Welcome back to 2 to Watch! To read previous editions of 2 to Watch, check out this link. As usual, we'll start by checking in on last week's players to see how they've done in the past week.
Note: all stats from Fangraphs and current up to 8/11
Chris Bassitt: 6.2 innings, 1.35 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 40% K%, 8% BB%, 1.0 FIP, 2.06 xFIP, 0.231 BABIP
Bassitt had a great start last week against a potent (but strikeout-friendly) Astros lineup. I don't expect him to keep striking guys out at this rate and while this was an excellent start for him, his season xFIP still sits at 4.2 and his SIERA is 3.95. Those are not indicators of future success. His projected ERA for the rest of the year is 4.21 according to Steamer (ZiPS has him at 4.67), so keep your expectations low. The lack of grounders and mediocre strikeout ability continue to worry me. His good home park and low walk rate will help give him some good starts, but I'm still a skeptic.
Cameron Maybin: 0 HR, 3 R, 1 RBI, 8% BB%, 20% K%, .333 BABIP, 0.261/0.320/0.348 (AVG/OBP/SLG), 0 steals
Maybin continued his downward slide this past week, although this is actually one of his better recent weeks. At least he was league average in OBP and above average in K% and batting average. His power is the real problem. Without decent power and if he isn't getting on base as much or stealing, he isn't very valuable since there are plenty of outfielders out there that can replicate his current performance. Rajai Davis and maybe Abraham Almonte come to mind. Delino Deshields is another. See? There are lots of other options out there. I'm jumping ship on him and you should too.
Domonic Brown, OF, PHI
By request, I'm going to cover a player that everyone fell in love with back in the magical month of May 2013. Ahh, that was back when Justin Timberlake's "Suit and Tie" and Ryan Lewis and Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" were dominating the radio waves. Radio waves? Probably more like Spotify or Youtube.
Anyway, he hit 16 homers in just 5 short weeks, good enough for a cool 0.408 ISO and 0.732 slugging percentage. After that, he only hit 8 more homeruns the rest of the year and had a mediocre 0.257/0.320/0.407 batting line. Then, just when everyone thought 2014 might be his true breakout year where he sustains his power over an entire season. BAM! He struggled to a 0.235/0.285/0.349 season line with just 10 homers. He did toss in seven steals, I guess. Oh, and his defense was so bad that he was worth -1.7 WAR, "good" for second worst in all of baseball.
He's been slightly better this year, with a 0.240/0.290/0.364 line so far. So why am I writing about him? That's still not a very good line. Well, you are right and thanks for asking. The reason for this section's existence is his recent performance. His line in the last three weeks: 0.290/0.329/0.507. That's not bad. Throw in four homers, nine runs, and 15 RBIs.
Unfortunately, I don't think he has found anything new and this is just a short run of good hitting. During this stretch: his walk percentage remains a poor 4.1% and his groundball percentage sits at an unreasonably high 53.3% along with his 22.2% HR/FB%. His season-long average batted ball velocity is 86 mph, around names like Peter Bourjos, Joe Panik, and Kelly Johnson.
His Brooks Baseball profile says he has average power against all pitch types and is an extreme pull hitter against breaking pitches, while spraying to all fields against all other pitches. His exit velocity against offspeed pitches has plummeted in August, while his exit velocity against fastballs has continued a three-month decline. His exit velocity against lefties has also been falling all year. See for yourself in the these two graphs from Brooks Baseball.
Oh, and I've got one more chart to show you.
Another chart, another downward trend. These are all very small sample sizes, since August is only two weeks old, but the overall message is the same: he is already headed back to being the same guy he has been for most of his career. A low power, low walks, decent average hitter. Don't be fooled by his recent surge. He does not appear to be back. This is just a mirage.
Marco Estrada, SP, TOR
Believe it or not, this guy is the number five pitcher on ESPN's player rater over the last 15 days. So, I thought it would be worth it to see if he could be returning to "good" Estrada from a couple years ago.
The short answer is: no. He's still not good. Despite the recent success, a look at his season stats reveals lots of bad signs. His strikeout rate is at a career low 19.1%, his walk rate is at a five year high 7.7% (which is still better than average), he continues to be terrible at getting grounders (32%), and his xFIP sits at 4.60.
What is the reason for his 3.21 ERA so far, then? His low BABIP helps, but he has always had a low BABIP as an extreme fly ball pitcher. It's his HR/FB%. It sits at a career low-6.5%. And that's pitching in a very hitter friendly home park in Toronto. Throw in Baltimore and New York and you have three hitter friendly parks to pitch in. He has avoided the damage so far, but I don't see how he could continue to dodge this. The projections have him carrying a 4.3-ish ERA the rest of the way and I agree. His 4.33 SIERA also agrees.
Keep in mind that last year, he had better strikeout and walk rates and put up a 4.36 ERA. The difference is basically a 13.2% HR/FB% in 2014. He works with an 89-mph fastball, which just further adds to his hit-ability. He's a lot like Mike Fiers in that he is good at getting whiffs but very prone to giving up the long ball. His 10.2% swinging strike rate is very good, but not enough to overcome his other failings. His changeup is getting more swings and misses this year than last, but his fastball is getting far fewer and he throws it about 59% of the time.
During his current great run of starts, he has just a 3.43 xFIP and is benefiting from a 0.154 BABIP and a 91% strand rate, which are both far away his career norms and league averages. In ballparks that aren't hitter friendly like Safeco, Oakland, Tampa, Anaheim, and KC, he could be a good spot starter and deep leaguer, but other than that, you should stay away.
Check back next week for some more player breakdowns on 2 to Watch! Remember, I love to take requests in the comments! Tschus!