Buy or Sell: Jose Bautista and Todd Frazier
Two of the hardest questions early in the season for fantasy owners evolve around unexpected performances from certain players. This may seem obvious, but these decisions are crucial for improving the chances of fielding a winning roster. Trying to figure out (1) when to give up on aging players who are slumping and (2) when to believe in a player’s performance, good or bad, isn’t easy, but hopefully we can help you with a pair of big-name fantasy assets: Jose Bautista and Todd Frazier.
OF Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Jose Bautista has gotten off to a slow start to the 2017 campaign, recording just five hits in nine games. He has still shown the ability to get on base, however, as is illustrated by his six walks. As always, Bautista will help in on-base percentage leagues, and this propensity to reach first will also give him a nice floor in all formats due to his run scoring potential. Still, the rest of Bautista’s performance at the plate has been, well, worrisome.
Interestingly, slow starts aren’t unprecedented for Bautista. In 2015, a season in which he posted 40 home runs, 114 RBI, and 108 runs scored, he got off to a very similar start to his current numbers. He didn’t record his first home run until the Jays’ sixth game of the season and had just a .172 average nine games into the season. As already alluded to, the landscape of both the Jays and Bautista’s skillset have changed since 2015; Bautista’s now 36 years old, and fantasy owners shouldn’t expect a repeat of those numbers.
That said, Bautista looked strong this Spring and hasn’t been overmatched in at bats. While last season was a dud for the veteran, and age is a concern, he’s healthy and still has plenty of talent. Although Bautista’s stock was way down heading into the 2017 season, and his slow start could have his owners in full on panic, there’s reason for optimism based on his track record of success and excellent hitting environment. That makes him a buy-low opportunity for fantasy owners who believe they can contend this year, or who are avid traders and are confident in their ability to flip him once his stock ticks up again.
3B Todd Frazier, Chicago White Sox
Todd Frazier is coming off a 2016 season where he exhibited loads of power, though at the expense of his batting average. To some, Frazier had turned into a one-trick pony who had to sell out to hit home runs. To others, he offered a power-speed combination that made the sacrifice in average worth it.
In the early going, Frazier has continued to exhibit some of the same traits that made him a BABIP and batting average nightmare last season. His flyball rate currently sits at 52.9% and his IFFB% is a vomit inducing 22.2%. On the other hand, his plate discipline and strikeout rate have both taken encouraging turns, so that .111 batting average is going to rise soon. For all the bad results he’s shown early on, Frazier currently owns a 16% strikeout rate on the season, which would be a career low. Any season long stat cited as of April 14 deserves a small sample asterisk, but is worth noting that strikeout rate is the first batting stat to stabilize and Frazier is halfway to that mark.
It isn’t fair to say that Frazier has fundamentally altered his plate approach early in the season, but his hitting ability and solid eye certainly has remained intact, and he’s making plenty of contact. While this hasn’t exactly resulted in hard contact just yet, Frazier has always exhibited power and he’s hitting the flyballs needed to get the ball out of the yard right now. All in all, despite the ugly showing thus far, Frazier has mixed in some good with the bad, so continue to expect a solid power and speed pairing for the rest of the season. In most leagues, that will make him a valuable asset and another buy-low candidate should his owners be trying to deal him out of fear of Frazier’s performance falling off a cliff.