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Ryon Healy is being undervalued in fantasy baseball

Look past the numbers, Healy is worth adding to your fantasy team.

Getty Images/Peter Rogers Illustrations

The Seattle Mariners are 57-34, they’re second in their division behind the World Champion Houston Astros, and they’re second in the AL Wild Card behind the New York Yankees.

Ryon Healy is the first baseman for the Mariners. He’s second on the team in home runs (18), sixth in runs (34), fifth in RBIs (46), and fifth in total bases (132). He’s definitely one of the best bats on the Mariners.

He’s also one of only 23 players in the entire major leagues who’s hit 18 or more home runs. (Only 53 guys have hit 15 or more.) So, he’s definitely been one of the best power bats in the game during this first (strange) half.

But is he any good in fantasy?

This seems like a dumb question. Healy is top 25 in bombs and he bats sixth for a team that should be playoff bound (Seattle is only 17th in Runs Scored, however; we’ll return to that later). Home runs are the best stat in all of fantasy because you receive positive value in multiple stat categories at once: you get a home run, a run, a RBI (or more), and a hit. One homer helps you in four different stat cats. Seems like if you hit a bunch of them, then your fantasy value would be good, no?

But, Ryon Healy’s ownership doesn’t suggest that. Healy’s owned in just 38% of ESPN leagues (64% in CBS leagues). Of the 53 players who have hit 15 or more home runs, only four have ownership levels beneath 70%: Kike Hernandez, C.J. Cron, Christian Villanueva, and Healy. (Guess what? Those four players are also sub-50% owned. People do NOT want these guys.) But, Healy isn’t like those other three guys. Of the 23 players who have 18 or more homers, Healy is the ONLY PLAYER who’s owned in less than 70% of leagues. The only one!

So, what’s going on here? Is Healy secretly bad?

He’s only 26, so it’s not like he’s some grey beard with aching joints and weariness etched into his face like a topographical map. Last season he hit 25 bombs with the Oakland A’s, so it’s not like his power has come out of nowhere. (He was also a third round draft pick.) Let’s dive into some of Healy’s numbers and see if we can’t discover why folks are hating on the young Mariner.

Healy is currently on track for 30+ homers. Not saying this WILL happen, but that’s what the man’s on track for, and there’s no real reason to think that he won’t get close, at least.

Healy has a 104 wRC+, which means he’s 4% better than the average major league hitter. Not grandiose, majestic, nor epiphanic, but damn, it still means he’s an above average run producer, y’know? (By the way: all numbers come courtesy of Fangraphs, MLB.com, ESPN, CBS, and your dream journal.)

On the season, Healy’s been the 116th best hitter on ESPN basic, the 94th best hitter on CBS, and the 109th best hitter in my main league (Hits, HR, RBI, R, SB, OPS; feel free to send any critiques on those stat cats to Kyrie Irving’s house at the edge of the flat Earth). Basically, Healy’s been a top 150 player overall, and a top 30 power hitter. Not bad! Except he has the lowest player rater value in my league out of people who have even hit “only” 17 home runs.

Healy’s hit those 18 homers in the sixth-fewest at bats (and seventh-fewest plate appearances) out of that list of 23 players with 18 or more homers (282 AB). He hits a homer every 16 at-bats or so. (The best rate out of those 23 is Magnificent Max Muncy who has hit 20 bombs in 203 at-bats; Jesus Aguilar, J.D. Martinez, Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz, Mookie Betts, and Aaron Judge are the others who hit a home run, on average, every 13 at-bats. Healy’s 15th-best, more or less tied with Giancarlo Stanton and Francisco Lindor at a homer per 16 at-bats.) That seems pretty good. So, why isn’t his fantasy value higher?

Here’s where we get into some of the nitty gritty. Healy has a 23% strikeout rate. In today’s MLB, that isn’t that bad. (“Back in my day, we drafted fantasy players who struck out less than 20% of the time, and walked more than 10% of the time!” - Some crazy old man who looks like me.) Healy strikes out as much as his teammate Mitch Haniger, home run leader J.D. Martinez, and way less than Stanton, who strikes out over 30% of the time.

HOWEVER! Of the 79 players who strike out at least 20% of the time, Healy’s walk rate (BB%) of 3.7 is SECOND. TO. LAST. (Only Sal Perez’s is worse.) Healy has 11 walks on the year; Stanton has 34. More than three times as many! 296 players have more walks than Ryon Healy this season! Dan Vogelbach, Healy’s teammate and backup, has 11 walks in less than a quarter of the at bats that Healy has. Healy does NOT walk. Goddamn, does he not walk. His 38% O-Swing—a measure of pitches he swings at that are outside of the strike zone—is 26th highest (so, 26th-worst) in all of baseball. NONE of the players higher on that list have hit 18 or more home runs. NONE. He’s tied with Mallex Smith in Contact %, which is just a measure of, hello, how often you actually make contact with the ball. Is that good? No, it is not. Mallex, despite my love for him, is a light-hitting slapper, and he is ranked 130th in contact rate; Healy, who is top 25 in homers, is 131st.

Healy is, how you say, a “free swinger.” That doesn’t mean he’ll see you at the key party, it means he swings at everything, everywhere, always, forever. And, he misses a bunch.

Still, only 23 dudes in all of baseball have done what Healy’s done with the long ball. We know his fantasy value is depressed because of the strikeouts and lack of walks, but we’ve seen that before with other big boppers who refused to take a free base.

How depressed is Healy’s value? Is he actually undervalued right now?

Let’s return to the list of 23 guys with 18 or more HRs. Out of those 23, Healy is 19th in overall hits (69 total). 27 of those hits were for extra bases, homers included. (His nine doubles are the second lowest out of that list of 23.) That’s still good for top 150 (Healy has as many hits as Edwin Encarnacion).

He’s (obviously) dead last in walks with 11. (Joey Gallo hysterically has 42 BBs. Haha! Joey MFing Gallo has FOUR TIMES the amount of walks as Healy!) 11 walks is 5th worst in all of baseball for qualified hitters, don’tcha know.

Healy is also DEAD LAST in runs out of those 23 run-homers-all-at-once-ies. 34 runs is good for 135th overall in MLB. Mediocre at best. He has the fourth lowest RBI (46) out of that elite group of 23, which is top 60 overall, but still, it’s bad for that group of power hitters. But, runs and RBI are very teammate dependent, so let’s not hate on Healy too much for things that are out of his control, like men on base in front of him.

Healy also has the second lowest OPS out of those 23, because the man doesn’t walk. If walks were rain, Healy would be outer space. (I assume it doesn’t rain in outer space. If it does, then Healy’s a desert.)

Healy has the fifth worst batting average out of the 23. Average ain’t everything, but if your on-base percentage sucks, too, then you’re barely getting on base.

Healy’s hard hit rate, which is a sign of how well he’s hitting the ball when he actually does hit the ball, is 97th overall (36.3%). That’s basically as hard as Ketel Marte hits the ball. Does that sound like a good thing to you?

So, we know Healy doesn’t walk, and we know he hasn’t been making great contact when he does get hits. If he hit the ball harder/better, he might be over 20 bombs right now. If his eye were better, he’d probably have, sweet Lord, at least 20 walks? And, if his teammates were better or luckier, then Healy might have more runs and RBI.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Are his teammates the ones depressing Healy’s value?

Are the lack of Runs and RBI in Healy’s stat line really to blame for his suboptimal fantasy value?

Seattle, as a team, ranks 17th in Run Scored this season (thus, as the scientists say, “bad”). They’re 12th in total home runs, 14th in total RBI, 4th in team wRC+ (behind the Astros, the Yankees, and the Red Sox; pretty goddamn good), 7th in hits overall, 5th in singles, 16th in doubles, and 17th in triples. They have the 3rd highest (worst) caught stealing numbers, and they’ve hit into the 8th most double plays. This sounds like a slowass team, doesn’t it? Here’s the kicker: the Mariners are 24th in baserunning with a -5.0 value. That sucks, friends. That sucks.

The Mariners have the 8th highest (worst) O-Swing%, which measures swings at pitches outside of the strike zone, AND they have the 14th lowest (also worst) O-Contact%, which measures how often you actually hit balls outside of the strike zone. So, Seattle swings at a lot of garbage, and they don’t hit the garbage at which they, ahem, “aim.” This, too, sucks.

Seattle has the 14th lowest Z-Swing% (a measure of swings at pitches INSIDE the strikes zone, so, y’know, at “strikes”), but they have the second BEST Z-Contact%! They hit what they aim for when it’s actually in the strike zone! Hooray! And, they have the 8th best overall contact percentage, even though they swing the bat 13th most overall. The Mariners are 27th in MLB in Hard Hit%, though. Remember, they’re 12th in homers overall, but they’re 3rd from last in hitting the ball hard. Huh? Seattle is also the ONLY TEAM in the majors to register a Medium Hit% of over 50. NO OTHER TEAM IN BASEBALL hits the ball at such a mediocre, medium clip as much as Seattle does.

I looked at some of Seattle’s situational hitting to see if we could decipher any patterns. First of all—and I did this as a joke but maybe Seattle should look into this?—the Mariners as a team score the 2nd most runs in baseball on Saturdays. I swear! But, they hit second FEWEST on Mondays, 10th highest on Tuesdays, 12 worst on Wednesdays, 8th best on Thursdays, 10th worst on Fridays, 2nd best on Saturdays, and 3rd worst on Sundays. If I were the Mariners, I would stop playing baseball games on Sundays and Mondays. (I wonder if that’s a function of travel? Sunday is the day you know you have to play a game and then get on a plane for a possibly long flight, and Monday is the day you arrive in a new city after a possibly long flight and then you have to play a game?)

Second, Seattle really hits the brakes when they’re ahead in games. They’re 21st in Runs Scored when they’re ahead in the game! The Mariners are 15th in scoring when they’re behind, 3rd best in scoring when the game is tied, and they’re 5th best in scoring in extra innings. So, they’re kinda clutch this year, but man oh man, this really suggests that they play not to lose rather than to win outright. This is supported by their scoring based on inning. Here are the numbers:

  • 1st inning - 8th most Runs Scored
  • 2nd inning - 13th
  • 3rd inning - 13th
  • 4th inning - 11th
  • 5th inning - 18th
  • 6th inning - 22nd
  • 7th inning - 8th
  • 8th inning - 17th
  • 9th inning - 28th (!!!!)

I’m not a baseball doctor, but being 28th out of 30 seems like a bad thing. You can also look at this and say to yourself, Well, this makes sense, the best hitters are up to bat in the 1st, 4th, and 7th, just like they’re supposed to be. Whether this is indicative of just how bad the bottom of Seattle’s order truly is, or whether it’s actually the middle of the order guys (including Healy, who bats 6th) not getting on base, or whether the Mariners just have no depth and no good bench bats, one thing is abundantly clear: when the game is almost over, Seattle sucks big time.

And, of course, their stadium doesn’t help, either. The Mariners are a top 10 team in Runs Scored when on the road; at home at Safeco Field (which remains a stupid name) the Mariners are a bottom ten scoring team. To go from one of the best offensive teams to one of the worst, just because of your dumb stadium dimensions? Haha, doesn’t that mean you’d rather not host potential playoff games?

So, Seattle’s stadium, and their players, and probably their hitting coach, don’t do Ryon Healy any favors. They swing at balls, they whiff a lot, they’re slow, their park depresses homers, the middle of the order doesn’t walk so the bottom of the order can’t hit them in, and when they do get on base they tend to make bad decisions. This doesn’t feel like a well coached offensive team. Robinson Cano’s stabilizing presence probably masked a bunch of these flaws, but his absence leaves this lineup depending on luck more often than you’d like. A second half swoon is not out of the question for Seattle, especially since only two of the starting pitchers have xFIPs under 4. And, their bullpen?

  • Edwin Diaz, 47 IP, 2.30 ERA
  • Juan Nicasio, 34 IP, 6.09 ERA
  • Chasen Bradford, 34 IP, 2.65 ERA (4.11 xFIP)
  • James Pazos, 31.1 IP, 1.72 ERA
  • Nick Vincent, 26.1 IP, 4.10 ERA
  • Dan Altavilla, 20.2 IP, 2.61 ERA (5.03 xFIP)

That’s only dudes who’ve pitched 20 or more innings. What I’m trynna say, though, is that the ‘pen ain’t this team’s strength (Edwin Diaz can’t do it all himself!).

Let’s get back to our man, Ryon “with an O” Healy, for whom I predict brighter days ahead.

(Please continue reading when you’ve finished guffawing.)

Healy’s low BABIP, .259, suggest he’s been unlucky. Fine. But, when you swing at everything, are you really being unlucky? Or, are you making a ton of bad contact on pitches you never should’ve swung at to begin with? (Again, this seems to me to be on Seattle’s hitting coach.)

Healy’s prior MLB numbers also support some positive regression. Over the previous two seasons Healy had 888 MLB at bats and hit 28 HR total, and averaged around a 4 BB%, 22.4 K%, .200 ISO, .288 batting average, and a 116 wRC+. He’s definitely played better than this before, and he probably will play better than this again. Why? Because he swoons in July.

If you look at his averages, all of his numbers go down in July (only a two season sample size, but still). That could be a young player getting tired before the All Star break; his second half numbers suggest this to be so, as they all improve post-break. Healy may be ending the first half with a whimper, but he could enter the second half with a bang.

Let’s say that his BABIP regresses to the mean somewhat, and he ends up hitting .260ish with at least 6 more home runs, 29 Runs, and 26 RBI (his stats from the second half last year). He’d end up with 24 homers (top 60 last year, tied with Jose Altuve last year), 137 hits (94th last year, tied with Yadier Molina), 63 Runs (top 120 last year), and 72 RBI (top 90 last year, tied with Mike Trout [because his team sucks, too]). That’s a conservative estimate, remember. Those numbers are about what Zach Cozart did last season (130 hits, 24 HR, 80 Runs, 63 RBI). Cozart was the 78th most valuable bat in ESPN basic last year. (Matt Carpenter is currently the 78th best hitter; he’s 90% owned.)

Remember, Healy’s on track for 30 home runs. 37 guys in all of baseball did that last year. He’s been unlucky with his hits (low BABIP), he’s been overly aggressive at the plate, and the guys behind him haven’t been hitting him in. Healy’s low ownership is a reflection of his poor home hitting environment, his below average teammates (at least, behind him in the lineup), and what I can only theorize is the team’s “swing away” approach to the plate. But, some of this will regress to the mean in the second half, and that will surely help Healy’s numbers. He should be owned in a majority of leagues (I just picked him up in one of mine; he’s already owned in my other league), especially since he could be headed for a better second half.

I don’t think Seattle is as good as their record, but I do think Ryon Healy is better than his. I suppose we’ve been saying that about Seattle players for quite awhile now, in one respect or another.

But, Ryon Healy will still be worth your fantasy time. After all, he’s only 26! More power may be on the way.

All numbers are as of 7/10 before the games.