Should You Pick Up These Struggling Star Hitters?: Werth, LaRoche, Napoli, Rollins and Castellanos
Let’s take a look at some hitters who were owned in every league at the beginning of the season but have since been dropped in many leagues. There have been a surprising number of batters who have been big producers in the past and were expected to be good again this year but simply fell flat on their faces. Some of them got hurt and were dropped by impatient owners. Others were just simply playing like crap and deserved to be dropped.
Sometimes fantasy owners get aggravated and drop a player they should have kept. Sometimes owners were forced to drop a player because they needed the roster spot for another player. That means there are some big names on the waiver wire in a lot of leagues right now. Some of them can help your team win this year, others can help you in the future.
Jayson Werth, Nationals — finished 2014 ranked #49 overall, currently ranked #1252 in 5×5 leagues.
Werth has been both bad and hurt. He was awful in April and May, hitting to a woeful .208/.294/.287 slash line in 119 plate appearances. Then to make matters worse he went on the disabled list with a broken wrist. He just returned to action a few days ago and has resumed his best Mario Mendoza impersonation. He is 36 years old, an old man by baseball standards, so it’s easy to see why so many people have written him off and dumped him. But I don’t think he is done just yet. He may not go back to being the .900+ OPS guy he was for several years, but we are still looking at a guy who can boost your team’s fortunes down the stretch. Werth’s power was down last year (16 longballs) but he still managed a nice .849 OPS in 2014. He is also a guy who can help you in all five scoring categories. His batting average may be .209 right now, but he hit .292 last year and .318 the year before that. He won’t blow you away in any one category, but he hits for power and even steals a few bases. His presence in a strong Nationals’ lineup will help him rack up nice RBI and Run totals as well. He is healthy and has had some time to shake off the rust. I think Werth will start smacking the ball any day now. Verdict: Buy. Werth’s trade value is at an all-time low. Now is the time to strike. If he is available snap him up.
Adam LaRoche, White Sox — finished 2014 ranked #79 overall , currently ranked #1108 in 5×5 leagues.
LaRoche is having an atrocious season. He is 35 years old and has even been benched by the White Sox in some recent games. He is being dropped in droves by fantasy owners. Why would I recommend you pick him up? This is a guy who hit 26 homers a year ago with an .813 OPS. He is now in a homer-friendly ballpark and the White Sox have been on a roll. He has definitely been mired in a dismal slump, but the guy is a proven hitter with a long track record of being a better hitter in the second half of seasons. LaRoche has done this before. He has often struggled badly in the early months before streaking late in the season. His career OPS in the first half is .767 and .849 in the second half. You might be able to get him for free and ride his late season surge into the fantasy playoffs. When he heats up you want him on your team, not your playoff rival’s team. Verdict: Pick him up and stash him. When he shows some signs of life put him in your lineup and enjoy the ride.
Mike Napoli, Red Sox — finished 2014 ranked #310 overall, currently ranked #885 in 5×5 leagues.
Napoli has a career 125 wRC+ and .836 OPS. He has an 89 wRC+ and .689 OPS this year. That is a big step back. Normally you can count on Napoli for a .250ish batting average with 20-25 home runs and plenty of RBI and Runs. The RBI are not going to come this year for a terrible Red Sox squad, but he is on pace for about 20 home runs. The batting average is down to .208, but that is largely due to some bad BABIP luck. His .251 BABIP is 55 points below his career .306 average BABIP. Some of that is due to a deterioration of his batted ball profile, but I still think we will see some positive regression to his BABIP, which means his batting average is going to rise. Expect some improved numbers the rest of the season for Napoli. He profiles as a pretty good utility player or a guy you can use as a fill-in when you need some thump. You should at least spot start him against lefties if you have daily lineup changes in your league. Verdict: Pick him up if he is on the free agent list. I wouldn’t trade much for him though. He has been hitting very well lately. Ride him while hot.
Jimmy Rollins, Dodgers — finished 2014 ranked #116 overall, currently ranked #343 in 5×5 leagues.
The former MVP of the National League, Rollins had a major bounceback season last year, nearly breaking into the top 100 overall players again. This year has seen him fall back even lower than he fell in 2013. He is still hitting home runs, including a couple of them this week, but his basestealing has been a problem. Throughout his long career, a huge chunk of the 36 year old shortstop’s fantasy value was the stolen base. He stole 40 or more bags four times and even into his mid 30’s was stealing 30 bases per year. Not only did he steal a lot of bases, he rarely ever got caught. He has one of the highest career stolen base percentages out there. But this year has been a totally different story. Rollins only has 8 steals and has been caught 7 times. This from a guy who once stole 47 bases in 50 attempts. Rollins’ career .265 batting average shows he has not been much help in that category other than a couple seasons a decade ago. Rollins has been snakebitten with a .222 BABIP this year, but even once that gets back to normal he will still hit only about .250 or so from here on out. Rollins can still pop a goodly number of home runs for a shortstop, but without those stolen bases there is not much appeal to rostering Rollins, and as time goes on it is only going to get worse. Rollins may soon lose his starting job to elite prospect Corey Seager as well. Verdict: Avoid. He may occasionally flash some semblance of what he used to be, but there is only downside in Rollins’ outlook.
Nick Castellanos, Tigers — finished 2014 ranked #303 overall, currently ranked #433 in 5×5 leagues.
The third baseman was an elite prospect and reached the majors at the age of 21. He is now 23 and has thus far failed to live up to expectations. I am seeing him on a lot of waiver wires. His owners are finally giving up him. Can he be the next post-hype explosion? His potential still intrigues me because he has so much experience at a young age. Many star players, even superstar players, were still in the minor leagues at Castellanos’ age. Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt and Todd Frazier were not even top prospects yet when they were 23 years old. If I were in rebuilding mode and Castellanos were on the waiver wire I would pick him up and hold onto him just as if he were a minor league prospect. If you have some space on your roster just park him on the bench and give him a chance to grow. When he was in High A ball he hit .405/.461/.553 with a 188 wRC+ in 2012. That wasn’t very long ago. That sort of thing gives me hope for a player like Castellanos. On the other hand, he has never been a big home run hitter. The most he has ever hit in a season was 18 at AAA in 2013. He also doesn’t steal bases. I don’t even think he is ever going to be much help for your team batting average. I can’t help but wonder if much of his elite prospect pedigree was born because of the .486 BABIP he had during that great season in High A. Verdict: Pick him up for your bench if you are a patient man. He probably won’t help you win your league this year, but the potential is there for a real breakout in 2016 or 2017.
If you missed this one check it out: The Verdict on 4 Struggling Hitting Stars: Cano, Desmond, Kemp and CarGo
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Are there any other players you would like some advice on?