We’ve officially reached the midpoint of the regular season, and the All-Star break is just two weeks away. As we get closer to finding out who will be playing in the Midsummer Classic, we can really appreciate the late draft picks and waiver wire pickups who have played well enough to warrant this consideration. If your team is having a strong year, it is likely because of these guys, the Josh Bells and Hunter Doziers of the world, who have broken out for monstrous seasons thus far. Similarly, if your team hasn’t produced the way you had hoped it would, there’s a good chance you spent early draft picks on former all-stars such as Jose Ramirez, Joey Votto, or any of the other players who have failed to live up to expectations this year. This brings us to our weekly edition of Patience or Panic, where we look at three under-performing players to determine whether or not their struggles are likely to continue throughout the remainder of the season.
Entering the season as a consensus top-two first baseman with Freddie Freeman for fantasy purposes, Paul Goldschmidt has been a major disappointment to this point in the season. His .253 batting average is the lowest since he was first called up for 48 games in 2011. Since then, he had seven straight seasons batting at least .286, making him easily one of the most consistent players in baseball, until this year. A big reason for his poor performance to date seems to be that maybe he just isn’t seeing the ball as well as he has in the past. His walk rate is down to 11.2%, his lowest rate since 2012 by a decent margin. Over the last six years, Goldschmidt had posted a walk rate of 13% or higher each season, reaching as high as 17%. He also hasn’t been squaring up the ball as well as usual, with a barrel rate of just 8.7%. In three of the last four seasons, he had put up barrel rates over 12.5%, putting him within the top 7% of the league or better each time. He’s doing okay in the power department, as he is on pace for just under 30 homers, but he has been completely nonexistent on the base paths. After stealing 18 or more bases three years in a row, Goldschmidt swiped just seven bags last season, and this season that has regressed to him being caught stealing on his lone attempt of the year. With the Cardinals stealing the fifth-most bases in baseball this season, it would appear as if being on a new team has nothing to do with this sudden drop off. Instead, it seems that the soon to be 32-year-old has simply decided to preserve his body by running less, turning him into just a four-category asset at best.
However, not everything Goldschmidt has done this season has been bad. According to Fangraphs, he has made hard contact 51.7% of the time this year, an impressive number that would actually be the highest of his career. He also has an expected slugging percentage of .469, and while that is still lower than we are accustomed to from Goldy, it is still 49 points higher than his actual slugging percentage this year. Furthermore, his exit velocity and launch angle are right in line with his career averages, while his strikeout rate is unchanged from a year ago. Don’t forget, Goldschmidt is not immune to bad starts, as he had a hideous .198/.320/.355 line on May 22nd last season. I think it’s only a matter of time before Paul Goldschmidt starts to once again tear the cover off the baseball like we’re used to seeing. Much better days are ahead for the first baseman.
After a breakout year that finished with the Cy Young Award in 2018, Blake Snell has been a bit of a letdown for fantasy owners this season. He has been especially bad of late, giving up six or more earned runs in three of his five starts in June, including giving up a combined 13 runs in his last two games. A major part of the problem is that more fly balls are becoming home runs against the lefty this season than in the past. His home run to fly ball ratio of 17.2% is about six percentage points higher than in any other season (he sat at 11% in 2017). In turn, batters have put up an average exit velocity of 87.2 mph against him, the highest of his career. This increase in long balls has also contributed to a career-low 69.1% left on base rate.
Interestingly enough, Snell has leaned on his curveball much more heavily than he did in his Cy Young season, despite being a bit less-effective with the pitch than he was a year ago. He has thrown the pitch 29.6% of the time this season, compared to just 20.2% in 2018. As a result, he has used his fastball a career-low 41.1% of the time, after having never gone a season without throwing fastballs on at least half of his pitches. It would therefore seem entirely possible that once he regains the best version of his curveball, Snell could quickly return to his dominant ways on the mound. Until then however, Snell has still managed to strike out batters at the best clip of his career, with a 12.01 K/9, thanks to an impressive 18.3% swinging strike rate. Batters also have a .329 BABIP against the southpaw thus far, which is a whopping 88 points higher than last year. This stat seems overdue for regression, and that belief is strongly supported by a FIP of 3.38, as well as an SIERA of 3.50. Overall, the 26-year-old star will be just fine as the season progresses, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him return to form as early as his next start.
Before an injury-plagued 2018 season, Wil Myers was coming off a 30 home run, 20 stolen base season in 2017 and a 28 homer, 28 steal year in 2016. Unfortunately, despite good health in his age 28 season, Myers has struggled so far this year. He has been even worse of late, as he has just one homer to go with a .192 batting average in the last month. A big part of the problem stems from simply not hitting the ball. Myers has an ugly 35.8% strikeout rate, the worst of his career by a pretty hefty margin. His 97 strikeouts are the third most in baseball this season, and he has fewer at-bats than both of the players ahead of him. When he does connect with the ball, it hasn’t been the best contact, either: His 19.9% soft-contact rate is the worst of his career, while his 41.8% hard-hit rate is his lowest since 2016. Myers has also produced the lowest exit velocity of his career at just 88 mph. To sum it up, Myers is failing to put the ball in play on more than a third of his at bats, while making fairly weak contact when he does manage to get his bat on the ball. Aside from that, he hits in the bottom half of a not-so-great Padres lineup, leading to him somehow being on pace for under 50 RBI this year. While he might hit a hot streak from time to time, I simply don’t envision him finding anything close to consistent success with how he’s been swinging the bat this year.
(Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)