FACTS/FLUKES: Gausman, Herrmann, Benintendi, Rivero, Grossman

Gausman could be a breakout target... In 2016, Kevin Gausman (RHP, BAL) made 30 starts in the majors for the first time in his young career, posting a 3.61 ERA over 180 IP. As he heads into his age-26 season, is there any reason to anticipate bigger and better things?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK   Vel  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ===
2013* 130  4.71  4.11  1.9  8.3  4.4  42/25/33  34/65   19%  61%  10%  95.9  115
2014* 157  3.60  3.92  3.2  7.2  2.2  41/23/35  31/75    6%  57%   9%  94.8   71
2015* 130  4.28  4.42  2.5  8.2  3.3  44/17/38  30/72   13%  55%  12%  95.3   74
2016  180  3.61  3.84  2.4  8.7  3.7  44/21/35  32/78   15%  57%  11%  94.7  115
*Includes MLEs

There's a lot to like here and elsewhere in Gausman's skill history:

  • Steady annual growth in Dom and Cmd led to his best xERA yet in 2016.
  • If you look at his platoon splits, you'll find similar growth vs. LHP, as he's gone from a 1.8 Cmd rate against lefties in 2014 to 3.4 in 2015 and 4.8 in 2016.
  • He closed out 2016 with a 2.83 ERA over his final 12 GS, though the ERA was aided somewhat by an 82% strand rate.
  • Home runs remain an issue, but his 35% fly ball rate was league average while his 15% hr/f was slightly above average, suggesting there's at least a little bad luck at play there. And somewhat surprisingly, the problem has not been homer-friendly Camden Yards; Gausman has a career 1.1 HR/9 at home, versus 1.3 on the road.

With essentially a league average xERA and shoulder issues each of the last two seasons, Gausman is by no means a sure thing, but if you're looking to speculate on a young arm with the potential to take a solid step forward in 2017, he belongs on your list of targets. As the 2017 Baseball Forecaster suggested, a 3.00 ERA and 200 strikeouts could be his upside.


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Is Herrmann's power worthy of investment?... After moving to the NL for the first time in his career, Chris Herrmann (C, ARI) stunned just about everyone by batting .286 with 6 HR in his first 98 AB with the Diamondbacks before a July hamstring injury and a September broken hand ended his season prematurely. With the ARI catching situation uncertain following the departure of Wellington Castillo (C, BAL), what can we expect from Herrmann in 2017?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  h%  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ==  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====
2013  157  .204  .212   10   69   102  27  43/19/38   98/156   10%   80/3%    4/0
2014   75  .213  .188    5   77    75  28  49/12/39   41/ 55    0%  104/6%    0/1
2015  103  .146  .207    6   64    72  20  48/17/35  104/ 62    9%   92/0%    2/0
2016  148  .284  .242   10   70   127  37  44/17/38  125/206   15%  148/9%    6/4
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Car   501  .212  .220    8   70    94  28  46/17/37   89/126    9%  108/5%   12/5

Because Herrmann has spent his career as a backup catcher and reserve OF, his sample sizes are erratic and small, so it can be helpful to also look at his career numbers:

  • Unfortunately, in 2016, Herrmann only had another 50 AB between the end of his initial hot streak and the injuries that ended his season, so it's impossible to know what he might have done. While he did not hit another HR during those 50 AB, his plate skills did not decline (9% bb, 74% ct), his HctX was 138, and his xPX was 178. Again, small sample size, but it at least tells us his skills were intact.
  • While Herrmann's HR and SB output in 2016 were surprising, his career xPX and Spd suggest he does have some above-average skill in those two areas. (He also hit 4 triples in 2016, which added to his Spd rating.)
  • His contact rate is a sizable detriment to his game, and puts a low ceiling on his BA potential—forget about 2016's .284 mark, hit rate shows it was largely driven by luck. Even with a decent walk rate, his career Eye is a subpar 0.30, which makes his plate discipline a flaw that pitchers may have yet to fully exploit.

Herrmann will be competing with Chris Iannetta (C, ARI), Josh Thole (C, ARI), and Jeff Mathis (C, ARI) for playing time, so while he's currently projected as the most frequent starter, his AB totals should be considered speculative at the moment. (Though his ability to play the outfield gives him an additional avenue to playing time the others do not possess.) If you can stand the BA hit, he does have some power upside. Depending on the depth of your league, he could be a fit as a late-round flyer.

 

Is Benintendi ready to stick in the majors?... In August and September of 2016, we got a 105-AB look at top Red Sox prospect Andrew Benintendi (OF, BOS). Now that he's in line for a starting job, what do his minor and major league skills tell us about his outlook for 2017?

Year/Lg   AB   BA   bb%  ct%   Eye  h%   PX  Spd  HR  SB
=======  ===  ====  ===  ===  ====  ==  ===  ===  ==  ==
2015/A-  124  .290   17   88  1.67  28             7   7
2015/A    74  .351   12   88  1.11  36             4   3
2016/A+  135  .341   10   93  1.67  36             1   8
2016/AA* 237  .285    8   86  0.64  31  112  117   6   7
*MLEs

MLB    AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  h%  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ==  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====
2016  105  .295  .272    9   76   102  37  36/25/39  129/116    6%  107/ 4%   2/1

The skills and scouting reports agree: this is a talented young player, though there are a few caveats...

  • As you might expect, his bb% and Eye have suffered a bit as he's moved up the minor league ladder, but it's encouraging that his ct% has held strong.
  • However, his contact rate did take a hit in the majors, and given that a 25% line drive rate will be tough to repeat and that his PX was slightly higher than his xPX, that .272 xBA might more accurately lie in the .260s. (LD% and PX are both part of the xBA formula.)
  • Based on his Double-A MLEs and time with the Red Sox, his power-speed combo looks legit—that may be his most likely path toward value in 2017.

Benintendi was given an 8B rating in his BaseballHQ.com scouting report, and was the #12 ranked prospect in the 2016's HQ midseason top 50; his pedigree is that of one of the most promising young hitters in baseball. But he's only 22, and progress is rarely a straight line path even for the best of prospects. Double-digit HR and SB could be on the table for 2017—just mind the possible BA regression and be prepared for the possibility of playing time setbacks.

 

Rivero's emerging skills may raise his profile... With a meager career 3.59 ERA over two seasons as a reliever in the majors, Felipe Rivero (LHP, PIT) is hardly a household name, but a closer look at his underlying skills suggests that may not be true for much longer...

Year  IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK   Vel  BPV
====  ==  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ===
2014* 44  4.34  4.60  3.5   6.4  1.9            33/72                         54
2015  48  2.79  3.41  2.0   8.0  3.9  45/21/33  26/70    5%  63%  12%  95.4  112
2016  77  4.09  3.46  3.9  10.8  2.8  48/22/30  32/70   12%  57%  15%  95.8  115

The 25-year-old is still a work in progress, but there are some solid building blocks here:

  • His Dom growth has been dynamic, and well supported by SwK. And after a 2016 July deadline trade that sent him from the Nationals to the Pirates, he upped his Dom to 12.9 with a 16% SwK, while boosting his average velocity up to 96.7.
  • Back-to-back 100+ BPV marks say he's a bullpen asset.
  • Yes, the Ctl is a problem, especially in light of 2016's backslide in FpK. However, even with the rise in walks, his Cmd remained above average. For now, the control issues aren't keeping him from being an effective pitcher.

Rivero earned three saves during his time with the Nationals, and his Leverage Index scores from 2015 (1.10) and 2016 (1.04) hint that his employers view him as an option for late-inning work. And you can make the case that he has better skills than Tony Watson (LHP, PIT), who is currently holding down the closer role for the Pirates. That makes Rivero a speculative saves source for 2017, and one with an A grade on the LIMA Plan scale to boot.

 

Can Grossman repeat his career year?... To the surprise of many, after being released by CLE, Robbie Grossman (OF, MIN) was picked up by the Twins and turned in his best season as a pro, with a .280 BA, 11 HR, and an .828 OPS over four-and-a-half months of play. Do the skills offer any hope that he can do it again?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  h%  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ==  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====
2013  257  .268  .235    8   73    87  36  47/23/30   85/ 90    7%   94/18%   4/6
2014  360  .233  .222   13   71    63  31  41/24/35   82/ 76    7%   88/10%   6/9
2015* 396  .191  .176    9   69    47  26  55/06/39   61/ 57    8%   84/19%   1/0
2016  332  .280  .247   14   71    90  36  38/25/37  111/ 96   13%   84/ 4%  11/2
*Includes MLEs
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
16-1H 140  .279  .261   18   73    93  34  38/23/39  134/ 88   15%   76/ 4%   6/0
16-2H 192  .281  .236   12   70    89  38  38/27/35   93/101   11%   93/ 5%   5/2

The outlook is not so good:

  • There is nothing in his skill history to back the idea that he's a .280 hitter. His career xBA is .234, and that's a near match for his xBA in the second half of 2016.
  • Speaking of that second half, it sure looks like pitchers made adjustments against him, cutting into his walk rate, contact, and power.
  • His HctX and xPX history paint him as a hitter with below average power. Even his 2016 hr/f, while a career-best, was only league average in the increased HR environment.

It's highly unlikely that Grossman will build upon or even repeat his 2016 performance. And if that proves true, his odds of crossing the 300 AB threshold again won't be great, either. It is worth noting that he hit .344 against LHP in 2016, with a 77% contact rate and 143 PX, which suggests he could have a platoon role in his future. If your league gives you the flexibility to play him against lefties, that may be the only reason to consider him roster-worthy.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.