FACTS/FLUKES: Cain, Panik, J. Martinez, W. Davis, Foltynewicz

Cain lands in great spot ... Lorenzo Cain (OF, MIL) bounced back from an injury-plagued 2016 season, and besides the runs and RBIs, delivered a near carbon copy of his outstanding 2015 season. Can he do it again in 2018?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  =======  ====  =======
2013  399   4/14  .251  .247   7    77  49/22/29  31    78   76/69     4%  125/19%
2014  471   5/28  .301  .260   5    77  51/23/26  38    72   90/68     5%  130/26%
2015  551  16/28  .307  .283   6    82  46/23/31  35   114  108/109   11%  138/23%
2016  397   9/14  .287  .257   7    79  47/23/30  35    96   76/79     9%   96/16%
2017  584  15/26  .300  .269   8    83  44/23/33  34   104   76/84     9%  150/15%

Cain's skills are holding up pretty well:

  • He may not be able to duplicate his career-best contact rate, but the line drive stroke is firmly intact. He has a long track record of beating xBA by a sizeable margin, and is a threat to bat .300 again.
  • The power metrics aren't particularly impressive, but the move from a home park that is -24% for RHB HR to one that is +8% should help him at least get close to his 2017 home run total.
  • A career best Spd score at age 31 looks prime for regression, but his SBO was actually the lowest of his career by a slim margin. After stealing 26 bases in 28 attempts in 2017, and moving from a team that tied for 11th in stolen base attempts to one that ranked second, Cain should be active on the bases.

Part of Cain's success in 2017 was driven by a career high 645 plate appearances, but the BA and speed skills remain intact, and he now finds himself in a great situation. His new team's aggressive approach bodes well for his stolen base totals, the lineup around him should boost his counting stats, and the new home park should help him contribute decent power numbers. Teammate Christian Yelich is getting all the hype, but Cain looks like a rock solid investment as well in 2018. Bid with confidence. 


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Panik a sneaky late value ... Joe Panik (2B, SF) rebounded from an ugly 2016 season, getting his batting average back up to his expected level, while contributing double digit homers for the second straight year. Is there potential for even more in 2018?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX  PX/xPX  Spd  SBO
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ======  ===  ===
2014* 562   4/2   .281  .263    6   87  50/23/27  32    90   53/51  141   3%
2015  382   8/3   .312  .288    9   89  43/23/34  33   115   91/89  111   4%
2016  464  10/5   .239  .270   10   90  45/18/37  25    94   73/87  127   4%
2017  511  10/4   .288  .282    8   89  44/22/34  31    94   70/78  121   3%
*Includes MLEs

Don't count on a step up, but the floor looks pretty safe:

  • Panik puts the ball in play at an incredibly high rate, and his track record suggests that the 25 percent hit rate in 2016 was a huge outlier. Look for him to be an asset in the batting average category again.
  • He doesn't possess much power, and isn't helped by a home park that reduces LHB HR by 47 percent, either, so an increase in home runs seems unlikely.
  • He does have some speed, but hasn't been active on the base paths thus far in his career. He's been successful on 9 of 10 attempts the past two seasons, and the Giants ranked middle of the pack (18th) in steal attempts in 2017, so perhaps there's a bit of untapped potential for him in steals. 

Panik isn't the most exciting player, as he doesn't offer much in the way of power, and his plus speed hasn't translated to many stolen bases, but he makes minor contributions in both areas, and an uptick in steals isn't out of the question. The main reason to target Panik is for his batting average, as 2016 was an aberration, and the elite contact rate should ensure he'll help in the category, an attribute that is hard to find late in drafts (NFBC ADP of 385). He's also a candidate to lead off against right-handed pitching in an improved Giants' offense, which could lead to more runs than he's had in the past. Panik won't be a major difference maker, but makes for a solid target for those needing a BA boost to round out their roster.

 

Is Martinez for real? ... Jose Martinez (OF, STL) burst onto the scene in 2017, batting .309 with 14 home runs across 307 plate appearances. Was the breakout at age 28 legit, or will he come crashing back to earth in 2018?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX  xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ===  ===  ====  =======
2015* 341   7/6   .324   N/A    9   81     N/A    38   N/A   97  N/A   N/A   95/7%
2016# 458   7/8   .226   N/A    6   80     N/A    27   N/A   67  N/A   N/A   88/9%
2017  272  14/4   .309  .286   10   78  42/27/31  35   117  115  123   21%  113/5%
*MLEs
#Includes MLEs

Martinez took a massive step up, so let's dig a little deeper:

  • His power jumped dramatically, and though he didn't hit the ball in the air often, when he did, it left the park at an extremely high rate.
  • He made a lot of hard contact, both by our metric, and average exit velocity, where he ranked 26th in all of baseball (minimum 200 balls in play).
  • He showcased an impressive plate approach, as his patience helped lead to a lofty .379 on-base-percentage.
  • He showed plus speed in 2017, and is 16 for 17 in stolen base attempts across all levels the past two seasons. Regular at-bats could potentially yield double-digit stolen bases.

Martinez was one of the big surprises of 2017, as his eruption at the plate seemingly came out of nowhere. Typically it's wise to automatically expect regression following a leap in performance of this magnitude, but Martinez, by all accounts, displayed outstanding skills across the board, most notably the amount of power he displayed. Further complicating matters is the fact that he doesn't have a place to play regularly now, though an injury to just about anyone in the starting lineup could open up regular playing time, as could hitting like he did a season ago. Martinez probably won't quite keep up the pace he was on in 2017, but he looks like a late bloomer that could very well be poised for a strong follow-up, and the PT uncertainty is creating a decent buying opportunity at his 258 NFBC ADP.

 

Is Davis still a reliable closer in his new home? ...  Wade Davis (RHP, COL) had a stellar season with the Cubs in 2017, saving 32 games to go with his 2.30 ERA. Now signed to a lucrative three-year deal worth $52 million in Colorado, can Davis continue to succeed at a high level?

Year  Sv  IP   ERA/xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK   Vel    G/L/F   H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ==  ==  =========  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ====  ========  =====  ====  ===
2014   3  72  1.00/2.08  2.9  13.6  4.7  61%  15%  95.7  48/22/30  29/87    0%  194
2015  17  67  0.94/3.04  2.7  10.4  3.9  61%  12%  95.9  38/21/41  21/92    5%  131
2016  27  43  1.87/3.47  3.3   9.8  2.9  53%  13%  94.9  49/18/33  30/82    0%  113
2017  32  59  2.30/3.49  4.3  12.1  2.8  59%  15%  94.3  40/21/38  28/85   12%  120
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2H 17 16  31  2.64/4.17  5.3  10.9  2.1  62%  17%  94.3  42/18/40  26/89   17%   73

Davis boasts a strong, though not flawless skill-set:

  • He generates a lot of swings and misses, and even bumped his SwK up to a career best mark in 2017. He has lost a little juice on his fastball, but should remain an excellent source of strikeouts on a per inning basis.
  • His Ctl has been trending in the wrong direction, reaching an apex in the second half of last season. A below average FpK suggests walks may continue to be an issue, a dangerous proposition when pitching at Coors Field half of the time.
  • His ground ball rate has bounced around the last several years, reverting back to slightly below average in that respect in 2017. His three-year run of great fortune with fly balls staying in the park also came to an end, and now that he's in Colorado, an occasional home run against him will be part of the package.
  • He has beat his xERA by more than a run each of the past four seasons, thanks in part to a combination of a consistently high strand rate to go along with the aforementioned hr/f. Perhaps the strand rate is pretty sustainable, as Davis has held batters to a .146/.230/.198! line with runners on base over the past three years. 

Davis has been one of the top closers in the game the past two seasons, compiling a 2.12 ERA and 59 saves during that time, and parlaying that success into a big contract. There are reasons to be a little cautious, as he's been walking more batters, losing a little velocity, and is headed to a very hitter-friendly park. The skills are still pretty attractive, though, and Davis should have plenty of job security with his new team. His ERA is likely to increase again, but he looks like a good bet for solid ratios, plenty of punchouts, and 30-plus saves again in 2018. 

 

 

Full rebound unlikely for Foltynewicz ... After posting a sub-4.00 ERA in 2016, Mike Foltynewicz (RHP, ATL) took a step back last season. He had a 3.83 first half ERA, when luck was on his side, but recorded an ugly 6.04 mark during the second half, with the end result being an ERA jumping nearly a full run from the previous year. Which is the more likely result for 2018? 

Year   IP   ERA/xERA  OPSvL  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK   Vel    G/L/F   H%/S%  hr/f
====  ===  =========  =====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ====  ========  =====  ====
2014* 121  5.36/4.77  1.062  4.2  7.6  1.8  52%  10%  96.7  29/21/51  33/66    9%
2015* 143  5.26/5.96   .950  3.6  8.3  2.3  63%  10%  95.0  33/23/44  36/72   14%
2016* 150  3.93/3.89   .775  3.0  7.9  2.6  63%  10%  95.2  41/21/37  30/73   13%
2017  154  4.79/4.68   .879  3.4  8.4  2.4  62%  10%  95.3  39/24/36  34/70   12%
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2H 17  67  6.04/4.74   .916  3.9  9.0  2.3  62%  11%  96.1  41/25/34  38/63    8%
​*Includes MLEs

Probably somewhere in the middle:

  • He's been a pretty nice source of strikeouts during his young career, despite a consistent and slightly below average SwK. The whiffs and velocity even went up a bit in the second half of 2017, but the gains were masked by some bad luck that led to an inflated ERA.
  • Walks have been an issue at times for Foltynewicz, including late last year, but an above average FpK suggests he could potentially get back down to his 2016 level in the category.
  • After taking a step forward vs lefties in 2016, Foltynewicz struggled against them again last year. A 36 percent hit rate was part of the problem, but he didn't do himself any favors with a 1.9 Cmd.
  • He still has a slight fly ball tilt, though not nearly as heavy as it was a couple seasons ago. Pitching in a home park that increased LHB HR by 16 percent in 2017 is likely to lead to more troubles with the long ball, though his issues were on the road last year (1.5 hr/9).

Foltynewicz was a disappointment in 2017, as he couldn't hold onto the gains he had made in 2016 with regards to his Ctl and effectiveness against left-handed batters. He can be a respectable strikeout source, but this doesn't look like the profile of a strikeout-per-inning or better pitcher, and an inability to solve lefties severely limits his upside. Some ERA improvement is likely, but expecting it to go under 4.00 again looks like a reach. There are better places to speculate beyond pick 300.


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