FACTS/ FLUKES: Castellanos, C. Smith, McMahon, C. Anderson, A. Dickerson

Castellanos helped by change of scenery … Prior to a July 31 trade from Detroit to the Cubs, Nick Castellanos (OF, CHC) was in the midst of a somewhat disappointing 2019 season, slashing .273/.328/.462 with 11 HR in 403 AB. However, he has been on fire since joining the Cubs, sporting a .392/.429/.785 slash line with 8 HR in 79 AB. How are the underlying skills?

Year   AB  HR    BA   xBA    vL   bb%  ct%  GB/LD/FB  HctX   PX  xPX  hr/f
====  ===  ==  ====  ====  =====  ===  ===  ========  ====  ===  ===  ====
2015  549  15  .255  .243   .970    7   72  36/23/40   103  118  118    9%
2016  411  18  .285  .260   .656    6   73  31/26/43   106  135  166   14%
2017  614  26  .272  .274   .934    6   77  37/25/38   135  122  142   14%
2018  620  23  .298  .276  1.004    7   76  35/29/36   134  128  139   14%
2019  482  19  .293  .280  1.109    7   77  38/24/38   113  128  117   13%

Overall, not quite as good as we’re accustomed to seeing from Castellanos:

  • Stable plate skills and xBA indicate there’s nothing to worry about on the BA front. Having said that, a dip in LD% and HctX do make it less likely he’ll bat .300+.
  • The decline in HctX and xPX is a bit concerning. While he has the goods for around 25 HR, the 30+ HR upside is out of reach unless he starts making more hard contact.
  • He continues to mash left-handed pitching, boasting a lifetime .882 OPS, 117 PX and 0.38 Eye in 755 AB.

Castellanos entered 2019 with 30+ HR upside based on his elite combination of HctX and xPX, but a downturn in those skills will prevent him from reaching it this year. On the plus side, the move from rebuilding Detroit to contending Chicago gives the 27-year-old a much better supporting cast and a more hitter-friendly home park (Comerica Park: neutral RHB HR; Wrigley Field: +9% RHB HR), so that should give him a boost for the remainder of 2019. It will be interesting to see where the free agent-to-be lands this winter, but simply exiting Detroit could help unlock some of that aforementioned upside.

 

Smith racks up strikeouts … An injury to Dan Straily opened the door for unheralded Caleb Smith (LHP, MIA) to begin the 2018 season in Miami’s starting rotation and he took advantage of the opportunity, amassing a 4.19 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 77 IP before a Grade 3 lat strain (surgery) ended his season in late June. He has fared even better so far in 2019, posting a 3.82 ERA through 118 IP. What can we expect going forward?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK/SwK   Vel  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  =======  ====  ========  =====  ====  ===
2015* 135  4.75  4.91  4.1   5.4  1.3  N/A/N/A   N/A     N/A    32/70   N/A   35  
2016*  64  5.76  5.82  3.2   8.2  2.6  N/A/N/A   N/A     N/A    39/66   N/A   67
2017# 119  4.26  4.66  3.5   7.6  2.2  56%/13%  94.0  28/29/43  31/74   16%   55
2018   77  4.19  4.36  3.8  10.2  2.7  59%/12%  92.8  28/21/51  29/70   10%   87
2019  118  3.82  4.26  3.3  10.6  3.2  59%/14%  91.8  28/22/50  25/75   16%  107
*MLEs
#Includes MLEs

The skills suggest similar production:

  • The slight Dom uptick comes with full SwK support, so the strikeouts should keep coming at a high clip. Each of his three offerings—four-seam fastball, slider and change-up—have garnered a SwK of 13% or greater in 2019 with the change-up leading the way at 18%.
  • Though his FpK is unchanged, the Ctl gains are backed by Ball%, which has improved from 36.5% in 2018 to 35.1% in 2019. His FpK correlates to a 3.0 xCtl and Ball% jibes with a 2.3 xCtl, so there is some potential Ctl upside remaining.
  • His flyball lean has led to HR issues. If he had enough IP to qualify, he would be tied for fifth worst hr/9 among MLB starters in 2019 (1.8 hr/9). 15 of the 23 HR he has allowed in 2019 have come against the fastball, which is down 1 mph from 2018.
  • He has been aided by some H%/S% luck, so his ERA figures to eventually move toward xERA.

Smith was shelved from June 7-July 6 with left hip inflammation, but he has certainly been useful when on the mound. Given the 27-year-old’s extreme flyball lean, he’ll continue to be plagued by bouts of gopheritis, but the top-tier Dom makes it worthwhile. Unless he can turn some of that aforementioned Ctl upside into reality, his ERA and WHIP are both likely to rise, but even then, we’re still probably looking a 30-40th ranked starting pitcher in 2020.

 

McMahon surging … Ryan McMahon (1B/2B/3B, COL) entered play on July 15 with a .264 batting average and 7 HR in 250 AB, but he has been on a tear since then, compiling a .283 BA and 10 HR over his last 106 AB. Can he keep it going?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%/ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX   PX  xPX  hr/f  Spd 
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  =======  ========  ==  ====  ===  ===  ====  ===   
2016* 466  11/9   .247   N/A    9/67      N/A    35   N/A  114  N/A   N/A   99
2017^ 489  17/9   .331  .290    7/80      N/A    39   N/A  118  N/A   N/A  102
2018^ 405  13/3   .243  .242    6/68   46/24/30  33    85  114   99   14%   98   
2019  360  17/5   .269  .253   11/68   50/22/28  35   107  120  116   25%  104
*MLEs
^Includes MLEs

The recent torrid stretch has largely been driven by hr/f and H% luck, but there have been some gains:

  • During the recent hot streak, he has a 51% GB%, 30% FB% and a crazy 48% hr/f. However, he has improved the quality of his contact this year, as evidenced by gains in HctX, xPX, Statcast measured Barrel% (up from 5.1% in 2018 to 9.5% in 2019) and exit velocity (up from 88.9 mph to 91.4 mph). Though he doesn’t hit many flyballs, he tends to crush them when he does, posting a 94 mph flyball exit velocity and average distance of 341 feet, so his overall hr/f may not fall too far from the current mark.
  • He has shown upgraded patience in 2019, but his ct% hasn’t rebounded, which makes 2017 appear to be the outlier. Even with the shaky ct%, his current BA seems about right considering he calls hitter-friendly Coors Field home (+18% LHB BA).
  • He owns merely average wheels, but he has chosen his spots wisely on the basepaths, having been caught just once in seven career MLB attempts. He could finish 2019 with 7-8 SB, but don’t expect more than that in 2020.

Unless McMahon can curtail strikeouts, his BA is probably capped. However, the enhanced quality of contact has been an intriguing development as it points to additional HR upside, provided it sticks and he can hit more flyballs. It’s a relatively small sample, but the 24-year-old has displayed substantial home/away splits, slashing .299/.373/.537 with 17 HR in 298 home AB compared to a .202/.294/.310 line with 5 HR in 258 AB away from Coors Field, so keep that in mind.

 

Anderson still chasing that 2017 magic … Chase Anderson (RHP, MIL) unsurprisingly wasn’t able to replicate his 2017 breakout in 2018, as he posted an ERA (3.93) more than a run higher than his 2017 mark. The results haven’t been there in 2019 either, as he owns a 4.54 ERA through 107 IP. Is there any reason for optimism?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK   Vel  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ====  ========  =====  ====  ===
2014* 153  3.23  3.79  2.7  7.9  2.9  63%  10%  91.0  40/24/36  30/78   14%   82
2015  153  4.30  4.16  2.4  6.5  2.8  62%   8%  91.5  42/24/34  30/69   11%   74
2016  152  4.39  4.78  3.1  7.1  2.3  58%   9%  91.1  36/23/41  29/74   15%   57
2017  141  2.74  4.15  2.6  8.5  3.2  61%  11%  93.1  39/18/43  27/79    9%   99
2018  158  3.93  4.63  3.2  7.3  2.2  63%  10%  92.4  34/21/44  24/75   15%   56
2019  107  4.54  4.98  3.2  8.3  2.6  61%  11%  93.3  37/18/45  29/70   13%   79
*Includes MLEs

This is pretty much who Anderson is:

  • After reviewing video, he noticed that his mechanics were off in 2018, causing a decrease in velocity and some difficulties with locating pitches. The offseason adjustments have brought back his prior velocity.
  • The change-up remains his best pitch (17% SwK) and its usage has gone up from 19% to 24%, so that has played a part in SwK/Dom uptick.
  • While his FpK has slipped a tad, it and his 35.7% Ball% hint at the potential for Ctl improvement (2.7 xCtl).
  • His flyball lean makes him susceptible to the long ball, which is particularly problematic considering his hitter-friendly home (Miller Park: +24% LHB HR). He has a lifetime 1.6 hr/9 in 285 IP there compared to a 1.3 hr/9 in 273 lifetime IP on the road.

As long time BaseballHQ.com readers know, 2017 was always likely to go down as Anderson’s career year, as that breakout was greatly aided by a healthy dose of good fortune. If the Ctl upside materializes, it would certainly help the 31-year-old’s cause, but even then we’re talking about a bland skill set, especially when factoring in the HR issues. It’s tough to see him having much value outside of deeper leagues.

 

Dickerson flashing intriguing skills … When we last checked in on Alex Dickerson (OF, SF) back in September 2016, there was a good bit to like in his skill set and we remarked that he carried some sleeper potential for 2017. However, he missed the entire 2017 season with a herniated disc and all of 2018 following Tommy John surgery. He began 2019 at Triple-A, but strong performance there earned him another shot at the big leagues, and he has made the most of his opportunity, batting .325 with 6 HR in 117 AB. Should he be on the fantasy radar?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  h%  GB/LD/FB   PX  xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ==  ========  ===  ===  ====  =======  =====
2014* 137  .273   --     5   75   --    -     ---    113   --   --    79/ --   2/ 0
2015* 459  .237   --     6   74   --    -     ---     98   --   --   105/ --   8/ 3
2016# 217  .382   --     6   --   --    -     ---     --   --   --    --/ --  10/ 0
2016  253  .257  .278    9   83   114  28  37/22/40  114  105   12%   93/10%  10/ 5
2017                     --- Did not play ---
2018                     --- Did not play ---
2019  117  .325  .293    9   75   113  39  40/23/38  157  130   18%  114/7%    6/ 1 
*MLEs
#Triple-A Stats

Yes, this is a decent skill set:

  • An inflated h% has certainly helped, but xBA and solid plate skills show it’s not all luck.
  • He has made even more hard contact in 2019, albeit in a small sample, as evidenced by jumps in xPX as well as Statcast measured Barrel% (6.6% in 2016 to 10.2%), exit velocity (88.6 mph to 91.3 mph) and Hard Hit% (39.3% to 48.9%). Couple that added pop with his FB% and there’s compelling HR upside.
  • Despite average speed, he once carried 5-10 SB potential. He has only attempted to steal twice in 2019 (33 minor league games included), so it now looks like he has the capacity to swipe up to five bags in a full season.

Dickerson, who was acquired via trade on June 10, 2019 after having been designated for assignment by the Padres, would appear to be in line for a good bit of playing time down the stretch as a strong-side platoon option. While pitcher-friendly Oracle Park won’t do him any favors (LHB HR: -40%), it’s worth noting that he has slugged 4 HR in 48 AB there in 2019. The 29-year-old is capable of providing some sneaky value down the stretch and into 2020.


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