Slumping MLB Veterans Who Need to Be Benched in 2019 Pennant Races

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2019

Slumping MLB Veterans Who Need to Be Benched in 2019 Pennant Races

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    The heat of a pennant race can drive an MLB team to make big decisions.

    Among them is moving an established but slumping veteran into a part-time role for the sake of the squad's short-term success. It's not always easy, but oftentimes the change has to be made for the good of the team.

    Ahead, we'll take a closer look at five slumping players who need to be moved into a reduced role.

    To be considered for inclusion, a player needed to have a realistic chance of being benched, not just reduced production of late. Players also needed to have a viable in-house replacement.

    Let's get started.

DH Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics

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    Koji Sasahara/Associated Press

    Season Stats: 417 PA, .220/.290/.376, 25 XBH (17 HR), 53 RBI, 48 R

    Second-Half Stats: 115 PA, .175/.252/.223, 3 XBH (1 HR), 10 RBI, 9 R

    August Stats: 44 PA, .128/.227/.128, 0 XBH (0 HR), 0 RBI, 4 R

    After posting a 130 OPS+ while averaging 44 home runs and 112 RBI in his first three seasons with the Oakland Athletics, Khris Davis has gone ice-cold at the plate since the All-Star break.

    The 31-year-old had a respectable .737 OPS with 16 home runs at the All-Star break, but he's managed just one home run in 115 plate appearances in the second half and gone without an extra-base hit in August.

    He was dropped to sixth in the batting order in mid-July and was penciled into the No. 7 spot in the lineup for the first time Saturday. However, it might be time to consider moving him into more of a platoon role.

    While he's hitting just .206/.274/.340 with 10 home runs in 310 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, he's posted a solid .260/.336/.479 line with seven home runs in 107 plate appearances against lefties.

       

    Potential Replacement: Seth Brown

    The left-handed-hitting Seth Brown might be the perfect platoon partner for Davis.

    The 27-year-old is hitting an impressive .296/.351/.640 with 37 home runs and 103 RBI at Triple-A Las Vegas, and his numbers have been even better with the platoon advantage. In 361 plate appearances against right-handed pitching, he boasts a gaudy .309/.355/.673 line with 28 home runs.

    While Las Vegas is a notoriously hitter-friendly environment, those numbers are still tough to ignore, and it could be time to add him to the 40-man roster to see what he can do.

    It helps his case that he's been rolling of late with a .333/.410/.759 line and 19 home runs in 188 plate appearances since the beginning of July.

3B Todd Frazier, New York Mets

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    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Season Stats: 389 PA, .232/.303/.416, 31 XBH (16 HR), 50 RBI, 45 R

    Second-Half Stats: 142 PA, .194/.239/.373, 13 XBH (5 HR), 16 RBI, 17 R

    August Stats: 71 PA, .174/.197/.319, 6 XBH (2 HR), 8 RBI, 5 R

    Todd Frazier hit .274/.384/.547 with eight home runs and 23 RBI in 28 games during June, and he looked like a potential trade chip before the New York Mets decided instead to buy at the deadline.

    While the Mets have gone on a nice run of late to climb back into the National League wild-card picture, Frazier's production has gone in the other direction.

    The 33-year-old is hitting just .193 since the beginning of July, and his plate discipline has eroded. He has just eight walks in 161 plate appearances during that stretch.

    Despite his second-half struggles, he's been productive against left-handed pitchers with a .903 OPS in 103 plate appearances. A platoon role could be the best way to use the third baseman going forward.

         

    Potential Replacement: Dilson Herrera

    A former top prospect who checked in at No. 46 on the Baseball America Top 100 prior to the 2015 season, Dilson Herrera is having a strong offensive season at Triple-A Syracuse.

    The 25-year-old is hitting .257/.335/.530 with 27 doubles and 24 home runs while playing first base (33 games), second base (31 games) and third base (31 games) as well as some outfield (11 games).

    While Herrera is not currently on the 40-man roster, cutting ties with someone like underperforming fifth outfielder Aaron Altherr (4-for-29, 15 K) would be an easy way to open a spot.

RP Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Season Stats: 52 G, 29/33 SV, 3.04 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .230 BAA

    Second-Half Stats: 13 G, 6/9 SV, 5.54 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, .304 BAA

    August Stats: 6 G, 2/4 SV, 7.11 ERA, 2.37 WHIP, .379 BAA

    An All-Star for the third season in a row this year, Brad Hand converted 23 of 24 save chances with a 2.17 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and .200 opponents' batting average during the first half of the season.

    However, the 29-year-old has gone off the rails in his last four appearances:

    • Aug. 8: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K
    • Aug. 11: 1.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
    • Aug. 12: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
    • Sunday: 1.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

    During that span, he's faced 27 batters and allowed 10 hits, four walks and five earned runs while striking out just three.

       

    Potential Replacement: Nick Wittgren

    Nick Wittgren does not have prototypical closer stuff with a fastball that averages just 92.6 mph and only five strikeouts with his off-speed pitches, according to Brooks Baseball.

    Despite that, the 28-year-old has been effective after coming over in an offseason trade with the Miami Marlins.

    In 44 appearances, he's tallied three saves and 10 holds while posting a 2.77 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and a 49-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 48.2 innings.

    On the surface, he was similarly effective last season with a 2.94 ERA in 32 appearances. However, he's taken his game to another level by trimming his walk rate significantly (4.0 to 1.8 BB/9) while also raising his strikeout rate (8.3 to 9.1 K/9).

1B Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Season Stats: 545 PA, .238/.379/.476, 52 XBH (24 HR), 70 RBI, 64 R

    Second-Half Stats: 153 PA, .172/.325/.336, 10 XBH (4 HR), 11 RBI, 17 R

    August Stats: 78 PA, .117/.299/.200, 3 XBH (1 HR), 2 RBI, 10 R

    The only thing keeping Rhys Hoskins afloat from an offensive standpoint is his on-base ability.

    The 26-year-old leads the National League with 94 walks and even amid his August struggles has more walks (15) than strikeouts (14).

    However, his power production has disappeared since the All-Star break, and he was moved into the leadoff spot in the lineup Aug. 14 in an effort to wake up his bat. So far, he's just 2-for-16 with four walks in five games batting first.

           

    Potential Replacement: Logan Morrison

    Veteran Logan Morrison began the season in the New York Yankees organization, but he was released July 4 and scooped up by the Philadelphia Phillies on July 15.

    He hit .356/.435/.593 with five doubles and three home runs in 18 games at Triple-A Lehigh Valley before he was promoted to the MLB roster, and he's gone 3-for-8 with a double since being called up.

    The 31-year-old is not far removed from a 38-homer season in 2017, and it might be worth giving him a longer look to see if he can serve as a viable platoon option.

    At the very least, he can be a left-handed hitting complement to the right-handed hitting Hoskins while the latter sorts things out.

RF Josh Reddick, Houston Astros

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    David Maxwell/Getty Images

    Season Stats: 449 PA, .260/.302/.377, 26 XBH (10 HR), 37 RBI, 45 R

    Second-Half Stats: 115 PA, .179/.226/.217, 3 XBH (0 HR), 5 RBI, 8 R

    August Stats: 50 PA, .128/.160/.170, 1 XBH (0 HR), 2 RBI, 3 R

    The Houston Astros still owe Josh Reddick $13 million in 2020 in the final year of his four-year, $52 million contract.

    He was a 4.1 WAR player in the first year of that contract and a 1.8 WAR player last year, but he's been worth just 0.1 WAR this season. His 79 OPS+ represents a career low for a full season, and he has just three extra-base hits in 115 plate appearances since the All-Star break.

    The 32-year-old has tallied 6 defensive runs saved in right field, but range metrics have not been as kind, as he checks in with a minus-0.3 UZR/150. It might be time to move him into a fourth outfielder role, and there's a potential impact bat waiting in the wings.

           

    Potential Replacement: Kyle Tucker

    The Astros gave Kyle Tucker his first taste of MLB action last year, and he struggled mightily, hitting just .141 with three extra-base hits and 13 strikeouts in 72 plate appearances.

    The 22-year-old has spent this season at Triple-A Round Rock, posting a .266/.351/.562 line with 25 doubles and 32 home runs.

    With a 60-grade hit tool and 60-grade power, Tucker has the tools to be an offensive force. He's earned another chance, and he could make an already lethal lineup that much more dangerous.

           

    All stats accurate through Tuesday and courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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