FACTS/FLUKES: Goldschmidt, Foltynewicz, Weaver, Votto, A. Garcia

Is Goldschmidt on the decline?... 2019 saw Paul Goldschmidt (1B, STL) scuffle a bit, as he posted his least valuable fantasy season since his 177 PA rookie debut in 2011, batting just .260 and stealing a career-low three bases. His power remained (34 HR), but is there hope for those other categories bouncing back?

Year   PA   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  LD%   PX/xPX HR/F xHR/F  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ===  ======= ==== =====  =======  =====
2015  694  .321  .284   17   73   132  23%  169/152  22%   26%   96/11%  33/21
2016  704  .297  .274   16   74   112  25%  122/106  19%   20%   98/17%  24/32
2017  664  .297  .284   14   74   132  19%  154/160  25%   26%  105/12%  36/18
2018  689  .290  .268   13   71   121  25%  153/139  22%   28%  118/ 6%  33/ 7
2019  680  .260  .251   11   72   119  22%  116/140  20%   23%   99/ 2%  34/ 3
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
19-1H 351  .246  .222   11   71   122  20%   84/145  17%   21%  101/ 1%  14/ 0
19-2H 329  .274  .277   12   74   115  25%  149/134  22%   24%   99/ 4%  20/ 3

The outlook is mixed:

  • Goldschmidt's .260 batting average also came with the lowest xBA of his career, a mark of .251. Some of that was driven by skill erosion (slightly lower ct% and LD%), some of it was driven by bad luck (his PX was much lower than his xPX, and his hit rate was a career-low 30%). You can see the difference more clearly in his half-season splits—in the first half, with his ct%, LD%, and PX all down below usual levels, his xBA crashed; in the second half, as all three of those skills rebounded, so did his xBA. That said, even that xBA came up short of supporting his past .290+ BA performance, so you should exercise caution.
  • Another area of concern is his steadily declining walk rate. You can see this skill erosion confirmed in other advanced metrics: his first-pitch swing rate has gone from 24.3% in 2015 to a career-high 30.6% in 2019; likewise, his overall swing rate has gone from 38.1% in 2015 to a career-high 46.5% in 2019; and finally, his chase rate has gone from 20.3% in 2015 to a career-high 28.3% in 2019. He seems to be growing less disciplined with age.
  • And while his power skills have mostly held up—in fact, xHR/F often suggests there's some untapped HR upside—his exit velocity was the lowest of his career in 2019, at 90.1 mph. It stayed consistently low all year: 90.2 mph in the first half, 90.0 mph in the second. And while he ranked in the MLB Top 10 in average exit velocity in 2015 and 2017, he fell to 77th in 2019.
  • Lastly, his running game appears to be over. His Speed skill was never all that strong, and his SBO% has steadily declined with age. Expecting more than a handful of steals seems overly optimistic at this point.

At 32, Goldschmidt is still capable of being a valuable fantasy contributor (his R$ in the second half of 2019 was $30), but the risk of him coming up short is much greater than in the past, especially in batting average. And with a lower walk rate, any drop in BA hurts his OBP and potentially hurts his Runs scored total. His power potential still looks good, but he's no longer a five-category contributor, and there are reasons to be a little concerned about his status as a four-category contributor heading into the 2020 season.


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Keep expectations in check for Foltynewicz... After a career-best season in 2018, Mike Foltynewicz (RHP, ATL) and his fantasy owners endured an awful start to 2019, as a bone spur in his throwing elbow caused him to miss the first seven weeks of the season and post a 6.37 ERA in the first half, followed by a six-week demotion to the minors. Upon his return to the majors, he went 6-1 with a 2.65 ERA over 10 starts. Was that what we can expect from a healthy Foltynewicz?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S% HR/F xHR/F Ball%    SwK
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  ===== ==== ===== =====  =====
2015   87  5.71  4.73  3.0  8.0  2.7  33/23/44  36/69  14%   11%   35%   9.6%
2016  123  4.31  4.18  2.6  8.1  3.2  41/21/37  31/71  13%   14%   34%  10.2%
2017  154  4.79  4.68  3.4  8.4  2.4  39/24/36  34/70  12%   13%   38%   9.9%
2018  183  2.85  3.70  3.3  9.9  3.0  43/19/38  26/77  10%   11%   37%  10.8%
2019  117  4.54  4.77  2.8  8.1  2.8  37/23/40  28/71  17%   15%   35%  10.8%
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
19-1H  59  6.37  5.29  3.0  7.6  2.5  35/23/43  29/62  21%   17%   34%  11.0%
19-2H  58  2.65  4.25  2.7  8.6  3.2  39/24/37  26/82  12%   13%   36%  10.7%

Not according to his skills:

  • The surface narrative with Foltynewicz, based on ERA, is going to be that his poor performance in the first half of 2019 was due to the elbow injury, and then he returned to being the same pitcher he was in 2018. But that's incorrect, because he wasn't that 2.85 ERA pitcher in 2018, and the same was true—even more so—in the second half of 2019. In both cases, he got help from a low hit rate and high strand rate.
  • xERA said he was a 3.70 ERA pitcher in 2018, but that was driven by career-best ground ball and strikeout rates, and his below-average SwK didn't support that level of Dom. There's very little skill support to the idea that he can be that pitcher again.
  • The 4.25 xERA he posted in the second half of 2019 is a more realistic target, as it came with skill levels that were in line with the rest of his career.

Foltynewicz seems likely to be overvalued for 2020, but could be slightly undervalued, depending on whether your leaguemates put more stock in his 2018 or 2019 performance. Keep your ERA expectations in the low 4s and mind the health risk—he received a D Health grade in the 2020 Baseball Forecaster, and has surpassed 30 starts and 175 IP only once in his career—and you should be fine.

 

Can Weaver break through?... Through four partial seasons in the majors, Luke Weaver (RHP, ARI) has shown glimpses of potential upside, and in 2019, he posted a 2.94 ERA over 12 starts, but missed most of the season with tightness in his forearm. Do his skills offer any reason to speculate on what he might do in 2020?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S% HR/F xHR/F Ball%    SwK
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ========  ===== ==== ===== =====  =====
2016   36  5.70  3.77  3.0  11.1  3.8  31/37/33  40/69  21%   17%   37%  10.3%
2017   60  3.88  3.19  2.5  10.7  4.2  49/24/27  35/72  16%   15%   34%   9.9%
2018  136  4.95  4.63  3.6   8.0  2.2  42/22/36  33/70  13%   14%   36%  10.1%
2019   64  2.94  3.83  2.0   9.7  4.9  41/22/38  30/76   9%   13%   36%  11.8%

His skills offer encouragement as well as caution:

  • Weaver has had flashes of above-average strikeout ability, but it has never come with support from his SwK, which has remained consistently at or below league average. His SwK improvement in 2019 seemed to be driven by his cutter, which he threw a career-high 13.0% of the time, and which increased in whiff rate from 4.4% in 2019 to 11.8% in 2019. But it's still far from an elite offering; his best weapon is his change-up, which was at an 18.4% whiff rate in 2019.
  • His elite control in 2019 didn't come with support from his Ball%, which has pretty consistently hovered around league average. A higher walk rate would've pushed his xERA over 4.00.
  • The season with his highest IP total in the majors, 2018, was also his worst, which raises the question of whether his success in other seasons was the result of smaller sample sizes. His career xERA is 4.18, built on career walk and strikeout rates that seem more realistic for his skill set (2.9 Ctl, 9.3 Dom).

At 26, Weaver needs to prove that he can stay healthy and in the majors for an entire season, and beyond that, demonstrate that he can sustain his flashes of upside over a larger sample. That potential makes him an intriguing speculative option, but one that you can't invest in too heavily, given the fact that he's never thrown more than 138 IP in a single season.

 

Votto tries to come back from career-worst season... With the exception of an injury-shortened 2014, 2019 was the worst season of Joey Votto's (1B, CIN) career, with a .261 batting average and .768 OPS. At age 36, we'd expect some decline—do his skills offer any hope for a rebound in 2020?

Year   PA   BA    xBA  HR  xHR  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX HR/F xHR/F
====  ===  ====  ====  ==  ===  ===  ===  ====  ========  ======= ==== =====
2015  695  .314  .285  29   34   21   75   126  42/25/33  151/150  22%   25%
2016  677  .326  .298  29   30   16   78   123  43/27/30  133/134  22%   23%
2017  707  .320  .309  36   33   19   85   125  39/23/38  130/141  20%   18%
2018  623  .284  .276  12   21   17   80   121  38/31/31   83/129  10%   17%
2019  608  .261  .253  15   21   13   77   110  37/25/38   86/116  10%   14%

A glimmer of hope, but for the most part, this isn't a fluke:

  • Since 2017, Votto has seen sharp drops in his contact rate (though his 2017 rate was an outlier on the high end), and in 2019, he posted career lows in BA, OBP, HctX, xBA, xPX, and HR/F. So his skills confirm the low batting average, though his PX coming up short of xPX creates a small opening for a modest BA rebound.
  • In addition to the PX/xPX gap, his xHR and xHR/F numbers suggest he should be capable of a little more power, though far from the HR totals he racked up from 2015-17. On the other hand, his Barrel% fell to 6.7% in 2018, and 6.9% in 2019; for context, he ranked 22nd in the majors in Barrels in 2017, 105th in 2018, and 119th in 2019.
  • In 2018 and 2019, he posted the two lowest OPS marks of his career vs. LHP: .758 and .656, respectively. His PX vs. LHP was 70 in 2018, and fell to a paltry 47 in 2019. It's possible he might start sitting against tough left-handed starters.
  • After seven straight seasons (2012-18) with an elite Eye between 0.90 and 1.61, he slid to 0.62 in 2019, a major shift in his plate discipline. That adds additional pessimism to his overall outlook.

Votto's R$ dropped to just $9 in 2019, a shocking fall for a hitter who earned $32 in 2017. Odds are he'll fare at least a little better in 2020—at the very least, with the Reds making some solid additions to their lineup, he should be able to improve upon his pitiful 2019 RBI total of 47—but at best, we're looking at a version of Votto that might hit .280 with 20 HR, a far cry from the dominant force he was in his prime.

 

Is Garcia a BA asset or liability?... Avisail Garcia (OF, MIL) has had a fair amount of volatility in his fantasy value over the last five years, typically driven by fluctuations in his batting average, which has ranged from a low of .236 to a high of .330. So which mark is more representative of Garcia's true skill level?

Year   PA   BA    xBA  HR/xHR ct% HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX HR/F xHR/F Spd/SBO
====  ===  ====  ====  ====== === ====  ========  ======= ==== ===== =======
2015  601  .257  .243  13/ 15  75   96  49/25/27   73/ 90  12%   14%  93/10%
2016  453  .245  .253  12/ 15  72  101  55/22/23   92/ 77  17%   21%  88/ 8%
2017  556  .330  .275  18/ 25  79  112  52/20/27   98/ 89  16%   23% 131/ 5%
2018  385  .236  .245  19/ 21  71  100  48/17/34  120/101  21%   24% 113/ 6%
2019  530  .282  .260  20/ 26  74  103  46/22/32  100/ 90  17%   22%  97/11%

Bet the under:

  • Garcia's .330 BA in 2017 stands as a clear outlier, fueled by a lucky 39% hit rate. His contact skills were indeed improved that year, leading to a career-high .275 xBA, but even that is fifteen points higher than any other xBA he's ever owned. His career xBA is .256, which is very close to his xBA from 2019.
  • Another thing to note: his higher batting averages in 2017 and 2019 led to higher RBI totals—80 in 2017, and 72 in 2019—that also helped to inflate his value.
  • His 20 HR in 2019 was a new career high, and not a fluke, seeing as how he has reduced his GB% and raised his FB% in recent years. And xHR and xHR/F have long suggested that he's capable of 20+ HR. The move from Tropicana Field (-5% RHB HR) to Miller Park (+5% RHB HR) might help him set a new career high in homers in 2020.
  • Garcia also turned in a career-high 10 steals in 2019, but as with his 2017 BA, it feels like an outlier. He did consistently own SBO rates of 10-12% in his first three partial seasons, and he once had 20 SB in the low minors, so he's not entirely without speed, but his recent history suggests not expecting anything more than a handful of steals.

Over the last three seasons, Garcia has posted R$ values of $27, $8, and $20, respectively. That inconsistency makes him a tricky player to assess heading into 2020. But if we understand that his 2017 value was inflated by a lucky BA and, in turn, a high RBI total, and that his 2019 value was inflated by a slightly high BA and, in turn, a high RBI total, we get a clearer picture of where to value him. Another $20+ season isn't out of the question, but paying for one is.


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