FACTS/FLUKES: Dickerson, Cervelli, Dyson, Jansen, Schwarber

If only he could do both… Corey Dickerson (OF, PIT) made a conscious change in 2018, trading power for contact. It worked, as his batting average climbed but home run output dropped. He added some steals to boot, and his overall value remained about the same.  What should we expect going forward?

Year     AB  HR SB   BA XBA  OPS  BB CT  HctX  H%  GB LD FB  PX  xPX  HRF  SPD SBO
======  ===  == ==  === ===  ===  == ==  ====  ==  == == ==  === ===  ===  === ===
2013    194   5  2  263 282  775   8 79   106  31  40 26 34  132 107   10  148   9
2014    436  24  8  312 298  931   8 77   123  36  37 27 36  176 135   20  122  13
2015    224  10  0  304 296  869   4 75   122  37  38 30 32  161 135   19  118   2
2016    510  24  0  245 256  761   6 74    95  29  38 17 45  144 119   14   90   2
2017    588  27  4  282 265  815   6 74   101  34  42 22 36  122 106   17  117   5
2018    504  13  8  300 284  804   4 84   106  34  38 27 35  100 101   09  128   9
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
'18-1H  276   5  3  297 273  772   4 86    98  33  35 26 39   82  91   05  117   7
'18-2H  228   8  5  303 300  844   4 82   115  34  41 28 30  124 113   14  133  12

First, let’s look at what changed overall:

  • His trade of power for contact can be clearly observed in the 10 point increase in ct%.
  • However, 2018’s PX/xPX were down for the 4th straight year.
  • HR/F dropped sharply from his previously established above-average rate.
  • xBA supported much of his BA increase, but note than an increase in line drive rate is a tenuous foundation that typically regresses.
  • He increased SBO%, but didn’t overtax it; Spd score supports double-digit SB if he chooses to run.

As mentioned above and in the Baseball Forecaster, the overall fantasy value was a wash. However, there may be some upside hidden in that 2nd half:

  • 2nd half PX and xPX surged nicely.
  • HctX increased to his best since 2015.
  • HR/F rebounded closer to previous levels, though FB rate also dropped.
  • Contact gains dipped only slightly.

Our current projection of .290 average with 20 HR is well within reach with his current skill set and merely league average HR/F.  To achieve more would require that he hold contact gains while recovering lost power, a trick not many can pull off. Even so, his current ADP of 205 make him an affordable choice to boost BA without hurting any other category.


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Good when healthy, but never healthy... Francisco Cervelli (C, PIT) delivered a career best OPS over 100 games in 2018 en route to an $8 5x5 value. Was this a growth season for the 33-year-old?

Yr    AB  HR RBI   BA XBA  OBA SLG OPS  BB CT  HctX  H%  GB LD FB   PX XPX HRF  $5x5
===  ===  == ===  === ===  === === ===  == ==  ====  ==  == == ==  === === ===  ====
'14  146   2  13  301 253  370 432 802   7 72   110  41  44 26 30  116 126   6  -$3
'15  451   7  43  295 249  370 401 771   9 79   106  36  52 21 27   69 100   7   $10
'16  326   1  33  264 236  377 322 699  14 78    85  34  56 20 24   44  59   2   $3
'17  265   5  31  249 246  342 370 712  11 75   100  31  52 21 27   75 101   9  -$1
'18  332  12  57  259 237  378 431 809  13 75    93  31  39 19 42  103 110  11   $8

There are some positive signs:

  • HR output was supported by improved PX/xPX, his best aside from short 2014 sample.
  • Increase in FB% helped offset below-average hard contact.
  • Plate skills remain a strength, providing a nice BA floor and making him an OBP asset. 
  • He has hit RHP better than LHP over the last two years, so he isn’t at risk of short-side platoon role.

That said, likely the biggest reason for last season’s success is simply that he was healthy for the first three months, before suffering yet another concussion (his third in two years). He then missed a month and his production fell off sharply afterwards (233 xBA, 74 xPX). This highlights the biggest issue with Cervelli: he gets hurt every year, and he often plays through injury, impacting his performance.

The Pirates experimented with playing him at 1B in 2018, and if they do it again it could be a nice boost to his playing time while limiting wear and tear. But if he’s purely catching, his limited playing time and injury risk make him only worth buying at a discount; don’t pay for a repeat.

 

Back on track... Sam Dyson (RHP, SF) has generally succeeded as a late inning reliever without swing-and-miss stuff by inducing grounders at an elite rate. It worked in three of four seasons, but anyone who owned him in 2017 probably still cringes at his name. He spent 2018 trying to rediscover his sinker, and results suggest he did. Should we trust him going forward?

Yr   IP  SV Hd   ERA xERA   WHP  OBA  H% S%  GB  Ctl Dom  FpK SwK   Vel  HRF  BPV
===  ==  == ==  ==== ====  ====  ===  == ==  ==  === ===  === ===  ====  ===  ===
'14  42  0   0  2.14 3.34  1.33  255  32 84  63  3.2 7.1   60  11  95.6   4   82
'15  75  2  21  2.63 2.74  1.14  233  30 78  69  2.5 8.5   60  13  95.8  13  132
'16  70  38 10  2.43 3.29  1.22  244  29 83  65  2.9 7.0   61   9  95.3  16   90
'17  55  14  4  6.09 5.13  1.77  296  33 67  63  4.9 5.6   53   8  95.1  21    8
'18  70  3  15  2.69 3.34  1.08  228  26 77  61  2.6 7.2   61  12  93.6  11   99

If you trusted him before, you should trust him again. Well… mostly:

  • Command recovered to best result since 2015, and both SwK and FPK support results.
  • Groundball rate continued to erode, though it is still elite.
  • Fastball velocity was down for the season and 2 mph below its peak.
  • 2018’s xERA was solid, but somewhat higher than ERA due to that low h% and HR/FB.

If Dyson ends up closing games in 2019, he’s a good bet to hold the job. As long as he doesn’t lose the feel for that sinker again, his skills are solid (though not elite). If he struggles, you’ll be able to tell if it’s the same problem returning by looking at how well hitters do against his sinker.

 

LHP love him ... Kyle Schwarber (OF, CHC) hasn’t yet lived up to the potential that earned him a 9D prospect rating back in 2015, instead becoming a solid strong-side platoon bat. In 2018 he provided solid power and improved, if still sub-par, batting average.  Can he turn the corner and become a star?

Year       AB  HR  BA XBA  OBA SLG OPS  BB CT Eye  HctX  H%  GB LD FB   PX XPX  HRF
====      ===  == === ===  === === ===  == == ===  ====  ==  == == ==  === ===  ===
2015      232  16 246 243  355 487 842  13 67 .47   115  29  40 17 42  163 157   24
2016      N/A – 4 AB season
2017      422  30 211 234  315 467 782  12 64 .39    95  24  38 15 46  161 125   24
2018      428  26 238 243  356 467 823  15 67 .56   100  29  44 19 37  143 119   25
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Carr. vL  214   6 182      300 308 608  14 58 .39        28  42 20 38   95
Carr. vR  872  66 240      349 509 858  14 68 .50        27  41 17 42  161

Unfortunately, he appears to be stagnating

  • His platoon role is well-earned; vL contact rate has been downright awful and vL power below average.
  • 2018’s batting average improvement was due to hit rate regression; xBA remained steady.
  • PX and XPX dropped slightly due to a falling FB rate.

On the plus side, HR/F is well established, so his power is still there if he can tap into it.  In addition, is walk rate is strong versus both lefties and righties, giving him an OBP floor.

214 career at-bats versus lefties is a small sample, so there could be a chicken and egg thing going on. In fact, his contact rate against them has improved in each of the last two seasons:

      ---vL---
Year  AB  CT%
====  =======
2015  56  .52
2017  82  .59
2018  76  .63

At 26, he is young enough to improve with more exposure.  For now, the prudent gamble is to bank on something between 2017 and 2018, but with a glimmer of hope that he could become serviceable v. LHP.

 

His worst is excellent... Kenley Jansen (RHP, LA) looked mortal in 2018.  While it was still an excellent season, declines in his peripherals resulted in a career low full-season BPV.  The impact that his recurring irregular heartbeat may have had is difficult to estimate, but we can see what the numbers say about a possible decline.

Year   G   SV  IP  ERA  xERA  WHP   H% S%  GB  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK SwK  Vel  HRF  BPV
====   ==  ==  ==  ==== ====  ====  == ==  ==  === ==== ====  === ===  ==== ===  ===
2010   25   4  27  0.67 2.93  1.00  25 93  34  5.0 13.7  2.7   53  15  93.9   0  123
2011   51   5  54  2.85 2.38  1.04  33 74  27  4.4 16.1  3.7   60  17  93.3   7  177
2012   65  25  65  2.35 2.63  0.85  24 78  33  3.0 13.7  4.5   61  15  91.9  10  175
2013   75  28  77  1.88 2.29  0.86  29 83  37  2.1 13.0  6.2   64  16  92.4  10  192
2014   68  44  65  2.76 2.43  1.13  38 78  35  2.6 13.9  5.3   67  17  93.7   9  193
2015   54  36  52  2.41 2.46  0.78  29 77  35  1.4 13.8 10.0   70  18  92.5  10  223
2016   71  47  69  1.84 2.60  0.67  26 76  30  1.4 13.6  9.5   68  18  93.6   6  214
2017   65  41  68  1.32 2.26  0.75  32 89  38  0.9 14.4 15.6   73  19  93.3   9  250
2018   69  38  72  3.01 3.62  0.99  25 81  35  2.1 10.3  4.8   65  14  92.3  16  141
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
'18-1H 36  21  38  2.37 3.85  0.92  24 81  38  2.1  8.8  4.1   65  13  92.3  10  116
'18-2H 33  17  34  3.74 3.39  1.07  28 81  32  2.1 12.0  5.6   66  15  92.4  23  168

While he was still great, there were some warning signs for the 31-year-old:

  • Dom decrease to career-low was consistent with a career-low SwK rate.
  • Fastball velo dropped by one MPH, although he has pitched to elite results with that velo before.
  • Lucky H% helped to mask subpar (for him) Cmd, particularly in the first half.
  • FpK, while still very good, also marked a decrease.

Overall, 2018 (especially the 2nd half) looked most like 2013, which was still an elite year. It is testament to how high his peak was that even with diminished SwK and FpK, signs still point to a BPV that should again approach 200—particularly if we squint hard enough to ignore last year’s first half.  The concern would be if there is additional loss of velocity or command, so watch for it in the spring. Failing that (or if you have to draft before then), draft him as a good bet to be a top-five closer once again.


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