FACTS/FLUKES: Albies, P. López, Taylor, M. Kelly, Bell

Albies's skills are strong... The 2020 results of Ozzie Albies (2B, ATL) did not keep pace with his career results. In 124 plate appearances, he hit .271 with 6 HR, 19 RBI, 21 R, and 3 SB for $13 R$. A 2021 rebound was expected, but it hasn't fully happened yet. In 189 plate appearances, he is hitting .231 with 9 HR, 24 RBI, 26 R, and 2 SB. What are his chances for a full rebound?

Year   PA  HR/SB  xHR    BA/xBA   bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX/xPX  Spd   SBO
====  ===  =====  ===   ========  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  =======  ===  ====
2017* 682  14/27    7  .265/.233    7   78  41/19/40  32   105   73/113  175   18%
2018  684  24/14   21  .261/.268    5   82  39/21/40  29   104  109/100  122   13%
2019  702  24/15   26  .295/.285    8   83  38/25/37  33   121  103/114  132   11%
2020  124   6/ 3    5  .271/.231    4   75  41/14/45  32    82  108/ 83  130   15%
2021  189   9/ 2  N/A  .231/.275    8   83  30/18/52  23   124  134/143  114    6%
*-Inc. MLEs

With some better fortune, his power and speed skills still back a full rebound: 

  • After his xPX and HctX dipped in 2020, his HctX and xPX say above-average power skills are present. When checking into his fly balls, he averaged a 90.5 mph exit velocity on fly balls with a 303 feet average fly ball distance in 2020. In 2021, he has a 91.3 mph exit velocity on fly balls with a 313 feet average fly ball distance. His 9.2% Brls/PA% ranks 20th in MLB amongst 132 qualified hitters. With his 40% career FB% and 11% career HR/F, he has the skills for a career-high HR total. 
  • A swing in fortune is depressing his current batting average. His increased HctX, ct% rebound, and LD% bump all point to a h% closer to his 30% career h%, and his xBA say he deserves a better BA fate. His .274 career BA falls in line with his BA projection going forward, which could bring his below-average BA above a .260 BA by the end of the 2021 season. 
  • Even with a Spd dip, his above-average Spd skills are there. With fewer chances on the base paths and batting cleanup over the last week, he may see fewer SB chances in 2021. His 142 career Spd and 82% career SB% support success, but fewer chances could keep him under his 12 projected SB.
  • Throughout his career, he has displayed more success versus southpaws, as he has a .957 career OPS and 120 career PX vs. LHP. When facing RHP, he has a .749 career OPS with a 99 career PX. 

Don't lose hope on Albies yet, as his 92 BPV displays his strong skills. While he has shown a bit more power vs. LHP throughout his career, his above-average xPX and HctX are hopeful. Add in his average fly ball distance and barrels, and he has a good chance at finishing with 25+ HR. While his BA has hurt rosters so far, his h% is mostly to blame for his poor BA start. With his HctX, ct%, and LD%, he has the skills to move closer to his .274 career BA if Lady Lucky will pay him back. Although his Spd skills haven't gone anywhere, his SBO points out that his chances have been more than cut in half. His chances could stay low with his recent spot in the middle of the lineup and an Atlanta offense that is in the bottom five teams in stolen base attempts in 2021. Even with his career SB% success and his above-average Spd, he could find it challenging to match his projected SB. If other fantasy managers are worried about Albies, feel free to ask for him in a trade, as he has the skills to improve his results.  


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López could see ERA increase... With a 3.61 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP with six wins and 59 strikeouts in 57 IP in 2020, the 2021 Baseball Forecaster put an UP: sub-3.50 ERA for Pablo López (RHP, MIA). So far in 2021, he has bested a 3.50 ERA. In 56 IP, the right-hander has one win, 54 strikeouts, a 2.73 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. Can he keep up the strong ERA? 

Year   IP   ERA/xERA BB%   K%  K-BB  Ball%  SwK   Vel   G/L/F    H%/S%  HR/F/xHR/F
====  ===  ========= === ====  ====  ===== ====  ====  ========  =====  ==========
2018* 124  2.77/3.24  6%  21%   15%   35%  11.3  92.4  50/21/29  27/80   16%/ 19%
2019  111  5.09/4.22  6%  20%   14%   36%  10.6  93.6  48/21/31  33/59   15%/ 16%
2020   57  3.61/3.79  8%  25%   17%   35%  12.6  93.7  52/19/29  31/70    9%/ 12%
2021   56  2.73/3.83  7%  24%   16%   33%  11.3  93.8  48/21/32  30/79    8%/ N/A
*Includes MLEs

Some of his skills cast shadows of doubt on his current ERA:

  • The velocity is still there, but his Whiff% is in the 26th percentile in 2021. His SwK dip has cut into his skills. He has increased his change-up usage from 29.9% in 2020 to 34.8% in 2021. Even with a change-up first approach, his SwK on the pitch has fallen from a 17.8% SwK in 2020 to a 13.5% SwK in 2021. He has a 16.1% career SwK with his change-up. Even though he improved his K% in 2020 and could increase his SwK on his change-up, his 21% career K% still has some doubts. 
  • He's still avoiding giving up many hard-hit balls, as his HardHit% against is in the 93rd percentile. While he has lost some ground balls on his four-seam fastball (21% GB%) in 2021, he has a 35% career GB% with his four-seam fastball. His change-up and sinker both have 60%+ GB%, and his 49% career GB% supports his current GB%. His 12% career HR/F has some doubts about his current HR/F, as seen in his xERA. With his current ERA, his final ERA could finish near 3.50. 
  • He has kept his BB% stable, and his Ball% has slightly improved in 2021. While his current S% may regress closer to his 69% career S%, his 1.22 career WHIP and 7% career BB% support WHIP success. 
  • In 161.1 home IP, the right-hander has a 2.79 ERA (3.20 home FIP) and 1.10 WHIP. In 122 away IP, he has a 5.90 ERA (4.73 FIP) and a 1.38 WHIP. 

Although he has gotten a bit fortunate on his sub-3.00 ERA with his current HR/F and S%, his current ERA and throwing at least five innings in eight of his ten GS may deserve a few more wins. With a SwK dip, his strikeouts could stay closer to his career K%. Monitor his whiffs with his change-up, as he has used a change-up first approach in his first ten starts. The right-hander continues to avoid hard contact, which pairs well with his career GB% for ERA. Even with an expected ERA increase with his HR/F, he has the skills for a sub-4.00 ERA going forward. His strong BB% and limiting hard contact provide a foundation for WHIP success. Continue to track his home and away ratios, as they have shown quite a disparity throughout his early career. While his ERA may rise, his 104 career BPV and $8 projected R$ can play well in the middle of a fantasy rotation. 

 

Taylor starts quickly... Coming into 2021, fantasy managers were selecting Chris Taylor (OF, LA) at a 218 ADP. With multi-position eligibility and a fast start, he has a $24 R$ in 2021. In 167 plate appearances, he is hitting .277 with 6 HR, 20 RBI, 36 R, and 5 SB. With contributions in all five categories, can he keep up this pace?

Year   PA  HR   SB    BA/xBA   bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX/xPX   Spd  Brl%
====  ===  ==  ===   ========  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  =======  ====  ==== 
2017* 614  22   18  .280/.263    9   73  42/23/36  35    96  123/103   142    8%
2018  604  17    9  .254/.238    9   67  34/28/39  35    95  134/117   152    8%
2019  414  12    8  .262/.254    9   69  38/27/35  35    90  126/106   117    6%
2020  214   8    3  .270/.263   12   70  46/27/28  34   104  122/142   134   11%
2021  167   6    5  .277/.252   15   69  44/23/33  36    76  119/ 72   170   11%
*Includes MLEs

While his 56 BPV is a career high, his skills doubt his current pace: 

  • Even with a few more fly balls, his HctX and xPX have both fallen in 2021. As expected, his 23% HR/F from 2020 has slipped to an 19% HR/F in 2021. After posting a 96.5 mph exit velocity with a 344 feet average fly ball distance in 2020, Taylor has a 93.9 mph exit velocity on fly balls with a 313 feet average fly ball distance in 2021. He has kept his Brl% gains from 2020. With a 36% career FB% and a 13% career HR/F, his 113 career xPX contributes to an 18 projected HR finish. 
  • His above-average Spd has increased in 2021, and his 10% SBO% is close to his 12% career SBO%. He's successfully stolen five bases in five attempts. His 76% career SB% expects a few CS, but his career SBO% and Spd say he can reach double-digit SB for the first time since 2017. 
  • His plate discipline has improved with a bb% increase, which has contributed to a career-high 0.60 Eye. While Taylor's h% is near his 35% career h%, his xBA is still above average. His 98 career HctX expects a little more hard contact, but his HardHit% is in the 49th percentile. His batting average could finish near his .264 career BA. 
  • He's crushing LHP to the tune of a 1.199 OPS and 229 PX through 43 at-bats. In an extremely small sample, he has a 99.5 mph exit velocity and a 342 feet average fly ball distance vs. LHP. In 670 career at-bats vs. LHP, he has an .803 OPS with a 124 PX. 

Even though Taylor has seen some fortune break his way early, his career-high BPV shows his fast start isn't all fluke. His power pace could slow, as his xPX, HctX, and average fly ball distance all point to weaker power skills in 2021. With his career FB%, career HR/F, and career xPX, he can finish with a high-teen HR total. His speed skills are a fact, as his above-average Spd and career SBO% point to more SB in 2021. With his career Spd and SB%, he can swipe double-digit SB in 2021. Although his career OPS against southpaws expects regression, his hard-hit fly balls in a small sample vs. LHP have been backed by skills. Taking more walks is an also encouraging sign, and even with some expected h% regression, a BA finish in the mid-.260's can still help rosters. While his production may contribute to an R$ more in the teens going forward, his speed increase and improved patience are a fact. 

 

Kelly should see better ratios... Even with a fortune-aided 2.59 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 31 IP in 2020, Merrill Kelly (RHP, ARI) was a late-round pick at his 535 ADP. The right-hander's ratios have shifted with fortune in 2021. Through 52 IP, he has two wins, 46 strikeouts, a 5.05 ERA, and a 1.37 WHIP. In four May starts, he has 28 strikeouts, a 3.65 ERA, and a 1.30 WHIP in 25 IP. Can he continue to lower his ratios?

Year   IP   ERA/xERA BB%   K%  K-BB  Ball%  SwK   Vel   G/L/F    H%/S%  HR/F/xHR/F
====  ===  ========= === ====  ====  ===== ====  ====  ========  =====  ==========
2017* 190  4.47/5.08  7%  22%   15%   N/A   N/A   N/A     N/A    35/73   N/A/ N/A
2018* 158  4.10/3.95  7%  25%   18%   N/A   N/A   N/A     N/A    32/70   N/A/ N/A
2019  183  4.42/4.69  7%  20%   13%   36%  10.1  91.9  42/22/36  30/71   15%/ 19%
2020   31  2.59/3.91  4%  23%   19%   35%  10.1  92.1  46/18/37  26/85   15%/ 17%
2021   52  5.05/4.37  7%  21%   14%   36%   8.9  91.4  43/23/34  32/67   15%/ N/A
*MLEs from KBO

Although he should see lower ratios, Kelly's skills are slightly below average:

  • His SwK dip can mostly be attributed to his sinker (4% SwK) and change-up (9% SwK), as both have created fewer whiffs in 2021. According to Statcast, his Whiff% is in the 14th percentile. His 9.9% career SwK expects a few more strikeouts, but his K% is in line with his 21% career K%. 
  • As he has seen changes in H% and S% from 2020, his ERA has increased. While his HardHit% allowed is below average in the 35th percentile, his xERA and 71% career S% expect a better ratio fate. His 4.33 ERA and 4.35 xERA provide reasonable ERA expectations.  
  • He has increased his sinker usage from 17.5% in 2020 to 22.6% in 2021. His sinker has a 54% GB% in 2021, which is in line with his 53% career GB% with the pitch. Although his four-seam fastball has a 20% GB%, his curveball has a 68% GB%. He has a 48% GB% in May. 
  • While his BB% history and BB% in the 64th percentile supports a better WHIP, his average Ball% may cap his WHIP improvements. His xwOBA against is in the 34th percentile in MLB. His 2020 WHIP was a fluke, but he can post a WHIP near his 1.29 career WHIP. 

With a poor 6.33 ERA that was influenced by his 57% S%, he has a $-6 R$ in 2021. With better S% fate, Kelly can improve his ERA and WHIP. Although he does give up his share of hard contact, his career S% and career ERA support an ERA that finishes closer to career ERA. While he is throwing his sinker more and inducing more ground balls in May, his GB% is in line with his career GB%. His WHIP should improve closer to his 1.29 career WHIP with fortune, as he has a consistent BB% albeit with an average Ball%. Even with better ratios, his whiffs could continue to fall behind league average. His below-average SwK and K% say his current K% is a fact. With expected regression, he can add pitching depth in deeper leagues with his projected $6 R$. 

 

Bell's BA woes continue... The 37-HR breakout from Josh Bell (1B, WAS) in 2019 moved him up many draft boards. After a 2020 season where he hit .226 with 8 HR, 22 RBI, and 22 R, he still had a 143 ADP in 2021 drafts. While the power is still present, the batting average has lagged again in 2021. In 124 plate appearances, he is hitting .195 with 5 HR, 17 RBI, and 23 R. How do his skills look behind the results?

Year   PA  HR  xHR    BA/xBA   bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX/xPX  Fbd^  EV*
====  ===  ==  ===   ========  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  =======  ===  ====
2017  620  26   20  .255/.275   11   79  51/18/31  28   104  113/ 95  317  90.7
2018  583  12   18  .261/.256   13   79  49/19/33  31    99   93/ 88  318  93.1
2019  613  37   38  .277/.291   12   78  44/19/37  29   122  150/135  341  95.7
2020  223   8    8  .226/.212   10   70  56/19/26  28   117   77/ 57  299  90.7
2021  124   5  N/A  .195/.248    7   70  55/16/29  23   127  114/124  339  96.9
^ average fly ball distance
* average exit velocity on fly balls

His power skills have rebounded, but his low ct% has carried over from 2020:

  • The xPX rebound is a positive sign, as are his average fly ball distance and average exit velocity on fly balls. While his 22% HR/F is in line with his 22% HR/F from 2020 and 24% HR/F from 2019, his GB% is cutting into his power. After posting a 12% Brl% in 2019, Bell has a 9% Brl% in 2021. With a 32% career FB%, he has the power skills for 20+ HR.
  • Although a low h% isn't helping his batting average efforts, his poor ct% is cutting into his BA. His 78% career ct% and 12% career bb% back some BA and OBP improvements, as he is still displaying above-average HctX. Even with some positive regression looming, his BA may stay under .250 in 2021. 
  • He has a 0.71 Eye in 24 at-bats versus southpaws with a 71% ct% and 17% bb%. He has lost some playing time versus LHP, and he has a 12% h% and 36 PX vs. LHP. His .707 career OPS, 75% career ct%, 26% career h%, and 94 career PX vs. LHP support better results with more at-bats. 

While the power skills have returned, Bell's low batting average isn't all bad luck. Although a h% swing should help his BA, his poor ct% in 2020 and 2021 have also contributed to a lower BA. With his HctX, a h% bump, and a return to his career ct%, he could finish closer to his .257 career BA. Expect some better results against southpaws when looking at his career numbers, but also monitor his playing time versus LHP. Bell's power rebound is a fact, as his xPX, fly ball distance, and fly ball exit velocity have all rebounded. Even though more fly balls would help his cause, his power skills are the strongest aspect of his below-average skills (12 BPV). That being said, fantasy managers should not expect his 2019 HR results to return. Planning on a 20+ HR result is a likely outcome with his 24 projected HR. With some positive regression expected, he could move from a single-digit R$ to a double-digit R$. 


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