Ottoneu Cold Right Now: May 1, 2023

Much like Hot Right Now, Cold Right Now will be a weekly Ottoneu feature, primarily written by either Chad Young or Lucas Kelly, with a focus on players who are being dropped or who maybe should be dropped in Ottoneu leagues. Hot Right Now will focus on players up for auction, players recently added, and players generally performing well. Cold Right Now will have parallel two of those three sections:

  1. Roster Cuts: Analysis of players with high cut% changes.
  2. Cold Performers: Players with a low P/G or P/IP in recent weeks.

There won’t be a corresponding section to Current Auctions because, well, there is nothing in cuts that correspond to current auctions.

Roster Cuts

Robbie Ray, Leagues with a Cut (7 days) – 56.73%

Ray is having season-ending surgery and so he’s being let go by most of his managers. Why aren’t more teams holding onto a former Cy Young winner with a ton of talent even as a stash for 2024? Salary is part of it – at an average salary of around $13 when the surgery news broke, Ray can clear $6+ for most managers and could clear more if another manager picks him up.

The bigger reason, for me, is that he just isn’t that good for Ottoneu. In his brilliant 2021 Cy Young campaign, he still allowed 1.54 HR/9 which both undermined his 4×4 value and pushed him below 5 P/IP (4.98). Then, with some expected regression, he was down to 4.22 P/IP last year, and without the elite rates to support him in other formats. I think we can write off his brief 2023 (5.27 points in 3.1 innings) but even so, I don’t think he’s a $10 SP at this point. If he was cut in your league, I wouldn’t bother trying to pick him up as a stash – anything over $5 is just too much for me to sit on with Ray.

Jake McCarthy, Leagues with a Cut (7 days) – 28.53%

I had McCarthy in three leagues going into the year and cut him in one this week, so I guess I am a fairly representative microcosm of the McCarthy universe. I moved on in my OPL league – being sent down to Triple-A really tanked his value for me there as I need every roster spot to be productive in May if I am going to make the next cut. So far, I have held him in my other two. Looking at his ugly 2023 season vs. beautiful 2022, I still see a lot to like:

Jake McCarthy ’22 vs ’23
Year K% BB% O-Swing% Contact% SwStrk% Barrel Rate xwOBA BABIP
2022 21.5% 6.5% 34.5% 74.4% 13.3% 4.8% 0.298 0.349
2023 17.1% 7.1% 30.4% 86.8% 6.4% 5.9% 0.315 0.160

There is a little cherry-picking going on here – his hard-hit rate is down, for example, but there are a lot of really important numbers there that look quite good. And in his first four games at Triple-A, McCarthy is terrorizing the league, so his demotion could be short-lived.

There was always a high-likelihood of regression for McCarthy coming into the year – the BABIP was coming down and the xwOBA suggested he wasn’t as good as he looked in 2022. But for the most part, I see the same guy, maybe even a little better. In my 5×5 league, I am going to hold as long as I can (at $16, though, he may need to go). In other formats, I don’t mind moving on, as he is more “solid contributor” than “star.” But don’t let the cold start fool you – he’s still the player we expected in the off-season.

Kenta Maeda, Leagues with a Cut (7 days) – 27.56%

I wrote up Maeda in my “First Start Wonders” piece almost a month ago and while I was willing to use him short-term, I offered a warning:

Until [we see if his velocity is down], if he is still available, I would happily add him. I don’t expect much, but he can be useful even if you have to pick and choose matchups. Just remember that he’s not young, hasn’t pitched in a year and a half, and is already having arm issues. Enjoy the ride while it lasts, but don’t be surprised when it stops.

Well, now he is on the IL with a triceps strain, and I see no reason to hold him. He’s now the same not young, maybe rusty, injured pitcher he was a few weeks ago, and now he isn’t contributing for the foreseeable future. And it’s not like he pitched well in his three most recent starts. When he comes back, he’ll again be an interesting guy to consider as a streamer, but not more than that. And that isn’t worth holding through an IL stint.

Elehuris Montero, Leagues with a Cut (7 days) – 26.28%

I was in on Montero when he was getting regular playing time. He has crushed the minors, has good power, and he’s a Rockie, so even if you can only use him half the time, he is at least going to be useful at Coors, right? Unfortunately, he was not good at all in his time with Colorado – he stuck out too much, he never walked, his exit velocity was low – and now he is back in Triple-A. He did, in fact, post a .381 wOBA at Coors despite not hitting a single home run at home, but his overall line was so bad you can hardly blame the Rockies for sending him back to the minors (and I often find plenty of reason to blame the Rockies for sending guys to the minors unnecessarily).

If and when he gets recalled, if you are desperate for a part-time 3B bat, I would still consider picking him up to be used at home. But this isn’t an exciting young prospect you need to hold. If you want a minor league 3B, there are plenty of others (Justyn-Henry Malloy, Coby Mayo, Mark Vientos, etc.) who are readily available and more enticing.

Cold Performers

Jesse Winker: 36 PA,  .167/.306/.200, 1.89 P/G over his last 10 games

With a .306 OBP, it’s not all bad, right? Right? Last year, Winker’s contact quality cratered. Exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate were all down and so, despite solid plate discipline numbers, as always, Winker was just bad. His season could effectively be summarized in one number: .344. That was both his strong OBP and his ugly SLG. He got on base but never extra bases.

This year the plate discipline has gotten worse. His swing rate is up and while his contact rate is up that is entirely on pitches out of the zone. So he is turning what used to be called balls into weak contact and not much else. As a result, he isn’t walking as much and with the same poor contact quality, both his OBP and his SLG have gone down. If you are looking for reasons for optimism or to buy low…uh, well, his IFFB% is back down. That’s good, right?

Honestly, I have nothing for you. His track record suggests he’ll get the plate discipline right and the walks will come back. His history also tells us he is capable of hitting with more authority. But there is nothing to suggest the thump is coming back. I bailed on him in league 1 and he has been cut in more than a 5th of leagues this week. I can’t see any reason to hold a guy who is still costing you $10+ and is basically unusable.

Nolan Arenado: 43 PA,  .119/.140/.119, -1.19 P/G over his last 10 games

Like Winker, Arenado’s struggles aren’t just a 10-day slide (in general, this space won’t focus on 10-day slides – that isn’t enough data to matter, but it can be indicative of a problem). If the season ended today (it probably won’t), he would have a career-high strikeout rate and his lowest walk rate since 2015. His exit velocity, launch angle, hard-hit rate, barrel rate and xwOBA would all be career-lows. He is chasing more and making less contact. All of that is just to say the .264 wOBA and 3.06 P/G aren’t just noise. He has earned every bit of his disastrous April.

Arenado is too good and has too long a track record to just cut him so it should come as no surprise that less than 1% of his managers have decided to jump ship. I would, however, consider trading Arenado, if you can get fair value. Based on some of the recent trades on his FanGraphs Points league player page (here are some examples) the market might be pretty mixed right now. The first deal on there is a pretty weak return for Arenado, in my opinion – I wouldn’t have really considered that. The second is decent and the last two are even more interesting and would be the kind of deals I am looking for.

Nick Lodolo: 18.2 IP, -1.59 P/IP over his last four starts

My goodness did things go south fast for Lodolo. After a very good first start, he put up a brilliant 62 point, 7 inning performance against the Phillies. Then he came back five days later and struggled against the Phils, before consecutive negative performances, totally nearly -50 points. Then with a nice soft bounceback opportunity at Oakland he was merely bad instead of atrociously terribly horrifically awful. Progress?

Unlike the two above him, I am recommending holding firm with Lodolo. First, his performance has not been quite as bad as it looks. His xFIP is 3.39 and his SIERA is 3.28. His K%-BB% is 24.1%. That is an improvement over his 2022 and puts him in the top-10 among MLB starters. He has given up some hard contact (he is also top-10 in barrel-rate allowed), but that doesn’t (fully) explain a .450 BABIP or 25.8% HR/FB rate.

Better days are ahead. I do think at this point we need to be concerned about the home runs – he had an inflated 15.1% HR/FB rate last year and his home park isn’t doing him any favors – but Lodolo is an easy hold or buy low for me. The skills are still strong and the results will return.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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