FACTS/FLUKES: Gallo, Montas, Laureano, Ray, E. White

Can Gallo return to form?... Since posting back-to-back 40 HR seasons in 2017 and 2018, Joey Gallo (OF, TEX) has seen his output decline from $16 in R$ in 2018, to $7 in 2020. In 2019, he suffered a strained left oblique that sidelined him for close to 100 days, resulting in 297 PA. While last season, a positive COVID test took some time—and production—away, as he tallied 226 PA and logged the worst BPX of his career (8). As we head into 2021, can we count on Gallo returning to his previous form, or should we temper expectations? 

Year  PA   BA/xBA   HR/xHR bb% ct%  h% HctX GB/LD/FB PX/xPX  QBaB Brl% EV% 
====  === ========= ====== === === === ==== ======== ======= ==== ==== ====
2016* 443 .204/.184  21/ 1 13% 53% 31%   36 17/17/67 185/100 DAb  17%   N/A
2017  532 .209/.237  41/43 14% 56% 25%  106 28/18/54 231/206 AAc  22%  100%
2018  577 .206/.238  40/47 13% 59% 25%  105 30/21/50 213/180 AAb  23%  100%
2019  297 .253/.240  22/29 18% 53% 37%   95 27/26/47 251/199 AAc  26%   99%
2020  226 .181/.194  10/12 13% 59% 24%   99 27/18/55 137/173 BAf  14%   85%
* Includes MLEs
EV% Exit Velocity Percentile Rank per Statcast

The notion that injuries played a role the last two years is reasonable:

  • Inflated h% and career-best LD% that drove 2019 BA fell off a cliff in 2020.  
  • ct% continues to drive BA down; xBA from '17 to '19 say there could be a .240 BA again, but his career trend has pointed to falling short of xBA consistently.
  • 2020 PX is an ovbious outlier. FB% and xPX continue to show upper-tier power; xHR from '17 and '18 is a more accurate representation since that includes a full allottment of PA. Career 28% HR/F dipped to 17% in '20, with xHR/F sitting at 20% as well. His three-year average xHR/F prior to '20 was 37%. 
  • EV% sits him in the Top 1% of MLB for three-straight seasons prior to '20. Brl% was also a career-worst last year, as he finished first in '18 and '19, with a second place ranking in 2017. QBaB lends to EV and LA continuing to be a strong suit. 

Gallo sits 11th among all hitters in HR since 2017. At age 27, there's no reason to believe that he'll suddenly change from being a three true outcome hitter, but his 14% career bb% has resulted in a .327 OBA, giving him a significant boost in OBP formats. Despite missing time the last two seasons due to injury, his power metrics have widely remained stable, and have a chance to return to prior levels assuming health is on his side. He currently leads all hitters in HR during Spring Training (5 HR in 15 PA), and by all accounts is having a normal offseason. If durability plays in his favor, there's a chance the "UP" tag of 50 HR the 2021 Baseball Forecaster placed on him could come to fruition. With a current ADP of 162 on NFBC, there's a significant amount of potential value.


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Montas looks to get back on track... It's been a difficult road for Frankie Montas (RHP, OAK) over the last few years. After a 15 GS stretch in 2019 that saw him break out to the tune of a 2.70 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and a 21% K-BB%, he was slapped with an 80-game PED suspension that essentially ended his season outside of one outing in September. Heading into 2020, the arrow was pointing up, and he delivered positive results over his first 4 GS (23 IP, 1.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 22/9 K:BB). Unfortunately, a back injury in August caused him to miss one start, and he posted an 8.70 ERA with a 1.90 WHIP and 38/14 K:BB over 30 IP (7 GS) the rest of the way. Which version of Montas are we getting this season, and where has the NFBC market landed on him thus far?

Yr  IP  ERA/xERA  WHP/xWHP  Ball% BB% K%  K-BB SwK  Vel  H%/S% GB/LD/FB HR/F BPX 
==  === ========= ========= ===== === === ==== ==== ==== ===== ======== ==== ===
17*  61 6.59/5.92 1.54/1.52  37%  10% 24%  14% 12.1 97.7 33/62 35/24/41  26%  56
18* 138 4.77/4.76 1.47/1.40  36%   8% 16%   8%  9.2 95.8 32/68 44/25/31   7%  58
19   96 2.63/3.54 1.11/1.16  35%   6% 26%  20% 11.7 96.6 31/80 49/22/29  11% 155
20   53 5.60/4.60 1.51/1.32  34%  10% 25%  16% 12.1 95.8 34/67 37/26/38  18% 105
* Includes MLEs

There's still a lot to like from a skills perspective:

  • K% has held steady each of the last two seasons and is backed by a growing SwK. The addition of a split-finger in 2019 (19% usage in '19, 13% usage in '20) helped generate more whiffs (23% SwK in '19, 25% SwK in '20) and should continue to help drive positive K% results. FB Vel has remained in the 87th percentile or higher every season.
  • Ball% in '19, helped drive career-best WHIP and BB% that season. BB% regressed in '20, but Ball% improved even more, and xBB% (7%) says that things should've played more in his favor in that category. 
  • ERA was inflated by career-worst 34% H%, regression in S% (league-average was 71% last year), elevated LD%, and an inflated HR/F while simultaneously allowing more FB (1.7 hr/9 in '20, combined 0.8 the two years prior). xERA suggests results should've been much better, but is significantly down from 2019 when he added his splitter. 

Montas is already off to a rocky start in 2021, as he's been delayed in camp due to a bout with COVID. Reports are he's ramping up activity, and should be ready for the start of the season, but with his recent injury/suspension issues, it's worth keeping a very close eye on. In terms of expectations for this season, assuming health, there's a favorable outlook on the horizon. While 2021 may not prove to be as successful as 2019, his incremental SwK gains that have increased his K% the last two years, paired with a strong Ball% trend, bodes well for future performance. It'd be optimal if we saw his GB trend from '18-'19 return in 2021, but it's worth noting that his splitter was the main reason for a 49% GB in 2019 (63% GB on the pitch), and regressed down to a 43% mark in 2020. His final 4 GS were actually his best from a skills perspective (167 BPV, 25% K-BB%), and he dropped his splitter usage down to 10%, as it was overall less effective (.333 oBA in '20, .125 oBA in '19). Currently being selected at pick 160 in NFBC drafts, Montas presents massive upside, but with all of the inconsistency since the suspension, it's best to expect a middle-of-the-road result between 2019 and 2020 output.

 

Questions arise in Laureano's profile... In 2019, Ramon Laureano (OF, OAK) swatted 24 HR and notched 13 SB en route to a $23 season. That production resulted in being selected within the Top 80 picks (NFBC) during the 2020 draft season. However, his 2020 wasn't nearly as productive, as waning speed and contact issues netted him $8 in R$. Can Laureano get back to the same level as 2019, or did 2020 provide a preview of what to expect moving forward?

Year  PA   BA/xBA   HR/xHR SB/xSB bb% ct% HctX GB/LD/FB PX/xPX  HR/F/xHR/F Spd
====  === ========= ====== ====== === === ==== ======== ======= ========== ===
2016^ 141 .300/N/A   4/N/A   9/ 2 12% 70%  N/A 46/22/32 141/N/A   17%/N/A  116
2017^ 496 .206/N/A   9/N/A  20/16  7% 73%  N/A 44/20/36  78/N/A    9%/N/A  129
2018* 446 .269/.247 15/ 9   16/17  9% 68%  100 44/25/31 124/ 86   15%/26%  113
2019  481 .288/.263 24/22   13/11  6% 72%   99 36/25/39 134/108   19%/18%  101
2020  222 .213/.225  6/ 8    2/ 5 11% 68%   91 43/22/35  96/100   13%/18%   86
^ Double-A MLEs
* Includes Triple-A MLEs

His skills have been consistent, but keep an eye on his speed:

  • Spd score trended down for the second straight year, along with SBA% and SB%. Success rate last year is based on three SB attempts, but OAK is a bottom-three unit in SBA per game since 2018. Statcast's Sprint Speed metric echoes the same sentiment, as he ranked in the 92nd percentile in 2018, while finishing in the 76th percentile in 2020.
  • PX was significantly worse than past seasons, but xPX staying close to 2019 levels is encouraging. FB% continues to promote power, as well as xHR/F. His Exit Velocity on FB ranked 105th in 2019 at 93.4 mph, and only moved a shade back to 92 mph in '20. Brl% remained in the 60th percentile as well. 
  • BA hit an MLB low due to drop in h% (28%) and HctX. ct% reverted back to 2018 levels, but LD% bodes well for positive regression. Exit Velocity and Hard-Hit% went from 60th and 57th percentile in 2019 to 30th and 27th percentile in 2020. His 11% bb% however, helped fuel a .338 OBP, which is right in line with 2018/2019 despite the downtick in BA.

Laureano is only 26 years old, but this is an important season in determining what kind of future potential lies in his profile. While his Eye in 2020 (0.41) is the best mark he's posted in the majors, a 70% career ct% makes his .257 xBA a much more likely scenario versus the .270 mark he's logged to date. His power profile continues to demonstrate 20+ HR pop, but his QBaB drop from "BBc" in 2019 to "CCf" in 2020 is at least worth monitoring. Speed is likely the biggest question mark here, as he's only notched 6 SBA over his last 331 PA dating back to the 2H of 2019. A right lower leg stress reaction injury that caused him to miss 38 days in 2019 could hold part of the blame here, but the recent trend for OAK has resulted in a lack of attempts. It's likely the safer bet to expect what our projections have for him, which is 10 SB. NFBC ADP currently spots Laureano at pick 144, which is roughly a 65 pick discount from 2020. He's well worth taking a shot on at that price, and could prove to be closer to the player we saw in 2019 versus 2020.

 

Ray coming off an erratic season... From 2015-2019, Robbie Ray (LHP, TOR) compiled a 3.96 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 1.2 hr/9, and a 19% K-BB% over 140 GS. In 2020 however, reports of him reworking his mechanics led people to believe improvements were coming. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worst, as he amassed a career-worst 4 BPX with a -$17 R$ value, while also getting traded to the Blue Jays. At 29 years old, is there hope that he can return to being a usable fantasy commodity? 

Yr IP  ERA/xERA  WHP/xWHP  BB%/xBB% K%  K-BB SwK  H%/S%  HR/9 GB/LD/FB HR/F/xHR/F 
== === ========= ========= ======== === ==== ==== ====== ==== ======== ==========
17 162 2.89/3.49 1.15/1.22  11%/ 9% 33%  22% 14.7 28/82  1.3  40/19/40  16%/13%
18 124 3.93/3.75 1.35/1.34  13%/10% 31%  18% 13.2 30/76  1.4  39/22/39  17%/14%
19 174 4.34/3.90 1.34/1.28  11%/ 9% 32%  20% 14.1 32/74  1.5  37/26/37  20%/20%
20  52 6.62/6.14 1.90/1.67  18%/13% 27%   9% 13.0 34/71  2.3  24/24/51  19%/18%

If he can reel in the BB% a bit, his K% upside and IP can be useful:

  • BB% and xBB% both spiraled out of control. A 43% Ball% (averaged 37.5% three years prior) and career-worst 52% FpK heavily impacted his awful control. WHIP/xWHIP suffered the same fate, as control issues combined with elevated H% impacted things negatively in that area. 
  • The long ball continues to be an issue, and that problem reached new heights in 2020. Second-worst hr/9 in MLB among all pitchers with >50 IP. Also finished second-worst in FB%, which paired incredibly badly with a HR/F that was already below league average, but has been exceptionally high the last two years along with xHR/F. Brl% ranking also validates home run issues, as he's sat in the 6th and 5th percentile since 2019.
  • ERA and xERA have both trended in the wrong direction for three straight seasons now. Even with fluctuations in H%/S%, the lack of keeping the ball in the park, in tandem with a heightened LD% the last two years (9th percentile or worse in Hard-Hit% in three of the last four seasons overall per Statcast), makes a 3.50 ERA seem extremely hard to reach.
  • K% among the elite for three straight years prior to 2020, and was still Top 25 among pitchers with >50 IP in a "down" season. SwK continues to support K% as well, but typically upper-tier K-BB% took a dive in '20 due to BB% erosion.

Our Depth Chart for TOR currently has Ray firmly in the rotation to start the season. Where he can provide value is obviously in the K% category. He ranks in the Top 7 among all SP since 2017 in K% (31%), while also sitting Top 15 in SwK (13.5%) and Top 30 in K-BB% (19%) despite the second-worst BB% in that timeframe (12.4%). Career trends prior to 2020 provide some optimism that he can return to being a 37% Ball%/59% FpK pitcher and have an ERA in the 4.00 range. Rogers Centre provides a 13% suppression to RHB HR over the last three years, which could play to Ray's favor, as he's yielded a .780 oOPS to RHB in his career, with a 1.012 oOPS to RHB in '20. For what it's worth, he only allowed 1 HR in Rogers Centre in 2020 over a small 3 GS sample, but on the other hand, Chase Field offers similar ball park factors, and he yielded a 1.7 and 2.1 hr/9 the last two years prior to 2020. The amount of hard contact he allows paired with his wild tendencies make it a risky proposition, but it's hard to find his type of K% upside at pick 330 (per NFBC).   

 

White goes through growing pains... With an opportunity to play full-time in the majors straight from Double-A the year prior, Evan White (1B, SEA) suffered through an abysmal rookie season in 2020 (-128 BPX), producing $4 in R$. As we head into his first "full" campaign, can the former "8C" prospect capitalize on his 75% PT projection?

Year  PA   BA/xBA   HR/xHR bb% ct% h%  HctX GB/LD/FB PX/xPX  Brl% HR/F/xHR/F 
====  === ========= ====== === === === ==== ======== ======= ==== ==========
2019* 394 .281/N/A  18/N/A  7% 71% 35%  N/A 42/23/35 103/N/A  N/A  19%/N/A
2020  202 .176/.179  8/11   9% 54% 27%   75 43/15/42 131/147  13%  20%/27%
* Double-A MLEs

If there's improvements in plate discipline, there could be substantial upside:

  • ct% ranked as the second-worst among all qualified hitters in 2020. League-average Zone-Contact% in 2020 was 80%, with Whiff% sitting at 27%. White posted a 71% mark in Zone-Contact, and a 38% Whiff%. 
  • LD%, h%, xBA and HctX all validated his .176 BA; however, he hit .293 and .303 in his most meaningful stops in MiLB to go along with a 0.50 and 0.32 Eye (0.21 in '20). 
  • Above-average grades in power in MiLB were one of the few things that translated last year. FB%, hr/f/xhr/f, PX/xPX, and xHR all backed 30+ HR capability. Brl%, Exit Velocity, and Hard-Hit% all ranked in the 90th, 87th, and 95th percentile respectively per Statcast. His 322 ft average FB distance sat Top 100 among all hitters, and a 94.3 mph average exit velocity on FB placed him in the Top 60.  

Our 2020 Minor League Analyst team gave White an "8C" grade; citing his "advanced approach with terriffic zone discipline" as reasons for optimism. Thus far in the majors, he's had a major issue making contact, but based on his MiLB track record, there's reason to believe we'll see improvements on that front. His "ACc" QBaB score demonstrates that he's hitting the ball extremely hard, but a 13-degree launch angle is holding him back slightly. Not much of a SB threat, White ranked in the 85th percentile in Sprint Speed per Statcast in 2020. SEA has ranked in the Top 3 in SBA per game over the last two years, which could yield a few opportunities for White on the basepaths, though that's not worth banking on. As a gifted defender who's in line to receive the bulk of the PT at 1B this season, White could be in line for substantial improvement... albeit, if he's able to make contact. Currently going at pick 434 in NFBC drafts, it's well worth the price of admission to see if things change course.


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