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Patience or Panic 6/4 – Castellanos, McCutchen, Franco

Ben Pernick here, after analyzing the waiver wire options in Wednesday’s “Buy & Sell” articles, I’ll be approaching things from the flipside with “Patience or Panic” where I will take...

Ben Pernick here, after analyzing the waiver wire options in Wednesday’s “Buy & Sell” articles, I’ll be approaching things from the flipside with “Patience or Panic” where I will take a look at some underperforming players and tell you whether you should hold them in hopes for a turnaround, or cut your losses and cut them lose.  Without further ado, let’s a-do this.

Nick Castellanos.209/.283/.353, 4 HR, 23 R, 25 RBI, 0 SB 

Owning him may make you more desperate than Tom Hanks in Cast Away, and leave you talking to a baseball named Rawlings.  The month of May has sure been tough for Castellanos owners, and soon many owners will be tempted to cast him off. After all the talk of this being his big power year, he only has 4 homers, with a  with a career high 26.5 K%, and while defense doesn’t count in fantasy, his 11 errors don’t help the narrative. But before he’s Castellegone-os, consider one number: 46.9%. That’s his Hard%, and it’s 4th best in the league.  Lest you think that means little, consider the other guys on this list:  Sano, Goldschmidt, Tim Beckham (really), Khris Davis, Conforto. It goes on, but suffice to say, they are mostly great hitters.  So let’s look at the supposed exception, Beckham.  He has a 33.5% K rate and only 4.7% BB rate, and still has 8 HR and a .266 AVG. While he does have some BABIP luck, it’s also a reminder that Hard Hit balls generally help your BABIP, so Castellanos’s .273 BABIP should regress towards a much higher xBABIP.  And in comparison to Beckham, Castellanos’ 27.2% K% isn’t so bad, especially since it comes with a 8.1% Walk Rate. That looks legit, as his 30.8% Chase Rate is a career best (career 34.1%), and though his Z-Contact is also a career low at 80.4% and Swstrk is at a high at 14.9%, those aren’t terrible for a power hitter, both are similar to Khris Davis in 2016, who had a chase rate of 31.3% and Swstrk% of 16.6%. And Castellanos, with a excellent Barrel/BBE of 14.0% (again, just behind Goldschmidt and Conforto) deserves far better than a 8.0% HR/FB, even playing half his games in Comerica. Power can catch up quickly, as anyone who owned 2016 K. Davis after a rotten April (or Dozier after a rough 1st half) may remember.  As poor as he’s been lately, I’d cut him in 10-team formats, but I’d still advocate PATIENCE in deeper leagues.

Andrew McCutchen – .223/.301/.404  8 HR, 24 R, 24 RBI, 5 SB

We all know at this point McCutchen is not quite McClutchin’ his glory days, especially after posting a disappointing .256 AVG last year. And his exit velocity, which used to rank among the league’s best, is a mediocre 87.4 with a pedestrian 6.6% Barrel/BBE, so there’s some merit to the concern that he’s no longer a superstar-caliber slugger. But he doesn’t need to be 100% his old self to still be a good hitter. And it’s not all bad, as he does sneakily have 7 HR and 5 SB. The speed is especially encouraging, as he only had 6 SB all of last year, and his 83% SB% success rate this year indicates he is healthy. And a healthy, speedy player with a career .327 BABIP isn’t likely to maintain a .224 BABIP, even with his reduced hard hit rate and 40% FB rate. It’s not like he’s striking out more, as his current 18.6% mark is his best since 2014, and his plate discipline stats show he’s been mostly steady with even slight improvements in chase rate and contact.  It looks like the most plausible low BABIP explanation is that he’s traded liners (15%) for grounders (45%), but that’s shouldn’t be a death knell for a speedy guy and line drive rate lacks stickiness.  And while he hasn’t been hitting like gangbusters lately, he he has been contributing more power and speed and pulled his average up from where it was chillin’ by the Mendoza line.  So while no, he won’t hit .300 and steal 30 bases the rest of the way, he should be a good bet to produce at least a .260-20-20 clip, which is plenty useful, so I would advocate PATIENCE in all leagues.

Adrian Gonzalez – .255/.305/.340, 1 HR, 8 R, 20 RBI, 0 SB  

Numbers time! Here’s one – 1.7%. What’s that?  Gonzo’s barrels/BBE, and with a 87.8 mph Exit Velocity. So, thus far, the 1 HR hasn’t been pure bad luck. His Z-Contact is also down to the worst Z-Contact% since 2009 at 85.1%, which is rather solid still, but not if you’re a first baseman who isn’t hitting for power. He’s always hit for a rather high amount of soft contact, but now it’s with a career high 12.9% (career 5.7%) and a career-low Hard% at a well below average 27.6%. And that career-high 45.9% GB% doesn’t help much when you run like a snail riding on the back of a three-toed sloth. But the number one reason to cut him is just that there are so many more interesting first baseman this year thanks to the launch angle revolution, and even if he does turn it around, it’s unlikely he out-produces them, as at this point he’s much closer to his 2016 18-homer self than any previous ones, and that’s so meh nowadays.  I think a lot of people see the name and assume he’ll turn it around, but I’m flipping the PANIC switch on this guy.  If someone just looks at the name and K/BB rates and is looking to buy, sell him and be glad he’s gone-zo.

Maikel Franco.216/.253/.372, 6 HR, 17 R, 28 RBI, 0 SB

He’s been Maikilling mai fantasy team with just 6 HR, nearly a third of the way into the season.  It’s been so bad that he’s been benched several times, and there’s even been rumors swirling that he’ll get demoted to Triple-A (though his manager stated a demotion is not imminent). But while it’s painful when you look at the surface numbers, it just doesn’t seem entirely believable that these struggles will last. His 14.9% K rate is a career best, with a solid 7.2% Walk Rate.  Similar to McCutchen, the major culprit seems to be his .222 BABIP, so let’s look for possible explanations. Well, it’s not due to weak contact, as his 32.0% Hard% is a career best, and unlike McCutchen, his LD/FB/GB distribution is right in line with his career norms, as is his Pull/Oppo distribution. Infield flyballs? His 6.5% mark is drastically better than his career 15% mark, so no.  Exit Velocity? His 6.7% Barrel/BBE and 89.3 mph exit velo is EXACTLY the same as his 2016 mark. So here’s a young, yet somewhat experienced player who is struggling despite hitting the ball harder, becoming more disciplined, and keeping everything else the same? Looks like just plain old bad luck to me. I’d project him going forward with all the rates from his 2016 campaign, which may be disappointing from a season numbers standpoint, but will make you glad you held onto him.  So while there still is the risk of demotion which makes me less self-assured than I normally would be, I’d advocate PATIENCE since the skills are all there.

Rajai Davis.203/.247/.304, 2 HR, 17 R, 12 RBI, 7 SB

I could go into a deep dive of all of the stats, where he is honestly not all that different from his career marks. Because let’s face it, you have him for one reason, and one reason only, and that’s speed. And while he has 7 SB on the year, it’s come with 4 SB.  While it’s still not a big sample size, that is not a very good SB success rate, especially if speed is your calling card. For reference, last year he stole 43 bases, with only 6 Caught Stealing. THAT is a good success rate. Since 2013, the closest SB success rate, was in 2015, when he got caught 8 times, and stole 18 bases over 370 PA. And now, he’s 36 years and 7 months old, and has a Spd rating of 6.4 after logging 8.1 and 7.8 the past 2 years. If you want some cause for optimism, you can look at his 2014, where he had a similar Speed rating of 6.5 and did get caught stealing 11 times and still stole 36 bases. But that was also with the Tigers and he’s now in the much more stat-headed Athletics, who will give Rajai the red light like Roxanne if the numbers continue to imply his running does more harm than good.  As for the rest of his game, he’s continuing his contact decline with a career low Z-contact of 86.5%, and while he’s slightly improved his chase rate, he’ll still produce a low OBP.  While it seemed on opening day that he would have full-time At-Bats, there are many players now vying for At-Bats  And while power has never been an asset, he has a paltry 1.7% Barrels/BBE and this year has 24% Soft Contact vs only 25% Hard Contact, so projecting double digit power seems like folly., I think that if you’re in anything but an AL-only league, it’s time to PANIC and  let Rajai run off, into the mountains. It might take longer for him to get there than you expected.

Ben Pernick

I've been writing for Pitcher List since the beginning, and have been a fantasy baseball addict now for 20 years. I grew up as a Red Sox fan in New York, but now I declare allegiance only to my fantasy teams.

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