we have another weekly edition of Patience or Panic, where we look at three struggling players to determine whether or not you should be holding onto them in hopes of better days ahead.
Nomar Mazara (OF, Texas Rangers) – .265 AVG, 39 R, 9 HR, 39 RBI, 3 SB
After slugging 20 home runs in 128 games last season, big things were expected from Nomar Mazara this year. So far however, he has yet to show that improvement, having a very mediocre season to date. And with just one home run in the month of June thus far, he is certainly leaving something to be desired. However, there are several underlying metrics that show that Mazara may be swinging the bat better than his surface stats would lead you to believe. One improvement that he’s made this season is cutting back on ground balls. After an ugly 55.1% ground ball rate last year, Mazara has dropped that number down to a still less-than-superb, but also much-improved rate of 50.3%. This is likely a direct result of his launch angle jumping from 5.3 to 9.4 degrees in an effort to reduce grounders and put more balls over the fence. He is also hitting the ball well, with a hard-hit rate of 45.2%. While his exit velocity of 89.2 mph is nothing too special, and actually a bit below what he produced last year, his barrel rate has jumped to an impressive 11.2%. All of this adds up to an expected batting average of .275 and a .477 expected slugging percentage. That is 25 points higher than his expected slugging percentage in 2018, and 41 points better than his actual slugging percentage right now. Batting cleanup everyday for the third-highest-scoring offense in baseball, it would definitely seem that better days are ahead for the 24-year-old.
Jurickson Profar (1B, 2B, 3B, SS, Oakland Athletics) – .216 AVG, 29 R, 9 HR, 39 RBI, 5 SB
After his first season of over 100 games saw him hit 20 homers while swiping ten bags, the 26-year-old entered 2019 with people hoping he would turn into a legitimate five-category asset. Unfortunately, Profar has been a major disappointment this season, despite being on pace to match his home run and stolen base totals from last year. A big reason for his underwhelming season is the fact that he simply isn’t hitting the ball hard this year. His hard contact rate is down from last year, currently at an ugly 29.9%. Meanwhile, his soft contact rate is up to 23.7%. Furthermore, his average exit velocity is a poor 85.8 mph. Profar also has a barrel rate of just 5.7%. It also appears that he is less disciplined at the plate this season, with a decreased walk rate that sits at 6.3%, less than half of his walk rate just two seasons ago. Another issue is that he is pulling the ball 49.8% of the time this season, up a full 10% from last year. As a switch hitter, this is allowing the shift to really hurt him when he bats lefty. As a result, he is batting a very strong .357 from the right side of the plate, while hitting a miserable .176 as a southpaw. He needs to start spreading the ball to all parts of the field in order to improve at the plate, and I’m not so sure he will be able to do that any time soon. While his positional versatility is fantastic, he simply isn’t producing enough right now to warrant a roster spot outside the deepest of leagues.
After posting a terrific 2.83 ERA in his return from Japan last season, Miles Mikolas has not pitched to that same level in 2019. While he has certainly shown flashes of last season’s brilliance, with four starts since May 1st in which he gave up one or zero runs, he has been wildly inconsistent this year, posting an ERA of 6.75 or worse in three of his last six starts while winning just one game since May 7th. Part of the problem has been an increase in walks allowed. Last year, he was top five among pitchers in walk rate, and while he is still limiting walks better than most pitchers, his BB/9 has increased nearly 25% from last year. These extra baserunners have hurt him, mainly because batters are hitting him harder than they did last year. Their hard-hit rate against Mikolas this season is a solid 36.4%, compared to just 29.2% in his all-star season. Batters are also connecting for barrels 7.8% of the time this year, compared to 5.1% in 2018, while their exit velocity against him has increased by 2.5 mph this season. He is also having some more trouble keeping the ball in the park this year, as his HR/9 has more than doubled from a year ago.
However, both his strikeout rate and swinging strike rate remain in line with where they were last season. While Mikolas is far from ever being considered a strikeout pitcher, it is important to see that he hasn’t regressed in this area. Additionally, his expected FIP of 4.10 and his SIERA of 4.33 both show that his surface stats should be a bit better than where they are at the moment. Overall, you should be wary of starting Mikolas against tough opponents on the road, as his ERA away from home is a hideous 7.76 compared to a sparkling 2.55 mark when pitching at Busch Stadium. That being said, I believe the second half of the season will be better than the first half for Mikolas, and while he might not pitch to the same level as he did throughout 2018, the 30-year-old should still be a very productive pitcher moving forward.
(Photo by Tim Spyers/Icon Sportswire)