FACTS/FLUKES: Pham, Gallen, Davis, Musgrove, Winker

Pham does it all … Tommy Pham (OF, SD) mashed at least 20 HR for the third consecutive season while also swiping exactly 25 MLB bags for the second time in the past three years. Now back in the National League following a December trade from the Rays to the Padres, how are the 32-year-old’s skills?

Year  AB   HR/SB   BA/xBA    ct%/bb%   h%  HctX  xPX  GB/LD/FB  HR/F  xHR  SBO/SB%
===== ===  =====  =========  =======  ===  ====  ===  ========  ====  ===  =======
2015* 324   9/ 8  .262/.258   73/10    33   120  119  51/21/27   16%    5  9%/100%
2016* 283  12/ 8  .214/.228   62/11    30   107  126  45/25/30   35%    9  19%/58%
2017* 536  26/29  .292/.277   73/13    36   106  104  52/22/26   27%   21  22%/73%
2018  494  21/15  .275/.258   72/12    35   128  123  48/24/28   21%   26  14%/68%
2019  567  21/25  .273/.281   78/12    32   118   95  53/22/25   19%   23  16%/86%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2H-19 268   8/18  .261/.281   79/11    30   108   86  52/21/27   14%    8  25%/95%
*includes MLEs

They are still in fine shape:

  • He played through a right hand injury and a flexor strain in his right elbow over the final two months of the season, which explains the decreased power in the second half. Overall, his propensity to hit the ball on the ground caps his HR upside, but xHR and a 21% xHR/F indicate there’s nothing fluky at all about his raw power.
  • Pham has typically been very selective at the plate (lifetime 13% bb%), but his ct% took a sizable step up in 2019, setting a new career high. That bodes well for his BA potential.
  • The second half spikes in both SBO and SB% are notable and hint at 30-SB upside. Though Pham is at an age where speed typically begins to wane, he hasn’t shown any signs of it happening yet, as his Statcast measured sprint speed has held steady from 2016-19 and ranked in the 87 percentile in 2019.

Pham’s excellent raw power suggests he could be a 30+ HR threat if he hit a few more fly balls. On the other hand, if he maintains the status quo and holds most of that second half SBO/SB% spike, he could make a run at 30+ SB. As is, he’s a good bet for 20 HR/20 SB, and there’s a chance he could provide even greater value.

 

Is Gallen for real? … Zac Gallen (RHP, ARI) entered 2019 as an unheralded minor leaguer with a fifth starter ceiling, but wound up making his MLB debut on June 20 after posting an impressive 1.77 ERA and 6.6 Cmd in 91 IP with New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League. He then went on to compile a 2.81 ERA in 80 IP with the Marlins and Diamondbacks. Do the underlying metrics support that level of success?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  Ball%  SwK  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  =====  ===  ===
2017^  92  4.54   N/A  2.4   5.3  2.2     N/A    32/71   N/A  N/A   N/A   N/A   42
2018+ 134  4.08   N/A  3.2   7.9  2.5     N/A    37/76   N/A  N/A   N/A   N/A   66
2019* 172  2.54  2.51  2.8   9.9  3.5  39/24/37  26/81   11%  67%    35%  13%  135
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2019   80  2.81  4.09  4.1  10.8  2.7  39/24/37  29/81   11%  67%    35%  13%  102
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs
+Triple-A MLEs
*Includes MLEs

Not entirely, but this is an interesting skill set:

  • The additional couple ticks of velocity—he now tops out at 95 mph—and a vastly improved change-up contributed to increased SwK/Dom. His change-up, slider, and curve all induced a SwK better than 15% with the change-up leading the way at 22% SwK (usage rates were 16%, 15% and 19%, respectively). 
  • At first glance, his MLB Ctl is alarming, but Ball%/FpK point to substantial upside (2.3 xCtl).
  • While he was helped by S%, as evidenced by the wide xERA/ERA gap in MLB, we must also consider that his bloated Ctl was factored into the xERA calculation. 

Gallen took a huge step forward in 2019, and though it wasn’t completely supported by the peripherals, there is a lot to like in his skill set. The ability to get ahead in the count and pound the strike zone should lead to improved Ctl and when paired with increased velocity/SwK/Dom, it gives the 24-year-old intriguing upside. If it all comes together, 2020 could be a true breakout season.

 

Davis emerges … The 2019 Baseball Forecaster opined that J.D. Davis (3B/OF, NYM) would benefit from a change of scenery, and a January 2019 trade from the Astros to the Mets set the stage. Davis capitalized by batting .307 with 22 HR in 410 AB. Can he keep it going in 2020?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA/xBA   bb%/ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX  xPX  hr/f  Spd   vR   xHR
====  ===  =====  =========  =======  ========  ==  ====  ===  ====  ===  ====  ===
2016* 485  20/1   .241/ N/A    7/66      N/A    32   N/A  N/A   N/A   80   N/A  N/A
2017^ 474  24/5   .232/.252    6/69   60/16/23  28   111  125   40%   73  .647    4
2018^ 436  13/2   .250/.248    7/74   50/22/28  31    89   71    5%   85  .413    4
2019  410  22/3   .307/.278    8/76   47/23/30  36   110  111   23%  104  .886   23
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2H-19 216  14/3   .333/.278    8/75   41/21/37  39   114  137   23%   97  .930   14 
*MLEs
^Includes MLEs

Aside from BA, signs point to “yes”:

  • He made lots of hard contact, as illustrated by Statcast measured 48% HH% which ranked in the 91st percentile and a terrific 11.4 Barrel % (MLB average: 6.3%). Furthermore, xHR and a 24% xHR/F back HR output, and if the second half FB% gains stick, he owns 30+ HR upside.
  • The batting average likely isn’t repeatable, as xBA indicates, but it should remain in good shape.
  • Drastic improvement vR played a major part in the breakthrough.
  • He could continue to contribute a few steals per season, but given his track record and merely average Spd, don’t expect more than that.

Davis took full advantage of his opportunity and is slated for an everyday gig in 2020. The combination of growing ct% and lots of hard contact provide a nice foundation. If the 27-year-old can hang on to those second half FB% gains, a .275 BA, 30 HR season could be within reach.

 

Can Musgrove reach new heights? … Joe Musgrove (RHP, PIT) entered 2019 with high hopes, but couldn’t improve upon his 2018 production, posting a 4.44 ERA in 170 IP. On the bright side, he surpassed 150 IP for the first time as a professional, which was an important milestone. What can we expect in 2020?

Year   IP   ERA/xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK/SwK  Ball%   Vel  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  =========  ===  ===  ===  =======  =====  ====  ========  =====  ====  ===
2016* 147  3.63/4.01  1.6  8.0  5.0  62%/10%    34%  91.7  43/21/36  32/74   14%  120
2017  109  4.77/4.10  2.3  8.1  3.5  64%/12%    32%  92.9  45/21/34  32/69   16%  106
2018* 132  4.17/3.61  1.7  7.6  4.4  68%/12%    30%  93.0  46/20/34  31/66   10%  116
2019  170  4.44/4.27  2.1  8.3  4.0  65%/12%    32%  92.4  44/20/35  31/66   12%  116
*Includes MLEs

There is reason to believe the best is yet to come:

  • His Dom/SwK has remained steady from 2017-19, but it’s worth noting that SwK hints at a little potential upside. That upside is even more apparent when you consider he garnered a SwK of 18% or better on three of his pitches—curve, change-up, slider—led by a 20% SwK on his slider and used the curve and change-up sparingly (9% and 11%, respectively).
  • Elite Ctl has been a staple of this skill set, and it’s fully supported by Ball%/FpK.
  • Musgrove’s velocity was down a tick compared to 2017-18 due to average velocity of 91 mph through April and 92 mph in May, but he rebounded to average 93 mph from June forward.
  • At first glance, the S% seems a bit unfortunate, but as noted in the 2020 Baseball Forecaster, he struggled mightily with runners on base (.802 oOPS, which was well beyond the MLB average), so a combination of adjustments/regression could solve that issue.

Musgrove’s ability to limit free passes and miss bats is definitely appealing. It would appear that he is perhaps a pitch mix tweak—throw more sliders, change-ups, and curves at the expense of sinkers and four-seamers—and a touch of S% regression away from unlocking another level. The 27-year-old has a nice floor, and his current 213 ADP offers room for profit.

 

Winker fails to deliver breakout … There were numerous signs pointing to a possible breakout 2019 season for Jesse Winker (OF, CIN), but it did not materialize, as he finished with a .269 batting average and 16 HR in 338 AB. Injuries have cut each of his past two seasons short (July 2018 right shoulder subluxation; August 2019 cervical strain/neck and upper back spasms), but he said in an interview last month that he is now fully healthy. Could 2020 be the year he takes that long-awaited step forward?

Year   AB  HR/xHR    BA/xBA   bb%/ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX   PX/xPX  hr/f   vL
====  ===  ======  =========  =======  ========  ==  ====  =======  ====  ====
2015* 443  13/N/A  .264/ N/A   13/78      N/A    31   N/A   96/N/A   N/A   N/A
2016* 380   3/N/A  .280/ N/A   12/82      N/A    33   N/A   55/N/A   N/A   N/A
2017^ 420   9/4    .283/.248   10/81   53/16/31  33   118   78/100   23%  .354
2018  281   7/10   .299/.285   15/84   42/24/34  34   135   79/107    9%  .690
2019  338  16/11   .269/.301   10/82   49/26/25  29   117   99/88    23%  .443
*MLEs
^Includes MLEs

We wouldn’t rule it out:

  • High ct% and LD% gives him a high BA floor, as seen in xBA. 
  • His willingness to take walks gives him a boost in OBP leagues.
  • Even with a batted ball mix similar to that he displayed in 2019 and the negative regression signaled by xHR and a 16% xHR/F, Winker is a good bet to hit approach 20 HR. If he can recapture a FB% similar to 2018, a 25-HR campaign could be within reach.
  • Lack of production vs. left-handed pitching has cost him playing time, but it’s worth noting that in 125 lifetime MLB AB vL, he has posted elite plate skills and an unfortunate h% (81% ct%, 13% bb%, and 20% h%), so it may be too soon to write him off as a strict platoon guy.

There is a lot to like in Winker’s skill set, most notably his ct%, BA upside, and plate discipline. While it remains to be seen whether or not he can consolidate them, he has flashed the ingredients to hint at 25 HR upside. The 26-year-old needs to be more productive against left-handed pitching in order to avoid a strict platoon, but his plate skills vL give some reason for optimism there as well. Given his current 326 ADP, it won’t cost much to see if 2020 is in fact Winker’s year.


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