FACTS/FLUKES: Freeman, LeMahieu, Pirela, Quintana, Blach

Freeman locked in ... Freddie Freeman (1B, ATL) got off to a ridiculously hot start before a fractured wrist knocked him out of action for seven weeks. He's picked up right where he left off since returning to action, batting .287/.359/.522 with seven home runs in 128 plate appearances. Is this his true level?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX  xPX  hr/f  Spd
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ===  ===  ====  ===
2013  551  23/1   .319  .274   11   78  38/27/35  38   123  121  152   15%   95
2014  607  18/3   .288  .283   13   76  37/31/32  35   131  134  159   12%   96
2015  416  18/3   .276  .279   12   76  37/28/36  32   129  133  152   16%   78
2016  589  34/6   .302  .279   13   71  30/29/41  38   125  173  177   20%  107
2017  250  21/6   .316  .312   13   78  35/25/41  33   113  177  160   27%   95

Freeman's skills are top notch:

  • He bumped up his fly ball rate in 2016, and his power metrics surged across the board, including a lofty home run per fly ball rate. He's basically held onto those gains this season, and even more fly balls are leaving the park.
  • He's been a line drive machine throughout his career, which has led to elevated hit rates and a high batting average, even when his contact rate fell off last year. He's striking out at a career low rate in 2017, and has clearly established himself as a BA anchor.
  • The combination of his patience and the opposing pitchers' fear of facing him has led to plenty of walks and a .416 on-base-percentage so far this year.
  • He's always possessed decent speed, but hasn't been very active on the base paths. He's already matched his career high in stolen bases despite missing extended time, and could reach double digit steals, which would be icing on the cake.

Freeman took his game to another level in 2016, and has been even better when on the field this year. He's maintained the monster power, while cutting down on the strikeouts, and even being more aggressive on the base paths. Freeman's home run pace will probably slow down just a bit, as his home run per fly ball rate will be difficult to sustain. But it's difficult to find a flaw in his skill-set, and he should continue to be one of the elite bats in the game, for the rest of 2017 and beyond.


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Checking in on LeMahieu ... After winning the NL batting title in 2016, DJ LeMahieu (2B, COL) got off to a slow start this year. He's hit .390 since June 15th, so that part of his game is back, but what does the overall picture look like?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX  PX  xPX  Spd  SBO
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ==  ===  ===  ===  
2013* 547   3/23  .285  .286    4   84  55/27/18  34    98  64   64  148  22%
2014  494   5/10  .267  .250    6   80  56/21/23  32    98  57   84  153  14%   
2015  564   6/23  .301  .271    8   81  54/26/19  36    95  58   75  146  14%
2016  552  11/11  .348  .303   11   86  51/27/23  39   122  84   95  160   9%
2017  415   4/5   .318  .296    9   86  56/26/18  36   107  53   57   89   7%
*Includes MLEs

The BA is safe, but LeMahieu's power/speed combo is waning:

  • He cut down on the strikeouts in 2016, and continues to put the ball in play at a high rate this year. Combine that with his line drive stroke and Coors Field, and he's a lock to deliver an excellent batting average.
  • He's been making a lot of hard contact the past couple seasons, but doesn't hit the ball in the air all that often. Don't count on another double digit home run season out of LeMahieu.
  • He's been a disappointment in the speed department in 2017, as his SBO has dipped further, and he's been successful on just five of his nine attempts. Outside of his 2015 campaign, when he stole 23 bases in 26 attempts, LeMahieu's efficiency has been poor at just 60 percent (45 for 75).

LeMahieu continues to be one of the most reliable sources for a high batting average. His overall value has taken a hit since both his speed and power have fallen off, and a full rebound for either don't look all that promising. Still, with a guaranteed .300-plus average and a spot near the top of the lineup at Coors Field, LeMahieu is still entrenched as a rock solid middle infield option.

 

New approach working for Pirela ... Jose Pirela (OF, SD) entered 2016 with an awful .226/.246/.321 batting line and just one home run in 144 career major league plate appearances. A hot start at Triple-A El Paso earned him a promotion, and he hasn't looked back. Is he for real?

Year     AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%  FB%   h%  HctX   PX  xPX  Spd
====    ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===
2015*   241   3/4   .274   N/A   8    88  N/A  N/A   N/A   63  N/A   81
2016*   137   1/1   .193   N/A   4    80  N/A  N/A   N/A   57  N/A   88
17 AAA# 181  13/8   .331   N/A   8    86  N/A   33   N/A  N/A  N/A  N/A
17 MLB  204   7/3   .299  .293   6    78   34   35   105  139   97  136
*MLEs
#Actual Minor League Stats

The sample is still pretty small, but Pirela looks like a different player in 2017:

  • He hasn't shown much pop in the past, but is hitting for a lot of power this year. He credits his Triple-A manager and hitting coach with helping him tweak his swing, which has reportedly led to a lot more fly balls.
  • The jump in power has led to a few more strikeouts, but it's a tradeoff that has worked out well so far, and xBA shows he's deserving of a high batting average.
  • He's been a threat on the base paths through much of his minor league career, but had slowed down in 2015-16, with just seven steals in 539 plate appearances across all levels. He's been very aggressive this season, and his Spd score has bounced back as well.

Pirela has made quite an impression since his call-up in early June, as he's developed some never before seen power, stolen a few bases, and been an asset in the batting average category. Pirela's modest track record makes it difficult to fully buy in just yet, but his success this season has strong skill support behind it. The power and BA will likely slip to some extent, but the new approach is paying dividends, and has turned him from organizational depth into mixed league relevant in short order.

 

No reason to worry about Quintana ... Jose Quintana (LHP, CHC) has been both durable and excellent over the past several seasons. He's on pace to finish just shy of a fifth straight 200-inning campaign, but the real story is his 4.42 ERA. What's been the problem, and can he still be trusted?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK    G/L/F   H%  S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ========  ==  ==  ====  ===
2013  200  3.51  3.85  2.5  7.4  2.9  66%   9%  43/20/37  29  75   10%   86
2014  200  3.32  3.51  2.3  8.0  3.4  66%   9%  45/22/33  33  73    5%  104
2015  206  3.36  3.60  1.9  7.7  4.0  69%   9%  47/23/30  33  75    9%  112
2016  208  3.20  3.98  2.2  7.8  3.6  65%   8%  40/21/39  30  76   10%  101
2017  134  4.42  3.93  3.1  9.6  3.0  67%   9%  43/19/38  30  69   14%  108

Quintana's skills haven't changed all that much:

  • He issued a lot of walks early on, but has turned things around, with a 2.6 Ctl over his last 10 starts. His FpK remains strong, but his percentage of pitches in the zone (Zone%) has slipped to a little below average.
  • He's striking batters out at a career high rate, but his SwK has remained steady. He should continue to be a strong strikeout source, but his Dom will probably drop off slightly.
  • This is the second straight year that his fly ball rate has been a little higher than usual, and his home run per fly ball rate has jumped this season as well, leading to a 1.3 hr/9. He's already matched a career high with 19 homers allowed to RHB, and his new home park increases right-handed home runs by 16 percent, so the issues with the long ball may not completely go away.

Quintana has been a model of consistency in recent years, but has been a disappointment to this point in 2017. His skills haven't wavered much, though, and he seems to have put his early season Ctl issues behind him, and even flashed his huge upside with back-to-back double digit strikeout games recently. Even if the home run troubles stick around, the move to the National League should be a net positive for his value, and he's a good bet to end his down year on a high note.

 

Not enough K's for Blach ... Ty Blach (LHP, SF) got off to a rough start, but has turned things around recently. He's posted a 2.98 ERA over his last seven starts, while lasting at least six innings in each one. Can he keep it up?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK    G/L/F   H%  S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ========  ==  ==  ====  ===
2016* 163  4.13   N/A  2.2  5.1  2.3  N/A  N/A     N/A    31  68   N/A   64
2017  128  4.15  4.83  1.9  4.4  2.3  61%   7%  45/22/32  30  68    7%   51
*Includes MLEs

Blach's skills are pretty soft:

  • He's striking out less than a batter every other inning, and his SwK is extremely low. Even during his aforementioned hot stretch, he boasts a subpar 5.2 Dom.
  • He does do a great job of keeping the walks to a minimum, and has walked more than two batters just twice in 19 starts. An above average Zone% and FpK suggest he'll remain strong in that area of his game.
  • His ground ball rate is league average, but he's benefited from making 12 of his 19 starts at AT&T Park, which reduces home runs more than any other park in the majors. His hr/9 there is 0.5, compared to 1.1 on the road, so assuming he makes a higher percentage of his starts away from home, his hr/9 will probably rise.

Blach has been putting up some strong numbers lately, thanks to a combination of stellar control and the extreme pitchers' park he calls home. His complete lack of swing and miss stuff keeps his ceiling very low, though, and leaves his margin for error razor thin. Blach can really only be trusted in nice matchups at home, and his recent run of success is unlikely to last.


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