We’re now less than a week away from the fantasy baseball playoffs, which means it’s entirely possible that any seemingly small decision down the stretch could turn out to be the move that helps you survive and advance or end your season early. At this point in the season, there can be no loyalty regarding the players on your team. There is no more time to sit around waiting for a guy you held onto all season to finally turn it around. There is no more long term outlook on a player’s value, as every week the rest of the way could very well be the last of your season. With that in mind, let’s get right into this week’s edition of Patience or Panic, where we take a look at three struggling players to determine whether or not they will turn things around just in time for the playoffs.
Chris Paddack (SP, San Diego Padres) – 7-7, 3.84 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 121 K, 117.1 IP
After a dominant spring training, Chris Paddack entered his rookie year with all the momentum in the world, and he kept that momentum going for a few months, looking like a legitimate rookie of the year contender. However, it has truly been a tale of two halves for the rookie, as he has posted an ugly 6.17 ERA in the second half of the season, compared to a fantastic 2.84 in the first half of the year. He has been especially bad of late, putting up an abysmal 10.06 ERA in the month of August. Looking at his first half compared to the second half, Paddack’s strikeout rate has dropped from 26.7% to 21.9%, while his BB/9 took a small jump from 1.97 to 2.31. After limiting batters to a .194 average in the first half of the season, they have hit .254 against him in the second half, while batting a ridiculous .351 against him in the last month. All in all, it seems that the 23-year-old is just physically worn down by this season. Having never gone above 90 innings in a season entering this year, the 117.1 he currently sits at is already a 30% increase over his previous career high, and his struggles intensified almost immediately after reaching that 90 inning mark. With the Padres nowhere near the playoff hunt, it would be no surprise to see Paddack shut down before the season ends. In fact, it would almost be a shock if he did make more than just a couple more starts down the stretch. Even if he does somehow continue pitching long enough to make it through the fantasy playoffs, he still could be entirely ineffective, given his level of fatigue at this point in the year. Paddack could very easily become a perennial all-star in the years to come, but it appears highly unlikely that he will be able to help his fantasy owners over these last few weeks.
Trevor Bauer (SP, Cincinnati Reds) – 10-11, 4.34 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 217 K, 182.2 IP
What a year it’s been for Trevor Bauer. After coming off a breakout 2018 season that saw him strike out 221 batters on his way to a 2.21 ERA, he has had an extremely up and down 2019. He has shown flashes of brilliance, making 11 starts in which he gave up zero or one earned run, but he has also had his share of implosions, allowing seven or more earned runs a whopping five times. With three of those blow ups coming in the last month, his season ERA has risen nearly a full point in that time. For the season, he has had trouble keeping the ball on the ground, owning a 38.2% ground ball rate, compared to each of the last three years when it was 44.5% or higher. That has led to a higher than usual 39.5% fly ball rate, with 13.9% of those leaving the park. While batters are squaring the ball up against Bauer with a career worst 8.8% barrel rate, their hard contact rate against him of 36.6% is right on par with his career average. Unfortunately, Bauer had never posted an ERA better than 4.19 in any season prior to last year’s breakout. However, he is still striking out nearly 11 batters per nine innings this season, having pitched eight games with double-digit strikeouts. He has a relatively easy schedule over these last few weeks, likely getting to face the Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Mets during what would be the semifinals and finals of the fantasy playoffs. Add that with his potential to throw a complete game shutout at any moment, and I am willing to live or die behind the right arm of Trevor Bauer.
Jean Segura (SS, Philadelphia Phillies) – .285 AVG, 69 R, 11 HR, 52 RBI, 7 SB
After three consecutive seasons in which he posted double-digit home runs with 20 or more stolen bases and a .300 or better batting average, Jean Segura entered 2019 as seemingly one of the safest picks in the draft. However, he is currently on pace to fall short of most of those benchmarks. While his 11 homers actually have him on pace to surpass his home run total from each of the past two seasons, he hasn’t hit any long balls in the last month, and he only has one bomb since June 28th. In any other season, that wouldn’t be too much of an issue, being that he typically brings great speed and average to the table, but this year has been different. Segura’s last stolen base came on July 7th, nearly two months ago, and after six straight seasons of swiping 20 or more bags, it appears as though he might not even make it to ten this year. Interestingly, his hard-hit rate of 34.2% is actually tied for the best of his career, while he has produced a career best 88.4 mph average exit velocity. In fact, the majority of his advanced metrics are not much different from his career norms, but his speed, what was previously his greatest asset, has been a very minor part of his game this year. On top of that, he is scoring fewer runs than usual lately, having been moved from first or second in the lineup to the four or five spot. While his .298 average in the last month is more than acceptable, Segura simply isn’t producing enough in other categories across the board. Despite still being an extremely solid player in real baseball, a guy with ten runs, eight RBI, and no homers or steals in the last month does not warrant a roster spot in fantasy baseball.
(Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)