FACTS/FLUKES: Nimmo, G. Torres, Lester, W. Davis, E. Rodriguez

Nimmo offers breakout potential... Brandon Nimmo (OF, NYM) has already been through a lot of ups and downs in his young career, starting out as a first round draft pick only to be later questioned as to whether he'd pan out as a starter or a fourth outfielder because of a lack of power. Did his 17 HR in 2018 answer those questions?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====
2014# 240  .200   N/A   10   75   N/A     N/A     91/N/A   N/A  116/ 8%   5/ 4
2015^ 360  .237   N/A    9   76   N/A     N/A     61/N/A   N/A  122/11%   4/ 4
2016* 465  .279  .261    8   76    87  42/30/28   76/ 79    7%  123/10%   9/ 5
2017* 340  .221  .226   14   65    92  43/24/33   98/106   13%  101  2%   7/ 2
2018  433  .263  .254   15   68    93  45/22/33  148/114   18%  145/11%  17/ 9
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
18-1H 211  .270  .249   12   66   103  39/19/42  169/159   21%  174/15%  12/ 7
18-2H 222  .257  .259   19   69    83  50/24/25  128/ 74   13%  113/ 7%   5/ 2
#Double-A MLEs
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs
*Includes MLEs

Not completely, but they've at least changed the conversation:

  • Nimmo flashed career-best power skills in the first half of 2018, until two different finger injuries—his right pinky in late June, and left index finger in mid-August—derailed his progress in the second half.
  • He increased his power without sacrificing his elite walk rate or giving up more contact—he entered 2018 with a 68% contact rate in the majors, and that's where he stayed. He did alter his GB/FB output in the first half as part of the power surge, which could create some BA downside; that will be worth monitoring in 2019.
  • His Speed skill remains above average, but he has yet to fully tap into it. His nine steals in 2018 represented his highest total since High-A ball in 2014. And again, prior to the finger injuries, he was on a pace for double-digit steals.
  • LHP remain a bit of a weakness for the left-handed Nimmo, though he did post a .742 OPS and 119 PX in 128 AB against them in 2018, both career highs.

Nimmo will turn 26 the day before Opening Day in 2019, so he's at the right age for a full-season breakout if he can stay healthy and build off of that promising first half. 211 AB isn't a large enough sample to declare that the questions about his power are behind him, but it's certainly encouraging. Mets manager Mickey Callaway recently stated that Nimmo "needs to be leading off" in 2019, which could give him a shot at career highs in AB and, with his walk rate and high OBP, runs scored. And if all goes well, he could also reach the upside projection of 25 HR and 15 SB listed in the 2019 Baseball Forecaster.


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Rookie season set high bar for Torres... With a .271 BA and 24 HR in 431 AB, Gleyber Torres (2B/SS, NYY) had a very good rookie season in 2018, returning $20 in Rotisserie value. What can his skills tell us about his chances for a repeat in 2019?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====
2017^ 201  .278   N/A   13   75   N/A     N/A    117/N/A   N/A  101/21%   8/ 7
2018* 480  .276  .247    9   72   102  33/25/43  122/115   18%  105/ 7%  25/ 7
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
18-1H 257  .294  .262    7   73   109  31/26/43  139/137   22%  107/ 7%  15/ 3
18-2H 223  .256  .229   11   71    96  35/23/43  101/ 95   14%  100/ 7%  10/ 4
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs
*Includes MLEs

He might struggle to match the performance:

  • Torres's batting average was a bit lucky, aided by a 33% hit rate. And while he hit .325 with a .299 xBA through his first 114 AB, after June 1st, he hit .252 with a .228 xBA over 317 AB.
  • His power skills also faded in the second half, though as Greg Pyron pointed out in the 2019 Baseball Forecaster, those numbers were partly dragged down by a poor September (56 xPX). But even in August, he had a 104 xPX and 85 HctX.
  • Torres also missed time in July with a right hip strain, and was scratched from the lineup in late September because of hip and groin tightness, so it's possible his second half struggles were exacerbated by injury.

At 22 years old, Torres is making the transition from top prospect to one of the best young players in the majors, but as we've seen many times before, that transition is not always a smooth one. Torres has tremendous long-term upside—highlighted in the Forecaster as the potential for a .275 BA, 30 HR, and 15 SB—but his skills raise a few concerns that should be factored into his valuation heading into 2019.

 

Did Lester really bounce back?... From 2016 to 2017, Jon Lester (LHP, CHC) saw his ERA nearly double in a forgettable season, but in 2018, he rebounded with 18 wins and a 3.32 ERA. Did his skills support the resurgent performance?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ===
2014  220  2.46  3.19  2.0  9.0  4.6  42/21/37  31/81    7%  61%  10%  129
2015  205  3.34  3.13  2.1  9.1  4.4  49/22/29  31/72   10%  61%  11%  135
2016  203  2.44  3.43  2.3  8.7  3.8  47/20/33  26/82   12%  63%  11%  120
2017  181  4.33  3.95  3.0  9.0  3.0  46/21/32  32/71   16%  58%  11%  105
2018  182  3.32  4.47  3.2  7.4  2.3  38/26/36  29/80   12%  57%   9%   63

They did not:

  • Lester got a big assist from a high strand rate—his xERA was more than a run higher than his ERA, and along with nearly every metric, suggests that his 2018 performance was actually worse than his disappointing 2017 season.
  • That 4.47 xERA and his 63 BPV were the lowest full-season marks in those two categories for his entire career. He also posted his worst OPS vs. left-handed batters (.878) since his rookie year in 2006.
  • As he enters his age-35 season, there are worrying downward trends in most of his skills, most notably xERA and Cmd. And despite a strong track record of health—he's made between 31 and 33 starts every year since he successfully treated his lymphoma and became a full-time starter in 2008—his innings pitched total has been in gradual decline.

Given his age and declining skills, Lester carries considerable risk heading into 2019, and the disconnect between his 2018 surface stats and the underlying metrics creates the strong possibility that he'll be overvalued in drafts and auctions this spring. Unless you can get him a discount, you'd be wise to pursue other starting pitching options.

 

Shaky control catching up with Davis... Wade Davis (RHP, COL) led the National League in saves in 2018 despite posting his worst ERA since 2013. Does he still look like an elite saves option for 2019?

Year  IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK   Vel  BPV
====  ==  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ===
2014  72  1.00  2.08  2.9  13.6  4.7  48/22/30  29/87    0%  61%  15%  95.7  194
2015  67  0.94  3.04  2.7  10.4  3.9  38/21/41  21/92    5%  61%  12%  95.9  131
2016  43  1.87  3.47  3.3   9.8  2.9  49/18/33  30/82    0%  53%  13%  94.9  113
2017  59  2.30  3.50  4.3  12.1  2.8  40/21/38  28/85   12%  59%  15%  94.3  120
2018  65  4.13  3.54  3.6  10.7  3.0  42/18/40  25/64   13%  49%  12%  93.8  117

He's still closer-worthy, just not elite:

  • Davis's xERA, Cmd, and BPV histories show that he was roughly the same pitcher in 2018 as he was in 2016-17; the biggest difference was that his strand rate went from lucky to unlucky.
  • That said, there are still reasons to be concerned: his FpK reached a career low in 2018, and that could lead to a higher walk rate, and his velocity is now two full miles per hour down from its 2015 peak.
  • Davis did claim to have identified and fixed a mechanical flaw on August 10th. After that date, he was ridiculously good again, with a 0.50 ERA, 12.5 Dom, 1.0 Ctl, and 0 HR allowed over 18 IP. His SwK for Aug/Sept was 15%, which supports the increased Dom that followed his mechanical adjustment, but his FpK for Aug/Sept was 43%, which does not support his newfound control during that time. More strikeouts combined with more walks would probably look a lot like his 2017 line.

At 33, Davis is no longer as dominant as he was at his peak, but his skills still paint him as an above average reliever. However, if his walk rate were to rise due to a continued struggle throwing first pitch strikes, that would make him a much riskier closer to own. And when you add in the dangers of his home park (4.73 ERA, 1.4 HR/9 at Coors in 2018, compared to 3.55 and 0.8 on the road), there's good reason to be cautious in your assessment of Davis for the 2019 season.

 

Rodriguez still showing promise... 2018 was the best season yet for Eduardo Rodriguez (LHP, BOS), as he posted new career bests in wins, ERA, and strikeout rate... on the other hand, he once again failed to stay healthy enough to pitch more than 140 IP in the majors. What do his skills tell us about his development as a major league pitcher?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ===
2015  122  3.85  4.13  2.7   7.2  2.6  43/24/33  30/73   10%  57%   9%   78
2016  107  4.71  4.71  3.4   8.4  2.5  32/22/46  29/67   11%  59%  11%   71
2017  137  4.19  4.26  3.3   9.8  3.0  35/22/43  31/71   12%  61%  12%  101
2018  130  3.82  3.97  3.1  10.1  3.2  39/20/41  32/74   11%  61%  11%  115

He's quietly showing steady growth:

  • Rodriguez has seen his Dom rise every year he's been in the majors, and since 2016, he's logged annual improvement in xERA, Ctl, Cmd, and BPV. He has gradually become an above average pitcher.
  • His push to a double-digit strikeout rate in 2018 coincided with a shift in pitch usage, as he increased use of his sinker (10.5%) and cutter (15.3%) while scaling back reliance on his four-seam fastball (41.9%, down from 61.4% in 2017). The four-seamer is still his most frequently-thrown pitch, but reducing its usage seemed to make it more effective, as his whiff rate with it increased from 10.4% to 11.9%.
  • Health remains a big concern. In each of the last three seasons, he's missed significant time, with the majority of those injuries being connected to ongoing issues with his right knee. That recurrence makes his injury risk slightly higher than most players.

It's easy to forget how young Rodriguez is—he'll turn 26 in the first week of April—and that he's just now reaching his peak years. His growth hasn't been flashy, but he's taken solid steps forward, and if you can acquire him at a price that factors in the possibility of more time missed to injury, he could offer some modest upside for 2019.


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