So far this offseason, I have been going position by position and discussing the outliers for each of the sections of the Data Monster that are eligible at those positions. This has been in my opinion a really fun and interesting way to find new players to breakdown and discuss. Today, I planned on doing the same for outfielders. However, I noticed when looking over each of the lists, that due to the nature of the position, the guys occupying the top of the leaderboards were the same names we find at the tops of drafts. This really is not much of a surprise in my opinion as some of the best hitters in the game are outfielders. So for this reason, I have decided to change up my approach slightly for this article and I will instead be doing a deep dive into three players that the Data Monster either likes or doesn’t like.
Unless you were living under a rock in the 2020 Postseason, you are likely familiar with Arozarena. He had a historic postseason run displaying big-time power against some of the best pitchers in the league. However, he also displayed many of the same skills in his short 2020 season. He is one of the biggest risers in all of fantasy baseball and is going around pick 55 in NFBC leagues. While there have been novels written on him at this point, there are some really interesting results present in Arozarena’s Data Monster numbers that deserve attention. Additionally, one feature of the Data Monster for 2020 is the consideration of Postseason results which are extremely important for someone like Arozarena.
Randy is a prime example of exactly why I built the Data Monster and what I am hoping to discover looking at the numbers. In 2020, Randy posted a swinging strike rate of around 13%. This was a 33rd percentile result. On the surface, this looks to be a big red flag for Randy as it could stop him from reaching his full power. However, Randy had the highest xWhiff in the league. This means that just based on the pitches he saw and the location of those pitches no hitter in baseball was expected to whiff more often than Randy. Actually, his In_Whiff, which takes into consideration the opposing pitcher as well as these underlying expectations to determine the hitter’s influence over his own whiff rate, saw Arozarena as league average in this regard. So this means, that despite what appears to be a high whiff rate for Arozarena, he actually makes contact about as often as expected which is a hugely positive sign for his ability to reach his power and it is unlikely pitchers can sustain such high xWhiff totals for him. Along with the contact ability, Arozarena had the best In_wOBA in the league, meaning he performed better than anyone else in baseball with respect to his expected contact in 2020. He also had an above-league average SAE, showing the ability to choose the right pitches and do damage when he does.
Much like Cavan Biggio all of this research was originally sparked by a fascination with hitters like Brandon Nimmo. The Met’s outfielder has posted well above league average offensive seasons to this point in his career despite high K rates and seemingly low averages. The main reason behind this is Nimmo’s eye. He posts elite walk rates which allow him to remain above average even if his average drops. He does not have light-tower power but it is enough to get by and the whole package makes him an interesting fantasy player.
However, many of his detractors have said he is just too passive at the plate. The high walk rates are actually detrimental to his overall success as the passive approach can make him more likely to K. These are all valid points and are definitely things that need to be considered when looking at Nimmo’s overall track record, however, in 2020 something changed. Nimmo’s K rate dropped and it was seemingly due to a newfound in-zone aggressiveness. Nimmo’s IZ, which measures how much more or less a given hitter swings at pitches in the zone than the locations would suggest, was the highest number of his career. After swinging between 4-6% points less often than expected early in his career, he only swung 2% points less often. This was a huge change for Nimmo and it seems to have worked as he posted the best K rate of his career and was actually above average. The positive note is that his walk rate also held fairly steady. This was because he was able to maintain his zone management skills. His OOZ was in the 99th%-tile, meaning he avoiding chasing out of the zone better than almost any other hitter in baseball. The ability to increase his in-zone swings without hindering himself out of the zone is truly impressive and it could be the start of a massive breakout for Nimmo.
With the Tigers deciding they want to find a way to block all of their potentially interesting players with veterans, Reyes may no longer be a no-doubt starter. However, in the last two seasons, Reyes has shown a skillset that is immensely valuable for fantasy. He has around 20 SB potential and can provide just enough power to get by without being a drain on your AVG. That is a skill set that is hard to come by late in drafts. I know he has been a favorite target of mine in drafts dating back to last season. However, for real-life baseball, he is a slightly below-average hitter. A big part of that is his low walk rate. Looking over his numbers on the Data Monster, what you see is a hitter who is the 1st%-tile in SAE the plate discipline metric. Reyes is able to post high averages, despite being one of the worst hitters in all of baseball at pitch selection.
This is not specific to the 2020 season, this was also something that he showed in 2019. However, that is not the only concerning trend in his profile. In both 2019 and 2020, he posted a K rate of around 21%. However, in 2020 we are able to see that his swinging strike rate jumped from 9% to 13%. The Data Monster does not see an increase in xWhiff like we saw with Arozarena it attributes the jump to Reyes. However, why did we not see a K increase? This is due to the fact that Reyes offset the increased whiffs with more in zone swings likely offsetting this with fewer called strikes. Typically, I would be in favor of this approach but the increased Whiff rate did not get paired with a power jump. I think that this could mean that a huge jump in K rate is coming for Reyes and that would cause a drop in his lofty average turning him into a one-category player with questionable playing time.
There are obviously many more outfielders to consider for your fantasy roster, but I figured I would spare you an article waxing poetic about the greatness of Juan Soto and Mike Trout. I could have gone into a bit more detail about how Christian Yelich’s massive K jump was not due to a newfound swing and miss approach but was in fact tied to a weird new passive approach. However, this has been well documented around the industry and I was hoping to look into two players that you don’t read a lot about and Randy. Hopefully, this information is helpful in your drafts to come and as always feel free to message me on Twitter with any questions you may have.