Performance Report: 4/24

What to do with Javier Baez? Is Nick Solak underrated?

Another week has passed, which means we have that much larger of a sample size to draw from in our evaluations of players. This is probably also the point in the season when a lot of fantasy managers are agonizing on cutting bait and trying to determine exactly how a player fits into their team.

For me, decisions like this always come down to cost. I ask myself, what would/did a player cost? I find it a lot easier to sleep at night when I end up dropping a 15th round player as opposed to someone I spent more draft capital on.

The rash of injuries that are piling up complicate matters as well and must be taken into consideration. All of these reasons are why it’s important to, at the very least, give any player that extra look under the hood when you need to evaluate their performance.

That’s enough of that, let’s talk about some players performance and what you should be doing with them!

 

 

Javier Baez

 

Anyone who has ever followed Baez knows that he can absolutely crush a ball. He’s an incredibly exciting player because he can have that game where he hits two or maybe even three home runs and add in a stolen base just to pad that stat line a little more.

If there was ever a case to be made for poor plate skills catching up to and then outweighing athleticism and freak bat speed, Javier Baez would be the poster boy. Again, Baez can murder a baseball… but that’s when he makes contact. For the uninitiated, here is a clearer picture of his strengths and weaknesses as a hitter according to his baseball savant page.

Baez has power and speed, but his swing has more holes in it than the plot to Justice League. This would not be a death sentence for Baez if he didn’t strike out at a near 45% clip or if he actually knew how to take a walk. Seriously, he has one walk this year in 73 at bats. It’s like he is allergic to them. His current season slash line is .233/.273/.507, and his xBA of .199 portends a more dismal picture of things to come.

For the optimists out there, Baez has looked slightly better this past week. In his last six games played he is batting .308 with three home runs. Keep in mind, in that same stretch he’s flirted with a 48% strikeout rate.

The combination of power and speed are what will keep Baez in your fantasy lineup, and the lack of a better option in Chicago is what will keep him in the Cubs’ lineup. For those reasons, I can understand why someone would want to hold Baez or maybe even go and try to buy low. Speed in particular is a luxury. He could finish the year with 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases, but with a .225 average. It’s also within the range of outcomes for him to finish with less home runs and steals and still have a miserable average. I just don’t think I have the stomach to ride out the mega highs and crater lows.

His perceived value is so low, if you want to sell him, you might need to wait until he strings together a few more good games and then try and move him on the promise of a turnaround. Either way, Baez is not a guy I’d want in my starting lineup if I had an alternative.

Verdict: SELL

 

Nick Solak

 

I like to look at a bad offense for players with consistent at bats to see if there is a buying opportunity. Usually, there isn’t an obvious one because the offense stinks for a reason. The Rangers are just such an offense.

Sure, they have some interesting players and some nice storylines right now in Adolis Garcia (who should be snapped up if available) and former Tampa Bay Ray Nate Lowe. Those guys might get more notice, but I believe another player on their team deserves some recognitions based on how he’s performed to this point.

Nick Solak is entering his third season with major league at bats. He was a little bit of an enigma this offseason and didn’t have a lot of clarity around where his defensive home would end up being. Solak isn’t known for his glove and had spent last season flipping between the outfield and the infield. This season he has started nearly every game at the keystone and has become a fixture in the heart of the Rangers lineup. This is important because it means Solak looks to be locked into a full time role.

This season, Solak has slashed .274/.369/.493 with five home runs and two stolen bases. That’s a very respectable line to this point. Here’s the really interesting part though; Solak’s first ten games of the season he batted a meager .200/.300/.286, whereas his last ten games he has hit .342/.432/.684 with four of his five home runs.

I can’t imagine theses last ten games are indicative of what we can expect over the rest of the season from Solak, but it is incredibly encouraging and has likely flown under the radar. Is it within the realm of possibilities for Solak to finish the season with 25/10? The power is where I am still a little skeptical, but it could happen.

Sounds crazy to say it… but Nick Solak very well may finish the year as a more valuable fantasy player than Javier Baez.

Verdict: BUY

 

Sean Manaea

 

A good pitcher should be able to take advantage of a bad or struggling lineup. After starting the year with a rough outing against the Astros, Sean Manaea followed it up with a solid showing against that same Astros lineup and then an even better game against the Tigers. Manaea’s ERA after his first three games was 4.32 which probably made the casual observer wonder how he’d fair against a more potent Twins lineup this past week.

Well, Manaea pitched seven strong innings with seven strikeouts and didn’t give up a single run. It wasn’t a flawless game by any means, but this is another data point for a pitcher who has been hard to evaluate at times. There won’t be loads of strikeouts going forward here and he is still someone who I wouldn’t roll out in any matchup. However, he could be a solid glue guy for your rotation.

It’s hard to advise actively buying him considering his injury history and the lack of strikeouts, but it can’t hurt to inquire. If he is able to keep his walks down and stay healthy, Manaea could be a SP4 at year’s end.

Verdict: BUY – If the price is right

 

Eugenio Saurez

 

I sifted through numbers and tried really hard to find any sort of reason for a turnaround here… but things are looking bleak. Eugenio Suarez has been terrible this year, plain and simple. His exit velocity and hard hit percentage are trending the wrong direction and worst of all his strikeout rate is nearing Baez areas of awfulness at 38.6%.

Are you sitting down? His triple slash so far this year is an anemic .157/.277/.343. This is not the same player who destroyed the league for 49 home runs in 2019.

I have so many questions. How could he drop off to this degree this quickly? Suarez isn’t that old (29 years old) and he isn’t battling any injuries that anyone has been talking about. Could it be that he is having trouble mentally after being forced over to SS from playing 3B? Defensively that position would require a lot more focus and perhaps that could be affecting him at the plate.

If there is one small sliver to hold onto with Suarez, it’s that last year he started cold as well before rebounding a little. He still finished the year with a .202 average in 2020 though. You really can’t sell him right now unless you are ok getting peanuts in return, and buying him could end up poorly as well. Suarez is one of the rare guys in the league who has legitimate 50 HR power, so he bears watching for a turnaround.

Verdict: HOLD

Photo by Mick Haupt/Unsplash | Feature Image by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Gabe Zammit

Gabe Zammit has been writing about baseball since 2017. He is a contributor on Pitcher List in addition to Friends with Fantasy Benefits. Outside of the baseball world, Gabe is a music director and producer and loves to chat about anything and everything music.

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