After an injury-riddled summer prior to his debut in an Atlanta Braves uniform, Nick Markakis struggled to generate power during the 2015 season. He posted a career-worst .080 ISO across nearly 700 plate appearances, and there were widespread reports indicating that Markakis' body never fully recovered its strength following offseason neck surgery.
Still, Markakis was able to bring value to the table by way of a .370 on-base percentage in his first season with the Braves, and in advance of the 2016 season, both the player and the team were confident that the veteran outfielder was capable of more in the power department. Through the first 12 games of the 2016 season, it looked as if Markakis was back to his old self.
The now 32-year-old exploded out of the gate with nine doubles and a .333/.423/.533 slash line in the team's first 12 games, and Markakis was generally squaring the ball up in encouraging fashion. On cue, most of Braves Country began to buy in on a potential power resurgence, even if it did not come in the form of home runs.
Unfortunately, that optimism is waning considerably and with good reason.
Since that 12-game sample to begin the year, the power has utterly vanished for Markakis. Over the next 37 games (35 starts), the right fielder posted an ugly .217/.327/.275 slash line with only five doubles, and Markakis has been a negative contributor despite a walk rate north of 10 percent.
While it is still "early" in the 2016 campaign, the two stretches combine to paint a bit of a disturbing picture for a player that is, fairly or unfairly, characterized as Atlanta's number two bat behind Freddie Freeman. Through Memorial Day, Nick Markakis boasts an .093 ISO with a .339 slugging percentage, and while (again) his on-base percentage is more than acceptable at .350, it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that the veteran will ever produce significantly above-average offensive value again.
Perhaps the bigger issue, though, is in the entire package of Markakis' contributions. His offense, on its own, is probably acceptable simply because Atlanta can deploy a player that will get on base 35 percent of the time at the top of the lineup. However, Markakis is a below-average (to be kind) defensive outfielder at this point, and as he occupies a position traditionally associated with power offensively, that is a glaring issue moving forward.
In the long term, Markakis could reasonably earn his $11 million per year salary by avoiding additional decline, and the contract is not disastrous unless he continues to slide. Still, his glove no longer plays in right field, and in an outfield occupied by Ender Inciarte and Mallex Smith, something has to give in the power department.
Nick Markakis remains a functional MLB option in the lineup, but as evidenced by his -0.3 fWAR and 0.3 bWAR, that functionality doesn't translate into real positive value given his current level of power. At the age of 32, there is also real question about whether that power will be returning.