Second Half Buy Low Candidates: Hitter’s Edition: Identifying The Disappointments Worth Buying

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Fantasy owners are always looking to find breakout players, whether it’s those who haven’t emerged as of yet or those who are currently struggling. Obviously when you are looking to acquire someone who is under-performing the price tag is going to be the key. Who are worth targeting, assuming the price has dropped significantly? Here are three names to explore:

Nomar Mazara – Texas Rangers
2019 Statistics – .261 (82-314), 12 HR, 49 RBI, 50 R, 3 SB

Mazara has generally been viewed as a breakout candidate, but with home runs up around the game his results continue to appear lackluster.  Part of the “problem” is a lack of fly balls, with a 29.6% fly ball rate, a mark that has been consistent all season long as he’s been more of a groundball hitter:

  • April – 48.1%
  • May – 49.4%
  • June – 49.3%

He’s at 53.3% thus far in June, so expecting his power to suddenly spike may be misguided.  That doesn’t mean that there is no hope for improvement, as his .307 BABIP should improve as he currently owns a career best Hard% (48.3%) and Oppo% (32.5%).  His approach hasn’t been great, but it’s not enough of a red flag (12.3% SwStr%, 38.6% O-Swing%). 

If the power ever appears he could be a fantasy monster, and it may not take a big adjustment to get there.  Even as is he could be a .290/25 HR/100 RBI producer, and one that fantasy owners have grown frustrated with.  Take advantage of that and buy in at a discount.

Khris Davis – Oakland A’s
2019 Statistics – .236 (65-275), 16 HR, 43 RBI, 39 R, 0 SB

He’s been one of the most consistent hitters over the past few years, with at least 42 HR to go along with a .247 AVG for three straight years.  So what’s suddenly changed in ’19 that has caused fantasy owners to consider moving on?

The big change has been a drop in fly balls, which has been exchanged for line drives:

  • 2016 – 40.2% // 17.0%
  • 2017 – 42.3% // 19.3%
  • 2018 – 48.8% // 15.9%
  • 2019 – 37.1% // 22.3%

Is more line drives really a bad thing?  When you play in a spacious ballpark they aren’t going to leave the yard, and it’s been getting worse not better (27.8% fly ball rate in July).  Opposing pitchers are throwing him fewer fastballs this season (he hit 32 HR against fourseam fastballs and sinkers last season), and then there’s this quote from Davis that furthers the concerns (courtesy of Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle):

“It’s just not as strong as it should be,” he said. “I’ve been choking up a little bit, and that’s been helping a little, but not a lot of power guys choke up.”

The hit by pitch he’s talking about happened in late June so it’s not the entire issue (though he has battled injuries throughout the season). He’s also been too consistent throughout the years to think an adjustment, and a recovery, won’t come.  This one is a little bit of a leap of faith, but if someone has grown frustrated enough it’s a gamble worth taking.

Kyle Schwarber – Chicago Cubs
2019 Statistics – .227 (69-304), 18 HR, 43 RBI, 45 R, 1 SB

The power has been there, so why would people be frustrated?  It’s the continued poor average, though everything in his makeup would make you think that he should be producing better marks.  He’s hitting the ball hard (41.1% Hard%), using the entire field (28.2% Oppo%) and has shown a strong approach (11.3% SwStr%, 26.4% O-Swing%).  Even for a player without much speed that should yield better than a .267 BABIP (and better than a 28.3% strikeout rate).

The biggest argument against him could be that he could fall victim to a platoon, but he’d be on the favorable side and everything points towards the potential for a big second half. 

Other Potential Buy Low Candidates:

  • Rougned Odor – Texas Rangers – We were in a similar spot last season, before Odor erupted to hit .266 with 12 HR in the second half.  It’s true that he’s putting the ball in the air far too much (47.3%) and is too pull happy (16.5% Oppo%), but he’s also hitting the ball hard (41.5% Hard%) and could improve upon his HR/FB (16.3%).  Even as is he should be better, but any type of adjustment could yield a full explosion.
  • Jake Bauers – Cleveland Indians – He’s shown some signs, but is still hitting .245 with 11 HR and faces questions surrounding his playing time.  That said his approach is strong (8.2% SwStr%, 24.7% O-Swing%) and he uses the entire field (29.0% Oppo%), which could yield better than a .302 BABIP.  Throw in the potential for a little bit more power (15.1% HR/FB) and the minimal cost and why not roll the dice?
  • Matt Carpenter – St. Louis Cardinals – He was never going to be the near MVP candidate he was a year ago, but producing the type of numbers he had in 2016 & 2017 was plausible.  Instead he’s hitting .216 with 10 HR and currently sits on the IL.  His underlying metrics all suggest getting back to the previous numbers, with a 41.5% Hard%, 8.3% SwStr% and 21.5% O-Swing%.  In other words, he’s well worth buying as long as your expectations are in check.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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