FACTS/FLUKES: Moustakas, W. Smith, B. Anderson, Archer, Gomes

Moustakas rebounds … After batting .272 with 38 HR in a breakout 2017 campaign, Mike Moustakas (2B/3B, MIL) dropped off a bit in 2018, finishing with a .251 BA and 28 HR. He languished in the free agent pool until signing with the Brewers in mid-February, but he has rewarded them nicely with a .278 BA and 21 HR through his first 241 AB of 2019. What’s behind the resurgence?

Year   AB  HR    BA   xBA   vL   bb%  ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX   PX  xPX  hr/f
====  ===  ==  ====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ===  ===  ====
2015  549  22  .284  .274  .823   7    86  40/19/41  30   117  112  114   11%
2016  104   7  .240  .301  .842   8    88  42/19/40  21   133  134  135   19%
2017  555  38  .272  .279  .763   6    83  35/20/46  27   107  124  120   18%
2018  573  28  .251  .264  .721   8    82  34/20/46  26   124  116  130   13%
2019  241  21  .278  .300  .918   8    79  33/23/44  27   128  161  159   25%

His skills were largely unchanged from 2017 to 2018, but he has improved in some areas in 2019:

  • Moustakas has added even more power, combining an elite xPX with lots of flyballs. If it holds, he could reach and possibly exceed the 40 HR plateau for the first time.
  • He has done this without hurting his BA, and xBA indicates there could be a little more BA upside.
  • His production slipped against left-handed pitching in 2018, but he has crushed them in the 72 AB sample of 2019 (81% ct% and 7 HR). Aside from 2018, he hadn’t shown much of a platoon split in recent years, but lefties did give him trouble prior to 2015 (.595 OPS in 464 AB).

Moustakas has fared well in his first full season at Miller Park (+24% LHB HR), but his numbers have been equally as good on the road thus far, with a .277 BA and 10 HR in 119 road AB. According to Statcast, he has owns a 12.6% Barrel% in 2019 (MLB average: 6.2%), which would easily be a new career-high mark, so that too speaks to the quality of contact he has made. There’s nothing in his skills to suggest he can’t make a run a run at 40+ HR while sporting a .275-ish BA the rest of the way.

 

Smith continues run of dominance … Will Smith (LHP, SF) missed all of 2017 and the opening month of 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he worked his way into the closer job by mid-season and wound up compiling an impressive 2.55 ERA with 14 saves in 53 IP. He has been even better in 2019, posting a 2.03 ERA and 16 saves through 27 IP. Are there any worrisome signs in the underlying metrics?

Year  Sv  IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK   vR   GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ==  ==  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ====  ========  =====  ====  ===
2014   1  66  3.70  3.15  4.8  11.8  2.8  53%  13%  .872  44/23/33  36/76   11%  119
2015   0  63  2.70  2.88  3.4  12.9  3.8  60%  16%  .545  46/15/39  35/80    9%  165
2016   0  40  3.35  3.78  4.0  10.7  2.7  70%  12%  .645  35/25/40  30/74    8%   97
2017    Did Not Pitch
2018  14  53  2.55  2.99  2.5  12.1  4.7  62%  15%  .582  42/20/38  30/76    7%  168
2019  16  27  2.03  2.30  2.0  12.8  6.3  65%  14%  .493  44/28/28  24/78   13%  198 

No, this is a terrific skill set:

  • The vastly improved control he displayed in 2018 has gotten even better in 2019, backed by elite FpK.
  • He continues to garner swings and misses at an elite clip, including a 16% SwK in May and 17% in June, so the strikeouts figure to keep coming in droves.
  • He has again excelled against both left-handed and right-handed batters, striking out an eye-catching 46% of left-handers, while amassing a stellar 36% K% against right-handers.

Smith has returned from March 2017 Tommy John surgery to put up the most dominant 80-inning stretch of his MLB career. With tremendous across the board skills, encapsulated in an elite BPV, he has never been better. Given the likelihood that the 29-year-old will be dealt to a contender ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, he could become even more valuable in fantasy leagues.

 

Can Anderson tap into hidden upside? … Brian Anderson (3B/OF, MIA) had a solid rookie season in 2018, batting .273 with 11 HR and 2 SB in 590 AB, but it was somewhat disappointing, at least in the power department, as he slugged 22 HR in 429 AB combined between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017. Through 248 AB in 2019, Anderson has a .246 BA, 7 HR and 4 SB. Is there any reason for optimism?

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  248  .246  .246   7    9   74   120  48/23/29    80/96   13%    92/7%
#Double-A MLEs
*Includes MLEs

Yes, though there is work to be done:

  • He has made much more hard contact. In addition to upticks in HctX and xPX, consider that his Statcast measured HH% is a whopping 52%, which ranks him in the 96th percentile in that metric, and his exit velocity up from 90.2 mph in 2018 to 91.3 mph in 2019 (84th percentile). He has also posted a 95.5 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD this year, up from 93.0 mph in 2018. Anderson’s tendency to beat the ball into the ground is stifling his power potential.
  • According to Statcast, he has chased outside the strike zone more often and made less contact when doing so, per an increase in Chase% from 23% in 2018 to 28% in 2019 (MLB average: 28%) and a sharp drop in Chase Contact% from 57% in 2018 to 46% in 2019 (MLB average: 60%). That explains his subpar 12% SwK and the dip in ct%.
  • He has roughly average speed, but he has been more active on the basepaths in 2019. Given his improved success rate (SB% up from 33% to 80%), he could threaten double-digit SB.

With just a quick glance at Anderson’s stats, it’s easy to understand why one might view him as a boring option from an offensive and fantasy standpoint, but the gains in HH% and FB/LD exit velocity are notable. The 26-year-old still has work to do, specifically with regard to increasing launch angle and refining his approach at the plate, in order to really tap into those gains. However, he has become a more intriguing option in keeper leagues, given his upgraded growth potential.

 

Archer underperforming yet again … In each season since 2015, Chris Archer (RHP, PIT) has underachieved in terms of ERA and xERA, most recently finishing 2018 with a 4.31 ERA and 3.72 xERA in 148 IP. While there was hope he might finally break that cycle in 2019, he instead owns an unsightly 5.73 ERA through 60 IP. What’s going on here?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===
2014  195  3.33  3.68  3.3   8.0  2.4  57%  10%  47/22/31  31/75    7%   79
2015  212  3.23  3.12  2.8  10.7  3.8  64%  13%  46/20/34  31/74   10%  141
2016  201  4.02  3.50  3.0  10.4  3.5  58%  13%  48/18/35  31/73   16%  133
2017  201  4.07  3.50  2.7  11.1  4.2  62%  14%  42/22/36  34/72   14%  148
2018  148  4.31  3.72  3.0   9.8  3.3  62%  13%  45/23/32  35/72   14%  120
2019   60  5.73  4.78  4.5   9.2  2.0  58%  13%  39/22/40  28/69   24%   60

It’s been a combination of diminished skills and some bad luck:

  • Walks have suddenly become a major problem in 2019. Of all MLB pitchers who have logged at least 60 IP in 2019, only two have a worse Ctl than Archer (Yu Darvish and Aaron Sanchez). However, Archer’s FpK hints at better days ahead (3.2 xCtl).
  • He has piled up strikeouts at a decent rate in 2019, but the post-2017 decline can’t be ignored. His SwK suggests his Dom could eventually creep closer to his 2018 mark.
  • A sizable increase in FB% and an unfortunate hr/f have resulted in lots of balls leaving the yard in 2019 (2.4 hr/9).
  • Left-handed batters gave him fits in 2018 (.809 OPS in 278 PA) and haven’t relented in 2019 (.864 OPS in 128 PA). Interestingly, he has had a surprisingly difficult time against right-handed batters in 2019 (.829 OPS and 1.9 Cmd in 137 PA; lifetime: .662 OPS and 3.5 Cmd).

Some speculated that a full season of tutelage from well-regarded pitching coach Ray Searage and the chance to call hitter-friendly PNC Park home could help Archer escape his post-2015 doldrums. However, that hasn’t been the case, as 45% of his 2019 starts have graded out as PQS disasters. The 30-year-old has been tinkering with his pitch mix of late, but he appears to be multiple adjustments away from regaining anything close to resembling his prior form, so it’s best to watch from afar until further notice.

 

Gomes off to dreadful start … 2018 was Yan Gomes’s (C, WAS) most productive season since 2014, as he batted .266 with 16 HR in 403 AB. An offseason trade sent him to Washington, where he has struggled in 2019, batting a measly .229 with 2 HR in 144 AB. What’s behind the horrid performance?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  h%  GB/LD/FB   vR   HR   PX  xPX  hr/f
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ==  ========  ====  ==  ===  ===  ====
2014  485  .278  .266    5   75  33  37/24/39  .745  21  139  128   14%
2015  363  .231  .248    3   71  29  34/26/40  .702  12  120  102   11%
2016  251  .167  .221    3   73  19  39/16/45  .445   9  102   99   11%
2017  341  .232  .223    8   71  29  41/17/42  .644  14  103  109   14%
2018  403  .266  .251    5   70  34  32/27/41  .731  16  125  142   14%
2019  144  .229  .218    8   73  30  40/23/37  .537   2   61   64    5%

His skills have declined in some areas:

  • The sharp reduction in hard contact jumps off the page as his HctX and xPX have crashed to career-worst levels. According to Statcast, his exit velocity has fallen from 88.9 mph in 2018 to 86.1 mph in 2019 (MLB average: 87.4 mph) and his HH% has gone from 39% in 2018 to a subpar 33% (26th percentile) in 2019.
  • Though his ct% has ticked upward ever so slightly, the poor quality of contact has dragged down his BA and xBA.
  • While he has again crushed left-handed pitching (lifetime .806 OPS in 710 AB), right-handed pitchers have given him fits (.673 OPS in 1,663 lifetime AB). Given his poor 2019 performance and track record vs. RHP, Gomes could see his playing time against them dwindle.

Given his past durability issues, it’s fair to wonder if perhaps an unreported injury could be contributing to his 2019 woes. Regardless, he’ll need to step up his performance soon or else he figures to lose playing time, particularly against right-handed pitching. It’s tough to roster him outside of the deepest of leagues right now.


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