Buy Low Candidates: Two Struggling Hitters That You Want To Target Immediately

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:

Year
Line Drive Rate
Groundball Rate
Fly Ball Rate
HR/FB
201717.7%51.1%31.2%19.1%
201817.8%52.2%30.0%3.7%

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.  

11 comments

  1. Mike Honcho says:

    Are Dexter Fowler, Adam Duvall, Bour, E. Nunez, and Brett Gardner similar Buy-Lows?

  2. John says:

    Whats the deal with Carlos Santana? Ive read his BABIP is low (its always low)-I dont expect much in avg but .159 ? Really? Luckily he is on my bench cause have other hot guys but they wont be hot forever(Cron as example). Thinking about dropping him for Healy as an example. Whats your opinion?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I wouldn’t drop him. It’s a terrible 1st month, but he’s significantly better than this and should heat up with the weather. Stay patient and you should get rewarded

      • Wheelhouse Rock says:

        Every year he heats up after the all star break it seems. Ideal buy low around the end of May

  3. Leo says:

    What should I do with Billy Hamilton? 5×5, 12 teamed mixed league with 3 keepers (3 yr max; 1st yr Hamilton as one of my keepers). Thanks!

  4. Andrew says:

    I just traded Albies for Rizzo. Was that a good trade?

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