Buy Low on Chris Archer | The Cost of Ian Kinsler’s Power Surge
It’s truly been a frustrating start to the season for Chris Archer owners. The Angels tagged him for six earned runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out four over just three innings. He took the loss, dropping his season record to 3-5, ERA to 5.16, WHIP to 1.61 and confidence down at least a notch.
This was his third start of the year in which he gave up six earned runs. He had just three starts all last season in which he gave up six or more earned runs. His biggest problem so far this year has been pitching on the road. In six starts spanning 29.1 innings he has posted a 7.36 ERA and opposing batters have hit .323 against him. In 44 starts on the road over the previous three seasons Archer had a 3.14 ERA over 263.1 innings. As you can see, extreme home/road splits have never been a problem for him.
His biggest problem from what I see has been his inability to get ahead in counts. He is throwing first pitch strikes just 52.9 percent of the time. His command has been spotty at best as well, as only 43.8 percent of his pitches have been in the strike zone this season, a number that ranks him among the worst in the league.
[caption id="attachment_107385" align="alignright" width="473"] Ian Kinsler is trading some strikeouts and average for power this season. Photo Credit: Stephen King/Icon Sportswire[/caption]
So falling behind batters and having trouble locating his pitches is enough to get him in trouble. Throw in the fact that his fastball velocity is down 1.2 MPH from last season while his changeup velocity actually increased 0.6 MPH to 86.5 MPH. His fastball and changeup are used to set up opposing batters for his devastating slider. These two pitches have been below league average according to pitch type numbers on Fangraphs.com.
Obviously, we have plenty going on here, and much of it looks like a combination of mechanical and confidence issues. Through all of this Archer has a career-best 11.18 K/9. He is obviously still useable based on that alone. Be smart, though, and limit his tough road starts until he can right the ship. This bad start probably offers another buy-low opportunity on him. If you need strikeouts, now is an opportunity to try and pry him away at an affordable rate via trade.
We would have to look back to 2011 to see what was the peak of Ian Kinsler's career. He batted .256 while swatting a career-best 32 homers and swiping 30 bags as well. Since that point he hasn't hit more than 19 homers or stolen more than 21 bases in any season. So when you look at what he has done to this point this season, posting a .313-40-10-24-4 line over his first 194 plate appearances; it naturally makes one wonder where Kinsler is going to take us this year. As things stand now, he is on pace to hit 38 homers and steal 15 bags. While the 15 steals may be attainable, that power is sure to start drying up for the soon-to-be 34-year-old. Last season, Kinsler hit 11 homers in 624 at-bats. A closer look at his numbers reveals a 14.3 percent HR/FB rate, a career high and 9.3 percentage points higher than the mark he posted last year. He is also striking out in a career-high 14.9 percent of his plate appearances. This isn't by any means a high number, but the trend upward points to the possibility that he is selling out a bit for that power right now. As things stand now, barring an injury, Kinsler should hit over 20 homers this year; that will likely mean he finishes as a Top-5 option at second base.
The position of catcher has been a veritable wasteland this year. The list of underperformers and injury casualties is long. Kyle Schwarber, Russell Martin, Travis d'Arnaud, Yan Gomes, Yasmani Grandal, Devin Mesoraco were all drafted and have left their owners high and dry. With half your league likely struggling at catcher the waiver wire has been busy. So far the biggest gem unearthed has been Arizona's Chris Herrmann. Through 69 at-bats he has posted a .290 average with five homers and 19 RBIs. Only five catchers have more homers or RBIs than him right now. The logical question is can he keep this up? My answer is no. We are talking about a career .263 hitter in the minors that hit 35 homers over 2,030 at-bats. For his major league career, even with this strong start, he is just a .199 hitter with one homer over 422 at-bats. Hermann has done admirably with the time he has received behind the plate and in the outfield this season. Ride the hot streak while you can, because he is going to come crashing back down to earth.
The start of the season was ho-hum for Giancarlo Stanton. In the month of April, he put up a .253/.362/.944 triple slash with eight homers and 19 RBIs. Since the calendar changed to May, though, he has been what I like to label a Fantasy turd. Yes, he has three homers, but those three homers account for 30 percent of his hits for the month. His .156/.280/.344 triple slash has many owners questioning whether to start this guy next week. The answer to that question is yes you do. Stanton has generational power, and while his see-saw start to the season is unsettling, your eyes should be on the end result. Stanton has struck out at least twice in each of his last six games. He has just one hit over that 21 at-bat stretch. That being said he is still on pace to smack 41 homers. Last I checked that is right in line with what you expected on draft day. The average will creep back up once he settles back in; he is a career .267 hitter. He may have trouble getting up to that number to close out the season but a finish in the .250 range is a reasonable expectation. If you own him, hold tight. If you need power and you see Stanton's owner in your league is nervous about these results, offer a fair deal that is a little under value and see if they bite. These low points are your only chance to try and nab a guy like Stanton. It never hurts to at least ask the price.
If you have been playing Fantasy Baseball long enough, you know that hitters typically struggle if they are traded or sign a contract that shifts them to the other league. Ian Desmond is our latest example, and he did so after having his worst season as a pro last year. It took until April 26th for Desmond to maintain a batting average over .200 for more than a game. Even while struggling, though, he managed to hit three homers and swipe four bags. May has been another story, though, as he has posted a .313-13-3-16-4 line over 83 at-bats while raising his season average all the way up to .271. It’s pretty safe to say that Fantasy owners that held onto Desmond after his poor start are sure glad they did. He looks comfortable at the plate, as we have seen an increase in walks. His spray chart also reveals a guy hitting the ball all over the park. As things stand now, Desmond is on pace to post a 20-20 season, something he has done three other times in his career. Remember, he is playing for a contract. Last year, he choked doing so, but this year it sure looks like he has learned from those mistakes.
Cameron Maybin missed the first month and a half of the season courtesy of wrist and shoulder injuries. After his scorching play since his return it’s safe to say the Tigers missed him. In his six games back he has posted a .600-5-1-5-4 line over 20 at-bats, all from the seven-hole in the lineup. There was a question with regards to his playing time coming off the DL, but his hot start has already firmly entrenched him as the team’s everyday centerfielder. Maybin has always oozed talent, but has never seemed to put everything together. Most haven’t noticed but he spent 27 games rehabbing in the minors split between High and Triple-A this year, and he hit just a combined .194 with two homers, 11 RBIs and five stolen bases prior to his activation. Maybin has never hit more than 10 homers as a pro and while he does have a 40 stolen base season on his resume in 2011, he hasn’t stolen more than 26 bags since that point. If you can grab him off waivers and flip him that would be your best option. He is about as hot as any hitter in the league right now, and may be able to land you something you can use. If you own him, his only use to you would be stolen bases. In a best case scenario, he swipes another 20 bags for you to close out the season. Maybin is a career .254 hitter over 2,647 plate appearances. There is a substantial sample size here pointing toward a return to mediocrity.
If you aren’t worried about Matt Harvey you are in denial. You are probably citing an extremely high .385 BABIP and extremely low strand rate of 62.2 percent as reasons he will bounce back. While I acknowledge he isn’t this bad, there are signs that we shouldn’t ignore here. The biggest being the 1.9 MPH drop in his average fastball velocity from last season. There really haven’t been any rumblings of an injury, so bad mechanics are the likely cause for this. With an injury you typically know what you are up against and can get a timeline for a return to health. With a mechanical issue you have none of that. Not to mention you also have a guy that is probably lacking some confidence as well. Opposing hitters are squaring him up; his LD% currently stands at 29.2 percent, which is third highest in the league. A look at his numbers show opposing batters are making much more contact on pitches he throws outside the zone. Meaning he is spending too much time in-and-around the zone with his pitches. Harvey is penciled in to start against Washington on Tuesday. He should not be in your lineup. We need to see a return in velocity and more swinging strikes. Until this happens Harvey should be benched. He isn’t one of the worst pitchers in the league by a long shot be his numbers represent him as one.
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