FACTS/FLUKES: Arenado, Happ, Mejia, Bumgarner, Hudson

Arenado is money in the bank ... Nolan Arenado (3B, COL) continues to produce at an extremely high level year in and year out. In 2019, he got back over the 40 home run plateau, while also hitting for a career-best .315 average. Is there any reason to expect a drop-off in his performance in 2020?

Year   PA  HR  xHR    BA/xBA   bb%/ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX/PX/xPX  HR/F  xHR/F
====  ===  ==  ===  =========  =======  ========  ==  ===========  ====  =====
2015  665  42   31  .287/.307    5/82   34/22/44  29  133/172/151   19%   14%
2016  696  41   31  .294/.290   10/83   35/18/47  30  128/146/148   17%   13%
2017  679  37   33  .309/.297    9/83   34/21/45  32  123/145/149   16%   15%
2018  673  38   30  .297/.291   11/79   40/21/39  32  126/150/138   21%   16%
2019  662  41   27  .315/.287    9/84   36/19/45  32  123/124/139   18%   12%

The power isn't what it once was, but the skills are still strong across the board:

  • His power metrics are all solid, but not elite, and have dropped off a bit in the past few years. He consistently outperforms his expected power numbers, but the gap was wider in 2019, and while the fly ball rate bump helped boost the home run total, he only ranked in the 40th percentile in Hard Hit %.
  • The Coors effect obviously helps his numbers, as he owns a .995 career OPS there, and 1.057 in 2019. Arenado hit 20 of his 41 homers on the road in 2019, though, along with a .277/.346/.521 line in 327 plate appearances.
  • After the contact rate fell off in 2018, Arenado fully rebounded in 2019, and continues to be one of the most reliable BA assets in the game.

Arenado doesn't provide the speed many owners are looking for in the early rounds, but he continues to provide top flight production in other areas. Over the past five seasons, he has averaged 675 plate appearances, 40 homers, 124 RBI, 104 runs, and a .300 batting average. The decline in the power skills say that even in a full season, he shouldn't be expected to top 40 home runs again. But as long as he's in Colorado, and it appears he will be for now, he looks like a rock solid foundation piece at the end of the first round.

 

Is Happ a gamble worth taking? ... Ian Happ (OF, CHC) spent most of the 2019 season with Triple-A Iowa, but made quite an impact following his call-up in late July. He belted 11 homers while batting a respectable .264 across 156 plate appearances the rest of the way. So what's in store for Happ in 2020?

Year    PA  HR/SB    BA/xBA   bb%/ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX/PX/xPX  HR/F  xHR/F  Spd
====   ===  =====  =========  =======  ========  ==  ===========  ====  =====  ===
2017*  526  31/10  .254/.253    9/66   40/20/40  32   87/163/122   25%   22%   100
2018   462  15/8   .233/.206   15/57   40/23/38  37   80/141/126   18%   24%   104
2019*  569  23/9   .225/.222   12/66   43/16/42  29   79/117/102   26%   24%   102
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
19 MLB 156  11/2   .264/.270   10/72   43/16/42  29   86/158/102   26%   24%   107
*Includes MLEs

Happ's approach at the plate seems to be evolving:

  • He has struggled to hit for average due to his low contact rates, but he took a step in the right direction following his recall, during which time his solid average was supported by xBA.
  • His HctX history is less than impressive, and his .564 Slg in 2019 was well above his .526 xSlg (per Baseball Savant), but all other signs bode well for continued power production. This includes the fact he has maintained a consistently high xHR/F, and ranked in the 93rd percentile in barrels per batted ball event (Min. 100 balls in play) in 2019.
  • He boasts slightly above average speed by our measures, and has ranked in the 65th percentile or better by sprint speed in each of his three big league seasons. He also boosted his success rate in 2019- after going 8 for 12 in two consecutive years, he was successful on 11 of 13 attempts (85 percent) this past season.
  • His patience at the plate should yield a decent on-base-percentage even if he's not hitting for a very high average, and gives his value a boost in OBP leagues.

The owner of a high walk rate and a pretty intriguing power/speed combo, Happ's one glaring weakness has been his propensity for striking out. Though the sample was pretty small, he made strides in that area of his game late in the 2019 campaign, and did so at the major league level. Happ looks to have the inside track of at least the strong half of a platoon in center field, and if the plate skills gains hold, he could even work his way to a prime spot in the batting order. His floor involves more time in the minors, but the potential upside beyond pick 300 is probably worth taking a chance on.

 

What to make of Mejia's strong finish ... Francisco Mejia (C, SD) got off to a very slow start in 2019, so slow that even when he was activated from the IL in early June, he stayed at Triple-A for a couple more weeks. His bat showed signs of life following his recall, though, as he hit .297/.349/.494 in 186 plate appearances the rest of the way. Should owners expect his late-season success to carry over into 2020?

Year   PA  HR  SB    BA   xBA  bb%/ct%  FB%  h%  HctX   PX  xPX  HR/F  Spd
====  ===  ==  ==  ====  ====  =======  ===  ==  ====  ===  ===  ====  ===
2017* 382  12   6  .278   N/A    6/85   N/A  30   N/A   91  N/A   N/A   93
2018* 507  12   0  .234  .234    4/76   30%  28    98   90   74   27%   86
2019* 311  11   1  .273  .248    5/77   44%  32    94  105   94   11%  136
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
2H 19 159   6   1  .295  .237    6/77   47%  35   100   94   98   11%  126
*Includes MLEs

Mejia's late surge was probably a little over his head:

  • His fly ball rate increased significantly in 2019, but a low percentage of them left the park, and a nine percent xHR/F says the home run total probably should have been lower. He ranked just 295th out of 342 in Hard Hit % among all batters with 150 or more balls in play.
  • His batting average soared in the second half, but his contact rate and xBA showed no improvement. It was an inflated hit rate that drove the BA spike.
  • He was pretty active on the bases in Double-A back in 2017, and his Spd score and 58th percentile sprint speed in 2019 show that he has decent wheels for a catcher. However, he has just one stolen base in two attempts the past two seasons, and can't be counted on to provide additional value in the category.

Mejia came on strong beginning in late June, but the skills didn't support his success. The 24-year-old still has age and pedigree on his side, but for now, he likely offers moderate power and a .250ish average, along with poor defense that could eat into his playing time. All told, his current 234 NFBC ADP looks about right.

 

Bumgarner takes his act to the desert ... The results were mixed for Madison Bumgarner in 2019. After two straight seasons of throwing 130 innings or less, he got back to his workhorse ways, topping 200 innings for the seventh time. However, he put up a career-worst 3.90 ERA across his 34 starts. After signing a five-year deal with the Diamondbacks, where should expectations be set heading into 2020? 

Year   IP   ERA  xERA   Ctl/Dom/Cmd  Ball%/SwK/Vel    G/L/F   H%  HR/F  xHR/F  BPX
====  ===  ====  ====  ============  =============  ========  ==  ====  =====  ===
2015  218  2.93  3.10  1.6/9.6/6.0   33%/13.0/92.1  42/23/36  30   10%   10%   179
2016  227  2.74  3.48  2.1/10.0/4.6  34%/11.9/90.9  40/19/41  28   11%   13%   166
2017  111  3.32  3.99  1.6/8.2/5.1   33%/10.6/91.0  41/18/41  28   13%   13%   147
2018  130  3.26  4.35  3.0/7.6/2.5   36%/9.4/90.9   43/22/35  29   10%   16%    88 
2019  208  3.90  4.16  1.9/8.8/4.7   33%/12.0/91.4  36/23/42  30   13%   16%   133

Bumgarner's skills were better in 2019, but not enough to get excited about:

  • He reversed the alarming SwK and Dom trends. He recorded his highest SwK on the cutter since 2015, and after getting very few whiffs on his four-seamer the previous two seasons (7%, 5%), he got his SwK on the pitch back up to 10 percent again.
  • His ground ball rate was the lowest of his career, and he gave up a lot of hard contact. He allowed the second most balls of 95+ MPH, and while part of that is obviously due to volume, he ranked in the 10th percentile in Hard Hit %, the third year in a row he has been below average.
  • After his Ball% jumped to league average in 2018, he got back to keeping the walks in check in 2019. 

Bumgarner got back to his old ways in some regards in 2019, as he stayed healthy while getting his SwK back up and Ctl back down. However, he gave up a ton of quality contact, and got some help from Oracle Park, where he put up a 2.93 ERA. Bumgarner has some drastic home/road splits over the past five seasons, with a 2.36 ERA and 0.8 HR/9 at home, compared to 4.18 and 1.4, respectively, on the road. The odds are probably against a sub-4.00 ERA or a strikeout per inning in his new home.

 

A repeat highly unlikely for Hudson ... When Facts/Flukes last checked in on Dakota Hudson (RHP, STL) back in August, we noted that his mediocre skills, which included a 1.7 Cmd at the time, didn't support his low ERA. He just laughed, and went on to post a 2.43 ERA, with the support of a 1.4 Cmd, over his final seven starts. Should we expect anything resembling a repeat performance?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  vL+  Ctl/Dom/Cmd  Ball%  SwK   Vel  GB%  H%/S%  HR/F  BPX
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===========  =====  ===  ====  ===  =====  ====  ===
2017* 153  3.75  4.31  N/A  2.9/4.6/1.6   N/A   N/A  N/A   N/A  32/74   N/A   54
2018^ 141  2.75  3.45  104  3.5/5.7/1.6   N/A   9.9  96.0  61%  31/78    0%   81
2019  175  3.35  4.74  108  4.4/7.0/1.6   40%  10.2  93.7  57%  28/81   20%   45  
*MLEs
^Includes MLEs

Hudson is playing with fire with these marginal skills:

  • He has an extreme ground ball tilt working in his favor. It helped him allow just one home run between Triple-A and the majors in 2018, and to get out of trouble by inducing 20 double plays in 2019.
  • He led the league in walks allowed in 2019, and an ugly Ball% shows he deserved the poor Ctl he recorded.
  • He doesn't get a lot of swings and misses since he relies so heavily on his sinker, which he threw nearly half the time last season. The pitch he uses the second most is his cutter, and he did record a 21 percent SwK on the pitch.
  • He struggles against LHB, as he posted an unsightly 1.1 Cmd against them in 2019, while they crushed his sinker to the tune of a .369 average and .277 ISO.

Hudson provided double digit R$ in 2019 thanks to a stellar 3.35 ERA and 16 wins. But the weak skills suggest that's as good as it's going to get, and even at his best, he didn't help in the strikeout (136) or WHIP (1.41) categories. With such a high ground ball rate, Hudson may be able to consistently beat his ERA, but not nearly to the level he did a season ago. Regression is certainly coming, and even at a 322 ADP in NFBC drafts, he's probably overpriced.


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