FACTS/FLUKES: deGrom, Realmuto, B. Anderson, Melancon, Heyward

deGrom’s dominance continues … Jacob deGrom (RHP, NYM) hasn’t been able to fully duplicate his tremendous 2018 campaign, but he has pitched at an elite level, amassing a 2.68 ERA and 11.5 Dom in 148 IP. Have there been any notable changes in the underlying skills?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===
2014* 179  2.59  2.83  2.6   8.4  3.2  63%  12%  45/23/31  30/79    6%  113
2015  191  2.54  3.04  1.8   9.7  5.4  68%  13%  44/21/35  29/78    9%  148
2016  148  3.04  3.57  2.2   8.7  4.0  64%  11%  46/23/32  32/79   12%  121
2017  201  3.53  3.39  2.6  10.7  4.1  64%  14%  45/21/34  32/76   16%  144
2018  217  1.70  2.75  1.9  11.2  5.8  66%  16%  46/22/32  29/84    6%  173
2019  148  2.68  3.35  2.2  11.5  5.3  65%  16%  41/22/37  32/80   11%  167 
*Includes MLEs

Nothing of any real concern:

  • The main difference has been in batted ball mix where his FB% has gone up a few ticks compared to 2018 and it has coincided with some hr/f regression. But even then, his hr/9 is much better than the MLB average (1.45 hr/9).
  • Only four qualified MLB starters have struck out a higher percentage of batters (32% K%) thus far in 2019 and just four have a higher SwK. Each of deGrom’s three primary offerings, a four-seam fastball, slider and a change-up, have garnered a SwK of at least 14% with the latter two at 20% and 21%, respectively.
  • His top-tier Ctl is backed by FpK, so no worries there either.
  • Max Scherzer is the only qualified starter with a superior FpK/SwK combination in 2019 (71%/17%).
  • At first glance, the S% seems fortuitous, but his 32% K% has been a driving force there and his lifetime 79% S% in 1,046 IP suggests luck has played a minimal role.

Wins have again been hard to come by for the 2018 Cy Young award winner, but that’s not his fault. The 31-year-old has further entrenched himself as a truly elite starting pitcher and is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. He is on track for his third consecutive season of at least 200 IP and deserves to be one of the very first pitchers off the board in 2020.

 

Realmuto still a top catcher option … J.T. Realmuto (C, PHI) took a step forward offensively in 2018, slugging a career-high 21 HR despite missing most of April with a bone bruise in his back. The offseason move to hitter-friendly Philadelphia figured to give him a power boost, but through 408 AB, he’s on pace to finish 2019 with right around the same number of HR. How are things under the hood?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  =======  ====  =======
2015  441  10/8   .259  .269   4    84  45/21/34  29   106   88/105    8%  125/13%    
2016  509  11/12  .303  .261   5    80  49/20/30  36    97   82/86     9%  102/11%
2017  532  17/8   .278  .267   6    80  48/18/34  32   108   97/98    12%  126/8%
2018  477  21/3   .277  .272   7    78  40/23/37  32   111  123/110   15%  107/4%
2019  408  16/7   .275  .261   7    75  41/23/36  33   119  105/110   14%  105/8%

The skills are pretty similar:

  • His xBA is down slightly due in part to his ct% falling a few more ticks. However, he’s still hitting lots of line drives, so our level of concern here is low.
  • It’s worth noting that his HctX is up a tad despite that decrease in ct% and according to Statcast, his exit velocity is up 1.6 mph to a career-high 90.5 mph in 2019 (MLB average: 87.5 mph). He has also held 2018’s xPX and FB% gains, so 20+ HR seems to be his new level.
  • His wheels remain in fine shape, as evidenced by a Statcast measured sprint speed that ranks in the 88th percentile. After a down year in SBO and SB%, Realmuto has restored his 2018 SBO and been extremely efficient on the basepaths (88% SB%; career: 72% SB).

Though 10 of Realmuto’s HR in 2019 have come at his new home, he seems destined to finish the year with virtually the same HR total as 2018. Meanwhile, his 20+ HR pace looks legit and the stronger supporting cast has enabled him to accrue runs at a personal best clip. With his Statcast sprint speed steady at 28.6 ft/s for the third straight season and a resurgent SBO/SB% combination, a return to double-digit SB is a distinct possibility. Add it all up and the 28-year-old is an elite catcher option.

 

Anderson on a tear … When we last checked in with Brian Anderson (3B/OF, MIA), he was batting .246 with 7 HR through 248 AB and we remarked that his propensity to pound the ball into the ground was hiding substantial gains in hard contact. He has since hit .263 with 13 HR over his last 179 AB. What changed?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  HR  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX   hr/f  Spd/SBO
====  ===  ====  ====  ==  ===  ===  ====  ========  ========  ====  =======
2016# 301  .216   N/A   7   10   78   N/A     N/A      59/N/A   N/A    N/A
2017* 513  .246  .273  18    9   72    87  49/28/23    105/83    0%   119/2%  
2018  590  .273  .252  11    9   78   110  52/20/29     82/78    8%   124/3%
2019  427  .253  .271  20    9   76   117  46/20/34   118/109   18%    93/6%
#Double-A MLEs
*Includes MLEs

He began to hit more flyballs:

  • The biggest change since our June 15 piece has been his ability to lift the ball more, as his FB% stood at 29% back on June 12, but he has a 42% FB% since. His xPX has been an elite 138 and 147, respectively, in July and August, supporting a 22% hr/f. Overall, his average flyball distance has risen dramatically, going from 306 feet in 2018 to a whopping 334 feet in 2019, his barrel% has jumped from 5.8% to 8.9% (MLB average: 6.3%) and his HH% ranks in the 87th percentile.
  • The added power has only cost him a negligible amount of ct% and xBA clearly likes the modifications.
  • He has merely average speed, but he has chosen his spots wisely on the basepaths in 2019, having been caught just once in six tries. 

Anderson has rather quietly made major strides in 2019. By making more hard contact and increasing launch angle, the 26-year-old has unlocked a new level of performance that has propelled him from being a boring fantasy option to an intriguing one. It will be interesting to see how much of these gains stick going forward, but know that his recent surge has been backed by enhanced skills.

 

Melancon moves into closer role in ATL … A pronator muscle injury (forearm) limited Mark Melancon (RHP, ATL) a total of just 69 IP in 2017-18 and impacted his effectiveness as he went from being a top closer pre-injury to posting a 3.78 ERA and 1.52 WHIP over that span. Through 51 IP in 2019, he owns a 3.88 ERA, but does he possess the skills to succeed as a closer?

Year  IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  BPV   vL 
====  ==  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ====
2013  71  1.39  2.33  1.0  8.9  8.8  65%  12%  60/24/16  31/85    3%  170  .357
2014  71  1.90  2.50  1.4  9.0  6.5  69%  14%  57/20/23  27/78    5%  159  .415
2015  77  2.23  3.00  1.6  7.3  4.4  62%  12%  58/20/23  26/78    8%  123  .380
2016  71  1.64  3.01  1.5  8.2  5.4  66%  11%  54/21/25  26/84    6%  139  .560
2017  30  4.50  3.59  1.8  8.7  4.8  56%  10%  53/22/26  38/70   13%  139  .715
2018  39  3.23  4.17  3.2  7.2  2.2  57%  10%  52/26/22  37/80    7%   72  .770
2019  51  3.88  3.36  3.0  9.0  3.0  57%  11%  61/22/17  36/72   13%  120  .716

While he certainly isn’t the pitcher he once was, these are closer-worthy skills:

  • He has always been a groundball pitcher, but this would be his highest GB% since 2013 and just a tick below his career-best 62% GB% from an abbreviated 2009 rookie season. Keeping the ball on the ground has helped him limit HR (2019: 0.5 hr/9; lifetime: 0.5 hr/9).
  • A big difference from his peak years has been the Ctl/FpK degradation. However, his 2019 Ctl is roughly average (3.2 xCtl), so he hasn’t exactly become overly wild.
  • His Dom has fluctuated over the years, but is now about as high as it’s ever been. SwK mostly backs the gains (8.6 xDom).
  • He has been hurt by a bloated H% and unfavorable S%, both of which are well off his career average (30% H% and 76% S% in 567 IP). His xERA indicates a little potential ERA upside.
  • After dominating left-handed batters 2013-16 (5.8 Cmd in 511 PA), he hasn't been as effective against them from 2017-present (2.7 Cmd). 

One wouldn’t necessarily know it based on his ERA and WHIP, but Melancon’s overall skills have rebounded pretty nicely in 2019. He has regained the Dom and elite GB% that played a big part in his 2013-16 success, though his once pinpoint Ctl has declined to roughly average. The 34-year-old’s best days are probably behind him, but with some H% regression, he appears capable of serving as a viable closer option.

 

Heyward powers up … After launching 27 HR in 2012, Jason Heyward (OF, CHC) had failed to hit more than 14 HR in any season since, but he already has 17 HR in 2019. Is the power surge sustainable?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%  FB%  h%  HctX  PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO/SB%
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ==  ====  ======  ====  ===========
2015  547  13/23  .293  .288    9   84  23%  33   105  94/73    12%  112/16%/88%
2016  530   7/11  .230  .249    9   82  33%  27    88  62/72     5%   89/11%/73%
2017  432  11/4   .259  .262    9   84  33%  29    87  66/70     9%  113/ 7%/50%
2018  440   8/1   .270  .260    9   86  34%  30    94  71/69     6%  106/ 2%/50%
2019  395  17/7   .271  .264   11   78  34%  31    95  91/81    16%  116/ 8%/78% 

Quite possibly, yes:

  • Though his xPX remains a bit below average, Statcast tells us that he has made significant gains in both flyball exit velocity, which is up from 89.4 mph in 2018 to 90.9 mph, and average flyball distance which has risen from 301 feet in 2018 to 325 feet in 2019. Also, given that the MLB average hr/f in 2019 is 15%, his current hr/f doesn’t seem out of whack.
  • He has sacrificed ct% for that added power, but it hasn’t hurt his BA or xBA.
  • His Spd is still in good shape and the combination of restoring his 2017 SBO and an increased efficiency on the basepaths gives him a chance of escaping single-digit SB for the first time since 2016.

Heyward has been a major disappointment since signing a massive eight-year, $184 million contract with the Cubs in December 2015, but he has rebounded with a solid 2019 campaign. While this is still a pretty pedestrian collection of skills, the 29-year-old has shown improvement with regard to the quality of contact and his stolen base prowess. It remains to be seen exactly how much of those gains will stick in 2020, but he has regained fantasy relevance for the time being.


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