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Circling the Bases: What's Wrong With ...?

Ray Flowers

Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: M-F at 5-8 PM EDT), Ray Flowers has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. You can follow Ray on Twitter (@BaseballGuys), he never sleeps, and you can also find more of his musings at BaseballGuys.com.

Kris Medlen, Nolan Arenado and Rickie Weeks are struggling. Will any of the three be turning things around in the short-term?

WHAT'S WRONG WITH Kris Medlen?

I would argue that there isn't much wrong with Kris Medlen. From my personal preseason Draft Guide.

"He doesn't have a single 160 inning season, and has just one over 125 innings, not to mention that he added about 150 innings last season to his previous years mark... Medlen has never been more than an average ground ball inducer, yet somehow last season his ground ball rate swelled 10 percent to 53.4... Can he keep his BB/9 rate down at 1.50? Is he going to be able to maintain an impossibly high 85.0 left on base percentage?"

So far so good with the workload, but I think it was far too under-reported that Medlen simply doesn't have a track record of even moderate innings totals during his professional career. Still think this might be an issue later in the year, but we'll have to wait to see on that one.

What do you know, Medlen has pretty much given back all the gains his showed on the ground last year. After posting a 53.4 percent ground ball rate last season that number has dipped all the way down to 42.8 percent this season. His first two big league seasons his GB/FB ratios were 1.15 and 1.22. This season that mark is 1.19. Those three numbers really make his 1.90 mark from last season seem like an outlier. As a result if the increased fly ball rate he's also seen his 0.39 HR/9 mark from last season rise to 1.00 this season (you can't blame his HR/F ratio which is 10.0 percent, only a percentage above his career rate).

Not only has Medlen failed to keep his walk rate down this season, he's actually seen his BB/9 rate increase by 100 percent from 1.50 to 3.01. The first two seasons of his career his BB/9 mark was 2.62.

His left on base percentage is 77.7 percent, and if he keeps that mark all year long he's got a chance to be a top-5 finisher this season. It's still well off his pace from last season.

Medlen has also given back a full strikeout per nine at 6.78, and while he isn't even going to lead the league in punchouts it is a bit surprising that has occurred.

Fewer grounders.
Fewer strikeouts.
More walks.
More homers.

Pretty simple. It's no surprise he's struggled to meet expectations this season. Can't say I'm surprised by that at all.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH Nolan Arenado?

Nothing?

When he was called up I said that I wasn't expecting Arenado to be worthy of starting at third base in standard mixed leagues – I thought he was more of a corner infield option. Pretty much everyone disagreed. At this point even my modest expectations haven't been met.

Arenado is 22 years old.
Arenado has less than 450 games of minor league experience.
Arenado has only 66 at-bats in the minors above Double-A.
Arenado hit 12 homers with 56 RBIs last season in 134 games at Double-A.

I know his skill set and outlook says he's a future All-Star, but what in the above numbers suggests that he was going to be an All-Star this season? I'll answer it for you – nothing says he would be an All-Star right away. Nolan was hitting .364 with 21 RBIs in 18 games at Triple-A this season but that was 18 games and we all know that ain't a big enough sample size to mean much. Marco Scutaro hit .420 with 18 runs scored in May for the Giants. I'm pretty sure he's not the second coming of Honus Wagner.

Arenado is hitting .221 with a sickly .261 OBP an a terrible .374 SLG. None of those numbers suggest he's ready for the big leagues, let alone ready to star at the dish. He's simply not at the point of his development where he's ready to be a star. Period. Anyone who thought otherwise was wrong.

To his credit, there are some things to like here though, so it's not all doom and gloom.

Arenado has only struck out 19 times in 34 games leading to a 14 percent K-rate. That's a good mark for a youngster and suggests that the strike zone understanding he flashed in the minors followed him to the big leagues. He hasn't been totally overmatched. Unfortunately he's also walked only seven times so he's not really taking advantage of his ability to put the bat on the ball.

Arenado has also hit the ball hard a lot, his 23 percent line drive rate is a strong mark. He's been unable to transition those hard hit balls into hits though as his .231 BABIP suggests. If he keeps squaring the ball up with such frequency, the hits will start coming.

As for the power, his 11.1 HR/F mark will play. However, his fly ball rate of 32.1 percent is below the league average. That isn't shocking given that his fly ball rate since the start of the 2011 season in the minors has been 35.0 percent. He's just not a huge fly ball fella.

Arenado is a great dynasty hold, and if you keep enough players he could factor in as well in keeper leagues. However, if you're playing just for the 2013 season there are better options out there for you to turn to at the hot corner.

BREWERS SECOND BASE POSITION

Rickie Weeks is always hurt. Well, he was until the start of last season. In 2012 Weeks appeared in 157 games for the Brewers, and this season he's been out there for 54 of the Brew Crew's 56 games. So all must be right for the talented second sacker, right? Unfortunately no. Weeks hit .230 last year, but he went 21/16 and scored 85 runs so you could deal with it. This year he's on a 150 games for about 15 homers and 15 steals. That would play of course. However, he's also on pace for about 70 runs scored and 35 RBIs. Woof. Toss in his current .192 batting average, it's really hard for a guy this talented to hit .192 over 182 at-bats, and you've got a guy that's been killing your fantasy squad this season. On the plus side his 11.5 percent walk rate would be a five year best, and his 20.7 line drive rate would be his best mark since 2003. So how is a guy with so much success doing so poorly?

Weeks has always tilted too heavily to the strikeout, he's had seasons of 184 and 169 (last season), and that's always held down his average. This season he's taken his game to Dunnsian levels. Weeks has 61 Ks in 54 games and his 29.3 percent K-rate would be worse than his career worst mark of 25.0 percent last year. The strikeout elevation is also easily seen in the fact that his ability to make contact on pitches he's swung at inside the strike zone is at a career worst 80.5 percent (the mark has been at least 83.5 percent the six years). Weeks has also seen his BABIP dip to .265 which would be another career worst. You can try to turn that frown upside down and say 'but Ray, his line drive rate is at an elevated level, his best mark since 2003, so his batting average will come up.' I could obviously given you the thumbs up there, but there is also this: Weeks is hitting more ground balls than ever before (49.6 percent) and fewer fly balls than ever (29.8 percent). As a result, we might also have some concern about his ability to sustain his previous home run pace. If his average an power are both down, we don't have much to hang our hats on. The Brewers want to keep the faith and believe that things will even out if Weeks stays healthy, but it sounds like they may have reach their limit.

The Brew Crew called up Scooter Gennett, a name that harkens back the 1950's, and he's not going to ride the bench every day. Word is that the duo will form a “loose platoon” at second. "We saw [Gennett] in Spring Training and we knew early on that he was a good hitter," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Everybody thought that he would hit in the big leagues." Oddly, as the name suggests, Scooter is a spunky performer. He hit .299 at Single-A in 2011, he hit .293 at Double-A in 2012 and he was hitting .297 at Triple-A this season. He has little power, he's yet to reach double-digits in homers, though he does have the ability to steals 15 bags. He doesn't strike out, the last two years he's had 69 and 71 strikeouts, but he also doesn't walk (27 and 28 the past two years). Basically he seems to a traditional second sacker with the bat.

I would think that Weeks will still start the vast majority of games, but the specter of injury always looms over his head, and though the team knows what they have in him, you could only float a sub .200 hitter in their lineup for so long before a change is required.

BY THE NUMBERS

7: The run total allowed by Justin Masterson over 6.1 innings Monday night to the Yankees. The beating raised his ERA to 3.57. That would still be his second best mark in four years and it's nearly a run an a half below his 4.93 mark from last season. He's still also the owner of a 1.20 WHIP which is well ahead of his 1.37 career pace.

12: The number of saves for Brandon League. That's one more than Jonathan Papelbon and Fernando Rodney. At the same time he has a 5.06 ERA which is the highest mark of anyone with at least three saves this season in all of baseball.

26: The homerless streak, in games, for the Athletics Coco Crisp before Monday. After blasting five big flies in his first 14 games he now has six bombs in 41 games. While you might be disappointed with that run of big fly futility note the following: only once since 2006 has Crisp hit 10 home runs in a season, and his career best is 16 homers. Over 150 games, at his current rate, he'd be well into the 20's.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. Ray's analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.