FACTS/FLUKES: Lindor, Adames, I. Anderson, Brubaker, L. Díaz


Is Lindor a good rebound candidate?… Francisco Lindor‘s (SS, NYM) transition to a new team and a new league in 2021 did not go well, as he hit just .230, stole only 10 bases, posted the lowest rotisserie value of his career ($12), and logged his lowest PA total since his rookie season (not counting 2020’s short year) due to an oblique injury that kept him out of action for five weeks. Things have to get better from here, don’t they?

Year   PA   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX HR/F  Spd/SBA  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ========  ======= ====  =======  =====
2017  723  .273  .290    8   86   122  39/18/42  120/122  14%  101/11%  15/19
2018  745  .277  .292    9   84   128  39/22/40  131/135  17%   93/20%  33/15
2019  654  .284  .292    7   84   122  44/20/37  115/104  17%  106/19%  38/25
2020  266  .258  .270    9   83   102  38/26/36   85/ 82  11%   97/13%   8/ 6
2021  524  .230  .245   11   79   104  39/19/42   96/114  13%  108/11%  20/10

He seems like a good bet to bounce back in 2022:

  • While we typically prefer to stick to the skills, it’s fair to acknowledge that there were a lot of outside factors that might have negatively impacted Lindor in 2021: being traded after six seasons in Cleveland, switching from the AL to the NL, and playing under the added pressure of a brand-new massive contract extension. Turning the page on all of that should help.
  • His normally-elite contact rate took a hit in 2021, and while he did strike out more after the oblique injury (76%), his first-half rate of 80% was still below his previously established levels. Perhaps an effect of facing a lot of unfamiliar pitchers in unfamiliar stadiums? For what it’s worth, in 17 interleague games against the AL in 2021, he hit .276/.425/.552 with 5 HR over 74 PA, though his contact rate was still only 76%. A career-worst 25% hit rate also dragged down his overall batting average—his xBA says he should have been a league average hitter at worst.
  • His power skills have faded from their 2018 peak, though here too the skills suggest he underperformed a little, with xPX, xHR/F (15%), and xHR (23) all indicating he should have fared slightly better. He enjoyed his best month of the season in September after returning the IL, batting .267 with 9 HR and 25 RBI, and he finished the second half with a 130 PX, 147 xPX, 19% HR/F, 21% xHR/F, and 12 xHR over 193 PA. A smallish sample, to be sure, but one that would pro-rate out to 40+ HR over the PA totals he racked up in 2017-19. That 2018-19 power might still be there, lurking.
  • He’s proven himself to be consistently good for double-digit steals, though he barely made it in 2021. Looking at his speed skill and SBA% history, his skills really haven’t been all that elite—2019 looks like a career peak, and a return to 20+ SB seems unlikely.

Lindor is only entering his age-28 season, and should still be at the peak of his skills. If we treat 2020 as a small sample, and 2021 as one impacted by unusual outside forces, there’s reason to think he can move back toward being the offensive force he was in 2017-19. At the very least, it seems highly likely that he will surpass his 2020-21 value levels in 2022, so if managers in your league are down on him after his recent struggles, this could be an opportunity to acquire him as a nicely discounted price.


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Leaving Tropicana Field makes big difference for Adames… After spending the first three-plus years of his MLB career with the Rays, Willy Adames (SS, MIL) was traded to the Brewers during the 2021 season, and he responded with a breakout performance worth $18 R$, highlighted by a career-high 25 HR. Did his skills back the improved power?

Year   PA   BA    xBA  HR  xHR  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX HR/F xHR/F
====  ===  ====  ====  ==  ===  ===  ===  ====  ========  ======= ==== =====
2018  323  .278  .211  10   10   10   67    86  52/18/30   84/ 89  17%   17%
2019  584  .254  .246  20   22    8   71   104  47/23/30   94/ 91  18%   19%
2020  205  .259  .240   8    7   10   60    90  43/25/32  165/111  23%   20%
2021  555  .262  .248  25   28   10   69   106  37/23/41  142/131  18%   20%

Yes, and it appears there may have been another factor at play:

  • In multiple post-trade interviews in 2021, Adames mentioned struggling due to the lighting in Tampa Bay’s home park, Tropicana Field—here’s a quote from the New York Times: “After they changed the lights in 2019, it was tough for me to see the ball there. Everybody thought it was mental, but it wasn’t. I was just guessing all the time there because I couldn’t pick up the ball when I was hitting.” In 2018, prior to that change, Adames hit better at home: .284 BA, 7 HR, .148 Isolated SLG, and 67% contact at home, vs. .269 BA, 3 HR, .101 ISO, and 66% contact on the road. But for 2019-21 (prior to the trade), he was much better in away games: .189 BA, 9 HR, .115 ISO, and 66% contact at home, vs. .299 BA, 24 HR, .236 ISO, and 69% contact on the road.
  • His 2019-21 away pre-trade AB/HR rate was 18.5, nearly an exact match for his 18.3 rate with Milwaukee after the trade, suggesting that what we saw with the Brewers is the kind of power he would have been capable of if he’d been playing in a more friendly home environment in 2019-20. xHR, xPX, and xHR/F all backed the 2021 power increase, so our UP: 30 HR tag from the 2022 Baseball Forecaster looks like a very achievable upside target.
  • Unfortunately, the power boost didn’t do much for his batting average outlook, as his contact rate remains subpar, and the increase in his FB% served to hold back any growth in his xBA. However, once again there was a notable difference after the trade to MIL: he hit .285 with the Brewers with a 71% contact rate (though helped by a 35% hit rate), and after June 1st, his xBA was .264. So even though his overall xBA is calling for regression, that may not accurately reflect his true skill level with the Brewers.

Adames heads into the 2022 season at age 26, looking to build upon the best season of his career, and his most valuable effort from a fantasy standpoint. There are several ways that could happen: he could continue the BA growth he displayed with MIL, he could reach that 30 HR upside, and he could push past the 600 PA mark for the first time, any of which might be enough to drive his rotisserie value past the $20 mark for the first time as well. If you’re able to target him at his 2021 value level, that could leave room for a tidy little profit in 2022.

 

Anderson building solid set of skills… In his first full season in the majors, Ian Anderson (RHP, ATL) finished 5th in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, and might have finished higher if not for a second-half shoulder injury that cost him six weeks of action and impacted his July/August performance. How did his skills look?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  BB%   K% K-BB% xBB%    SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S% HR/F xHR/F
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  === ===== ====  =====  ========  ===== ==== =====
2018#  20  2.87   N/A  11%  26%   15%  N/A    N/A     N/A    31/74  N/A   N/A
2019^ 137  4.77   N/A  12%  25%   13%  N/A    N/A     N/A    32/69  N/A   N/A
2020   32  1.95  3.45  10%  30%   20%  10%  12.3%  53/20/28  29/82   5%    3%
2021  128  3.58  4.05  10%  23%   13%  10%  12.4%  49/20/31  27/75  15%   20%
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
21-1H  89  3.35  3.64   9%  25%   16%   9%  12.5%  50/22/28  28/73  12%   18%
21-2H  40  4.08  5.03  13%  20%    7%  11%  12.2%  47/16/37  26/80  20%   24%
#Double-A MLEs
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs

He’s putting together a solid collection of average-to-above-average skills:

  • Anderson owned an above-average K% in 2020, but it fell to league average in 2021. However, we can see that his K% took a hit in the second half when he was hurt, and if we zoom in on three July starts before he hit the IL and one after, his K% for those four starts was only 11.8%, and his SwK was only 9.7%. He was back in form in September, posting a 24% K% and 13.7% SwK. So that 25% K% rate from the first half seems to more accurately reflect his true skill level, and is a good match for his consistently mid-12% SwK, which is slightly above average.
  • His BB% also got worse in the second half, but there too, his skills were impacted by those same four starts around his IL stint: his BB% was 13.6% as he walked 12 batters in 20 IP. He has always struggled with slightly below-average control, but in the first half, he managed league average control that came with support from xBB% (and from a 61% first-pitch strike rate). That control didn’t return in September (11% BB%), but that was only a 27 IP sample, compared to a first half that represents his largest MLB sample. That period may have been a small sign of growth from a young pitcher, perhaps something he can repeat in 2022.
  • He’s established himself as a dependable ground ball pitcher, which does a lot to keep his ERA from ballooning, even when control issues flare up. He issued more fly balls in the second half, probably another sign he wasn’t quite right, but still kept his GB% near 50%. So if believe that his first half BB%, K%, and GB% are repeatable skills, that means his first half xERA of 3.64 represents a realistic skill level for him. A 3.64 xERA doesn’t look as good as his career 3.25 ERA, but he’s had some help from friendly strand rates, and if he matched that xERA over a healthy season closer to 175 IP, that would boost his overall value. And that’s very close to our current BaseballHQ projection for him: 11-7, 3.62 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 11% BB%, 25% K% over 174 IP, which projects to be worth $9 in R$. (And if his walk rate ends up lower, that lowers his WHIP and pushes that R$ into double digits.)

As he enters his age-24 season, Anderson has a secure rotation spot and what looks like a pretty solid skill set, with just a few lingering questions about exactly where his walk rate will settle in. He’s not a good breakout candidate, but should be a nice mid-tier starting pitcher option for 2022, though back-to-back seasons with artificially low ERAs likely means he won’t be available at much of a discount.

 

What’s behind Brubaker’s struggles?… Prior to 2021, J.T. Brubaker (RHP, PIT) earned an UP: sub-4.00 ERA tag in the 2021 Baseball Forecaster, but instead seemed to take a step backward, posting a 5.36 ERA while seeing his season come to an early end with thumb and shoulder injuries. Can his skills help shed any light on what happened?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  BB%   K% K-BB% xBB%    SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S% HR/F xHR/F 
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  === ===== ====  =====  ========  ===== ==== ===== 
2017# 130  6.08   N/A   8%  14%    6%  N/A    N/A     N/A    39/66  N/A   N/A
2018^ 154  3.51   N/A   7%  16%    9%  N/A    N/A     N/A    34/76  N/A   N/A
2019+  21  3.42   N/A   5%  17%   13%  N/A    N/A     N/A    33/78  N/A   N/A
2020   47  4.94  4.18   8%  23%   15%   8%  11.7%  47/22/31  33/66  14%   18%
2021  124  5.36  4.03   7%  24%   17%   8%  12.4%  43/22/35  30/65  22%   19%
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
21-1H  84  4.09  3.76   5%  23%   18%   6%  12.8%  48/18/34  28/72  20%   16%
21-2H  41  7.97  4.58  11%  26%   15%  10%  11.9%  33/29/38  34/56  27%   24%
#Double-A MLEs
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs
+Triple-A MLEs

He really fell apart in the second half, though bad luck made it look worse:

  • Brubaker was pitching better than ever in the first half of 2021, and then his skills and surface stats both took a nosedive in the second half. The skills didn’t collapse right away—he still posted a 7% BB%, 26% K%, 13.6% SwK, and 4.01 xERA over five starts in July. It was after that that things fell apart, though it doesn’t appear that we can blame that on injury, as he bruised his thumb while batting at the end of August, then made only one lousy 3 IP start after that before being shut down with shoulder inflammation.
  • In comments after the season, Pittsburgh coaches suggested that Brubaker’s issues stem from a need for more stamina and better conditioning, not just for the season, but also for individual games. He missed most of 2019 with elbow and forearm issues, and with the shortened season in 2020, it’s not surprising that he suffered fatigue and/or shoulder inflammation after throwing 100+ IP. But the Pirates are also correct about his in-game issues, as there was a sharp decline in his skills with each time through the order in 2021—1st time: 6% BB%, 30% K%, 24% K-BB%; 2nd time: 8% BB%, 22% K%, 15% K-BB%; 3rd time: 8% BB%, 16% K%, 8% K-BB%.
  • However, his first half skills were a nice step forward from his work in 2020, suggesting that he does have some upside if he can improve his stamina and put everything together in 2022. He’s shown himself to be capable of a below-average walk rate, average-to-above-average strikeout rate, and a high GB%, which, as his 2021 first half xERA shows, is enough to make him a viable mid-rotation starter.

Despite his struggles in 2021, the 28-year-old Brubaker will likely still have a rotation spot in 2022 simply because the Pirates don’t have a lot of better options. With R$ marks of $-9 in 2020 and $-7 in 2021, his fantasy value has been negligible, but there’s a chance that could change in 2022. He’s worth a flyer in deeper leagues, and a small investment could pay off nicely if he’s able to regain that first half form and maintain it over a full season.

 

Emerging power skills make Díaz of interest… At 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds, Lewin Díaz (1B, MIA) has always had the look of a potential power hitter, and in 2021, he got the chance to show what he could do in the majors in a late-season call-up where he hit 5 HR in 93 PA. Do his skills indicate whether he might have a shot at more playing time in 2022?

Year   PA   BA    xBA  HR  xHR  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX HR/F xHR/F
====  ===  ====  ====  ==  ===  ===  ===  ====  ========  ======= ==== =====
2019# 262  .240   N/A  14  N/A    8   77   N/A     N/A    145/N/A  N/A   N/A
2020   41  .154  .152   0    1    5   69    73  41/11/48   45/ 38   0%    8%
2021+ 312  .204   N/A  15  N/A    7   75   N/A     N/A    116/N/A  N/A   N/A
21MLB 128  .205  .234   8    7    5   73   111  31/15/54  135/149  17%   15%
#Double-A MLEs
+Triple-A MLEs

There are reasons to think he’ll get another chance:

  • Power has long been Díaz’s calling card as a prospect, and if we set aside 2020’s tiny sample, he’s consistently delivered above-average-to-elite PX rates in the minors and majors, along with a very high fly ball rate that also tracks with his batted-ball tendencies in the minors. His CAf QBaB score indicates that he had league average exit velocity with an elite launch angle, but one that was highly inconsistent. And that kinda tracks with what we see here—with a 54% fly ball rate and plus hard contact, you’d expect to see a higher HR/F rate. Still, if we pro-rated his 7 xHR in 128 PA over a 500 PA season, that would be 27 HR; that’s not bad for a hitter getting his first prolonged exposure to the majors.
  • His contact rate has been fading slightly as he’s moved up the ladder from Double-A to the majors, though his 2021 mark was only a point or two shy of league average. The high FB% takes a bite out of his batting average potential, but xBA indicates that his near-Mendoza BA was hurt by bad luck, and he did indeed have a very low 21% hit rate. A .234 BA isn’t great either, but it’s at least a little less damaging.
  • His platoon splits suggest he’s already a viable platoon option vs. RHP, as he posted a .788 OPS with a 77% contact rate and 161 PX against them in 2021. His BA was only .217, but a 19% hit rate indicates that BA probably should have been higher, which would have pushed his OPS over .800.

If, as expected, MLB decides to adopt the DH in the NL, the 25-year-old Díaz would likely be one of the beneficiaries, as it would ease the current playing time crunch between him, Jesús Aguilar, and Garrett Cooper. Díaz earned an UP: 400 PA, 25 HR tag in the 2022 Baseball Forecaster, and that looks like an achievable upside target based on his power skills and 8C prospect rating. He looks like an intriguing end game flyer option this spring, and could be a nice platoon target vs. RHP in daily fantasy leagues as well.

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