Welcome to week 13 of 2 to Watch! To read previous editions of 2 to Watch, check out this link. As usual, we'll start by checking in on last week's players to see how they've done in the past week.
Note: all stats from Fangraphs and current up to 6/29
Ivan Nova: 12 innings, 1.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 15.7% K%, 7.8% BB%, 4.92 FIP, 4.85 xFIP, 0.243 BABIP
Well, Corbin hasn't pitched in the majors yet this year and won't be back for at least another week, so it's just Nova here. Nova's first two starts after Tommy John went much better than expected, with only two runs allowed between them. However, the FIP and xFIP tell a different story. The poor strikeout rate, low BABIP, and 100% strand rate indicate that he has been lucky so far to only give up two runs. The sample size is still very small, so we can't draw too many conclusions yet. He did strikeout 7 in only 5.1 innings in his last start after only striking out one in his first start. His swinging strike rate is an excellent 11.3% so far and he is getting 47% groundballs, so there are positive signs. His first strike % is dangerously low, so his walk rate could shoot up if he doesn't improve.
Furthermore, his two-seam fastball is getting an insane 13.5% whiff rate, which is unheard of. That should drop down to something like his previous career best of 7.8%, which is still excellent for that pitch. Once that drops, it only leaves his curveball getting very good whiffs. His curve is also the only pitch getting ground balls at elite rates. I'm very worried that all of these warning signs will come together to turn him into a 4.00 ERA guy instead of the 3.70 ERA guy I think he can be.
After doubling down on pitchers in last week's post, I'm giving hitters a fair shot and profiling two of them this week.
Logan, if I can use his first name, has had a career year so far. Everyone assumed Nick Franklin or someone like that would win the second base job in Tampa, but Logan has taken charge and is kicking butt. A former first round draft pick in 2008, the 28-year-old is putting up an amazing season for a keystone hitter.
|Career Before 2015||1098||18||19||7.60%||19.80%||0.231||0.298||0.334||0.277|
Comparing his current line to his career totals/averages shows some significant jumps in power and average, with a small jump in walk rate. Does this mean he can't keep this up? Well, the projection systems (ZiPS and Steamer) see him hitting 0.249/0.326/0.376 the rest of the way, which is in between his 2015 and previous marks. While that seems reasonable, should we just assume he will return to that or might he maintain some of his power and this might just be his breakout year?
To answer that, I first looked at his batted ball profile. There's not much to see here. His line drives are up 3%, his grounders and flies are much like what he did in 2014 and his HR/FB ratio is only 9.3%, which is not even average. So, I moved on to his hit locations and quality of contact. Again, there isn't much to see. His pull/center/opposite splits are about the same as before and he does have a 3% increase in hard hit balls, but a 5% increase in soft ones offsets that.
His strikeouts are down, which is definitely helping his average and his BABIP is a little high, but not alarming. Overall, his plate discipline looks excellent. His HR+FB distance average is only 275, which puts him next to Jose Altuve, Chase Headley, Yonder Alonso, Nick Ahmed, and others. Interestingly, Jorge Soler, Jason Heyward, Gregory Polanco, and Jose Bautista (!!!) are just below him on the list. Being 156th isn't great, but I think his company is decent for a middle infielder. Heck, Justin Upton only has him beat by half a foot!
To add to that, looking at average batted ball velocity (courtesy of Baseball Savant), his 88.96 mph value places him around C.J. Cron, David Freese, Russel Martin, Yasmany Tomas, Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto, Pablo Sandoval, and Matt Carpenter. Those last four are all below Logan on the chart. I should point out here, I guess, that he is batting fourth (!) or fifth almost every night for the admittedly bad Rays offense. But still! A middle-infield cleanup hitter? Yes.
All of this is to say I don't see anything to suggest he can't keep this up. He has a very good chance of being a 15 homer, 15 steal second baseman with a great OBP and decent slugging. That is very valuable and he can basically be what Ian Kinsler used to be before he died. Hold on...I'm being told he is still alive and playing for Detroit (who knew?) but not doing what he always used to do.
I will leave Logan's profile with my projection for the rest of season: 0.270/0.350/0.410 and six homers, six steals and something like 60 Runs + RBI. I'm really liking what he has done this year and I expect him to continue to produce solid, top-8 second base numbers the rest of the way. He should be owned in all leagues.
Following the middle infield theme, I thought I would talk about a recently-called up deep-league shortstop for the Reds. Suarez (I'm using his last name because it is easier to spell than his first name and than Logan's last name) did ok last year in his first taste of the bigs with Detroit and is getting another chance thanks to Zack Cozart's season-ending injury. Since shortstop is a wasteland this year, we are all always looking for replacements at the position right? After having enough of the terrible Asdrubal Cabrera, I dropped him and picked up Suarez in one of my leagues. How's he done in his first week back?
|Eugenio Suarez in 2015||66||2||4||10||3||4.50%||21%||0.400||0.328||0.369||0.475|
He's off to a great start, but he clearly can't keep this up. That BABIP won't stay there forever and that walk rate needs to be higher. Looking back at his minor league numbers, he has shown flashes of power before with slugging percentages over 0.500 in AA and AAA in 2014 in small samples. He had a 0.242/0.316/0.336 line in Detriot last year, which was disappointing. However, he was only 22 years old! That really puts it into perspective. He is the same age as Kris Bryant, for reference. That means he is far from a finished product and has room to grow.
If he can get his walk rate back to the 7.9% he had last year or the 10.9% he had in AAA this year, he could keep his OBP at least in the 0.320-0.330 range for the rest of the year with a 0.250 average or so. The slugging will indeed drop, but he has good power for a shortstop with 10 homers already this year between AAA and MLB. His HR/FB ratio is high at 15%, so that will hurt his homers going forward and he needs to hit more fly balls, since his 54% groundball rate is going to catch up to him.
He pulls the ball 48% of the time (which is a lot) and that may make him very shiftable, which is not good. Some good news is that he only has a 2.1% soft hit rate with an incredible 81% medium hit rate. He swings and misses at an average rate and pitchers are throwing him fewer pitches in the zone this year than last (by 6%).
His 85.12 mph average batted ball velocity puts him near Jake Marisnick, Elvis Andrus, Johnny Giavotella, Jose Altuve, Nick Ahmed (again), and Ian Kinsler (again). Not great company for power, true, but not bad for a shortstop, I guess. This does mean that the slugging will drop, unfortunately.
Putting this together, Suarez has a little speed (10+ steals every year in his career), a little pop (10+ homers every year), an average OBP and average, and some room for upside with his youth. I really like him as a deep league shortstop for the rest of the year. As a bonus, he hasn't yet hit 9th (that spot belongs to either the pitcher or Billy Hamilton) and has batted sixth a few times, so there is hope for his RBI totals.
Projection time! 0.250/0.320/0.395 with 7 more homers, 6 more steals, and 50 R+RBI the rest of the way. That's not Johnny Peralta-type production, but it's usable in 14-team leagues and deeper, especially if you have a middle infield spot to fill in addition to shortstop.
Ok, I hope you enjoyed today's tour of the middle infield. Maybe I'll do a half-season review next week since the All-Star Break isn't really the halfway point, especially for fantasy. Look for that next week and enjoy celebrating the indpendence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it. Tschus!