by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
No one wants to make the mistake of giving up on a struggling player too early. You’ve taken on a lot of bad, wouldn’t you want to help offset that with the inevitable rebound? Of course not every player is able to rebound strong, and sometimes they are simply destined to disappoint for the entire season. Should we stay the course? Should we give up? Let’s take a look as we determine whether some struggling players are worth trying to buy low on or not:
Josh Bell – Pittsburgh Pirates – First Baseman
2018 Statistics – .243 (28-115), 1 HR, 16 RBI, 16 R, 0 SB
We had high hopes for Bell heading into 2018, but thus far the numbers have simply been bad. He’s not hitting for power… He’s not hitting for average… He was never going to produce stolen bases… It’s easy to cut bait and move on, but is that really the prudent decision?
He’s coming off a .255 season, but he also hit 26 HR and the batted ball profile thus far looks nearly identical:
Line Drive Rate
Fly Ball Rate
Does anyone truly believe in this year’s anemic HR/FB? That alone tells us things should improve dramatically, and even with his suppressed line drive rate his current .300 BABIP isn’t unreasonable. His strikeouts are solid, especially for today’s game, and there’s reason to believe he can improve (19.7% strikeout rate, despite an 8.0% SwStr%).
Bell has seen more breaking balls (24.07%), but an 11.97% Whiff% isn’t an issue. Over his career in the Majors he has struggled with sliders (.161 AVG/.409 SLG) and curveballs (.211/.404) so it makes sense, but he’s still seeing mostly fastballs and the production is going to improve.
It’s easy to grow frustrated if you are an owner, but if you are looking to try and take advantage this is an ideal buy low situation.
Willson Contreras – Chicago Cubs – Catcher
2018 Statistics – .264 (24-91), 1 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 0 SB
For those who followed Rotoprofessor throughout the offseason, and those who purchased our preseason draft guide, you know that we were lower than most on Contreras (he was ranked #6 among catchers). A month into the season we seem to be spot on, but does that actually creates an ideal buying opportunity?
As part of the draft guide we wrote the following:
Contreras appears to have blossomed into some power (33 HR in 629 AB in the Majors over the past two seasons), though a 53.7% groundball rate and 25.0% HR/FB do cast a little doubt into the repeatability of the mark. He was consistent, but needed a 37.0% HR/FB in the second half to get there. His first half pace is more believable (1 HR every 22.6 AB), but even that is no guarantee. He’s also been extremely prone to the strikeout, with breaking balls (18.83% Whiff%) and offspeed pitches (25.36%) being the issue (as expected). In fact only 4 of his HR came against pitches outside of fastballs, and opposing pitchers started throwing him fewer and fewer hard pitches as the season progressed (56.77% from August 1 forward). Can he adjust? Time will tell, but there’s a real chance he finishes as a bust in ’18.
Despite the poor numbers, Contreras actually has adjusted a bit over the first month of the season:
- His groundballs are down, currently at 43.1% (53.3% last season)
- His Whiff% has improved against both breaking balls (18.83% to 17.69%) and offspeed pitches (25.36% to 17.50%)
We can point to a poor line drive rate (16.7%) and pedestrian Hard% (29.2%) as reason for pessimism, but there’s little reason to think he won’t improve at least a little bit. As the weather warms the power should improve (even with our skepticism, he’s better than a 3.4% HR/FB). Use the preseason skepticism to try and leverage into an ideal buy low situation.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here.