FACTS/FLUKES: Rendon, Brach, Cueto, S. Perez, Taillon

Skills suggest Rendon in line for a repeat... In 2017, Anthony Rendon (3B, WAS) delivered career highs in batting average, HR, and RBI. Did his skills back up the improved performance, and can we expect similar output in 2018?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  h%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ==  ====  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====
2013  351  .265  .266    8   80  31   123  41/26/34   97/114    7%  107/ 2%   7/ 1
2014  613  .287  .279    8   83  32   136  40/20/40  126/146   10%  118/12%  21/17
2015  311  .264  .236   10   77  33   111  45/21/33   74/104    6%  103/ 3%   5/ 1
2016  567  .270  .258   10   79  31   117  36/21/44  111/116   10%  103/11%  20/12
2017  508  .301  .282   14   84  32   116  34/19/47  127/112   12%   87/ 5%  25/ 7

Yes, and yes:

  • Rendon backed up his career-best surface stats with some career-best skills, reaching new highs in xBA, bb%, ct%, PX, and FB%. His career-best 1.02 Eye moved him into elite plate discipline territory, and tied for fourth-highest among all qualifying major league hitters in 2017.
  • And while his xBA didn't fully support his .301 BA, his 32% hit rate was right in line with his previous levels. Likewise, while his xPX came in slightly under his PX, and his hr/f was slightly below average, hitting nearly half of your balls in play in the air helps ensure that a good number of them will go out.
  • His steals were down, but looking at his Spd and SBO history, that's hardly surprising. His 2018 total seems likely to remain in single digits.
  • If you're looking for one more positive, after May 1st he put up the following stats and skills: 22 of his 25 HR, a .306 BA, 85% contact, 1.16 Eye, 125 HctX, .298 xBA, 139 PX, 122 xPX, and all seven of his stolen bases. And that did not include his 6-for-6, 3 HR, 10 RBI outburst on April 30th.

At 28, Rendon should be in the prime years of his career, and his skills certainly back that idea up. There's every indication that he can turn in roughly the same performance that he did in 2017, making him one of the best third base options out there. Bid with confidence. 


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Skills make Brach a questionable short-term saves option... With closer Zach Britton (LHP, BAL) on the shelf until at least early June, it looks like Brad Brach (RHP, BAL) will be filling that role again for the Orioles, just as he did when Britton was out during the first half of 2017. Does he have the skills to hold down the job again?

Year  IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK  BPV
====  ==  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ===
2013  31  3.19  4.60  5.5   9.0  1.6  38/23/39  37/85    9%  54%   9%   29
2014  62  3.18  4.04  3.6   7.8  2.2  36/19/45  26/76    8%  58%  13%   57
2015  79  2.72  3.61  4.3  10.1  2.3  45/19/36  27/81   10%  58%  14%   88
2016  79  2.05  3.35  2.8  10.5  3.7  41/21/38  28/85   10%  60%  15%  131
2017  68  3.18  4.03  3.4   9.3  2.7  42/19/39  27/76   10%  58%  13%   94

It's debatable:

  • Brach has had a fantastic five-year run of low ERAs, but he's been helped immensely by low hit rates, high strand rates, and a continuously below average hr/f. Over those last five seasons, his xERA has been an average of 1.06 higher than his ERA.
  • In addition, his Cmd and BPV have only been at the level you'd like to see from a closer once, in 2016.
  • He's struggled to keep his FpK at a league average level, and in the second half of 2017, he dropped to 51% FpK with a 4.3 Ctl rate, which pushed his xERA up to 4.39 and his BPV to 77.

Basically, Brach has had one closer-worthy season in the last five years, and is coming off a pretty mediocre second half in 2017. Given that he might only hold down the closer role for two months, you'll need to weigh his potential saves against the downside risk that might accompany them.

 

Cueto's injury-marred 2017 could lead to buying opportunity... Johnny Cueto (RHP, SF) and his owners suffered through a disappointing 2017 season, as he struggled with blisters in the first half and a flexor strain in the second. Do his skills offer hope for a rebound in 2018?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ===
2014  244  2.25  3.07  2.4  8.9  3.7  46/19/35  25/82   10%  63%  10%  120
2015  212  3.44  3.76  2.0  7.5  3.8  43/22/36  29/73    9%  63%  10%  103
2016  220  2.79  3.43  1.8  8.1  4.4  50/21/29  30/76    8%  68%  10%  124
2017  147  4.52  4.53  3.2  8.3  2.6  39/25/36  33/73   14%  64%  11%   79

For the most part, yes:

  • You can make the case that 2016 was the best season of Cueto's career, at least skill-wise. He posted career bests in Ctl, Cmd, FpK, and BPV. So if you're willing to dismiss most of 2017 as the result of his injuries, then it's important to remember that a year ago, he was looking like a pretty elite starter.
  • The 2017 injuries had three clear effects: more walks, fewer ground balls, and more home runs. That's not surprising. If there's a silver lining, it's that his FpK stayed well above average, which bodes well for a control rebound in 2018.
  • His Dom held steady and his SwK actually went up a bit, both positive signs amid his struggles.

Cueto's 32, with a lot of miles on his arm, so we can't just assume he'll bounce all the way back to where he was at the end of 2016. But if owners in your league are being scared off by his 2017 numbers, there could be some profit opportunity if you can acquire him at a discount, as there's evidence here that his skills remained intact. 

 

Perez's power could still be on the rise... Salvador Perez (C, KC) turned in a career high with 27 HR in 2017. What do his power skills tell us about his chances for doing it again in 2018?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  HR  bb%  ct%   Eye  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f
====  ===  ====  ====  ==  ===  ===  ====  ====  ========  =======  ====
2013  496  .292  .272  13    4   87  0.33   108  47/21/33   88/ 96    9%
2014  578  .260  .265  17    4   85  0.26   115  39/21/40   95/106    9%
2015  531  .260  .268  21    2   85  0.16    88  42/21/37   99/ 87   12%
2016  514  .247  .246  22    4   77  0.18   105  35/18/47  116/107   12%
2017  471  .268  .266  27    3   80  0.18   123  33/20/47  121/142   15%

That he might even have a shot at topping that total:

  • Perez seems to have made a shift over the last three years, trading some contact for more fly balls and power. 2017 represented new highs in hard contact, PX, xPX, and hr/f, and a tie for his highest FB%.
  • And thanks to those gains in HctX and FB%, xPX indicates he might still have some additional untapped power.
  • He missed time in August with an intercostal strain, and his numbers that month were terrible: a .125 BA, 81 HctX, 32% fly ball rate, 45 PX, 45 xPX. So his full-season power skills could have been even better—in fact, he had a 138 HctX and 169 xPX in the first half—and with more playing time, he had a real shot at 30 HR. (Then again, one look at the trend in his AB column tells us we can't assume a big rebound in playing time.)

Perez is 28, so the timing of his power growth makes sense, and he's made this transition without undercutting the BA level he's established since 2014. He had the highest xPX and second-highest HctX of any full-time catcher in 2017. There's every reason to think he can hit 25+ HR again in 2018, and possibly even more.

 

Despite setbacks, Taillon has compiled solid skills... After missing all of 2014 and 2015 following Tommy John surgery, Jameson Taillon (RHP, PIT) had to deal with another setback in 2017, after receiving a diagnosis of testicular cancer in May, though thankfully in-season surgery now has him cancer-free. He's made 43 starts in the majors since his return from TJS—what do his skills tell us about his outlook going forward?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ===
2016  104  3.38  3.48  1.5  7.4  5.0  52/20/27  29/75   15%  62%   9%  123
2017  134  4.44  4.15  3.1  8.4  2.7  47/25/28  36/71   10%  62%   9%   93
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Car   238  3.98  3.75  2.4  8.0  3.3  50/23/28  33/72   12%  62%   9%  106

That there's cause for cautious optimism:

  • Taillon's skills show that he wasn't quite as good as he looked in 2016, nor should his performance have slid as much as it did in 2017. The biggest difference between the two seasons was his Ctl, and yet his FpK remained consistent. His career 2.4 Ctl likely gives us a more accurate picture of his skill level.
  • Likewise, his consistent SwK suggests that his rise in Dom between seasons is a little questionable, especially since a 9% rate is below average. Again, his career mark of 8.0 might be a better guide until we see some SwK growth.
  • As our own Stephen Nickrand pointed out last season, the last step he needs to take seems to be finding an out pitch against left-handed batters. He has a career 6.5 Dom and 2.1 Cmd vs. LHB, compared to a 9.2 Dom and 5.1 Cmd vs. RHB.

At 26, Taillon's career certainly has not gone as planned, but his skills show that he's done pretty well given the circumstances, with a career xERA and BPV that say he has at least been a league average pitcher thus far. His prospect pedigree was that of a #1 starter, and that remains his ceiling, but you'll likely need to be patient and keep your expectations at a more realistic level for 2018.


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