It seems so long ago to consider second-half performances from the 2021 fantasy baseball season. Although we’re dealing with small samples, we’ll discuss a few hitters that performed better in the second half. The hitters include a variety across the early NFBC ADP with a couple of high-end names. As usual, we’ll examine the underlying metrics to figure out what changed in the second half and the expectations in 2022.
Digging into 3 Second-Half Surgers
Luis Robert (OF – CHW)
Although it’s a small sample, we observed improvements from Luis Robert from 2020 to 2021. Robert hit 11 home runs with nine stolen bases in 2020 that came with a .233 batting average. However, in 2021, Robert hit 13 home runs and stole six bases with a .338 batting average boosted by the .394 BABIP. Overall, Robert has compiled 24 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 523 plate appearances and a .294 batting average.
The question remains whether Luis Robert’s will hover below .240 like during his rookie season or bump up like in 2021. Throughout Robert’s minor league career, he boasted a higher BABIP, evidenced by .383 BABIP across three different levels and 551 plate appearances in 2019. When comparing the strikeout and walk rates, Luis Robert lowered the 32.2% strikeout rate (202) to 20.6% in 2021. Although the walk rate went from 8.8% to 4.7%, it’s positive to see Robert’s 26.4% line drive rate increase from 19.8%.
Luis Robert improved the Contact% throughout the season. Increased the LD% that helped boost the BABIP & batting average.
Hopefully, Robert continues the contact gains & remains healthy because he crushes the ball.
— Corbin (@corbin_young21) January 31, 2022
We’ll see if the line drive rate sticks, but it’ll help boost the BABIP and batting average gains. In the minors, especially in 2019, Robert typically displayed a higher fly-ball rate, so it’s safe to have some skepticism in the LD%. Luis Robert remains an aggressive hitter with a 44.5% O-Swing% in 2021 – over 13% higher than the league average. However, Robert’s 86.4% Z-Contact% and 73.6% Contact% aligned better with the league averages.
The White Sox hitters typically show a more aggressive approach with the 7th-highest O-Swing% at 33% and the 12th-highest Swing% at 47.6% as a team. One hitter example includes Tim Anderson with a 41.1% O-Swing% and 55.2% Swing%. Another involves José Abreu with a 37.2% O-Swing% and 50% Swing% throughout their careers. On the flip side, Yasmani Grandal boasts the 2nd-lowest O-Swing% at 18.7%, behind Juan Soto (15.1%) in 2021.
Robert’s Seasonal Splits
Another reminder that we’re dealing with small samples for Luis Robert’s seasonal splits since he dealt with an abdomen injury, non-COVID-related illness, and Grade 3 hip strain. In the first half, Robert hit one home run with four stolen bases and a .316 batting average, boosted by a .433 BABIP in 103 plate appearances. Then in the second half, Robert totaled 12 home runs and two steals with a .350 batting average (.375 BABIP) in 193 plate appearances.
Part of the improvements involves better plate discipline and improved quality of contact. The Z-Contact% went from 82.4% to 88.6%, then Contact% jumped from 68.8% to 76.4%. Luis Robert’s barrel rate also increased by 3.5%, with the chase rate dropping by 4%. Hitters can maintain an aggressive profile if they make enough contact, and the contact quality remains high.
Luis Robert – Second-Half Stud
As one of the second-half studs, Luis Robert’s skills and tools excite fantasy managers. Robert’s 117.7 mph maximum exit velocity (99th-percentile) ranked 8th between Ronald Acuña Jr. and Nelson Cruz. Meanwhile, the 96.3 mph exit velocity on FB/LD ranked No. 31, tied with Adolis García, Teoscar Hernández, and Hunter Renfroe.
However, one of the question marks surrounding Luis Robert involves a Grade 3 hip strain, abdomen, and hand injuries in 2020 and 2021. The NFBC ADP of 17 has Robert as a late-first and early second-round pick. Everyone craps on Adalberto Mondesi with the injuries and poor plate discipline. Hopefully, Luis Robert remains healthy for most of the season and maintains the gains in line drive rate, BABIP, and plate discipline, particularly the contact rates.
Robert’s 2022 Value
The projection systems look optimistic that the plate discipline and line-drive rates would maintain. Luis Robert’s projected batting average ranges from .278 to .285. The power and speed combination remains an enticing profile for any hitter, let alone a former top prospect. Although Robert’s injury history looks concerning, the improvements in 2021 provide reasons for optimism.
Josh Bell (1B – WSH)
Josh Bell consistently compiled counting stats and plate appearances throughout his career. However, we likely shouldn’t expect Bell’s career-best 2019 season of 37 home runs, 94 runs, and 116 RBI with a .277 batting average. Regardless, Bell finished with a respectable 27 home runs, 75 runs, and 88 RBI with a .261 batting average. Bell profiles well in OBP leagues with a career .348 OBP and an 11.8% walk rate. Not including 2020, Bell has averaged 596 plate appearances over the past four seasons.
Not including 2020, Josh Bell averaged 596 plate appearances over the past 4 seasons. The contact rate & plate discipline improved in the 2nd half in 2021.
— Corbin (@corbin_young21) February 1, 2022
One of the stories for Bell concerns too many ground balls with a career rate just under 50% (49.8%). It’s an odd profile to find a power hitter in Bell with a career 31.3% fly-ball rate and 38.2% pull rate. Meanwhile, Bell’s 20% line drive rate ranked second-highest since his rookie season in 2016. However, we also know he’s a switch hitter with raw power.
Bell’s Seasonal Splits
The contact rates increased for Josh Bell in the second half with an 86.9% Z-Contact% up from 81.7%. Furthermore, Bell’s Contact% jumped six percent to 80.6% with a similar barrel rate (9% to 8.5%). Although it’s not on the chart, Bell carried an 8.8% walk rate and 22.3% strikeout rate in the first half that improved to a 14.3% walk rate and 13.6% strikeout rate.
Interestingly, the line drive rate plummeted to 17.5%, with a high 55.9% ground ball rate yet a 42.7% pull rate in the second half. The improved plate discipline and contact rates helped with the second-half production. Although the barrel rate didn’t jump in the second half compared to the first, Josh Bell boasts the raw power metrics, evidenced by the 115.8 maximum exit velocity (96th-percentile) and 96.5 mph exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 20).
That’s higher than Bell’s EV on LD/FB in 2019 at 96.1 mph (No. 18) and 94.2 mph in 2018. Bell consistently displayed the ability to crush fly-balls and line drives even though he typically hits 50% of the balls on the ground. The maximum exit velocity consistently ranked in the top 5% of the league from 2018 to 2021.
Bell’s 2022 Value
Don’t shrug off Josh Bell in 2022 because he consistently compiles plate appearances and counting stats. Outside of 2020, Bell hardly hurts in batting average with a career BA at .261. THE BAT X looks the most pessimistic from a power standpoint with 26 home runs, 80 runs, 84 RBI, and one stolen base with a .271 batting average. However, STEAMER appears the most optimistic for Bell with 31 home runs, 86 runs, 98 RBI, and one stolen base with a .261 batting average. In early NFBC Draft Champions leagues, Bell goes around pick 134 makes him an excellent pick in the 8th or 9th round of 15-team leagues as the 12th first baseman off the board.
Andy Ibáñez (2B – TEX)
Admittedly, Andy Ibáñez didn’t ring a bell before 2021. At 28 years old, Ibáñez debuted in the big leagues with seven home runs, 31 runs, and 25 RBI with a .277 batting average in 272 plate appearances. Granted, we’re dealing with a small sample, but Ibáñez stood based on the second-half improvements with a .370 wOBA and 137 wRC+. Ibáñez played all over the infield for the Rangers, which makes him an interesting deep-league bat or waiver wire hitter to monitor.
The contact-oriented hitter in Andy Ibáñez maintained a 90.9% Z-Contact% and 81.2% Contact% in 2021. Unfortunately, the season-long LD% of 19.6% doesn’t look great as he primarily hits fly-balls 43.4% of the time. It’s a small sample in the first half, but we noticed the BABIP, FB%, and barrel rate improved for Ibáñez in the second half.
Ibáñez’s line drive rate increased from 17.2% to 20.6%, which helped the BABIP jump. Andy Ibáñez’s contact rate looked similar, but he also hit more fly balls in the second half. Granted, Ibáñez also compiled almost 2.5 more plate appearances in the second half. In the minor leagues, Ibáñez chipped in 5-10 stolen bases, so there’s a chance he steals more in 2022. However, that’s not something to bank on consistently.
Ibáñez’s 2022 Value
Honestly, Andy Ibáñez serves as only a Draft Champions type pick with an ADP of 517 in NFBC leagues. Even THE BAT X looks pessimistic with nine home runs, 36 runs, 35 RBI, and two stolen bases with a .253 batting average. Roster Resource projects Ibáñez as a platoon bat, so that’s not 15-team redraft material with FAAB. Overall, Ibáñez looks like a waiver wire hitter if he picks up steam or a DC late-round pick.
Jesús Sánchez (OF – MIA)
The Miami Marlins seem to have a type with their prospects that involves athletic and toolsy bats like Monte Harrison, Jazz Chisholm Jr., and more. Well, that’s somewhat the case with Jesús Sánchez, who lacks the hit tool but presents the raw power, evidenced by the 12.7% barrel rate and 113.9 mph maximum exit velocity (91st-percentile) in 2021. Sánchez finished the season with 14 home runs, 27 runs, and 36 RBI with a .251 batting average.
Sánchez’s Seasonal Splits
Insert the tiny sample alert because Jesús Sánchez hit three home runs with a .261 batting average in 94 plate appearances in the first half. It came with a 5.3% walk rate, 28.7% strikeout rate, and .345 BABIP that seemed likely to regress given the batted ball profile.
The main differences involve the BABIP, LD%, barrel rate, and the Z-Contact% in the second half. Although the BABIP and batting average dipped for Jesús Sánchez, the contact quality improved, evidenced by the 15.7% barrel rate jumping from 8.2% in the first half. Hitters can maintain lower contact rates if striking the ball hard like Jesús Sánchez.
Sánchez’s 2022 Value
We notice an improvement in barrel rate with 7.1% in 2020 and 12.7% in 2021. However, it’s safe to disregard 2020 and 29 plate appearances for Jesús Sánchez. The maximum exit velocity looks solid, plus the 95.3 mph exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 63) tied with José Abreu and J.D. Martinez amongst hitters with 150 batted ball events. Furthermore, Sánchez’s 12.7% barrel rate ranks No. 48 with Jorge Soler and Matt Olson. That gives us a glimpse into the power potential.
The BAT X projection system places Jesús Sánchez for 18 home runs, 57 runs, 61 RBI, and three stolen bases with a .254 batting average. Other projection systems put Sánchez for about 20 home runs with a .250 batting average. Sánchez’s NFBC ADP in January sits around pick 230 near Jo Adell (234), Charlie Blackmon (237), and Lane Thomas (243). Overall, Sánchez looks like an outfielder with power to consider, but I prefer Thomas and possibly Blackmon at that ADP range since the latter two should bat towards the top of the lineup with consistent playing time.
Eric Cross also noted Jesús Sánchez as an outfield sleeper, so the hype will only increase.
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