Buying or Selling Marcell Ozuna and the Hottest and Coldest Streaks in MLB

0 of 10Kathy Willens/Associated PressSlumps and hot streaks are parts of baseball. Every MLB player, from Hall of Famers to replacement-level scrubs, experiences both. Sometimes they’re predictive of long-term results. Other times, not so much.Let’s examine some of the hottest and coldest hitters in the game right now, focusing especially on results over the past…

Buying or Selling Marcell Ozuna and the Hottest and Coldest Streaks in MLB

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Slumps and hot streaks are parts of baseball. Every MLB player, from Hall of Famers to replacement-level scrubs, experiences both. Sometimes they’re predictive of long-term results. Other times, not so much.

    Let’s examine some of the hottest and coldest hitters in the game right now, focusing especially on results over the past seven days, and determine whether we’re buying or selling that scalding or frigid production.

    This is a subjective exercise, but we’ll use past results and an assessment of each player’s skill to make the determinations.

    In each case, “buying” means we predict the player will either stay hot or keep scuffling for the foreseeable future, and “selling” indicates the opposite.

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Last seven days: 3-for-19, 0 XBH, 3 SO

    Nolan Arenado hasn’t been bad this season. He’s swatted seven home runs and tallied 22 RBI. But for a Colorado Rockies team that’s clinging to the edge of the National League playoff race, he hasn’t been his usual exemplary self.

    That’s been especially true over the past seven days as Arenado has collected just three hits, all singles, in 19 at-bats.

    Overall, he carried a pedestrian .253/.307/.445 slash line into play on Monday. 

    “With Nolan, like a lot of hitters, his timing is off. He’s a little jumpy in the box. Some of the things that happen to hitters,” manager Bud Black told reporters.

    Colorado needs Arenado to get it going posthaste if it’s going to make an October run. Given his track record, we’ll bet on the 29-year-old five-time All-Star doing exactly that.

    Verdict: Selling

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Last seven days: 9-for-18, 4 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI

    On Sept. 1, Alex Dickerson hit three home runs and two doubles and tied the San Francisco Giants’ franchise record for total bases with 16 in a 23-5 blowout of the Colorado Rockies.

    In all, Dickerson has hit .500 over the past seven days with seven extra-base hits.

    The 30-year-old is no stranger to hot streaks. In 2019, he posted a 1.222 OPS with six homers in his first 30 games with the Giants before an oblique strain put him on the injured list.

    Dickerson has played in four big league seasons with San Francisco and the San Diego Padres since debuting in 2015. He’s never logged more than 68 games in a single campaign or hit more than 10 home runs.

    The Giants should obviously ride his bat as long as they can while trying to snag a postseason berth, but chances are Dickerson will come back to Earth.

    Verdict: Selling

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Last seven days: 2-for-19, 0 XBH, 5 SO

    Josh Bell hit 37 home runs with 116 RBI and a .936 OPS for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019, made his first All-Star team and looked like a player on the ascent.

    So far in 2019, he has failed to build on that momentum.

    In 37 games, the 28-year-old is hitting just .197. Over the past seven days, he’s managed two singles in 19 at-bats with five strikeouts.

    Part of the problem is that Bell has been chasing pitches. His swinging-strike rate sits at 15.8 percent, compared to 11.1 percent last season.

    “I think that if I command the strike zone just a little bit better, that I would force them into the zone,” he told reporters. “I think my chase rate is a little bit up from last year. Just about not missing the pitches that are in the zone and staying off the ones that are underneath or are a bit away.”

    That seems like an adjustment Bell is capable of making. Considering what he did in ’19, we’ll bank on him rebounding and offering a bright spot down the stretch for the last-place Bucs.

    Verdict: Selling

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Last seven days: 8-for-20, 1 3B, 3 HR, 4 RBI

    On Aug. 16, Garrett Hampson was hitting .321 through 16 games with the Rockies. By Aug. 31, his average had dropped to .247.

    Hampson has heated up again for the Rox in September, however, and has collected eight hits in his last 20 at-bats, including a triple and three home runs.

    Overall, the 25-year-old has an .817 OPS in 34 games and has logged innings at shortstop, second base, left field and center field.

    He’s undoubtedly a valuable utility player. But his hot and cold spells this season, along with the .247/.302/.385 slash line he posted in 105 contests last year, suggest the streaky highs will inevitably be moderated by some lows.

    Verdict: Selling

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    Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

    Last seven days: 2-for-18, 0 XBH, 8 SO

    A first-round pick (ninth overall) by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, Austin Meadows broke out with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019 by posting 33 homers and a .922 OPS.

    Thus far in 2020, he’s struggled with a .220 average and .694 OPS. Over the last seven days, he’s tallied only two hits in 18 at-bats with eight strikeouts.

    The Rays are in first place in the American League East in spite of Meadows’ poor showing, but they’d obviously be better off if he rediscovered his ’19 stroke.

    There are positive signs for the 25-year-old, including his 43.3 percent hard-contact rate, which is even better than last year’s 42.4 percent. If he keeps striking the ball with authority, the hits will eventually start falling.

    Verdict: Selling

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Last seven days: 12-for-23, 3 2B, 5 HR, 13 RBI

    After rejecting the St. Louis Cardinals’ $17.8 million qualifying offer, Marcell Ozuna wound up signing an almost identical one-year, $18 million show-me pact with Atlanta.

    So far, it’s working out well for both sides. Atlanta has a middle-of-the-order bat on a relatively reasonable deal, and Ozuna is swinging his way toward a bigger payday this winter.

    The 29-year-old is hitting .320 with a 1.062 OPS. Over the last seven days, he’s gone 12-for-23 with three doubles and five homers and has knocked in 13 runs.

    On Sept. 1, he became the first National League player in history to swat three dingers at Fenway Park in a 10-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

    “You love to see a guy like that get it going because they literally can carry you,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker told reporters.

    Ozuna hit .241 in 130 games with St. Louis in 2019, but he posted a .924 OPS and picked up down-ballot MVP votes as recently as 2017 with the Miami Marlins. He’s 29 years old and playing for a contract. Expect the knocks to keep coming.

    Verdict: Buying

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Last seven days: 1-for-26, 0 XBH, 1 SO

    Whit Merrifield’s name has churned through the trade-deadline rumor mill dating at least as far back as December 2019, but the versatile veteran remained a member of the Kansas City Royals.

    Lately, he has not been a very productive member.

    In his last 26 at-bats, Merrifield has notched just one base hit. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s “good” for an .038 average.

    Overall, he’s slashing .248/.302/.424, which would be full-season career lows almost across the board. The only exception came during his rookie year in 2016 when he posted a .392 slugging percentage over 81 games.

    OK, now the good news. Merrifield’s .246 batting average on balls in play is well below his career mark of .303, while his 38.3 percent hard-contact rate is above his career average of 35.6 percent. 

    Add the fact that he’s paced baseball in hits during each of the past two seasons and it’s reasonable to expect the 31-year-old to rediscover his groove soon.

    Verdict: Selling

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Last seven days: 6-for-18, 2 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBI

    Eugenio Suarez went 3-for-4 with three home runs on Saturday in a 6-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates and has gone six for his last 18 with four homers and eight RBI.

    It’s a welcome hot streak from a player who cracked 49 home runs with a .930 OPS for the Cincinnati Reds last season but is hitting just .204 this time around.

    “He can hit, huh?” Reds left-hander Amir Garrett asked reporters after Suarez’s three-homer game. “That’s sick. I know he’s been struggling a little bit, but we’re getting a glimpse of the Geno we know.”

    It couldn’t come at a better time for a Cincinnati club trying to fight its way into the postseason. And considering his .188 batting average on balls in play is well off his .310 career average, we’ll guess it keeps on coming for the 29-year-old third baseman.

    Verdict: Buying

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Last seven days: 2-for-22, 1 HR, 8 SO

    Luis Robert has lived up to the hype with the Chicago White Sox, going from touted prospect to AL Rookie of the Year and possibly even MVP contender with his combination of power, speed and highlight-reel defense.

    Lately, though, the 23-year-old has hit a rough patch. He’s collected just two hits in his last 22 at-bats (though one of them was a home run) and has struck out eight times.

    It happens, even to the great ones. There is no reason for ChiSox fans to panic—or even sweat. Their team is squarely in the AL playoff picture, and Robert is an emerging star.

    “I can’t say enough good things about him,” White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito told reporters. “The stuff you guys don’t see—how much work he puts in, how much he wants to learn, how much he wants to get better. He’s an unbelievable player. He’s only going to get better.” 

    Verdict: Selling

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Last seven days: 8-for-16, 3 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI

    Mike Trout is the best baseball player on the planet until further notice. Lately, he’s really looked the part.

    Trout has gone six for his last 18, with all of those hits going for extra bases and three of them clearing the wall. He has an MLB-leading 15 home runs and smacked the 300th of his career on Saturday, setting a Los Angeles Angels franchise record.

    The Halos have won seven of their last 10 but sit at 17-25, stuck in fourth place in the AL West and only boasting a slim chance of making the postseason.

    That’s a shame because they’re wasting another typically superlative season from their all-world center fielder.

    Verdict: Buying

    All statistics current as of Monday and courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.