8 frustrating Fantasy Baseball hitters and what owners should do with them

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/chc" data-ylk="slk:Chicago Cubs">Chicago Cubs</a>’ <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/8868/" data-ylk="slk:Anthony Rizzo">Anthony Rizzo</a> has been less-than-pleasing for fantasy baseball owners. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Chicago CubsAnthony Rizzo has been less-than-pleasing for fantasy baseball owners. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

With the help of our friends at MLB-stat provider Inside Edge and their amazing statistical database, as well as with some other statistics, let’s see if we can get a bead on some of baseball’s most disappointing fantasy hitters. 

Marcell Ozuna, St. Louis Cardinals

Marcell Ozuna’s well-hit average is a ho-hum .161 (average is .155). He’s not hitting fastballs well. HIs only location performance is down the middle (duh) and up in the zone. So there are many ways to get him out. His .322 slugging is just off-the-charts bad given his excellence in 2017 and even the growth he showed in 2016. This hasn’t been Cardinals Magic, which has been more like black magic for Ozuna’s season. He has eight extra-base hits after having 69 last year.

I wish I could say something positive about Ozuna. And the old joke I steal is “would you take two negatives instead.” But in Ozuna’s case it’s about 12 negatives. It’s hard to find a reason to hold him. Let’s look at the back of the baseball card and say his upside is a 111 OPS+ for the balance of the year, his career rate. Can you do better via a trade or even the waiver wire? Probably. 

Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies

Ian Desmond is hitting .172 and .241 since 2017. And since 2017 his well-hit is .128 (average is over .150). During that period, he also has an absurd 63.6% ground ball rate (average is 45%). And he takes 31% of pitches in the zone (average is 23%). This year, he’s one of the league’s worst hitters, scoring a D-minus in Inside Edge’s 24 stats. Yes, he has seven homers and five steals, but how he keeps playing is a total mystery. Well, there are about 70 million reasons (in dollars).

Get this: Desmond’s OPS adjusted for playing in Colorado is 48 on a scale where 100 is exactly league average. Exactly one qualifying hitter in the history of the franchise has been worse — 2006 Clint Barmes (47). Putative replacement Ryan McMahon (age 23) is struggling still in the PCL but should be up. The Rockies aren’t even a good team when you look at their run differential. 

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Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

Billy Hamilton has eight steals in 46 games — the classic “you can’t steal first.” That’s while bunting for a hit on a league-high rate of 25.9% of plate appearances (average is 2.2%). You can’t punt all those homers and RBI in an outfield slot. Hamilton combines an inability to generate any power with massive swing-and-miss (50 Ks in 143 ABs). His well-hit is .028, which is little-league stuff. But as my friend Gene McCaffrey of WiseGuyBaseball says, Hamilton’s goal should be weak grounders. But when you think about this further, it really means he’s not a major-league player. 

Cincinnati Reds’ Billy Hamilton racks up steals and bunts, but can’t generate any power. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Cincinnati Reds’ Billy Hamilton racks up steals and bunts, but can’t generate any power. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Marwin Gonzalez, Houston Astros

The fairy tale is over for last year’s Cinderella, Marwin Gonzalez. I guess we should have seen it coming. His profile is a C-minus, making him very fringy in reality and non-playable in 12-team mixers. He just can’t hit breaking balls — putting them into play on on just 21.3% of his swings (lowest in baseball, average is 35.7%). He’s slugging .206 on breaking balls. So this is what’s turned him back into a pumpkin. 

Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

I’m not going to chuck every player who’s underachieving. So believe in Anthony Rizzo, who has just been too good for too long. He needs a double helping of his favorite chocolate/yum-yum Italian ice from the Lyndhurst Pastry Shop he visits near my hometown whenever he’s in town. Yes, all the stats are bad except the most important one — well-hit average (.168, only disappointing for him). Note Rizzo’s May OPS is .874, close enough to expectation to hope and hold. 

Carlos Santana, Philadelphia Phillies

Carlos Santana is also hitting the last 28 days with six jacks and an .872 OPS (but just a .217 average). Still, there are signs. Maybe he just needed to adjust to NL pitching. Yes, his OPS against AL teams is .411 — again this is on-base plus slugging, not OBP. How about this for bullishness — his well-hit rate is .199. Last year it was .201. So you can say he’s the hitter you paid for, just incredibly unlucky. 

Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

Paul Goldschmidt’s well-hit is .213 — extremely good even though not in the extraordinary class of last year’s .240. So he’s the most unlucky hitter in baseball. Never trade or cut or even bench ‘unlucky.’  His plate discipline and two-strike tendency are still very good.

The only worry with Goldschmidt is that he’ll tinker with his swing for no reason. The tendency is to fix something whether or not it’s actually broken. The strikeouts are up to 30.7% about eight points more than last year. Split that in half (because even stable stats are half skill, half luck) and he should lose about 10 hits for a full year. That’s not a huge deal especially given that his well-hit rate includes strikeouts. 

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins

Brian Dozier’s well-hit .090, less than half of expectation. He’s just been bad. His location performance is a D across the board. He’s staying patient, but is that a great thing? Why take 75% of first pitches (average is 41%) and 39.3% of pitches in the zone (average is 23%)? The goal for hitters is to hit strikes. He’s taking 44.5% of pitches in the zone when he’s ahead of the count — and don’t tell me these are all quality strikes. He’s also taking 35.4% of fastball strikes (average is 23%). Yes, it’s fair to say he did similar things across the board last year. But things are not working out now so why not be more aggressive and exploit what pitchers think your tendencies are instead of leaning into them even more?

An odd quirk about Dozier is that he has seven road homers. But he’s slugging .217 at home (third-worst in baseball). It’s safe to say that Dozier peaked in 2016. He’s like Ozuna in that the expectation should be his career rate going forward — forget about the last two years. His ZiPS for the rest of the year is .252/.334/.467 with 22 homers and 10 steals. I’d be thrilled with that if I owned Dozier, so I guess I’m taking the under. But the combo potential and second-base qualification forces us to stick with him.

Despite struggles, fantasy owner should stick with Minnesota Twins’ Brian Dozier in the long run, says Michael Salfino. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Despite struggles, fantasy owner should stick with Minnesota Twins’ Brian Dozier in the long run, says Michael Salfino. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

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