by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
We are all tempted to give up on a prospect when they struggle, regardless of how big of a name he carries. That said all poor performances are not created equal and there’s often hope for improvements. Let’s take a look at a few slow starters and try to determine what’s gone wrong and what type of rebound (if any) we should expect:
Cal Quantrill – San Diego Padres – Right-Handed Pitcher
Selected in the first round of 2016, it’s been an overall rough season for Quantrill. Despite allowing 1 ER over 5.2 IP in his most recent outing, he still owns a 4.92 ERA and 1.53 WHIP over 53.0 IP. So what has the issue been? It’s a little bit tough to pinpoint, and while the skills we look for may not appear “great” they also don’t justify these types of poor numbers:
- Strikeouts – 7.81 K/9 (11.3% SwStr%)
- Control – 3.57 BB/9
- Groundballs – 42.0%
We can point to “luck” a little bit (.337 BABIP, 65.5% strand rate), though a 24.1% line drive rate is going to support inflated marks. Maybe that’s the biggest issue, and it’s one that’s been there over 18 starts at Double-A over the past two seasons. In fact the underlying metrics have remained similar for the 23-year old, after posting a 7.23 K/9, 3.40 BB/9 and 36.3% groundball rate over 8 starts in ’17. Those numbers are underwhelming, but the biggest concern is with his performance against right-handed hitters:
- 2017 – .366 BAA
- 2018 – .281 BAA
Of course this season everyone has hit well against him (left-handed hitters have hit .281), but he needs to figure out a way to significantly improve against righties. There’s too much upside to give up hope, and maybe now is the time to try and buy low in dynasty formats, but for now his stock is low until he figures things out.
Pavin Smith – Arizona Diamondbacks – First Baseman
A first round pick in 2017, the left-handed hitter has limped to a .211/.318/.329 slash over 152 AB at High-A this season. What’s gone wrong is pretty easy, though it also appears to be fixable:
- Power – 3 HR
- Luck – .236 BABIP
While he hasn’t hit the ball exceptionally hard (17.1% line drive rate), we’d still expect a better BABIP. There also is no question about his long-term power potential, and while we’d love to see the 22-year old slug from Day 1 we do have to give him time to learn/mature.
The real key here is his plate discipline, as he’s actually walked (23) more than he’s struck out (22) this season. That’s a significant positive, and with a 7.1% SwStr% it’s easy to envision him maintaining it. We’ve consistently seen hitters with a strong approach climb the ladder and learn how to tap into his power at the upper levels (look at Josh Bell, for example), and Smith could easily follow a similar path.
While it’s easy to be down on him early on in ’18, that would be a significant mistake. The upside remains, and with his strong approach it’s simply a matter of when he puts it all together.
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs
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