Patience or Panic: Bo Bichette, Chris Bassitt, Spencer Torkelson

What should we do with these struggling players?

I’ll never be accused of being too trigger-happy as a fantasy baseball manager. Outside of regularly churning over the last few roster spots on my teams, I’m patient to a fault with the majority of the players that I draft. More often than not, this approach is correct. Baseball is all about the long term. It’s what makes the sport beautiful and explains why sabermetrics have taken over the industry. For better or worse, a player rarely can run away from his statistical profile over a 162-game season. For that reason, my natural instinct is to preach patience early in a season—especially with well-established players. I’m rarely gung-ho to toss players aside before the summer has even started, which is either a case of pride or wisdom. I’ll leave that part up for debate.

With that soliloquy aside, let’s jump into the madness.


Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays


Hitters tend to maintain a fairly consistent year-over-year barrel rate. It’s a stat that is mostly (though not entirely) unaffected by the quality of pitching and stabilizes fairly early in a season. Throughout the first month and a half, more than a few players have struggled to find their level. That list includes players like Yandy Diaz, Nolan Arenado, Nolan Jones, and Byron Buxton—all with shockingly low batted-ball numbers. But none are more shocking than Bichette.

In the past, Bichette was the model of barrel-rate consistency even in seasons with wildly different overall statistical results. He had a 9.9% barrel rate in 2021, 9.6% in 2022, and 9.6% again in 2023. This season, he has a grand total of 2 barrels in 104 batted ball events. That’s a whopping 1.9 percent. Correspondingly, Bichette’s average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and wOBA are career lows. The lack of power is very real. Even when Bichette has made contact, it’s not the kind that results in success. His ground ball rate has ballooned over 50% while his line drive rate has fallen to 20% (30% last season). His quality of contact is facing a disturbing trend in almost every area.

The only areas Bichette is improving are a career-best strikeout (14.9%) and walk rate (6.7%) rates. There are two ways to interpret that information. One is the pessimistic approach, wherein you realize that Bichette—a professional baseball player—is at his best this season whenever he doesn’t swing his bat. Or two, the optimistic approach, wherein you believe that Bichette has become more selective at the plate in a slump-busting effort. The problem is that Bichette isn’t swinging at fewer pitches. In fact, he’s regularly one of the game’s most aggressive hitters and has continued the same approach this season. Sure, he’s not whiffing, but he’s not putting good balls into play either.

The numbers don’t lie. Bichette is inarguably in the worst stretch of his career dating back to last summer and his worst start to a season. Through Tuesday’s games (another 0-for-4), Bichette is slashing .189/.246/.268 with a single home run and 3 stolen bases.

Verdict: Panic. I’m not advising dropping Bichette. I’m not advising selling Bichette for pennies on the dollar. In dynasty and keeper leagues, I would hold all shares. But in redraft, I would start probing the market. Something is fundamentally (but likely temporarily) wrong with Bichette on a physical level. There’s a clear mark last season where his performance nose-dived and there is a clear cause. Between April and July 2023, Bichette slashed .316/.348/.490 with a .360 wOBA. On July 31, Bichette pulled up lame and in noticeable pain rounding first base and was placed on the IL with right patellar tendinitis. He returned three weeks later and played eight games before returning to the IL with a right quad strain. After his hot start, Bichette hit .254/.292/.402 with a .298 wOBA the rest of the way. He dealt with neck spasms this spring and while he hasn’t been linked to any injuries since, it’s hard to look at what he’s done this season and think that this is a fully healthy player. The problem doesn’t seem to be improving. Over the past two weeks, he’s slashing .083/.132/.083. At the very least, it’s well past time to put him on the bench.


Chris Bassitt, SP, Toronto Blue Jays


I swear, I’m not trying to pick on the Blue Jays this week. I chose players for this column based on large discrepancies in pre-season rank and current rank, and two Jays stood out. I’m invested heavily in Bichette across my fantasy leagues, but I have surprisingly few shares of Bassitt. He has trended in the wrong direction for the past few years and he certainly isn’t getting any younger. There’s reason to believe his best days are behind him. His peak was the pandemic-shortened 2020 season with a 2.29 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Every season since then has been a little bit worse but still strong. Until now.

Heading into tonight’s start at Philadelphia, Bassitt is 2-5 with a 5.45 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, and a 34:18 K:BB in 36 1/3 innings. His worst start was a seven-run implosion against the Dodgers on April 26 that saw his ERA jump from 3.90 to 5.64. That one start has dragged down his numbers more than any other though his xERA (5.55) and FIP (5.07) support his struggles.

Bassitt is one of the more fun players in the game to watch. He feels like a product of a bygone era, using a mix of eight different pitches with a focus more on location and control than just velocity, velocity, and velocity. He eschews the common north-south approach for a more three-dimensional attack tailored more accurately to the individual batter. The sinker is his most-used pitch, and while it’s not overpowering, the pitch pounds the strike zone with a horizontal break and sets up his curve, cutter, or sweeper as the putaway pitch depending on what the situation calls for.

The putaway pitches are still doing their job this season, but Bassitt has struggled to use his repertoire effectively as his sinker has been hit hard. The pitch has a .456 wOBA against and a -2 run value. That’s shocking after last year where he allowed just a .298 wOBA and the pitch had an incredible +27 run value.

Verdict: Patience. His sinker is intended to work as a set-up pitch but he’s not getting to his other pitches as often as the sinker continues to be put in play. There’s a bit of bad luck working against Bassitt as batters have an inflated .442 BABIP against his sinker and a .356 BABIP overall. This is a guy who very consistently has allowed a BABIP in the .275 range for many, many years. There’s little to suggest that he has lost the feel for any of his pitches. In fact, his velocity is UP almost across the board. While his stats and his expected stats are fairly in line, his bad start against Philadelphia—a premier offensive team—is doing most of the heavy lifting. Before getting torched by the Phillies, Bassitt had three straight starts where he allowed two earned runs or fewer and he bounced back with a quality start against Kansas City last week. This feels like a prime buy-low opportunity regardless of what happens tonight.


Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Detroit Tigers


To balance out my seeming bias against one particular club in this article, I’m taking a shot at my own team to finish things off. For many, the Torkelson panic button has already been smashed with righteous vigor, though there are more than a few fantasy managers holding out hope for this Motor City masher.

The former No. 1 overall draft pick appeared to have his breakthrough in 2023 with 31 home runs and 94 RBI. Most of that came in the final two months of the season where Torkelson had an .855 OPS, .362 wOBA, and 16 homers. That’s a significant contribution at a critical time in the fantasy baseball season and no doubt carried more than one manager through to a championship. It’s always fun when you can see the game slow down and start to click for a young player. It felt like Torkelson was finally realizing his potential.

Not so fast. Absolutely none of that breakthrough has carried over into 2024. This year, Torkelson is slashing a dreadful .218/.286/.308 with no home runs and a .270 wOBA. And even those stats look fairly generous when compared to his .180 xBA and .232 xwOBA. In almost every way, Torkelson’s quality of contact has regressed mightily. His hard-hit rate, barrel rate, and average exit velocity were among the best in the league last year but are among the worst in 2024. He has just two barrels and his hard-hit rate has dropped an incredible 13 points. Almost every good hit he’s had this year has come on bad pitches down the heart of the plate. He’s created nothing for himself because he just can’t handle fastballs the same way he did last season.

Verdict: Panic. If Torkelson was a more established player, I would probably be a bit more forgiving, but he’s not. A strong two-month stretch at the end of one season does not erase his below-mediocre play in every other month of his career. The underlying numbers suggest that his current slump could actually be worse, which is a terrifying thought. The biggest reason to panic is because I can’t see how the Tigers keep him on the team even as they continue to drop him in the order. His slump is becoming as much mental as it is mechanical and he would be well served by a demotion to Toledo to help him get his swing back on track. As a Tigers fan, nobody wants Torkelson to succeed more than me, but I can’t ignore the writing on the wall. He is closer to being permanently labeled a bust than reaching anything close to his potential.

Ryan Loren

Ryan Loren is a baseball writer for Pitcher List and a Detroit sports fan struggling to remember what it's like to root for winning teams.

2 responses to “Patience or Panic: Bo Bichette, Chris Bassitt, Spencer Torkelson”

  1. Joseph Mulvey says:

    The Torkelson comments pain me to the quick. I feel you.

  2. Pat says:

    Yo – I have a theory on Bichette this year. Check out the way his neck snaps back during that brawl in Tampa Bay earlier this season. his own pitcher shoved the Rays player into Bichette and his head gets thrown back. He went on the DL for neck issues not long after that. Worth a look.

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