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2 To Watch: Shawn Tolleson and Adam Lind

Each week during the season, I will profile two players that are interesting either because they are in the midst of a breakout, are performing way above their heads, or are widely available and useful. This week, it's Shawn Tolleson and Adam Lind.

Adam Lind demands that you pay attention to him in 2015!
Adam Lind demands that you pay attention to him in 2015!
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to another exciting week at 2 To Watch! Let's check in on last week's pair and see how they did in the past 7 days.

First, let's see how Jose Iglesias is doing.

4/21-4/27 0.318 0.375 0.545 20% 8% 1 1 1 1 0.375

Next up, Eddie Butler

4/24 6.0 1.83 7.40% 11.10% 0.381 5.25 4.84 6

Well, Jose Iglesias continues to rake in his attempt to make me look stupid for not believing in him. I'm sticking by my beliefs though. I still think he will fall off at any time once that BABIP falls back to earth. Nothing in his track record indicates he is capable of any of this, especially the power. Maybe he will prove me wrong, but I'm still not sold.

As for Butler, I like that his walk rate is down to league average and it was even lower in the start before this one. That has been one of his biggest issues. Unfortunately, he gave up a ton of hits in this start against the Giants and was allowing lots of hard contact and not getting much in the way of Ks. I'm still not seeing enough development to own him in any but the very deepest leagues. I own him in a dynasty league and am too afraid to start him. I will continue to sit him until he shows me some consistent strike throwing, a K% near 18-20%, and better contact limiting skills. That may be asking a lot, but he has the top prospect pedigree and the great downward fastball plane to make it work.

Now, on to this week's targets: shockingly good reliever Shawn Tolleson and the Brewers' lone bright spot in a dark season: Adam Lind.

Shawn Tolleson

A 9.1 37.50% 3.10% 1.93 0.84 0.62 1.47
B 8.1 30.30% 9.10% 2.16 1.2 3.32 2.87
C 9.1 46% 10.80% 0 0.75 1.37 2.07

Ok, game time! The three players above include Craig Kimbrel, Tolleson, and Andrew Miller. Can you pick out which one is Tolleson? I'll give you a little more time. ...OK, you guessed player B, didn't you? Player B is having a pretty good season but not nearly as elite as the other two, still not bad for a guy...named Craig Kimbrel?? Is Tolleson player C? With the best strikeout rate of the trio, C is an impressive player and has incredibly low WHIP, FIP, and xFIP. Somehow, Andrew Miller's FIP and xFIP still trail our man Tolleson, player A.

If relief pitchers carried microphones to the mound with them, Tolleson would be justified in dropping it and walking slowly away like he owns the diamond. His FIP and xFIP are the third best in all of baseball. His K%-BB% is sixth. Ok, so this year he is pitching like peak Kimbrel, but why is he still off the radar? Two words: his career. He has never shown strikeout rates, walk rates, FIPs, xFIPs or basically anything else like this in his previous two years of big league experience. Does that mean he is doomed to come crashing to earth?

Short answer: no. His strikeout rate is driven by a 14.9% swinging strike rate, which is excellent. He is also pitching ahead in the count much more, with a 10% boost in his first strike % from last year. His fastball velocity is up 1 mph and his change is actually 1 mph slower than last year, leading to a 14 mph difference between the two. The swinging strike rates on his slider and fastball are much better than last year. FInally, he has altered his pitch mix and is using the changeup much more than last year and the slider less. This seems to be setting hitters up for his nasty fastball better than his slider.

I am buying this breakout. He is still only 27 and hasn't pitched two full seasons in the majors yet. With Neftali Feliz one of baseball's 10 shakiest closers with a track record of poor health, Tolleson could be a top 15 closer if he takes the job from an injured or ineffective Feliz. He would be top 10, but Texas won't win enough games this year to get those save opps.

I'll leave Tolleson's profile with this video of him using his very effective fastball to strike out Mike Zunino. I wanted to give you some cool .gifs, but apparently my computer isn't compatible with the software. I hope to start including .gifs soon so stay tuned!

Adam Lind

Here is Lind's line so far:

AVG OBP SLG HR R RBI HR & FB Distance HR & FB Distance Rank
0.333 0.398 0.577 4 8 13 294.14 ft 47

To add a little more to the discussion, here are some of his career averages along side some more stats from this year:

2007-2014 14.16% 0.303 18.75% 7.24% 8.78% 0.272
2015 13.60% 0.373 18.20% 10.20% 8.70% 0.333

He's off to a great start, obviously. That flyball distance is excellent and he is taking walks like never before and hitting for prodigious power with that slugging percentage. Before you immediately look at his career BABIP and assume he will regress down to that value, his 2013 BABIP was 0.324 and his 2014 mark was 0.369, so his style of hitting (hitting the ball very hard when making contact) seems to result in increased BABIPs. For that reason, I can't assume he will simply drop 0.070 off his average by the end of the year.

His HR/FB ratio, strikeout rate, and swinging strike rate are all almost identical to his career averages, so there's nothing unusual there. He has increased his walk rate to a career high, but he did post a 9.8% rate in 2013, so it's not insane. I keep looking for something fluky in his profile and I haven't found it. The BABIP, average, and slugging percentage will probably come down some because these are ridiculous MVP-level numbers, but I could see him end with a 0.290 average, 0.320 BABIP, and a 0.500 slugging.

Another sign he is improving is that pitchers are pitching him differently. His first strike percentage and zone percentage (% of pitches in the strike zone) are at career lows after dropping some every year. He has cut his infield fly percentage down to a career low 4.5%. What is incredible is that he is hitting ground balls at a career high % of 50% and line drives at a career low 13.3%. If that line drive rate comes back up closer to his career average of about 19%, that could offset much of the BABIP regression he will see.

The Brewers, either due to a complete lack of options (true) or their belief in Lind, have not platooned him as he was much of his time in Toronto. He has played in 20 of the 22 games so far. He has rewarded their confidence in him so far with career-best numbers against lefties in a very small sample. The table below shows why I'm not completely sold that he has figured lefties out. That tiny ISO and huge BABIP show that he still will struggle against lefties once the BABIP falls back to the 0.320 range. That would put his average against southpaws back to the 0.230 area he is used to.

Season Handedness BB% K% AVG OBP SLG ISO BABIP wRC+
2015 vs L as L 7.70% 23.10% 0.333 0.385 0.417 0.083 0.444 125
2015 vs R as L 11.40% 15.70% 0.328 0.400 0.574 0.246 0.354 166
Career vs L as L 5.30% 25.70% 0.21 0.214 0.259 0.118 0.267 54
Career vs R as L 8.10% 16.90% 0.48 0.294 0.351 0.218 0.317 129

Lind bats behind the struggling (but emerging) Ryan Braun in the Brewers lineup and occupies the cleanup spot. This should boost his RBI chances, even on the weak Brew Crew offense. In the end, I think Lind can produce excellent value in your Util slot, Corner Infield spot, or even first base if you are desperate. You might want to bench him against tough lefties, like you would with Brandon Moss, who offers similar value with more power and a lower average. I feel like Lind has been flying under the radar despite his success, so don't overlook him.

Check back next week for two more players that are making things interesting. Tschus!