Fernando Tatis Jr. and Every MLB Team's Biggest Disappointment Thus FarApril 23, 2021
Fernando Tatis Jr. and Every MLB Team's Biggest Disappointment Thus Far
A number of MLB players have wasted little time making star turns.
Others like Ronald Acuna Jr., Byron Buxton and Mike Trout are playing at an elite level. Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes is making history in a thoroughly dominant campaign.
Others have not had nearly as much success.
Last week, we took a look at each team's most pleasant surprise. This time, we'll discuss the most disappointing player on each club. Players were selected based on early production in addition to factors such as prominence, promise and other details like new contracts, etc.
Time to break it down.
Arizona Diamondbacks: SP Madison Bumgarner
Madison Bumgarner's Arizona Diamondbacks tenure is still in its early stages. Yet it has already been quite forgettable.
The former San Francisco Giants star hasn't found the stuff and command that made him one of the better arms of the 2010s. After posting a 6.48 ERA in nine starts last season, Bumgarner had given up an MLB-worst 18 earned runs through his first four starts.
The good news is his strikeout and whiff rates are both up. But he still ranks in the bottom 25 percent in baseball in hard-hit rate and average exit velocity.
This is surely not the guy the D-backs had in mind when they signed Bumgarner to a five-year, $85 million deal ahead of the 2020 season to anchor the rotation.
Atlanta Braves: SP Max Fried
Max Fried gave up just two homers in 56.0 innings in a stellar 2020 that saw him finish fifth in the National League Cy Young voting. He had already given up one more than his 2020 total through his first three starts of the new season.
The Atlanta Braves left-hander was supposed to once again hold down the top of rotation. But Fried had an 11.45 ERA and 2.55 WHIP in his first three starts before hitting the injured list with a hamstring strain suffered while running the bases.
Atlanta's entire staff is reeling, ranking 11th in the NL in ERA. The Braves desperately need Fried to rediscover ace form, especially with recent revelations Mike Soroka could be sidelined for quite some time.
Baltimore Orioles: IF/OF Ryan Mountcastle
Baltimore Orioles youngster Ryan Mountcastle hit .333 with a 138 OPS+ in 35 games last season. He hit four homers and five doubles this spring.
Mountcastle was looking like a strong preseason candidate for American League Rookie of the Year. But he has endured a woeful start.
The 24-year-old is slashing .169/.203/.277 with just one homer and 18 total bases. Strikeouts have been a major problem, with Mountcastle ranking in the bottom 14 percent in whiff rate and chase rate.
Opposing pitchers are peppering him with breaking balls, which has been an issue considering he has also had trouble with the fastball early. At least the underlying metrics against the fastball bode well.
Boston Red Sox: SP Garrett Richards
Speaking of trouble with the fastball, Garrett Richards, everybody!
The Boston Red Sox right-hander is having a tough time commanding his heater. Take a look at this chart (via Alex Speier of the Boston Globe) of fastball locations through his first two innings of Wednesday's start against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Poor fastball command has resulted in quite a few walks and has forced Richards to work behind in counts. His ERA rose to 6.48 after he gave up four runs in 4.2 innings Wednesday, walking six and hitting Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette.
Richards needs to sort through command issues for a Red Sox club that needs more consistent performances in the rotation. It will also be worth watching his velocity. His four-seam fastball is over a tick slower than it was last season.
Chicago Cubs: OF Joc Pederson
Disappointing guys litter the Chicago Cubs lineup card.
Javier Baez leads baseball in strikeout percentage and whiff rate. Ian Happ is slugging .222, though his .360 expected wOBA (xwOBA) is actually an improvement from his breakout 2020 season. The starters have struggled as well, with right-hander Kyle Hendricks looking especially shaky in two of his first three starts.
However, Joc Pederson has been the most disappointing—and frustrating—Cub. He had a mammoth spring, hitting eight homers and posting a 1.431 OPS. The Cubs were also giving him the chance to play every day after he was mostly a platoon option with the Dodgers.
But Pederson has struggled immensely. He is hitting just .137 with a .498 OPS and ranks in the 13th percentile in whiff rate. He is also leaving much to be desired in left field, ranking in the bottom 5 percent in outs above average (OAA).
Pederson just hit the injured list with left wrist inflammation. Maybe that explains his early troubles.
Chicago White Sox: IF Yoan Moncada
The Chicago White Sox likely hoped a healthier Yoan Moncada would more closely resemble the guy who hit .315 with a .915 OPS in 2019.
He struggled in 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19 early in the season. But he told reporters he felt healthy entering camp and had an excellent spring. Unfortunately for the South Siders, the good form has not carried into the regular season.
The 25-year-old ranks in the bottom 20 percent in hard-hit rate and average exit velocity while also striking out in over 30 percent of his plate appearances.
It's not the best sign when a player has both poor batted-ball numbers and a high strikeout rate. That combination is even worse for Moncada, who has had a good deal of luck in terms of batting average on balls in play (BABIP) through the years.
Cincinnati Reds: SP Luis Castillo
Cincinnati Reds right-hander Luis Castillo's first four starts have been befuddling.
Castillo had emerged as one of the best arms in the game, posting a 3.21 ERA and career-best 2.65 fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark in 2020. His fastball-changeup combination made him a top strikeout arm, as he posted 11.4 punchouts per nine innings.
But this season has been vastly different. Castillo had given up 26 hits in his first four starts, posting a 6.05 ERA and striking out just 7.4 opponents per nine.
The advanced numbers have been even more confounding. Castillo ranks in just the 40th percentile in average exit velocity and 37th percentile in whiff rate, though he does rank in the 85th percentile in chase rate.
Castillo figures to get it together. But it's been a strange start for one of the game's best.
Cleveland: SP Zach Plesac
Cleveland right-hander Zach Plesac dominated in his first two starts, both of which came against the Detroit Tigers. He was disastrous against the Chicago White Sox.
Plesac gave up seven hits and six runs while failing to get out of the first inning in an April 14 start against Chicago. He gave up six more runs in 5.0 innings against the White Sox on Tuesday, also conceding a pair of homers.
Getting the job done against the likes of the Tigers is all well and good. But Cleveland needs to take the lion's share of matchups with division favorites such as the White Sox and Minnesota Twins to have a shot at winning the AL Central.
The team needs more from Plesac, who ranks in just the 22nd percentile in whiff rate.
Colorado Rockies: OF Charlie Blackmon
The Colorado Rockies are the most disappointing team in baseball, period. Charlie Blackmon has been the most disappointing player in the early going.
He hit .314 with a .923 OPS from 2016 to 2020. He has consistently been Colorado's most dangerous left-handed bat. That has not been the case in 2021. Blackmon is hitting below the Mendoza line and has a 65 OPS+.
The veteran's struggles could stem from a 51 percent ground-ball rate that is far and away the highest of his career. His 7.1 weak-contact percentage is also his highest since the start of the Statcast era in 2015.
Detroit Tigers: SS Willi Castro
Detroit Tigers fans have not had much to celebrate in recent seasons, but shortstop Willi Castro looked like a franchise cornerstone last summer.
He hit .349 with six homers and a 150 OPS+, finishing fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. He figured to be a vital piece for a Tigers team needing positional talent.
The soon-to-be 24-year-old should still be regarded as a key part of the team's future. But he has had a tough time building on his rookie breakout despite having a good spring.
Castro has a mere .556 OPS. It should be said he had an unsustainable .448 BABIP in 2020, so regression was always likely. But the Tigers need him to put the ball in play more often and play better infield defense.
Kansas City Royals: IF/OF Hunter Dozier
This spot could just as easily go to right-handed starter Brad Keller, who has a 12.00 ERA and 2.58 WHIP in four starts. However, Hunter Dozier's struggles feel slightly more notable.
The Kansas City Royals bought out Dozier's arbitration years by offering him a four-year, $25 million contract in March. Their investment in him has not been rewarded.
Dozier is hitting a pitiful .140 with just two extra-base hits and a .445 OPS. This is the same guy who hit 26 homers and had 65 extra-base hits in 2019. Moreover, Dozier ranks in the bottom 1 percent in OAA.
Jorge Soler and Andrew Benintendi are also scuffling. But Dozier's lack of production rises to the forefront following his offseason extension.
Houston Astros: RP Joe Smith
Martin Maldonado and Myles Straw don't feel like impactful enough choices. Kyle Tucker's surface numbers aren't great, but the advanced numbers show he is due for better luck.
So, let's pivot to the bullpen, which was already a concern heading into the season. Brooks Raley is having a tough time (10.80 ERA) after a good performance in camp. The player of interest here, however, is right-hander Joe Smith.
The 37-year-old was a huge piece of Houston's bullpen in 2019, posting a 1.80 ERA in 25.0 innings and repeatedly pitching in high-leverage postseason spots. Smith then sat out 2020 amid health concerns regarding the pandemic. His return to the bullpen has not gone as planned.
He has given up 11 hits and eight runs in 5.0 innings. He has induced some soft contact, but hitters are getting the barrel to the ball against the sidewinder.
Houston desperately needs more assurances in the middle innings, making Smith a key figure.
Los Angeles Angels: SP Jose Quintana
Los Angeles Angels left-hander Jose Quintana was fortunate enough to run into a slumping Texas Rangers lineup in his third start Wednesday.
Quintana threw five innings of one-run ball, giving up just two hits and striking out eight. Still, that does not negate how poor his first couple of starts were.
The 32-year-old gave up 10 hits and nine earned runs in those starts. Quintana got his strikeouts even in those ugly outings. But free passes have been an issue.
Quintana walked seven in his first two starts. He walked four more Wednesday. That's a legitimate concern for a guy who has given up ample hard contact in recent seasons despite getting more out of the swing-and-miss stuff.
He needs to get his command together to provide more consistent outings as a mid-rotation guy.
Los Angeles Dodgers: OF AJ Pollock
There hasn't been a whole lot of disappointment for Los Angeles Dodgers fans this year. But AJ Pollock has been a clear minus in the lineup.
He is hitting .220 with a .544 OPS and 53 OPS+. He has struck out in over 30 percent of his plate appearances, also ranking in the bottom 16 percent in barrel rate and just the 14th percentile in expected slugging (xSLG).
Fortunately, Pollock has every chance to get rolling in the middle of a loaded lineup. The Dodgers can move things around quite a bit as well. Still, L.A. could use more outfield production, especially until Cody Bellinger returns from a hairline fracture in his left leg.
Miami Marlins: 3B Brian Anderson
Brian Anderson ranked 10th in fWAR among third basemen from 2018 to 2020. He was one of the more productive hitters on a club mostly lacking slugging last season.
However, the new campaign has not been kind to him. Anderson is slashing just .183/.246/.283 with 17 total bases through his first 16 games. The batted-ball numbers aren't overly terrific, either. Anderson ranks below the 41st percentile in both hard-hit rate and average exit velocity while also ranking in the 22nd percentile in chase rate.
The 27-year-old continues to play tremendous defense. But Anderson's offensive struggles are all the more frustrating in part because the likes of Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Miguel Rojas are raking early on.
Milwaukee Brewers: 1B Keston Hiura
Reigning NL Rookie of the Year Devin Williams has had some shaky outings. But his stuff remains as good as that of anyone in baseball. Plus, Milwaukee's pitching staff is mostly responsible for the team's success.
The lineup, on the other hand, could use more slugging, especially from Keston Hiura.
He hit .303 with 19 homers and a .938 OPS in 84 games during his rookie season in 2019. But the OPS fell to .707 in 2020, with Hiura also leading the NL in strikeouts.
This season has been even more ugly. The 24-year-old is hitting just .118 in his first 60 plate appearances. Strikeouts are once again a big part of Hiura's struggles, as he ranks in the bottom 1 percent in whiff rate. But he isn't making hard contact, either, ranking in just the 19th percentile in hard-hit rate.
It seems unlikely Hiura can even be a productive hitter if he cannot start squaring the ball up, much less the guy he was in 2019.
Minnesota Twins: 1B Miguel Sano
The Minnesota Twins' most disappointing player was a toss-up between closer Alex Colome and Miguel Sano.
Colome already has three blown saves in five chances. That's not ideal after the Twins signed him over the offseason to take the ninth inning. Still, Sano's early struggles have been especially tough.
Sano had an average exit velocity of at least 90 mph or higher and hard-hit rate of at least 44 percent or higher in each season since 2015. But the batted-ball numbers in 2021 are…gross. His average exit velocity is down to 86.6 mph. His hard-hit rate is just 28 percent.
A guy who is supposed to be one of the most fearsome sluggers in the game ranks in just the sixth percentile in xSLG. That's pretty poor considering Sano is in the bottom 2 percent in whiff rate.
Now, the walks are good. But the Twins desperately need Sano to be more of a run producer.
New York Mets: OF Michael Conforto
Much like the Cubs, the New York Mets have their share of underwhelming offensive performers. Michael Conforto leads the way in that department.
Conforto is hitting .171 with a .540 OPS. The batted-ball numbers leave some eye sores. He ranks in the bottom 5 percent in xSLG and hard-hit rate, also ranking in just the 37th percentile in whiff rate.
Is the contract business getting to the 28-year-old? He will be a free agent this offseason and watched as the Mets signed newcomer Francisco Lindor to an enormous pact. Conforto, meanwhile, appears headed for the open market.
Perhaps he is pressing a bit. Regardless, the Mets need his slugging presence from the left side of the batter's box.
New York Yankees: SS Gleyber Torres
Not much has gone right for the New York Yankees this season. Most of the stars have sputtered out of the gate, with Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres among them.
Stanton is striking out a ton but is at least hitting the ball hard. His numbers should improve if he stops pounding the ball into the ground. Alternatively, Torres is not hitting the ball very hard at all.
The Yankee shortstop ranks in just the third percentile in average exit velocity and 11th percentile in hard-hit rate. He's putting the ball in play more than Stanton but is still running a career-low 75.7 percent zone contact rate.
Of course, the defensive deficiencies are still prevalent. Torres ranks in the bottom 4 percent in OAA.
He appeared to be the next in a group of slugging shortstops. But Torres has yet to hit a homer and has just two RBI, while the glove work remains a concern. He did, however, have a three-hit night on Thursday.
Oakland Athletics: SS Elvis Andrus
Oakland Athletics fans surely want more out of young, talented left-hander Jesus Luzardo, but the 23-year-old could be getting it together after an excellent outing (5.2 IP, 0 ER, 6 K) against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.
Elvis Andrus, on the other hand, has not shown any signs of stringing anything together.
The Oakland Athletics acquired the veteran shortstop from the Texas Rangers to replace Marcus Semien after allowing the latter to walk in free agency. The returns have not been good.
Andrus entered Wednesday's game against the Twins as the worst hitter in baseball (among qualifiers) in terms of weighted runs created plus (wRC+). He ranks below the 20th percentile in hard-hit rate and barrel percentage, also ranking below the 20th percentile in chase rate.
The defense has been strong, and Andrus has shown he can still steal bases. But the A's need the hit tool to resurface.
Philadelphia Phillies: OF Andrew McCutchen
Realistically, this spot could belong to anyone playing center field for the Philadelphia Phillies. It has been a revolving door and could remain that way for some time.
That said, Andrew McCutchen's early-season woes have been tough to watch.
McCutchen is hitting just .164 with only two extra-base hits and a 61 OPS+. He ranks in the 23rd percentile in average exit velocity and 15th percentile in hard-hit rate. Defense has also been a negative, as the 2013 NL MVP ranks in the fourth percentile in outs above average.
The 34-year-old's ability to work counts and get walks still makes him a viable leadoff option. But the Phillies need McCutchen to start hitting and provide steadier traffic to get some of the other bats going.
Pittsburgh Pirates: SP Mitch Keller
The Pittsburgh Pirates don't have the highest expectations for the 2021 campaign. They're only just beginning to rebuild.
However, it's not ideal that one of the guys who potentially looms large in that rebuild—right-hander Mitch Keller—has been ineffective.
The 25-year-old has an 8.74 ERA and 2.12 WHIP through his first three starts. He ranks in the bottom 11 percent in hard-hit rate and average exit velocity, also ranking in just the 37th percentile in whiff rate.
The batted-ball numbers are not good. Command has also been a problem. Keller has walked eight batters in 11.1 innings after handing out 7.5 free passes per nine innings in 2020.
He was the No. 39 prospect in baseball entering the 2020 campaign, per MLB.com. He has decent velocity and a wipeout slider. But Keller needs to harness his command and miss bats, something he hasn't done to a great extent.
Let's see if Keller can build after a decent outing against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.
San Diego Padres: SS Fernando Tatis Jr.
A left shoulder subluxation cost Fernando Tatis Jr. some time early in the season. He has a smaller sample size than many regulars. But he has still been among the most disappointing superstars in baseball.
Tatis has struck out in a third of his plate appearances. He is not barreling up the ball like he did last season. The exit velocities and hard-hit rates suggest the shortstop could turn it around.
Frankly, the defensive issues have almost been more concerning. Tatis leads all shortstops with seven errors and ranks in just the fourth percentile in OAA after practically going from worst to first in that category in 2020.
Again, it's a long season. But Tatis has yet to live up to the hype after signing that enormous 14-year, $340 million extension in February.
San Francisco Giants: OF Mike Yastrzemski
Mike Yastrzemski was a late bloomer for the San Francisco Giants and rapidly asserted himself as one of the better position players on the roster over the past two seasons.
Yastrzemski clubbed 21 homers and had an .852 OPS in 2019. He hit 10 more homers and posted a 166 OPS+ in 2020, finishing eighth in the NL MVP voting. The 30-year-old seemed ready to evolve after clubbing four more home runs in spring training.
It hasn't happened for Yastrzemski. He is hitting .182 and has struck out in over 32 percent of his plate appearances. His average exit velocity has fallen for a second consecutive season, and his hard-hit rate has plummeted to 12 percent.
San Francisco's rotation has carried the club. But the bats have been mostly dormant. Yastrzemski and Co. will need to start producing for the Giants to have sustained success.
Seattle Mariners: IF Dylan Moore
It's tempting to peg Marco Gonzales as the Seattle Mariners' most disappointing player. But he has put together a couple of strong starts, including Tuesday's outing (7.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 K) against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
So, let's talk about Dylan Moore. The 28-year-old had an .855 OPS and 12 steals in 38 games in 2020. He figured to be of tremendous importance in terms of Seattle's offensive progression in 2021.
Instead, Moore has been one of the least productive hitters in baseball. He had the eighth-worst wRC+ prior to the start of play Thursday, slashing just .115/.230/.231 with a 36 OPS+ and striking out in over 34 percent of his plate appearances.
Moore can spark Seattle's offense with his speed and slugging. However, the decline in both average exit velocities and hard-hit rate are not the best indicators, considering the strikeout rate.
St. Louis Cardinals: 1B Paul Goldschmidt
What's happening with Paul Goldschmidt?
The St. Louis Cardinals first baseman has typically been one of the more diligent hitters in baseball. But he has a mere 5.3 percent walk rate as compared to a 23.7 percent strikeout rate.
Goldschmidt seems to be chasing more. He ranks in the bottom 13 percent in chase rate, though he is closer to league average in terms of whiff rate.
On a more positive note, Goldy's average exit velocity and hard-hit rates are both up from last season. But he has also seen a rise in ground-ball rate.
Additionally, the 33-year-old has not been his typically excellent self at first base. He ranks in the bottom 11 percent in OAA.
The Redbirds need the six-time All-Star to pick up the slack in an NL Central that seems very much up for grabs.
Tampa Bay Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe
Brandon Lowe is driving in runs and drawing walks. But the swing-and-miss tendencies remain a concern, and his batted-ball numbers are not good.
Lowe ranks in just the 29th percentile in average exit velocity and 37th percentile in hard-hit rate. Those aren't strong numbers for a guy who also ranks in the bottom 7 percent in whiff rate.
The 26-year-old is missing a lot of pitches in the zone. He has a 68.7 percent zone contact rate and has not been as aggressive on pitches Baseball Savant deems "Meatballs." He's got to take advantage of mistake pitches.
The Tampa Bay Rays are desperate for steady production. Joey Wendle has been a pleasant surprise as a productive left-handed bat. But the Rays would most certainly benefit from Lowe finding his stride.
Texas Rangers: OF Leody Taveras
Leody Taveras was the highest-ranked Texas Rangers player on Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 list heading into 2021.
The ranking, while lofty, seemed at least somewhat merited after Taveras hit four homers and stole eight bases in 33 games with Texas last season. He projected as a toolsy center fielder with upside.
But Taveras has hardly sniffed the ball at the plate this season. He is hitting .093 with a .263 OPS and minus-19 wRC+ through 14 games. Taveras has also struck out in close to 45 percent of his plate appearances.
It is important the 22-year-old see some action with the Rangers in a rebuild. But Taveras has essentially been unplayable.
Toronto Blue Jays: OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was lumped in with the rest of the team's young core in terms of projectable talent heading into 2021.
He followed a 2019 in which he hit 20 homers and had an .869 OPS in just 84 games by hitting .308 with 11 dingers and a career-high 139 OPS+ in 2020. He had the makings of a star on the rise.
Only, Gurriel hasn't gotten it going through the first few weeks. He is hitting .192 with a .440 OPS and has just one extra-base hit.
The 27-year-old ranks in the 42nd percentile in whiff rate and 34th percentile in average exit velocity. He's simply not a net positive player if he isn't hitting the ball hard because he doesn't walk and is a negative on defense.
Gurriel is not alone in his struggles. The Blue Jays offense has mostly disappointed, though Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette have had success.
All told, Gurriel is a clear black mark when weighing expectations and production.
Washington Nationals: SP Patrick Corbin
Washington Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin had a nice bounce-back start Tuesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals. But his first two starts were atrocious.
Corbin gave up 12 hits and 15 earned runs in 6.1 innings in his first two outings, serving up three homers to the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 15. His command was quite shaky, as he walked four and hit a pair of batters against the D-backs.
Opponents are teeing off on Corbin's sinker. They are also making more contact against his slider. That pitch yielded a 51.4 percent whiff rate in 2019, but whiff rates against Corbin's slider have fallen in each of the past two seasons.
The Nats are unlikely to make much of a playoff push if Corbin cannot rediscover his 2019 form. Perhaps his latest start against the Cardinals can be a turning point.
All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant or FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted. Stats are accurate prior to the start of play on April 22.