FACTS/FLUKES: S. Marte, Adams, McCann, Gray, Keuchel

Marte powers up... Starling Marte (OF, PIT) had a very productive season in 2018, earning more than $30 in R$ for the third time in four seasons. His inefficiency on the bases down the stretch was a little concerning, as he was caught on 10 of his final 20 steal attempts. Marte hasn't run as much in 2019, but has been successful on 13 of 16 attempts this season, and is already close to setting a career high in home runs. Is his current pace what owners should expect from him the rest of the way?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA   xBA  bb%/ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO
====  ===  =====  ====  ====  =======  ========  ==  ====  =======  ====  =======
2015  579  19/30  .287  .283   4/79    54/24/23  34   101  103/94    19%  117/28%
2016  489   9/47  .311  .274   4/79    48/23/28  38   111   95/98     8%  147/46%
2017  309   7/21  .275  .248   6/80    49/21/30  33    84   55/77    10%  144/28%
2018  559  20/33  .277  .272   6/81    51/17/32  31    99  105/106   14%  138/35%
2019  374  17/13  .281  .298   4/83    49/21/29  30   111  103/97    19%  125/20%

Marte still offers an exciting blend of power and speed:

  • He's making a little more hard contact by our measures, but other than 2017, all of his power skills, including a low fly ball rate, are pretty stable. His barrel percentage is up to 8.2%, which is encouraging, but his current home run per fly ball rate looks a little over his head.
  • He has cut down on the strikeouts in 2019, but after beating his xBA in every season of his career to this point, he's fallen short of the mark this season. The lowest hit rate of his career should improve, so if he can keep this contact rate close to where it is, he would stand to improve an already solid BA.
  • He has consistently shown excellent speed, and ranks in the 93rd percentile in sprint speed in 2019, but has slowed down lately, with just two steals in four attempts since June 10th. He may not make a major impact in the category the rest of the way, but should finish with about 20 stolen bases.

Marte continues to provide outstanding across the board production, but this season, his value has swung a little more toward his power, while he's been less active on the bases. Owners counting on the speed may end up a little disappointed, but can't complain too much, as he's a good bet to end up with 25 home runs, 20-plus steals, and possibly another $30 season. The 30-steal seasons probably aren't coming back, as Marte is 30 years old now, but he continues to be one of the more reliable early-round selections.  


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Adams offers plenty of power... Matt Adams (1B, WAS) was losing out on some playing time when Ryan Zimmerman returned to action at the beginning of July, but opportunity appears to be there again with Zimmerman back on the injured list. Can Adams continue to supply strong power numbers for his owners?

Year   AB  HR    BA   xBA   vR   bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX  xPX  hr/f
====  ===  ==  ====  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ===  ===  ====
2016  297  16  .249  .252  .773   8    73  32/20/48  29   108  142  159   15%
2017  339  20  .274  .266  .896   6    74  39/18/43  32   112  146  123   18%
2018  306  21  .239  .259  .811   8    76  35/21/45  25   110  132  141   20%
2019  195  15  .236  .255  .762   5    66  33/24/43  27    97  158  166   27%

Adams will certainly provide some pop:

  • He continues to square the ball up well and hit a lot of fly balls, and his home run per fly ball rate has continued to climb. It may seem a little over his head at first glance, but he ranks just 21st hin hr/f (Min. 200 PA), and is 12th in barrels per batted ball (Min. 100 batted balls) at 15.7%.
  • Though he has cut down on swinging at pitches out of the zone, he's still striking out at a much higher rate in 2019, as his Z-Contact% is down four points from both his 2018 and career marks. He'll need to cut down on the whiffs if he's going to improve much in the batting average category.
  • His walk rate has dipped as well, leading to a career worst .272 on-base percentage.
  • His production against right-handers has fallen off a bit, as he has just a 63% contact rate against them, after never finishing below 72% in any other season. Therefore, he's batting just .228 vs RHP, but has connected for 12 home runs and a 162 PX in just 158 at-bats against them.

Adams has served as the strong side of a platoon at first base for much of the season, and has hit for even more power than usual. It has come at the expense of his contact rate, and in turn, his batting average and on-base percentage, and the fact he's striking out so much against right-handers is somewhat concerning. Still, Adams makes for a pretty ideal platoon partner with Howie Kendrick, and barring a trade, could be an extremely valuable power source for the stretch run. 

 

McCann back on track... Brian McCann (C, ATL) suffered through the worst season of his career in 2018, as a knee injury cost him a couple months, and he hit just .212 across 189 at-bats. He was mentioned as a "potential late-round power source" in the Baseball Forecaster, and analyst Greg Pyron noted back in March that he was "worth a late-round flyer". McCann has delivered for owners who gambled on a bounce back, as he's hitting .278 with nine home runs. Can he keep it up?

Year   AB  HR    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%    G/L/F   h%  HctX   PX  xPX  hr/f
====  ===  ==  ====  ====  ===  ===  ========  ==  ====  ===  ===  ====
2015  465  26  .232  .248   10   79  36/17/47  24   110  120  131   15%
2016  429  20  .242  .242   11   77  34/21/44  27   111   97  120   14%
2017  349  18  .241  .261   10   83  41/17/41  24    99   97   98   15%
2018  189   7  .212  .220    9   79  28/22/50  23    75   67   74    9%
2019  187   9  .278  .255    9   80  42/21/37  30   120   94  120   16%

McCann's power appears to be back:

  • He hit more fly balls than ever before in 2018, but wasn't making very good contact. This season, he's hitting the ball with a lot of authority, as HctX is his highest since 2011, and his Hard% (per FanGraphs) is the highest of his career.
  • Far too many weak fly balls contributed to his low hit rate and terrible batting average in 2018. His contact rate has barely moved since last season, but for the first time since 2010, he's sporting a 30% hit rate. His track record says he won't sustain it, but could deliver a .250ish BA the rest of the way.
  • He continues to draw walks at a solid clip, and though any BA regression would also bring down his .341 on-base-percentage, his value still gets a slight boost in leagues that use OBP.

McCann has rebounded from a down 2018 season, and is back to showing above average power in 2019, while also hitting for a higher than expected batting average. His power skills were so far off his usual levels last season that it seems pretty clear that he wasn't fully healthy, and it certainly appears that he is now. McCann is in a pretty even timeshare with Tyler Flowers, but that is surely beneficial for him remaining both healthy and productive. His batting average is unlikely to stick, but he shouldn't hurt owners in the category, compared to other catchers, and he should continue to put up nice power numbers. 

 

Gray bounces back, and then some... Sonny Gray (RHP, CIN) suffered through an ugly season in 2018 with the Yankees, but has found new life with his former college pitching coach in Cincinnati, recording a 3.29 ERA through 20 starts. He's really been dealing lately, having put up a 1.62 ERA and 42 K in 33.1 IP over his last five starts. How legit is his resurgence?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK/SwK   Vel    G/L/F   H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  =======  ====  ========  =====  ====  ===
2015  208  2.73  3.62  2.6   7.3  2.9  59%/10%  92.9  53/17/31  26/78    9%   94  
2016  117  5.69  4.25  3.2   7.2  2.2  61%/8%   92.7  54/19/27  33/64   17%   75
2017  162  3.55  3.82  3.2   8.5  2.7  62%/12%  93.0  53/20/28  28/75   15%   98
2018  130  4.90  4.14  3.9   8.5  2.2  57%/10%  93.3  50/23/27  34/69   13%   75
2019  109  3.29  3.30  3.1  10.5  3.3  56%/11%  93.3  55/17/28  29/74   15%  137  

Gray is displaying the strongest skills of his career:

  • He has bumped his SwK up slightly, but his K% has taken a huge leap up to 29%, easily a career high, and way above his 21% mark from 2018.
  • He's throwing his slider 19% of the time, which is a career high rate, and he's getting ridiculously good results with the pitch, including an 18% SwK, a .085 batting average against, and a .037 ISO. It's a pitch he leans very heavily on at times, and barely uses it in other games (sliders thrown in last five starts, per Brooks Baseball- 39, 0, 8, 36, 36).
  • After struggling with the walks a season ago, he's gotten his Ctl back down to it's usual level. However, his FpK hasn't rebounded, his Zone% is 11th lowest in the league among qualified starters, and his O-Swing% remains below average, so we may see a few more walks from Gray.
  • He has always kept the ball on the ground at a high rate, but is doing so more than usual in 2019, while also doing a better job of limiting hard contact. He had ranked in the 15th percentile or worse in each of the past three seasons, but is up to the 60th percentile in the category this year.

Gray has put his disappointing 2018 campaign behind him, and is in the midst of a very strong season, highlighted by a large spike in his Dom (and K%). The magnitude of the jump isn't fully supported by his slightly below average SwK, and even during his recent five-game hot streak, a 12% SwK doesn't translate to a 34% K%, so it's likely the strikeouts will come down some. But Gray should still be a solid contributor in the category, and his ground ball tilt will prevent home runs from becoming a major problem, even in his hitter-friendly home park. He looks poised for continued success, but owners should probably count on a little regression, with regards to both ratios and strikeouts. 

 

Keuchel excelling right away... Dallas Keuchel (LHP, ATL) got a late start to the season, as he didn't sign until early June, when there was no draft pick compensation attached to him. He hasn't missed a beat, at least on the surface, posting a 3.50 ERA through six starts so far. Is he a good bet to maintain this level of success?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK   Vel    G/L/F   H%/S%  hr/f  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ===  ===  ====  ========  =====  ====  ===
2015  232  2.48  2.80  2.0  8.4  4.2  61%  11%  89.6  62/19/20  28/79   14%  137
2016  168  4.55  3.61  2.6  7.7  3.0  63%  10%  88.6  57/19/24  31/67   16%  104
2017  146  2.90  3.23  2.9  7.7  2.7  60%  11%  88.7  67/15/18  26/78   21%  106
2018  205  3.74  4.02  2.6  6.7  2.6  60%   9%  89.3  54/22/24  31/73   11%   84
2019   44  3.50  3.92  2.9  7.0  2.4  58%  10%  88.0  58/22/20  28/79   27%   84

Keuchel's skills are very similar to those from 2018:

  • One thing that always stands out in his skills is an extremely high ground ball rate, and that remains the case in 2019. 
  • He has been uncharacteristically homer prone this year, which may just be a small sample fluke. However, his Hard% (per FanGraphs), which has never been above 30%, is at 38%, and he currently ranks in the 17th percentile in exit velocity on fly balls and line drives.
  • While his Ctl is just a little higher than usual, his FpK has fallen off a bit more, and his Zone% of 31% is well below his 39% career mark, and easily a career low. 
  • His already low velocity has slipped even further, and he has struck out just 19% of the batters he has faced in 2019. However, he has showcased more swing and miss stuff lately, with a 13% SwK in his last four starts, after posting a six percent SwK in his first three outings.

Keuchel has stepped in and immediately provided some stability to the Atlanta rotation, averaging more than six innings per start, and allowing three earned runs or less in six of his seven appearances. He has even missed a lot of bats lately, including a 12 K performance last time out. While the increased dominance is a positive sign, his current Dom and SwK are probably about what owners should expect going forward, which along with a likely sub-4.00 ERA, should give Keuchel value in virtually all formats.  


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