Last week, we looked at second-half studs for fantasy baseball leagues. This week, we’re looking at a few players who struggled from mid-July and beyond. For a couple of hitters, it appears injury-related. However, we examine the underlying metrics to identify what went wrong with the second-half fallers.
Second-Half Fallers – Eugenio Suárez, Trent Grisham, and Adolis García
Eugenio Suárez (3B – CIN)
In four straight seasons (2016-2019), not including 2020, Eugenio Suárez gradually improved in home runs, runs, and RBI, with a solid .265 batting average. Suárez soaked up plate appearances with an average of over 631 PA. The same trend applied with the barrel rate from 6.3% in 2016 and nearly peaked at 13.8% in 2019.
Suárez’s 15% barrel rate in 2021 remained high in the 89th-percentile. However, the batting average and OBP skills tanked in 2020 and 2021. Although we could argue for some improvements for Suárez, let’s find out what went wrong in 2021.
Suárez’s Seasonal Splits
The counting stats look solid, with 18 home runs, 43 runs, and 50 RBI in the first half for Eugenio Suárez. However, it came with a .175 batting average, .256 OBP, and .372 SLG. As a hitter with a pull-heavy (50.5%) and fly ball approach (45.4%), Suárez’s low .192 BABIP makes sense. Suárez makes loud contact with a 13.9% barrel rate in the first half, but the Z-Contact% at 83.7% and Contact% at 70.7% rank below average.
Meanwhile, Suárez hit 13 home runs, 28 runs, and 29 RBI with a .238 batting average in the second half. Although the batting average increased, the counting stats dipped. Granted, it’s a smaller sample of 359 to 215 plate appearances, we have an improved wOBA and barrel rate. Sure, we could argue a slight improvement for Eugenio Suárez, but this presents an opportunity to dig into what went wrong.
However, an area to monitor with the pull heavy and fly ball approach involves the wOBA against the shift in 2021 for Suárez. In 2021, Suárez finished with .301 wOBA compared to a .423 wOBA against the shift in 2019. Opposing defense gradually increased their shift rate from 45.9% in 2019 to 69.6% in 2020 and 55.2% in 2021.
Digging Deeper Into Suárez’s Second-Half Struggles
Eugenio Suárez didn’t land on the injured list a single time in 2021. The only issue we can find involves Suárez’s finger issue after a cut finger due to cooking. That said, we remember that Suárez underwent shoulder surgery in late January 2020 that likely bothered him even into 20221.
However, what stands out involves the line drive rate trending down from 24.6% in 2018, 21.7% in 2019, to 18.2% in 2020, and 17.1% in 2021. That trend, plus the HR/FB% dropping below 20% for the first time since before 2018, looks worrisome. The drop in line drive rate aligns with the dip in BABIP.
Let’s dig a little deeper using Alex Chamberlain’s Pitch Leaderboard. In 2021, Suárez’s standard deviation launch angle (sdLA) sat at 27.1 degrees with a dynamic hard-hit rate (DHH%) of 16.8%. Connor Kurcon wrote an article on DHH explaining that the hard-hit rate “isn’t static across all launch angles.” It’s highly correlated with xwOBAcon too.
We typically want sdLA or launch angle tightness to lower, meaning the launch angle is “tighter” and repeatable. Meanwhile, like other batted ball metrics, we want DHH to rise. In 2020, Suárez’s sdLA ended at 27.2 degrees with an 18.9% DHH. However, in 2019, Suárez boasted a 25.4-degree sdLA with a 15.6% DHH. Overall, it’s not a friendly trend because Chamberlain wrote an article on Launch Angle Tightness back in December 2019. At that time, Suárez ranked amongst the top-15 hitters in sdLA since 2015. That list includes some of the elite and most consistent hitters in baseball.
Suárez’s 2022 Value
At this point, Eugenio Suárez looks to have a Joey Gallo-type profile with the power, yet hurting in batting average. Oddly enough, Suárez goes about 15 picks later than Gallo. As Alex Chamberlain noted in July 2021, there’s a chance Suárez hadn’t fully recovered from his shoulder injury as he examined Spray Dynamic Hard-Hit Rate that could help find hitters having issues with their swing. That hypothesis and data make sense to me.
The projection systems expect Suárez to provide power, but built-in some hesitations with plate appearances, RBI and runs, and batting average. ATC projects Suárez for 32 home runs, 73 runs, 83 RBI, and a .230 batting average. If you need power and believe in a 2022 bounce-back season, target the second-half faller in Suárez since there should still be some offensive production left in the tank.
Trent Grisham (OF – SDP)
After finishing with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 2020, Trent Grisham dealt with hamstring, quadriceps, and heel injuries in 2021. That led to Grisham logging 527 plate appearances with 15 home runs, 61 runs, 62 RBI, and 13 steals. Although that’s a career-best in plate appearances and counting stats, it’s likely those injuries hindered Grisham’s performance.
Trent Grisham gradually improved his strikeout rate from 26.2% in 2019 to 25.4% in 2020 to 22.6% in 2021 with a career 10.9% walk rate. Grisham typically performs better in OBP leagues with a patient approach, evidenced by a career 20.9% O-Swing% and 39.2% Swing%.
Grisham’s Seasonal Splits
Outside of Trent Grisham’s barrel rate and BABIP, it’s hard to find many glaring differences in the profile. Grisham’s .325 BABIP in the first half helped boost his .274 batting average. However, the BABIP dipped to .260, which led to the low .211 batting average. Oddly, Grisham became slightly more aggressive with an 18.5% O-Swing% in the first half, then a 22.9% in the second half. Even the line drive rate increased over three percent, which typically helps the BABIP. However, with Grisham, the BABIP, batting average, and OBP dropped in the second half.
In the first half, Trent Grisham battled a heel injury, with a quadriceps and hamstring issue earlier in the year. That said, the injuries likely hampered him throughout the season, which makes him a 2022 bounceback candidate. Overall, Grisham’s contact rate remained above-average, and there’s more power there. Even if it’s not 11.1% barrel rate type power, Grisham should translate into 15-20 home runs. Grisham might hurt in batting average, but the projection systems look consistent with power and speed.
Grisham’s 2022 Value
With three different injuries in 2021, it’s easy to give Trent Grisham a pass for the struggles. The plate discipline remained similar outside of an increased swing rate up to a career-high 65.5% up from the career rate (62.8%). Grisham typically shows a patient approach and makes contact at an above-average rate.
The 11.1% barrel rate in 2020 with 5.4% in 2019 and 5.2% in 2021 concerns us. Unfortunately, we observed the same trend with a .349 wOBA and .448 xwOBAcon in 2020, with much lower numbers in 2019 and 2021.
- 2019: .314 wOBA, .350 xwOBAcon
- 2021: .320 wOBA, .351 xwOBAcon
Most metrics looked like 2020 could be the outlier season, or Grisham battled injuries with a bounceback opportunity. Grisham’s barrel rate and dynamic hard-hit rate aligned. However, the average exit velocity on flyballs and line drives finished similarly to 2020.
Early in the 2021 season, Trent Grisham batted towards the top of the lineup. However, Grisham then fell towards the bottom third of the lineup. Last season, I expected a bounce back from Yoán Moncada after dealing with the effects of COVID-19. In reflection, it’s fair to have hesitations about Grisham’s 2020 season versus 2019 and 2021.
Regardless, it’s hard to pass up Trent Grisham’s skills of 18-20 home runs and 15 stolen bases. Most of the projections look identical, so let’s use ATC, which expects Grisham to have 19 home runs, 81 runs, 65 RBI, 15 steals, and a .246 batting average. Grisham sits right outside the top-125 pick with an ADP range loaded with juicy names – Dansby Swanson, Jared Walsh, Willy Adames, Josh Bell, and Mitch Haniger. I’d prefer Swanson, Adames, Bell, and possibly Haniger over Grisham depending on roster construction.
Adolis García (OF – TEX)
How does the narrative go? Watch for the landing spot of former Cardinals players, particularly outfielders. Recent examples include Randy Arozarena, Lane Thomas, and Adolis García. Even Luke Voit and Randal Grichuk in past years qualify. At 28-years-old, García compiled 622 plate appearances with 31 home runs and 16 stolen bases. García totaled a healthy amount of runs (77) and RBI (90), but the batting average (.243) and plate discipline remained the issue.
Adolis Garcia is one off the big league home run lead. 💪 pic.twitter.com/jOfzruXNWO
— MLB (@MLB) May 18, 2021
Interestingly, García’s line at Triple-A with the Cardinals in 2019 looked eerily similar. That season, García finished with 32 home runs, 96 runs, 96 RBI, and 14 stolen bases with a .253 batting average. It’s hard to sustain a quality batting average when García strikes out 30-31% of the time with a 4-5% walk rate. That aligns with the 39.7% O-Swing% in 2021 with below-average Z-Contact% (78.2%) and Contact% (68.1%). However, we know that profile plays when hitters crush baseballs, evidenced by the 11.5% barrel rate (77th-percentile) and 112.4 mph maximum exit velocity (85th-percentile).
Seasonal Splits For Adolis García
It’s no surprise that Adolis García fell off in the second half. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that injuries hampered García’s second-half struggles. The batting average fell off for García from .270 to .211, with the strikeout and walk rates remaining similar. Even the chase rate and contact rates remained steady.
Unfortunately, the home run rate regressed from 26.5% to 12% in the second half. The strength for García involves the power, so it’s odd to observe the barrel rate dip too. One other area to note in García’s batted ball data includes the increased pull rate from 42.2% to 47.8% in the second half. García typically hits many ground balls and flyballs, accounting for 82-85% of his batted balls. We note that because there’s a chance that García pulled the ball and hit into the shift.
In the first half, Adolis García posted a .347 wOBA against the shift with a .500 SLG against the shift. However, in the second half, García had a .296 wOBA and .380 SLG. It appears that theory seems logical, but it’s still a relatively small sample of a half-season.
García’s 2022 Value
Surprisingly, Adolis García holds an ADP around pick 180 over the past few weeks in Draft Champions leagues. That’s just inside the top-50 amongst outfielders at OF47 near Robbie Grossman, Hunter Renfroe, Andrew Benintendi, and Alex Kirilloff. Grossman and Benintendi provide steals, whereas Renfroe provides the elite power. With Kirilloff, he showed the raw power, evidenced by the 12.8% barrel rate and four of his eight home runs in three games.
Adolis García plummeted in the 2nd half. Seeing the pull rate go from 42.2% to 47.8% made me look at data vs. the shift.
1st Half vs. Shift: .347 wOBA, .500 SLG
2nd Half vs. Shift: .296 wOBA, .380 SLG
García struggled mightily against fastballs, yet improved against breaking pic.twitter.com/LmUkB25fjI
— Corbin (@corbin_young21) February 8, 2022
Given Adolis García’s ADP, it’s worth the gamble for a power and speed hitter with upside. However, Grossman and Benintendi provide safer profiles, with Grossman having the edge in OBP and Benintendi better in batting-average leagues. The BAT X projects García for 26 home runs and 11 stolen bases with a .229 batting average. Most other projection systems expect a similar range of 25-28 home runs and 11-13 stolen bases, yet a batting average around .230.
The Rangers brought in Marcus Semien and Corey Seager to join the exciting duo of Adolis García and Nathaniel Lowe. Outside of that, the Texas offense looks worrisome. That said, García should garner regular playing time due to the defense, evidenced by the 9.1 defensive WAR and lack of options.