While Paul Revere is widely lauded for his notorious ride, not nearly as many discuss Sybil Ludington. She was the daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington. Sybil rode almost 40 miles through the night to warn 400 troops in Putnam County New York of incoming British forces at the age of 16. The location she forewarned was a supply depot that was being targeted. She also saved her father from capture, lighting candles and having her siblings march around the house as if it were guarded by military personnel when some loyalists attempted to capture him. Sybil took great risks in her midnight ride and Home Alone-esque fakeout, and they paid off in both circumstances. Not all bold moves do. Sometimes you swing and miss, but that is what makes the payoff so great. As Billie Jean King once said: “Be bold, if you’re going to make an error, make it a doozy and don’t be afraid to hit the ball!”
1. Salvador Perez hits half as many homers in 2022 as he hit in 2021.
Justification: Salvador hit 48 home runs in 2021. He had help with a (potential) ball that traveled further, but he also got his launch angle to a nice 15.9 degrees with an exit velocity above 92, and accounted for a barrel rate of 16.3%. There is a component of this that is an adjusted swing, but there also is a piece that is a favorable year. I struggle to see a catcher who just now found his perfect swing at 31 years of age and would lean into a year where all of the pieces fit perfectly (see the Minnesota Twins from 2020). I think the most likely scenario is a Perez who hits 24-30 HR and still sits among the top 3 catchers, but is not the cemented #1.
2. Willson Contreras sets a career-high in home runs this season.
Justification: Last season Willson moved his game into more of a HR-centric style and away from a batting average mentality. He had a batting average north of .270 in three of his first four seasons. The last two years he has clearly moved his launch angle and contact away from line drives into more of a fly ball approach in an attempt to hit more home runs. He’s in for a career year looking for a payday and will be looking to maximize his output (he had a 95th percentile max exit velocity last season). This might mean an increase in his strikeout rate, but he’s also showing a more disciplined approach with an increase in walk rate as well. The biggest question is whether or not the Cubs double down on keeping him or keep on with the fire sale and trade him early into this season.
3. Omar Narvaez has a career year in runs scored.
Justification: Omar was on track for a career year until he had a dismal final month of the season. A deep dive was done by Jack Stern with Brew Crew Ball showing that his metrics held up on pitch selection and location—it was likely just the fatigue of him playing the 2nd most games of his pro career. He is strong at getting on base (only one year in his career with a sub .260 average) and he has a disciplined approach (near 10% walk rate and sub 20% K-rate. He limits his fly ball rate, and while his barrel rate and exit velocity are all low, he connects well with the sweet spot giving him ample on-base abillty. He has a boatload of power bats on the Brewers roster with Rowdy Tellez, Christian Yelich, Hunter Renfroe, Luis Urias and Willy Adames.
4. Elias Diaz finishes top 3 in runs among catchers.
Justification: Elias, being early in his career has shown a statistical trend to head two different ways this season. On the one side, he is one of three catchers who had 50 runs, 5%+ walk rate, sub 20% K-rate, and a wOBA of .330+ (Buster Posey and Tyler Stephenson). He will be able to get on base if he can continue these trends into this season. His BABIP was rather low (.249 last year) which could lend itself to a higher on-base total this year. The other side of this is his lack of power, which limits his ability to get on base hits (15th percentile in exit velocity, 32% in hard hit). This, coupled with a roster that is severely lacking in power (20th most HR hit last year as a team) could lend itself to him not scoring a lot of runs.
5. Daulton Varsho leads all catchers in steals.
Justification: In Double-A Daulton averaged a steal in 20% of games. At Triple-A he averaged a steal in 11% of games. Last season, in his first significant taste of MLB, he averaged a steal in 6% of games. With Carson Kelly back full-time, Daulton will have catcher-eligibility headed towards center field. This gives him two options to see playing time, with less wear and tear on his knees in the process, giving him more success on the basepaths. The Diamondbacks went from 10th in steals in 2019 to 18thin steals in 2020 to 28th in 2021 which seemed to be a concentrated effort under Torey Lovullo to run the ball less among other strategies. Entering 2022, Arizona now has a new pitching, hitting, and bench coach, telling me its safe to say Torey will be reassessing all previous strategies in favor of some newer ones. Look for the Diamondbacks to likely steal bases more in 2022.