As we approach the end of July, we now have just a handful of weeks until the fantasy baseball playoffs. This means that it is becoming increasingly important to maximize every roster spot on your team, not wasting any of them on struggling players unlikely to give you the production you have been waiting for all season long. However, it is arguably more crucial that you do not cut bait on a player too soon. Painfully watching him turn things around at the most significant time of the year for someone else in your league who wisely scooped him up off the waiver wire. With that in mind, we have another weekly edition of Patience or Panic, where we take a look at three under-performing players to determine whether or not we should hold onto them in hopes of a strong finish to the year.
Khris Davis (OF, Oakland Athletics): .231 AVG, 43 R, 16 HR, 50 RBI, 0 SB
After an injury-plagued first half of the season, one of the most consistent hitters in baseball currently finds himself well shy of reaching his typical production line. After remarkably batting .247 in each of the past four seasons, Khris Davis is under the average mark, while severely lacking in the power department, having hit over 40 long balls in each of the past three seasons, including 48 last year. A major reason for this is simply that he isn’t hitting as many fly balls as he usually does. In fact, his 36.3% fly ball rate thus far is the lowest of his career, and the first time it’s been under 40% since he was on the Brewers in 2015. As a result, his ground ball rate has gone up to 41.3%, the highest its been since 2016. These changes likely have a lot to do with his launch angle dropping from 18.1 degrees in 2018 to 12.7 degrees this year. In addition to this, his hard-hit rate has declined to 39.7%, versus a 46.8% career rate. In turn, his exit velocity this season has dropped to 89.7 mph, tied for the worst of his career.
Normally, numbers like the ones above would signal bad news for a player’s rest-of-season outlook. However, Davis also has an expected batting average of .244, right in line with his usual .247 mark. Furthermore, his expected slugging percentage is nearly 50 points higher than his actual slugging percentage of .401. I believe that Davis’ struggles have been purely a product of the injury bug. It’s only a matter of time before he feels 100% healthy and back to normal and starts raking again. Let’s not forget that he did hit ten homers in his first 17 games of the season. A season ago, Davis hit 19 bombs after August 1st. Do not be surprised to see him have a similarly strong finish to this season.
Raisel Iglesias (RP, Cincinnati Reds): 2-8, 4.60 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 17 SV, 56 K, 43 IP
After three straight seasons in which he posted an ERA of 2.53 or better, Raisel Iglesias entered 2019 once again projected to be one of the best relievers in the league. To this point however, he has left a lot to be desired, posting a nearly doubled ERA from a year ago. The long ball has been a major issue for the 29-year-old this season, allowing a HR/9 of 1.88, compared to 1.50 last year and just 0.59 the year before that. Interestingly, batters have had a launch angle of 21.7 degrees, twice as high as league average, and a full eight degrees higher than in any other season against Iglesias. He also had some increased trouble with control, giving up nearly four walks per nine innings. However, not all things have been bad for Iglesias, as he is striking out batters at the best clip of his career. A career best 15.6% swinging strike rate has led to a sparkling 11.72 K/9.
Much of the problem seems to be with how Iglesias is being used by Reds manager David Bell. Entering the season, Bell had stated that Iglesias would not be used in a traditional closer role, instead feeling that it would be best for the team to use his best reliever whenever he was needed, regardless of the inning or score. After voicing his displeasure toward his usage earlier in the season, Iglesias has handled his role much better of late, but it is clear he is still uncomfortable. He has given up runs in each of his last three appearances, none of which were traditional save chances. After serving up a go-ahead grand slam the other night, Bell admitted that he has made things difficult on his best reliever, saying “I do feel like I haven’t done a good job with him, making him comfortable.” Perhaps this means that Bell will finally begin to work on this situation, making a concerted effort to use Iglesias when he does feel most comfortable, in save situations. I am hopeful that this is the case, but even if it is not, it appears that Iglesias’ job is safe at least, and there is no risk of him being demoted to lower leverage situations. Therefore, he will continue to be a valuable asset in fantasy, with or without the help of his manager.
Scooter Gennett (2B, Cincinnati Reds): .191 AVG, 2 R, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB
After a combined 50 homers and a batting average above .300 across the last two seasons, it was extremely disappointing to see Scooter Gennett go down with a groin injury towards the end of spring training. Since returning from said injury on June 28th, Gennett has simply looked awful. Through 47 at bats, the 29-year-old has a WRC+ of -1, he has just one extra base hit, a double, and an ISO of .023. After never striking out more than 22.9% of the time, Gennett has struck out 31.1% of the time so far this season. He is making hard contact on just 20.7% of batted balls, and he has yet to connect with a barrel. Incredibly, his .213 slugging percentage is actually higher than his expected slugging percentage of .199.
Clearly, Gennett has yet to fully recover from his groin injury, and its lingering effects are severely hurting his performance. While he will likely return to full health at some point and begin to look like an all-star again, it is entirely possible that this doesn’t happen until next season, after he has had a full off-season to rest and get back to full strength. I fully believe that he will be ready to roll when spring training comes around in 2020, but I have no confidence in him looking anything like vintage Scooter Gennett over the last two months of this baseball season.
(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)