Now that we’re about two months into the season, we’re really starting to see which hot starts to the year are actually breakout seasons and which players have come back down to earth. Similarly, we’re seeing which slow starters are picking up the pace and which players are unfortunately just having a down year. For the latter, some people may react with too much, or too little, patience, causing them to miss out on a big waiver wire add or miss out on a strong recovery from someone they dropped prematurely. This brings us to this week’s edition of Patience or Panic, where we take a look at a few still struggling players to determine what to do with these lackluster performers.
Murphy entered the season with lofty expectations in his first year getting to play home games at Coors Field. It was thought that he would be a legitimate candidate to win the batting title this year, but early results have shown exactly the opposite. The veteran has a strikeout rate of 16.7%, his worst mark since his rookie season in 2008. When he does put the ball in play, he is failing to hit line drives this year, accounting for just 8.6% of his hit balls, far lower than his 23.4% career average. Murphy is also not hitting the ball quite as hard as usual this season, making hard contact 24.1% of the time, his lowest hard-hit rate since 2012. In turn, his average exit velocity sits at a lowly 85.2 mph, the lowest of his career. Remarkably, he has connected for zero barrels this season. With an expected slugging percentage of .240 that is nearly 100 points worse than his actual slugging percentage, there are no statistics that inspire even a little hope for Murphy’s rest-of-season outlook.
However, I believe that most, if not all, of his struggles thus far stem from the finger injury he suffered on the second game of the season. He is still not fully recovered from the injury, and it is likely hampering his ability to grip the bat and swing normally. Therefore, I am confident that once he hopefully recovers, he should greatly improve his performance at the plate. There’s no telling how long that could take, but I do envision him finally returning to form when it does.
Nicholas Castellanos (OF, Detroit Tigers) – .254 AVG, 27 R, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB
After a strong 2018 season that saw him blast 23 home runs with a .298 batting average, the 27-year-old came into this year with big expectations to build off those numbers. Unfortunately, he has not done that through the first couple months of this season. He is replacing line drives with fly balls this season, hitting line drives 20% of the time and fly balls 44.8% of the time, compared to career averages of 25.7% and 38.8%, respectively. This may be a result of his 16.7° launch angle, 1.5° higher than last season, and 2.6° higher than the year before that. He is also pulling the ball 37.6% of the time, a bit of a decline from last year’s pull rate of 44.9%. Additionally, his barrel rate of 8.8% is his lowest since 2015.
However, there are quite a few similarities between his performance at the plate between this year and last year. Castellanos is making hard contact 40.8% of the time, nearly identical to his 40.5% hard-hit rate from a season ago. Similarly, his exit velocity currently sits at 89.1 mph, which is exactly the same as his career average. His strikeout and walk rates are also right in line with his career norms. Additionally, his expected slugging percentage of .467 is well above his actual .431 slugging percentage, so some positive regression can be expected. Overall, Castellanos is still hitting the ball hard and making about the same contact as he has the past few years. He should get back to his normal production levels sooner than later.
Jose Peraza (2B, SS, Cincinnati Reds) – .199 AVG, 14 R, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 4 SB
After a career year that saw him hit 14 home runs with 23 stolen bases and a .288 batting average, the 25-year-old was expected to take another step forward this season. Instead, he seemingly took 100 steps back. Peraza has had a deadful season to date, starting with his pitiful exit velocity of 83.2 mph. He has a barrel rate of 0.9%, a sad result of one barrel over 109 batted balls. He also has a hard-hit rate of just 22.9%. Disappointingly, all of those stats are at least bottom 20 in baseball. Peraza also currently has a career-worst strikeout rate of 16.9%, paired with an extremely low 4.2% walk rate. He is only hitting line drives 14% of the time this season, compared to 25.5% last year, while his fly ball rate is up to 50.5%, drastically higher than his career average of 35.5%. This is due to Peraza’s 18.3° launch angle, which is 4.9° higher than it was last season. Batting aside, Peraza has been an asset in previous seasons thanks to his speed. Unfortunately, even that has been lacking thus far, as he has only swiped four bags, while he has been caught stealing three times.
As a result of his subpar performance, Peraza has been out of Cincinnati’s starting lineup for five of the team’s last ten games. With Jose Iglesias playing great on both sides of the ball right now, Peraza could find himself on the bench even more often once Scooter Gennett returns some time in the next couple of weeks. Between his low production at the plate and his likely increasing lack of playing time, there is no reason to keep Jose Peraza on your roster.
(Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)