It is my pleasure to welcome you to the inaugural Performance Report. This will be a weekly column where I will look at any number of players who’s play has been notable from the past week or so resulting in their stock changing. Their performance could be worthy of inspection for a variety of reasons. I am going to try hard not to talk about players who are incredibly obvious choices or who have already gotten talked about ad nauseam (cough Yermín Mercedes cough).
This will have a lean towards fantasy baseball and more specifically long-term keeper and dynasty leagues. That doesn’t mean those of you in redraft can’t find some nuggets here too. Of course, any good performance report wouldn’t be complete without some sort of final verdict of whether the player will be a Buy, Sell, or Hold.
Now that we’ve gotten the pleasantries out of the way, let’s take a look at our first player!
I have admittedly always had a soft spot for Drew Smyly. There is just something about seeing a pitcher go go under the knife with Tommy John surgery and then battle back that I find incredibly endearing.
Smyly made four starts for the San Francisco Giants last year and had the look of yet another Giant reclamation pitcher. He pitched to a 3.50 ERA while striking out an incredible 31 batters in just 18 innings while also seeing a slight uptick in his fastball velocity.
For the non-invested fantasy owner, this performance was easy to have either missed because it was in September or dismiss because it was a small sample size.
This offseason, Atlanta gave Smyly a contract and a spot in their rotation, and the question of course is, how will he perform under a more normal workload? Or better yet, will he stay healthy for the entire season?
Smyly has only made one start this year and the results weren’t bad, but they really weren’t great either. The good news: He struck out eight batters in six innings of work while leaning on his curve which looks just as deadly as ever. Yes, his fastball velocity is down just a little, but it’s only one start.
I’d be looking to add Smyly or trade for him in any league just because the price should still be dirt cheap on him. Granted, this could go sideways and Smyly could end up hurt again, but he very easily could also be a guy who ends the season as an SP3/4 and that is nothing to sneeze at.
Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Ryan McMahon has been en fuego to start this season. In just 29 at bats, he has a triple slash of .310/.333/.793 with four home runs. The question being whispered amongst fantasy owners … is McMahon finally breaking out?
As a multiple-time recovering Ryan McMahon fantasy owner, I am just a little bit wary of his hot start. One of his biggest issues has always been his penchant for the strikeout. So, you love to see him cutting his K% down from over 30% last season to just 10% so far this year.
He has also almost hit half as many home runs as he did last season in just a fraction of the at bats. Three of those home runs came in one game against some less than stellar Diamondback pitching (sorry Luke Weaver).
Listen, if you are a Rockies fan or maybe just a McMahon apologist, then I can’t fault you for being excited or even buying in. I just can’t get there with him yet. The guy doesn’t really know how to take a walk and my guess is we will see his strikeouts creep back up to where they’ve been historically. He will get playing time simply because of the state of that Rockies lineup, but how good will those at bats be really?
Usually when a guy moves to another position it is cause for celebration in fantasy circles. Think of the dual eligibility and perhaps the increased opportunity for at bats. That is unfortunately not the case with Keston Hiura. With him, the Brewers made the move from 2B over to 1B because the glove just could not handle the keystone. Defensively speaking, he has not looked great over at 1B in his limited time either this season.
Hiura broke into the league in 2019 as an exciting young player with a tantalizing power/speed combination. In limited at-bats that year, he came really close to going 20/10 and had fantasy owners going crazy imagining the upside in a full season of at bats.
In last year’s Covid-shortened season, Hiura saw his already scary strikeout rate increase (34.6%) and his batting average plummet to a measly .212 over the course of 217 at bats. On top of the poor plate discipline, he just wasn’t hitting the ball as hard even when he made contact.
This season he has actually looked even more lost at the plate. Hiura has struck out in almost half of his trips to the plate and he literally has just one hit on the year. Some savvy owners might see this as a buying opportunity, and they could be right. It’s hard to argue that Hiura will look much worse than this, but I also have a hard time believing anyone who owns him would be selling for pennies on the dollar at this point.
If I were an owner of him I’d be looking to sell if I could get a decent offer, but that is unlikely. You never sell an asset that is this depreciated at their lowest point. You really have no choice but to hold him and hope for a hot streak to drive up his trade value or for him to figure things out and start hitting again like he did in 2019.
I am not the first to say this by any means, but Chris Paddack needs to throw a third pitch if he is going to have success in the majors. Paddack has survived to this point in his career by primarily utilizing his fastball and changeup.
The problem with having this as a strategy for success is that Paddack’s margin for error goes down exponentially when batters step into the box knowing he is unlikely to throw a breaking ball. Yes, Paddack has shown a curveball and even a cutter, but in his only start this year he leaned exclusively on his fastball and changeup.
This will be a recipe for disaster and has me extremely worried. I don’t think Paddack is a bad pitcher by any means, but I am really starting to wonder if he will eventually make his way to the bullpen.
He is young enough where he can still make adjustments, but there is no guarantee they will stick. The Padres are committed to winning this year and if Paddack flounders in the rotation, they will have to look for an alternative. He’s not the type of guy I find myself investing in and I’d be looking to sell if the right offer came along.
Phillip Evans, of the Pittsburgh Pirates, will see regular playing time with the wrist injury to Ke’Bryan Hayes. He is making the most of it with two home runs in his six games played so far. While he doesn’t have the type of tools that will blow anyone away, he is worth a look in deeper leagues where you need at bats.
Due to how bad the Pirates lineup is, Evans could end up carving out a regular role even when Hayes returns from injury. As a corner or speculative bench add in 15 team leagues, I’d be more than happy to look at acquiring him.
Photo by Mick Haupt/Unsplash | Feature Image by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)