With the All-Star break in the books, we look ahead towards the second half of the 2021 season. In this installment of our buy or sell series, we’re looking at two struggling hitters that may be sitting on the waiver wire in some leagues. Both hitters came into 2021 with some bounceback potential, but both under-delivered so far in 2021. However, the NFBC ADP cost remains the difference maker of roughly 100 picks apart. We’ll look back at each player’s first half of production and what to expect moving forward in 2021 redraft leagues.
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Victor Robles (OF – WSH)
NFBC ADP 112.17 – OF30
Razzball Player Rater – No. 767 (-14.5)
After the 2019 season, where Victor Robles hit 17 home runs and 28 stolen bases, the expectations remained high for some in the fantasy community. Robles finished with a respectable .255 batting average with 86 runs and 65 RBI that season. However, that came with a 4.8% barrel rate (21st-percentile) and a 23% hard-hit rate (4th-percentile). Yikes, right?
Then in a shortened and odd 2020 season, Robles hit three home runs and four stolen bases with a .220 batting average. With some players, including Robles, we could think 2020 was his outlier season. Well, so far in 2021, Robles has one home run and seven steals with a .209 batting average in 260 plate appearances.
In the first eight games of the 2021 season, Robles batted leadoff (yay). During that short stretch of 34 plate appearances, Robles hit .214 with zero home runs, four runs, and one steal. However, that came with a .353 OBP, which is helpful for a leadoff hitter. Since then, the Nationals moved him down to the bottom of the lineup, with some instances where they benched him.
Batted Ball Profile
As a prospect, the hit tool was the calling card for Victor Robles. However, his game and raw power were graded as average, which isn’t terrible. We love that Robles rocks a healthy 24.4% line drive rate since that typically translates to hits and batting average. However, when we dabble in the exit velocity on LD/FB, Robles ranks No. 180 with an 89.9 mph exit velocity near Josh Harrison and Miguel Rojas.
Robles boasts a high pull rate at 46.3% throughout his career but a mediocre 37.5% fly-ball rate. We note the fly ball rate because often we see power hitters rock a high pull rate and high fly ball rate. At this point, we know Robles’ calling card isn’t power, but far from that.
Statcast numbers and exit velocities aren’t the only indicators of a player’s skills or potential, but the weak numbers look worrisome year after year. Sometimes we have hitters with an above-average hit tool that makes a ton of contact with solid plate discipline. With Robles, he makes league-average contact, evidenced by an 85.3% Z-Contact% and 76.7% Contact%. Although Robles improved his plate discipline with a 10% walk rate and 23.5% strikeout rate, it still translates into a mediocre or below-average .322 OBP.
Should We Buy or Sell Robles?
At this point, very few, if any, will buy into Victor Robles. It doesn’t make sense to sell Robles unless someone is offering a player with more value at this point. Even Robles’ .283 BABIP could regress to his career .303 BABIP, but that won’t boost his batting average enough.
During his career-best season in 2019, Robles boasted a .317 wOBA and 92 wRC+. That is still a below-average hitter even though the 17 home runs and 28 stolen bases help for fantasy purposes. The rest of season projections per The BAT X shows Robles with seven home runs and ten stolen bases with a .239 batting average. That would potentially boost his season-long numbers to eight home runs and 17 steals.
Even if fantasy managers might be rostering Robles for steals, the seven stolen bases in 12 attempts don’t look great. However, the Nationals rank 16th in stolen bases, which indicates they likely won’t run very often outside of Trea Turner. In a 15-team redraft league, I’m benching Robles, but it’s lost value with a 112 NFBC ADP at this point. That means we should cut or sell but don’t buy into Robles, given the downside and lack of upside in 2021.
Hunter Dozier (1B/3B/OF – KC)
NFBC ADP 221.61 – OF64
Razzball Player Rater – No. 727 (-13.8)
The love of my life, Hunter Dozier, is another struggling hitter in 2021. Back in 2019, Dozier hit 26 home runs with two stolen bases and a .279 batting average. That also came with over 150 runs plus RBI that season. Dozier’s Statcast metrics look solid with a 10% barrel rate, 113.5 mph maximum exit velocity, and 42.6% hard-hit rate in 2019.
We observed a down 2020 season for Dozier, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and landed on the injured list. So take some of the 2020 data with a grain of salt. Last season, Dozier hit six home runs with four stolen bases with a .228 batting average. Dozier’s walk rate jumped in 2020 to 14.5% compared to a career 8.8% walk rate.
In the middle of May 2021, Dozier collided with José Abreu, which led to Dozier hitting the concussion 7-day injured list. However, even before that, Dozier hit five home runs with one steal and a .139 batting average. Since returning from the IL in late May, Dozier improved to hit three home runs and a .203 batting average. We know the league-wide batting average is down in 2021, but a .174 batting average on the season still hurts.
Batted Ball Data for Dozier
Hunter Dozier typically boasted line drive rates above 21%, but it’s slightly down to 19.2% in 2021. However, Dozier uses a pull-heavy (46.5%) fly-ball approach (45.3%) higher than his career averages.
With plate discipline, Dozier makes above-average zone contact yet below-average overall contact rates. That’s a bit interesting since sometimes we see hitters with league average contact rates with a solid Z-Contact%.
Interestingly, Dozier’s 8.7% barrel rate, 113 mph maximum exit velocity, and 44.8% hard-hit rate look similar to his 2019 numbers. However, the .256 wOBA, .283 xwOBA (7th-percentile), and .363 xwOBAcon dropped across the board from 2019.
Should We Buy or Sell Dozier?
Admittedly, I already cut Hunter Dozier in TGFBI, meaning I’m not buying but selling in 2021. Sure, Dozier’s .220 BABIP could positively regress to his .299 career average. However, he’ll need to go on a tear to raise his batting average and production.
When we look at Dozier’s results with different types of pitches, it adds to our concern. Dozier receives a slightly higher number of breaking pitches at 40.4%, up from around 36-37% in 2019 and 2020. His wOBA against those pitches went from .344 (2019) to .287 (2020) and then .226 (2021). Yikes.
Similar to Victor Robles, Dozier’s stock is low, which presents a buying opportunity. If you have the fortune to stash Dozier, then that’s your choice. However, The BAT X projections look mediocre with ten home runs, two steals, and a .240 batting average. Even in 15-team leagues, fantasy managers could find that skill set on the waiver wire.
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