The 2018 season is underway and we are roughly half way through the first month. Every year you have those players that start out on fire, everyone jumps on their bandwagon, and then they fizzle out only to finish the season right around their projected numbers. On the flip side, you have those slow starters that everyone thinks are in the tank only for those players to have a huge month and get right back on track. To help sort out this tangled mess of players, here are three guys that are riding high but are soon to be on the down swing and three guys that are down but will rise back up.
Currently on pace for a 6 WAR season, if things continue with Mauer he will enjoy his best year since 2009. Unfortunately all signs point to a steep decline for the 3x batting champion. His 24.5% walk rate is twice his career average and full 10.5% above his career high. Other than his outrageous slash of .378/.531/.486, all his other numbers are holding pretty steady. The one thing that really stands out as unsustainable is his ludicrously high .467 BABIP. Once that comes back down to Earth, Mauer’s numbers will regress back towards the mean.
Only Buster Posey and John Jaso have more wRC+ than Grandal (117) since he entered the league in 2012. He has produced four seasons of 2.3+ WAR and has been a very valuable catcher at the plate. That being said, Grandal can not sustain .347/.429/.612 batting line for much longer. His 19.6% strikeout rate is nearly 6 points below his average over the last four seasons and given that his 75% contact rate is right on his career average, he is sure to start whiffing at a higher rate. Grandal should enjoy another nice offensive season, but he will start to decline to a finish that should see him slash closer to .260/.350/.475.
Kemp is just on another level to start the season. He is slashing .333/.380/.600 with a 173 wRC+. Seven years ago those would have looked like reasonable numbers for the Dodger outfielder, but this is 2018 and he is sure to regress. A 32% strikeout rate is way to high for a .333 hitter, combine that with a .444 BABIP and you have an open window into some over inflated numbers. He currently boasts a roughly league average 8% walk rate but when you consider that he hasn’t been over 6% in that category in five years, things don’t look good for Kemp. I hope he and Dodger fans enjoy a flash from the past while they can.
Santana could be on this list every year. In the months of April and May over his career, Santana has slashed .223/.348/.395 displaying little in terms of batting average or power. During July, August, and September, he has slashed .265/.376/.476, much better numbers in all categories. Santana always starts slow and he always seems to get his numbers in the end. Inconsistency is the issue early on. If you are a fantasy player, keep Santana on ice until the second half, then get ready for those multi home run games.
The amazing thing about Ramirez’s slow start is that he is only striking out at a 5.6% clip, meaning he is putting a lot of balls in play; the problem is that his BABIP is an astoundingly low .151. He’s walking at a career high 15% clip and he boasts a very nice .197 ISO on the strength of 4 home runs. He is too good a hitter to continue to slash .197/.319.393 for much longer, and his balls in play suggest that mostly bad luck has kept Ramirez down thus far in 2018.
The move to San Francisco has not proven lucrative yet for the Giants of their fans. Fortunately, McCutchen isn’t likely to toil for much longer. His 9.5% walk rate is just a little below his 11.7% career average and given that players tend to get more patient with age, I think that number will rise as the season rolls on. The big thing with McCutchen is that he is really hitting the ball well. His Hard% is a fantastic 45%, while his Soft% is an incredibly low 7.8%. These hard hits have to start falling eventually, expect Andrew to start getting his hits any time now.
Author: Ronnie Tellalian (Twitter)