Is Rickie Weeks a bounce-back candidate?

Rickie Weeks continues to be one of fantasy baseball’s most frustrating players. While he was one of the best offensive second baseman in 2010 and 2011, injuries and ineffectiveness have marred his numbers every other season. Weeks did little to silence his critics in 2013, putting up a career-worst .299 wOBA. His struggles couldn’t have come at a worse time, as Scooter Gennett proved to be an intriguing player despite some luck-aided numbers. Weeks will enter his age-31 season at the nadir of his value. Does that make him a buy-low?

A quick look at Weeks’ BABIP might lead some to project a nice rebound for the second baseman. There’s some validity to that notion. Weeks’ .268 BABIP was the lowest of his career, and contributed to a career-low .209/.306/.357 slash line. At the same time, he showed some pretty legitimate issues. Weeks’ awful 26.3% strikeout rate doesn’t provide much confidence that his average will rise above .240 going forward. Since Weeks has always been a low-average hitter, he didn’t have much to give up in this area. His on-base percentage, typically one of his strongest assets, wasn’t useful last year due to his struggles. Even more concerning than his strikeout rate was Weeks’ inability to hit a fastball.

This is the most troubling aspect of Weeks’ value going forward. As a hitter, Weeks has thrived on destroying fastballs. Over his career, Weeks has a 79.0 pitch value against fastballs. The only other pitch he has a positive value against is the changeup. Even during his down 2012, Weeks still was able to post a 5.8 pitch value against fastballs. He completely collapsed in 2013, posting a -5.2 pitch value against fastballs. Power was a huge problem as well. Weeks hit just three home runs on “hard” pitches, according to Brooksbaseball.net. The previous three seasons, Weeks had hit 16, 19 and 19 home runs on “hard” pitches.

This is particularly troubling considering Weeks’ age. It’s certainly plausible that his bat speed is declining. His power numbers against off-speed pitches could confirm this theory. Weeks has never been particularly strong against breaking pitches, but managed to hit five home runs on off-speed pitches in 452 opportunities. In 867 chances in 2012, he hit four home runs. It doesn’t look like Weeks improved against breaking balls at age-30, and could instead be linked to having a slower bat. Instead of mashing fastballs, Weeks may have declined to having a slider-speed bat. Now, it could just be that Weeks had an off year, but the threat of a declining bat speed becomes a threat considering his age.

On top of that, Gennett should have a role next season. There’s already been talk that he’s ahead of Weeks on the team’s depth chart. Given his age and declining numbers, Weeks isn’t going to cost a high draft pick even in a full-time role. While that might make him a decent late-round pick, there’s enough here to be concerned about his ability to produce moving forward. There’s little risk in taking a shot on him late, but he’s not going to deliver on that promise unless he figures out how to hit fastballs again.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


4 Responses to “Is Rickie Weeks a bounce-back candidate?”

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  1. DC says:

    I suffered through most of the past season with Weeks as my 2B on my dynasty team. I had fairly large expectations for him coming in since I was coming off a run to the championship round the previous season in which he had a large part. Starting the 2012 season he was coming off of a pretty severe ankle injury so I figured he’d start out slow and boy did he. But the second half of 2012 was a different story. He went in beast mode and finished 2012 with a bang. So I figured he was finally healthy and ready to put up a big season in 2013. But I kept waiting and waiting and…nothing. The Brewers as a whole were down with Braun doing his thing and Aramis being injured often, so maybe that had something to do with his stink. I’m hoping for a better showing next season, but I’m not holding my breath.

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  2. Ruki Motomiya says:

    No.

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  3. Bob says:

    I was just thinking that the Blue Jays could try picking him up. If the Blue Jays are willing to take on the contract, he has 1 guaranteed year left ($11m) and has a vesting/club option for 2015 (at $11.5m).

    If that was the case, I would imagine that Milwaukee can’t ask too much in return, seeing that it’s suppose to be a buy-low move, but Milwaukee can still benefit from the salary dump.

    Meanwhile, Toronto can use an upgrade at 2B. Even if it’s only for the short term, I can see Weeks being a decently good fit, moving to a friendlier hitting environment (as the AL East is mostly hitters’ parks).

    It could work out well for both sides.

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  4. Spa City says:

    Sure he is. He walks in more than 10% of his plate appearances and still showed moderate power when he managed to hit the ball this year. It would be unreasonable to expect another 5+ WAR season from him. But if he gets his BABIP even close to .300 he should be good for a .350 OBP with decent power for a middle infielder. That would not make him Matt Carpenter, but it would make him Neil Walker. I would call that a “bounce back.”

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