Although many players disappointed this year, a few are driving fantasy managers crazy to a greater degree than all others. I’ve identified three players — Eugenio Suarez, Francisco Lindor, and Brandon Lowe — who deserve a deep dive on their early season struggles.
Are these players about to turn things around? Let’s find out.
Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds
What has gone right: Suarez continues to hit for power and is on pace for roughly 35 homers, 90 RBIs, and 80 runs scored.
What has gone wrong: Batting average has been a major problem for Suarez, who has the second-lowest mark (.173) among qualified hitters.
What the advanced stats say: Suarez has the lowest BABIP (.187) of any qualified player, so there has definitely been some bad luck within his poor performance. Also, his 18.8 percent HR/FB rate is significantly lower than his mark in any of the previous three seasons. That being said, Suarez is making some of his own bad luck by producing less hard contact (35.3 percent) than usual. As one of the most pull-happy players in baseball (49.7 percent in 2021), the third baseman needs to hit the ball hard to get it past shifting defenses. In terms of plate discipline, Suarez has produced a strikeout rate (29.8 percent) that resembles his marks in the previous three years but he's walking slightly less often (8.7 percent).
What Statcast says: Statcast is similarly disappointed in Suarez’s quality of contact, as his average exit velocity of 87.6 mph is significantly lower than his marks in his previous three seasons. The slugger’s expected stats include a miserable .208 xBA and a respectable .434 xSLG.
The final verdict: Fantasy managers who need power should be happy to buy low on Suarez. He should cruise past the 30-homer plateau and could finish with 40 round-trippers by enjoying one prolonged hot streak. Also, his R+RBI will continue to be strong in a productive Reds lineup. But in terms of batting average, managers may need to accept the 29-year-old as someone who hits .220 or worse the rest of the way.
Francisco Lindor, New York Mets
What has gone right: Nothing. If you’re looking for a silver lining, Lindor has produced a solid .820 OPS in June.
What has gone wrong: The shortstop is off his projected paces in every fantasy category, especially batting average (.219).
What the advanced stats say: Lindor has shown strong plate discipline, keeping his career-long trend of low strikeout rates and producing an improved 10.2 percent walk rate. But the good news ends there, as the Mets star is producing diminished rates of hard contact and line drives.
What Statcast says: According to Statcast, Lindor has produced a career-worst .238 xBA. However, his .325 xwOBA is only slightly worse than his marks in previous seasons. Lindor’s average exit velocity (90.4 mph) and barrel rate (6.4 percent) are slightly better than his career norms.
The final verdict: I’m interested in trading for Lindor in most situations. He was one of baseball’s most consistent producers before 2021 and remains at a peak age (27). His effective June is likely a sign of things to come, especially since his batted-ball luck (,270 BABIP) hasn’t been stellar this month. I wish Lindor owned a higher hard contact rate, but I’m still willing to take a chance on him.
Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays
What has gone right: Lowe is on pace for roughly 30 homers, 160 R+RBI, and should approach double digits in steals.
What has gone wrong: The 26-year-old has been especially inconsistent en route to posting a lowly .203 batting average.
What the advanced stats say: Lowe has experienced a year-over-year jump of six percent in his strikeout rate. And when he does make contact, the Rays slugger is producing line drives and hard contact at lower rates than in previous seasons. But the biggest problem with Lowe lies in his splits — the left-handed hitter has been solid against right-handers (.865 OPS) but completely inept (.435 OPS) against same-sided hurlers.
What Statcast says: Lowe is down a bit in average exit velocity and barrel rate, but that barrel rate is still stronger than that of most players. His lowly .226 xBA is in line with his career marks, which suggests that fantasy managers were overly optimistic in expecting a solid batting average.
The final verdict: As is the case with Suarez, I would consider acquiring Lowe only in situations where I needed a power-only player. However, the platoon splits with the 26-year-old are a major deterrent, as a lack of consistent playing time caps his ceiling. I would rather acquire Suarez than expect Lowe to earn back an everyday role. Overall, I’m saying no to Lowe.