by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
As the sample sizes start to grow the impulse to cut bait on a slow starter increases. How long do we stand pat, or do we move on and grab the latest hot young prospect (or whoever you can find sitting on the waiver wire)? Let’s take a look at three veteran hitters to try and determine if it’s time to “Ditch ‘Em” or if we should “Stick With ‘Em” for a little bit longer:
Carlos Santana – Cleveland Indians
The move to Philadelphia was supposed to spark his bat, but instead he’s hitting a miserable .151 with 2 HR and 10 RBI over his first 93 PA. The problem appears to be that he’s trying to hit more home runs, with his fly ball rate ballooning to 52.5% (39.3% for his career) and his popup rate is sitting at 18.8% (13.7% for his career). That’s obviously a red flag, but the other numbers all indicate a rebound is coming:
- Strikeout Rate – 15.1%
- Walk Rate – 17.2%
- SwStr% – 8.0%
- O-Swing% – 23.3%
- Hard% – 40.3%
- BABIP – .150
The BABIP should improve, regardless of the fly ball rate, and he also should start to hit more home runs as the weather warms (6.3% HR/FB). Now is the perfect time to try and buy Santana while others grow frustrated, but if you do own him do not lose hope now.
Verdict – Stick With ‘Em
Ian Desmond – Colorado Rockies
He’s gotten off to a slow start, hitting .171 with 4 HR and 2 SB, and for a team with ample depth you have to start to wonder if Desmond could lose his role. The injury to Carlos Gonzalez has brought David Dahl back to the Majors and the team could easily slide him and Ryan McMahon into the lineup on a regular basis.
The big issue for Desmond has been an increasing groundball rate, which has been the trend for a few years:
- 2016 – 53.4%
- 2017 – 62.7%
- 2018 – 72.7%
He’s always been a groundball-centric hitter (51.7% for his career), and while we’d expect an improvement he also won’t be able to maintain his current 36.4% HR/FB. Couple that with a career worst 14.6% SwStr% (leading to a 27.2% strikeout rate) and what exactly is there to excite us? He should be able to reduce the groundball rate, but with the risk of lost playing time it’s not enough.
Verdict – Ditch ‘Em
Chris Davis – Baltimore Orioles
We all know the risk in regards to Davis’ average, but a .164 mark? What about chipping in just 2 HR? After struggling to 26 HR a year ago you have to start to wonder how much the 32-year old has left.
What’s surprising is not only is his HR/FB down (11.1% compared to a 23.8% career mark), but his groundball rate has ballooned to 48.9%. He was at 45.8% last September, so there was a little bit of a warning sign that may have been overlooked. While he actually is swinging and missing less than he had been (11.7% SwStr%), it’s not going to matter without the power.
Davis was always going to be a lower end option, but if he doesn’t cut back on the groundballs he’s going to become completely valueless. If you are replacing him with a similarly upside power hitter, moving on makes sense.
Verdict – Ditch ‘Em
Source – Fangraphs
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