Welcome back to Patience or Panic, and this week we’re going to dig a little deeper as we’ve touched on some of the league’s more big-name flops of the first half. Of course, the longer the season goes on, the statistically more unlikely that patience will be rewarded… panicking in April is generally a bad idea, but panicking now can be entirely reasonable in some cases. Well, fantasy panicking at least, if it’s causing you real panic in real life, I’d probably suggest a less stressful hobby. But sadly, fantasy knitting hasn’t yet caught on. Onto the stragglers and strugglers!
Miguel Cabrera – .269 AVG, 28 R, 38 RBI, 0 SB in 242 AB
Okay, well, this guy is not a deep dive player, unless you mean how his production has nosedived. Miggy has battled quad and groin injuries for much of the season, and it looks like it’s taken a toll on his production, and seeing as he was always reliable in his youth and has battled more injuries in recent years, it’s logical to assume his days of being a high-level fantasy producer are over. But I think it’s also an incorrect assumption, which makes for a good buying opportunity for savvy owners. While his over 20.4% K/9 is worse than in years past, his BABIP of .313 seems low when you consider that he’s hit a whopping 28.5% LD% and with a career-best, you read that right, career-best Hard Contact% of 48.9% and Barrel/BBE of 13.4%. This would seem to indicate that his true power level is closer to last year than it is to the mediocre power seasons of 2014-2015. He’s probably no longer a .320+ hitter, but if he stays healthy he should easily hit .290+ with 15-17 Homers and his usual excellent OBP the rest of the way, making him a great trade target in leagues with antsy owners, and well worth the still-hefty sum you’ll likely have to pay to get him. So I would advocate PATIENCE, and to take advantage of any other Miggy owners who can’t do the same.
Troy Tulowitzki – .233, 3 HR, 12 R, 18 RBI, 0 SB in 159 AB
His amount of home runs is Tulo. It was kind of crazy to consider that Troy Tulowitzki, the same guy who was often a #1 overall pick in seasons past, was considered a deeper sleeper in leagues this year. But maybe he’s only a deeper sleeper in that the season’s halfway done and his bat still hasn’t woken up and has slept through all the alarms. As usual, injuries have played a role, but in the past he was productive in his time on the field. but perhaps all the injuries that have piled up over the years have increasingly taken a toll on his ability to produce. I mean, it’s not all bad, as he’s maintained his 2016 walk rate but cut down his K rate to 12.1%, which is his best mark since 2012 with the Rockies, backed by a great Z-contact% of 91.0%. But it’s also come with a career-high 49.6% GB% rate, and with only a 28.1% Hard% with a ugly 25.2% Soft%. and with such low exit velocity (85.9 mph, 89.9 mph FB/LD eV) , it’s hard to imagine his low 8.2% HR/FB fully regressing to his career norms. Hitting the ball with authority is a much better sign of health than merely making contact, just like I wrote about Jonathan Lucroy last week. Tulo hasn’t been able to be close to the same player since leaving Coors, and his numbers have been trending in the wrong direction. While he does have a smaller sample size than many other hitters, I vote for PANIC, since Tulo’s really got me at Witz end.
Dustin Pedroia – .295 AVG, 2 HR, 27 R, 27 RBI, 2 SB in 234 AB
Sure, the average is fine, but Dustin is imPed-ing his fantasy owners’ abilities to win the power hitting categories. As a small and scrappy player, it’s always folly to expect 20 homers, but you expect him to at least reach the double digits. But right now, he’s on pace for 4. I mean, he’s never been a slugger, but his current Barrel/BBE of 0.9% is just pathetic. However, surprisingly, he is still making Hard Contact of 31.0% and Soft Contact of 17.1% which is in line with his career rates, and his exit velocity of 85.5 mph avg and 89.1 on FB/LD, while far from great, are also passable for a player with Pedey’s contact ability. And Pedey is posting the best K rates and whiff rates in 8 years, and lowest chase rate that should help make him an asset in OBP. It’s the same as what Jonathan Lucroy has done, perhaps because they are both hurt (Pedey has had a nagging back injury lately) but at least Pedroia is fast enough to get more hits on that softer contact. He is hitting a high rate of flyballs at 33.6%, so his batted ball mix is not the problem, and a 2.8 HR/FB% seems too small even for him. But the other big concern is his baserunning. With only 2 Stolen Bases and 3 Caught Stealing, he hasn’t made many attempts this year, and it’s looking like he won’t get many more green lights, sapping another source of his value. I’d feel fine cutting him in 10-team since he’ll only make an impact in AVG, and depending on my team needs, would be open to trading or even dropping him in shallow 12-team as well, so I’d preach PANIC. Hey, if you can preach patience, you can preach panic too.
Gregory Polanco – .241 AVG, 6 HR, 25 R, 19 RBI, 7 SB, in 224 AB
Young players are usually impatient and get more patient over time, and sometimes this is cancelled out by their contact skills diminishing over time. But Polanco must be a baseball Benjamin Button, because he’s been doing it all backwards. His chase rate has increased every year starting at a solid 27.9% in 2014 but is now up to an ugly 34.1% Chase Rate. He also has strangely had a Z-Contact% that has improved every year and is now at 91.5%, but that matters less when he’s swinging at so many pitches off the plate, and his 9.2 Swstr% is a career-worst. Now as for the power, it had been trending upwards every year, making him a popular sleeper, but the bottom fell out this year, with a puny 22.3% Hard% and 25.5% Soft% and just 2.7% Barrel/BBE. It’s not hard to find an explanation as he’d been struggling with his shoulder health and other nagging health issues, and those issues can sap his power. But that doesn’t explain his eroding discipline, and it might just be a case of a promising prospect losing his way, and this is shaping up to be a lost year. In dynasty leagues, you’re probably best off holding and hoping that he can become fully healthy and kickstart his development, since he’s still young enough to turn the tide, but in redraft I think it’s time to PANIC. Let the suffering end and cry Polanco.
Brandon Belt – .228 AVG, 14 HR, 42 R, 35 RBI, 3 SB in 285 AB
For years, owners have wished that he’d show more power. Well, wish granted… thanks, evil genie. His 14 homers has him on pace to crush his power totals, but the batting average has nosedived to a nauseating batting average, which does more harm than good overall, especially in this saturated power environment. The power does look legit as his 11.1% Barrel/BBE is right next to sluggers like Morales and Schebler, and with a 37.2% Hard% contact rate, it’s surprising his LD% has plummeted and has been replaced by grounders. But at 23.0%, his LD% rate isn’t that bad, and his GB% of 33.8% and FB% 43.1% are still quite good, so nothing in his batted ball mix looks especially concerning. And he has been valuable in OBP leagues with a second straight season of a near 15% walk rate, and it’s better supported this year with a career-best 22.4% Chase Rate. The reality may be that his high batting averages of years past were batted-ball dependent with his 20-25% K rate, and since his BB/K rates haven’t changed much, it looks like his luck has just gone in the other direction. But with great plate discipline, a palatable batted ball mix, and tons of hard contact, I’m going to tighten my Belt and go with PATIENCE.