What is going on? The struggling stars list is piling up this season, and it is getting tougher to trust them going forward now that we are over a month into this season.
A shortened spring, uncertainty about the end of this off-season’s lockout, and practicing patience are tougher justify at this point with a lot of the players that fantasy managers took within the top-100 picks of their drafts. It may be tough to trade some of these players away right now. So, then what should we do?
Red Bird Blues
Cardinals break-out slugger Tyler O’Neill has not lived up to the hype that he built up for himself last season. The power/speed combination that he is capable of providing was a huge intrigue in justifying taking him near the top of drafts this year.
The Cardinals lineup is well-balanced from top to bottom. Combine that with the strong pitching performances they have gotten from their rotation this year and one may wonder why the Cardinals have not won as many games to this point. O’Neill’s slow start has much to do with this. O’Neill currently ranks last in hits, home runs, total bases, batting average, OBP, slugging, and OPS out of the six qualified hitters in the Cardinals lineup. Not to mention his team lead in strikeouts.
Strikeouts have always been a concern in O’Neill’s game but that did not impact his breakout in 2021. That just is not the case this year. While the strikeout numbers are a bit lower than last season, and the 8.9% walk rate is sitting above his career average of 7.3%, he is not impacting the ball nearly as hard. The HardHit% is down to 33.8%, compared to last season’s 52.2%, and he is chasing pitches out of the zone at a near-30% clip.
The Cardinals have gone as far as benching him for rookie Juan Yepez due to the positive impact he is having in comparison to O’Neill. The numbers are concerning and, although the potential upside is still there, the panic button should be pressed on the Cardinals outfielder.
Where There’s A Whit, Is There A Way?
Whit Merrifield has been the epitome of consistency in fantasy baseball.
The two-time All-Star has been an above-average hitter throughout his career. From 2017 through 2022, Merrifield has led MLB in hits twice, doubles once, and triples once, while posting an OPS+ of 107. His aggressiveness at the plate has not impacted his game up until this season.
For someone who continues to make as much contact as he does, its quality just hasn’t been there for Whit. The struggles had even resulted in him being bumped from the leadoff spot in the Royals order.
Coming into May, Whit had a .141 batting average, with zero home runs and only three extra-base hits. The month of May has been far more favorable for the All-Star. He has finally been able to impact the home run column of his stat sheet and has even stolen two bases. One notable stat so far this season has been his uptick in FB%. Compared to his career 25.3% rate, Whit’s current 33.1% may be impacted by the deadened ball more than anyone previously took into consideration.
Whit Merrifield with a two run double! The Royals are right back in it pic.twitter.com/fZt1dMGNKG
— Homegrown KC (@homegrown_kc_) May 17, 2022
His current -0.2 WAR is not showing us much. While still maintaining a K% at 13.8%, 1.9% lower than his career, and a dip from 5.6% BB% in 2021 to 4.8% BB% in 2022, aggressiveness is the cause for concern. However, the most recent performances have shown some hope. I’m not willing to push the panic button for Whit yet.
At the end of the draft season, José Berríos was the 20th starting pitcher, on average, taken off of the board. Many are willing to take him as their SP1 heading into 2022. Let’s just say that those managers are probably off to a rough start.
Coming into this season, like Whit, Berrios has been a consistent pitcher throughout his career. While he never provided eye-popping statistics, you knew what you were going to get out of Berrios. The start to this season has not fared well for the 2021 Blue Jays deadline acquisition.
After seven starts this season, Berrios currently has a 5.82 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, and only 24 strikeouts through 34.0 innings pitched. Many things could be attributed to his struggles so far. For one, he is currently allowing an 88.2% zone-contact rate and is throwing more first-pitch fastballs than ever before.
As highlighted by the graphic above, his 4-seam fastball is living comfortably in the middle of the strike zone. Combine the inability to execute his location with the .381 xBA on the pitch and you can see why he is not being as effective as many hoped he would be.
While the sample size isn’t a fair comparison with so many fewer pitches thrown so far, each one of them is having trouble getting hitters out up to this point. 13.3% of all batted balls this season have been labeled as barrels by Statcast. The average exit velocity off of him is almost 4 MPH higher than his career average.
His inability to generate whiffs is not helping his case either. His Whiff% currently ranks in the 13th percentile of all of the league.
It may be time to start panicking on Berrios now that we are entering mid-May. If you are no longer willing to take the gamble, I would sit him for his next couple of starts in hope that he shows a glimpse of a bounce back. If he can do so, taking advantage of that, and moving him, might be the way to go.
Photography by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)