FACTS/FLUKES: Rendon, M. Gonzales, Kepler, Hand, Au. Romine

Rendon has increased his 5x5 earnings three straight years ... Anthony Rendon (3B, LAA) earned $33 in 5x5 dollars last year; his third consecutive season where he earned more than the previous year. Now that he has moved to the Angels, can we expect another?

Year  AB   HR/xHR SB    BA/xBA   OBA  ct%  bb%   h%  HctX   PX/xPX    G/L/F   HR/F 
====  ===  ====== ==  =========  ===  ===  ===  ===  ====  =======  ========  ====
2015  311   5/ 8   1  .264/.236  344   77   10   33   111   74/104  45/21/33     6 
2016  567  20/21  12  .270/.258  348   79   10   31   118  111/116  36/21/44    10      
2017  508  25/21   7  .301/.282  403   84   14   32   116  127/112  34/19/47    12
2018  529  24/31   2  .308/.292  374   85    9   33   118  130/122  33/24/44    12
2019  545  34/37   5  .319/.296  412   84   12   33   130  136/160  33/21/46    16

​There are certainly no reasons to expect a fall-off in production in LA. Rendon should continue to be a four-0category stud in 2020:

  • His career high HR total last year was validated by xHR. His power metrics (HctX, PX, xPX) have been improving for three years and he's 30% or more above league average on all three metrics. 
  • Statcast metrics also show his power is legitimate: He was in the 75th percentile of Exit Velocity, 88th percentile of Hard Hit %, and in the 92nd percentile of Barrels/Plate Appearance in 2019.
  • His third consecutive .300+ BA was no fluke. His ct% has been consistently excellent since 2017 and his bb% has been above average.
  • What keeps Rendon in the second round is his lack of speed. He has not even had double digit steal attempts since 2016 and his below average Spd scores suggest he will continue contributing only a handful of steals.
  • Rendon is also an asset in OBP leagues. He's exceeded .400 OBP in two of the last three years.

It's not a certainty that Rendon will improve on his 2019 line, but he will likely be a top 20 fantasy hitter in 2020. His high level consistency in both his plate skills and power metrics the last three years strongly suggest that he has a very high performance floor. He is a very solid second round pick in 2020.

 

Kepler smashed his way to a career best in HR in 2019 ... Max Kepler (OF, MIN) hit 36 HR last year (7th in the AL) improving on his previous career high of 20. Is he ready to enter the ranks of the top HR hitters in MLB? 

Year   AB  HR/xHR  SB    BA/xBA   OBA  ct%  bb%   h%  HctX   PX/xPX    G/L/F   hr/f 
====  ===  ======  ==  =========  ===  ===  ===  ===  ====  =======  ========  ====
2016  396  17/ 7    6  .235/.257  309   77    9   27   103  114/103  47/16/36    15
2017  511  19/11    6  .243/.256  312   78    8   28   104  107/ 93  43/18/40    12
2018  532  20/20    4  .224/.249  319   82   12   24   112  104/120  38/16/46    10
2019  524  36/22    1  .252/.275  336   81   10   25   119  131/113  36/17/47    18

Kepler can be a valuable third or fourth outfielder for a fantasy team, but a closer look at his power metrics shows that he's unlikely to contend for the HR title:

  • There was a 14 HR gap between his actual HR and xHR.
  • His PX was the lowest of the top 10 AL HR hitters last season. His xPX was the second lowest.
  • His Statcast power metrics did not rate him as elite. He ranked between the 64th percentile to the 68th percentile in Exit Velocity, Hard Hit %, and Barrels/Plate Appearance among all qualified hitters. He's certainly better than average, but not in the stratosphere of where the top power hitters rank.
  • Kepler's plate skills—ct% and bb%—are a little above average, but he has established a low h% baseline for his career—26%—which limits his BA potential.
  • He has never stolen more than six bases in a season and has below average speed.

​Kepler had a nice season last year with an unexpected HR total. Those drafting him in 2020 should expect a much lower HR total this season, probably in the 20-25 range with just a middling BA. 

 

Gonzales took a step back in 2019 ... A former first round draft pick of the Cardinals in 2013, Marco Gonzales (LHP, SEA) seemed to be developing towards his potential with a strong 2018 season, but he regressed in 2019. What's the outlook for him in 2020?

 Year     IP   ERA  xERA  WHIP  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK  H%   Vel  hr/f  BPV   
=====    ===  ====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ==  ====  ====  ===  
2015*     79  5.67  6.53  1.75  2.8  5.9  2.1   75    3  38  89.4    25  -16
2016     -----------------------Did not pitch; TJ Surgery-------------------
2017*    120  4.52  4.60  1.37  2.5  6.6  2.6   60   10  32  91.5    18   86
2018     167  4.00  3.71  1.22  1.7  7.8  4.5   66   10  32  90.1    11  117
2019     203  3.99  5.12  1.41  2.5  6.5  2.6   65    8  31  88.9     9   69
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
20191H   107  4.39  5.35  1.40  2.6  6.4  2.5   64    8  32  88.7     8   63
20192H    96  3.55  4.87  1.21  2.3  6.6  2.8   67    9  29  89.2    11   76
*includes MLEs

Gonzales took a significant step back from his 2018 season, but his 1H/2H splits suggest his season was not as poor as it looked on the surface:

  • He was a workhorse in 2019, one of nine AL pitchers who threw more than 200 innings, but his soft-toss style did not lead to good results despite excellent control and strong FpK.
  • His velocity has decreased each of the last two years.
  • However his second half, while not up to his 2018 standard, was was much better than his first half last season.
  • With his current ADP in the reserve rounds of NFBC drafts, he still could have a bit of value as an innings guy and possible matchup replacement. Though it's not predictive on a broad scale, in the past Gonzales does seem to have a propensity to pitch better at home than on the road.

Depth charts show Gonzales as the Mariners #1 starter going into 2020, so barring injury (he has an "A" Health grade) he will pitch significant innings in 2020. If an owner can pick and choose his starts he could be a back-end starter for a fantasy team who can be picked up in the reserve rounds of a draft.

 

Hand a top closer in 2019 ... Brad Hand (LHP, CLE) was locked in as Cleveland's closer in 2019 and finished with the fifth-highest saves total in the majors. His job seems secure for 2020. Will he stay in the top rank of closers in 2020?

Year   IP  SV/HLD   ERA/xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK   Vel  H%  GB/FB  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ======  =========  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ====  ==  =====  ====  ===
2015   93    0/ 2  5.30/4.39  3.1   6.5  2.1   52    9  92.1  33  46/30   10    57
2016   89    1/21  2.92/3.36  3.6  11.2  3.1   59   13  92.8  28  47/36   10   128
2017   79   21/16  2.16/2.81  2.3  11.8  5.2   58   14  93.5  27  46/34   15   175
2018   72   32/10  2.75/2.83  3.5  13.3  3.8   59   14  93.6  31  45/34   15   167
2019   57   34/ 0  3.30/3.52  2.8  13.2  4.7   67   14  92.7  38  27/42   11   166 

Hand will likely accumulate plenty of saves in 2020, but changes in his usage might limit his potential as a top closer:

  • Hand's skills are intact. His higher than normal ERA/xERA were impacted by an outlier 38% H%. His Dom, Cmd, SwK, and FpK are all elite. 
  • His GB tilt vanished in 2019 which contributed to giving up more HR in 2019 than in either 2017 or 2018 when he pitched more innings.
  • He put up three straight 100+ K seasons from 2016-2018 making him a very valuable reliever. He had "only" 84 K last season despite a 13.2 Dom because manager Terry Francona limited his innings; he had just  seven appearances where he pitched more than one inning. In 2017 and 2018 he had 16 and 17 appearances respectively where he pitched more than one inning.

Hand has outstanding skills and should be a reliable closer from a saves perspective, but because he's mainly used now as a one-inning closer, his contributions to ratios and Ks are less than they have been when he was with San Diego.

 

Romine Tigers' #1 catcher ... After nine years with the Yankees, Austin Romine (C, DET) is finally out of the shadow of Gary Sanchez (C, NYY). Now that he finally has a starting job should he be considered for a spot on a fantasy roster?

Year   AB  HR/xHR   BA/xBA   ct%  bb%   h%   OBA  HctX    PX/xPX   OPSvL OPSvR
====  ===  ======  =========  ===  ===  ===  ====  ====  ========  ===== =====
2016  165   4/ 4   .242/.260   81    4   28   269    88    90/100    725   551
2017  229   2/ 3   .218/.235   75    6   28   272    84    50/ 66    499   586
2018  242  10/ 7   .244/.243   72    6   30   295    95   111/ 89    714   712  
2019  228   8/ 8   .281/.251   78    4   33   310    99    85/ 79    818   718  

Romine should be on the radar in two-catcher leagues:

  • As the #1 catcher in Detroit, his plate appearances should increase substantially. BaseballHQ.com currently forecasts that Romine will get 50% of the playing time at catcher. At a minimum his counting stats will hit career highs in 2020.
  • Romine is also unlikely to fall into a platoon role. His OPSvL and OPSvR are similar. The two catchers backing him up (Grayson Greiner (C, DET) and Jake Rogers (C, DET)) are both right-handed hitters as is Romine. Neither of them has established themselves as major league hitters.
  • Romine's decent ct% and xBAs suggest a decent BA floor, especially for a second catcher. 

Romine is currently going in the 28th round in NFBC drafts. At that price he is a solid investment for a second catcher.


Click here to subscribe

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