Well, here we are, the final week of the 2020 season. It has been a fun, fast-paced season that has been a challenge for all of us. Analyzing players has been extremely difficult due to small sample sizes. Statcast data has rapidly changed from day-to-day. It is important to remember we would just be entering June in a regular season. But the sprint Fantasy Baseball season caused players to make moves that one may not have typically made.
When I set out to find a weekly piece to publish before the season, I wanted to find something different. With Statcast data becoming increasingly popular in the baseball community, I felt like I could write a weekly piece covering statcast trends taking place. The samples are small in the shortened season, and they were hard to analyze. But, the data does not lie, and the players who had solid statcast data performed well.
For the final installment of “Statcast Trends” of 2020, we will discuss the studs and duds of the 2020 season using statcast data. Special thanks to the great people at Baseball Savant who made this weekly article possible.
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Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
At this point, it would take a lot for Freddie Freeman not to win NL MVP. Despite batting COVID-19 and being very sick before the season, Freeman has not skipped a beat. His statcast data is probably the best and most consistent in baseball as he ranks well in every category.
With a week left in the season, Freeman is slashing .349/.463/.640 with 11 home runs and more walks than strikeouts. He currently has the highest xwOBA in baseball at .464 and is in the top five in both xBA(.348) and xSLG(.678). His exit velocity of 92.4 mph and his hard-hit rate of 51.9 percent are top ten percent among all hitters. It does not require an in-depth understanding of statcast data to see what Freeman is doing is legit. Freeman is having a career-best season, and his statcast numbers back it up. It will be interesting to see how the final week plays out and if Freeman can wrap up the NL MVP award.
For those of you who are on the fence or undecided as to who you would vote for for NL MVP…..here are some numbers through 50 games, to help u out! pic.twitter.com/b53BIKKWf4
— Chipper Jones (@RealCJ10) September 19, 2020
Fernando Tatís Jr. SS, San Diego Padres
For the first half of the season, Fernando Tatís Jr. was running away with the NL MVP award. He slashed .314/.396/.678 with 12 home runs and six stolen bases in the first half but has slowed down. Despite batting just .193 in September, Tatís is striking out significantly less and walking at the same rate to his first half. His statcast data has also stayed steady and still places him at the top of the league in most categories. The most significant difference in Tatís’s profile in the second half is a low BABIP of .274.
Despite the slow down, Tatís still ranks first in average exit velocity (95.9 mph) and hard-hit rate (64.1 percent). He is also second in exit velocity on fly balls and line drives at 100.4 mph. You can also find Tatís in the 98th percentile among hitters in xwOBA, xSLG, barrel rate, and sprint speed. His xBA of .312 is also top 20 among all hitters. All of that to say, Fernando Tatís has been incredible this season. He has a great argument to be the first overall pick in 2021 Fantasy drafts.
Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ah, it feels so good to be talking about Corey Seager as an elite player again. Seager is another player who should be in the NL MVP discussion as he has slashed .312/.361/.597 with 13 HR this season. After winning NL Rookie of the Year in 2016 and finishing third in the MVP voting, many expected the young shortstop’s career to take off. Unfortunately, injuries derailed several seasons of his career and had lingering effects on his 2019 season.
Now, fully healthy, Corey Seager is living up to the hype that he once had. His statcast data is also off the charts to back his strong performance. Seager’s expected slugging percentage is the highest in baseball at .715, and his xBA(.356) and xwOBA(.460) are both fourth-best in the league. Those stats suggest Seager has underperformed this season, which is hard to imagine. His barrel rate, hard-hit rate, and exit velocity are all 97th percentile or better among hitters. Seager has been a fun player to watch this season, and it will be exciting to see what he can do over a full season in 2021.
Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals
It is incredible to think about how impressive a career Juan Soto has had to this point and is still only 21 years old. The sprint season in 2020 has been no exception, despite Soto missing the first two weeks of the season with COVID-19. Soto’s slash line of .338/.462/.677 is one of the best in baseball, and like Freeman, Soto has more walks than strikeouts.
Soto’s statcast profile is another that is very attractive and filled with red. Soto is currently in the top seven percent of almost every hitting category. Hit xSLG (.687) and xwOBA (.460) are both second-best in baseball. Soto’s hitting profile is nearly impeccable. When you strike out at a low rate and walk nearly 20 percent of the time, while also hitting the ball incredibly consistent and hard, you set your self up for success long term. Soto is one of the best pure hitters in the game, and I do not see that changing anytime soon.
Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
When Mike Trout gets questioned, he keeps doing Mike Trout things. Coming into the season, there was some uncertainty surrounding Trout and if he would choose to sit out all or some of the season given the birth of his child. Trout fell in drafts and has proved to be an incredible value for those who took the “risk.”
Even in what some might call a down year compared to his career numbers, Trout is still batting .293 and has an OPS of 1.016. He has 16 home runs and is tearing the cover off the ball with an average exit velocity of 93.9 mph. The rest of his statcast data is equally impressive as he has a 56.6 percent hard-hit rate and is barreling the ball 15.4 percent of the time. There will likely be a debate again in 2021 who should be the first overall pick. Due to the drop in stolen bases, Trout may not be the consensus first pick. But Mike Trout is the most consistent hitter in the game and one you can always count on from year-to-year.
Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals
Given how high Adalberto Mondesi was going in drafts this year, he was a player I avoided at all costs. Yes, he has league-winning stolen base potential, but his plate discipline is so bad, and he runs the risk of being benched in real life. Yes, Mondesi has hit four home runs and stolen ten bases in September, but his overall numbers are horrendous, and the statcast data is even worse.
Among qualified hitters, just two have a lower xwOBA than Mondesi’s .245. Twelve qualified hitters have a higher batting average than Mondesi’s slugging percentage. The biggest issue is that he has one of the highest strikeout rates in baseball at 33 percent and a walk rate of just four percent. His expected numbers are not any better as he has a .197/.245/.327 expected slash line. Outside of his sprint speed and stolen bases, Mondesi does not have a lot going for him. I am sure the recent hot streak will draw Fantasy players back in for next season, but I will remain out on him due to his volatility and poor approach at the plate.
Jonathan Villar, 2B/SS, Toronto Blue Jays
Outside of 12 stolen bases, it has not been a pretty season for Jonathan Villar. After beginning the season in Miami, Villar’s new home is now in Toronto, or I guess Buffalo. Interestingly enough, Villar has a lower slugging percentage than Mondesi at a .307, and his OBP is higher at .310. Statcast’s expected data gives him a .227 xBA.
When Villar has shown home run power in the past, he usually has a decent launch angle. This season, according to statcast, his launch angle is two degrees, and his exit velocity is a career-low 86.8 mph. Villar also has just two barrels 0n 120 batted balls this season. Overall, the season has not been kind to him, and the statcast data does not give much hope. Villar is an impending free agent, so his 2021 outlook depends a lot on where he signs, given the potential to be a utility player.
Austin Meadows, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Coming off a season where he batted .291 with 33 home runs and 12 stolen bases, many fantasy owners had high hopes for Austin Meadows in 2020. Meadows missed the first two weeks of the season with COVID-19 and is now out with an oblique strain. Overall, it has been a disappointing season for the Rays outfielder, batting .205 with just four home runs and two steals. Meadows has seen his strikeout rate jump over ten percent, up to 32.9 percent for the year. It is evident things have not been right with Meadows this season.
Meadows’ average exit velocity is right in line with his 2019 season at 90.3 mph. His hard-hit rate is also higher than last season at 44 percent, according to statcast. Outside of that, his statcast page is not very attractive. Meadows’ expected line of .189/.280/.361 does not give a glimmer of hope for his poor performance. It has been a weird season for Meadows, who has dealt with both COVID and an oblique injury. I am left wondering if both factors bothered him throughout the season. He will probably drop pretty low in drafts in 2021 and could be an excellent value for Fantasy owners to buy.
Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
At a shallow second base position, Jose Altuve has been a consistent standout over the years. After the offseason fiasco with the Astros, their hitters became hard to value for Fantasy Baseball. Was a large portion of Altuve’s success from cheating? It is hard to say. But what is easy to say is Altuve has not been good in 2020.
A career .312 hitter, Altuve is batting just .219 this season. His strikeout rate has also spiked by nearly five percent, largely due to swinging at more pitches out of the zone. His statcast data does not look great either as Altuve’s exit velocity, hard-hit rate, xwOBA, xSLG, and barrel rate are all in the bottom fifth of the league. 2020 was a lost season for many players, including Altuve, but trying to project him 2021 will be challenging. He will turn 31 years old next season and has declined in steals each of the last three seasons. Outside of 2019, Altuve’s power has been average at best. His 2021 ADP will be fascinating to see, and he is a player I will be evaluating this offseason deeply.
Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs
The man who ran away with the 2016 MVP award has been on the decline each season after despite being just 28 years old. Kris Bryant has had injuries lingering over the last several years, but I am not sure anyone predicted this kind of decline. In 133 plate appearances this season, Bryant has five, yes, just FIVE RBI. Of hitters with at least 125 plate appearances, no one has less RBI than Bryant. It does not get any better for him as he is slashing just .195/.286/.305 with two home runs.
Bryant’s statcast page is even scarier, as it looks worse than Adalberto Mondesi’s. Bryant has never hit the ball hard, but this season his average exit velocity is two mph lower than his career average. His hard-hit rate is also down to just 31.3 percent. With his strikeout rate ballooning to 28.6 percent and his walk rate falling by over three percent, Bryant’s season has not been pretty. It is hard to imagine Bryant being a top 100 pick next season, and justifiably so.
Are you looking for the top hitting matchups for the final week of the season? Corbin Young’s “Hitting Matchups” can help you out!
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