Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Slow Starts I'm Not Worried About (NL)

It's hard to believe, but we're nearly a quarter of the way through the baseball season. Here are five players who have been major disappointments to their teams, fans, and fantasy owners so far but are bound to get back on track:

Miguel Montero (.192/.291/.280)
The Bad: The Arizona Diamondbacks are in second place in the National League West in spite of their All-Star catcher, who has gotten off to a painfully slow start. The 29 year-old catcher has been unable to find his power stroke with just five extra base hits to date. What's more, he went a full month between his first and second home runs (April 2nd-to-May 3rd). It's not like he's producing in other ways, either, as he's recorded just one multi-RBI game and four-multi-hit efforts to date.

Why he'll turn it around: Montero hasn't lost his batting eye. He posted a career high 12.7 BB% last year and has sustained that improved patience this year. He hasn't responded to his slump by expanding his strike zone and is letting the ball come to him. His .216 BABiP has nowhere to go but up.

Jay Bruce (.258/.306/.403)
The Bad: In addition to piling up strikeouts with frightening regularity (he leads the National League with 52, tied with Dan Uggla), Bruce has seen his walk rate plummet to 6.5 percent. However, the main concern about Bruce is his lack of power. With just three home runs through his first 38 games, he looks nothing like the slugger who averaged 33 dingers per 162 games in his first five seasons.

Why he'll turn it around: Bruce is a streaky hitter, prone to blistering hot streaks and wicked cold ones. He struggled in April but has been much better since the calendar flipped to May, totaling eight extra base hits and 10 RBI in 10 May games. Another sign the long balls are coming is that only 8.3 percent of his fly balls have left the yard so far--less than half of his career rate. That might have something to do with the fact that Bruce has been hitting lots of line drives (almost 30 percent of batted balls) at the expense of fly balls (33.6 percent--around 10 percent below his career norm) so expect that ratio to even out as the season progresses.

Matt Kemp (.276/.325/.345)
The Bad: Kemp just hasn't been the same since hamstring injuries derailed the fast start to his 2012 season. He has just one homer on the season and has shown no signs of ending his power outage. The Dodgers are in last place in the NL West, and Kemp's sluggish start is a big reason why.

Why he'll turn it around: Kemp's HR/FB% sits at anemic 2.6 percent, and in each of the past two years it was north of 21 percent. Sooner or later he's going to have a power surge. Kemp's currently riding a 13-game hitting streak and seems to be finding his groove at the dish.

Martin Prado (.235/.290/.346)
The Bad: While Justin Upton has gotten off to a preposterously hot start in Atlanta, Prado has yet to break free of his early season slump. Manager Kirk Gibson was forced to drop him from the two spot in the batting order. Prado's funk extends beyond the batter's box: after stealing a career high 17 bases last year, he's swiped just one bag so far and has been caught twice. He's not driving in runs either, as he's managed just nine RBI so far.

Why he'll turn it around: Prado's batted ball data is identical to his figures from last year, when he batted .301 with 42 doubles. That, and the fact that his .246 BABiP is bound to improve.

Adam LaRoche (.213/.297/.311)
The Bad: Fresh off signing a two-year, $24 million deal to stay with the Washington Nationals, LaRoche has been a non-threat batting in the heart of Davey Johnson's order. He hasn't homered since April 20th and has knocked in just four runs over that span. His K rate has skyrocketed to just under 30 percent but has not coincided with a power spike.

Why he'll turn it around: Like Mark Teixeira, LaRoche is a perennially slow starter. For his career, his OPS rises each month from .695 in April to .911 in August. His first half OPS (.760) is a full 126 points lower than his second half OPS (.886). LaRoche is working on an 11-game hitting streak and may have already turned the corner. He's socked at least 20 homers in each of his last seven full seasons, so as long as he's healthy his numbers will be there in the end.

No comments:

Post a Comment