FACTS/FLUKES: Polanco, G. Gonzalez, Tomas, Wacha, K. Marte

Polanco could be undervalued … Gregory Polanco (OF, PIT) took a step forward in 2016 and seemed destined for a big 2017, but injuries (left shoulder, groin, ankle, and hamstring) hampered him all year and required three stints on the disabled list. The result was a disappointing .251 BA and 11 HR/8 SB in 379 AB.  What might be in store for 2018?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA/xBA   ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  SB%
====  ===  =====  =========  ===  ========  ==  ====  =======  ====  ======= ====
2014* 551  12/26  .258/.252   80  50/19/31  31    84   85/86    10%  101/25%  69%
2015  593   9/27  .256/.250   80  45/20/35  31   103   87/95     6%  115/24%  73%
2016  527  22/17  .258/.274   77  39/24/37  30   112  125/110   14%   84/18%  74%
2017  379  11/ 8  .251/.262   84  42/20/38  27    88   78/77     9%   80/10%  89%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
17-2H 147   5/ 1  .259/.265   84  38/23/40  28   105   80/91    10%   79/ 3% 100%
*Includes MLEs

There is a lot to like in this skill set:

  • Overall, Polanco couldn’t hold 2016’s power spike, but injuries likely played a part. To that point, we must not ignore that he hit the ball with more authority in the 2H than he did in the 1H (HctX, xPX), including a 125/101 PX/xPX in 62 July AB.
  • The significant jump in ct% gives him a nice BA floor and when paired with the LD stroke that emerged in 2016, provides intriguing upside.
  • Numerous leg injuries have caused Polanco’s Spd to wane a bit since 2015, but he still managed to be more efficient on the basepaths in 2017. Perhaps that improved success rate and a return to health will lead to a partial restoration of past Spd and more green lights (SBO).

Polanco reportedly changed his offseason workout regimen to place greater focus on flexibility, agility and strengthening his core, hoping to avoid the types of injuries that have befallen him in the past. Having flashed exciting skills at various times, the 26-year-old’s ability to consolidate them will determine whether or not he can unlock another level. There is considerable profit potential at Polanco’s current ADP (158 in NFBC).


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Regression looming for Gonzalez … After suffering through a dreadful 2016 campaign (4.57 ERA), Gio Gonzalez (LHP, WAS) rebounded with a stellar 2017, sporting a 2.96 ERA in 201 IP. Was the resurgence backed by the underlying metrics?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  Ball%  FpK  SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  Velo  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  =====  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===
2013  196  3.36  3.60  3.5  8.8  2.5  37.5%  61%  10%  44/23/33  30/75  92.6   87
2014  159  3.57  3.41  3.2  9.2  2.9  36.8%  58%  11%  45/19/37  30/71  92.0  103
2015  176  3.79  3.66  3.5  8.7  2.4  36.8%  60%  10%  54/20/27  35/73  92.0   92
2016  177  4.57  3.87  3.0  8.7  2.9  38.9%  57%  10%  48/23/30  33/68  90.8  101
2017  201  2.96  4.17  3.5  8.4  2.4  39.8%  55%   9%  46/19/35  27/79  89.9   80

No, not at all:

  • The career-best Ctl he posted in 2016 didn’t last (lifetime 3.7 Ctl). His inability to get ahead in the count and consistently throw strikes is alarming as it is likely to lead to even more free passes (2017 Ball% and FpK coincide with a 3.9 xCtl).
  • His Dom has been remarkably steady throughout his career (lifetime 8.8 Dom), but the dip in SwK (2H SwK: 8%) warns of possible Dom downside.
  • The rise in FB% is another troubling sign, especially in light of decreasing velocity (2H: 89.3 mph), as it makes him more susceptible to the longball. 
  • The whopping disparity between xERA/ERA was largely due to a healthy dose of H%/S% luck. His xERA trend is has headed in the wrong direction since 2013 and his BPV fell to its lowest mark since 2011.

Gonzalez reached the 200-IP plateau in 2017, after failing to log as many as 180 IP in a season from 2014-16, and boasted shiny surface stats. However, there are numerous red flags in the underlying skills, indicating a repeat is highly unlikely. While there is value in what the 32-year-old brings, heed the warning signs and let others overpay (NFBC ADP 148).

 

Tomas looks to bounce back … 2017 was a year to forget for Yasmany Tomas (OF, ARI) as oblique strain sidelined him for most of spring training and an early June groin injury wound up ending his season and requiring two core surgeries. All told, Tomas wound up batting .241 with 8 HR in 166 AB—a far cry from his strong 2016 campaign (.272 BA with 31 HR). Could he be an underrated commodity heading into 2018?

Year    AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX   PX  xPX  hr/f 
=====  ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ===  ===  ==== 
2012*  272  12/4   .278   N/A   5    80     N/A    31   N/A  124  N/A   N/A 
2013*  277   9/1   .269   N/A   9    82     N/A    30   N/A  127  N/A   N/A
2014*  241   4/5   .267   N/A   7    81     N/A    32   N/A  102  N/A   N/A
2015#  427  10/5   .267  .250   4    73  55/22/23  35    99   92   78   13% 
2016   530  31/2   .272  .279   6    74  48/21/31  31   124  145  129   25% 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
16-1H  266  13/2   .259  .267   6    73  49/22/29  31   120  130  119   23% 
16-2H  264  18/0   .284  .289   5    76  46/21/34  31   128  159  139   27%  
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017   166   8/0   .241  .261   7    70  47/21/32  30   118  141  159   21%
*MLEs in Cuba
#Includes MLEs

Yes, there are still some appealing skills here:

  • Even through the injuries, the power was readily apparent, as he actually built upon his 2016 power surge (xPX) while maintaining 2016’s FB% gains. Additional flyballs would help him fully tap into his raw power.
  • Though his ct% dipped, it’s worth noting he actually chased outside the zone less in 2017’s abbreviated sample (O-Swing% 2016/2017/MLB average: 44%/39%/30%). We also must not forget that his ct% improved as the 2016 season progressed.
  • When he makes contact, it’s typically authoritative as evidenced by HctX (HH% 2016/2017: 41%/42%). Though his BA slipped in 2017, his 2016-17 xBA illustrates room for advancement.

Tomas was limited to just 47 games in 2017, last appearing in a MLB game on June 2. By the looks of things, it’s been a case of out of sight, out of mind for fantasy owners, as his ADP has crashed in NFBC leagues from 156 in 2017 to 310 in 2018 (even before Arizona’s recent outfield acquisitions). While his current situation brings playing time uncertainty, his .270 BA/30 HR upside offers substantial profit potential at anywhere near his present ADP.

 

Can Wacha regain prior form? … Michael Wacha (RHP, STL) amassed a 3.21 ERA in 353 IP from 2013-15, but things went off the rails in 2016, as the shoulder woes that afflicted him in 2014 resurfaced (stress reaction), limiting him to an ugly 5.09 ERA in 138 IP. He avoided injury and logged a 4.13 ERA in 166 IP. What can we expect in 2018?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK   Vel  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ====  ========  =====  ====  ===
2013* 150  2.79  2.68  2.2  7.7  3.5  58%  12%  93.5  44/17/39  27/77    7%  105
2014  107  3.20  3.70  2.8  7.9  2.8  64%  11%  93.2  42/22/36  30/74    5%   87
2015  181  3.38  3.91  2.9  7.6  2.6  63%  10%  94.2  46/22/32  29/76   11%   83
2016  138  5.09  4.33  2.9  7.4  2.5  59%   9%  93.2  47/24/30  34/67   12%   80
2017  166  4.13  4.01  3.0  8.6  2.9  66%  10%  95.1  48/21/31  33/72   12%  100
*Includes MLEs

The injury concern remains, but there is reason for optimism:

  • He did a much better job of getting ahead in the count. That suggests Ctl upside (2.2 xCtl).
  • The career-best Dom wasn’t fully backed by SwK, so don’t be surprised to see it drift back closer to his lifetime 8.0 mark.
  • He not only regained his past velocity, but he also reached a new high. It’s also very encouraging to see that he seemingly got stronger as the year progressed (Velocity 1H/2H/Sept: 94.7/95.5/95.9 mph).
  • Note that his BPV escaped the 80s for the first time since 2013.

Wacha changed his offseason workout program after the 2016 season and adjusted his routine between 2017 starts to try to keep his shoulder strong and avoid a recurrence of the stress reaction. The modifications seemed to pay dividends. According to recent reports, he further tweaked his offseason regimen to include more leg strengthening work. Though the chronic shoulder issues are worrisome, the 26-year-old should continue to be useful when healthy.

 

Marte makes strides … Ketel Marte (SS, ARI) opened 2017 in the minors following a frustrating 2016 campaign, but he returned to the majors in late June and finished with a .260 BA, 5 HR and 3 SB in 223 AB. He now finds himself projected as Arizona’s starting shortstop to begin the 2018 season. Should fantasy owners take notice?

Year     AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX   PX  xPX  Spd  SBO
====    ===  =====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ===  ===  ===  === 
2014*   523   3/22  .263   N/A    4   83     N/A    31   N/A   67  N/A  104  27%
2015#   487   4/24  .279  .266    8   84  52/22/26  33    82   66   45  139  23%
2016#   465   1/13  .254  .253    4   82  52/22/26  31    71   47   41  115  16%
17 AAA  311   6/7   .338   N/A    7   89     N/A    37   N/A  N/A  N/A  N/A  10%
17 MLB  223   5/3   .260  .264   11   83  45/21/34  29    95   74   77  145   6%
*MLEs
#Includes MLEs

Yes, Marte owns an enticing skill set:

  • The improved plate discipline and increased pop (HctX, xPX) boosts his BA/OBP potential.
  • His power remains subpar—think lots of doubles and 10-12 HR capability for now—but the xPX column illustrates that’s a far cry from its previous virtually non-existent state.
  • The change in batted ball mix is also notable, as he retooled his swing during his time spent at Triple-A early in 2017, attempting to lift and drive the ball more.
  • Blessed with elite wheels, Marte has displayed 30 SB potential in the past. However, he’ll need more green lights going forward, as his SBO dropped to its lowest point in 2017.

The adjustments Marte made in 2017 are a notable step in the right direction, and when coupled with his blazing speed, make up an intriguing skill set. The 24-year-old could be poised for a breakout season. His current NFBC ADP of 354 provides lots of room for profit and makes him a terrific speculative play.


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