Glasnow, L. Thomas, Sale, Kelenic, Rodgers

Glasnow looks to build upon 2023 … Tyler Glasnow’s (RHP, LA) first season back from August 2021 Tommy John surgery went well, as he posted a 3.53 ERA and reached a new career high with 120 IP in 2023, despite getting a late start due to a spring oblique injury. How are the post-surgery skills?

YearIPERA/xERABB%/K%xBB%SwKGB/LD/FBH%/S%HR/FVelBPX
2019611.78/2.986%/33%7%12.10%50/16/3427/849%97190
2020574.08/3.089%/38%7%14.50%39/23/3831/7223%97204
2021882.66/2.878%/36%6%17.50%45/18/3726/7814%97192
202271.35/2.868%/38%7%14.90%36/14/5025/10014%97.4203
20231203.53/2.918%/33%6%16.80%51/17/3231/7114%96.4194

Elite:

  • Glasnow’s K%, SwK%, and velocity were down ever so slightly from pre-injury 2021, but all remain top-tier. 
  • His BB% has been steady in recent years (lifetime 8% BB%) and xBB% hints at a little additional upside.
  • No other MLB pitcher with at least 120 IP in 2023 had a GB% of at least 50% and SwK% better than 12%.
  • The xERA column is truly special (lifetime: 2.84 xERA in 333 IP).

Glasnow tweaked his pitch mix in 2023, increasing slider usage (20% SwK%) from 28% in 2021 to 35% in 2023 at the expense of his four-seam fastball. The slider garnered a 20% SwK% and his curveball boasted a 22% SwK% (21% usage) in 2023. His exceptional ability to miss bats and induce groundballs is extremely appealing. Given his “F” health grade in the 2024 Baseball Forecaster, there is certainly risk at his current 44 ADP, but the 30-year-old’s upside is immense.

 

Thomas breaks out … We wrote in June 2022 that Lane Thomas (OF, WAS) “bears watching” and sure enough, he enjoyed a breakout season in 2023, batting .268 with 28 HR and 20 SB. What can we expect in 2024?

YrPAHR/xHRBA/xBAbb%/ct%GB/LD/FBh%HctXPX/xPXHR/FSB/Spd/SBO
'19*33311/2.239/.2518/6847/27/2731102105/11450%10/136/24%
'20401/0.111/.18710/6439/13/481467100/ 939%0/103/ 0%
'21*39911/7.235/.23211/7042/19/3931122110/12411%8/131/14%
'2254817/15.241/.2397/7345/17/383088109/ 9712%8/132/10%
'2368228/24.268/.2555/7244/19/3733103124/11116%20/121/18%
2H 2333114/13.234/.2495/7242/19/3928106118/10516%13/110/28%

Replicating 2023's success will be a tough task:

  • Career-best h% seems ripe for a touch of regression, which would bring his BA closer to 2022 BA/2023 xBA.
  • The HR spike wasn't fully supported by underlying metrics, as xHR highlights.
  • There is also reason to be a tad skeptical of the SB surge, given his SBO history. It’s also notable that his 2H SBO was significantly higher than his lifetime 14% and anything he had done previously over the course of a full season. His efficiency on the basepaths was also a personal best (pre-2023: 65% SB%; 2023: 80% SB%).
  • Keep an eye on his performance vR. He displayed more power vR in 2023 (19 HR), but it came with a 68% ct%, .242 BA, and .292 OBP in 490 PA (lifetime vR: .227 BA, .293 OBP, .692 OPS, 69% ct% in 1,087 PA).

The rebuilding Nationals gave Thomas a chance to play everyday and he took full advantage, registering career highs across the board. However, there figures to be some pullback, as his 2023 performance lacked full skills backing and it’s unlikely he’ll rack up quite as many PA in 2024. The 28-year-old should again provide five-category value, but don’t pay for a repeat.

 

Sale logs 100 IP … After amassing a grand total of 49 IP from 2020-22 due to injuries (March 2020 Tommy John surgery, fracture in right rib cage, right wrist fracture), Chris Sale (LHP, ATL) rebounded in 2023 with a 4.30 ERA in 103 IP. How are his underlying skills?

YearIPERA/xERABB%/K%xBB%SwKGB/LD/FBH%/S%HR/FBPX 
20191474.40/2.986%/36%6%14.60%43/21/3633/6520%218
2020injured, Tommy John surgery
2021433.16/3.367%/28%6%13.00%47/21/3236/8217%136
202263.18/3.154%/20%6%4.90%50/33/1731/670%141
20231034.30/3.677%/29%6%13.50%37/19/4330/6613%161

They’re in fine shape:

  • Sale’s velocity (93.9 mph) is right in line with pre-injury level and his SwK% backs a K% that ranked in the 88th percentile in 2023.
  • Walks have never been an issue, as his lifetime 6% BB% attests (MLB average: 9%).
  • The uptick in FB% makes him more susceptible to HR issues, but if he can continue to limit baserunners, it would limit potential damage. 
  • An unfortunate S% inflated his ERA, as evidenced by xERA.

Sale’s “F” health grade in the 2024 Baseball Forecaster certainly can’t be ignored. However, he again showed elite skills when healthy in 2023 (left shoulder inflammation cost him two months). It’s also worth noting that this is his first normal offseason in years in terms of workouts and conditioning. While it’s difficult to count on more than 130 IP given his track record, the skills are there for him to deliver value at his current 178 ADP.

 

Kelenic offers intrigue … Jarred Kelenic’s (OF, ATL) 2023 season got off to a strong start, as he batted .277 with 10 HR and 7 SB through his first 213 PA. He would then fall into an extended slump, fracture his left foot kicking a water cooler, and post a .226 BA with 1 HR and 6 SB in 203 PA the rest of the way. What might 2024 have in store?

YearPABA/xBAHR/SBbb%/ct%h%HctXGB/LD/FBhr/fBrl%PX/xPXSpd 
2021377.181/.21614/610/69228243/16/4215%10%105/11172
2022181.141/.1907/59/63178537/11/5213%14%124/13897
2023416.253/.24811/1310/65368643/29/2816%10%123/ 8084
1H-23312.252/.25111/1110/63368842/28/3021%11%147/10193

The skills suggest a wide range of outcomes is possible:

  • While his overall 2023 ct% was unsightly, a brutal June (55% ct% in 91 PA) played a big part in that. He sported an xBA of .248 or better in every other month.
  • Though his April power surge (35% HR/F) wasn’t completely supported by underlying metrics, he did show above-average power skills during that month, similar to what he has shown at times in the past. The power wasn’t there in the late season tiny post-injury sample and that’s understandable given the 54-game absence.
  • He owns merely decent wheels and just a 69% SB% in 35 lifetime MLB attempts, so we wouldn’t count on more than 10-15 SB.
  • It’s a minuscule body of work, but it’s worth noting that he showed improvement vL in 2023 (.259 BA, 4 HR, .774 OPS, 68% ct%, 8% bb% in 92 PA). 

Kelenic was dealt from the Mariners to the Braves in December 2023 and the change of scenery could serve him well, as there will be a lot less pressure on the 6th overall pick of the 2018 draft to produce in a stacked Braves lineup. Though the 24-year-old could eventually wind up in a strong-side platoon role, the Braves figure to give him some time to show what he can do against left-handed pitching before making that determination. After batting third-sixth for most of 2023 with the Mariners, he’ll likely bat in the bottom third of the Braves lineup. There is some risk here, but Kelenic is an intriguing option near his current 225 ADP.

 

Rodgers is worth a flyer … Brendan Rodgers (2B, COL) suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder that required March 2023 surgery and limited him to just 192 PA. He returned in late-July and closed out 2023 with a strong September (.302 BA and 4 HR in 104 PA). Is there reason for optimism heading into 2024?

YearPABA/xBAHR/xHRbb%/ct%HctXGB/LD/FBPX/xPXHR/FxHR/FBrl% 
2019*234.284/.2547/16/757949/22/2987/ 660%7%4%
202021.095/.1650/00/713973/00/2741/ 230%0%0%
2021415.284/.26715/135/7812251/20/29105/ 9717%15%6%
2022581.266/.26913/158/8112452/21/2791/ 9311%13%7%
2023192.258/.2414/66/7710553/17/3079/10110%15%11%
*Includes MLEs

Cautious optimism:

  • His ct% was again a few ticks above-average (lifetime: 78% ct%, .261 xBA) and sets a solid BA floor.
  • Both xHR and xHR/F hint at additional HR upside, especially if he can hit a few more fly balls.
  • Granted, it was a small sample, but it’s notable that his Brl% surged in 2023. 

The former first-round pick has struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t yet delivered on the offensive potential that made him a top prospect. Though it seems like he’s been around forever at this point, he is just entering his age-27 season. The “F” health grade can’t be ignored, but he’s worth rostering near his current 496 ADP on the chance he can carry that September 2023 momentum into 2024.

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