As we prepare to close the book on May, the focus of this series shifts a bit. It will shift from full season stats to focus more on the recent 30 days or so. It might seem a little hypocritical as a Sabermetric analyst to shoot down small sample sizes and then focus on more small samples. There is a fine line between noise and trends that I will try to toe the rest of the way. There are some divergent trends with these two players today. Let’s take a look and see if it’s anything that we can expect to carry on the rest of the season for Avisail Garcia and Amed Rosario.
Fire – Avisail Garcia
I was never a believer in Avisail Garcia coming into 2018. He always promised upside, but only provided mediocrity in average and power. He just wasn’t a fantasy commodity. I was impressed last year, however, after Garcia showed off some fancy new-fangled power. He posted a .261 ISO in the first half of the 2018 season and pushed his fly ball rate over the 30% threshold for the first time in his career. Unfortunately, his season was derailed by injuries that limited him to just 34 games in the first half. The ensuing second half, whether impacted by lingering injury issues or not, was poor. He struck out 28.7% of his at-bats and posted a poor .639 OPS over 57 games.
So far over 17 games in May, Garcia is mashing. He owns a .338/.408/.603 slash line with five homers and four steals, his .421 wOBA ranking 14th in MLB. His fly ball rate looked like a repeat of 2018 to open this season, but this May it has actually tumbled down.
He has managed a 33% HR/FB rate to net those five bombs in May. We can easily say that rate is highly unsustainable despite a 50.9% pull%. His hard contact has risen to 47% along with a sharp 29% line drive rate during the hot month, fueling the .346 BABIP. Perhaps the most interesting May alteration comes in regard to his strikeout rate.
After a 29.8% K% in March and April, Avisail Garcia has cut that down by half. He has been striking out only 14.5% of at-bats in May. He has also increased his walk rate from 5.8% to 7.9%, although his walk rate will never likely be an asset. To drop a wet blanket on the potential strikeout rate breakout, his swinging strike rate has continued to be horrible. His 19.7% SwStr% is the third worst in baseball behind only Brandon Lowe and Adalberto Mondesi. It’s nearly impossible to hit for average and avoid strikeouts when you’re whiffing that often.
Even if the strikeout rate is in the low-20’s the rest of the way, Garcia looks like a mixed league relevant outfield option. He has increased his xwOBA against fastballs from .344 to .437 and doesn’t get killed by breaking pitches. His 14.6% barrel rate is easily a career-high, and his 10% Barrel per plate appearance ranks 26th in the league. He is also top-10 in baseball with four Outs Above Average, so defensively there is no reason for the Rays to sit him or limit him to DH. His combination of power, average, and surprising aggression on the bases make him a worthy bat even in standard mixed leagues.
Ice – Amed Rosario
If you invested in Amed Rosario, you weren’t buying him for power. He managed just nine bombs over 153 games in 2018, his .125 ISO ranking 18th lowest among qualified bats. No, you acquired his services for the speed. He stole 24 bases in 35 tries thanks to a 29.3 ft/sec sprint speed that ranks 20th in MLB. As the old adage goes, however, you can’t steal first base. Rosario’s .282 wOBA in May ranks just outside the bottom 20 in the league. Is our speedster set to go the way of Billy Hamilton?
Rosario’s .247/.291/.392 line isn’t good, but it is nearly identical to his 2018 line of .256/.295/.381. He showed some improvement over the second half and stole 18 of his 24 bags though, which is what had us looking his way in draft season. Pitchers have had an offseason to adjust to Amed Rosario, and they identified a significant flaw in his game.
Rosario did the vast majority of his damage in 2018 against fastballs while struggling mightily against breaking and offspeed offerings. It’s no surprise that this year he is seeing a lot fewer fastballs.
The results on breaking and offspeed pitches have been even worse, with his K% reaching over 30% on those pitch types. This explains the 5.1% rise in his strikeout rate and the 1.1% increase in swinging strike rate. On the plus side, he is reaching on pitches out of the zone 5.3% less while swinging 3.7% less. That patience will help him get on base a bit more often, but he still has a below league average walk rate.
Stolen bases tend to come in bunches. Heck, we already looked at his 18 steals over the second half of 2018. There’s plenty of season left for him to push 25 steals, and with these new baseballs, he could wind up with 15 home runs as well. Even if he can’t adjust to breaking and offspeed pitches all season, a 15/25/.250 player isn’t so bad. On the flip side, he could also finish 10/20/.230, which is not a player who makes a difference in standard mixed leagues. Do your best to ride out the lull for now and hope Amed Rosario turns the corner.
Nathan Dokken is a member of the FSWA and has had his work featured in numerous books and magazines. He has also appeared on many podcasts and radio shows and hosts the Nasty Cast and Fantrax Dynasty Baseball podcasts. His written work can be found exclusively at Fantrax HQ, and his personal thoughts and opinions can be found on Twitter @NathanDokken.
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