Welcome to week 16 of 2 to Watch! To read previous editions of 2 to Watch, check out this link. After taking a week off for the All-Star break to review my mostly terrible preseason bold predictions, 2 to Watch is back! It's time to look at a hitter and a pitcher and see what conclusions we can draw about them.
Alex Wood, SP, ATL
This guy was a solid top-30 pitcher last year, putting up excellent numbers across the board. When that was combined with an equally impressive debut in 2013, Wood was a popular starter in drafts this year. It would be an understatement to say he has been a disappointment this year. Just look at his 2014 and 2015 numbers side by side.
His ERA and WHIP have jumped up, his strikeouts and whiffs (SwStr%) have disappeared to well below average, his groundball rate is the same and he has been a little unlucky with batted balls so far. Despite the bad luck, he has brought most of this on himself with that drop in strikeouts. Take a look at how his whiffs on individual pitches have changed this year.
With only three pitches, he has to keep hitters guessing by executing all three very well. While his curve is just as good as last year, his other two pitches have seen big drops in whiff rates from average or just above to well below league average. His velocity has stayed almost exactly the same, so that's not the problem.
Now, here's a graph of his pitch usage to see if that has changed at all.
It looks like his sinker (fastball) and changeup usage is up and he sacrificed his curveball to do it. His curve is his best pitch by far for grounders and whiffs, so throwing it less does not seem to be a good idea. Add in the fact that his changeup isn't good and he is in trouble. The next to back-to-back charts show where he is throwing his pitches this year versus last year.
You can clearly see he has moved his pitches much farther inside to lefties and away from righties. He has also worked much lower in the zone. Despite these changes, his results have just been worse and he's not even getting more groundballs with those low pitches.
I think he needs to go back to using the curve more and locating his fastball up more and work it inside to right handed batters more. As of right now, this version of Wood is not worthy of a 10-team roster and maybe not even a 12-team. I don't see anything indicating a big turnaround this year, so if you are hanging on to him based on his 2014 success, it's probably time to cut bait and let him go. I just did in my 10-team league and it has been a huge relief.
David Peralta, OF, AZ
Peralta has been mostly a fourth outfielder during his time in the desert, but this year he has taken noticeable steps forward and the trade of Mark Trumbo and injuries to Ender Inciarte have given him increased playing time. Just look at his 2014 versus 2015.
He's almost 28 years old and was never a top prospect, but he was pretty good in a part time role in 2014 and has taken it up another notch this year with more walks and more power. In 88 games last year, he had 8 homers and 6 steals and he has 9 homers and 4 steals in 86 games this year. He is on pace for something like 17 homers and 8-10 steals, which is not bad for an outfielder that has an above average OBP and slugging percentage.
Although he has OK home-run power, his slugging percentage is boosted by his speed, which allows him to crank out doubles and triples that slower hitters wouldn't get. He had 9 triples last year and 7 more this year. He trails only Kevin Kiermaier in all of baseball. Throw in a decent 17 doubles and you get a good all around hitter.
His BABIP isn't unreasonable for a guy with his speed and his plate discipline has legitimately improved with a reduced whiff rate and increased walk rate. He is swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone (by 10%) than last year and his infield fly ball rate has been cut from over 10% to under 4%, which is excellent. Infield flies are essentially automatic outs, so this is a very good development.
Yes, his slugging is higher than we would expect, but his home run and flyball distance of 292.71 feet is 52nd in baseball, near Adam Lind, AJ Pollock, Charlie Blackmon, Randal Grichuk, and other good power hitters, so there is nothing here to say he will regress much.
Add it all up, and you've got a good all-around hitter. Basically, he's a rich man's Chris Coghlan, who I recommended in the first 2 to Watch of the season. Decent power, decent speed, good OBP, and to top it off, a good lineup spot. He has batted second and even fourth behind Goldschmidt since early June. That means lots of run and RBI chances.
With Ender Inciarte's return coupled with Yasmani Tomas and AJ Pollock's presence, there are again four players for three spots. I believe the Peralta has shown that he should not be the one to see less playing time and that Tomas and Inciarte should be the ones getting days off. Hopefully, the Dbacks feel the same way I do. There is some risk that his playing time will be reduced, but I'm not too worried. You don't bench your cleanup hitter very often. I am buying Peralta wherever I can and you should to. He is useful in all formats. Tschus! Now go pick up Peralta and drop Wood!