How do you handle veterans who are off to slow starts? Do you look to target them in trades, expecting them to turn things around? Do you ignore them completely? Obviously each case is different, so let’s take a look at a few possible targets and if they are worth buying (all stats are through Wednesday, unless otherwise noted):
Charlie Blackmon –
Colorado Rockies – Outfielder
2019 Statistics – .219 (16-73), 0 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R, 1 SB
Once a threat to rack up stolen bases, that part of his game has long disappeared. The problem here is that his power has also deserted him thus far, though the majority of the underlying metrics would seem to indicate a rebound is coming:
- Hard% – 36.7%
- Oppo% – 28.3%
- Strikeout Rate – 17.7%
He is swinging and missing a little bit more than before (10.2% SwStr%), but it’s not enough of a red flag. Blackmon is hitting the ball hard and using the entire field, meaning his .267 BABIP should improve. With the strikeouts in check and HR/FB of 16.2% or greater in each of the past three seasons now is the perfect time to try and buy low. It’s an almost given that he rights the ship and ultimately produces as we’ve become accustomed to.
Verdict – Buy Low
Joey Votto – Cincinnati
Reds – First Baseman
2019 Statistics – .228 (13-57), 1 HR, 3 RBI, 8 R, 0 SB
A strong average was supposed to be a given, with the concerns coming as to whether or not the power would be there. However thus far it’s been a complete disaster in every facet and we are left to ask if there’s a rebound coming or if his age (he’s now 35-years old) is playing a role.
Obviously it’s a small sample size, but Votto isn’t producing the hard contact we’ve become accustomed to (30.0%, compared to 37.2% for his career) and he also looks to be pulling the ball more (22.5% Oppo%, compared to 30.4% for his career). Throw in more swings and misses (10.8% SwStr%) and what exactly is going on?
The real concern is that his age has caught up with him, slowing his bat speed. Looking at his Whiff% against hard pitches is the key:
- 2016 – 7.01%
- 2017 – 5.79%
- 2018 – 6.50%
- 2019 – 11.97%
Small sample size or not, that’s a huge concern. We know the power likely won’t be there, but if he’s missing fastballs at that type of rate and with the other numbers the concerns are high. He was a risky proposition prior to the season, but at this point there’s too much risk to consider trying to buy.
Verdict – Don’t Buy
Robinson Cano – New York
Mets – Second Baseman
2019 Statistics – .192 (14-73), 2 HR, 8 RBI, 6 R, 0 SB
A strong spring led to a lot of optimism, but thus far it hasn’t carried into the regular season. He is swinging and missing more than before (11.7% SwStr%), but the key is that he is hitting the ball hard (43.6% Hard%) and using the entire field (29.1% Oppo%). Even if he doesn’t improve his strikeout rate we should see a significant improvement in his .226 BABIP, but what if he can pair that with a better strikeout rate?
He’s not the 30+ HR hitter he once was, but he still could push a .300 AVG to go along with 15-20 HR and ample RBI. It’s a slow start, but ultimately the production should be there.
Verdict – Buy Low
Source – Fangraphs