In case you missed it, the All-Star break is upon us! As the (sort of) halfway point in the season, it’s time for teams to either go for broke or build towards next season. Some players have given owners reason to rebuild perhaps due to injuries or ineffectiveness, however not all is lost! Count on the following guys to regain some of their value in the final months.
Brandon Moss, Indians: The 32-year-old slugger hasn’t lived up to the slugger part of that description too well this season. His current .427 slugging percentage is the lowest since his breakout 2012 season, and represents a four-year decline. Off-season hip surgery led me to believe his power may take some time to come back, however April proved to be Moss’ best month at the plate. Despite these flaws — and, you know, his ever-present strikeout rate — I’m finding reason to hang on to, or even buy low, on him. Courtesy of Baseball Heatmaps, Moss’ average fly ball distance of 293.3 feet is significantly higher than his 281.3 average last season and comparable to the 295.6 he put up in 2013. Given his extreme fly ball tendencies — Moss owns the fourth highest FB% since 2011 — and hitter friendly home park, Moss should deliver his fair share of dingers after the ASB. It doesn’t appear to be a case where he is pressing too much at the plate as his 14 percent swinging strike percentage is higher than the league average, it is in line with his career numbers. Moss isn’t chasing at pitches outside of the zone at a significantly higher rate than normal either, and his .267 BABIP is about 30 points below his normal mark. Considering Moss owns a 38.1 percent Hard% for his contact, ranking tied at 15th best among 135 players with at least 300 plate appearances this season, I’m still a believer in him.
Rick Porcello, Red Sox: Sure JB Gilpin left Porcello off of his Top-100 starting pitcher list yesterday, but I’m optimistic for Rick. Normally a ground baller — which is absolutely the job title I would give myself if I worked in lawn care or on a grounds crew — has induced a worm burner just 44.4 percent of the time this season, his lowest single season rate. Going to Brooks Baseball for some velocity and movement tables, more questions than answers hit me. Porcello has tossed his four-seamer at 92 mph this season and his sinker at 91. Both his slider and curve have lost about 2 mph compared to previous seasons, however he’s all but abandoned his slider. The change in speed from his curve was more concerning to me initially, though the results have been excellent on it. Before getting into pitch type linear weights (I’m more of a believer in sequencing than absolute pitch values), Porcello is generating a swing and miss on his curve better than ever this season, over 10 percent. He’s shown a different repertoire this season as the previously linked table shows, throwing his cutter and four-seamer more often now while going to his change less. Even with tinkering with his pitches, without a dip in fastball velocity, I’m still convinced there is at least a league average pitcher in there. He’s been snake bit by the long ball to the tune of a 1.47 HR/9, well above his .97 career average. Sure, a change in parks was bound to hurt some, but adding in a .331 BABIP plus those dingers have left his ERA in shambles. It’d be lazy to write off Porcello’s first half as small sample size noise, so instead I’ll simply call it minuscule specimen proportion variance.
Aaron Barrett, Nationals: Speaking of brutal ERAs, Barrett and his 4.84 mark have been frustrating, though his nine holds in 22 1/3 innings helps take the sting off of it. After being activated from the 15-day disabled list due to a right biceps strain, I like Barrett in any Holds league. Moving forward I think it’s safe to say he’ll get that under control as his 60.2 percent LOB% is pretty unsustainable, especially given his strikeout rate. Barrett boasts a 12.09 K/9 which translates to a 32.3 percent K%. Backed by a 13.8 percent whiff percentage (a number that would rank in the top-30 for relievers if Barrett had enough innings to qualify), he has shown an improved walk and first strike rate. Before we get too ahead of ourselves, we’re still dealing with a reliever who has faced all of 93 batters thus far, yet I’m still convinced he has the stuff be nail down the eighth and possibly one day the ninth inning. He’s a fastball/slider guy and unless he adds a changeup or another pitch to help nullify left-handed hitters Barrett’s ceiling is bit lower than other guys with his strikeout numbers. Even as a two-pitch guy Barrett is worth grabbing in most leagues if you need rate stats help as he is likely to post an ERA in the low 3’s along with striking out at least a batter per inning.