FACTS/FLUKES: Bieber, Hicks, Barnes, Garver, and Pressly

Bieber breaks out... Mostly picked outside of the Top 100 in 2019 drafts, Shane Bieber (RHP, CLE) has delivered in 21 GS. Through 133 IP, his ten wins, 166 strikeouts, 3.44 ERA, and 0.99 WHIP have led to a $22 R$. What do his skills say about his breakout season?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK    G/L/F    H%  S% hr/f  BPV 
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  === === ====  === 
2017^  54  2.99  4.11  0.9   7.0  8.0  N/A  N/A     N/A     36  77  N/A  194
2018  115  4.55  3.55  1.8   9.3  5.1  66%  12%  47/22/31   36  68  12%  143
2019  133  3.44  3.16  2.0  11.2  5.7  63%  15%  44/21/35   29  70  15%  171
^Double-A MLEs

His elite skills (171 BPV) back his breakout: 

  • The right-hander is ramping up his SwK, and his curveball (26% SwK) and slider (24% SwK) have provided a strong foundation for whiffs. With his SwK, his double-digit Dom can continue.  
  • With an above-average FpK and an impressive Ctl, his skills support his WHIP success. 
  • Since April, he has reduced his FB% and hard contact allowed. Although his average exit velocity on fly balls allowed has increased from 90.5 mph in 2018 to 93 mph in 2019, his fly ball distance allowed has held steady. He has kept more balls in the infield, as his IFFB% has moved from 6% in 2018 to 13% in 2019. His xERA supports his results and illustrates that his helpful ratios should continue. 

After some misfortune with a 36% H% in 2018, Bieber's skills and results have matched in 2019. His curveball has created more swings and misses, and his SwK points to a double-digit Dom finish. The right-hander's strikeouts pair well with his strong Ctl, and his ability to limit walks support a WHIP that can help lower a roster's ratios. Even as he is giving up harder contact on fly balls, his IFFB% jump and xERA back his sub-3.50 ERA. The 2019 Baseball Forecaster noted his "potential breakout year," and his elite skills suggest we should expect the breakout to continue. 

 

Hicks turns a profit... After missing time with a lower back strain in April and May, Aaron Hicks (OF, NYY) has provided single-digit R$ in 2019. In 199 at-bats, he has hit .246 with 12 HR, 36 RBI, 37 R, and 1 SB. With six seasons of missed time and a Grade D for health, what can we expect going forward?

Year   AB   BA/  xBA HR/SB  bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO
====  ===  ========= =====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  =======  ====  ======= 
2015  352  .256/.256 11/13    9   81  42/23/35  29    92   84/ 93   11%  124/16%
2016  327  .217/.232  8/ 3    8   79  46/17/37  25    93   72/104    8%   94/ 9%
2017  301  .266/.261 15/10   14   78  44/16/40  30    97  119/119   16%   87/15%
2018  480  .248/.264 27/11   15   77  40/22/38  27   112  122/131   19%  111/ 8%
2019  199  .246/.242 12/ 1   12   69  43/16/41  29    95  133/110   21%   82/ 6%

The power is there for 20 HR, but his Spd and SBO are waning: 

  • While his HctX has appeared to return to his pre-2018 level, he has increased his HctX each month, including posting a 106 HctX in July. His above-average xPX, FB%, and 6.2% Brls/PA support his power, and he owns a 142 xPX in July. With a 94.7 mph exit velocity on fly balls and a supportive xPX, he can post 20+ HR in 2019. 
  • He's become more of a free swinger vL (72% ct%) and vR (68% ct%). His HctX and LD% point to an uninspiring xBA. His 76% career ct% suggests we could expect some improvement, but another batting average finish near .250 is likely. 
  • His Spd bump and 85% SB% from 2018 were encouraging, but a Spd and SBO decline in 2019 may limit his SB value. He's only stolen one base in three attempts, and his SBO says not to expect another double-digit SB total. 

The missed time due to injury has not helped Hicks's efforts. With recent xPX and HctX surges in July, his power skills point to another 20+ HR in 2019. So far, his ct% and LD% decline say his BA is a fact, and he could finish the season with a similar BA. While his Spd rebound was a pleasant surprise in 2018, his falling Spd and SBO could limit his swipes in 2019. Although health (Grade D) is still a concern, his power and counting stats in a strong lineup are enough for a shot at a double-digit R$ in the second half. 

 

Barnes's skills are strong... Entering the season, owners were targeting Matt Barnes (RHP, BOS) as a late-round selection for possible saves. His three wins, four saves, 72 strikeouts, 4.24 ERA, and 1.26 WHIP in 40 IP have resulted in a career-high $5 R$. When we checked on him in March, his skills were strong, but he had an issue with walks. How are his skills now?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK    G/L/F    H%  S% hr/f  BPV 
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  === === ====  === 
2015   43  5.44  4.54  3.1   8.2  2.6  58%  10%  39/22/40   36  73  16%   79
2016   67  4.05  4.01  4.2   9.6  2.3  58%  11%  46/21/33   32  72  10%   84 
2017   70  3.88  3.38  3.6  10.7  3.0  57%  13%  49/23/28   31  71  14%  122
2018   62  3.65  2.88  4.5  14.0  3.1  56%  15%  53/14/33   35  73  11%  161
2019   40  4.24  2.44  4.5  16.1  3.6  59%  16%  50/24/26   39  68  20%  197

He has posted an elite BPV (197 BPV), but walks have still been an issue:

  • His 96.5 mph velocity is consistent, but he is throwing his curveball (20% SwK) more often in 2019. His fastball hasn't missed as many bats (10% SwK) in 2019, but his SwK is still strong. With an elite SwK, expect healthy strikeout totals.  
  • Even with a a FpK bump, his Ctl is still an issue. His 3.9 career Ctl says that the walks may keep coming. 
  • Keeping the ball on the ground has helped his xERA, but his hr/f hasn't done him any favors. His 13% career hr/f and 88.7 mph allowed exit velocity on fly balls point to a better deserved fate. With a 34% career H%, his ERA can improve in the second half. 
  • Barnes has been used in high-leverage situations, as his 1.49 LI is first in the Boston bullpen. On the downside, he has closed out four games with six blown saves. 

Barnes's skills continue to grow in 2019. With a curveball-first approach, his elite SwK points to continued strikeouts. Unfortunately, his Ctl history says that steady walks could continue to keep WHIP near his current WHIP. The right-hander's hard-contact allowed has held steady, his H% could improve, and his xERA points to an improved ERA in the second half. His LI supports high-leverage use, but his six blown saves could keep him as a fireman in the Red Sox bullpen. With elite skills and a chance for a better ERA, his career-high R$ could improve in the second half.  

 

Garver displays power... As a late-round pick, Mitch Garver (C, MIN) has carried over his power from five second-half HR from 2018 and surged to new HR levels in 2019. Through 189 at-bats, he is hitting .291 with 19 HR, 42, RBI, and 42 R. Can he keep his surge rolling in August and September?

Year   AB  HR    BA   xBA    vL/vR    bb%  ct%    G/L/F   HctX   PX/xPX  hr/f
====  ===  ==  ====  ====  =========  ===  ===  ========  ====  =======  ====
2017* 366  16  .256  .254  .762/.530   12   70  45/16/39    91  143/ 95    0%
2018  302   7  .268  .246  .629/.806    9   76  40/23/38   114   95/122    8%
2019  189  19  .291  .278 1.255/.902   11   71  38/15/48   121  186/156   29%
*Includes MLEs

The power growth is encouraging, but his hr/f and BA may slide: 

  • Look at that power surge in Garver's xPX, FB%, and HctX growth. While his hr/f may drift towards his 16% career hr/f, he's stinging the ball. His average exit velocity on fly balls has jumped from 91.1 mph in 2018 to 95.1 mph in 2019, and his 9.4% Brls/PA ranks 26th in the majors. He owns a 175 xPX and 136 HctX in July, and he could chase 30 HR. 
  • Even with a ct% drop, his bb% says he has remained patient. With an above-average HctX and a 19% career LD%, he can finish with an above-average BA, even if it slides towards his xBA. 
  • While a 35% h% vL has helped his cause, his 15% bb% vL has contributed to an 0.80 Eye vL. He's hitting the ball hard versus southpaws, as he owns a 96.8 mph exit velocity on fly balls vL. 

Garver has achieved career highs in 2019, and his career-high skills (89 BPV) support most of his results. Although his hr/f may not last, his xPX, HctX, and FB% all support his power profile, and his exit velocity and barrel growth say his power has grown. While a favorable h% has boosted his efforts vL, he's drawing more walks with harder contact against southpaws. His spot in a top-five offense can lead to healthy counting stats, and a career-high BPV and R$ have been a tremendous value. 

 

Pressly's ratios shine... Ryan Pressly (RHP, HOU) has taken the momentum from his $7 R$ finish in 2018 and built upon it in 2019. Through 44 IP, his two wins, three saves, 2.03 ERA, and 0.86 WHIP have provided $13 worth of R$. Without many saves on the record, how have his skills fared?

Year  IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK    G/L/F   H%/S%  hr/f  BPV   LI
====  ==  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ====
2015  28  2.93  4.39  3.9   7.2  1.8  59%   9%  47/20/33  33/77    0%   48  0.93
2016  75  3.70  4.38  2.7   8.0  2.9  57%  12%  39/24/36  33/76   10%   87  1.19
2017  61  4.70  3.71  2.8   9.0  3.2  58%  13%  52/17/33  27/64   19%  115  0.94
2018  71  2.54  2.71  2.8  12.8  4.6  61%  18%  52/17/32  34/81   12%  185  1.16
2019  44  2.03  2.58  1.6  11.2  6.9  60%  17%  51/26/23  26/85   21%  186  1.26

His elite skills and 186 BPV back helpful ratios:

  • Ramping up his curveball usage has created more swings and misses (22% SwK), with hitters chasing the pitch out of the zone (49% O-Swing%) quite often. Hitters are still chasing (48% O-Swing%) his slider, even though it's missing (19% SwK) fewer bats in 2019. His powerful SwK and secondary pitches support a double-digit Dom. 
  • He supports his metronome-like GB% with his slider (73% GB%) and curveball (52% GB%). Even with some possible S% regression towards his 75% career S%, he has the chance to finish with an ERA in the low 2.00's.  
  • While his steady FpK can keep walks down, his 2.8 career Ctl points to a few more walks in the second half.   
  • His 1.26 LI is second-highest in the Houston bullpen, but he has three saves and four blown saves in 2019. 

Pressly has built upon his 2018 success with two secondary pitches that create plenty of swings and misses. With an elite SwK, he should continue to add strikeouts to a roster. His secondary offerings also back a strong GB%, and his FpK can helpful Ctl, even if he issues a few more walks. Although he only has three saves, his strikeouts and ratios back a double-digit R$ finish. 


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