Any Hope for These 2020 Flops?

Calling someone a flop in two-month season requires some serious caveats, air quotes around “flop”, or both. That doesn’t mean there weren’t several disappointing players that deserve a deeper look to see what’s going on. We will investigate some of them today and if you find this exercise worthwhile, we can make it a series!

Victor Robles | WAS – OF – 65 wRC+

Robles had the standard “better in fantasy” season in 2019 as his 17 HR and 28 SB overshadowed his uninspired .255/.326/.419 line. His proponents (of which I am one) acknowledged the poor batted ball profile but felt that it was premature to lock the 23-year old into his 2019 levels. Oh, he wasn’t locked in… turns out he could get worse!

He added 20 pounds which just made him slower and did nothing for his power output as his Barrel and Hard-Hit rates dipped even further en route to a horrendous two months. He hit just .220/.293/.315 with 3 HR, 4 SB, and a 65 wRC+ in 189 PA. His strikeout rate jumped 5 points to 28% and he couldn’t parlay a 7-point jump in line drive rate (30%) into any results. So now what?

The flop has pushed him down to a 162 ADP with a range of 93 to 289 suggesting the market is divided. At his ADP or lower, this is a buying opportunity for me. The speed alone – even after the dip – is worth it at this point in the draft but there is also a development path where he slims back down and improves his hitting output. He was 3 HR/2 SB away from a 20/30 season in ’19 which made him a top 30 OF even with the issues so while it is important to be aware of his flaws as a hitter, big speed and a modicum of pop give him a solid floor.

Gary Sánchez | NYY – C – 69 wRC+

Catcher was so bad in 2020 that Sanchez’s .147/.253/.365 line with 10 HR and 24 RBI still ranked 3rd at the position. OK, that’s a lie, but the fact that he was 15th is still kind of impressive. It was certainly a worst-case scenario kind of outcome, but it wasn’t that shocking given the trajectory of his performance. He hit just .186 in 2018 and his strikeout rate has been inching upward for the bulk of his career.

In 2020, the strikeout rate jumped 8 points to 36% while his already bad BABIP sank to a comically bad .159, bringing the AVG to .147 in the process. His .218 ISO wasn’t awful, but it was still the worst of his career and well off his .266 career mark. Sanchez posted a 17% Barrel Rate, a top 3% mark in the league, but it feels like every non-Barrel was an out. His groundball and pull rate jumps help explain some of the disastrous BABIP, but is this power-first, AVG-challenged profile just who he is now?

In a word, yes.

It seems to be by design. Back in 2016-17 when he hit .284 over 754 PA, he had a .308 BABIP with more groundballs (44%) than flyballs (36%). Since 2018, his batted ball profile has shifted to a flyball-focused one (46%) while the groundballs are down to 37% and the BABIP has dragged to .212 in 998 PA. As a catcher – at least for now – this profile still plays. Obviously, he needs to improve on the 2020 output, but if you plan around the AVG sink then he’s a quality pick at 196 on average (11th at catcher). Steamer slots him 8th among catchers with a .222/.310/.479 line, 24 HR, and 59 RBI in 376 PA.

The market has shifted heavily on these two 2020 flops enough that the buying opportunity is real. Neither has to find a new level or greatly change their profile to earn their current draft price while also carrying some upside if things break their way. For Robles, he could develop and find a new level while Sanchez’s upside is tied more to his BABIP.

What do you think? Are you buying back in on these two? Also, do you want to see more of these breakdowns?

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Alex Gaffney
Alex Gaffney

Yes more breakdowns like this!!!


Yes please this is great. Tons more of this.