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MLB Barometer: Harper's Slump

Eric Nehs

Eric Nehs writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


Brandon Morrow P, TOR - Morrow made his first start on Saturday since injuring his oblique in June, and took the loss after allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits in 4.2 innings pitched. Despite the mediocre performance, Morrow averaged 94.4 mph with his fastball (92.9 mph for the year) and was able to induce swinging strikes at a 12.5 percent rate (8.8 percent for the season). A 3.39 FIP and 3.91 xFIP indicate that he should pitch a similar level down the stretch, and I would expect an increased strikeout rate as well. He made a conservative effort to pitch to contact in the beginning of the year, and with increased velocity I would expect his strikeout rate to get above 9.00 K/9. If Morrow was let go by any owners in your league, he should be a must add in any format.

Erik Kratz C, PHI - Kratz has taken over as the Phillies starting catcher with Carlos Ruiz dealing with plantar fasciitis and not being able to run the bases yet, and Brian Schnieder just landed on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. Kratz has seven home runs, 17 RBI and a .291/.352/.646 slash line in just 91 plate appearances. Now owners should expect his 29 percent HR/FB ratio to regress, but his batting average and OBP are certainly sustainable considering his .286 BABIP and 8.8 percent walk rate. I'm little worried about his 12.7 percent swinging strike rate and 42.2 percent chase rate, which could lead to an increase in his 20.9 percent strikeout rate. However, owners looking for catching help should consider him, and he would be a solid cheap option for those playing in daily draft leagues.

Shaun Marcum P, MIL - Marcum also made his return from the disabled list on Saturday night and was credited with his fourth loss of the season after allowing four runs (all unearned) on five hits and one walk while striking out five in five innings of work. If he stays healthy over the last month of the season, Marcum can provide strong value for owners in need of starters. His 8.45 K/9 is a career best, and his .270 BABIP may seem as it will regress but he has been able to pitch to a .269 BABIP throughout his career. Marcum has been able to induce swinging strikes at an 11.3 percent rate (another career high), and his 64.7 percent first pitch strike percentage indicates he should be able to improve upon his 2.78 BB/9.

Nick Swisher 1B/OF, NYY - Swisher has put together his best month of the season in August producing a .337/.425/.576 and five home runs in 106 plate appearances this month. Swisher now has 19 home runs and a .278/.361/.491 slash line for the season. Some owners were worried about whether Swisher could get back to his typical 23-26 home run season after a rough month, but his HR/FB ratio of 15.8 percent is his highest in three seasons. However, as with last season, he has produced a fly ball rate of 39 percent (tied for lowest of his career). His career best line drive rate of 22 percent should allow him to finis with an average about .270, and he is on pace for his highest RBI total since 2006.

Caution/Check Status

Homer Bailey P, CIN - Bailey saw his record fall to 10-9 on Sunday after allowing five runs on nine hits in six innings of work against the Cardinals. His ERA increased to 4.24 for the year, and his DIPS (4.31 FIP and 4.20 xFIP) indicate that he has pitched as well as his numbers would suggest. Bailey has struggled throughout the month, as he entered Sunday's game with a 5.64 in August. While he has struggled during the month, I would recommend that owners continue to start him on the road where he has a 2.91 ERA and a 4.7 percent HR/FB ratio. Bailey should finish with an ERA somewhat close to his current one, but owners can maximize his output with starts on the road.

Bryce Harper OF, WAS - Harper's numbers have fallen dramatically since July, and hitting four home runs and .194/.266/.316 since the All-Star break to bring his slash line down to .248/.320/.412 to go along with his 12 home runs and 13 stolen bases. While July was more of a luck induced BABIP drop (.276), Harper's drop in August (.246) has been more pronounced because of a poor line drive rate of 10.7 percent. As a result, Harper could start seeing less playing time against left-handed whom he has produced .646 OPS against this season (.784 OPS against RHP). Harper should finish the year with 15 or 16 home runs, but a combination of a 46.3 percent ground ball rate and 21 percent strikeout rate should force him to finish with a similar line to the one he has now.

Alfredo Aceves P, BOS - Aceves was suspended three games on Saturday by the Red Sox for conduct detrimental to the team. It was reported that the suspension occurred after Bobby Valentine went to Andrew Bailey to close out the ninth inning against the Royals, which upset the hot-tempered Aceves. While Aceves should return to the club on Tuesday, one has to wonder if his time as the closer is coming to an end. His 4.60 ERA/4.23 FIP/4.31 xFIP is not very impressive, and Bailey has looked good since returning from the disabled list striking out four in 4.1 innings and averaging 94.5 mph with his fastball. His 10 meltdowns are the second worst among relievers who are still established as closers.

Geovany Soto C, TEX - Soto's numbers have improved since being moved to the Rangers, and has been thrust into the starting role with Mike Napoli dealing with a strained quad. Soto has a .242.306/.379 line with two home runs in 74 plate appearances to bring his season line to .211/.290/.355 with eight home runs. Those using Soto now in deeper leagues might have to readjust his or her lineup sine Napoli is due back at the beginning of September. Soto might still see some plate appearances against left-handed pitching as Napoli could be used at first base or DH, but he will see a significant amount of his playing time reduced. In daily drafts, he could still be useful as a cheap part time player who could still provide some power (12 percent HR/FB ratio).


Lance Lynn P, STL - Lynn struggled in his start on Friday night against the Reds, allowing four runs on six hits and two walks in two plus innings of work. He has fallen apart in 23.1 innings in August producing a 6.56 ERA. After only throwing 109.2 innings last season, Lynn might be dealing with some fatigue considering his command has taken the biggest hit this month (5.40 BB/9) and has subsequently been sent to the bullpen in favor of Joe Kelly. Furthermore, his .391 BABIP is considerably high this month, but he is allowing a 28 percent line drive rate. A 3.56 FIP and 3.70 xFIP indicate that Lynn has marginally outperformed his ERA, as his .320 BABIP should see some slight regression.

Colby Rasmus CF, TOR - Rasmus has really struggled over this month for the Blue Jays producing a .179/.236/.284 slash line with two home runs in 72 plate appearances. While he does have 20 home runs for the year, his overall line has dropped to .232/.295/.426. A lot of his overall troubles have come against left-handed pitching where he has produced a .578 OPS against them (.774 OPS against RHP). Rasmus has seen his batting average affected by a below average BABIP of .262, but this is his third season in which he has managed to have a BABIP under .285. His strikeout rate of 22.7 percent is too high for him to produce a batting average over .250. In addition, his power numbers have could been even better if it were not for a career high 39 percent ground ball rate and career low 41 percent fly ball rate.

Jhoulys Chacin P, COL- Chacin has looked strong since returning to the Rockies last week allowing two runs in eleven innings of work. He has managed to lower his ERA to 5.55 for the year, but a 5.73 FIP and 4.91 xFIP suggest that his early season struggles and even recent successes will not prove to be beneficial for fantasy owners. His strikeout rate of 6.81 K/9 is the lowest of his career, but of more concern is his career worst 6.9 percent swinging strike rate and 89.9 mph average fastball. His below average control (4.29 BB/9 this season and 4.20 BB/9 for career) is not good enough to be able to thrive with a below average strikeout rate. Furthermore, his ground ball rate has dropped from 56.3 percent to 40 percent. Once he starts to pitch in Coors Field again, he will not be able to produce another season with a BABIP below .270.

Jeff Francoeur RF, KC- This is another downgrade that should have been in the works a while ago that I just never got around to write, but Francoeur has produced one of the more disappointing seasons among any starting outfielder. After hitting 20 home runs and stealing 22 bases last year, Francoeur has only 11 home runs, 3 stolen bases and a .235/.285/.363 slash line this year. His HR/FB ratio has remained somewhat stable with a 9.2 percent HR/FB ratio, but his fly ball rate has dropped to a career low 33.2 percent. His BABIP of .273 has been due in part to bad luck, but his 45 percent ground ball rate is a problem. Ned Yost has finally taken notice and will platoon Francoeur with Jarrod Dyson in the future. Owners still holding on to the veteran should finally let him loose.