Don’t You Forget About Me

There are some songs that remain infamous for their lyrics, their rhythm, and their music videos. They remain important in the very fabric of popular culture for things within the songs that are said, done, and instrumentally performed. However, coinciding with that, there are also certain songs that are used within movies that, throughout time, remain synonymous with that film whenever they are heard. For me, personally, when I hear “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds, I immediately think of one of the greatest movies of my generation, The Breakfast Club. It’s a movie about five high school students that come together and not only define the stereotypes within society, but also challenge them to show that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to people as a whole.

Without getting too much into detail about this classic tale, I wanted to relate to you The Breakfast Club of Fantasy Baseball heading into 2021, as there are players that are screaming of value in the sense that they seem to be forgotten in drafts. Whether or not they opted out due to the Coronavirus, were suspended, or were injured for most, if not all, of 2020 due to injury, these are players that need to be remembered come draft day because they can help you build a fantasy baseball lineup next season. Essentially, these players are screaming out to you right now: Don’t You Forget About Me!

Note: ADP numbers used are from December 1, 2020 until time of writing, in the beginning of January 2021.

 

David Price, SP Los Angeles Dodgers – aka John Bender

 

In the movie, John Bender is someone who is under-appreciated by the people around him, despite the fact that he has a certain set of skills and characteristics that make him unique and important. Throughout the movie provides a more than valuable return in our viewing investment as a vital part. This is David Price.

 

Background

 

Finishing up in 2019, the then 34-year-old veteran finished the season with the following stats: 7-5, 3.62 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 27.9% K-rate and a 7.0% BB-rate. Considering he played his games at Fenway Park, in the AL East, and during the year of the “juiced baseball”, it was a successful campaign that also saw him record six or more strikeouts ten times. Despite sustaining a minor injury late in the season, he still returned to pitch two shut out innings in September, which was promising for any concerns of his health. Later that off-season, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers as a part of the Mookie Betts deal, and was ultimately dealt as a part of a salary dump by his former team. It was, however, a ballpark upgrade for him, as Dodger Stadium is a slightly better pitchers ballpark and the competition within the division would be more favorable.

 

Going Forward

 

All that aside, from a fantasy perspective, David Price comes with some upside that needs to be acknowledged. Don’t let the Percentile Rankings on his Statcast page fool you, since 2019 was a unique season as everyone was hitting the ball hard and far all year. David Price has long secured himself as a pitcher with good command and control, with below league average walk rates and above league average strikeout rates.

 

 

While we can ignore the first half of the above graphs, what important to note is that, outside of 2017, he’s shown an innate ability to keep the ball in the strike zone, limit the amount of free passes, and strike batters out. Added to that, some interesting numbers here as well:

 

 

Since his struggles in his 2017 season with the Red Sox, his velocity has decreased steadily over the past three years, which is natural with age. However, what he lacks in speed, he’s more than made up in movement, as he’s figured out a way to still maintain his relevance. He finished 2019 with a K/9 of 10.7, which, for pitchers with a minimum of 100 innings pitched, would have ranked him just behind Luis Castillo and ahead of Lance Lynn. He also finished 2019 with a 2.7 BB/9, which under the same qualifications, puts him just ahead of Yu Darvish and just behind Charlie Morton. Again, those are 2019 comparisons, but they were pitchers that had successful seasons.

There is some risk to David Price heading into 2020. While Dodger Stadium is a slight upgrade in terms of an overall pitcher’s park standard, it doesn’t play as well to home runs, and thus, Price’s 1.3 HR/9 could actually increase. As such, his ERA and WHIP could go up a bit. However, he should receive plenty of run support as he plays for your 2020 World Series Champions who look to be getting better for next season. He also has the advantage of not playing against American League East teams as often (if at all), and whose only real ballpark X-Factor would be Coors Field. Currently he is being taken as the 177th pick in ADP, or the 65th pitcher off the board, right in between Trevor Rosenthal and Aaron Civale. At that price, pun intended, he’s someone destined to return value, as, after a year of rest, he should be able to improve on wins and continue to use movement to help compensate for his aging arm and lack of velocity. With a proven track record of success, he’s at worst an SP4 on your team, with the potential for much more. The risk involved here is that there is no certainty to him returning at all in 2021, as reports have indicated that he hasn’t yet made a decision. Keep an eye on that and watch his draft price rise if he chooses to play this season.

 

Mike Soroka, SP Atlanta Braves – aka Brian Johnson

 

In the movie, Brian Johnson is the boy who felt the pressures of having to bear the load of his surroundings. He’s someone who had to overcome the adversity of having to be more than he is. This was Mike Soroka in 2019 and 2020.

 

Background

Soroka finished his 2019 campaign with an incredible amount of praise, as he ended up with a 13-4 record, while posting a 2.65 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP over 172 innings pitched. On the surface, those were fantastic numbers for the rookie as he was an All-Star, while finishing 6th in Cy Young voting and 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting. He came into 2020 with a ton of promise, but wound up tearing his achilles tendon early in the season, thus ending his 2020 campaign. While the pain and anguish he suffered on a physical level was excruciating, fantasy-wise he returned little to nothing in return on any investment made as well, which made it a tough pill to swallow.

 

Going Forward

 

Heading into the 2020 season, I picked Soroka as someone who would be a potential bust, given the cost. While the numbers he posted were incredible, he still lacked the strikeout production for where he was being drafted, which was within the top 25 pitchers off the board. In fact, all throughout his minor league career, he excelled at limiting his walks, but he was never a strikeout pitcher.

 

 

For where he was going, as an SP2 on many teams, he was bound to fail in some capacity and not bring back appropriate value. I didn’t think he wouldn’t have had enough strikeouts to help sustain his cost, and would have needed to adjust to the adjustments being made on him to remain at his 2019 form. As a result, he would have had to have been something more than he was meant to be in order to return value on his cost in drafts.

Heading into 2021, however, he can easily be more than he is expected to be, if we are judging him based on where he is going in drafts. Right now, with a 170 ADP, he is listed as the 62nd pitcher off the board, right in between Tyler Mahle and German Marquez. Do you trust him to be back and fully healthy in 2021? Let’s have a look.

As a somewhat similar comparison, three years ago, right after the 2017 season, Zach Britton had surgery for his Achilles tendon injury and returned in June the following year. Two years prior to that in 2015, Adam Wainwright tore his Achilles tendon, and was back to pitching in the majors in only five months. While this was ahead of schedule, he did say that it took him about ten months to pitch pain-free.

 

Adam Wainwright also tore his left Achilles in 2015. His injury was in late-April, and Wainwright was actually back pitching at the end of September that same season – five months later. But it was the next spring, almost 10 months after his injury, when Wainwright was pitching pain free. Soroka will have an extensive rehab program after his surgery. Most medical predictions will have a 9-12 month recovery period, so it would take Soroka seven months to be ready to start by March 1.

 

Mike Soroka, if he were to be ready for a normal Opening Day, would have had six months until about the time Pitchers and Catchers would begin, and about eight months until the 2021 season started. With a potential delay to the 2021 season, this could give Soroka additional time to heal. The injury occurred on his landing foot, not his planting foot, which should hopefully make it a bit easier for a full and speedy recovery. Another promising fact is that this is not an arm/shoulder/elbow injury, but rather a lower-body injury, maintaining his upper body stability. On top of that positivity, even more promising news came out just recently:

 

 

For where he is being drafted, he could essentially be your third or fourth drafted starter with the potential to return the value of at worst your third starter. Given his situation and talent, he’s a safe bet to give you stability in wins, WHIP and probably ERA. There is a chance that he could be a bit rusty, so monitoring this in Spring Training is crucial. He could be a little off in his release in the sense that he’d be cautious about landing on his leg. There is also the possibility that he will be pitching under some pain, minor or more. That said, there is the potential for a lot of value right here and right now. Chances are he comes back as the pitcher many thought he would be in 2020, yet his ADP indicates to me that his price means that he is on sale right now. Perfect timing as we are still a few months away from when most people start to draft, as you can get him at about 40% off. Act now, because it’s a limited time offer.

 

Lorenzo Cain – OF Milwaukee Brewers, aka Allison Reynolds

 

In the movie, Allison is ignored by her parents and everyone around her, despite having to be characteristically unique with a ton of charisma. This is Lorenzo Cain.

 

Background

Lorenzo Cain was seemingly forgotten this year among the players who decided to opt-out. It’s hard to blame him, or anyone for opting out, but his timing came alongside when the St. Louis Cardinals were having their breakout problems, and little was known about how the season would progress. He wound up only recording 18 at-bats and connecting for six hits while driving in three runs. Nothing special, but it was a good start. That won’t come into play here as we look towards 2021.

 

Going Forward

 

Lorenzo Cain comes into the 2021 season a long track record of good speed and light power melded together nicely. In fact, one has to look back to his sophomore season to see where he wasn’t an important part of the steals category.

 

And while his 2019 is a concern, he still managed to steal 18 bases, which put him in the Top 25 in all of baseball. Add to that, he comes in with a long track record of showing good plate discipline.

 

 

Ignoring the extremely small sample that is 2020, he puts a lot of contact on the ball, in and out of the zone. His ground ball rate of 50.9% in 2019 is a bit concerning, because, as he turns 35 by the time the season starts, he won’t be able to leg out as many infield singles or extend plays into extra-base hits as in the past. Will this lead to a decline in his overall production in steals? It may. However, he is being drafted currently as the 241st player off the board in NFC drafts. There are many question marks around him on this board:

 

 

Assuming your drafts go somewhat accordingly to this ADP, who around here do you trust? There are injury concerns, playing time concerns, regression concerns and more. One of the hardest things to find in drafts is speed. Most of the late-in-draft players available with speed don’t have the batting average track record to support their value, thus making them a lame duck for your team. I see Lorenzo Cain as someone who can maintain himself a .275 batting average and potentially get you 15 steals this upcoming season while playing in a good hitter’s ballpark and playing for a competitive team. Don’t forget about him as you’re finalizing your roster, especially if you need some late-round steals.

 

Domingo German – SP New York Yankees aka Andrew Clark

 

In the movie, Andrew Clark was in detention for his physical actions and was punished. This is Domingo German.

 

Background

 

Let me start by saying this. I do not condone Domingo German’s actions, nor am I making light of it here whatsoever. His off-the-field domestic violence was disgusting and despicable and there is no turning back from it. The movie The Breakfast Club is nowhere near the seriousness of what happened here in real-life, and the parallels that I am making reference to here are merely the use of one’s hands on another person and being punished. That is all. The truth of the matter is that German has served his punishment (whether we feel he has served enough is another story) and now he is able to return to playing baseball. I will only be discussing his future outlook on the field, nothing more. I do hope that the real-life people involved in this ugly situation are okay moving forward and that any and all justice can be had.

 

Going Forward

 

Before his suspension, Domingo German made some great steps forward for the Yankees in 2019, which was the year of the “juiced ball”. His 18-4 record was tied for 4th in all of baseball, despite a solid 9.6 K/9, which translates to a 25.8% strikeout rate. It was encouraging that he didn’t lose much velocity at all through his first season over 124 innings pitched, and actually gained significant velocity in 2019’s final month of the season. He had an up and down season too, as he started off very strong, but hitters made adjustments to him and started to wait a bit before swinging at anything.

 

 

His batting average against all year isn’t something that exudes confidence going forward, but we have to remember that this was the year of the juiced ball and everyone was hitting. What’s more is that, his rough June numbers were predicated by the fact that hitters were seeing his pitches more clearly and weren’t chasing at anything outside of the strike zone. What good pitchers do is make adjustments, and that’s what German did, as he added more spin to his pitches. As a result, more and more pitches were being chased.

 

 

And when it was all said and done, it was his Curveball, which was thrown 36.1% of the time, that dominated hitters all season long, especially when he added more spin rate late in the season. In fact, in September, he had a xBA of .178 when using the Curveball and had his highest average velocity of the pitch that month.

 

 

As of right now, he possesses an ADP of 310, but that comes with a bit of uncertainty. Will he pitch for the Yankees next year? Will he pitch for another team? Will he pitch at all? If I were a betting man, I’d say that he pitches for the Yankees again in 2021. They gave Aroldis Chapman a second chance, and I would venture that they do the same for him too. Management has said that he’s a changed man, and technically speaking, there have been no official charges laid against German. It’s hard to tell if something will come of it, but if he does wear a Yankees uniform next season and pitches, remember him come draft time.

 

Emmanuel Clase – RP Cleveland Indians aka Claire Standish

 

In the movie, Claire comes across as the one who is on top of the world because she feels on top of the world, but deep down inside, feels the pressure of maintaining that status, and ultimately crumbles. This is Emmanual Clase.

 

Background

 

After being traded to the Cleveland Indians, Clase was being touted as the future closer of the team, but then was found to have tested positive for PED’s and was given an 80 game suspension for the 2020 season. It was revised later on by Major League Baseball to cover just the shortened 60 game season, thus making him eligible to return in 2021.

 

Going Forward

 

Despite missing all of 2020, Emmanuel Clase still has the stuff to become the closer for the Indians in the future. Despite it being a very short sample, he did record almost a strikeout per inning and found himself with a productive 23.1 innings for the Texas Rangers.

 

 

The scouting report on Clase is that he has a cannon for an arm, as his fastball can reach triple digits. He gets good movement on it too, which makes it very tough to hit. He demolished minor league pitching in 2019, as he had a 40% K%BB% in A+ before being promoted to Double-A. When he got the call to the Rangers, he still maintained an impressive 22.3% K% in his limited time with the big league club.

 

 

Clase’s fastball has climbed from the upper 80s when he signed at age 16 to the mid-90s when he joined the Rangers to regularly topping triple digits last season. It now ranges from 97-102 mph, but what makes it unique is crazy cutting and riding action that makes it almost impossible for hitters to barrel. He can overpower hitters with an upper-80s slider with depth at times, though it sometimes flattens out into a slurve.

 

What this means for him in 2021 is this: James Karinchak as undoubtedly secured himself the closer’s job in Cleveland. He had an incredible 2020 season and looks poised to become their go-to-guy in the ninth inning. However, if you play in a holds league, an AL Only league or in a deep enough league where you can back up any closer that you invest in, Clase is the guy for you. I believe he’ll be in high-leverage situations going forward as they’ll be grooming him for the closer’s job in the future, or in case Karinchak doesn’t keep the job due to performance or injury. He’s talented enough to help you rack up strikeouts and should be good enough to keep your ratios down. He’s being drafted with a 458 ADP right now but has the potential in some leagues to be a bonafide stud. In dynasty leagues, he needs to be owned and stashed, due to his massive potential in a volatile position of need.

Introducing the Data Monster

This offseason at RotoFanatic we have been working on a number of different items to help make you a better Fantasy Baseball player. One such idea has been teased by myself on Twitter as well as on our different podcasts. This is what we are affectionately calling, The Data Monster.

 

What Is The Data Monster?

(more…)

Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

Now that both the 2020 MLB regular season and postseason have come to an end, we can start to look ahead towards 2021 by reflecting back on what we saw in order to anticipate what we can expect. However, with it being such a short and unique situation this year, in order to be prepared for next year, we have to really dig a little deeper in order to help predict future results. There are so many variables to consider for the results we just witnessed, some of which may or may not be in play next year:

  1. Will the Designated Hitter remain intact for both the American and National Leagues?
  2. Will the divisions play only teams with the same geographical designations?
  3. Will we get 162 games, or something even less?
  4. Will teams be less willing to spend on talent long term, thus resulting in player movement into new teams?

With so much to consider, it can be overwhelming to try and make any assessments before the information becomes less murky. However, for the purpose of this, let’s use what we know already. The Designated Hitter isn’t back yet officially, but it is leaning towards the side of returning despite it still needing to be agreed upon. Obviously having it return would create a ton of opportunities. As for scheduling purposes, MLB has already released a tentative schedule for 2021 which includes games between different divisions. Keep in mind that this was released prior to the 2020 season beginning, and things could change at any moment given the instability of the world due to the coronavirus. Finally, free agency is underway, and, while no major free agent moves have been made, it’s unclear how teams will financially react after a year with no fans, a shortened season, and uncertainty for next year. What we do know is this: 2021 will undoubtedly be an interesting one.

That said, I wanted to reflect back and look at players that had a rough go around in 2020. It was an unprecedented year with so many distractions and variables that make it so much different than any other. If you’ve been following along, or if you’re new to the site, we at RotoFanatic did a mock draft back in October. I drafted out of the #2 slot, and my feelings going into this mock was to not only look back and find players who struggled this past year, but also look for those that have the track record of success. These variables are those that warrant a minimal amount of worry from me, under most circumstances, as obviously, every situation presents unique characteristics. Still, here were the final results:

 

My opinion going into 2021, in most cases, is to combine 2019 and 2020 into one melded season and use those numbers as a way to measure the future. I trust the analysis done before the 2020 season enough to know that there were so many things that could have caused struggles this year. These included: suffering from the disease itself, playing the same opponents multiple times, the disproportionating quality of opponents for all teams, not traveling and playing in all ballparks, finding additional opportunities for at-bats with no DH, playing doubleheaders with two less innings each game, starting extra innings with a runner aboard, and even having a slow start to the season but it counting as half of your games played. All of these are factors that aren’t usually necessary components to analysis, but here are and these are the cards we’ve been dealt. That being said, here are some hitters that I worry less about after an underwhelming 2020 than others do.

 

Nolan Arenado – 3B, Colorado Rockies

Heading into the 2020 season, one of the biggest offseason speculations was the wonder if Nolan Arenado would be traded. He has been known to have a voice of displeasure with management in the past, citing his feeling of being disrespected and coupled with their incompetence and inability to compete. And while he was right to do so (their pitching was and has been inconsistent and awful at times), some would argue that his salary has something to do with it. Entering the season, Arenado was being paid $35 million a year, with a combined team payroll of $133 million. That’s a lot of money for one player on a small market team, but, he got the offer, he accepted, and I’m sure most of us would too.

All that aside, what he does and has been doing on the field over the years has been nothing short of impressive. The former first-round pick in fantasy drafts from years past has been raking since 2015 when he seemingly broke out. Since that time, he’s hit no fewer than 37 home runs (including over 40 three times), driven in at least 110 runs a year, and scored at least 97 runs a year as well. Added to that, his plate discipline has always been phenomenal, as his K%BB% rarely ran over 10%, making him an elite four-category fantasy contributor. While he gets the benefit of playing half of his games at Coors Field, the fact remains that he was a steady source for production at the hot corner. Then 2020 happened.

Early on in the shortened season, Arenado made a defensive play at third base that jarred his left shoulder, causing inflammation in his AC joint, and ultimately led to his first IL stint. The lingering effects from this injury seemed to bother him at the plate, as he suffered career lows in most, if not all statistical categories.

 

 

These are un-Arenado-esque numbers to say the least. Digging a bit deeper, he wasn’t necessarily hitting the ball any differently this year, as his ground ball, fly ball and line-drive rates were pretty similar. What he didn’t do, however, is hit the ball as hard as he usually does, and that’s probably linked to his aching shoulder. His 2020 numbers are third from the bottom.

 

 

With the Rockies out of contention late in the year, Arenado seemingly decided to pack it in for the year, get himself right, and go on the IL to finish the year. The big question now remains: will be on the Rockies next year? For now, he’s still on the Colorado roster, so let’s assume he stays for another year. His career numbers at Coors Field are an incredible .322/.376/.609/.985 with 58% of his career 235 home runs hit. And while his underwhelming career road line of .263/.322/.471/.793 can’t be ignored, the overall package of what you get with Arenado is something that is more than fantasy-worthy.

He is an elite play when healthy and will produce. I am not worried about him at all for 2021, if he stays in Colorado. However, in a year of financial uncertainty, paying one player $35 million when you have other gaping holes in the lineup might not be the best way to do business. There’s a real shot that he does get dealt, and his value will surely drop. How much remains to be seen, but either way, the Arenado you saw play in 2020 will not be the Arenado you see next year when he is healthy. Do not panic and enjoy any discount you can get. In the 2 Early Mocks database, he had an ADP of 25.9, which equates to a third-round value in 12-Team leagues. That’s about where I got him in our RotoFanatic Mock, and I like the value there.

 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 1B, Toronto Blue Jays

This one will come with a mixed bag of emotions and opinions. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. came into the majors with more minor league fanfare than most will ever receive. Some scouts and pundits called him the greatest prospect since Mike Trout and thus, insurmountably high expectations were subsequently placed alongside his career. What we need to realize as a fanbase and as fantasy players is that consistent success right out of the gate doesn’t happen right away for all prospects. And while he has now played the equivalent of a full season of baseball, he will still only be 22 years old when baseball resumes next year.

In 2020, he finished the year with a .262/.329/.462 line with nine home runs. I picked him as a dark horse candidate to be the AL MVP, and, well, I was wrong. He wasn’t nearly one of the best in either league, as his numbers dictate that he was a bit more powerful. However, digging a bit deeper, he made some significant improvements as well.

No way around it, his July was terrible. He was swinging away at pitches out of the zone, he was hitting ground balls at a rapid pace and he wasn’t his usual patient self. One could call it a slow start, and I, for the sake of my argument, will give him the benefit of the doubt. As the season wore on, he got better and better.

 

 

Now, slow down there Dave, that’s a lot of graphical data. What the heck does it all mean? Essentially, it’s this: after a slow start, it looks as if Guerrero started to hit the ball harder while elevating the ball from primarily ground balls to sending them in the air, while increasing his Launch Angle. And as someone with a powerful swing, such as Guerrero, good things are bound to happen. He hit five of his home runs over the last half of the season and subsequently drove in most of his runs too. He also finished the year with 15 non-HR extra-base hits, which I always love to see as they could be a precursor to future power.

There are some underlying off-field factors that could have led to a slower season as well. Guerrero Jr. was placed in the position of having to learn a new position, and there was definitely a learning curve in place. There were fielding blunders and miscues this season where you could tell that he was still learning about when to go for a ground ball and when to remain on base. Another factor was the fact that the Blue Jays played their home games in Buffalo. While that stadium proved to be a hot spot for bats, it took them until Game 14 to play there. Finally, there is the issue of his weight. Recently it was noted that he had lost 32 pounds since the end of the regular season, and the corresponding picture of him looks promising.

 

Even better than that were his comments:

“I finished the season more or less and put that in mind. I started with the slow swing and when I lost 20 pounds I started feeling better,” Guerrero Jr. said. “I learned after these months of the coronavirus that if you don’t work hard, you can’t be in the Major Leagues,” he said. “Why do [Fernando] Tatis and [Juan] Soto put up good numbers? Because they work hard. I got the hits I got because of the ability that God gave me. But I knew it from the beginning. I know I did it wrong.”

Will this frame of mind stick? Time will only tell. As someone who used to eat a massive amount of unhealthy foods while eliminating exercise in the past, transforming oneself to do the opposite is not just words, but a lifestyle change. The beginning of that transformation is the hardest part, but once the initial barriers are defeated, it becomes a way of life. I look at Rafael Devers from 2020 as a prime example. He came into camp and into the season out of shape with some weight gain, and didn’t hit above .200 until midway through the season. Once he turned things around physically and mentally, he was able to salvage a pretty decent season all around and give his owners a renews sense of hope for next year. If Guerrero Jr. can keep this train of thought going, his current ADP of 69.6 will be an absolute steal.

 

Austin Meadows – OF, Tampa Bay Rays

 

This one will be short and to the point since I previously wrote about Meadows during the regular season. Since that time, his struggles continued at the plate, and obviously things weren’t right for him all year. Here were his numbers to finish the regular season (after September 8) and the postseason:

Regular Season: 5 of 23 (.218)
Post Season: 10 of 74 (.135)

All with minimal power, a lot of strikeouts, a lack of plate discipline and trepidation on the base paths. All in all, his 2020 was a mess, and he knows it. After getting diagnosed with the coronavirus, he suffered an oblique strain as well down the stretch. He wasn’t the same player we’ve known him to be, and those of you drafting him in 2021 need to remember this. He’s such a young player with minimal major league experience to look back on, so a dive into his minor league track record seems more appropriate.

 

 

Meadows came to the Pirates and then the Rays with a great sense of plate discipline. Usually batting above .300 over a minor league level, he hit for double digit power in every year of his career as well as stealing at least ten bases every season since 2015. Since his MLB debut:

 

 

He’s done the same thing, though this year, his strikeout rate did increase. My point is that Meadows wasn’t some young and inexperienced rookie when he arrived on the scene. He will be 26 years old next season, within his prime, and has a long track record of success in both the minor leagues and the major leagues. He currently has an ADP of 69, projecting him to go late in the 6th round of 12-team league drafts. In our RotoFanatic November Mock Draft, I snagged him in the 7th round at 84th overall, and I couldn’t be happier. I think he comes back fully healthy next season and gives his fantasy owners 25+ home run power and 15+ steals with a .270 batting average to boot.

 

Eugenio Suarez – 3B, Cincinnati Reds

 

The 2019 Cincinnati Reds were a fun team to watch as they hit the long ball almost as much as the Minnesota Twins did. A big part of that offensive surge was Eugenio Suarez, who finished that year with career highs in home runs (49), hit (156), runs scored (87) and 103 runs batted in (one less than his career high the year before that). All in all, he was a player trending upward in the fantasy and real baseball world for his ability to hit the long ball from the hot corner position. Then, in the offseason, he injured himself while swimming at his pool, and needed offseason surgery on his swinging shoulder. This all happened before any real threat of the coronavirus, and he was expected to play at some point toward the start of the regular season.

However, any and all injuries, though similar in procedure, all differ in recovery as everyone’s body responds in a unique way. We don’t know to any extent how Suarez really responded to it, what with a complete shut down of facilities and Spring Training due to the worldwide pandemic. What we do know is that when he did begin playing again, something wasn’t right.

 

 

You could call this a slow start to the season, but for anyone who has major surgery on the shoulder that he uses for power and contact, this was a tough sledding uphill battle for him. His bat was slow and he was trying to do too much at the plate. As a result, he was missing on pitches in the strike zone.

 

 

During the season, he was making minor adjustments to his swing and wanted to get back to the fundamentals. On multiple occasions at different points throughout the year, he reminded everyone that he needed to get back to being himself and not get out of his comfort zone. At the start of the season, here’s what he said after an 0 for 16 start:

 

“That’s what I try to do,” he said. “I don’t try to swing at a bad pitch. My swing is not right right now, and like I said, right now, the barrel is not on the ball, but my mind, I see the ball very good. I see the ball so good. I don’t want to swing at a bad pitch. I take my walks. That helps my team. The guy coming behind me can do something if I got on base. We play collectively. Walks, for me, is very good, because they’re good signs to tell people I don’t want to chase your breaking ball in the dirt. I just want to see the ball good and put a good swing on it.”

 

Almost a month later, here’s what he said after hitting his second home run of the season, but still finding himself with a .120 batting average after almost 40 at bats:

 

“I think that was my best swing right now,” Suárez said on Sunday morning. “I’ve just been working — not on my swing, because I still have my swing. I’ve been working on trying to swing at balls that are strikes and put my best swing on it. I just try to be Geno Suárez, to be me, to be myself, and not try to do too much,” he said. “Because when you are struggling, that’s when you try to do a lot of different things. … I tell myself, ‘Hey, Suárez. Don’t try too much. Just see the ball, hit the ball hard. See the ball every time and hit the ball hard and see what happens.’ The results come after you put a good swing on it. I’ve been thinking about results, and I haven’t been thinking about doing [my] job and hitting the ball hard.”

 

Sounds pretty similar to me, as he was going through not only the physical struggles of recovery and playing, but also the mental agony of overcoming that and getting back to his old form. Remember, he only had six Spring Training at-bats. There was no time for him to warm up his swing, tinker with mechanics, and get an eye for what was coming at him. A curious stat in his Batted Ball Profile is his Under%, which stands at 32.6% on the season. Why it’s curious is that it is 5% higher than that of his 2019 campaign, and shows that he just wasn’t connecting the way he’s used to doing. The subsequent low Flare/Burner Rate (15.9%) and Solid% Rate (5.3%) confirm that and are all lower than league average. I’d be curious to know if his awful first half had more to contribute to those poor stats compared to his decent second half where his .235 batting average alongside 12 of his total home runs after August 22.

At the end of the day, Suarez seems to be another victim of the length of an unprecedented shortened season, where had the season been a normal 162 games, he may have connected for 40+ home runs again. After all, he did finish with 15 home runs in a season with no Spring Training, a worldwide pandemic, and altered mechanics after major surgery. Baseball is such a mental game, and having to overcome so much may have led to him overthinking and less of just being what he is: a pretty darn good baseball player that should be drafted with confidence in 2021.

 

Scott Kingery, 2B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies

This one belongs more along the side of a hunch more than anything else. I initially wrote about his early-season struggles here, and life didn’t get much better for him afterward. While he did raise his batting average a whopping 59 points to finish off the shortened season, he still ended with an abysmal .159/.228/.283 line with three home runs and five of his season total six runs batted in and no steals. For context, he was playing rather consistently to finish off the season and wasn’t sitting, so those numbers listed are through 113 at bats. Ugly, just ugly.

While I don’t have data to support my hunch of him rebounding in 2021, I do have science. Yes, science.

 

 

Before the season began, way back in June, Scott Kingery contracted the coronavirus and didn’t do as well with it as others. Here’s how he described the entire ordeal:

“It started on a Thursday when I came down with a headache. I tried to play it off but it didn’t go away. Saturday around 10 a.m., I got chills so bad I couldn’t move without my whole body shaking. That night, my fever spiked so high that I sweated through my sheets. It left an imprint of my body. My fever broke Sunday morning and I actually felt a little better. But then three or four days later, I lost my sense of taste and smell for a few days. That was really annoying. For a week, I was so tired. Low energy. Fatigue. Then I experienced shortness of breath for a week. I felt like I laid on the couch for three weeks without moving. I was tired just going up the stairs.”

 

So essentially, right before the season started, he sweated profusely while experiencing body aching chills, he couldn’t taste his food, was fatigued to the point of not being able to do much of anything for weeks, and lost his breath. All of that happened and he was supposed to pout himself into game shape and be ready to go for a season to start in July? Added to that, there are a ton of lingering effects from the virus that can take days, weeks, and months from which to recover, and others that are even longer-lasting are unknown.

 

 

As if 2020 wasn’t bad enough for him, he later suffered through back and shoulder spasms which led to him being on the IL as well. So now, you’re telling me that he’s undergone a transformation physically due to an illness science knew little about, he’s subsequently underprepared for a season due to needed rest, and could potentially have some of the above symptoms all while being expected to see fastballs traveling at 90+ miles per hour and connect on them with a piece of wood? Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here, but the general point is this: he wasn’t right this year.

Looking back at his track record, he’s had a successful, though short, major league career. Despite struggling to maintain a decent batting average in 2018, he still racked up eight home runs and ten stolen bases, showing what was to come the next year. In 2019 he improved everywhere, batting .256 with 19 home runs and 15 stolen bases, and ultimately proving himself to be fantasy relevant all over the diamond. This past season was supposed to be the year where he leveled himself as he had an ADP within the Top 170 and possessed multi-positional eligibility. It didn’t happen, and now, already, he finds himself outside the Top 300 in ADP this offseason.

Moving forward, he’s a definite buy low for me, but it depends on what the Phillies do in the offseason. Will they sign Didi Gregorius? Will they sign someone else on offense to take away possible at-bats from Kingery? He can play almost anywhere and might find himself yet again as a super-utility player much like he was in 2019. That could be another path to additional at-bats as well. He is someone I am looking to add late in drafts this offseason. He had a successful minor league career and a good run to start his career but suffered from a virus and injury in 2020. If you can get him with one of your last picks, leave him rostered to see if he can get back to his old self and regain his former glory. If so, you’ve got multi-positional gold and at a severely discounted price. If I’m wrong and he fails, then you’ve lost a late-round pick and he can be replaced with players that are on hot streaks themselves.

The Recoveries: How did they go?

Every year, there are hitters and pitchers who report to Spring Training with what is initially deemed a “small” injury, only to have that injury linger throughout February, into March, and soon enough, they are out multiple weeks in April. In a season unlike any other, we got to see how players with those types of injuries recovered throughout the early summer in time to prepare for a shortened 60-game season. Below, we’ll take a look at how those players fared individually, along with some overall takeaways that we can use to prepare for 2021 drafts. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be able to easily identify if pitchers or hitters are better bets to bounce back after mild injuries.

Pitchers

James Paxton (SP – NYY)
My Projection: 11 starts, 66 IP, 5 Wins, 3.77 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 78 Ks
What Happened: 5 starts, 20.1 IP, 1 Win, 6.64 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 26 Ks

Back in February, Paxton had a microscopic lumbar discectomy, and was slated to miss the start of the full 162-game season. With the delay, Paxton was able to get healthy and get in game shape. However, he went on the IL with a strained flexor in his left forearm on August 24th, and would not pitch again. While Paxton gave up three earned runs in every one of his five starts, two of them came with 20 strikeouts total. The writing was on the wall with this one, however, as his velocity dipped three miles per hour from 2019, as evidenced by the below graph from Baseball Savant.

Paxton’s agent, Scott Boras, was quoted recently as saying that Paxton “simply needed another few months to get back to his normal form.” This quote is confusing, since he was allotted additional time to rehab with the delayed season. If this was the case, why was he brought back in the first place?

While it sounds like Paxton should be ready for 2021, we’ve heard that song before. Paxton has eclipsed 150 innings just twice in his career, and one of those was 150.2 innings. With all the injuries the soon-to-be 32-year old has faced, I will be out on him next season.

Justin Verlander (SP – HOU)
My Projection:11 starts, 66 IP, 6 Wins, 2.83 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 82 Ks
What Happened: 1 start, 6 IP, 1 W, 3.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 7 Ks

Verlander was facing a lat injury and a groin injury in spring training, with the lat injury stemming from changing his mechanics as a result of the groin injury. Of course, we know that he suffered an additional injury, as he had Tommy John surgery and is out until 2022.

In hindsight, it was probably foolish to rank a 37-year old pitcher coming off of two injuries during Spring Training in the top five. Of course, Verlander would be the one pitcher to defy expectations, and we gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Mike Clevinger (SP – SDP)
My Projection: 12 starts, 72 IP, 6 W, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 87 Ks
What Happened: 8 starts, 41.2 IP, 3 W, 3.02 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 40 Ks

Clevinger, as he often does, adds an interesting twist to this exercise. Clevinger had surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in mid-February, and was expected to miss six-to-eight weeks. He ended up returning on time in the shortened season. We don’t need to go too in depth on what happened next, but he missed three starts as a result of breaking team protocol.

After he was traded to the Padres, he then sprained his right elbow. After not pitching in the Wild Card Series, he was removed less than two innings into his NLDS start with the same issue. While we don’t know for sure, the initial elbow injury could have come about as a result of compensating for his knee injury. Pitching through the injury was not a good idea. Between Clevinger and and Verlander, we should give heightened attention to lower body injuries, as pitchers are not out of the woods just because their initial injury wasn’t an upper body one.

His status for 2021 is uncertain. Given that he said that it feels like “his bones are hitting the back of his elbow,” I will be out on him for 2021.

Rich Hill (SP – MIN)
My Projection: 10 starts, 60 IP, 4 W, 3.69 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 69 Ks
What Happened: 8 starts, 38.2 IP, 2 W, 3.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 31 Ks

Hill underwent elbow surgery in November last year, and was slated to miss half of the season. With the shortened season, he was able to start the season on time. However, he then suffered from arm fatigue and missed a few starts in August.

Hill’s strikeouts disappeared, largely due to a velocity dip.

As a result of this lower velocity, he induced less whiffs, and his strikeout rate dipped nearly ten percentage points from 2019. While Hill has always been injury prone, he was able to rack up strikeouts when he took the mound. However, given that he’s going to be 41 in 2021, this is likely his new velocity. He won’t be more than a bench starter next year.

Hitters

Adalberto Mondesi (SS – KC)
My Projection: 220 PA’s, 28 R, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 15 SB, .257 average
What Happened: 233 PA’s, 33 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 24 SB, .256 average

Mondesi’s status for the full 162-game season was up for debate during draft prep season, as he was still getting ramped up after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Mondesi ended up doing what we expected, as he hit slightly above average due to his speed, stole a ton of bases, and showed some pop. Sure, he delivered most of his value within a three-week span in September, but he should be given a pass given the weird quirks of the season.

As a right-handed hitter, his left shoulder is a source of power, much like how Kris Bryant’s power was sapped in 2018 after a left shoulder injury. While Mondesi has always had contact issues, he increased his average exit velocity from 88.8 MPH in 2019 to 90.6 MPH in 2020, which shows that the shoulder is healed. Moreover, his max exit velocity of 111 MPH ranked in the top-100, as did his exit velocity on flies and liners.

The Mondesi hype will be in our faces once again in 2021, and it looks like the hype will be worth it.

Eugenio Suarez (3B – CIN)
My Projection: 240 PA’s, 36 R, 14 HR, 38 RBI, 1 SB, .267 average
What Happened: 231 PA’s, 29 R, 15 HR, 38 RBI, 2 SB, .202 average

Suarez also had a shoulder injury, but on his right shoulder. He was able to rehab in time for the full 60-game season. His average exit velocity held constant, and like Mondesi, posted top-100 ranks in exit velo on flies and liners, along with max exit velo. Also like Mondesi, Suarez has some contact issues. He swung at balls slightly more than last year, and made less contact on strikes as well. While not a dramatic change, it was evident enough that he wasn’t able to make contact on pitches that he could drive. His injury likely didn’t have an impact on this part of his game. We know what Suarez is, and he will likely be a top-65 selections in next year’s drafts.

Aaron Hicks (OF – NYY)
My Projection: 175 PA’s, 24 R, 8 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB, .242 average
What Happened: 211 PA’s, 28 R, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 4 SB, .225 average

Hicks had Tommy John surgery right after the 2019 season ended, and was expected to return mid-season over a full length schedule. The 60-game schedule afforded him the extra time to fully return for the 60-game season. The problem, however, was that he wasn’t very good.

Sure, he stayed healthier and played more as a result of other injuries (see below), but he wasn’t able to match the mild homer, RBI, and average that I expected. The main reason appears to be that he wasn’t hitting the ball as hard. Let’s take a look at how his small-sample 2020 compared to his last full season, in 2018.

Year Barrel Rate Exit Velocity Hard-Hit Rate
2018 8.8% 89.7 MPH 43.0%
2020 6.9% 88.2 MPH 38.2%

Hicks was quoted as saying that he started to feel better towards the end of the season. Indeed, he had a strong postseason, going 8-for-26 with six walks to five strikeouts. His average exit velocity also improved over 2 MPH from August to September. With a full offseason to to rest, Hicks could come at a value in 2021 drafts.

Aaron Judge (OF – NYY)
My Projection: 155 PA’s, 28 R, 10 HR, 22 RBI, 2 SB, .279 average
What Happened: 114 PA’s, 23 R, 9 HR, 22 RBI, 0 SB, .257 average

Judge’s rib/lung issue was well-documented as we headed into Spring Training and even into Summer Camp. He promptly started 2020 murdering baseballs, hitting seven homers in a seven-game span early in the season. He then had two separate IL stints for the same right calf injury. He wasn’t very good upon his return, posting a 65 wRC+ in 43 September plate appearances. His struggles carried into the postseason, collecting just five hits (but four homers) in seven games while striking out ten times.

Judge is certainly his own case study, and applying him and his teammate below to this type of exercise isn’t particularly meaningful. Judge has demonstrated that he is injury prone, and yet drafters are excited for his potential in 2021. He has gone as early as 33rd in the #2EarlyMocks, conducted by Justin Mason. I will happily let him get scooped up by others at that price.

Giancarlo Stanton (OF – NYY)
My Projection: 201 PA’s, 30 R, 13 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB, .266 average
What Happened: 94 PA’s, 12 R, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 1 SB, .250 average

Stanton was dealing with a calf injury of his own back in February. With the time off, he was able to return for the start of the 2020 season. He then suffered a hamstring issue that sidelined him from August 8th-September 15th.

Judging by his Statcast profile, nothing really changed, even in a small sample. Stanton put on a laser show in the postseason, and hit the second-longest homer of the season. He’s healthy…for now. The fact of the matter is that Stanton is injury prone as well, and will be discounted in 2021 drafts. The interesting thing is that he is going well after Judge, right around picks 80-110. I would much rather have Stanton 50 picks later.

Alex Verdugo (OF – BOS)
My Projection: 200 PA’s, 24 R, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 2 SB, .291 average
What Happened: 221 PA’s, 36 R, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 4 SB, .304 average

Verdugo had back injuries during Spring Training, and was expected to miss the first couple weeks of the season. He recovered to start in right field as a result of the delay.

Verdugo largely did what we expected him to do, shifting some of his RBI to runs as a result of batting leadoff full-time beginning August 18th (I had him projected to hit in the middle of the order). While this was his first “full” campaign, he saw a similar number of pitches in 2019. The trends show that he got significantly lucky, at first glance.

Year Barrel Rate Average Exit Velo K Rate xwOBA
2019 5.7% 89.4 MPH 13.0% .343
2020 6.4% 87 MPH 20.4% .291

While his 2020 numbers seem lucky, his extraordinary plate discipline means that he almost always will put up a great batting average. For purposes of this study, let’s examine how that back injury could have affected his play. Carlos Correa knows all too well what a bad back can do to exit velocity, as demonstrated by Eno Sarris. Verdugo’s max exit velocity (109.5 MPH) was 2 MPH slower than his 2019 max, as was his exit velocity on flies and liners (93.1 MPH in 2019 to 91.2 MPH in 2020). While this small dip could suggest his back was not fully healthy, the Red Sox would not have allowed him to get 220+ plate appearances on a tanking team without him being healthy.

He should fit somewhere into the 125-150 range in next year’s drafts, buoyed by that average and hitting atop a good lineup.

Overall Thoughts

Outside of Verdugo and Suarez, every other player that we were concerned about during Spring Training in this exercise could be labeled as “injury-prone.” So, the main takeaway is to avoid injury-prone players. Duh. But, that’s not the point of this exercise.

Interestingly, Suarez, Mondesi, Hicks, and Verdugo had more of the “normal” years that we expected from them, while most of the others continued to have injury problems throughout the season. None of the pitchers stayed healthy. For 2021, that means I am going to be out on pitchers that get injured in the offseason and in Spring Training.

In 2021, I’m expecting even more injuries during the offseason and Spring Training as a result of the chaotic 2020 season. Players’ routines are out of whack, and it’s uncertain the types of facilities that players will have access to over the offseason. Keep this in the back of your mind as we navigate through offseason prep work!

GPS Pitch Location Report: Dustin May

So we made it. While this season was only 60 games, the “sprint” has felt more like a marathon. For those of you who have read all of my articles this season, I truly thank you. This has been an extremely fun piece to write every week, and I hope you all have found these are informative as I have. I am extremely excited about the future of RotoFanatic and we have a ton of amazing things planned for this offseason and 2021. However, there is still one more week of fantasy baseball. For those of you who are still competing for a championship, congrats, and good luck. For those of you who unfortunately were not as successful, it is time to start looking ahead to 2021. One player who will certainly have a ton of offseason buzz is the subject of today’s final GPS Location Report, Dustin May.

Dustin May

If you have never been lucky enough to watch a Dustin May start, go and seek out videos of the young Dodger righty. He has become a fan favorite due to his insane fastball movement. May has the third-highest horizontal movement on his sinker according to Baseball Savant. This movement has led to some incredible Twitter clips and has made Manny Machado look silly on a number of different occasions. However, despite this incredible movement, May ranks 12th worst in all of baseball in K/9 among pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched. Despite these struggles, May has posted an ERA of 2.68 despite a FIP that is in the high fours. StuffERA however seems May as more of a 3.75-4 ERA type of pitcher. However, underlying his solid numbers within the model is a big concern for his fantasy value.

Outside of extreme cases, it is extremely difficult to become an elite fantasy pitcher without posting large K-numbers. As I stated above, May has not had the Ks. There have been a number of different explanations tossed around with regards to his fastball, despite being so aesthetically pleasing, does not get swings and misses. What I propose though is actually a pretty simple concept. May just does not throw to valuable locations.

The chart above shows May’s location on fastballs. As you can see, he throws his fastballs down in the zone exclusively. No matter the count, the lanky right hander fills the bottom of the zone with fastballs. As you can see from the whiff charts, fastballs do not tend to get swings and misses low in the zone. Among all pitchers who have thrown at least 500 fastballs in 2020, May’s expected whiff rate on those pitches ranks 6th lowest. This on its own is not a major issue, pitchers behind him on this list include Zach Davies and Corbin Burnes. However, over 75% of all pitches thrown by May are fastballs (sinker/cutter/four-seam). For comparison, Davies is a little over 50% and Burnes is in the middle around 65%. This has led to a ton of issues for May in terms of getting enough whiffs to post high K numbers. Among pitchers with at least 800 pitches thrown, May has the 2nd lowest expected whiff rate on all pitch types. This type of profile can be successful if the stuff is elite, but so far hitters to not seem to be interacting with the pitches like they are elite. May’s actual and expected whiff rates are fairly in line. Burnes by comparison has the 14th lowest expected whiff rate, but the third-highest whiff influence. This means that despite his relatively poor location, the stuff is so good that hitters are still swinging through it. Despite the “look” of the pitch, May is the embodiment of the idea that horizontal movement does not matter as much as vertical movement for fastballs. This is a concept I’ll dive into some more this offseason.

So what exactly does this mean for May? Mainly, I think it means that expectations need to be lessened for May. Unless he changes his pitch mix, the shape of his fastball, or his location I just do not see him making the jump to fantasy elite. While the Dodgers are one of the smartest organizations in all of baseball, the fact that this change has not occurred for May yet makes me skeptical it will ever happen. If I own him in Dynasty, his value will likely never be higher so I would start by shopping him around. For anyone looking ahead to 2021 drafts, I already anticipate that May’s price will be higher than I am willing to pay. In order to absorb the K hit you will need to go very pitching heavy early or you will need to take chances on flawed pitchers late. While a jump is entirely possible, I would rather be a year late on May than take a chance he makes a major change to his identity as a pitcher.

Once again thank you, everyone, for reading and hopefully, soon we will have a leaderboard and some other cool tools all set up so that you can dive into all of the numbers that I cite in this article every week.

Stuff ERA

Stuff-ERA Leaders
Min 800 Pitches
Pitcher Stuff-ERA
Jacob deGrom 2.2569
Shane Bieber 2.3777
Corbin Burnes 2.4573
Zac Gallen 2.7032
Lucas Giolito 2.7749
Kenta Maeda 2.8103
Dinelson Lamet 2.8387
Aaron Nola 2.9693
Dylan Bundy 3.0344
Clayton Kershaw 3.0773
Max Fried 3.1790
Yu Darvish 3.2138
Jose Berrios 3.2168
Ryan Yarbrough 3.2387
Lance Lynn 3.2694
Adam Wainwright 3.3432
Zach Davies 3.3448
Trevor Bauer 3.3906
Andrew Heaney 3.4466
Dallas Keuchel 3.4570
Carlos Carrasco 3.4609
Dakota Hudson 3.4720
Zack Wheeler 3.4905
Tyler Mahle 3.5092
Brad Keller 3.5363
Brady Singer 3.5459
David Peterson 3.5642
Blake Snell 3.5665
Kevin Gausman 3.5769
Gerrit Cole 3.6105
Pablo Lopez 3.6247
Framber Valdez 3.6424
Spencer Turnbull 3.6604
Yusei Kikuchi 3.6621
Lance McCullers Jr. 3.6623
Julio Urias 3.6774
Tyler Glasnow 3.7330
Brandon Woodruff 3.7342
Mike Minor 3.7450
Antonio Senzatela 3.7589
Max Scherzer 3.7697
Kyle Hendricks 3.7738
Masahiro Tanaka 3.7865
Marco Gonzales 3.7979
Justin Dunn 3.8000
German Marquez 3.8026
Luis Castillo 3.8075
Dustin May 3.8232
J.A. Happ 3.8255
Justus Sheffield 3.8661
Josh Lindblom 3.8993
Sonny Gray 3.9058
Cristian Javier 3.9269
Frankie Montas 3.9284
Kolby Allard 3.9377
Zack Greinke 3.9417
Martin Perez 3.9871
Jesus Luzardo 4.0954
Chris Bassitt 4.1025
Hyun Jin Ryu 4.1177
Dylan Cease 4.1637
Taijuan Walker 4.1738
Garrett Richards 4.1758
Aaron Civale 4.2604
Chris Paddack 4.2637
Kris Bubic 4.2728
Chad Kuhl 4.2824
Alec Mills 4.3037
Logan Webb 4.3299
Griffin Canning 4.3430
Johnny Cueto 4.3437
John Means 4.3522
Mike Clevinger 4.3616
Zach Eflin 4.3867
Tyler Anderson 4.3950
Jordan Montgomery 4.4452
Randy Dobnak 4.4475
Erick Fedde 4.4547
Kyle Freeland 4.4674
JT Brubaker 4.4776
Jon Gray 4.5664
Alex Young 4.5737
Danny Duffy 4.6119
Mike Fiers 4.6143
Kyle Gibson 4.7295
Robbie Ray 4.7366
Patrick Corbin 4.7721
Luke Weaver 4.8469
Matthew Boyd 4.8985
Adrian Houser 5.0506
Jordan Lyles 5.0558
Rick Porcello 5.0670
Jon Lester 5.1181
Derek Holland 5.2566
Tanner Roark 5.3037
Ross Stripling 5.5808
Trevor Williams 5.6178
Anibal Sanchez 5.7148

2020 Park Factors for the Seven New MLB Parks

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been seeing and hearing some discussions about the new Oracle Park’s dimensions likely leading to an offensive bust out in San Francisco. This talk, plus the Marlins moving their fences in, Toronto playing their home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, the Rangers playing in their new stadium and the Red Sox, Mets and Mariners all using a humidor for the first time we thought we’d check in and see how these parks are playing thus far.

In a typical season there are between 125,000 and 128,000 batted ball events. In 2020 there have only been 31,583 (Through 9/9), so this is a relatively small sample size. Also, the ball flies differently in hot and cold weather, low and high humidity and whether the game is being played indoors or out. The following data is not meant to be considered the final word on how these stadiums will play going forward but merely a look at how they have played from July 23, 2020 to September 9, 2020.

How the Data is Generated

Using the data provided by baseballsavant.com we find the results of all Batted Ball Events (BBE) in 2020 by Exit Velocity (EV), Launch Angle (LA), handedness (RHB and LHB), hit location (LF, LCF, CF, RCF, RF) and whether the ball was pulled, hit to the opposite field, pulled to an alley, hit to the opposite alley or centered. Taking all of these factors into account we come up with the average for how each batted ball event played out in all 30 MLB stadiums this season. Once we assemble all of the outcomes for the season we can then generate the expected stats for each batted ball event and compare them to the actual outcomes to get our park factors. If a park was expected to give up 50 home runs but it actually yielded 58 then the park factor for home runs is a 116. Conversely, if a park was expected to give up 50 home runs but only 42 were hit then the park factor for home runs is 84. 100 is league average

 

The Humidor Parks

Back on August 11 we wrote a quick article about the impact of the humidor in Arizona and the potential impact of a humidor at Fenway, Citi and T-Mobile in Seattle which can be found here. As was referenced in that article, on November 6, 2014 Ryan P. Morrison of SB Nation wrote a piece on the impact of the humidor at Coors Field and also included a chart that showed the potential impact of humidors in other parks around the country. Below is the chart for potential impacts in Boston, New York and Seattle.

 

City Humidity (%) HR distance (feet)
Boston 59 +7.9
New York 53 +2.2
Seattle 53 +2.9

 

Note: According to current result/Weather.com the average yearly relative humidity is 67% in Boston, 63% in NYC (La Guardia), and 73% in Seattle. This may have been different in 2014.

 

Fenway Park

From July 23 to September 9, 2019

 

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Stat Rank Factor   Rank Factor +/-%
Average 16 99.4 1 108.1 +  8.8%
Home Runs 24 93.5 4 108.0 +15.5%
RBIcon 20 97.8 2 108.0 +10.4%

 

There’s a small sample size caveat here (1,343 batted balls compared to a normal full season of about 4,200), but it appears that Fenway Park has been given a pretty significant boost to its offense via the humidor. In 2020 Fenway Park has moved up 15 spots in batting average to 1, 20 spots in home runs to 4 and 18 spots in expected RBI on contact to 2. It should be noted that Boston’s highest relative humidity months are the ones that the season has been played in so far (July, August and September). However, May and June are two of the higher humidity months for Boston as well so this is likely a near full season trend. Should the organization choose to keep using the humidor this could be great news for your Red Sox hitters.

 

Citi Field

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Stat Rank Factor   Rank Factor +/-%
Average 10 100.9 9 101.6 +   0.7%
Home Runs 11 102.1 13 102.2 +   0.1%
RBIcon 9 101.6 10 102.3 +   0.7%

 

Unlike Fenway Park, Citi Field has stayed steady. Of the three cities NYC (La Guardia) has the lowest relative humidity and stood to gain the least by using the humidor. As expected, the humidor appears to have had very little impact thus far. We’ll keep monitoring the situation next year to see if a full season’s usage nets different results.

 

T-Mobile Park

 

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Stat Rank Factor   Rank Factor +/-%
Average 24 98.1 20 98.7 +   0.6%
Home Runs 29 88.5 18 99.3 +12.2%
RBIcon 24 94.1 19 99.1 +  5.3%

 

T-Mobile has also experienced a boost in offense. Not to the same degree as Fenway, but a definite boost. T-Mobile had gained 4 spots in batting average to 20, 11 spots in home runs to 18 and 5 spots to 19 in expected RBI on contact. Although Seattle has not experienced as much of a boost as Boston has it is worth noting that the summer months are the most humid months in Boston (Getting the biggest offensive boost from the humidor) where July and August are the two least humid months in Seattle. T-Mobile Park may have a lot more offense to give us next season when they are playing in the more humid months of Spring and Fall. Keep your eye on T-Mobile in September. The relative humidity rate climbs towards Seattle’s highest levels this month and in just six games played at the Mariners’ home park (two of them 7 inning games) there have been eighteen home runs hit. That’s 3.24 home runs per 9 innings compared to the 2020 MLB average of 1.35.

 

Ballparks With New Dimensions

Over the off-season both Oracle Park in San Francisco and Marlins Park in Miami decided to move in their fences to boost their offensive production. Oracle Park moved left-center field in from 404 feet in to 399 feet, straight away center field from 399 to 391 and right-center field from 421 to 415. They have also closed off an archway in right field that the organization believes will help to keep the prevailing wind that comes in from McCovey Cove from knocking down potential home runs. The Marlins moved the center field fences in from 407 to 400 and right-center field from 392 to 387.

 

Marlins Park

We’re already dealing with small sample sizes and, because Covid has had the Marlins playing an abnormal number of home games on the road, the sample size is even smaller here. The typical park has had between 1,000 and 1,300 batted ball events where Marlins Park has only had 553 through September 9th.

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Stat Rank Factor   Rank Factor +/-%
Average 14 100.3 4 104.2 +  3.9%
Home Runs 12 101.7 19 99.0 –   2.7%
RBIcon 13 100.8 8 102.6 +  1.8%

 

The fences have been moved from 407 to 400 in center and 392 to 387 in right-center

 

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Field Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Center Home Runs 7 109.5 3 129.3 +18.9%
Right-center Home Runs 24 80.8 2 88.9 +10.0%

 

There’s little doubt that if the fences are moved in that home runs will increase, and they have, but with such a small sample it’s difficult to gauge just how much of the gains will stick.

*Weird stat of the season so far: Not a single one of the 133 batted balls to right field have gone for a home run at Marlins Park this season. Even stranger: Not a single expected home run has been hit either. Through this same time period last year 133 batted balls would have netted both an actual and expected 7 home runs to right field. Bizarre.

 

Oracle Park

Are we ready to get a little controversial now? During the same time span in 2019 Oracle Park allowed 38 home runs (4.27% HR rate). In 2020, Oracle Park has allowed 61 home runs (5.19% HR Rate). Obviously, Oracle Park is becoming an offensive park that’s vastly improved, yes? Ummm, not quite. As we mentioned with Marlins Park, if you move the fences in you’re almost undoubtedly going to have more home runs hit. It has improved, just not quite as much as the raw numbers of 38 HR’s versus 61 HR’s would lead you to believe. Let me explain. Our park factors are based on the number of actual home runs hit versus the number of expected home runs hit. If Park A gives up 1,000 home runs but there was expected to be 900 home runs then Park A is going to have the same home run factor of 111.1 as Park B that gives up 100 home runs with only 90 home runs expected. The only thing that matters in our park factors is what happened versus what was expected to happen. To use another example, the Twins broke the MLB team record for HR’s in 2019 but Target Field’s HR factor ranked 26. The Twins hit a bunch of home runs but they were expected to hit even more. Basically, teams are just plain hitting the ball better at Oracle Park this season, most notably, the Giants themselves. In 2019 Oracle gave up 38 home runs but only 44 home runs were expected. In 2020, Oracle has given up 61 home runs but 73 home runs have been expected!

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Stat Rank Factor   Rank Factor +/-%
Average 28 95.8 12 100.5 +  4.9%
Home Runs 30 86.8 29 83.6 –   3.5%
RBIcon 30 90.7 28 93.7 +  3.3%

 

The fences have been moved from 404 to 399 in left-center, 399 to 391 in center, 421 to 415 in right-center, and the team has closed off an archway in right field that was previously open to the prevailing winds that blew in from McCovey Cove.

 

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Field Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Left-center Home Runs 11 104.8 25 93.5 -10.8%
Center Home Runs 20 94.0 21 89.1 –  5.2%
Right-center Home Runs 30 47.7 30 65.5 +37.3%
Right Home Runs 25 91.5 29 73.4 -19.8%

 

So far, Oracle’s overall home run factor is actually down from 86.8 to 83.6. However, I don’t expect this to stick. As we’ve mentioned before, when you move the fences in there are generally going to be more home runs hit. One of the factors that the organization thought would improve the long ball to right field was the closing of the arch. The following are comments from Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow from Jake Montero’s article for KNBR.com on July 22:

“If you know the architectural history of this ballpark and you know it’s stunted on the right side because of the proximity to McCovey Cove, and they did two years of wind study and they designed that ballpark so it’s in the prevailing wind. It’s almost like you’re drafting behind a truck on the interstate on a bicycle. You get a free pass with the wind, but the wind wraps around you and that’s what the wind has always done at that ballpark. It wraps around the ballpark only with the unique design of the out of town scoreboard, with mesh fencing, and there’s a gate that’s open that allows the air to pass back from the right side of the field through the archway there, and back onto the field. When you stand there and shag during batting practice, you feel the wind at your back. It’s no secret as to why, since the doors opened in that ballpark, it’s so difficult to hit balls out to right field, especially for right-handed hitters. Balls get up there, the air hits it, and the ball drops like a turd from a giraffe. Straight down, done, see ya later.”

This year the home run factor to right field has actually gone down from 91.5 to 73.4. Full disclosure, I am not a physicist or a climatologist. However, the idea that closing the archway would be a positive influence on home runs didn’t make sense to me. The archway is below the fence line and, obviously, home runs are above the fence line. The very same prevailing wind that was blowing in from McCovey Cove is still there it’s just that anyone standing in right field can no longer feel it. I would imagine, if anything, that there would more of a force coming in to right field. The wind that would normally have passed through the archway and below the fence line is now being blocked and pushed up and over the fence where it can exert even more resistance to potential home runs. Again, I’m not a physicist or climatologist and I could be completely wrong, but the numbers thus far are somewhat supporting this position.

 

The New Parks

Sahlen Field

Sahlen Field’s center field sits facing South-Southeast with an 8 to 10 MPH breeze prevailing out from the right field foul pole to the left field foul pole all year long. Both the left field and right fields angle back from a 325 foot foul pole before squaring off at the power alleys (371 ft. LCF and 367 ft. RCF). The alleys then angle back inward forming a pointed A-Frame center field at 404 ft. Sahlen Field most resembles Nationals Park’s shape but it’s 12 feet shorter to left, 6 feet shorter to left-center, 2 feet deeper to center, 3 feet shorter to right-center and 10 feet shorter to right.

From July 23 to September 9, 2019

Handed Stat

Rank

Factor

All Average

10

101.5

All Home Runs

5

106.7

All RBIcon

6

103.3

 

Handed Stat

Rank

Factor

Right Average

19

98.4

Right Home Runs

14

101.5

Right RBIcon

8

98.8

 

Handed Stat

Rank

Factor

Left Average

3

102.7

Left Home Runs

1

119.9

Left t RBIcon

1

112.7

 

Field Stat

Rank

Factor

Left Average

8

103.3

Left-center Average

8

103.0

Center Average

12

99.2

Right-center Average

25

96.0

Right Average

10

102.9

 

Field Stat

Rank

Factor

Left Home Runs

6

112.0

Left-center Home Runs

10

104.0

Center Home Runs

10

110.0

Right-center Home Runs

17

100.0

Right Home Runs

13

102.1

 

Field Stat

Rank

Factor

Left RBIcon

4

107.7

Left-center RBIcon

7

104.3

Center RBIcon

13

101.1

Right-center RBIcon

16

98.4

Right RBIcon

15

101.2

 

Sahlen Field has definitely played as a very interesting park thus far. Despite the fact that left and left-center are the most offensively friendly fields it’s the left handed batters that have thrived the most. This does make some sense. The prevailing winds are out to left and opposite field balls are typically hit on a higher trajectory than pulled balls. This higher trajectory and steady winds gives the ball a chance to fly further than normal. Couple that with the friendly confines of 325 feet to left and 371 feet to the left-center alley and you have a recipe that serves up the number one ranked home run and RBIcon factors for left handed batters in all of baseball.

 

Globe Life Field

Globe Life Field’s center field sits facing Northeast with the prevailing winds blowing at 9-12 MPH from the right field foul pole to the left field foul pole. Previously, Globe Life Park faced Southeast with the winds blowing straight in from center field. Despite having the wind blowing in from center field on most days the old Globe Life played more to its dimensions than to its wind factors. While it had between a 112 to 113 home run factor to its smaller dimension center, right-center and right fields it only played as an 88 and an 86 to its tougher dimension high walled left field and 390 foot left-center field, respectively. With the new Globe Life Field having a retractable roof, and the summer months promising an indoor setting, it’s difficult to say how often or how much wind will play a role at this new stadium.

The left field line is listed at only 329 feet but it angles back quickly to over 360 feet before squaring off to 372 feet in left-center; 18 feet closer than the old Globe Life. Center field is squared off like the Rangers’ previous park but is 7 feet deeper at 407 feet. Right-center and right field are nearly identical in shape and distance as Globe Life Park at 374 feet and 325 feet, respectively.

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Handed Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
All Average 8 101.9 26 97.0 –  4.8%
All Home Runs 28 89.4 30 81.6 –  8.7%
All RBIcon 21 97.7 29 89.8 –  8.1%

 

Handed Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Right Average 13 101.9 27 95.6 –  5.7%
Right Home Runs 29 89.4 30 76.5 –  9.0%
Right RBIcon 22 97.7 30 88.0 –  9.7%

 

 

Handed Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Left Average 6 101.9 18 98.6 –  3.8%
Left Home Runs 26 89.4 26 87.0 –  7.2%
Left RBIcon 29 97.7 27 91.9 –  6.2%

 

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Field Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Left Average 11 102.0 24 97.3 –  4.6%
Left-center Average 25 97.2 13 101.0 + 3.9%
Center Average 9 102.7 13 97.9 –  4.7%
Right-center Average 26 91.8 30 84.7 –  7.7%
Right Average 6 105.3 30 96.2 –  8.6%

 

Field Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Left Home Runs 30 68 30 66.4 –   2.4%
Left-center Home Runs 30 60 24 100.0 +66.7%
Center Home Runs 13 99.9 27 72.0 -27.9%
Right-center Home Runs 27 71.6 27 82.8 +15.6%
Right Home Runs 3 112.3 27 85.0 -24.3%

 

Field Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Left RBIcon 20 95.3 29 87.9 –  7.8%
Left-center RBIcon 29 79.1 15 101.2 +27.9%
Center RBIcon 8 103.1 27 88.0 -14.7%
Right-center RBIcon 28 82.0 30 82.9 +  1.1%
Right RBIcon 5 107.2 28 89.1 -16.9%

 

Year over year the new Globe Life Field has seen an 8.1% dip in offensive production with right handed batters seeing the brunt of that production drop off (-9.7%). Left field continues to be a tough field for home runs (30), but the friendlier confines of left-center has seen a dramatic increase from a home run factor of 60 to 100. Not surprisingly the deeper center field dimensions has led to a 27.9% decrease in home runs but what is surprising is that left-center and right field have played so differently despite their distances being nearly identical (+15.6% and -24.3%, respectively). One thing to note is that over the same time period last year Globe Life Park played as the 21 ranked offensive stadium but for the entire season it ended up being the 14 ranked park. It’s still too early to tell exactly how this park will play but it’s pretty evident that the new park is less friendlier to hitters than the old park.