by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Given the small sample sizes of the early season it’s easy to make a knee jerk reaction and grow frustrated by a slow start, since the numbers are magnified and staring at you. Is that a prudent decision? Let’s take a look at a few young infielders off to a slow start and try to determine how to handle them:
Orlando Arcia – Milwaukee Brewers – Shortstop
2018 Statistics – .167 (8-48), 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R, 0 SB
Even as Arcia was seemingly emerging in 2017 (.277, 15 HR, 14 SB) there were questions about his approach at the plate. Those issues appear to have caught up with him in the early going, as the overall numbers have tumbled:
While he’s not necessarily striking out an excessive amount (21.6%), the contact he’s made has been weak (8.1% line drive rate, 24.3% Hard%). The biggest red flag is that he’s struggling to make contact against fastballs (12.63% Whiff%), and that’s why opponents are throwing him more in the early going (62.50%). Generally young hitters need to prove they can handle breaking balls/offspeed pitches, but for Arcia it’s the opposite (.100 against fourseam fastballs in ’18).
While he should get better that doesn’t mean he’s going to come reasonably close to last year’s numbers. He may not be a “must” drop, but he appears primed to disappoint.
Verdict – Outside of extremely shallow leagues, enough upside to stash
Miguel Andujar – New York Yankees – Third Baseman
2018 Statistics – .156 (5-32), 0 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 0 SB
The injuries led to an opportunity for Andujar, but he could be playing himself out of the job with rumors of Gleyber Torres closing in on a promotion. Andujar’s strikeout rate has been his best skill (13.2% at Triple-A last season), but he’s carrying a 12.0% SwStr% thus far and he has struggled to hit the ball hard (11.1% line drive rate, 25.9% Hard%). Maybe he just needs time to adjust to MLB pitching, but that’s not something he may be given as the Yankees get off to a slower start than expected.
Long-term we still believe in Andujar and his ability to put it together, but in the short-term he appears destined to spend time back at Triple-A.
Verdict – Droppable in yearly formats
Addison Russell – Chicago Cubs – Shortstop
2018 Statistics – .213 (10-47), 0 HR, 2 RBI, 6 R, 1 SB
Always hyped, Russell continues to struggle to put things together in the Majors… But is there actually hope in ’18? Early on he’s shown dramatic improvements in both his strikeouts (16.1% vs. 24.6% for his career) and walks (14.3% vs. 8.6% for his career). These numbers have come with a reduced SwStr% (9.7%) and O-Swing% (26.1%). He’s also been hitting the ball hard (28.9% line drive rate) and isn’t home run happy (39.5% fly ball rate), so it’s easy to attribute his struggles to poor luck and little else (.263 BABIP).
His big growth has come in making contact against breaking balls (6.45% Whiff%), and if he can maintain that along with better luck the results are going to be there. Now is not the time to give up, instead it’s an ideal time to try and buy low.
Verdict – Must hold (and an ideal Buy Low candidate)
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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