FACTS/FLUKES: S. Marte, DeSclafani, Gregorius, Beede, Polanco

Marte is still going strong … Starling Marte (OF, ARI) racked up his fourth $30 season in the past five years, despite missing most of September (sprained left wrist), as he finished with a .295 batting average, 23 HR and 25 SB in 539 at-bats. The 31-year-old was later cleared for normal off-season training, so he’s set to hit the ground running with his new team. How are his skills holding up?

Year   AB  HR/xHR    BA/xBA   ct%  GB/LD/FB  h% HctX  xPX  hr/f  xHR/F  SB/Spd/SBO
====  ===  ======  =========  ===  ========  == ====  ===  ====  =====  ==========
2015  579   19/23  .287/.283   79  54/24/23  34  101   94   19%   23%   30/117/28%
2016  489    9/14  .311/.274   79  48/23/28  38  111   98    8%   13%   47/147/46%
2017  309    7/9   .275/.248   80  49/21/30  33   84   77   10%   13%   21/144/28%
2018  559   20/27  .277/.272   81  51/17/32  31   99  106   14%   19%   33/138/35%
2019  539   23/26  .295/.297   83  50/21/28  32  108   88   19%   21%   25/137/25%

His collection of skills (63 BPV) was better than ever in 2019: 

  • At first glance, his 2019 hr/f seems fluky, but it’s actually fully supported (and then some) by xHR/F. The xHR column is also pretty enlightening, as it suggests a run at 25-30 HR is possible, especially with the move from pitcher-friendly Pittsburgh to more hitter-friendly Arizona.
  • The BA gains were backed by upticks in ct%, HctX, and xBA. 
  • Though Marte’s SBO fell a bit from 2018, he was much more efficient on the basepaths, boosting his SB% from 70% to 81%. He has now posted a SB% of 80% or better in three of the past four seasons.

Marte continues to provide excellent five-category production and is showing no signs of slowing down. Consider that he amassed the best ct%/xBA of his career in 2019 and owns back-to-back seasons of 27 and 26 xHR, respectively, all while maintaining a Statcast measured sprint speed that ranked in the 92nd percentile. There’s no reason to think he can’t deliver another $30 season.

 

DeSclafani bounces back … As we noted back in January 2019, Anthony DeSclafani (RHP, CIN) carried significant profit potential after displaying intriguing gains hidden beneath a 4.93 ERA in 2018. He stepped up with a 3.93 ERA in 167 IP in 2019, topping the 145 IP plateau for the first time since 2015, but did his skills back the improved performance?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd Ball% SwK   vL   GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  xHR/F
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  === ===== ===  ====  ========  =====  ====  =====
2015  185  4.05  4.04  2.7  7.4  2.7  35%  10%  .783  45/21/34  32/72    9%    10%
2016  123  3.28  3.99  2.2  7.7  3.5  37%  10%  .837  42/23/35  30/78   13%    11%
2017       -----------------------------Did Not Pitch-----------------------
2018  115  4.93  4.01  2.3  8.5  3.6  35%  10%  .917  41/22/36  30/69   20%    15%
2019  167  3.89  4.30  2.6  9.0  3.4  36%  10%  .794  43/19/38  29/75   16%    14%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2H-19  86  3.45  4.10  2.6  8.7  3.3  36%  10%  .607  48/17/35  25/76   17%    11%

No, not entirely:

  • He altered his pitch mix a bit prior to the 2019 All-Star break, throwing the sinker 16% of the time, compared to 29% usage in 2015-18. He adjusted in his post-ASB start and wound up using it 21% of the time from that point forward. That played a big part in the second half GB% spike, and his xHR/F shows he had some bad luck in terms of keeping the ball in the yard in the second half.
  • His SwK has now held steady for four consecutive seasons and it suggests there will probably be some Dom pullback (8.2 xDom).
  • His Ctl crept up a smidge as his Ball% waned ever so slightly, but xCtl and his track record of good Ctl calms any concerns there.
  • DeSclafani’s velocity continues to climb, going from 92.9 mph in 2016 to 93.6 mph in 2018 to 94.7 mph. That’s obviously a good sign, particularly given his injury history.
  • On the surface, it looks like he made strides vL, but an 18% H% in the second half covered a sharp drop in Cmd from 2.8 prior to 2019 to just 1.9 over the final three months.

DeSclafani tinkered with his pitch mix in the first half of 2019, but he began shifting more toward the 2015-18 blend from July 16 forward and induced ground balls at a higher rate than ever before. The underlying metrics suggest there may not be much additional upside, but if the 30-year-old can curb the home runs (second half GB% and xHR/F hint it might be possible), show some improvement against left-handers, and get his health to cooperate, he could provide profit at his current 261 ADP.

 

Gregorius looks to put 2019 behind him … Didi Gregorius (SS, PHI) enjoyed the best season of his career in 2018, as he batted .267 with 27 HR and 10 SB. He returned from December 2018 Tommy John surgery to blast 16 HR in 324 AB, but it came with a putrid .238 batting average. Now a member of the Phillies, what can we expect in 2020?

Year   AB    BA/xBA    HR/SB bb% ct%  GB/LD/FB  h% HctX  xPX  hr/f xHR/F  Spd/SBO
====  ===  =========  ====== === ===  ========  == ====  ===  ==== =====  ======= 
2015  525  .265/.252    9/ 5   6  84  45/21/34  30   82   64    6%    4%   104/6%
2016  562  .276/.271   20/ 7   3  85  40/20/40  29   85   78   10%    5%   103/7%
2017  534  .287/.274   25/ 3   4  87  36/20/44  29   81   67   12%    5%    97/3%
2018  504  .268/.282   27/10   8  86  39/20/42  26  114  100   15%    8%  110/13%
2019  324  .238/.262   16/ 2   5  84  38/18/44  24  100   99   13%   10%    97/5%

The skills suggest a bounceback is probable:

  • With merely average xPX and a hr/f that has routinely outpaced xHR/F, it’s fair to wonder when some HR regression might take hold. But it’s also worth noting that a whopping 102 of his 110 career HR have been to the pull side and his new home, Citizens Bank Park, also plays to that strength (+22% LHB HR), so we can’t rule out another near-25 HR campaign.
  • Though his batting average fell to its lowest mark since 2014, xBA indicates it’s nothing a h% uptick (lifetime 28%) can’t fix, as his ct% is still in good shape.
  • 2018 stands as an outlier in SB/SBO, so don’t count on more than around 5 SB in 2020.

Gregorius reportedly turned down multi-year offers elsewhere to sign a one-year, $14 million contract with the Phillies, so he is clearly betting on himself to rebound and re-establish his value. Even if he can’t continue to outpace xHR/F at quite the clip he has in recent years, he seems to be a solid bet for 20 HR and a .260-.270 BA. However, as noted in the 2020 Baseball Forecaster, without 2018’s stolen bases, the 30-year-old no longer stands out at a shortstop position that is deep.

 

Beede showed progress in 2H … Tyler Beede’s (RHP, SF) first extended taste of MLB action didn’t go well as he posted a 5.08 ERA in 117 IP. However, he showed signs of life in the second half, amassing a 4.42 ERA and impressive 2.0 Ctl in 79 IP. Is there reason for optimism heading into 2020?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f xHR/F Ball%  SwK  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ==== ===== =====  ===  ===
2016# 147  3.82   N/A  3.5  7.1  2.0     N/A    34/75   N/A   N/A   N/A  N/A   67
2017+ 109  5.74   N/A  3.3  5.7  1.7     N/A    35/66   N/A   N/A   N/A  N/A   31
2018*  82  7.53  6.37  6.8  7.7  1.1  45/27/27  36/61    0%    1%   N/A  11%  -40
2019  117  5.08  4.75  3.5  8.7  2.5  44/22/34  33/71   18%   20%   38%  12%   83
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2H-19  79  4.42  4.33  2.0  8.4  4.1  43/23/34  32/73   18%   20%   37%  12%  117
#Double-A MLEs
+Triple-A MLEs
*Includes MLEs

Yes, but there is more work to be done:

  • He allowed lots of hard contact, as evidenced by xHR/F as well as Statcast measured exit velocity of 90.8 mph and 44% HH%, which ranked in the bottom 2% and bottom 4% of MLB, respectively.
  • Beede’s improved Dom was backed by an uptick in SwK. His change-up and curveball drew lots of swings and misses (18% SwK/19% usage and 17% SwK/14% usage, respectively) while also inducing lots of ground balls (curve: 65% GB%; change-up: 54% GB%). Any boost in GB% could help with his HR issues.
  • Though Ball% supports the overall 2019 Ctl and actually hints at a little upside (3.2 xCtl), it didn’t support the second half Ctl gains (3.0 xCtl).
  • Left-handed batters have given him fits (lifetime .829 oOPS and 1.5 Cmd in 269 PA vL), but he flashed gains in the second half (.744 oOPS and 2.4 Cmd in 166 PA).

Beede entered 2018 ranked as the No. 2 Giants prospect and carried an 8B rating with #3 starter potential, but he has since hit some bumps in the road. However, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic, particularly given his recently stated plan to scale back usage of his 94 mph fastball from 56% in 2019 to closer to 35% in 2020 while increasing usage of the aforementioned curve and change-up, especially in two-strike counts. The 27-year-old makes for an intriguing speculative play at his current 444 ADP.

 

Polanco looks to rebound … Gregory Polanco’s (OF, PIT) 2019 debut was delayed until April 22 due to September 2018 surgery to repair his labrum and stabilize his shoulder. The shoulder never fully healed and he played just 42 games before being shut down in mid-June. Polanco reported to spring training 2020 proclaiming that he is finally healthy, so can he get back to where he was prior to the shoulder injury?

Year   AB  HR/xHR    BA/xBA   bb%  ct%  GB/LD/FB  h% HctX  xPX hr/f  SB/Spd/SBO
====  ===  ======  =========  ===  ===  ========  == ====  === ====  ==========
2015  593    9/13  .256/.250    8   80  45/20/35  31  103   95   6%  27/116/24%
2016  527   22/19  .258/.274    9   77  39/24/37  30  112  110  14%   17/84/18%
2017  379    11/9  .251/.262    7   84  42/20/38  27   88   77   9%    8/80/10%
2018  461   23/25  .254/.258   11   75  33/19/48  29   93  123  14%  12/104/12%
2019  153     6/6  .242/.223    7   68  37/19/44  32   90  120  13%   3/107/12%

While that remains to be seen, he owned an enticing skill set pre-injury:

  • Polanco traded some ct% for power in 2018, but it didn’t hurt his BA/xBA. Additionally, his bb% topped 10% for the first time, resulting in a career-best 0.52 Eye (lifetime: 0.45).
  • The combination of increased xPX and FB% in 2018 bodes well for his power potential, as xHR confirms the HR output. 
  • With his decent Spd and efficiency on the basepaths (85% SB% in 27 attempts 2017-19), a 10-15 SB season could be within reach.

Prior to that mid-September 2018 shoulder injury, Polanco had enjoyed a strong second half, compiling a .273 batting average with 12 HR and 9 SB in 216 at-bats (77% ct%, 135 xPX and 48% FB%), so that gives us an idea of his capabilities. The 28-year-old enters spring training with no restrictions, though the Pirates are expected to monitor his workload this spring out of an abundance of caution. If Polanco has truly put the shoulder woes behind him, he could provide significant profit potential at his current 317 ADP.


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