2023 Steamer Says Bust: Part Deuce

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Last week on “Steamer Says”, we spent some talking about the best way to look at and use preseason projections, as the first ones of 2023 have dropped, thereby necessitating we quickly label some busts and steals, post haste! We’ll skip right to the players this time, looking at three more players that these first projections believe will underperform their current draft prices.

Keep in mind that projection systems care more about hurting feelings than they do about numbers and that we should take any disrespect toward players we like very, very personally.

* All ADP is taken from early drafts on NFBC (n = 19) and value ranks for 2022 and 2023 Steamer projections were made with the FanGraphs auction calculator for standard 12-team leagues. Catchers are not included in any of the above ranks, as they deserve to exist in their own self-contained, no-hitting, bubble.

Jake Cronenworth, 2B, 169 ADP: 113 min – 230 max (92nd hitter)

2022: 684 PA – 17 HR – 88 R – 88 RBI – 3 SB – .240 AVG (#60 hitter)

Steamer Says: 639 PA – 16 HR – 76 R – 75 RBI – 3 SB – .251 AVG (#113 hitter)

Regardless of your opinion, can we at least agree that Cronenworth doesn’t deserve the “Rake” moniker? Let’s save that for a Jake that actually does. Ooops, better slow down – I’m clearly giving away my conclusion.

Cronenworth was a top-60 hitter but without any standout contributions, as his value was propped up by the 178 R+RBI. No speed, very little pop, and a below-average average, albeit one getting a boost from his near 700 PA. Sorry but a rake, does not that make.

Digging in to why Steamer is doubting his value, the big dip comes from his runs and RBI, as the projected per-PA rates for both are far below what Cronenworth has previously produced. Part of that dip, however, can be attributed to what Steamer is seeing as his current surrounding cast:

Call me crazy but I feel like San Diego won’t spend 2023 with something as shaky as the above. For one, Fernando Tatis Jr. will be returning to reclaim his leadoff spot, and for two, do we really think gunslinging A.J. Preller will be satisfied with that bottom half/Jorge Alfaro as the DH. Umm, no. Expect this lineup to improve.

But don’t expect Cronenworth to help things with more power, or even more batting average. At least, not if the trends from the past two seasons continue.

1. Cronenworth’s damage paints a bleak power profile. His .385 wOBA (on contact) peaked as a rookie but has dropped in the two years since. A .341 wOBAcon in 2022 was a career low, dropping from .350 in the first half, to .327 in the second half. And his expected wOBAcon was even worse – a .318 xwOBAcon stayed steady from half to half, putting him in the same range as Cesar Hernandez.

2. His exit velocities look even bleaker:

Jake Cronenworth 2020 – 2022
2020 2021 2022 1st Half 2nd Half
Brl per PA 7.8 5.4 3.8 3.9 3.7
Barrel% 10.5 7.2 5.6 5.8 5.3
Average Air EV 87.5 91.2 91.4 91.6 91.1
Air% (100+ mph) 25.3 22.5 21.5 24.2 17.2
Average EV 89.8 88.6 87.6 87.7 86.7

It’s not just the year-to-year drops that are concerning, it’s also how low they’ve gone, with the above numbers putting Cronenworth in the 20th to 25th percentiles.

But Nicklaus, we’re not drafting him for power, are we? No, but the further you get away from 20 HR, the more of a sink the category becomes. Especially when your value is so tied up in lots of R+RBI. And even though he’s “raking” more and more like a slap-hitter, Cronenworth’s batted-ball profile looks more like someone who thinks they’re a power hitter.

3. When one lives in the bottom quartiles of exit velocities, one should probably not be trying to get the ball in the air more, no? And yet:

Jake Cronenworth 2020 – 2022
2020 2021 2022 1st Half 2nd Half
Fly Ball% 25.4 24.6 34.1 34.7 33.2
Average LA 10.6 12.6 18.2 19.2 16.7
LA% +38-degree 11.2 25.6 27.6 26.3 25.3

Among qualified hitters (min. 300 bbe), Cronenworth ranked 11th in FB% and 5th in LA% (+38 degrees). That’s right; Jake Cronenworth was in the top-five of the league’s biggest uppercutters. Jake. Cronenworth.

More uppercuts seem particularly foolish for such a light hitter but its also a double whammy for Cronenworth because more uppercuts tend to translate to a lower BABIP, AKA a lower batting average.

If you know you aren’t getting speed, and the power and batting average both seem suspect, what are you really hoping for here, best case? A .250 AVG, 15-17 HR, and (hopefully) 185 R+RBI? Unless it’s coming after a 200 ADP, that’ll have to be a no for me, dawg.

Eugenio Suárez, 3B, 155 ADP: 127 min – 183 max (81st hitter)

2022: 629 PA – 31 HR – 76 R – 87 RBI – 0 SB – .236 AVG (#62 hitter)

Steamer Says:  631 PA –  28 HR – 72 R – 80 RBI – 1 SB – .211 AVG (#171 hitter)

Steamer is projecting Suárez for another drop in power, with .041 HR per PA representing a dip from .049 HR/PA in 2022 and .054 HR/PA in 2021. But while the move to Seattle certainly did him no favors in the parks department, Suárez hasn’t slowed the boom down in his bat. His Barrel% has stayed at an elite 14-15%, while his Brl per PA has been steady at 8-9%. And given all of the other bop surrounding him in Seattle’s lineup (Julio Rodríguez, Teoscar Hernández, Cal Raleigh, Ty France), I’m also okay with being more bullish on R+RBI than Steamer is.

But if you agree with Steamer that Suárez is a .211 AVG kind of guy, I’m not sure he’s draftable – at least at his current price. That might sound extreme but is it, really? Suárez is already a zero on speed and a batting average like that would not just make him a ratio zero, he’d be a downright liability. And carrying two categorical sinks means the other three would need to do something special. Even something a little better than last year (say, 32 HR – 80 R – 90 RBI) is going to be a tough pill to swallow if it comes with 0 SB and a .215 AVG.

How Suárez I end up with will largely be determined by cost, from draft to draft – I’m not risking him pre-150 ADP and not as my primary third baseman. However, as my corner infielder, and after a 150 ADP, he might fit – but only if I’m already loaded for bear on batting average.

Teoscar Hernández, OF, 59 ADP: 40 min – 89 max (34th hitter)

2022: 535 PA – 25 HR – 71 R – 77 RBI – 6 SB – .267 AVG (#48 hitter)

Steamer Says:  588 PA –  27 HR – 71 R – 83 RBI – 8 SB – .255 AVG (#64 hitter)

Recently shipped in via Trader Jerry’s latest hot stovery, gets a big downgrade on home ballpark but will still bat in the middle of a lineup led by a budding superstar and with plenty of power. Hernández started off 2022 slow before getting hurt but came back strong, slashing .268/.317/.511 in the second half, with 13 HR. Steamer doesn’t believe in 2023, though, projecting near career-low per-PA rates in the roto categories:

Teoscar Hernández 2019-2022
2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 Steamer
HR per PA .056 .077 .054 .047 .040
Runs per PA .125 .159 .155 .133 .105
RBI per PA .140 .164 .195 .144 .123

I’m not nearly as pessimistic as Steamer is on his runs and RBI, as I’m pretty bullish on Seattle’s overall offensive outlook. And while I do think the park change will take a bite out of his power, Hernández has the sort of top-level EVs that can mitigate any park’s expansiveness. His 15% Brl% (top-6%) was up a point from 2022 (and was 17% in the second half) and his 10% Brl/PA was virtually identical from last season. Things were the same on balls hit just in the air, as a 98.3 mph Air% average EV in 2022 was a new career best, and his 48% Air% (100+ mph was up nearly five points from last season.

Steamer is also being really conservative on batting average, projecting him for a .255 AVG, following a .267 AVG in 2022, and a .295 AVG from 2020-21. Dreaming of the .290’s from a few years ago seems a bridge too far but given how hard Hernández hits the ball and at launch angles that aren’t always selling out for power, something again around a .270 AVG seems fairly reasonable. Hernández doesn’t generate his home run totals from tons of fly balls, with a 25% FB% that is only slightly above average. And fewer fly balls will keep his BABIP up, as will his above-average speed and aforementioned generation of lasers.

Okay, so I’m bullish on Runs, RBI, and AVG, and mostly neutral on HR. Clearly, I’m going all-in on Teos–Not so fast! <insert plot twist> Alright, maybe not a real plot twist but I don’t think Teoscar will be on many of my rosters this year, mainly for one reason.

Teoscar Hernández
Season G PA
2018 134 523
2019 125 464
2020 50 207
2021 143 595
2022 131 535

As in, once. Exactly one time has Hernández even sniffed 600 PA, let alone cross it. Until proven otherwise, it’s hard for me to believe that he’ll play a full season, as his musculature appears to have had some sort of discount noodle replacements swapped in. Love Teoscar but just can’t trust him for fantasy purposes.

But also, I’m going to be in town for a game in June so could you please hit a home run or two? Thank you!

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10 days ago

“Hot stovery,” is in. Also if teoscar’s coming at a discount, I’m in. I’ll combine his 500+ PAs with a replacement OF. I agree about his exit velos mitigating the park factor impacts.