FACTS/FLUKES: Sale, Cruz, Lynn, Soler, Paxton

Sale maintains elite skills... After being one of the first starting pitchers selected in 2019 drafts, Chris Sale (LHP, BOS) posted a 4.67 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 9.3 Dom in five April starts, which had some fantasy owners concerned. Since May 1, the southpaw owns a 2.34 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 14.6 Dom in 65.1 IP. In 16 GS, his three wins, 138 strikeouts, 3.59 ERA, and 1.02 WHIP have resulted in $13 R$. Does a slow April appear to be an anomaly for the lefty?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK    G/L/F    H%  S% hr/f  BPV 
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  === === ====  === 
2015  209  3.41  2.74  1.8  11.8  6.5  67%  15%  43/22/35   34  73  13%  220 
2016  227  3.34  3.43  1.8   9.3  5.2  62%  12%  41/21/38   29  73  12%  163
2017  214  2.90  2.79  1.8  12.9  7.2  67%  15%  39/20/41   32  76  12%  201
2018  158  2.11  2.40  1.9  13.5  7.0  67%  16%  44/20/36   30  79   9%  213
2019   95  3.59  2.90  2.2  13.0  6.0  67%  15%  42/19/39   32  69  14%  196

Yes, as his elite skills (196 BPV) point to a strong season: 

  • While his velocity has dipped from 94.7 mph in 2018 to 92.9 MPH in 2019, his SwK has remained consistent. Throwing more sliders (16% SwK) has backed an elite SwK, and despite throwing his four-seam fastball less in 2019, he can still create swings and misses (14% SwK) with his fastball. He throws a change-up (14% SwK) that also misses bats, and his SwK backs another double-digit Dom season. 
  • The southpaw's FpK is metronome worthy, and his 2.0 career Ctl supports a WHIP that can lower a roster's ratios. 
  • He has lost a few ground balls in 2019, and his 27% soft-contact rate in 2018 has slipped to 14% in 2019. His hard-contact allowed rate has increased from 27% in 2018 to 35% in 2019, which has contributed to a higher hr/f. The lefty's 90.6 mph allowed exit velocity on FB/LD in 2018 has increased to a 92.8 mph allowed exit velocity on FB/LD, which is near league average in 2019. With increased hard contact, his 2018 hr/f looks like the outlier. His 2019 hr/f could finish above his 11% career hr/f. 
  • After a poor S% inflated his early results, his 76% career S% and 2.90 xERA say he can provide ERA help again in 2019. 

With a slow April in the rearview mirror, Sale's skills have increased to a 233 BPV in May and a 231 BPV in June. Even with some lost velocity on his four-seam fastball, his three pitches miss enough bats to post a double-digit Dom. The southpaw's FpK and career Ctl back another elite WHIP result in 2019. Although his hr/f could finish above his career hr/f, some better fortune with a S% swing should lower his ERA. He has the skills to post a sub-3.00 ERA during the second half of the season. With health (Grade D), expect Sale's 2019 results to move closer to his elite skills. 

 

Cruz adds xPX in Minnesota... Coming off of a .256, 37 HR, 97 RBI, and 70 R performance for Seattle in 2018, Nelson Cruz (DH, MIN) signed with the Twins in the offseason. A wrist injury cost the slugger time in May, but he's already slugged six HR in 54-bats in June. Through 184 at-bats, his .277, 13 HR, 36 RBI, and 30 R have added $14 of R$ to a roster. How are his power skills in his age-39 season?

Year   AB  HR    BA   xBA   vL   bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX  xPX  hr/f
====  ===  ==  ====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ===  ===  ====
2015  590  44  .302  .277 1.107    9   72  46/20/34  35   113  169  137   30%
2016  589  43  .287  .274 1.020    9   73  44/18/38  33   108  160  134   26%
2017  556  39  .288  .268  .834   11   75  40/18/42  32   123  146  150   22%
2018  519  37  .256  .266  .936    9   76  44/18/39  27   119  139  123   24%
2019  184  13  .277  .264 1.125   11   66  38/24/39  35   125  173  157   28%

His power metrics are aging like a fine wine: 

  • His middle-of-the-order power continues to play well, as his xPX, FB%, hr/f, and HctX all support sustained power. With a 98.7 mph exit velocity on FB/LD (fourth in MLB) and an 11.7% Brls/PA (eighth in MLB), he has the power to finish with 30+ HR for the sixth straight season. 
  • While he continues to draw walks, his ct% dip has contributed to a 0.35 Eye. With a 75% career ct%, expect more contact going forward. With increased HctX and a higher LD%, his BA can help rosters in 2019.  
  • In a small sample size, Cruz continues to hit well vL. He owns a 0.47 Eye with a 41% FB% and 72% hard-contact rate vL. While his 35% h% vL may not last (31% career h%), his power vL (253 PX) and vR (149 PX) should continue. 

A wrist injury in May slowed his chase for a 40-HR season with Minnesota, but Cruz's age has not slowed down his power output. With an elite exit velocity, Brls/PA, and xPX, he can post another 30+ HR in 2019. Even though his ct% has dipped in the first half, his 75% career ct% and current xBA support a BA that can help rosters. With a spot in the middle of Minnesota's strong lineup, his power and counting stats are projected to add $20 worth of R$ in the second half. 

 

Lynn steps up his skills... Lance Lynn (RHP, TEX) signed with Texas after spending the 2018 season with the Twins and Yankees. The right-hander's ten wins, 161 strikeouts, 4.77 ERA, and 1.53 WHIP in 157 IP resulted in $-10 R$ in 2018. He has seen better results in 2019, and his eight wins, 102 strikeouts, 4.16 ERA, and 1.29 WHIP performance in 93 IP has resulted in $9 R$. Do his skills back his improved results?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK    G/L/F    H%  S% hr/f  BPV 
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  === === ====  === 
2015  175  3.03  3.95  3.5   8.6  2.5  56%   9%  44/22/34   33  80   8%   82
2016  ----------------------------Tommy John Surgery------------------------ 
2017  186  3.43  4.59  3.8   7.4  2.0  55%   9%  44/20/36   25  78  14%   53
2018  157  4.77  4.08  4.4   9.2  2.1  54%  11%  50/23/27   35  69  11%   77
2019   93  4.16  3.82  2.3   9.9  4.3  59%  11%  41/22/37   35  69   8%  134

Yes, he has improved his skills (134 BPV) in 2019:

  • Lynn is throwing his cutter (12% SwK) more often, and he also is creating swings and misses with his four-seam fastball (12% SwK) and curveball (13% SwK). He misses enough bats to finish with a 9.0+ Dom again in 2019. 
  • Trading GB% for FB% with a 39% hard-contact allowed rate could add ERA risk as the temperature warms up in Texas. His cutter and change-up have led to increased fly balls. His current xERA backs his results, and with a 75% career S%, his 4.00 projected ERA is a reasonable target. 
  • Throwing more FpK has helped his improved Ctl, but his 3.4 career Ctl expects a little pull back going forward. 
  • The right-hander's 6.9 Cmd and 4.4 career Cmd vs. RHH bodes well for success, but his 2.7 Cmd and 1.4 career Cmd vs. LHH adds ratio risk. 

Lynn has improved his skills each month with a 77 BPV in April, 121 BPV in May, and a 210 BPV in June. Creating swings and misses with three pitches provides the foundation for a strikeout an inning during the second half. With some S% help and increased FB%, he can provide close to a 4.00 ERA. Even with some control struggles against LHH, his FpK bump and 3.4 career Ctl expect a WHIP closer to league average in 2019. His results have been mostly fact so far, and his improved skills point to a positive R$ finish. 

 

Soler eyes 40-HR season... Without a double-digit HR total since 2016, Jorge Soler (DH, KC) became a late-round dart throw in many 2019 leagues. Those owners that rostered Soler have hit a bullseye so far. Through 282 at-bats, the post-hype prospect has hit .248 with 21 HR, 53 RBI, and 40 R. With a shot at a 40-HR season, do his skills back his power breakout? 

Year   AB  HR    BA   xBA   vL   bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX  xPX  hr/f
====  ===  ==  ====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ===  ===  ====
2015  366  10  .262  .236  .730    8   67  42/28/30  37   110  107  123   14%
2016  227  12  .238  .234  .812   12   71  40/17/43  28    90  125   91   17%
2017* 370  19  .205  .217  .577   12   65  38/18/44  25    82  122   88    7%
2018  223   9  .265  .251 1.064   11   69  47/19/34  34   109  144  110   17%
2019  282  21  .248  .261  .684    8   68  42/18/40  28   104  168  133   27%
*-Includes MLEs

With continued health (he recieved an F grade in the 2019 Baseball Forecaster), he has the power to chase his first 40-HR season: 

  • Even with a slight dip in HctX, his xPX and FB% growth support more power. Soler's 95.6 mph exit velocity on FB/LD is ranked 56th in the majors, and his 9.0% Brls/PA (35th in MLB) and 343 feet average fly ball distance support his hr/f jump and a chance at 40 HR. 
  • His below-average ct% is still an issue. Drawing fewer walks has lowered his Eye to 0.26. With his HctX and 32% career h%, he should get over the .250 line in 2019. 
  • The 2018 success vL was boosted up by a 39% h% vL, and his 69% ct%, and 14% bb% vL in 2018 have fallen to a 30% h%, 62% ct%, and 7% bb% vL in 2019. With a .776 career OPS and 126 career PX, he could raise his OPS vL in the second half. 

Soler has supported 21 HR with more xPX and FB%, and his exit velocity, barrels, and fly ball distance say he has the skills for his first 40-HR season. Although his below-average ct% carries risk, his HctX and xBA are enough to finish with a BA near league average. He will need to improve his ct% and bb% vL to move toward his career OPS vL. While his health track record adds risk, he has the power and skills to post a 40-HR season. 

 

Paxton's WHIP should improve... In the last three seasons, James Paxton (LHP, NYY) has increased his skills from a 134 BPV in 2016 to a 165 BPV in 2018. With a move to New York during the offseason, expectations were high for the lefty. A knee injury in May placed him on the IL, and he has five wins, 78 strikeouts, a 3.75 ERA, and a 1.33 WHIP in 60 IP. Will he see another skills increase in 2019?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK    G/L/F    H%  S% hr/f  BPV 
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  === === ====  === 
2015   67  3.90  4.47  3.9   7.5  1.9  53%   7%  48/17/34   31  76  11%   56
2016  121  3.79  3.59  1.8   8.7  4.9  62%  12%  48/22/30   36  72   8%  134
2017  136  2.98  3.36  2.4  10.3  4.2  65%  13%  45/22/33   31  74   8%  143 
2018  160  3.76  3.22  2.4  11.7  5.0  66%  15%  40/19/41   31  71  14%  165
2019   60  3.75  3.81  3.6  11.7  3.3  66%  15%  36/24/40   35  74  10%  127

His skills have slid a bit to open the season, but his WHIP can improve going forward: 

  • The southpaw's 95.5 mph velocity has remained consistent, and his cutter (19% SwK), curveball (17% SwK), and four-seam fastball (12% SwK) back continued strikeouts. With an elite SwK, he is in line for another double-digit Dom. 
  • Although he's finding the zone early with steady FpK, his Ctl has fallen off. His Cmd vs. RHH has moved from a 4.9 Cmd in 2018 to a 2.9 Cmd in 2019. His 3.7 career Cmd vs. RHH supports some improvement, and his 2.7 career Ctl supports a better Ctl and WHIP. 
  • His increased FB% from 2018 has carried over to 2019, but his 90.9 mph exit velocity allowed on FB/LD is 69th-lowest in MLB. With a hr/f in line with his career hr/f, his xERA and 32% career-H% say he can finish with an ERA similar in line with his 2018 ERA.  
  • Paxton's 44% FB%, 13% hr/f, and 3.9 Ctl vs. RHH have cut into his ratios. With a 2.6 career Ctl vs. RHH, he can improve his ratios. 

Even with a skills dip from 2018, Paxton still has the skills to help a roster. While his injury history puts anything beyond 150 IP at risk, his above-average skills can be worth the risk. All four of his pitches own a double-digit SwK, which backs another double-digit Dom finish. He's still throwing FpK, and his 2.7 career Ctl expects some improvements. Returning to his 46% career GB% could help his efforts, and his xERA and current FB% still can lead to an ERA in the high-3.00's. Although his home park carries ratio risk, he has the skills for a double-digit R$ in the second half. 


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