(*) FACTS/FLUKES: Carpenter, Gomez, Delgado, Wacha, Barney

Encore tough for Carpenter ... Matt Carpenter (3B, STL) was a popular sleeper choice headed into drafts last spring, and those owners who picked up the versatile infielder were rewarded justly. Carpenter not only served as an adequate second baseman, he was in the conversation for league MVP with a.318 average and 126 runs scored.

Year    AB  HR    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%  h%    G/L/F    PX  hr/f  SB  Spd
====   ===  ==  ====  ====  ===  ===  ==  ========  ===  ====  ==  ===
2011*  449   8  .228  .178   12   81  27   ------    80    --   3   84
2012   296   6  .294  .268   10   79  36  40/24/36  116    7%   1  104
2013   626  11  .318  .293   10   84  36  39/27/34  116    6%   3  123
* includes MLEs

Gravity will likely weigh on next year's numbers, but Carpenter's breakout was mostly supported by skills:

  • His ability to draw walks and make contact—an area where we saw improvement—are above average.
  • A lot was made of Carpenter's 55 doubles, underscoring the fact he was a line drive machine and should be able to outperform the league in h%.
  • His HR and SB totals don't inspire, but PX and Spd scores hint that we could see more development on those fronts.

The combination of very nice skills, good luck and a spot atop one of the league's most potent offenses was nirvana for Carpenter owners last year. This season, he moves back to his natural position at third base (though learning a new position last year didn't seem to bother him). Asking for a repeat of last year's LD% and hit rate and league leading run total is a lot, Carpenter's xBA shows the average shouldn't fall a lot and the lineup support should be almost as strong.

 

Gomez proves '12 no fluke ... Carlos Gomez (OF, MIL) raised eyebrows and the barbs of a few skeptics with his 2012 surge. But he answered critics by not only bettering his home run and stolen base output, but also adding a nice lift in batting average to become on the the NL's most dynamic all-around hitters.

Year     AB  HR  SB   BA   xBA   bb%  ct%  h%  LD%  PX  hr/f  Spd    
====    ===  ==  ==  ====  ====  ===  === ===  ===  === ====  ===    
2010    291   5  18  .247  .232   6   75   31   16   78   7%  141    
2011    231   8  16  .225  .235   6   72   28   12  127  11%  145     
2012    415  19  37  .260  .250   5   76   30   17  128  14%  128    
2013    536  24  40  .284  .263   4   73   35   21  153  15%  143     
------------------------------------------------------------------  
13-1H   286  12  16  .315  .285   4   77   38   20  165  15%  167
13-2H   250  12  24  .248  .238   9   68   31   22  137  18%  111

Gomez's power and speed are no surprise, but no one saw the average coming—and with good reason:

  • Gomez was a free swinger who saw many fewer strikes in the 2H.
  • While he drew many more walks, the drop in ct% also says he swung at more balls outside the strike zone.
  • His LD and h% took jumps that explain the huge rise in BA. But these metrics are unchartered territory for Gomez.
  • Gomez's PX and SX combination is almost Trout-ian, so no surprise good things happened when he put ball in play more and got on base.

Gomez's free swinging ways paid dividends in the first half of the year—until pitchers seemed to realize they couldn't challenge him. While he maintained his superb counting stats throughout the season, Gomez's average fell back to a level more in line with history. The h% gods also abandoned him in the second half and the average dropped. In the end, Gomez should continue to be viewed as a legitimate power-speed threat, but use last year's aggregate xBA as a better indicator of average.

 

Delgado continues search for consistency ... When Randall Delgado (RHP, ARI) made his big league debut for the Braves, big things were seen for the hard-throwing 21-year-old. Three years later, Delgado has yet to stake his claim to a full-time starting gig and appears destined for a relief role despite an impressive stretch last summer in Phoenix.

Year     IP    ERA   xERA   Ctl   Dom   Cmd   S%   G/L/F     hr/9  hr/f  BPV
=====   ===   ====   ====   ===   ===   ===   ==  ========   ====  ====  ===
2011#   174   3.98   4.33   3.6   7.2   2.0   74  38/20/42    1.0   11%   58
2012#   137   4.37   4.44   4.1   8.0   2.0   72  50/22/28    0.9   11%   64
2013    116   4.26   3.95   1.8   6.1   3.4   73  42/30/38    1.9   17%   82
# Includes MLEs

Delgado's BPIs deteriorated as the season wore on, but there were still bright spots:

  • The biggest gain—Delgado walked fewer than half as many batters per game as he did a season ago.
  • Delgado saw his Dom rate drop by the month, but combined with the increase in strikeouts, his Cmd rate for the season was much-improved.
  • Delgado's downfall was HRs and with the exception of July he had a 20% hr/f.

The signing of Bronson Arroyo (RHP, ARI) seems to have pushed the 24-year-old Delgado back into a middle relief role to begin the season and, the presence of Archie Bradley (RHP, ARI) threatens to keep him there. But it's a decent bet that Delgado will be needed in the rotation at some point because of injury or ineffectiveness. Delgado showed with a very effective stretch in 2013 that he can pay dividends on a minimum investment.

 

Wacha's biggest enemy—hype ... Is it possible to be the next Mr. October if you haven't even experienced April? If so, the description might fit Michael Wacha (RHP, STL) a rookie who became an instant sensation in 2013 with a stellar regular season finish and strong post season performance. Now he faces a challenge much tougher than any opposing hitter—unrealistic expectations.

Year-Lvl    IP   ERA   xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  hr/9  H%  S%    G/L/F    hr/f  BPV
========    ==   ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ====  ==  ==   ========  ====  ===
2013-AAA    85   2.65   ---  2.0   7.7  3.8   1.0  --  --    ------     --  --- 
2013-STL    65   2.78  3.39  2.6   9.0  3.4   0.7  29  77   44/17/39    7%  113

Wacha's skills offer everything you'd want to see in a young pitcher:

  • He boosted his Dom by more than a strikeout a game after he joined the big league squad.
  • Wacha's Cmd rate was excellent and punctuated by a triple-digit BPV score.
  • His ERA was a half-run lower than his raw skills would lead us to expect thanks to a S% that was better than league average.

Wacha, a Texas A&M product who St. Louis took in 2012, threw just 21 innings before starting last year off at Triple-A. After dominating in Memphis, he fared pretty well following a May call-up, but was sent back to the minors for a little more seasoning and to control his innings. Wacha dazzled in a half-dozen late season starts and into the playoffs—a fact that will no doubt boost his value this spring. For all that was said and will be written however, Wacha has all of 160 professional innings under his belt and little track record to know what to expect over the course of a full season in the majors.

 

Barney flirts with Mendoza line .... Darwin Barney (2B, CHC) earned the dubious distinction of owning the lowest batting average among NL players with 500-plus ABs last season. Entering his fourth year as the Cubs full-time second baseman, is there any way he's even rosterable?

Year      AB    BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  eye   H%  HR   PX   SB  Spd  SBO%
=====    ===  ====   ====  ===  ===  ====  ==  ==  ===   ==  ===  ====
2011     529  .276   .267    4   87  0.33  31   2   53    9  143    8% 
2012     548  .254   .273    6   89  0.57  27   7   62    6  124    6%
2013     501  .208   .252    7   87  0.67  23   7   66    4   91    5%

Barney's BPIs don't suggest that improvement is imminent—at least enough improvement to matter:

  • His best skill is his ability to make contact. But with so little power and speed, why would pitchers not throw him strikes?
  • Barney neared double-digit steals in his first full season, but his Spd score has dropped each of the past two seasons and he rarely gets a green light.
  • Barney's xBA suggests we can count on improvement from last year's near-Mendoza average, but 500 ABs fo .250 will continue to be a drag on owners.

It's no secret that Barney has kept his job because of stellar defense and the fact that the Cubs don't have other middle infield options who can hit. But even with a slight improvement in average that comes with a rebounding hit rate, it's only a matter of time before Barney's offensive liability prompts the club to give someone else a chance, perhaps Aresmindy Alcantara (2B, CHC).

 

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.