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Patience by the Bay

Good things come to those who wait. But if you were one of the many fantasy owners depending on Jason Bay, no one would have blamed you for cutting bait on the 32-year-old outfielder earlier this season. Expected to be fully recovered from a concussion suffered last season, Bay was a sleeper candidate entering 2011. Unfortunately, Bay’s struggles at Citi Field continued, and he never appeared fully recovered from his concussion. After an 0-5 performance on July 26th, Bay’s slash line fell to a putrid .227/.314/.319. At that point, no one would have blinked an eye if you had cut bait. Since then, however, Bay has experienced a bit of a rebound. Though it’s an incredibly small sample, Bay may be inching back towards respectability.

Due to his recent success, Bay has been one of the most added players in ESPN leagues. In the seventeen games since his low point, Bay has hit .333/.397/.545. It’s a tiny sample, but it also shows what Bay is capable of if he is finally over his injuries. Very few players on the waiver wire have the upside of Bay, so he may be worth a speculative pickup if he’s still on the wire in your league.

A look at Bay’s splits tells us that –while he’s been much better in August — there’s hasn’t been a huge change in his performance. Luck dragons have been at play; as Bay’s BABIP has rebounded a bit this month. His walk and strikeout rates have remained fairly consistent as well. All told, there’s not all that much in Bay’s August splits that reveal why he’s been on his recent surge.

The one area where we might be able to draw some conclusions is in his batted ball data. Bay’s line drive rate is up this month; suggesting that maybe he’s squaring up the ball and making better contact. Bay also appears to be getting more loft on his swing; leading to a season-high fly ball rate this month. Those extra fly balls seem to be traveling farther as well; as Bay has managed a 20% HR/FB rate this month. While he won’t be able to sustain that rate, it’s a sign that his power — which has gone missing for a year and a half — may finally be returning. That alone warrants a pickup in most leagues.

That being said, it’s still important to temper your expectations with Bay. The sample is small, and his recent track record doesn’t provide a whole lot of confidence, but it’s unlikely there are many players on the waiver wire with Bay’s upside. If anything, he’s worth a speculative pickup. If he can return to form, you just gained a great player at a huge discount. If not, he’s easily cuttable. At this point in the season, there’s likely not a whole lot of upside out on the wire in your leagues. Taking a shot on Bay may seem desperate, but the rewards far outweigh the risks at this point.