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NL West Offseason Injury Report and Statcast Analysis

Nic Civale is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and former NCAA Division I Baseball athlete. He combines his knowledge of anatomy and physiology with that of baseball mechanics to provide expectations for players who will be rehabbing this offseason. Utilize The Offseason Injury Report to start your planning for 2021 drafts and keeper decisions.

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Also check out Nic’s NL East Offseason Injury Report

NL West Offseason Injury Report: Statcast Numbers and What They Reveal

Matt Chapman, 3B, OAK

The A’s stellar 3B had a surgical repair of the labrum of his right hip, as well as a ‘cleanup’ of the femoral head and neck of the same leg. The surgery was performed on 9/24/20 under Dr. Mare Philippon in Vail, CO, where Chapman began physical therapy the following day, less than 24 hrs after surgery. The expected recovery time is 4 months, and expectations are that Chapman will be ready for Spring Training. Dr. Philippon compared Chapman’s procedure as very similar to Mark Canha’s in 2016 and Sean Manaea’s in 2013, which both went as expected.

Chapman recalled how the pain in his right hip had existed most of the year, but was significantly exacerbated on 9/6 with a spinning throw that caused increased tension to the right hip. When we take a deeper look into Chapman’s statcast numbers this year, we can identify some significant and revealing trends as compared to 2019. These differences illustrate how his hip discomfort may have affected his approach and his results.

During a right-handed batter’s swing, the right hip provides a significant amount of force that is needed to bring that bat through the zone at elite speeds. When you have discomfort, instability or even lack of confidence in the hip, it is very difficult to generate an effective swing. Chapman’s statcast data supports this claim.

2019 2020
Case Contact Rate  63.6% 42.7%
Zone Contact Rate  80.9% 72.6%
Whiff Rate 23.7% 36.2% (6th percentile in MLB)
K Rate 21.9% 35.5% (3rd percentile in MLB)

Clearly, some alarming trends in contact ability are displayed here. The lack of power production of the right hip caused an increased need for muscle activation in the core musculature, lower back and arms. By relying more on the upper body and trunk for power, it seems as if Chapman lost some ability to make successful contact. Overcompensation of any muscle group increases risk for injury and decreases efficiency in biomechanics. With a repaired hip, and the return of his range of motion and strength, Chapman can rely less on his arms and more on his legs for power output, leaving the upper body to focus more on precision and angle.

Chapman has demonstrated the ability to be an elite 3B both in the field and at the plate in the past, and I fully expect his to return to form this year. We have an explanation for his lack of production, and it was surgically repaired. This is an ideal buy-low situation in dynasty and keeper leagues, but if you have him, hold on to him and expect a return to greatness in 2021.

Ketel Marte, 2B, ARI

The 2019 breakout disappointed fantasy managers this year due to a lack of power production and counting stats. Marte did not maintain the excellent pace that he established last season, providing a R/HR/RBI/SB slash of 19/2/17/1 in 181 AB’s. In 2019, Marte displayed an elite 97/32/92/10 line. His 2020 batting average remained solid at .287 vs the .329 in 2019, but the most significant differences are seen in the Statcast data surrounding his contact and barrel rates at pitching in and out of the zone, as well as on breaking pitches.

2019 2020
Barrel Rate 9.3% 3.7% (13th percentile in MLB)
Zone Swing Rate 70.4% 61.4%
Meatball Swing Rate 77.3% 65.9%
BA vs. Breaking Pitches .310 .206

Here we see a less aggressive hitter at pitches in the zone. We also notice a massive decline in batting average vs. breaking pitches. One explanation is that his skills magically left him, like Barkley and Ewing in Space Jam. Another is that Marte was dealing with left wrist inflammation all year, which affected both his ability to display his elite hand-eye coordination as well as power. Similarly to Chapman, the injury to the left wrist also could have affected Marte’s approach to each at bat. Marte was taking more pitches over the plate and down the middle as shown in his swing rates. Even when his did swing, he was getting barrels almost 1/3 of the rate he was a year before. These metrics alone seem eerie, but combine them with a .104 point drop in BA vs breaking balls, and we have a legitimate problem.

The good news is that Marte has had the ability to rest since September, and can slowly work his way back into swinging as Spring Training (HOPEFULLY) rolls around in February. No one seems to be expecting the same power output as 2019, but with a healthy wrist, we should see a drastic increase from his lackluster 2020 season. Remember, to be bothered with a wrist injury as a switch hitter and to still hit .287 in the MLB is no small feat. He’s got excellent skill from both sides of the plate.

I will be giving Marte another chance in 2021. He will be getting as many AB’s as anyone atop the Arizona lineup, and with an increased barrel and swing rate, as well as wrist control on diving breaking ball pitches, he can look much more like his 2019 self.

Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL

Arenado has been one of the premier defensive infielders, and top offensive fantasy talents for years. Still only 29, he is amidst his prime, but had a rough 2020 season. Many think there is a chance he will be traded from Colorado, after his public displays of disapproval regarding personnel decisions. Between a poor offensive 2020 and fears of Arenado leaving Coors Field, many people are fading him in drafts and he is absent from most 1st round discussions. I’m not going to argue he is a surefire first round lock, but there needs to be more consideration regarding Arenado’s shoulder injury and how it may have effected his 2020 season.

Arenado reports that soreness in his left shoulder began on 7/28 vs. Oakland- just the 4th game of the season. He hadn’t hit the IL until 9/21, when it was all but certain that Colorado was out of the extended playoff picture. We have come to find out that the injury involved AC (Acromioclavicular) joint inflammation, coupled with a bone bruise of the same region. When you sustain an AC joint injury, sudden elevation of the arm and force from rotator cuff or deltoid muscles can cause an increase in stress to the area, eliciting pain.

Arenado has a one-handed finish to his swing, relying on that left shoulder to slow down the progress of the bat, and finish the swing with control. It can be extremely painful trying to slow down the roughly 2 pound bat after any swing; especially a swing and miss, where the ball does not slow down the bat mid-swing.  This problem may help to explain Arenado’s 2020 stats.

2019 2020
Barrel Rate 8.0% 5.4% (career worst)
SwSp Rate 34.5% 27.1% (career worst)
xBA .274 .236 (career worst)
xSLG .484 .389 (career worst)
xWOBA .376 .278 (career worst)
Exit Velo 89.4 mph 87.8 mph (career worst)

The numbers look bad. Really bad. But then we take a closer look at Whiff % and K rate, revealing an interesting wrinkle to the story. Arenado also had career-best numbers with a 10.0% K rate and a 17.9 % whiff rate. He was putting the ball in play more frequently, but with far worse results.

The explanation may be related to this fear of swinging and missing, mentioned earlier. Since Arenado has one-handed finish – and an unusually abbreviated one at that- the left shoulder takes on tremendous responsibility in slowing down the bat path. Any ballplayer who has ever swung a bat with a sore front shoulder knows you are thinking about slowing down the bat down before even starting the swing.

So it appears Arenado was selling out for contact; contact that decreases the eccentric strain on the left shoulder after a swing. With an offseason to rest and rehab, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t treat Arenado like we were prior to 2020. Keeping in mind he may well be traded, I will have no fear in drafting Arenado based on his career numbers vs. his 2020 numbers.

Mike Clevinger, SP, SD

It was announced this week that San Diego Padre, Mike Clevinger will undergo Tommy John Surgery to repair a damaged UCL in his throwing arm. The right hander had trouble with injuries all year in 2019 as well and was beginning to develop the title of injury prone. On 9/23, Clevinger left his start after 1 inning with what was reported two days later as posterior elbow impingement, which may have referred to the ulnar nerve. This is the nerve that makes up the ‘funny bone’ area and can be very painful when irritated.

One week prior to this start, Clevinger also reported biceps soreness. He was rested nearly two weeks, and then returned in the playoffs, where he left very early once again, hitting only 91 mph with his 4-seam.

Clevinger had significant difficulty getting strikeouts this year, dropping from 33.9% in 2019 to 24.7% in 2020. He also amassed career worsts in the following categories; xBA (.265), xSLG (.437), xERA (4.58). One of the most curious developments is that he increased slider usage from 25.5% to 32.7%, while decreasing 4-seam usage from 51.1% to 39.9%.

2019 2020
K Rate 33.9% 24.7%
4 Seam Usage 51.1% 39.9%
Slider Usage  25.5% 32.7%
Slider Horizontal Movement

(compared to MLB avg)

7.9 in 5.7 in
Slider Vertical Movement

(Compared to MLB avg)

1.8in -0.2 in

The most interesting metric seen here is that Clevinger increased his slider usage so dramatically, but was getting significantly worse movement on it. When you have a pitch underperforming in terms of movement, you usually shy away from it. So the question arises; was this change in usage made in reaction to elbow and shoulder pain, or was it the cause of it?

Although this is only speculation, I’d be willing to bet this change was made due to existing pain as a reactionary measure. Why else would someone increase the rate of a pitch that clearly wasn’t generating the same movement? The reason could be that the 4-seam was causing pain in the irritated elbow. Having the pointer and middle finger directly behind the ball to create the force required for a 4-seamer is much more demanding on the forearm flexors than is the grip of a slider, where the fingers sit more to the outside edge of the ball.

Regardless of the reasoning, Clevinger will be out for the entirety of the 2021 season, but will likely be making his way into full bullpens prior to 2022 Spring Training. There will be more updates on his rehab throughout the year; keep a close eye on him in all keeper and dynasty formats to make keeper or trade decisions.

Cody Bellinger, OF, LAD

The former MVP and 2020 World Series Champ had surgery this week on his right shoulder. This was done to repair the damage caused by a shoulder dislocation that famously occurred when he was celebrating an NLCS Game 7 home run. Bellinger also had a dislocation in 2019 which nearly prompted surgery. Rehab will likely take around 10-12 weeks and he should return to light swinging around 4-6 weeks. This decision may be helpful for the long term health of the shoulder and will limit the risk of future dislocation if all goes well. Consider Bellinger ready to go for 2021 as long as there are no setbacks.

If you enjoyed Nic’s NL West Offseason Injury Report you’ll want to keep track of all our 2020-21 MLB Offseason Analysis.

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