When you take a picture with a Polaroid camera, the photo comes out and at first, it appears to be nothing more than just a white photograph. So you patiently (or in my case very impatiently) wait as the photograph develops in front of your eyes. The longer you wait the more details come into focus until you finally have a clear picture.
This is how I feel every year when trying to evaluate a player towards the beginning of a fantasy baseball season. As of yesterday, the most at-bats we had seen accrued by a player this season was 60. Provided a player isn’t getting platooned, and they don’t encounter a serious injury, we are looking at about 10% of their 2021 season in the books.
What I’m getting at here is that similar to looking at a Polaroid when it first comes out of the camera, we really aren’t at a place yet where we can make definitive declarations about who a player is yet. For the sake of the Performance Report, we are going to do our best to look at what we have so far and try to make out what the picture will develop into.
Keep in mind, the purpose of this is to look at where a player might be valued currently in fantasy and try to determine how legit their performance and what you should do with them. Let’s dive in!
There was a time when Giancarlo Stanton‘s name was being talked about as one of the most feared power bats in the league. He came one home run shy of 60 in his epic 2017 campaign where he hit an eye-popping .281/.376/.631 in his last season with the Marlins.
Stanton’s first season in pinstripes was a good one in 2018, but since then he has spent more time on the IL than on the field. Honestly, it’s been hard to evaluate where he is at as a player fully because of all of the missed time.
This season in just 44 at-bats Stanton has slashed a paltry .182/.234/.341 with only two home runs. His walk rate has dropped from 16% in the last two seasons to 6.4% this year and he’s still striking out at very close to 28% of the time. Let’s take a look at his batting average heat map from last season compared to where he is at this season.
Stanton 2020 AVG Stanton 2021 AVG
As you can see, he has not gotten any hits yet on pitches on the inside of the zone yet which has definitely attributed to his sub-.200 batting average.
Just so you don’t think it’s all bad with Stanton, there is good to be seen if you dig into his Statcast numbers. He is absolutely smoking the ball when he does make contact and ranks in the 93rd percentile in both average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage and in the 100th percentile in max exit velocity. His .207 BABIP could also mean that he has gotten a little unlucky on some hits, but again, we are looking at such a small sample size, to begin with, that it’s difficult to say for certain.
So, where am I at with Stanton? The injury history, poor plate results thus far, and the fact that Yankee management has said they are going to monitor how many consecutive games he plays all weigh heavily on my mind. On the one hand, I ask myself if we are looking at a player whose body is giving out on him and whose plate skills are eroding away. Conversely, it is hard to ignore the upside Stanton has particularly if he can stay on the field for even 550 at-bats.
Stanton’s price might be lower now than it will be the rest of the year (if he can stay healthy). I find it hard to believe a player with his type of skill and experience is going to continue to hit as poorly as he has been. I’d inquire on him if you need a big bat and you can stomach the risk.
Michael Pineda has settled into being one of those pitchers who is good but will likely never be great. To me, he perfectly embodies the type of pitcher that makes me say things like, “Yeah, he’s fine.”
He isn’t a huge strikeout guy, but he isn’t terrible there either punching guys out at right under a batter an inning. His fastball velocity sits right around 91-92 mph, which is nothing when compared to some of the flame throwers in the league. However, his control of the zone and his ability to improve on his HR/FB% is what have made him a less volatile pitcher than he was earlier in his career.
For all of these reasons, Pineda is the type of pitcher I actually really enjoy seeking out in trades or at the draft table. He is regularly undervalued because he doesn’t have a standout skill, but you always need guys like this to fill out a rotation.
He has had a stellar start to the year with only a 1.00 ERA in 18 innings pitched, so regression is coming. That could mean he might be hard to buy, but I would happy to put feelers out on his value in any leagues I am in so long as his current owner agrees his current ERA is bound to regress.
A casual glance at Eduardo Escobar‘s numbers this year might have you believing that he is a worthwhile player to invest in. Here’s a look at his numbers to this point:
Five home runs so far is pretty impressive, but how sustainable is it based on how he’s actually hitting? Escobar is below the 25th percentile in hard-hit rate and average exit velocity, but his barrel rate on balls he hits in play is more than double where it usually sits. When you couple that with his low batting average, it is hard to imagine him keeping up his torrid power pace.
The Diamondbacks are not a good team on offense this year, which means Escobar will continue to see at-bats. I just don’t believe the results will be as good as what we’ve seen this far. Sooner or later, he is going to turn back into a pumpkin.
Who doesn’t love to see a pitcher everyone had counted out make a comeback and pitch a good game? That’s just what happened this past week when Michael Fulmer made his first start of the season against the Astros and pitched five solid innings on his way to securing a win. In total, he is striking out a batter an inning so far this season and holds a 3.00 ERA. In addition to this, his fastball velocity is also creeping back towards 96mph.
I am just a little bit skeptical when I look at some of the lineups he’s faced so far. The Astros he faced this past week were missing a chunk of their offense on the COVID-IL after all. Fulmer is showing signs of life, and marked improvement, but based on his history it’s hard to buy in on him yet.
Photo by Mick Haupt/Unsplash | Feature Image by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)