Fantasy Baseball: Devon Travis, Kyle Schwarber among disappointing young guys showing signs of life
Chris Towers looks closer at four potential breakout candidates who haven't done what we expected, and analyzes whether they still have a chance to live up to expectations.
Over the course of a long career, the progress of young players tends to look pretty linear, but there are usually ups and downs along the way.
Let's take a look at four young guys everyone expected to break out this season, and whether we're still feeling as hopeful after disappointing starts.
I asked if Kyle Schwarber had been overhyped in early May amid his slow start, and he hasn't done much to turn things around since. There's no doubting that when Schwarber gets into one, he can send it a long way, as he showed in crushing a 450-foot homer Tuesday. However, Schwarber just hasn't done it very often, sporting just a .187/.315/.367 line in the first 36 games of the season, making him arguably the biggest disappointment in baseball.
The issue early on was that Schwarber was just striking out too much. He went down on strikes in 31.5 percent of his plate appearances in April, and didn't do much when he did manage to make contact with just a .140 ISO to his name. His overall line hasn't improved much since the calendar turned to May, with his OPS still sitting at .691 for the month, up only slightly from .677 in April.
However, there are real signs that a breakout is imminent. For one, Schwarber has cut his strikeout rate nearly in half in May, while upping his ISO to .261. Of his seven hits in the month, just one has been a single, and his .118 BABIP is impossibly low. Scwharber may have been miscast as an immediate difference maker for Fantasy -- especially with no catcher eligibility in CBSSports.com leagues -- but he isn't a lost cause. If you have a chance to, Schwarber looks like a great buy-low option, and if you're reading this and you already own him, don't be afraid to ride it out a little longer. The payoff could be huge.
There is still a lot to like about Nomar Mazara in the long run, but he hasn't been the guy we hoped to see yet. With a pretty swing from the left side, the 22-year-old has the look of a long-time difference maker, but we're still waiting for something more than flashes.
It looks like Mazara might be figuring things out in the first few weeks of the season, hitting .352/.397/.630 with four homers and a whopping 16 RBI in his first 13 games. However, Mazara is hitting just .198/.271/.314 over 24 games since, and the issue for him seems to be consistency. He got off to a great start last season, but his overall numbers didn't impress due to a lengthy slump covering more than the second half of his season. At his best, Mazara looked like a star, with an average home run distance of 415.8 feet, per HitTrackerOnline.com. However, he sported just a 28.7 percent hard-hit rate for the season, a number that has dipped to 25.7 percent this season.
Like Schwarber, when Mazara gets into one, he has the strength and leverage to hit it a long way. However, he simply generates too many weakly hit balls to be a star -- yet.
At least Mazara and Schwarber have been giving you the occasional long ball to make up for their struggles. Alex Bregman didn't hit his first homer until last weekend, as he has been totally punchless so far this season for the Astros, with just 10 extra-base hits and a .098 ISO to his name.
And there's not a lot to be positive about right now. Bregman's .258 batting average is hardly the result of bad luck, with a .317 BABIP that exactly matches his output last season. And, he has seen his line drive rate fall to nearly six points, to 22.9 percent, while his groundball rate has jumped from 28.9 to 42.9 percent. Bregman is hitting fewer balls in places where he can do damage, and with just a 31.1 percent hard-contact rate, it's nto clear how much damage he would be capable of even if he were to start lifting the ball.
This is, in all likelihood, the worst stretch we're going to see from Bregman this season. However, with 368 plate appearances under his belt, the 23-year-old is now hitting just .258/.324/.429 for his career. Even if you are still bull-ish on his long-term outlook, you have to view him as less of a sure thing moving forward. Whatever his long-term upside might be, Bregman doesn't seem to have figured out how to tap into it yet.
Devon Travis has been one of the disappointing Blue Jays' most disappointing players. He finished April with a .130/.193/.195 line, and has gone from widely owned before the season to just 36 percent entering play Tuesday. Fantasy owners were fed up with Travis after his dreadful first month, and many may have sworn off him for good.
Many may be making a big, big mistake. Travis has been red-hot in the month of May, hitting .320/.314/.560 with a whopping 12 doubles in 13 starts. His overall line is still just .205/.239/.339, and you have to think that's scaring off a lot of would-be Travis owners, as well as the Blue Jays' overall struggles.
That would be a mistake. Travis' hot month of May is a sign of how good he is, but I'm not asking you to just buy in to one half-month. The truth is, Travis' track record of strong performance extends far beyond this hot stretch, with his disastrous April standing out as the much bigger outlier in his career.
Travis never looked like a star in the minors, and didn't make many appearances among the best prospects. However, he consistently hit, putting up a .317/.381/.474 line overall, while averaging 15.7 homers and 26.5 steals per-150 games. And then, in his first two major-league seasons, he hit .301/.342/.469, with 19 home runs and seven steals in just about one full season's worth of at-bats.
Travis' walk and strikeout rates are right in line with last season's, as is his batted-ball data, so his struggles to date haven't made a ton of sense. In most ways, he looks like that breakout candidate we all wanted to see before the season. The results are starting to catch up, even if most Fantasy players haven't realized it yet. Don't be the last one to figure it out. Go add Travis before it's too late.
Shohei Otani is expected to sign with a major-league club this offseason, but whether he'll...
Aaron Judge is a player whose weaknesses are as well-documented as his strengths. So where...
Shortstop isn't the wasteland it used to be, and the top tier seems to grow every year. But...
Josh Donaldson's strong finish wasn't enough to keep him in the first-round discussion, but...
Second base is as deep as any infield position these days, but it's lacking in true standouts....
First base has traditionally been the deepest position in Fantasy Baseball, and some newcomers...