We should all be willing and ready to self-evaluate and re-adjust our opinions.
That’s true in life and especially true in fantasy baseball.
It is a very long season. Inevitably there will be players that start strong and then collapse and others who wait until the second half before they put it all together. That makes a lot of the work we do here difficult. We can dig into all the sabermetrics in the world and still come up with the wrong answer in the end.
Of course, an informed opinion is still more valuable than a hunch.
With that in mind, let’s start by looking back.
I wrote about Alek Manoah in the first week of Patience or Panic way back in Week 1. We had very little to write about at the time since Manoah had made just one start. It was a bad start, but based on his track record alone, it was prudent to urge patience in the final verdict. In hindsight, that first start was a harbinger of things to come.
Through his first 12 starts in his third full season in the big leagues, Manoah is 1-6 with a 5.46 earned-run average, 1.77 WHIP, and 48 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings. He has had a couple of encouraging starts, but it’s almost always followed by collapse. Manoah is quickly becoming regarded as one of the season’s biggest busts.
So, what happened to the ace that dominated in his first two seasons?
The most obvious difference is in the pitch mix. In his first two seasons, Manoah threw his four-seam fastball more than 35% of the time. That’s down to just 27% this season. It has gone from his most frequently used pitch to his third-most. Meanwhile, the sinker has overtaken the slider to become his favorite pitch. For whatever reason, Manoah has completely reinvented his approach.
Some of the reason might have to do with the decline of his four-seamer. The pitch doesn’t have the same movement or velocity to it this season and batters are hitting .273 on that pitch after hitting .212 last season. Of course, all of his pitches are getting crushed more than usual and none are fooling opposing batters in any meaningful way. He has a below-average CSW% on his slider (21.6%), four-seamer (27.1%), and changeup (18.3%).
To make matters worse, Manoah’s strikeout and walk rates have cratered. His walk rate in particular is up to 15% (from 6.5 last year!), which is in the bottom 6% of the league.
Verdict: Panic. I’m not sure what other conclusion we can come to now. Why Manoah has reinvented his repertoire I can’t say and it certainly has not led to any improvement. Whether it’s a lack of confidence in his stuff or an undisclosed injury, the Manoah we’re seeing this season has no semblance to the ace of the past two years.
It’s very difficult to have optimism that the pieces of this scattered puzzle will fall back into place at any point. The only pitch that even slightly looks normal is his sinker (-6 run value, 31.1% CSW) and while he’s tried to lean into that pitch, that’s just not going to get the job done when everything else is so bad. There are no gems hidden in the stats – Manoah’s xERA (6.41) and xFIP (5.98) are all worse than his current ERA.
Freddy Peralta has not been a total disaster. In 10 starts, Peralta is 5-4 with a 4.64 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and 58 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings. That’s not helping, but considering the performance of many other starters (Manoah, for example), it’s not exactly doomsday for Peralta owners.
Of course, saying ‘it’s bad, but it could be worse’ is probably not exactly comforting. I get that. The rest of this should help.
Since transitioning to a starter in 2021, Peralta has done one thing really well: limit hard contact. That is still something he’s doing well this year with a hard-hit rate (34%) and average EV (86.6 mph), which are both above average. In spite of that, Peralta is seeing an unusually high number of balls leaving the park. His 13.3% HR/FB ratio is the second-highest mark of his career. That’s extra frustrating as his overall flyball rate has not changed much from last year and is actually quite a bit lower than his breakout 2021 performance.
Peralta has changed little about his approach. He throws his four-seamer greater than 50% of the time and it’s a good one. In 2021, it was one of the best overall pitches in the league. As you’d expect with his overall numbers this season, the fastball is getting hit harder than normal, but very little has changed about the pitch. In fact, he’s throwing harder than ever despite coming off an injury that took a serious chunk of out his 2022 season.
An encouraging sign is the evolution of his slider. Batters are hitting .278 on the pitch with a bloated 28.6% HR/FB rate, but Peralta just needs to stay the course for now. He’s currently generating elite swing-and-miss with the pitch – his 47.3% whiff rate is third best among starters (min. 50 PA) and a 35.1% CSW is 81st percentile. Those numbers combined with a .323 BABIP on the slider point to a bit of bad luck.
Verdict: Patience. Buy low if you can. The velocity is up on the fastball, the slider is generating a ton of whiffs, and batters are struggling to generate consistent hard contact. Unfortunately for Peralta, the hits he does give up are either finding holes or sneaking over the fence. His .309 BABIP overall isn’t especially egregious for the average pitcher, but it’s a significant outlier for Peralta since he’s transitioned into a starting role.
I doubt there are many managers out there that drafted Amed Rosario expecting a league-winner. Rosario has been in the big leagues since 2015 and has pretty well established what kind of player he is. What Rosario lacks in upside, he makes up for in a safe, reliable floor. There can be a lot of value in that, especially in the mid-to-late rounds.
But over two months into the season, it’s time to call an architect because that floor has collapsed.
Coming into the year, Rosario could be relied on for something like a .280 average, 10-15 home runs, 150 runs + RBI, and 20 stolen bases. On his current pace, Rosario will come well short of those numbers. He is hitting just .233/.280/.327 with one home run, 23 runs scored, 13 RBI, and a 50:12 K:BB ratio. He has recouped some value with eight stolen bases, but with steals up across the league that probably comes as little comfort to his owners.
For whatever reason, Rosario has just not found his groove at the plate. His strikeout rate is the highest since his rookie season and his whiff rate, which was well above the league average last season, is up 2-3 points. Overall he’s chasing fewer pitches, but he just can’t seem to connect either way. His 3.4% barrel rate is nearly half the league average.
When he does connect, Rosario is hitting the ball as hard. His 90.3 mph average exit velocity is the highest of his career and his 7.3-degree launch angle, while still lower than you’d like, is a good improvement.
Verdict: Patience. Most players can be expected to start feeling comfortable at the plate by the time June rolls around, but progress in big leagues is not the same for all players. Rosario is doing a lot of good things. He’s putting the ball in the air more often and with more power than he has in the past. For now, it’s not paying off, but his 2.2% HR/FB ratio is laughably low and due for positive regression at some point.
To do that, Rosario will need to get his timing down. Breaking balls in particular have caused him an usual amount of strife. After hitting .271 against those pitches last season, he’s fallen to just .213 this year. While I wouldn’t blame anybody for cutting now on a mid-tier player, there’s still potential value here. Let’s hold tight and reevaluate our opinion in a month.
Kyle Tucker has had a relatively strong season, so his inclusion in this piece may seem a bit odd to anybody not paying close attention. For the Tucker owners out there, the frustration is starting to mount. Over the past three weeks, Tucker has just one home run, nine RBI, six runs scored, and two stolen bases. While he’s still hitting a respectable .286/.333/.429 in that time, the lack of juice is hard to bear in a first-round pick.
There is some good and bad. Tucker has struggled with his plate discipline. His .239 xBA and 10:5 K:BB ratio during over those three weeks are points of concern. On the positive side, the power is still there. That stretch also comes with a 91 mph average exit velocity and an elite 52% hard-hit rate. No, it hasn’t resulted in home runs and this has become a strangely common occurrence with Tucker.
Verdict: Patience. We’ve seen this movie with Tucker before. In 2021 and 2022, he started the season in dreadful slumps despite strong underlying stats nearly across the board. And both years, Tucker eventually shook off the bad luck and surged to the finish line. This season, Tucker had a strong start but the has fallen back into another prolonged slump that he probably doesn’t deserve. Considering the quality of contact, Tucker should work his way back to elite status before long.
Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)