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Buyer Beware!: Cavan Biggio may regress in 2021

A look under the hood tells us that the Blue Jays’ second baseman could have trouble replicating his 2020 fantasy success.

USA Today/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Cavan Biggio was one of the best second baseman in fantasy baseball during the abbreviated 2020 season. He offered an excellent blend of power and speed, evidenced by his eight homers and six steals, while scoring 41 times and driving in 28 runs.

He wasn’t a world-beater in the batting average category, but he was especially useful in OBP leagues: his .250/.375/.432 slash line from the keystone made him a very valuable piece in winning fantasy teams.

I like Biggio. He found his way onto many of my rosters last season. But even though I will not recommend avoiding him this year, I will tell you this: beware of some regression.

Looking under the hood

Let’s look at some statistics under the hood. With wOBA, which means weighted On Base Average, we get an idea about a player’s offensive contributions based on outcomes. After all, a walk is better than an out, a double is better than a walk, and a home run is better than a double. Right?

Biggio, thanks to his home run output and keen eye at the plate (his 15.5% walk percentage was in the 92nd percentile) finished with a respectable .350 wOBA.

However, if we want to get a better idea of a player’s deserved performance based on the amount and quality of contact instead of outcomes, we look at their expected wOBA, or xwOBA.

Biggio’s xwOBA was a paltry .307 in 2020, a below-average number that ranked him in the 39th percentile.

What does this tell us? His quality of contact numbers were awful: he ranked in the 26th percentile in average exit velocity, in the 13th percentile in hard-hit rate, and in the 12th percentile in both expected batting average and slugging.

Based on his quality of contact, his xBA was .215, and his xSLG .347. He had a very low barrel percentage of 5.0 percent.

Another red flag is his average home run distance in 2020. He did hit eight balls out of the park, but he was the 10th-worst ranked big leaguer in the metric, at only 379 feet. The fact that MLB is expected to “dejuice” the ball in 2021, and that Biggio didn’t hit it very far in 2020 to begin with...that doesn’t look particularly promising.

2021 fantasy outlook

Why do I say I like Biggio? Well, I’m willing to give him a pass, or cut him some slack if you will, because A) the 2020 sample size is not too big; and B) his expected stats were significantly better in 2019, when he had a .243 xBA, a .434 xSLG, a 9.0% barrel percentage, and a .351 xwOBA.

However, I’ll be paying attention to the quality of his contact in 2021.

All in all, Biggio will play almost every day in a loaded Blue Jays lineup, and he will likely hit at or near the top of it. That means lots of run-scoring opportunities.

In OBP, Biggio is gold, because, in spite of the aforementioned issues with the quality of his contact, he will take a boatload of walks. In standard leagues, he is slightly less valuable, but still an asset thanks to his ability to score runs and steal bases.

Biggio still has top-5 potential at second base. Just make sure not to overpay or reach for him, as you could be disappointed with his home run total and even his batting average if he doesn’t hit the ball hard more consistently. Just as he can finish in the top five, he can also fall outside of the top 10 if things go the wrong way.