If you’re like many fantasy baseball owners, you entered drafts believing you could pass on certain top-flight first basemen and snag Aguilar after the upper-echelon players came off the board. There’s no denying Jesus Aguilar’s power after 2018 saw him slash .274/.352/.539 with 35 home runs and 108 RBI. Add in an All-Star appearance, and he was arguably one of the best late-round draft selections or free agent acquisitions. I’d go as far as saying no one expected Aguilar’s monster 2018 season after seeing Eric Thames smash 31 home runs the season prior. Still, 2019 has been a dreadful start for Aguilar, and an even more frustrating start for his fantasy owners. This week, I want to focus on Aguilar’s issues, and what can be done to right the ship in, “That’s Amore!” The Frustration Grows with Jesus Aguilar.
When we think of struggling hitters, numerous times we automatically assume they’re striking out frequently, and rightfully so. However, this isn’t the case with Aguilar. Entering Sunday, Aguilar had 17 strikeouts and K% of 23.0%. During 2017 and 2018 seasons, Aguilar had a strikeout percentage of 27.75%. Looking specifically at 2018, this number was lower yet as Aguilar finished the season with strikeout percentage of 25.3%. Clearly, an increase in strikeouts hasn’t occurred for Aguilar. So, what has caused Aguilar’s early season struggles? Below, I have three charts breaking down a three-year span. The first chart, goes over overall stats, followed by Aguilar’s batted balls statistics and finally ends with his overall contact percentages.
As I mentioned earlier, Aguilar has posted a highly respectable strikeout percentage. Even if the small sample size of 30.2% from 2017 was a question mark, he quickly put that to bed in 2018. Even during his minor league career he posted a solid K% of 22.2% coupled with a walk percentage of 11%. His early professional number have mimicked his minor league statistics in terms of strikeouts and walks. Looking at his batting average on balls in player (BABIP), we can automatically see that there is a case of bad luck. Even though last season’s .309 BABIP didn’t see him among the leaders in MLB, his 2019 BABIP .196 is on-par with Anthony Rizzo and Starling Marte who have had their own share of early-season struggles. One thing we know for sure, this won’t last all season. I guarantee he’s about as frustrated as one can be, but there will be bloopers that fall, line drives on the infield that find holes, and eventual winds that help keep balls fair.
Looking at his batted ball percentages, we can get a better sense of the bad luck that’s been on Aguilar’s side. His LD%, GB%, and FB% have been similar to his 2017 and 2018 seasons with a small dip in FB% and minute increase in GB%. Can these play factors in his struggles? Absolutely. While Aguilar’s LD% is 2.4% higher than last season, the fact that his GB% is up 1.6% and FB% is down 4.4% can directly aid in some of the bad luck he’s having. If we add in the fact his Soft% is up 6.4% from 2017-2018 and it’s easy to see why certain balls he hit aren’t going for base hits. A hitter simply can’t afford to make weak contact and expect balls to find patches of grass where there are no fielders. On the opposite side, with his Soft% seeing an increase, his Hard% has seen a decrease of nearly 5%. This leads me to believe that a lot of Aguilar’s struggles entail not making solid contact. Even so, there’s no a lot of discrepancy in his Pull%, Cent%, and Oppo% from a season ago. If anything, he’s tried taking what the pitchers have given him and using the opposite part of the field.
Other than contact percentages, what else ails Aguilar? One bright spot is the decrease at swings outside the zone. This number is down 2.7% from last season. Two numbers that stick out greatly are Aguilar’s decrease in Z-Contact% (swings at pitches inside the hitting zone) and overall Contact%. His Z-Contact% is down 6.8% while his Contact% is down 5.2% from a season ago. Looking even deeper, his first-pitch strike (F-Strike%) is up nearly 4.1% from 2018 and his SwStr% has gone up nearly 3% from 12.4% in 2018 to 15.3% in 2019. This tells us that not only is he missing more pitches when swinging, but he’s allowing the pitcher to get ahead of him early during at-bats. To really tie this together, Aguilar’s had 10 at-bats start at 0-1, six at 0-2, and 13 at-bats in 1-2 counts. It’s nearly impossible to be extremely selective in these counts, and I can guarantee pitchers will do everything in their power to make sure they don’t make pitches Aguilar looks for, after reading numerous times through scouting reports, during these three counts. He’s also seeing fewer fastballs and more sliders than a season ago. Again, this could be directly correlated to his seeing more at-bats with first-pitch strikes than last year.
How can Aguilar get through this early-season slump? Looking into the numbers, there have been subtle increases/decreases with certain measurables. As a whole, he needs to make better contact when pitches are in the zone. First-pitch strikes can easily be a main factor to his early woes. There is a lot of bad luck going on as, again, his batted ball percentages are very similar to 2018. Still, overall plate discipline isn’t a concern as he’s had five at-bats of 3-2 counts, and six plate appearances at 3-0 or 3-1. It’s only a matter of time before he hits his first home run, and goes onto a tear. One factor that has no number is pressing at the plate, and before/during games. No one likes to struggle, and I promise you it’s in his head. There have been times when he’s made great contact, but hit the ball right at a defensive player. We saw similar struggles, in 2018, with Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo and they went on to have very solid seasons. With Milwaukee looking to win the National League Central for a second-straight season, and Christian Yelich looking to repeat as the NL MVP, it’s only a matter of time before Jesus Aguilar arrives to the party.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Cole Freel, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday April 18th, 2019 from 7:30-9pm EST for episode #152 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Cole and Kyle will discuss the latest happenings in the world of MLB and fantasy. They will take a look back on the previous few days and a preview of the coming weekend. Including spot starts, bullpens, offense, and minor league players.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Cole Freel live on Sunday April 21st, 2019 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #153 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. We will discuss spot starters for the coming week, plus a weekend update, and look ahead to next week.