If Albert Pujols struggled, and he did, the brainiacs among you remained patient knowing things would turn around. His track record of excellence dictated it. If you owned Mark Teixeira you remained patient knowing full well that his production seemingly always improves as the season moves forward. You've been rewarded for your patience. However, what do you do if a player doesn't have a track record like these two? What do you do if a player is coming back off an injury? What do you do if a player is aging or inexplicably unable to perform of late? Should you be panicking or should you hold fast with said players?
On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being extremely nervous, what is my worry meter for the following players?
Trevor Bauer: EIGHT
I warned you. I warned you repeatedly. I'm sure you didn't listen. Why did I say to be wary of Bauer? Perhaps it was because he had all of 118.2 innings of big league pitching under his belt? Or maybe it was because he had less than 45 innings at Triple-A? Or perhaps it was because his BB/9 mark as a minor leaguer was 4.6. Things have gotten even worse in the bigs (again what I predicted). Bauer has punched out 17 batters in just 16.1 innings showing that he does possess elite stuff, but he's also walked 13 batters leading to a 7.16 BB/9 mark that is more than double the big league average. You just can't have success doing that and he hasn't with a 6.06 ERA and 1.65 WHIP. His future is bright, but right now he's a bit of a hot mess.
Erick Bedard: EIGHT
Bedard had a solid outing Tuesday allowing one earned run over 6.2 innings. However, that was his first victory since June 8th, the first time he lasted more than six innings since June 8th, and the first time he allowed fewer than four earned runs in four starts. Always productive when healthy, that hasn't been the case this year for Bedard as he's sporting some unsightly ratios (4.55 ERA, 1.52 WHIP). On the year he also has a solid 7.94 K/9 mark, but that's seven tenths below his career rate and it would also be his lowest mark since 2006. On the flip side his 4.16 per nine walk rate is half a batter up from normal and would be his worst mark since 2004. Bedard just hasn't develivered, an oddity given a rather healthy season and the fact that he now plys his trade in the National League.
Carlos Beltran: SEVEN
When a guy is hitting .290 with 20 homers, 66 RBI, 50 runs scored and eight steals how could you be worried? You should be worried when that guy is an “old” 35 years old. You should be worried when that guy has appeared in less than 85 games two of the past three years. You should be worried when that guy is hitting .247 with a .667 OPS and one homer over the last four weeks. Beltran has been special to this point of the season, giving his owners borderline elite production in the outfield, but it's time to face facts. (1) The last time he hit 30 homers was 2007. (2) The last time he had 85 RBIs was 2008. (3) The last time he scored 80 runs was 2008. (4) Hell, the last time he stole even 10 bags was 2009. Beltran isn't likely to fail, not if he can keep his body on the field, but his best work is in the rear-view.
Jay Bruce: FIVE
Bruce is on pace to hit 32 homers with 102 RBIs while scoring 86 runs. Those are all solid numbers, but below what the expectations were entering the season as everyone seemed to think he was going to take some quantum leap this season. He hasn't, and he likely won't. His walk rate is a three year low, and he still strikes out too much (he's on pace for about 150 punchouts). He's also murder on a batting average having hit .256 last year and just .246 this year (career .255). He's also one of the most streaky players in baseball. If he has a hot 30-60 days maybe he posts career-highs across the board. If he continues along at this pace, well, then you'll get more of the same. He'll produce, but what you see right now may be all he has to offer.
Carl Crawford: FIVE
Back on the field after missing the entire first half, Crawford has four hits and three steals in two games reminding everyone that he can be an elite fantasy force. At the same time there is certainly a health risk here, his elbow is likely going to need to be operated on come the offseason, and that's an issue that isn't going to go away. I know he was a huge disappointment last season (.255-11-56-65-18), but let's keep things real here. Just 31 years old, Crawford still possesses elite skills (I think). People have forgotten that just two years ago, in 2010, that Carl was one of the ten best players in fantasy baseball with a HOF worthy effort (.307-19-90-110-47). Everyone who has every listened to me talk or read anything I've ever written knows I'm a HUGE Crawford supporter, but he gets a “five” because of the fact he missed half the year an is still a big health risk.
Bartolo Colon: SEVEN
Through 18 starts on the year Colon has been as productive as could reasonably be expected for the Athletics. He's provided his owners a 3.88 ERA an a 1.25 which will play in any league. So why the “seven”? He was great in the first half last year before caving in the second (4.96 ERA, 1.47 WHIP). He's 39 years old which might explain some of the late season struggles, and it's also a reason to be concerned given that his total of 111.1 innings is his second highest total since 2005 (he tossed 164.1 innings last year). Colon also has a mere 5.50 strikeouts per nine innings, a batter an a half below his career average, and it's pretty unlikely that he's going to set a career best in the BB/9 column in his 15th season (not to mention that his current 1.46 mark is literally half his career average). Let someone else deal with the worry.
Jason Kipnis: SEVEN
Overall he's been an elite performer after not being drafted to be a starter in many 12 team leagues as he has hit .276 with 11 homers, 20 steals, 51 RBIs and 53 runs scored. If you rostered him you've gotten elite production on the cheap. However, he's also slowed tremendously of late. Over his last 23 games he's hit a mere .250 and he's failed to go deep a single time. People seemed to have overlooked the fact that Kipnis was over performing in the first half of the season. Think of this. Per 150 games in the minors an “average” Kipnis season was 17 homers, 87 RBIs, 106 runs and 14 steals. He's simply not a 25 homer bat at this point of his development, and it's pretty bonkers to think that he's going to come up to the big leagues and literally double his steal rate from the minors. He's not the elite performer he was in the first half, but he's also not the deadweight he has been the last four weeks. Expect something in between the rest of the way.
Jon Lester: SIX
After four fairly dominating seasons in the AL East, Lester has fallen on hard times this year. Through 19 starts he has five wins, after reaching at least 15 each of the past four years, while his ERA is 4.80 and his WHIP 1.39. For a guy who owns career marks of 3.67 and 1.30, that's pretty troubling. More troubling is the fact that he just can't find any consistency this year (the last time he had back-to-back outings of two earned runs or less was May 9th and 14th). Still, his 2.97 K/BB ratio would be the second best mark of his career as would his 1.69 GB/FB ratio. I'd still suggest trying to buy on the cheap, but don't expect a full rebound.
Jesus Montero: FOUR
Everyone is disappointed with Montero, but that's based on those sky high expectations for the youngster. With five hits in two games Montero is hitting .253. A passable number for a catcher. He's also produced eight homers in 289 at-bats meaning a full season of at bats would lead to about 14 homers. Another solid number for a catcher. He's also on pace for 50 runs and 50 RBIs. Question or you. How many catchers hit 14 homers with 50 RBIs, 50 runs an a .250 batting average last season? The answer is just six: Alex Avila, Matt Wieters, Brian McCann, Yadier Molina, Mike Napoli and Miguel Montero. Jesus will be fine as long as you dont' expect him to be Mike Piazza.
Roy Oswalt: TWO
Oswalt will be fine. Over his last two starts he's allowed just 10 base runners and two runs over 12 innings. Yes his ratios are still awful (5.22 ERA and 1.67 WHIP), but in five starts he's allowed one earned run three times. Roy's also posted a 7.67 K/9 mark, above his career rate (7.35), while walking 1.84 batters per nine (career 2.09). When that .406 BABIP rate normalizes, he's never finished a season above .316, the ratios will come down. Not elite, but solid to be sure.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday, 5-8 PM EDT. You can find more of Ray's baseball analysis at BaseballGuys.com and you can also follow his thoughts at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.
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