FACTS/FLUKES: J. Baez, Cease, Mullins, Gilbert, N. Lowe

Strikeouts remain a concern for Báez...After enduring a subpar 2020 campaign, Javier Báez (2B/SS, DET) tallied 30 HR and 18 SB last season; resulting in $27 in rotisserie value. Despite the rebound overall, his contact woes have proceeded to move in the wrong direction in recent seasons. Currently sitting 63rd overall in the early NFBC ADP data, is Báez a worthwhile option at the top part of drafts despite the excessive swing-and-miss in his profile?

Yr  PA    BA/xBA    HR/xHR  SB/xSB  ct%  bb%  h%   Spd/SBA   GB/LD/FB  Brl%  hrf/xhrf
==  ===  =========  ======  ======  ===  ===  ===  =======   ========  ====  ========
17  508  .273/.247   23/21   10/6   69%   6%  35%  119/12%   49/15/36    8%   20%/18%
18  645  .290/.283   34/37   21/12  72%   4%  35%  155/24%   46/22/32   13%   24%/26%
19  561  .281/.272   29/31   11/15  71%   5%  35%  125/17%   50/18/32   13%   24%/26%
20  235  .203/.222    8/9     3/4   66%   3%  27%  112/8%    50/18/32    8%   17%/19%
21  542  .265/.237   30/32   18/9   64%   5%  36%  131/19%   47/19/34   13%   28%/29%

The power/speed skill set is reliable, but his approach makes him a volatile option:

  • His ct% has declined for the third season in a row, reaching bottom-tier levels since '20 (tied for second-worst ct% during that time). Multiple factors including zone-contact% (70%), whiff% (40%), and chase% (44%), have also trended down and suggest that a significant change in this area is  unlikely.
  • BA rebounded in 2021 due to simultaneous bump in h% and hr/f. Career 34% h% has allowed him to outperform expectations in xBA fairly consistently, while a "B" average exit velocity grade (QBaB scale) or higher in three of the lastfour seasons shows he continues to hit the ball with authority.
  • Power metrics, including barrel%, PX (145), and xPX (117), all returned to form in 2021 after falling off in '20. Career-best hr/f% was supported by xhr/f, and strong xHR trends provide a favorable power floor. Heavy GB tilt puts added pressure on power output, but Top-40 finishes in both average fly ball distance (336 ft) and average exit velocity on fly balls (95.1 mph) fall in line with prior performance outside of '20. 
  • Career-low Spd in '20 is the outlier thus far. Well above average SBA, Spd, and Statcast Sprint Speed results (85th percentile or above every season outside of '20) promote double-digit SBs. However, a career 73% SB% and recent xSB point to his 2018 SB total potentially being the high water mark.

Báez's inability to make consistent contact puts the onus on h% to provide a viable BA. Low on-base skills remain, and at age 29 it's reasonable to expect a slight decline in speed. The power and speed metrics are stable enough to expect 25+ HR with 10-15 SB, but unless his approach at the plate changes, the downside to his BA could be what we saw in 2020. The blend of power and speed makes up for some of the stark issues with his profile, but if you're risk averse early in drafts, it's best to look elsewhere. 


Unlock all of our insights on your way to a fantasy title! See what our season-long coverage offers and then subscribe to BaseballHQ.com.


Improved SwK, Ball% help transform Cease...Dylan Cease (RHP, CHW) was a late-round dart throw in 2021 after compiling a -1 BPV, 13% BB%, 5.74 xERA, and 1.44 WHIP in 2020. With the help of better control (10% BB%) and more whiffs (15.5% SwK, 32% K%), the former Top 30 prospect compiled his best season to date ($13 rotisserie value). Can Cease solidify himself as an upper-tier starter moving forward?

Yr   IP   ERA/xERA   WHIP  BB%  K%   K-BB  SwK   Ball  H%/S%  GB/LD/FB  HRF  BPX
===  ===  =========  ====  ===  ===  ====  ====  ====  =====  ========  ===  ===
18^   53  2.33/2.60  1.16  12%  32%   20%  15.4  40.6  29/83    N/A     N/A  141
19*  142  5.56/5.65  1.63  11%  23%   12%  11.1  38.7  36/68  46/21/34  21%   64
20    58  4.01/5.74  1.44  13%  17%    4%   9.9  42.3  24/81  40/22/39  18%   -2
21   166  3.91/3.78  1.25  10%  32%   22%  15.5  37.7  33/72  33/23/44  11%  145
^Double-A MLEs
*Inlcudes MLEs

Yes, but it's all predicated on his control: 

  • Improved Ball% yielded the best BB% of his young career. Specifically, he's throwing more strikes with his fastball since 2019 (just a 34% Ball%, down from 40% two seasons ago). A 9% xBB% for the year also validates that refined control was backed by skill. 
  • Elite K% was supported by surging SwK; he finished Top 6 among all starters in both categories. FB velocity and improved spin rate on all offerings bodes well for continued K% success as well.
  • ERA results were nearly identical from '20 to '21, but xERA/BPV show ERA was legitimate last season, and could've been even better. H%/S% and HR/F (vs. 15% xHR/F) suggests he was a shade unlucky.
  • Though his WHIP was not outstanding; his 1.15 xWHIP indicates it's trending in the right direction. 

Cease finished the 2021 season as a Top-30 starter, and as we look to 2022, everything again rely on his control and home run suppression. He totes a high FB% among starters and it's likely we see some pullback in HR/9 (1.1). It's also reasonable to be dubious on his walks based on Ball%/BB% history. The 2022 Baseball Forecaster tabbed him with an "UP: 3.25 ERA," and if he improves his Ball% even further, he could challenge 250 K due to his elite SwK/K% ability. Cease has the potential to finish as an SP1, but his prior control issues make him mildly volatile.

 

Can Mullins repeat?... Cedric Mullins (OF, BAL) went from being a potential source of stolen bases to becoming one of the stars of the 2021 season. As we move into the 2022 campaign, he'll no longer be someone that fantasy managers can wait to take as a flyer in drafts (current ADP: 26). Is Mullins worthy of that lofty price tag, or was his output in 2021 a product of heavy PT and good fortune?

Yr   PA    BA/xBA    HR/SB  ct%  bb%  HctX  h%   GB/LD/FB  hrf  PX/xPX   Brl  Spd/SB%
===  ===  =========  =====  ===  ===  ====  ===  ========  ===  =======  ===  =======
18*  663  .247/.246  14/18  82%   7%    80  28%  51/12/37   9%   84/66    3%  136/82%
19*  580  .188/.211   9/28  80%   7%    52  22%  53/08/39   0%   47/18    2%  122/78%
20   153  .271/.229   3/7   72%   5%    64  35%  43/22/35   9%   73/44    3%  154/78%
21   674  .291/.270  30/30  79%   9%   108  32%  39/20/41  15%  125/109   8%  137/79%

A full repeat is a tough ask, but the majority of his performance was legitimate based on his skills:

  • Improvements in both ct% and bb% from '20 resulted in a .360 OBP and stayed consistent all year (1H/2H Eye: 0.48 / 0.47). 
  • xBA points to overachievement in BA; HctX, LD%, and exit velocity are all sitting about league average to slightly above. 
  • His spikes in PX and barrel% are both welcomed signs for power; however, xPX paints a more average power outlook. Tick up in FB% is another positive sign, but lackluster results in average fly ball distance and average exit velocity on fly balls temper optimism for a repeat.
  • Spd has remained a substantial part of his profile, and solid SB% should continue to yield plenty of opportunities. Statcast's Sprint Speed metric has also placed him in the 86th and 92nd percentiles the last two seasons.

It's well-known that Mullins scrapped hitting from the right side in 2021 and the results were fantastic. Heightened power metrics were a favorable sign, but they gradually regressed to league-average as the season went on, making 20-25 HR more realistic moving forward. In addition, Mullins hit 22 of his 30 HR in Camden Yards last season; a venue that's boosted lefty HR by 35% over the last three seasons.

Overall, Mullins is heading into his age-27 season and has the skills to support another 20 HR/20 SB campaign, but it's best to lean towards our current .270 BA projection. He's a highly valuable player who shouldn't see a substantial decline, but a Top-30 ADP is a hefty price for a player who doesn't have a long track record of elite level success.

 

Gilbert holds his own... Logan Gilbert (RHP, SEA) fared well in his first exposure to MLB hitters: 4.68 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 20% K-BB, 119 IP. Tabbed as a young starter with "solid growth potential" per the 2022 Baseball ForecasterGilbert is currently being valued as a mid-rotation starter in drafts (148 NFBC ADP). Are his skills good enough to generate value at his current draft slot?

Yr   IP   ERA/xERA   WHIP  BB%  Ball  K%   K-BB  SwK   GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  HRF/xHRF  BPX
===  ===  =========  ====  ===  ====  ===  ====  ====  ========  =====  ========  ===
19*   50  4.20/2.92  1.19   8%  35.6  25%   17%  13.4    N/A     31/63    N/A     123
20   ----------------------------Alternate Training Site-----------------------------
21   119  4.68/4.21  1.17   6%  35.7  25%   20%  12.8  32/21/46  31/63   11%/14%  139
*Double-A MLEs

When considering his 127 BPV and 20% K-BB in his rookie season, the hype is warranted:

  • K% was above average and stayed consistent the entire season. SwK proved K% wasn't a fluke. 13% SwK or better in three of the last four months points to potentially even more whiffs on the way. 
  • BB% ranked Top 20 among all starters with 110 IP or more; however, when factoring in Ball%, xBB% (8%), and FpK (62%), there's a chance he's closer to mid-pack in that area. 
  • Extreme FB% and league average xHR/F% create risk for ERA outlook. Statcast hard-hit metrics were all 33rd percentile or worse, meaning he could have some issues yielding the long ball as well (1.3 HR/9 in '21). Bad fortune in S% was the reason for ERA/xERA discrepancy.

Gilbert will turn 25 years old during the 2022 season, but the skills he displayed last year in his debut has fantasy managers hoping he can be even better in his sophomore campaign. The lack of sample size deems him a risky bet based on his current ADP, but he fared well from a skills perspective his rookie season and there's plenty of room to grow. There's other players around his draft spot that are likely safer bets, but Gilbert's potential makes him a viable selection as well.       

 

Stark GB-tilt impacting Lowe...In his first full MLB season, Nate Lowe (1B, TEX) demonstrated some interesting results and skills that returned $19 rotisserie value. Despite legitimate Statcast metrics, a 55% GB% and 94 PX led to an underwhelming 18 HR. Is there untapped potential still lurking here for Lowe, or should we expect more of the same?

Yr   PA    BA/xBA    HR  bb%  ct%  HctX  h%   GB/LD/FB  hrf/xhrf  PX/xPX   QBaB  Brl
===  ===  =========  ==  ===  ===  ====  ===  ========  ========  =======  ====  ===
18^  325  .278/N/A   14  11%  77%   N/A  32%    N/A       N/A     121/N/A   N/A  N/A
19*  558  .252/.244  20  13%  69%    99  32%  40/24/36   19%/19%  110/93    ACc  11%
20    76  .224/.229   4  12%  58%    60  31%  46/28/26   40%/30%  141/82    CDa  15%
21   642  .264/.239  18  12%  71%   103  34%  55/18/27   17%/23%   94/88    AFc  10%
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs
*Includes MLEs

There's still hope; but xPX, high GB%, and subpar xBA are all glaring issues:

  • BA was a product of inflated h% (35% 2H) and wasn't supported by xBA. Plate skills showed improvement from '20 but fell right in line with '18 and '19. Those metrics are backed by league-average performance in zone-contact (82%) and whiff% (24%).
  • The rebound in HctX is also consistent with '19, where he logged an identical Eye to go along with an "A" average exit velocity grade both seasons.
  • Sub-20 HR campaign was backed by below average PX and an even worse xPX. He has yet to tally a league average mark in xPX in brief career and '20 HR/F is looking like a mirage despite 30% xHR/F. Downward FB% trend puts an even bigger emphasis on HR/F, but xHR/F shows that he was a shade unlucky in that area in '21. xHR (25) is also a favorable sign for potentially more power output as soon as this season. 
  • Barrel% dip placed him in the 61st percentile; which makes sense when you consider his drop from a "D" to an "F" grade in QBaB average launch angle.  

Lowe is currently ticketed for 85% PT this season, making 650 PA difficult to attain. He fared well on the surface vs LHP: .277 BA, .357 OBP, .397 SLG, 0.42 Eye, 78 PX, 184 PA; but his 70% ct%, lack of power, and h% inflated BA against southpaws could result in him being on the strong side of a platoon. Lowe's fraudulent BA skills, heavy GB lean, and below average power output have resulted in him being a value play in drafts at this current time (245 NFBC ADP). He gets a bump in value in OBP formats due to his exceptional bb%, and he converted 8-of-8 SB to go along with 114 Spd in '21. There's still time for Lowe to change his batted ball profile and show improvements in power; but for now, the metrics point to mediocre BA production with 15-20 HR, a hand full of SB, and strong OBP. Not what most are hoping for from a 1B option in drafts.   


Click here to subscribe

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