Buy or Sell – Teoscar Hernández’s Success and Jameson Taillon’s Struggles
As we close out the season, keep plugging away with waiver wire pickups and ride a couple of hot streaks to chase any stat categories. In this week’s installment of the buy or sell series, we’ll look at two veterans that have trended in opposite directions throughout the year. Blue Jays outfielder Teoscar Hernández built upon the changes in 2020. Meanwhile, Jameson Taillon came off a long recovery and layoff from pitching in the major leagues. Let’s dive in to see whether we should buy or sell what’s going on with Hernández and Taillon.
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Buy or Sell – Teoscar Hernández’s Success & Jameson Taillon’s Struggles
Teoscar Hernández (OF – TOR)
When we think of one of the more consistent hitters in all of baseball, Teoscar Hernández comes to mind, right. After typically providing raw power with a low batting average, Hernández took a major batting average leap in 2020, then once again in 2021.
From 2018 to 2019, Teoscar Hernández averaged 24 home runs with a .235 batting average, 8.7% walk rate, and 32% strikeout rate. Then in a small 2020 sample, Hernández smashed 16 home runs in less than half the plate appearances (207) from 2018-2019 with a career-best .289 batting average (at the time).
Hernández’s Improved BABIP
Through 468 plate appearances, Hernández has 22 home runs, 64 runs, 87 RBI, and nine stolen bases with a .295 batting average. Hernández projects to surpass any career numbers if he hasn’t already. In 2020 and 2021, Hernández’s BABIP looks like it’s boosting his batting average, evidenced by a .348 BABIP last year and this year’s .360 BABIP. Another positive sign – Hernández’s lowered strikeout rate at 25.6%.
If Teoscar Hernández continues these improvements, especially in the BABIP, batting average, and on-base skills, this pushes him into the must-have fantasy territory, if not already. One reason for the improved BABIP involves the much-improved line drive rate. Hernández finished with a 19% line drive rate combined in 2018 and 2019. Then that jumped to 25.8% last year and 25.4% this year. A higher line drive rate will help boost his BABIP, which contributes to a higher batting average.
Hernández’s Plate Discipline
Naturally, it makes sense to start with plate discipline since Teoscar Hernández typically lacked any batting-average upside with the poor plate discipline. We already noticed Hernández’s improved line drive rate, which we love.
Interestingly, most of Hernández’s plate discipline looks identical to previous seasons. Hernández still uses an aggressive approach with a higher chase rate while making contact slightly below the league average.
In the past two seasons, Teoscar Hernández upped his chase rate to 34-35% from 32.2% in 2018 and 30.3% in 2019. Hernández’s zone contact and overall contact rate increased this year by a few percentage points – another positive. It appears the higher contact rate plus a much-improved line drive rate helped with the batting average improvements and lowered strikeout rate.
Hernández’s Elite Power & Statcast Data
By now, we know Teoscar Hernández boasts elite power with a 14.1% barrel rate (88th-percentile), 115.7 mph maximum exit velocity (96th-percentile), a 96.5 mph exit velocity on LD/FB (No. 22). Even Hernández’s xBA and xSLG the past two seasons ranked in the top 15% of the league.
Hernández crushed fastballs last season with a .375 xBA, .857 xSLG and .519 wOBA. Yes, we have a small sample, but Hernández showed similar improved results in 2021 with a .317 xBA, .572 xSLG, and .392 wOBA against fastballs.
Throughout Hernández’s career, he typically struggled with both breaking and offspeed pitches. However, he boasts career-bests in xBA (.251), xSLG (.490), and wOBA (.337) against breaking pitches. If he can sustain this level of success, that only adds to the potential for Hernández to keep crushing with a quality batting average.
Should We Buy or Sell Hernández?
On the surface, it looked like Teoscar Hernández’s BABIP drove up the batting average. However, we have positive reasons for the improved BABIP that looks like a new level of success compared to a career .324 BABIP. Without even looking at the Statcast data, it leads me to buy more than sell the data behind Hernández’s performance in 2021.
If Hernández’s success continues, he will remain on my must-draft list, assuming the ADP doesn’t jump too high. Hernández’s changes look legitimate, and the raw power remains as he puts it together in 2020 and 2021.
Jameson Taillon (SP – NYY)
After battling back from Tommy John surgery and testicular cancer, the Yankees acquired Jameson Taillon. Although Taillon came with some risk, given he hadn’t pitched since 2019, we heard rumblings regarding his mechanics that appeared positive and worth buying into rather than selling or staying away.
Through 131.2 innings pitched, Taillon boasts a 4.44 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 23.6% strikeout rate, and 7.2% walk rate. Taillon used to utilize his sinker more often but swapped that for the four-seamer as his primary fastball. That said, Taillon’s groundball rate dropped to 33.7% compared to a career 45.1% ground ball rate.
Outside of July with a 1.16 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, Jameson Taillon’s results looked rocky with a 6.23 ERA in April, 4.45 ERA in May, 6.14 ERA in June, and a 5.52 ERA in August. Although ERA isn’t a significant indicator, it gives us a glimpse into the risk and struggles with Taillon.
Taillon’s 2021 Pitch Mix & Results
As noted earlier, Jameson Taillon changed his pitch mix from relying on sinkers to using four-seamers more often. During Taillon’s 2018 season, he primarily relied on four pitches in the four-seamer, sinker, slider, and curve. In the small sample of 2019 (37 1/3 innings), Taillon shifted to using the slider the most at 31.9% of the time.
However, Taillon practically ditched the sinker to 5.2% of the time upped the four-seam usage to a career-high at 49%. Then Taillon mixes in both breaking pitches about 19-20% of the time. With that fastball usage change, Taillon flipped the script and ended as a flyball pitcher in 2021. When Taillon lowered the sinker usage, it led to fewer ground balls. Meanwhile, since Taillon emphasized the four-seamer, it led to the four-seamer resulting in a 52.3% flyball rate with a 47.1% FB% overall.
Interestingly, Taillon’s four-seamer improved from a wOBA allowed and swinging-strike rate perspective. However, Taillon’s breaking pitchers haven’t provided the same level of whiffs as previous seasons. Only Taillon’s curveball looks to have above-average horizontal and vertical movement. However, Taillon’s four-seamer and slider have the best Run-Values of -3 though he throws those two pitches the most.
When looking back to 2018, Jameson Taillon thrived in the heart and shadow areas of the zone. Taillon maintained that success in the shadow areas, but not so much in the heart of the zone. Given the injury, cancer, long layoff, and mechanical changes, Taillon deserves a bit more patience.
Should We Buy or Sell Taillon?
In 15-team leagues, Jameson Taillon rates as a starting pitcher to stream depending on the matchup. However, he’s borderline roster-able in formats smaller than that. Taillon’s ERA estimators fall in line or look worse than his ERA with a 4.39 FIP, 4.58 xFIP, 3.94 xERA, and 4.23 SIERA.
In July, where Taillon boasted a 1.16 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 20.5% strikeout rate, and 8.2% walk rate, he ran into some fortune evidenced by a .214 BABIP allowed and 88.7% LOB%. For reference, from April to June, Taillon had a 5.43 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 24.1% strikeout rate, and 6.9% walk rate. However, it came with a much higher .314 BABIP allowed and a 71.8% LOB%. Taillon’s best month left me wanting to buy into him rather than sell what’s going on. However, Taillon’s struggles surfaced once again in August. That makes it hard to roster Taillon or at least figure out when to start him.
In dynasty leagues, considering acquiring Taillon with the recent struggles. Taillon showed his resiliency and work ethic before, and I expect it to continue towards the end of 2021 and into 2022. An article in The Athletic discussed this exact concept of Taillon “working too hard to not be good.” It’s one of those difficult to quantify aspects that makes me want to buy into Taillon more than sell what’s going on, even if the results haven’t looked positive.
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