keyboard_arrow_uptop

It’s always good to check oneself when prognosticating about things and offering advice. That’s what I’m hoping to do in this space, to check how my recommendations in “The Buyer’s Guide” have checked out over the last three months.

Let’s hope it’s not too embarrassing.

Martin Perez, LHP, Texas Rangers

DATE WRITTEN: April 4, 2016

QUOTE: “If you’re in position to take a shot in the dark this year, Perez seems to be a solid gamble without much of a price tag, if any at all. Dynasty owners may have to pay a bit more due to his young age and his prospect pedigree, but there’s no way that price tag stays low if he strings together two or three quality starts in April. The southpaw will benefit from a potent lineup in Texas and could tally double-digit wins, too, which would just be icing on the cake.” [link]

PERFORMANCE SINCE PUBLISHING:

IP

W

L

ERA

WHIP

K%

BB%

85.1

6

4

3.38

1.35

12.6%

10.1%

It’s ultimately a mixed bag of results. The lefty remains a ground-ball-heavy pitcher who can limit runs when his BABIP is favorable. His fastball velocity is up, which is encouraging. The Rangers’ quality offense has also helped him compile a half-dozen wins, and he’s a good bet to win double-digit games, as mentioned in the article. All of this has helped him be a top-75 fantasy pitcher, ahead of stalwarts such as Gio Gonzalez, Marcus Stroman and Chris Archer.

The bad news, though, is that his strikeout problems haven’t subsided. The swinging-strike rates continue to hover around 7.5 percent. He’s gotten a bit loose with his control. His 4.92 DRA suggests he’s been far worse than his ERA would otherwise indicate, and his 108 cFIP projects nothing but pain and sadness in the future.

I positioned Perez as a former top-100 prospect who had the physical tools to jump forward, to increase his strikeouts and to become a mid-rotation fantasy starter. Instead, we’re merely getting more evidence that he is what he is: a ground-ball specialist who is only fantasy relevant because he’s on a good club and getting a bit lucky. For fantasy owners who took the plunge, however, it hasn’t been a disaster. We can just see the dark and foreboding clouds forming on the horizon, and a stiff wind is pushing them ever closer. Venture forward at your own risk.

Jean Segura, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks

DATE WRITTEN: April 11, 2016

QUOTE: “There’s a chance that Segura is a top-10 fantasy shortstop from here until the end of the season. I’ve just seen this film too many times before to believe that this is the year he finally discovers the consistency needed to be an above-average hitter for 162 games. I think it’s wisest to ride Segura’s bat for a couple more weeks and then sell him before the months get warmer. As the season drags on, he’s shown that his swing mechanics degrade. His early success isn’t any indication that he’s “found it” or that his move to Arizona changed his fortunes. It’s just more of the same. The question is whether you’re willing to gamble that this is finally the year that he doesn’t experience a swoon from June through September, and that isn’t my kind of gamble.” [link]

PERFORMANCE SINCE PUBLISHING:

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

254

.298

.336

2

24

28

5

Segura’s performance hasn’t taken a nosedive and fallen off a cliff—which is wonderful news—but the 26-year-old shortstop has become much less fantasy relevant in recent weeks. Consider this: In the last 30 days, Segura is the 17th-ranked fantasy shortstop in the majors. Thus, while the batting average is attractive and he should be a quality source of runs going forward, he’s reverting to old mechanical faults. He hits for less power as the season wears on, and we can see that in the fact that he’s hit only one homer since the beginning of May. Hell, he only has 11 extra-base hits since the beginning of May. As he tires, he becomes a singles-only hitter who relies on BABIP and stolen bases.

I feel my analysis was pretty spot-on, and he should be treated much like Alcides Escobar circa 2012 or 2014, which is just about as exciting as it sounds.

David Price, LHP, Boston Red Sox

DATE WRITTEN: April 18, 2016

QUOTE: “Velocity obviously matters. Jered Weaver wouldn’t be a running joke if it didn’t matter. CC Sabathia wouldn’t be a shell of his former self. Velocity decline is best treated in a case-by-case basis, though, and it’s my guess that it doesn’t matter as much when it’s above a certain threshold. Either way, by all statistical accounts, David Price has lost velocity and has simultaneously been harder to hit. As people are panicking about the Red Sox’s starting rotation and as more talk surrounds the lefty’s declined velocity, it might offer a nice buy-low opportunity for fantasy owners.” [link]

PERFORMANCE SINCE PUBLISHING:

IP

W

L

ERA

WHIP

K%

BB%

73.2

5

4

4.52

1.14

24.6%

6.5%

The above numbers look to be more of the same: a high strikeout rate, a low walk rate, and a disappointing ERA. It could lead to more talk about his declined velocity—his average fastball remains below 94 mph per Brooks Baseball—and about how he’s becoming more hittable. It shouldn’t, though, and fantasy owners who have invested in David Price are well aware as to why.

He’s been tremendous as of late, just not in the first couple of starts following this article.

Price has tossed seven-consecutive quality starts and has a 2.68 ERA in his last 50 1/3 innings. He’s holding opponents to a .193/.247/.365 slash line and has struck out 25 percent of the batters he has faced. The lefty has been a top-20 starter over the past month and has re-asserted his claim as a top-tier fantasy starter, all with the slightly declined velocity that had people up in arms during the month of April.

Ultimately, this type of fantasy call isn’t too difficult. Stud pitchers and stud hitters all go through slumps, whether they are due to simple BABIP fluctuation or injury or bad mechanics, but top-tier pitchers who are still racking up strikeouts aren’t a good bet to suddenly be bad over a long period of time. Price is still a strong “buy” for fantasy owners. Unfortunately, though, his price isn’t anywhere near what it was about seven weeks ago.

Derek Norris, C, San Diego Padres

DATE WRITTEN: April 25, 2016

QUOTE: “One could make an argument for selling; however, he won’t net anything worthwhile on the trade market and I’m not convinced anything on the waiver wire will be better. That leaves fantasy owners in the difficult spot of holding onto an underperforming asset who lacks significant upside. But, then again, anyone drafting Norris prior to the season wasn’t searching for upside anyway.” [link]

PERFORMANCE SINCE PUBLISHING:

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

143

.237

.287

6

13

15

1

There are a few things to note here: (1) Derek Norris has still been quite bad; (2) we figured Derek Norris would be quite bad; and (3) Derek Norris has remained pretty valuable in standard fantasy leagues. All of that is mostly a reflection of the catcher position in Major League Baseball. The 27-year-old is a steady and depressing performer who probably belongs on a fantasy roster, but no fantasy owner should be too excited about it.

Take a look at those statistics above. They’re objectively bad. Padres fans can console themselves by countering that he still holds a +1.1 WARP due to his defensive abilities, but that doesn’t make him any more palatable at the plate. Yet, Norris is the ninth-ranked fantasy catcher over the past 30 days—because only five catchers have more homers in that time frame.

It’s why Norris owners can’t really do anything but “hold” at this time. He’s not good and won’t net much on the trade market, but he’s better than what’s going to be on the waiver wire. Depressing? Try owning Yan Gomes in 75 percent of your fantasy leagues… not that I’m describing myself at all, no sir.

Patrick Corbin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

DATE WRITTEN: May 2, 2016

QUOTE: “I want to see how Corbin adjusts, whether he’s willing to scrap the changeup or whether it simply improves with more reps on the mound. I want to see how he rebounds from the league’s adjustment. Until there are signs that the underlying issues are being resolved, though, there’s no reason for fantasy owners to invest assets into the left-hander. Then again, there’s too much talent in his arm to jump ship. The best course of action is simply to hold tight and ride out the storm. Perhaps it’s sunny on the other side, much like it was a year ago. And two years before that.” [link]

PERFORMANCE SINCE PUBLISHING:

IP

W

L

ERA

WHIP

K%

BB%

47.1

2

2

4.75

1.29

19.4%

6.5%

As mentioned above, we needed to see whether Corbin’s changeup would improve or disappear from his arsenal. Neither has happened. He’s still throwing it over 10 percent of the time and opposing hitters are hitting north of .400 against it in May and June. Not surprisingly, the lefty’s overall performance hasn’t gotten better. I’m afraid of making this overly simplistic—as those types of explanations are almost always wrong—but he’s not going to improve against right-handed hitters by using a pitch that gets smashed and by foregoing a pitch that has had much more consistent success historically.

Just to tie a bow on this with a shocking statistic: Opponents are hitting .387 with a .516 ISO (not a typo) against Corbin’s changeup in 2016.

I wanted to see how Corbin adjusted. Well, he hasn’t. The performance has thus continued to be utterly mediocre, which means I’m not changing this to a “buy” recommendation any time soon.

Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington Nationals

DATE WRITTEN: May 9, 2016

QUOTE: “I like guys like Strasburg, guys with established dominance in areas that starters struggle—such as retiring opposite-handed hitters—and are good enough in those other areas in which they’re supposed to excel. There’s such a limited downside to those types of pitchers, as seen by Strasburg’s career 3.06 ERA and 2.78 FIP. He’s a durability risk, for sure, but the upside is tremendous. He already has the difficult part down. If only he can tweak something in his repertoire to handcuff same-handed hitters… look out.” [link]

PERFORMANCE SINCE PUBLISHING:

IP

W

L

ERA

WHIP

K%

BB%

37.0

5

0

3.41

1.11

34.0%

7.2%

There isn’t too much to say about this, as Strasburg has been largely the same. He’s been a top-20 fantasy starter since I wrote the original piece. He’s still compiling mounds of strikeouts and benefits from playing on one of the best teams in the National League. He’s a true four-category starter and is one of the safer plays—injury concerns aside—in fantasy baseball these days. His recent performance is just further proof of that.

This is still a “buy” for me, without much reservation.

Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers

DATE WRITTEN: May 23, 2016

QUOTE: “Castellanos owners must be brave and not get lulled to sleep by a crazy strong month-and-a-half. There are plenty of signs that this power surge is not sustainable over the course of the year, nor should it be expected to occur again next year. I think he’ll hit for more average than he has in the past, but I’d be surprised to see the 24-year-old reach the 20-homer plateau more than once or twice in his career. Something will have to have drastically changed in his approach and his swing for that to happen. It’s best to sell while the gettin’ is good.” [link]

PERFORMANCE SINCE PUBLISHING:

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

81

.197

.235

3

6

8

0

It’s been roughly a month and Castellanos has imploded. We’re dealing with a small sample—so his .255 BABIP is a big culprit here—but some of the fluky improvements have started to erode. He’s whiffed at 54 percent of the sliders against which he’s swung, something he struggled with prior to his hot streak, as mentioned in the original article. Just to reiterate the context, he was only swinging and missing 38.6 percent of the time against sliders in 2016 prior to my article and was hitting .320 with a .400 ISO. That has come crashing down to earth. As such, the improvements to his strikeout rate have withered away, as he’s whiffed 33.3 percent of the time since the article was published.

That’s some messy numerical soup; however, it serves to add a bit more context behind what could otherwise be written off as mere BABIP regression. He was doing some things well that he had never really done well before. He’s 24, sure, but we were working with nearly 1,200 PA of a sample size, so he was going to have to sustain improvement against breaking balls for a while before we’d deem it “real” in any significant sense. The early returns suggest it very much wasn’t real and that he’s more like what he has been over the past two years.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
leites
6/16
Thanks for this - interesting reading!