Fantasy Baseball: Time to give up on big names like Adam Wainwright and Jose Bautista?
Jake Arrieta, Danny Salazar, Adam Wainwright and Jose Bautista are among 10 big names you might be considering dropping. Chris Towers looks at the cases for pulling the trigger.
You've got decisions to make. Is it time to cut the dead weight on your roster? Let's take a look at 10 slow-starting, would-be stars you might be considering dropping, ranked from least dropp-able to most.
Let's be clear: You're not dropping Jake Arrieta. You probably don't need me telling you that, but there was some hand-wringing after his most recent start, and it is worth setting this as the baseline. Arrieta hasn't been great since about last July, sporting an ERA north of 4.00, but he was also the best pitcher in baseball as recently as 2015, and it's hard to imagine he has just totally lost it. Even if he isn't that pitcher anymore, don't even think about dropping him.
Danny Salazar has been just as bad as Arrieta, and doesn't have nearly the track record. In fact, Salazar has been disappointing Fantasy players for years, posting tantalizing peripherals, without the consistent production to back them up. He might just be the new Michael Pineda, someone who flashes brilliance, but can't back it up consistently enough to live up to his potential. Still, you aren't dropping someone with a K/9 north of 10.0, even if he won't even produce the way you might hope.
Willson Contreras is saved by his position, because as bad as he has been, you aren't likely to find a better option at the catcher position on waivers. He showed elite upside for the position last season, hitting .282/.357/.488 in 283 plate appearances, but hasn't hit for that kind of power, while seeing his strikeout rate regress so far this season. He's just 18th in Fantasy points at the position, but most of the players ahead of him simply don't have the same kind of upside he does. I'd rather bet on him figuring that out than dropping him for someone underwhelming like Yadier Molina or Francisco Cervelli.
The case for Jose Bautista is a bit easier to make today than it was 24 hours ago, after his big three-run homer off Salazar on Wednesday, but the overall package is still disconcerting. Bautista, who used to routinely post strikeout rates in the mid-teens, is up to 30.7 percent, which is a big part of his .177 batting average. Bautista's .247 BABIP might suggest some regression is due, except that his flyball-heavy approach has always led to little success on balls in play. There isn't much to be positive about with Bautista so far, but it's hard to drop someone who still played at a 30-homer pace a year ago, even if that player is 36 and might just be done.
AAs with Bautista, there just isn't a lot positive to take out of Jason Kipnis' results so far. He has just two extra-base hits to go with 19 strikeouts and just two walks in his first 66 plate appearances on the season. However, he at least has an excuse going for him with the shoulder injury that kept him sidelined through the first few weeks of the season. If he's struggling like this in two weeks, we can revisit, but right now, I'm not particularly close to dropping him even if I'm not starting him.
Now we're getting to the part of the list where I really have to think. Vince Velasquez has had a weird start to the season: In three starts where he has at least seven strikeouts, he also has an 8.44 ERA. In his other three, he has just nine strikeouts, but a 3.63 ERA. You want Velasquez for the strikeouts, but he hasn't been able to pitch well while racking up strikeouts, which makes it awfully tough to rely on him. Right now, Velasquez is like a poor man's Salazar, capable of impressive stretches, but with even less of a track record proving he can sustain it. If it wasn't so hard to find useful pitchers right now, I'd be even more willing to drop him, but Velasquez probably belongs on your roster given his upside.
Like Velasquez, Jose Peraza brings a rare skill to the table -- in his case, 40-steal potential. Also like Velasquez, it's not clear he does enough else well to justify waiting for that potential. Peraza has little trouble putting the bat on the ball, with a 12.8 strikeout rate, but nothing much happens when he does. He has just five extra-base hits in 129 at-bats, and a 16.1 percent hard-hit rate shouldn't make you think he's capable of too much more. His speed should allow for more success on balls in play than his current .277 BABIP suggests, but his quality of contact has been so poor, it's hard to argue he's been the victim of too much bad luck.
Matt Harvey is a controversial figure in our office, with Scott White and I on opposing sides of the debate. He views Harvey as an obvious buy-low candidate, and that's not an unreasonable position. However, I'm also only a few starts from writing him off entirely. He had good results early on, posting a 2.84 ERA in his first four starts, but also had just a 17.5 percent strikeout rate. He was getting away with a lot of pitches hung in the middle of the strike zone, and he has paid for those same pitches in his last two starts, allowing six runs in 9 2/3 innings of work. He gets a mulligan for one of them, but if he can't come back from his suspension with better swing-and-miss stuff in his next few starts, I'm about ready to give up on him.
If you want to bet on pedigree and youth, that's fine, but that is about the only reason to believe in Dansby Swanson at this point. He hit .302 last season, but with just three homers and three steals in 38 games, so it was a pretty empty average, and he hasn't even had that going for him this time around. In 68 major-league games he has five homers and four steals while hitting .238 -- pretty uninspiring numbers all around. Swanson could break out at some point in the future, but he just doesn't project to be enough of a difference maker to be worth waiting on in seasonal leagues.
Coming off a season in which he posted a 4.62 ERA, it would have been hard enough to justify Adam Wainwright being owned in 72 percent of leagues at the start of this season. After watching him give up 53 hits in his first seven starts, it's nearly impossible to justify that level of ownership at this point. Even with the sorry state of pitching right now, Wainwright just isn't effective enough to be worth owning in mixed leagues.
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