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Will These Big-Name Hitters Turn it Around? Curse of the 2022 Free Agent Class

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The 2022 offseason gave us one of the biggest free-agent classes in recent memory. So many big names moved around and gave us so many questions as to what these moves meant for fantasy.

Unfortunately, for the most part, those moves have led to pretty underwhelming starts to the 2022 season. For whatever reason, a lot of these sluggers have not lived up to their usual expectations and have likely hurt your fantasy team in the process. So, can these guys turn things around?

Trevor Story seems to have gotten out ahead of the rest in terms of finding a groove, hitting .280/.383/.800 with eight home runs in his last 60 plate appearances, so there’s no need to cover him anymore. But here are a few more players that would love to follow in his footsteps:

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Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers

It's an understatement to say Marcus Semien has been underwhelming since joining the Rangers. He has been nowhere close to his 2021 self, and his Baseball Savant page really tells the story better than I can.

Exit velocity, hard-hit %, expected batting average, slugging, and wOBA are all under the 10th percentile in all of Major League Baseball. His wRC+ is currently 56 (100 being average) in a season where hitting is down across the league. It's interesting that these expected stats are actually higher than his actual stats (.207 XBA vs .196 BA, .325 XSLG vs .268 SLG, .266 XWOBA vs .239 WOBA), suggesting that he is getting sort of unlucky so far, but not really.

It's also interesting to look at his last few seasons since 2019. A great 2019 season (138 wRC+) followed by a poor 2020 season (91 wRC+) followed by a great 2021 season (131 wRC+) and to now. So he has shown in the past the "ability" to follow a great season with a disappointing one. These numbers are just too low to expect to get your money's worth with Semien this season. He probably won't stay this cold all season, but a major turnaround is unlikely, especially in a worse hitting environment than Toronto surrounded by lesser talent than he had last season.

 

Corey Seager, Texas Rangers

A fellow big-time Rangers addition, Corey Seager definitely has me more optimistic than Semien. A quick look at Seager's .232 batting average is concerning, but he has been doing what he needs to do at the plate and the results are going to come. His expected average is .288, good for the 82nd percentile in the league, his expected slugging is .570 (92nd percentile) and his expected wOBA is .383 (87th percentile). Those are well above average and right in line with what we've come to expect from Corey Seager.

His 10 home runs in 46 games are pretty solid too, and his plate discipline has been right in line with his career averages. However, you are drafting Corey Seager for his batting average first, and while it has been underwhelming, it should turn around. Given the rest of the Rangers lineup, however, it's hard to say the same about his RBIs and Runs. Consider him a moderate buy-low candidate.

 

Kris Bryant, Colorado Rockies

This is a tougher one to evaluate because the main culprit of Bryant's slow start has been injuries. He has only 63 at-bats in 2022 due to recurring back injuries, is back on the IL, and wasn't setting the world on fire when he was playing. His 26% hard-hit rate is the lowest of his career, and his expected stats are all lower than his actual ones. Again, this is a small sample size, and the fact that Bryant will play half of his games at Coors Field somewhat negates expected stats and overall logic. However, if I had Kris Bryant on my roster, I wouldn't have a ton of optimism about what I will be getting out of him this season. Back injuries are not easy to recover from, and at 30 years old, can linger for months and years to come. He's also been very up and down the last few years, and may not get the chance to get into a consistent groove in 2022.

 

Carlos Correa, Minnesota Twins

One of the more unexpected signings of the offseason, Carlos Correa found himself signing with the Minnesota Twins. The gut reaction is that it's a downgrade from the Astros lineup, but Correa was still considered a very viable fantasy shortstop. With a .279 average and 122wRC+, he really hasn't been that big of a bust so far. That being said, fantasy managers should expect from the All-Star and I think they are going to get it pretty soon.

Correa's three home runs are obviously not good, but he's been hitting the ball about as hard as anybody in the league. He has a 54.5% hard-hit rate, good for the 97th percentile in the league, and also finds himself in the 92nd percentile in average exit velocity. He hit 26 home runs in 2021 while not hitting the ball as hard as he is now, so the power will come.

The biggest cause for concern in his game this year has been in his plate discipline.  His 24% strikeout rate is the highest in his career, and his 8.4% walk rate is the second-worst in his career. I see these as outliers as opposed to warning signs. Correa is a proven big league hitter, and really never made a name for himself with his on-base percentage. His wOBA (weighted on-base average) in his last 75 at-bats suggests a turnaround coming too.

 

Nick Castellanos, Philadelphia Phillies

Even though he was leaving one of the best hitters' parks in the game in Cincinnati, Nick Castellanos’ move to Philly was exciting. Getting to hit around guys like Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and J.T. Realmuto in what is still considered a friendly hitter’s park set Castellanos up for another big season. That hasn’t exactly been the case just yet, but I’m here to tell you that he is going to be just fine. All his expected stats suggest a positive regression coming.

Stats Actual Expected
Batting Average .258 .276
Slugging % .326 .353
WOBA .423 .493

It’s also worth noting that his walk and strikeout rates are right around his career average, and his .852 OPS against left-handed pitchers is still great. So, what’s stopping him from being the offensive force we are used to?

Perhaps the biggest difference is his performance against fastballs so far in 2022. He is hitting .266 against the fastball this year, with an expected average of .311. In 2021, his average against fastballs was a staggering .376 and was .345 in 2019. It's tough to assume he’ll repeat that, but at only 30-years-old, he is still capable of catching up to the heat, and once he starts to more consistently, he’ll be off to the races. It's already starting, as he's picked up nine hits in the past week and two homers in the past three games.



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