Buy or Sell – Shohei Ohtani, Jesse Winker, & Huascar Ynoa
Unfortunately, I didn’t land any of these players in any league. However, all three of these players have produced well to begin the 2021 season. With Huascar Ynoa, I completed most of this write-up before his weekend start which ended poorly and he suffered a hand injury. That said, we’ll still dig into these players for this week’s buy or sell article. We know Shohei Ohtani is darn good, but how good? I also wanted to dig into the data to see what’s going on. For my other buy or sell articles, you can find them on FantraxHQ. If you have any suggestions of players you’d like me to dig into, hit me up on Twitter.
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Buy or Sell – Shohei Ohtani, Jesse Winker, & Huascar Ynoa
Shohei Ohtani (UT/SP – LAA)
Do you ever have FOMO in life or fantasy baseball? Well, that’s me this season with Shohei Ohtani. We know he’s an elite and special player, but I thought why not dig into Ohtani a bit. When healthy, Ohtani produces, it’s as simple as that. In 2021, Ohtani has 14 home runs, 32 runs, 33 RBI, and six steals with a .271 batting average. Meanwhile, as a pitcher, Ohtani boasts a 2.10 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 36.4% strikeout rate, and 18.2% walk rate in 25.2 innings. The walk rate is concerning, but we’ll dig a little deeper though it’s boosted by 17 walks in three games.
Buy or Sell – Ohtani the Hitter
Let’s first dive into Shohei Ohtani the hitter and figure out whether we should buy or sell his hitting abilities. In short, yes, but let’s see what the data indicates. Ohtani uses somewhat of a pull-heavy approach with a 40.2% pull rate lower than his 45.6% pull rate in 2020, but a bit higher than his career 36.3% pull rate. In the small 2021 sample, Ohtani has the highest fly ball rate of his career at 43.4%.
When analyzing Ohtani’s plate discipline, we notice a career-high O-Swing%, Swing%, and swinging-strike rate. That indicates he’s using a bit more of an aggressive approach yet the 79% Z-Contact% and 68.4% Contact% looks similar to his career rates.
Ohtani Destroys Baseballs
Unsurprisingly, Ohtani crushes the ball with a 21.5% barrel rate, 119 mph maximum exit velocity, and 52.3% hard-hit rate. He smashed his career-best barrel rate and maximum exit velocity numbers by decent margins. It’s rare to see hitters with a maximum exit velocity that high.
Among qualified hitters since 2015 when Baseball Savant data existed, there are only five hitters with a maximum exit velocity of 119 mph or above. Here’s the list.
- Nelson Cruz – 119 mph (2015)
- Giancarlo Stanton – 122.2 mph (2017)
- Aaron Judge – 121.1 mph (2017)
- Giancarlo Stanton – 121.7 mph (2018)
- Giancarlo Stanton – 120.1 mph (2021)
- Shohei Ohtani – 119 mph (2021)
Nothing unsurprising here because we know Ohtani has legitimate power. Sometimes I wonder what a full season’s worth of plate appearances for Ohtani would look like.
When Ohtani’s rolling, he dominates. Like with any hitter, they experience highs and lows, but Ohtani boasts stretches with a high wOBA and wRC+. Angels manager Joe Maddon moved Ohtani into the outfield after he pitched on May 11th, which makes us wonder if that might happen more in the future.
Update: In Tuesday’s game, Ohtani started on the mound and also batted second in the lineup. That’s an interesting turn of events.
Buy or Sell – Ohtani the Pitcher
Keep in mind – any of the pitching data we’re digging into with Shohei Ohtani involves a small sample as he dealt with elbow injuries and Tommy John surgery. However, Ohtani’s stuff can look filthy at times though he sometimes struggles with command and control. In two out of five games started, Ohtani finished with three walks and 19 strikeouts combined, good for a 40.4% strikeout rate and 6.4% walk rate. Meanwhile, in his three other starts, Ohtani has a 33.3% strikeout rate and 27% walk rate. Not great.
Ohtani’s Pitch Arsenal
Given Ohtani’s massive pitch arsenal, he has five pitches with a swinging-strike rate above 16%. Wow. These five pitches include his four-seamer, slider, changeup, curveball, and cutter. One quick note, Baseball Savant lists his splitter as filthy, so I’m guessing the changeup on FanGraphs is likely the splitter. Since FanGraphs also lists Ohtani’s splitter thrown once in 2021.
Interestingly, Ohtani’s slider ranks near the top of the league with 11.3 more inches of horizontal movement than the average slider movement. We say interestingly because typically vertical movement on a pitch like a slider leads to more whiffs and more horizontal movement leads to weaker contact. However, Ohtani’s slider is still missing bats with a 19.5% swinging-strike rate and 60% whiff rate.
Should We Buy or Sell Shohei Ohtani?
Part of this process is looking into players that I find intriguing while also analyzing players with skills and results that make me want to uncover more details. With Ohtani, it was a mix of both. For me, Ohtani is a top-40 hitter and a top-50 starting pitcher. It feels a bit low given that Ohtani ranks 1st amongst hitters and 59th amongst starting pitchers on the Razzball Player Rater. Bummed I missed out in all leagues, but glad to see Ohtani displaying quality production to begin the 2021 season.
Jesse Winker (OF – CIN)
Way back in November 2020, I dug into Jesse Winker here after he came off of a productive 2020 season. As a lefty with on-base, contact, and power skills, Winker typically mashed righties. So far in 2021, it’s safe to say Winker is, um, blazing hot. Winker has a .350 batting average with eight home runs, 27 runs, and 23 RBI with a 1.016 OPS. At first glance, Winker’s .408 BABIP is fueling his career-best batting average. Sure, it’ll come down, but Winker’s 29.2% line drive rate is beautiful and better than his career 24.5% line drive rate. That means his BABIP could remain high with that line drive rate even though he isn’t fast.
Jesse Winker looks like he’s chasing a bit more with a 29.2% O-Swing% compared to a career rate of 23.9%. He’s also making slightly less contact with an 83% Z-Contact% and 79.6% Contact% compared to a career 87.5% Z-Contact% and 82.2% Contact%. However, Winker’s quality of contact remains similar to previous seasons, particularly 2020. Winker boasts a 12.3% barrel rate, .434 wOBA, and 52.8% hard-hit rate. Overall, a slightly different approach with the higher chase rate, but the quality of contact remains even though the contact rates dipped a bit.
Doing the Splits With Winker
After similar splits in terms of batting average in 2020, Winker is back to his righty crushing days in 2021. Almost all of Winker’s hitting production is coming against righties similar to previous seasons. So far, it looks like 2020 is the outlier season in terms of splits, particularly at batting average and OPS. Expect his splits against right-handed pitchers to even out a bit more towards an OPS like in 2019 and 2020. However, that’s manageable for fantasy managers as long as Winker stays healthy and plays every day, which is currently happening.
Should We Buy or Sell Winker?
As long as Jesse Winker remains healthy, I think he’s a top-30 outfielder in all formats, especially in OBP or points leagues with his strong on-base skills. Even when his BABIP regresses, Winker will still keep a high batting average in the .270-.280 range. Although the slightly higher chase rate (29.2%) and lower contact rates look different from previous seasons, it could indicate Winker’s attempts at being more aggressive at the plate. Given that the quality of contact remains similar or better, I would attempt to buy high on Winker in trading leagues since the overall package looks legitimate.
Huascar Ynoa (SP – ATL)
Admittedly, I can’t say I knew much about Huascar Ynoa before this season. When the waive wire darling in Ynoa rocks a 3.09 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, it makes me wonder if I missed out. Ynoa also boasts a 27.9% strikeout rate and a 6.1% walk rate in 44.2 innings. However, Ynoa has a .264 BABIP allowed and 83.8% LOB%, so both those metrics will likely regress to raise the ratios a bit.
When we compare his 2021 surface metrics to Ynoa’s 2020 metrics, we see that his fortune shifted more positively. In 2020, Ynoa had a 5.82 ERA, .318 BABIP allowed, and 68.2% LOB%. Meanwhile, his low strikeout rate (17%) and high walk rate (13%) didn’t do him any favors either.
Huascar Ynoa (2020 ➡️ 2021)
-Increased 4-Seam Velo (94.8 mph ➡️ 96.7 mph)
-Increased vertical movement on the slider (3.6 in ➡️ 6.1 in vs. Avg.)
-Changeup Contact% ⬇️
🧐75% Contact% ➡️ 58.3%
🧐87.5% Z-Contact% ➡️ 60% pic.twitter.com/8j8oIKuFkB
— Corbin (@corbin_young21) May 16, 2021
Ynoa’s strikeout and walk rate also intrigue us since he often had double-digit walk rates in the minor leagues, which kept the WHIP higher. His strikeout rate is the highest of any season (majors and minors combined) where he threw more than 25 innings back at Single-A in 2018 with a 25.6% strikeout rate. This doesn’t mean it’s unsustainable, but rather we should dig a little deeper to see what’s going on.
Note – Most of this analysis happened before Huascar Ynoa’s hand injury from punching a dugout bench.
Ynoa’s Pitch Mix & Results
It’s difficult to not think Dinelson Lamet when looking at Huascar Ynoa’s pitch mix given the reliance on his four-seamer and slider. Ynoa uses his slider over 46% and his four-seamer just under 42% of the time while sprinkling in a sinker and changeup around 5-6% each.
Ynoa’s primary usage of the four-seamer and slider looks similar from 2020 to 2021. The main differences from last year include a slight increase in velocity on his four-seamer. Ynoa’s four-seam velocity jumped to 96.7 mph up from 94.8 mph in 2020. Meanwhile, Ynoa’s slider increased in vertical movement by 5.9 inches more than average movement on a slider.
Should We Buy or Sell Ynoa?
On the surface, Huascar Ynoa looks a bit fortunate based on his low BABIP allowed and high strand rate. We have a bit of a mixed bag with the ERA estimators ranging from a 3.10 xFIP to a 4.69 xERA. Since Ynoa has a 19.4% HR/FB rate, it makes sense to see his xFIP close to his current ERA since it takes into account a league-average HR/FB rate. However, Ynoa’s xERA indicates he’s allowing hard contact evidenced by his 11.1% barrel rate and 47.9% hard-hit rate allowed. Typically, I don’t rely too heavily on the quality of contact allowed for pitchers, but rather their ability to limit walks and elicit whiffs.
If Ynoa keeps the higher velocity on his four-seamer with the increased vertical movement on the slider, he could sustain this success in the short term. However, we expect his low BABIP and strand rate to regress a bit, which would bump up his ERA a bit. One other area to monitor moving forward includes Ynoa’s low walk rate at 6.1%. We noticed the zone rate on his slider and four-seamer slightly increased from 2020, which could contribute to that.
The one wild care involves Ynoa’s changeup, which currently elicits a 13.2% swinging-strike rate and 38.5% whiff rate while also allowing much less contact this season. Although the movement profile isn’t great, it looks like an added weapon that Ynoa could use more often, especially against left-handed hitters.
Ynoa’s Injury Update
Early reports lean towards Huascar Ynoa missing at least two months, which makes me think we should expect more than two months assuming ramp-up time and rehab. With that timeline, fantasy managers could expect him back towards the end of July at the earliest. It’s difficult to hang onto a player in leagues with no injured list spots unless somehow that manager lucked into a long stretch with little to no injuries, which seems uncommon up to this point.
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