GM's OFFICE: 2021 Prognosticating Successes, Part 1

A full baseball season – wow, that used to be taken for granted. 162 games (barring rainouts!), the chill of early April, the heat and humidity of summer, cool September nights as the frost sits on the pumpkin. After all that the world has been through the past couple of years, a full 2021 baseball season serves as a sign that there will hopefully be a return to normalcy in the near future.

It will also serve as a return to larger sample sizes, which makes folks projecting future performance a bit perkier and more confident. Last spring, a major hurdle prognosticating 2021 performance was the small sample size presented by the abbreviated 2020 season. So, how’d we do here at BaseballHQ?

This week and next, we go into detail on our many 2021 hits — where our process foretold a spike or dip in performance. Most of these commentaries appeared either on the site in the pre-season or in the 2021 Baseball Forecaster, whose 2022 version is now available for pre-order. Each entry provides a concrete example of how our projection model and the analysis that stems from it continues to put you in a position to win your league.

Hitters are covered here alphabetically, with HR-RBI-BA; pitchers will be covered next week.

Yordan Alvarez: We're "all in" on Yordan at his current, 6th-round ADP; we'd even jump a round or two earlier under the right circumstances. He has .300-40-100 upside. (Cederholm)
2020: 1-4-.250 in 8 AB (missed most of season with injury)
2021: 33-104-.277 in 537 AB

Jose Altuve: A season to forget, as speed, power, ct%, and luck all went in the wrong direction. Had short IL stint due to knee sprain, the third straight year in which he's missed time with leg issue, so return to double-digit SB is no guarantee. But trust the track record when it comes to the rest of the package, and be ready to buy in at a discounted rate. (Rudd)
2020: 5-18-2-.219 in 192 AB
2021: 31-83-5-.277 in 602 AB

Josh Bell: Launch angle volatility reversed 2019 swing change gains. GB% spiked; PX/xPX collapsed; BA plummeted along with plate skills as he struggled throughout. But HctX, HR/F, exit velocity are in great shape, and we’ve seen what the big 1B can do with loft. Likely a sample aberration; age, health point to a rebound. (Thompson)
2020: 8-22-.226 in 195 AB
2021: 27-88-.261 in 498 AB

 
Brandon Belt: Heel injury just delayed assault on Oracle Park’s new hitter-friendly dimensions (1.246 OPS). Power/patience combo peaked as Brl%, HctX, HR/F soared; BA, Eye never looked better. More abysmal results vL keep playing time at risk; history, age, suspect durability point to some regression. UP: 30 HR looks doable again, but we've been fooled before. (Thompson)
2020: 9-30-.309 in 149 AB
2021: 29-59-.274 in 325 AB … and more injuries

Bo Bichette: Fast start interrupted by mid-August knee injury that shelved him for a month; legs checked out following his return. Plenty of small sample positives, notably the power metrics, LD%/H% and running game. Could use some bb% refinement (and a full healthy season), but still looks like a 5-category middle infielder. Stardom seems imminent. (Thompson)
2020: 5-23-4-.301 in 123 AB
2021: 29-102-25-.298 in 640 AB

Xander Bogaerts: More of the usual: a stat-stuffing campaign across all five categories. Greener light on basepaths was the cherry on top, and perfect success rate should keep those SB opps coming. Pristine BA floor intact thanks to stable ct%/h% baselines, while 2019's power gains held firm. Pay up for "the usual" once more; it always satisfies. (Bloomfield)
2019: 33-117-4.309 in 614 AB
2020: 11-28-8-.300 in 203 AB
2021: 23-79-5-.295 in 529 AB

Alex Bregman: Pristine R$ baseline heading into age-26 season... and then BANG. Hamstring injury cost him three weeks and likely stifled SB, and while h% wrecked BA, his stout ct%/LD% combo remained firmly in place. Of greater worry is the HR dip, as xHR has never quite bought in and Brl% continues to wane. Rebound to .300 more likely than 30 HR (Bloomfield)
2019: 41-112-5-.296 in 554 AB
2020: 6-22-0-.242 in 153 AB
2021: 12-55-1-.270 in 348 AB

Kris Bryant: Tallied more RBI in final weekend (6) than rest of season combined, as an Operation-like list of ailments (back, elbow, illness, wrist/finger, oblique) had to play a role in this collapse. Time's up to dream on a repeat of 2016's MVP season—recent xBA/xPX baselines confirm that's a reach—but an injury-related mulligan should lead to modest profit. (Bloomfield)
2020: 4-11-0-.206 in 131 AB
2021: 25-73-10-.265 in 513 AB

C.J. Cron: Knee surgery limited season to 3 1/2 weeks. Micro-samples from 2020 are irrelevant, but pre-2020 trends in ct%, Brl%, EV, xHR/F were all pointing at possibility of another level. Career year may have just been delayed. (Nickrand)
2019: 25-78-.253 in 458 AB
2021: 28-92-.281 in 470 AB, career-best $21

Rafael Devers: While growth in plate skills didn't hold, top-tier bat talent keeps makes him a premium investment. 96th percentile exit velocity, upper quartile Brl% provide foundation to become top-five bat. Missing piece is consistency, as shown by yo-yo ct% and unstable R$, which shouldn't surprise given age. With return of 2019 plate skills... UP: MVP (Nickrand)
2019: 32-115-.311 in 647 AB
2020: 11-43-.263 in 232 AB
2021: 38-113-.279 in 591 AB

Adam Duvall: Return to 30+ HR pace came with backing of strong Brl% and xPX, along with a launch angle that facilitates those skills. But power-only types aren't hard to find these days. Low-contact approach is cemented in profile and will prevent BA from being anything but a liability. Buy the 30 homers and move on. (Nickrand)
2020: 16-33-.237 in 190 AB (tied for third in NL HR)
2021: 38-113-.228 in 513 AB

Eduardo Escobar: Reportedly out of shape after returning from the COVID hiatus, and it shows in this massive, across-the-board nosedive. Batting eye about the only thing that didn't crater, so the "rebuilding" blocks are still in place. Assuming he learned his lesson, expect at least a partial rebound, although another 30+ HR still rates as unlikely. (Truesdell)
2019: 35-118-.269 in 636 AB
2020: 4-20-.212 in 203 AB
2021: 28-90-.253 in 549 AB

Kyle Farmer:  Could he contribute as a short-side platoon player? You have to squint hard, but... maybe? Climbing vL+ encouraging to that end. And despite a fat zero in the HR column, power skills actually showing signs of post-peak growth, with small-sample exit velocity jump and 2-year launch angle improvement. Bet a buck blind, hope he runs into a few. (Truesdell)
2020:  0-4-.266 in 64 AB
2021: 16-63-.263 in 483 AB

Ty France: France's .305 BA relied heavily on two things that are highly unlikely to repeat: a 39% hit rate and a 31% line drive rate. While his batting average will almost certainly go down in 2021, there's reason to think he might hit for more power. His Triple-A PX offered a glimpse of more elite power skill, and his xHR and xHR/F rates in the majors suggest he could deliver 20+ HR if given full-time at-bats. And while he's unlikely to hit .300+ again, there's enough positives in his skill set to give him double-digit value if he does reach 450-500 PA. (Kruse)
2020: 4-23-.305, $13 R$ in 141 AB
2021: 18-73-.291, $19 R$ in 571 AB

Adam Frazier: After a slow start, found his game again in September (.756 OPS, .261 xBA, 0.91 Eye), which is probably closer to what he'd end up with over a full season. Sure, power/speed skills are average to below avg, and his game is... well, let's say unsexy. But BA is highly likely to rebound, and that means there's the potential for some unheralded profit here. (Truesdell)
2020: 7-23-1-.230, $8 R$ in 209 AB
2021: 5-43-10-.305, $22 R$ in 577 AB

Freddie Freeman: Made fabulous 2016-19 seasons look almost pedestrian. Skills supported it too, with massive Eye growth plus hard-contact spike?and those were both already pretty darn good! Trend vL is about the only nit to pick here, and sure, it's worth watching. And most anyone would regress after this kind of career exclamation point. But a safe 1st-rounder. (Truesdell)
2020: 13-53-.341, $37 in 214 AB (second in NL BA)
2021: 31-83-.300, $32 in 600 AB

Avisail Garcia: Battled wrist, ankle, and hamstring tweaks—none bad enough to cost him much PT, but perhaps enough to explain the massive collapse in barrels and associated power skills. Took more walks—possibly another sign he just didn't feel like swinging the bat. xBA history says BA rebound to 2019 level unlikely; elsewhere, expect a positive regression. (Truesdell)
2019: 20-72-10-.282 in 489 AB
2020: 2-25-1-.238 in 181 AB
2021: 29-86-8-.262 in 461 AB

Paul Goldschmidt: Dip in power skills may be related to elbow bone spurs, which bothered him in the spring and required surgery after the season. Otherwise, owns a terrific set of plate skills that show little sign of decay. (Truesdell)
2020: 6-21-.304 in 191 AB
2021: 31-99-.294 in 603 AB

Bryce Harper: Built upon strong 2H-19 by crossing $30 barrier in short 2020 campaign. Is a full-season repeat supported? Elite exit velocity, xPX, Brl% have long validated the elite power. Contact gains are a new development, raising BA floor. Platoon split has been erased, bonus smattering of SB continues. The 2H 19+20 line suggests ... UP: 40 HR, 20 SB, .270 BA (Pyron)
2019: 35-114-15-.260 in 573 AB
2020: 13-33-8-.268 in 190 AB
2021: 35-84-13-.309 in 488 AB

Max Kepler: 2019 xHR foretold this HR pullback; launch angle and FB% confirm he's generating HR output with volume of flyballs rather than light-tower power. Brl% and exit velocity dips negate any optimism from LD% gains. Best to wipe 2019's power from your mind: if it happens again, it will come with 2020 BA. (Murphy)
2019: 36-90-.252 in 524 AB (22 xHR)
2020: 9-23-.228 in 171 AB
2021: 19-54-.211 in 426 AB

Francisco Lindor: ADP currently sits just outside of the first round, based on the past 39 applicable drafts. What drafters don't seem to be pricing in is the very significant change in his home ballpark. Lindor's speed has been league-average for the past few years, so he's not the kind of guy you change your strategy for. There's a real chance his SB totals drop... in the late 1st/early 2nd round, there are better choices. (Cederholm)
2019: 32-74-22-.284 in 598 AB
2020: 8-27-6-.258 in 236 AB
2021: 20-63-10-.230 in 452 AB

Brandon Lowe: These are star-level metrics seeking 600 PAs. With straight-line growth in HctX, Brl%, xPX, the HR/F numbers and HR totals are legit … and he's smartly picked his spots to run. Some rates will level off, but here's to a new MI banger. (Hershey)
2020: 14-37-.269 in 193 AB
2021: 39-99-.247 in 535 AB

J.D. Martinez: Prototypical small sample train wreck. Exit velocity was down along with less consistent launch angle. But xHR, xHR/F, Brl% all say HR plunge was overexaggerated; xPX points to big rebound. Plate skills weren’t off the 5-year range; depressed h% also points to better BA days ahead with regression. Talk up his age, buy the bargain. (Thompson)
2020: 7-27-.213 in 211 AB
2021: 28-99-.286 in 570 AB

Ryan McMahon: McMahon has shown good power in bursts over the past couple of years, and his 2020 contact woes could be an effect of the weird season. A 70% ct%, 135 PX type of profile seems in reach if he can continue to grow, and that could be a 30-HR season. (Cederholm)
2020: 9-26-.215 with 62% ct% in 172 AB
2021: 23-86-.254 with 72% ct% in 528 AB

Max Muncy: Played straight through early nagging finger, elbow injuries. They likely contributed to the LD%, h% plunges that torpedoed his BA; PX, QBaB also say something was off. But bb% remained elite, HctX firm, and the HR kept coming. Both xPX, xHR/f say they will continue. Versatility keeps him a name you want to own in OBP leagues. (Thompson)
2020: 12-27-.192, .331 OBP in 203 AB
2021: 36-94-.249, .368 OBP in 497 AB

Tyler O’Neill: O’Neill’s defense should help keep him in the lineup as he tries to consolidate and refine his skills. The raw tools, including 99th percentile sprint speed in 2020, lifetime MLB 86% SB%, 132 xPX, and 19% HR/F in 450 MLB PA are there for a .240-ish BA, 25+ HR, 10+ SB campaign, if he can put it all together. (Pyron)
2020: 7-19-3-.173 in 139 AB
2021: 34-80-15-.286 in 482 AB

Shohei Ohtani: Has flashed elite production (1.701 OPS) and has made tons of contact (3/3 BB/K) in 28 AB this spring. The hitter version of Ohtani could be a really good profit play at his 193 ADP. (Nickrand)
2020: 7-24-7.190 in 153 AB
2021:  46-100-26-.257 in 537 AB

Salvador Perez: The Perez you want at catcher. Returned from Tommy John surgery and a year off with a bang despite missing 3+ weeks with an eye issue. Even with the FB% slide, power looked as good as ever; HctX still locked in. Still his same old aggressive self, and BA will regress along with h%, LD%. But he appears to have answered the questions. (Thompson)
2020: 11-32-.333 in 150 AB
2021: 48-121-.273 in 620 AB

José Ramirez: This is what a first rounder looks like. Four reasons he should go in the first few picks: 1) Rebounded from down 2019 to post fourth $30+ season (and second $40+) in last five; 2) xPX, stolen base skills among very best power/speed combos; 3) xBA, plate skills should yield solid BA; 4) FB%, xPX, xHR/F ticked up. Yeah, you want him. (de Leonardis)
2020: 17-46-10-.292 in 219 AB (tied for third in AL HR)
2021: 36-103-27-.266 in 552 AB

Bryan Reynolds: Foiled many fantasy GMs with crumpled follow-up to shiny rookie campaign, but maybe didn't deserve such a bad rap. 2019 hit rate was bound to regress, but this was an overcorrection; ct% rebounded to 74% in Sept; HctX, xPX, Spd still above-average. He may not be a .300 hitter, but skills are those of a #3 fantasy OF. (de Leonardis)
2019: 16-68-.314 in 491 AB
2020: 7-19-.189 in 185 AB
2021: 24-90-.302 in 559 AB

Austin Riley: Is he ready to break through as a starting fantasy 3B? PRO: Contact rate trending up to league-average; achieved upper echelon exit velocity; maintained xHR/F; he's actually not slow! CON: Needs to reverse GB trend in order to regain PX/xPX and reach 30-HR plateau. History shows this is doable—bet the over. (de Leonardis)
2020: 8-27-.239 in 188 AB
2021: 33-107-.303 in 590 AB

Darin Ruf: After three years in KBO, parlayed big spring into another MLB chance and didn't waste it. xPX a bit skeptical of power, but he showed elite patience, made league average contact, and closed with a flourish (12-for-37, 4 HR), which may be enough to prolong career. Playing time will be key, but he could provide a bit of cheap pop in deep leagues. (Olson)
2020: 5-18-.276 in 87 AB
2021: 16-43-.271 in 262 AB

Kyle Schwarber: Hopes that he'd build on strong 2H 2019 dashed as ct% regressed, success vL waned, and h% piled on. Don't abandon ship: there's still plenty of power and hard contact here, and small tweak could get BA back into acceptable territory. Think of 2019 less as career year and more as benchmark for profit you might bank with relatively modest investment. (Olson)
2019: 38-92-.250 in 529 AB
2020: 11-24-.188 in 191 AB
2021: 32-71-.266 in 399 AB

Will Smith: Entered 2020 seeking better plate approach to pair with legit power; tiny sample hints that he’s finding it. Showed inordinate patience before bb% retraced in Sept. BA, ct%, LD% and HctX surged throughout as xBA reflected contact gains. Top-shelf PX/xPX didn’t budge. Full season will remove some of the sheen, but the adjustments are promising. (Thompson)
2020: 8-25-.289 in 114 AB
2021: 25-76-.258 in 414 AB

Dansby Swanson: Multi-year growth in FB%, HctX, Brl%, xPX, and xHR/F all point to a burgeoning power source; xHR says he hasn't tapped into it fully. The outlook isn't as good for BA, where lucky h% set performance level he's unlikely to repeat. While the BA might be stuck on ground floor, power is ready to blow through the roof... UP: 30 HR (Kruse)
2020: 10-35-.274 in 237 AB
2021: 27-88-.248 in 588 AB

Justin Turner: He's another "forget 2020" guy. His 7% hr/f was ridiculously low given his 191 xPX. It's all small sample stuff. Yes, you can be concerned about his age, but now that he's back in LA, something approaching his 2019 season (.290 BA, 27 HR) is a strong possibility. He's much better than a 15th-round pick. (Cederholm)
2020 Stats: 4-23-.307 in 150 AB
2021 Stats: 27-87-.278 in 533 AB

Joey Votto: Halted multi-year value erosion as underlying skills stabilized, at least for now. More barrels led to PX, xPX rebound, which in turn stabilized xBA. Although ct% is no longer elite, BA sag was h% driven, and HctX, QBaB portend bounceback. Struggles vL may lead to platoon, but he looks to have at least one more good year in him. (Florimonte)
2020 11-22-.226 in 186 AB
2021 36-99-.266 in 448 AB

Jared Walsh: Has improved his draft profile in 2021 (196 ADP), but he carries even more upside than that. Walsh made major gains in 2020, and they were legit. His strikeouts went from excessive (56% ct% in 2019) to an afterthought (85% ct% in 2020). After looking like a liability against RHers in 2019 (.588 OPS, 54% ct% in 71 AB vR in 2019), Walsh mashed them in 2020 (1.072 OPS, 86% ct% in 65 AB vR in 2020). There's 30 HR potential here if he can get 500 AB. (Nickrand)
2020: 9-26-.293 in 99 AB
2021: 29-98-.277 in 530 AB

Jesse Winker: Elite plate skills were supposed to drive his breakout, but instead he traded ct% for power. While xHR/F, xPX, and FB% all suggest some mild power regression, HctX, QBaB history and Brl% increase offer confidence outburst wasn't a fluke. xBA and consistently excellent bb% portend strong BA/OBP/HR mix, and projection still has room for upside. (Florimonte)
2020: 12.23-.255 in 149 AB
2021: 24-71-.305 in 423 AB


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