Statcast hitting analysis: A couple Chicago options on waivers, Padres trade targets and more



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Baseball is a battle between the hitter and pitcher. So it stands to reason that once we settle on metrics for assessing pitchers, we then just look at their opposite to determine who the best hitters are. Basically, making contact in the zone, avoiding swings on pitches out of the zone and having an above average offensive profile as indicated by expected weighted on-base average.

Just like I did last week with pitchers, I’ve filtered the hitting pool. You had to be above average in hitters WIZSOOZ (whiffs in zone, swings out of zone). And I wanted an xWOBA above .350 (average is about .330). These aren’t huge benchmarks. There’s only a couple of stats involved. The initial pass returned just 15 hitters. I loosened the criteria some to get a couple more names who are less widely rostered.

(Note: Data comes via Statcast/Baseball Savant.)

This is mostly a trade column, though. I’m extrapolating the availability of mostly rostered players by their rostered rate. I don’t care about the actual statistics. The one caveat is that these hitters tend to be more valuable in OBP leagues vs. batting average leagues.

First, the hitters on the list who you’re not going to get. We mention them so you can see the company being kept by the more “gettable” guys. The unattainables (xwOBA rank in parentheses): Juan Soto (1), Kyle Tucker (2), Mookie Betts (4), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (7), Marcus Semien (11), Corey Seager (18).

There are two players widely available on waivers, so let’s get to them first. As is usually the case, they are strong-side platoon hitters. When strong-side lefty platoon bats are significantly ahead of the curve, they should be rostered. Generally, in mixed leagues, PAs are strength. But do you want lefties with weakness hitting against lefties to get these PAs? Or are the better averages compensating for the losses in the counting stats? Usually it’s the latter. And one of these guys bats leadoff when he does play. We’ll start there.

Mike Tauchman (OF, CHC, 20% rostered on Yahoo): His expected average is only .257 and he doesn’t have much power, but he’s 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, and not a ground-ball hitter. He’s also 33. But, four or five times a week, you’re getting runs, a leadoff bat with a probable OBP near .400, and the prospect of power if he starts pulling the ball more (unlikely, but possible).

Gavin Sheets (OF, CWS, 4%): Here’s another left-handed platoon bat. You can’t count on the runs and RBIs given the environment, but the power should be better given he is plus in fly balls and plus in pulling them. A contending team in real life that’s weak at DH should trade for Sheets, and I suspect they will, which will boost his stock. Sheets is hitting 35% line drives, which is a crazy number. Statcast says he should be hitting .283.

Now the trade targets, meaning these hitters are way better in my model than their reputation given they’re not that close to 100% rostered.

Brandon Nimmo (OF, NYM, 82%): He had an absurdly slow start, but check out his numbers since April 6: .267/.397/.500 with six homers, 27 RBI and 21 runs (32 games). He’s the third-best player in the model for the year with a .432 xwOBA (Betts is .404). Nimmo’s expected average is .300, so it’s not just walks. And he actually hits lefties now.

Riley Greene (OF, DET, 92%): Virtually unattainable, but he’s just behind Betts in pure hitting and I doubt that his managers put him at that level. He’s only hitting .248, but it’s loud in homers (9). He’s doubled his walk rate. He’s not running at all though and he seemed like a candidate for 15 steals.

Vinnie Pasquantino (1B, KC, 82%): Do the people who have him rostered know he has a .242 BABIP? His expected average is .294. He also has plus power (xSLG .528). He’s walked more than he’s whiffed this year, and nearly for his career, if you’re old school. (He ranks between Greene and Vlad Jr. in the model in xwOBA.)

Jake Cronenworth (2B, SD, 84%): Similar to Nimmo in that his expected average is .300. He also has plus power. His discipline profile is insanely good, with his WIZSOOZ at 32.2 — average is about 45. Maybe he’s just running hot but he did show similar (not as good) hitting form his first two years. (Ahead of Semien in the model in xwOBA.)

Taylor Ward (OF, LAA, 82%): He doesn’t walk much but has an excellent expected average and slugging profile. He may have 30-homer prorated power. Usually we can gain insight into a player’s approach through walk rate, but Ward is swinging at, and not swinging at, the right pitches (34 WIZSOOZ). So the analytics with him are good even though the walk rate is bad, somehow. Ward also ranks just ahead of Semien in xwOBA.

Rhys Hoskins (1B, MIL, 78%): A pure power play. He’s going to hurt you in average. His expected average is only .238, barely better than actual. But I really like him in weekly categories when you are looking to limit Ks. His Ks are below average and the power is premier.

Jurickson Profar (OF, SD, 86%): His WIZSOOZ is 38. He’s actually hitting like people would have expected 10 years ago, when he was the top prospect in baseball. It’s been such a strange journey for the switch hitter to get here. The stats say the power is a fluke but the average is real (xBA: .299). The walk rate is legit, so you can expect something close to .400 in OBP going forward. His barrels are not good (34th percentile). His average bat speed is good, according to new data via Statcast (though I think this is average bat speed, where we really want max or at least 90th percentile). I’d view him more as a Steven Kwan (hamstring) replacement, given they are nearly identical in xwOBA.

(Top photo of Jurickson Profar, Jake Cronenworth: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)





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