FACTS/FLUKES: L. Castillo, K. Marte, E. Suarez, J. Flaherty, W. Myers

Castillo's second half fade... After posting a 2.47 ERA in the first half of 2019, Luis Castillo's (RHP, CIN) 4.39 ERA in the second half was not what his owners were hoping for. Was his second half fade a fact or a fluke? 

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  H%/S%  GB%  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  Ball%  SwK  CH*   Vel  HR9  HR/F
====  ===  ====  ====  =====  ===  ===  ====  ===  =====  ===  ===  ====  ===  ====
2017   89  3.12  3.26  26/76  59%  3.2   9.9  3.1  36.7%  13%  23%  97.5  1.1   17%
2018  170  4.30  3.77  29/70  46%  2.6   8.8  3.4  34.7%  14%  26%  95.8  1.5   18%
2019  191  3.40  3.43  27/74  55%  3.7  10.7  2.9  38.5%  16%  32%  96.5  1.0   18%
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
19-1H  98  2.47  3.64  24/83  56%  4.8  10.5  2.2  41.0%  15%  31%  96.3  0.8   15%
19-2H  92  4.39  3.22  30/65  54%  2.6  10.8  4.1  35.7%  17%  34%  96.6  1.3   21%
*change-up usage

Castillo's poor 2nd half ERA was a fluke and his overall trajectory is pointing up: 

  • A reversal of H%/S% fortunes in the 2nd half masked the skill gains illustrated by xERA. 
  • His vaunted change-up is one of the best pitches in the game, and he prudently continues to use it more frequently. He also throws a slider (17% usage) that misses bats at a high rate (20% SwK).  
  • The impact of increased change-up usage is evident on SwK and Dom. Another jump up to an elite strikeout rate (think 12.0+ Dom) in 2020 is not out of the question. 
  • The poor control he displayed in the first half was due to a significant increase in Ball%. His second half control and Ball% were more in line with past performance, making the first half look like an outlier. 
  • His GB-heavy arsenal (GB%: sinker 72%, change-up 58%, slider 55%) is the ideal weapon to combat the current MLB home run environment. 

The 27-year-old Castillo combines premium fastball velocity, a pair of swing-and-miss off-speed pitches, a ground-ball-inducing arsenal, solid strike-throwing ability, and an unblemished health record. With an ADP of 51 in early NFBC drafts, Castillo makes an excellent target for those who want to grab two or three bats before selecting their ace. And dynasty league starting pitching targets don't get much better than this. 

 

Marte breaks out... Ketel Marte (2B/OF, ARI) was a popular upside play in 2019 drafts, but even his most ardent advocates were probably not expecting the $35 he produced by season's end. To what extent was this breakout a fact or a fluke? 

Year   AB  HR/SB   BA  xBA  HctX  bb%  ct%   LA^  xPX  HR/F  HR/HHf~ FBv*  Spd/SB%
====  ===  =====  ===  ===  ====  ===  ===  ====  ===  ====  ======  ====  =======
2015  219   2/ 8  283  268    79   10   80   4.9   45    4%    20%   85.1  154/67%
2016  437   1/11  259  250    71    4   81   5.2   41    1%     4%   87.1  127/69%
2017  223   5/ 3  260  264    95   11   83   7.2   77    8%    24%   87.1  146/75%
2018  520  14/ 6  260  285   113    9   85   5.7   84   11%    29%   90.4  149/86%
2019  569  32/10  329  307   123    8   85  11.5  107   19%    44%   91.4  137/83%
^ average launch angle (degrees) 
~ home run per hard hit fly ball rate  
* average exit velocity of fly balls

Marte is a valuable, well-rounded contributor: 

  • He is a batting average asset who recorded a .300+ BA and a .300+ xBA each month from May through September. 
  • Prudently altered his approach, and made good use of the friendly 2019 baseball, by hitting the ball in the air more frequently (launch angle) and hitting those airborne balls with more authority (xPX & fly ball exit velocity). 
  • But his below-average fly ball velocity (lg. avg. 92.0 mph) and above-average home run rate on hard hit fly balls (lg. avg. 38%) likely indicate that even with the friendly baseball, he was fortunate to hit 32 home runs. 
  • His statistically scouted speed scores are consistently well above league average—and he has been a very efficient base-stealer the last three years—so he should continue to at least provide some value in that category. But his three-year Statcast Sprint Speed trend (29.2, 28.7, 27.9 ft/s) dampens hopes of a significant SB output increase. 

While the totality of the 26-year-old's 2019 breakout certainly wasn't a fluke, it is highly unlikely Marte will be able to reach the 30-HR benchmark again sans additional power skills improvements. But a youthful batting average anchor who provides 20+ home runs, and a modicum of steals, is still a highly desirable player in both redraft and dynasty formats. 

 

Suarez nearly hits 50-HR... Eugenio Suarez's (3B, CIN) four-year OPS trend illustrates an upward trajectory (.728-.828-.892-.930), and he clubbed an impressive 49 home runs in 2019, yet the 2020 marketplace (59 ADP) is no more enthusiastic about him than it was in 2019 (56 ADP). What gives? 

Year   AB   BA  xBA  HH%  bb%  ct%  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  HR/F  HR/HHf~ FBv*  HR  xHR
====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ========  =======  ====  ======  ====  ==  ===
2015  372  280  247  29%    4   75  41/21/38  113/105   12%    35%   90.3  13   11
2016  565  248  241  35%    8   73  41/22/38  104/105   13%    37%   90.8  21   21
2017  534  260  258  34%   13   72  39/24/37  118/116   18%    43%   90.0  26   19
2018  527  283  270  49%   11   73  38/25/37  143/150   23%    44%   93.2  34   34
2019  575  271  260  47%   11   67  36/22/42  166/145   30%    61%   93.0  49   39
~ home run per hard hit fly ball rate 
* average exit velocity of fly balls 

2019's differences were more superficial than core: 

  • Suarez's batting averages consistently outperform our expected batting average metric due to an above-average BABIP (career .316) that is driven by an always healthy line drive rate (career 23%). 
  • The fact that he enjoyed massive HR/F and HR/HHF spikes despite a stagnant (and only slightly above league average) fly ball exit velocity indicates that he was likely a major beneficiary of the friendly 2019 baseball. To wit, our xHR metric shows that he only deserved a 5-HR increase, rather than 15.
  • After years of very steady contact rates, Suarez appears to have opened up his swing in 2019 in an effort to hit for more power. Though his 12% swinging strike rate was a career high, it's comforting to note that he didn't abandon his patient approach (bb%), nor was he swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone excessively (O-swing%: 2019 26.6%; Career 25.8%). 

The 28-year old Suarez's 2019 home run total was more of a fluke than a fact, and savvy NFBC early drafters have likely discerned that his core abilities are about the same now as they were a year ago. If the ball isn't as hitter-friendly in 2020, Suarez could easily revert back to his 2018 self... which probably wouldn't elicit many complaints.   

 

Flaherty's huge second half... After a disappointing first half of 2019, Jack Flaherty (RHP, STL) flipped the switch in the second half and looked like the best starting pitcher in baseball not named Gerrit Cole. What changed and is it sustainable? 

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  H%/S%  GB%  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  Ball%  SwK   Vel  HR9  HR/F
====  ===  ====  ====  =====  ===  ===  ====  ===  =====  ===  ====  ===  ====
2017   21  6.33  4.45  32/62  48%  4.2   8.4  2.0  35.8%  13%  93.2  1.7   21%
2018  151  3.34  3.44  27/76  42%  3.5  10.8  3.1  37.1%  13%  92.7  1.2   15%
2019  196  2.75  3.59  25/79  40%  2.5  10.6  4.2  36.2%  14%  93.9  1.1   14%
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
19-1H  85  4.75  4.17  29/69  36%  2.8   9.9  3.5  37.1%  13%  93.6  1.9   21%
19-2H 111  1.22  3.17  22/90  42%  2.3  11.1  4.9  34.1%  15%  94.1  0.6    7%

Flaherty is very good, but not at the Cole/Scherzer/deGrom level... yet: 

  • Though improved skills were the driving force behind much of his second half success, there was also a lot of hit rate, strand rate, and HR/F good fortune that contributed. Thus the nearly two-run gap between ERA and xERA. 
  • But a fastball velocity bump and increased slider usage (24% SwK) resulted in more swinging strikes and a big Dom spike. 
  • He was also able to improve his control rate in the second half by throwing more strikes. 
  • While he did benefit from a favorable HR/F rate in the second half, he also did his part to keep home runs in check by relying more heavily on his sinker (54% GB%) and throwing his change-up less frequently (.353 ISO against). 

At 24-years of age Flaherty is still in growth mode and honing his craft. His second half skills give us a glimpse of his upside, but we're not sure that's a level he's ready to consistently maintain just yet. However, he seemed to get stronger and stronger as the year wore on, and was reaching back for 97-98 mph in September. If that's something he's able to do with more regularity going forward, the Cole/Scherzer/deGrom level may be closer than we think. 

 

What's in store for Myers?... Despite avoiding the injured list and playing in 155 games in 2019, Wil Myers (OF, SD) fell just shy of 500 plate appearances on the season, as he was often used only as a pinch hitter when the rest of the Padres' outfielders were healthy. His stock has taken a severe hit in early 2020 drafts (105 ADP in 2019; 259 in 2020), but even with that discount, is he a worthy target? 

Year   AB  HR/SB   BA  xBA  HH%  bb%  ct%  xPX  HR/F  FBv*   SS~  SBO%  SB%
====  ===  =====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ====  ====  ====  ====  ===
2015  225   8/ 5  253  255  35%   11   76  107   14%  93.4  28.5   11%  71%
2016  599  28/28  259  263  34%   10   73  111   19%  90.0  28.0   21%  82%
2017  567  30/20  243  242  41%   11   68  144   18%  94.6  28.5   18%  77%
2018  312  11/13  253  266  47%    9   70  121   17%  92.9  28.1   19%  93%
2019  435  18/16  239  220  47%   10   61  121   20%  94.7  28.3   20%  70%
* average exit velocity of fly balls 
~ Statcast Sprint Speed (ft/s)

Myers is not a BA asset, but still has power and speed: 

  • His contact rate has been trending bad for years, but bottomed out in 2019, and dragged BA and xBA down with it. 
  • But when he does manage to put the ball in play, there's a lot of hard contact. Both his hard hit fly ball rate and fly ball exit velocity are well above league average. 
  • Myers gets the green light often enough to put his 82nd percentile Statcast Sprint Speed to good use on the base paths, and has been successful on 79% of his stolen base attempts over his career. 

Myers will play all of the 2020 season at age 29, and since his contact woes don't stem from an inability to discern balls from strikes (28.7 O-swing% vs. 31.6% lg. avg.), he's young enough to peg for a few points of ct% regression. If so, the seeds are still there for a .250 batting average, 25 home runs, and 20 stolen bases.


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