FACTS/FLUKES: McCutchen, Cain, Davis, Solano, Nicasio

McCutchen's rough road to a repeat ... Andrew McCutchen's (OF, PIT) 2012 was the year many had been waiting for since he was selected in the first round of the 2005 MLB draft. But looking forward to 2013, how much of the 26-year-old's production can he sustain?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  h%   G/L/F     PX  Spd  hr/f  SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ==  ========  ===  ===  ====  ===  =====
2009  433  .286  .271   11   81  33  42/19/39  114  164    9%  21%  12/22
2010  570  .286  .278   11   84  32  43/19/38  106  148    9%  24%  16/33
2011  572  .259  .277   13   78  30  38/20/42  135  109   12%  19%  23/23
2012  593  .327  .281   11   78  38  44/22/34  140  135   19%  16%  31/20

The good news is McCutchen is a wonderfully talented player whose hit, power and speed skills add up to fantalytic gold. But the bad news is that if you pay for 2012's production in 2013, you might be disappointed:

  • First, his xBA trend shows that his hit tool is still improving. But a hit rate of 38% in 2012 is what pushed his BA well above the .300 mark. Given how far his h% is from his history, his BA should regress some in 2013.
  • Second, a hr/f spike drove his HR totals. He sustained that figure at round 20% all season, but earlier levels in the 9%-12% range make us dubious that 19% is a new level. He's more a 25-HR guy than a 30-HR guy at this point.
  • Third, His SB totals are inching downward. McCutchen was bothered by some knee discomfort through the season that might have affected his running game, but as he edges towards 30 years old, his speed may continue to be less and less a part of his game.

No doubt McCutchen is still a fine player who contributes in all five major categories, and at 26 is not yet at his peak. But he's also the classic case of a player whose just-completed season was a no-doubt first-rounder, but the best-case scenario makes the chance of a followup repeat a bit challenging. Your premium dollars may be best spent elsewhere.

 

Cain keeps climbing ... Matt Cain (RHP, SF) enjoyed his best statistical year in 2012, pairing 16 wins with a career-best ERA and WHIP. He was a legit rotation anchor; what are the chances of another?

Year   IP   ERA   xERA  S%  H%   Ctl  Dom   Cmd  hr/9    G/L/F   BPV
====   ===  ====  ====  ==  ==   ===  ====  ===  ====  ========  ===
2008   218  3.76  4.45  74  30   3.8   7.7  2.0   0.8  33/23/44   48    
2009   218  2.89  4.11  80  27   3.0   7.1  2.3   0.9  39/19/42   63    
2010   223  3.14  3.95  75  26   2.5   7.1  2.9   0.9  36/17/47   76    
2011   222  2.88  3.71  73  27   2.6   7.3  2.8   0.4  42/19/39   82
2012   219  2.79  3.71  77  27   2.1   7.9  3.8   0.9  37/21/42  101   

If you read the BPIs, things look remarkably bright for Cain:

  • While another borderline-fortunate strand rate kept his ERA under 3.00, his xERA trend points to a history of skills improvement. Ditto for his BPV, which in 2012 topped triple digits.
  • Both can be fairly traced to "less walks" as his Ctl has gotten stingier since five seasons ago.
  • One potential downside is his FB% that routinely hits 40%+, but his home park is extremely forgiving in that regard. He's yet to have a hr/9 reach 1.0.

Call him the anti-Humber (or, perhaps, Humber is the anti-Cain). In other words, his skills improvement justifies his perfect game from last season. While research tells us to be careful about predicting another skills step up after this many in a row, Cain is at such a high level that he can still be a top starter even if his stats slip a bit. And durable, as he's had 32 or more starts in seven straight seasons. A worthy investment.

 

Ike Davis' slugger profile ... Just looking at the surface stats, one might think that all of a sudden Ike Davis (1B, NYM) turned into Mark Reynolds (1B/3B, CLE) or Adam Dunn (1B, CHW): pure sluggers with big power but little batting average. But of course, the BPIs tell a richer story of nuance and complexity:

Year     AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%   Eye  h%   PX    G/L/F   hr/f  HR
====    ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ==  ===  ========  ====  ==
2010    523  .264  .249   12   74  0.52  33  128  43/16/41   12%  19
2011    129  .302  .288   12   76  0.55  35  170  42/17/41   17%   7
2012    519  .227  .262   11   73  0.43  25  157  39/21/40   21%  32

Davis' youth and "better-than-that" skill set make repeat of 2012's peaks and valleys unlikely:

  • Though he logged more than 500 AB, it's difficult to refute that the 25-year-old's spring training diagnosis of Valley Fever didn't play some part in his 2012 season.
  • His core batting skills—bb% and ct%—barely moved, and his xBA shows that his .227 BA was an aberration. Chalk it up to a hit rate a full 10 points less than the year before. In 2013, his BA should rebound.
  • On the other hand, his 21% hr/f rate was out of whack with the mark in his last full season (2010). Batters with power often increase their hr/f as they mature, but this level of improvement is rarely sustainable. Note that his PX, though, remains strong and he should have decent HR power in the short-term. But expecting 30 bombs again is probably too much.

Assuming full health, Davis' 2013 will likely more closely resemble his 2010 season than 2012: passable BA and 20-something HR power. The result is a valuable, more balanced player that we saw in 2012 with some possible growth to come.

 

Solano a late bloomer? ... Donovan Solano (2B, MIA) was described in our Call-ups column on May 5, 2012 as a reserve/utility player with a limited offensive upside. After which he blossomed into a BA-neutral hitter with a bit of speed who filled in down the stretch for Marlins. Did we miss this one?

Year      AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  h%   G/L/F     PX  Spd  SBO  SB
====     ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ==  ========  ===  ===  ===  ==
2009+    415  .223  .224    6   83  27     --      30   98   3%   3
2010+    330  .210  .242    2   88  23     --      39  103   4%   1
2011+    330  .209  .241    4   82  25     --      72   77   2%   1
2012*    426  .270  .248    6   79  34     --      51  121   8%  10
-------------------------------------------------------------------
2012MLB  285  .295  .253    7   80  36  45/28/27   56  126   8%   7

+MLE
*includes MLE

Hardly. Though right now he's penciled in as the Marlins' starter at 2B for 2013, there is precious little to like in his profile:

  • First, notice the main difference in his MLB line from his previous three-year MLE scan. Incredibly bloated hit rate (and line-drive rate) is the primary culprit, and the sole driver of his .295 MLB BA.
  • Second, the rest of his BPI remain stuck in below-replacement-level mud. Expected BAs in the .240s, absolutely no power, and very little game-usable speed.
  • Third, his plate skills are inconsistent, too. With speed being his lone (though inconsistent) tool, Solano doesn't walk enough to fully use it (nor does he run much when he does get on), and his once-OK ct% has taken a recent dive, too. He'll be exposed over a full season.

With this body of work in the minors, there's little argument to be made that he should even last the whole season. When looking for that last middle infielder on draft day, ignore that shiny .295 from 2011, keep desperation at bay and let someone else nominate Solano. And then—don't move. 

 

Nicasio's injuries keep him under the radar ... Juan Nicasio (RHP, COL) is unlikely to garner much attention in early 2013 drafts. With just 130 career IP over two injury-shortened seasons, and the fact that his 5.28 ERA in 2012 is his most recent stat line, he seems like one to wait on. 

Year   IP   ERA   xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  hr/9  H%  S%  BPV
====   ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ====  ==  ==  ===
2011    72  4.14  3.58  2.3  7.3  3.2   1.0  31  70   94
2012    58  5.28  4.19  3.4  8.4  2.5   1.1  37  69   77

But if one can handle the injury risk, it might pay to be an early adopter on Nicasio:

  • For one, neither of his injuries the past two seasons were arm- or shoulder-related (fractured vertebrae in 2011, knee surgery in 2012). Not to say all's clear, but these may have been more of the "fluke" variety.
  • Second, he was done in on the field in 2012 by a nasty 37% H% in his 11 starts before getting hurt. 
  • Third, his seasonal xERA and BPV showcase his underlying skill. With passable Ctl and a strong Dom producing Cmd ratios of 2.5+, he's got the arm to make a difference.

Nicasio's 6-3, 230 frame also is one that challenges the perception that he's injury-prone; scouts from a few years ago were touting his top-of-the-rotation potential. While that's a long way off—if even attainable at 26 years old—the point is that when healthy, he has the body and the stuff to complete at the big-league level. Latest word has him ready to challenge for a rotation spot in 2013. No question that Nicasio is a risk, but there's also profit potential here.


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