The month of April has come and gone. Among the hundreds of players in Major League Baseball, perhaps no one is happier about that than Francisco Lindor.
Acquired in the offseason by the New York Mets to be the face and anchor of the franchise, the perennial All-Star is off to such a bad start, Mets fans are greeting him with boos. That is what happens when you are hitting .189 with a .299 on-base percentage and a woeful .243 slugging percentage.
Is this just a player trying too hard to impress his new team and fanbase? Maybe. Lots of players have struggled to adjust to new settings or the bright lights of New York before figuring things out. Perhaps, however, Lindor’s struggles are not a blip. When you look deeper into his stats, maybe what we are seeing now is the start of a trend.
IS 2020 REALLY AN OUTLIER?
When it comes to 2020, I looked at the baseball season as a blip on the radar screen. Anyone can have two good or two bad months in a row. So what did I think of Lindor’s career-low .258 batting average? No big deal, just a bad two-month stretch. Same thing when it came to his career-low .335 on-base percentage and career-low .415 slugging percentage. I ranked Lindor fourth in my final preseason rankings. That’s how non-worried I was about his 2020 season.
But now that we are into May, perhaps 2020 was telling us something about Lindor. His home run percentage tumbled to 3 percent, down from 4.9 percent in 2019 and 5.1 percent in 2018. His exit velocities in 2019 and 2018 were 91.7 and 91.4, respectively. Last season it was 89.4. His ISO of .157 hadn’t been that low since posting a .134 ISO in 2016. His barrel percentage also saw a noticeable drop, going from 9.5 percent in 2018 to 7.5 percent in 2019 then down to 5.6 percent last season.
The numbers are even worse this year. Lindor’s home run percentage? It’s at 1.1 percent. Exit velocity is sitting at 87.8 percent. You need a microscope to see his ISO, which is sitting at .054. And his barrel percentage is an unsightly 3.1 percent. What is interesting is that his hard-hit percentage of 43.1 is higher than last season’s and in line with his career average. So Lindor is still be hitting the ball hard. Then what’s the problem?
Owner of a career line drive percentage of 26.4, it is currently sitting at 18.5 percent. Lindor has a career ground ball rate of 43.4 percent but has seen that climb to 49.2 percent this year. Lindor is basically pounding the ball into the ground, as his 7.4 percent launch angle proves.
Will he turn things around? Yes. Probably. Maybe.
History says he will. At least if you look at his overall career. But recent history could be painting a different picture. Going back to August of 2019, Lindor, whose career slugging percentage is .482, has the following percentages: August 2019 – .585, September 2019 – .436, July 2020 – .455 (8 games), August 2020 – .418, and September/October 2020 – .398. That is a steady decline, one that makes me start to wonder just how much of a blip is Lindor’s start to this season.
In the end, if someone offered me a Lindor trade where the other owner is selling low, I’d add Lindor to my roster thinking he can’t get worse. But right now, he is not worthy of being ranked in the Top 25. And I don’t think anyone would have thought Lindor NOT being at least one of the best 25 shortstops was a possibility when the season began.
So with Lindor out of the rankings, let’s see who has made a move up and who is dropped down or out of the rankings.
THE RETURN OF TATIS AND TURNER TO TIER ONE
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Breaking into the Top 5 with a bang this week is Javier Baez. He probably should have been ranked higher than 25th two weeks ago as I dinged him for his paltry batting average. Through Friday, Baez leads all Major League shortstops in RBI with 20, and his six homers and five stolen bases each rank third. In the last two weeks, Baez slugged .605 while driving in 12 to go along with three homers. Those numbers are quickly making people believe last year was an aberration.
Trea Turner and Fernando Tatis also moved back into the Top 5 after dropping down in the rankings two weeks ago. Turner dropped because of a slow start, but he has since looked like the shortstop everyone expected him to be the last two weeks with a slash line of .354-.380-.625. In addition to scoring seven runs, he hit four home runs, drove in five, and swiped five bases. For the season he now is hitting over .300 with a slugging percentage of .558. Tatis’ drop was due to his injured shoulder. Since returning to the lineup, he is not showing any effects from the injury, slugging .689 with 12 runs scored, five homers, nine RBI, and four steals. Everyone who was fearing the worst when Tatis got injured has been breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Chris Taylor has quietly been putting together a solid season as he ranks among the top 10 shortstops in runs scored (19), home runs (4), RBI (13), and on-base percentage (.375). He also has a .500 slugging percentage. Meanwhile, Bo Bichette continues to show why he considered one of the top shortstops in the game. His 19 runs scored ties him with Taylor at first among shortstops while his seven homers lead the pack. With 15 RBI he ranks fourth and his .531 slugging percentage ranks eighth among shortstops.
TIER 2 – WELCOME BACK TIM ANDERSON
Fantasy owners of Tim Anderson, and you can include me on that list, were not happy to see Anderson go on the DL earlier this season. Thankfully, he is back. All he has done for the White Sox the past two weeks is hit .340 with a .380 OBP and slugged .511. Even more impressive than the 10 runs scored, two homers and four RBI is the fact he swiped five bases.
Meanwhile, Xander Bogaerts just continues his strong steady play and could make a case for being higher than seventh in the rankings. For the season he is hitting .330 with an OPS of .915. Keeping him lower in the rankings two weeks ago was the fact that his power numbers were not showing up, but that changed as he walloped four homers (his season total) and drive in 11 runs to bring his season total to 13.
After a torrid start to the season, Corey Seager finally showed he was human the last two weeks by putting up a .176-.236-.333 slash line. Despite the struggles at the plate, he was still able to drive in seven runs.
TIER 3 – BREGMAN MAKES A MOVE
April traditionally has not been kind to Alex Bregman. The Astros star is a notoriously slow starter, hitting only .268 and slugging only .405 in previous Aprils. However, Bregman finished the first month of the season with a slash line of .299-.357-.481. Entering Saturday’s games he had scored 13 runs with four homers and 14 RBI, ranking seventh in homers among shortstops and fifth in RBI while his OBP ranks eighth.
Two Rockies can be seen ranked in this tier as Garrett Hampson has yet to crumble as many expect him to at some point while Trevor Story is showing he has remembered how to hit the last two weeks. Hampson scored eight runs while slugging .561, though he did steal only one base. Meanwhile, after a terrible start, Story is showing signs of life at the plate by slugging .545 the last two weeks to go with 10 RBI.
NOT GREAT, NOT BAD – THE PLAYERS OF TIER 4
It is hard to figure out just who Marcus Semien is one month into the season. He shows signs that he is the player he was last year thanks to a .211 batting average and .290 on-base percentage. But after hitting only seven dingers last season with 23 RBI, he already has five homers and 10 RBI in 2021. And in what is probably a bit of a surprise, he has six steals already. Semien is likely showing us exactly what kind of hitter he will be this season, a low-average, high-power hitter. If you don’t care about batting average and on-base percentage and you are a Semien owner, you will likely take his current production all season.
TIER 5 – WELCOME TO THE LIST
This final tier is really a collection of players who are just doing enough to make themselves relevant to fantasy owners. Example one is Brandon Crawford, who is hitting .205 this season but has scored 10 runs, slugged four homers, and now has 10 RBI. Paul DeJong dropped out of the rankings two weeks ago, thanks to a two-week stretch in which he hit three homes and drove in six, DeJong moves back into the rankings at 22nd.
Freddy Galvis is owned by only nine percent of ESPN fantasy players and five percent of Yahoo players. Not surprising for someone with two homers and six RBI with a .458 slugging percentage. But if you added him due as an injury replacement the last two weeks or were seeing into the future, congratulations. Galvis didn’t set any records, but he did put up a slash line of .370-.393-630.
We discussed Francisco Lindor, so there is no need to talk about him anymore. Jean Segura, Donovan Solano, and Ketel Marte dropped out of the rankings due to injuries as they have not provided anything to fantasy players for the last two weeks or longer. That can not be said of Eugenio Suarez.
I’m sure tons of fantasy owners were happy to see Suarez move to shortstop for the Reds. Not only would it give owners the ability to play him at two positions, but his power had to look good at shortstop. Well, so much for those plans as Suarez has been a disappointment so far in 2021. His slash line is only .130-.229-.304. He does have 14 runs scored but has only four homers and a measly nine RBI. That is not the kind of production expected of Suarez.