Assessing 4 Unexpected Hitting Breakouts

The 60-game season fostered a lot of unexpected stat lines. Of course, the standard six-month seasons deliver them, too, but obviously the smaller sample breeds more volatility so let’s take a look at four big risers and see if we want to buy in for 2021.

Alex Dickerson, OF SFG | .298/.371/.576, 10 HR, 27 RBI, 28 R, 0 SB in 170 PA

Let’s get this out of the way immediately. He did get 30% of his home runs in one beautiful night at Coors Field, but that alone didn’t sustain his line. In his final 66 PA after the 3-homer game, he hit .356/.424/.627 with 3 HR, 7 RBI, and 12 R. He did have a meager .694 OPS in the run up to that career night, but a .231 BABIP was doing some heavy lifting there as he was still pacing toward a useful 22 HR/76 RBI full season.

His massive platoon split tempers the fantasy upside. He has a .278/.348/.514 line with 24 HR, 81 RBI, 84 R, and 4 SB in 551 PA v. righties while posting just a .687 OPS in 102 PA v. lefties. This will likely keep him relegated to a platoon role with guys like Austin Slater and Darin Ruf 러프 filling in for Dickerson against lefties. As such, it makes Dickerson a deeper league option.

He can be a shallow league fill in and you can leverage the schedule when the Giants have a host of righties in a row, but overall his volume output will likely just be too low for an 8-12 teamer. Keep an eye on him as a 4th/5th OF in 15+ team mixers and NL-only leagues.

Dylan Moore, OF/2B SEA | .255/.358/.496, 8 HR, 17 RBI, 26 R, 12 SB in 159 PA

Moore was an unfortunate miss for me. One of my favorite offseason exercises is to find the small sample power/speed guys from the year that just ended and determine how viable they might be in the upcoming season. I completely overlooked that Moore put up a 20/20-type 600 PA pace in 2019. It came with an ugly .206/.302/.389 and he struck out too much (33%), but he checked one of my favorite boxes: positional eligibility, so I should’ve at least had a star by him for 50-round Draft & Holds.

He only trimmed his strikeout rate to 27% in 2020, but I think it’s more a product of passivity than a lack of contact ability. His 61% swing rate in the zone was 7 points below league average and his 12 strikeouts looking would’ve paced to 45 in 600 PA, many more than the 33 league average. When he did swing, things went well. His Barrel Rate was in the 89th percentile, Hard Hit was 78th, Exit Velo was 77th, and xwOBA was 74th. Throw in above average speed (71st percentile) and this power/speed profile has some viability to it.

Moore was the 125th player picked on average in the #TooEarlyMocks and that’s a price I’m willing to pay. He’s a near-lock for a double-double (depending how many games we get, of course) and plays two positions with the chance to add more in-season. His batting average likely won’t be great, but even that has some upside with an improved approach. Sign me up.

Jeimer Candelario, 1B/3B DET | .297/.369/503, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 30 R, 1 SB in 206 PA

Candy has shown glimpses before – namely a similar run back in 2018 when he put up a .267/.374/.528 line with 11 HR, 30 RBI, 35 R, and 1 SB in 230 PA from April 10th through June 20th – but this was another level as a .372 BABIP partnered up with a blood red StatCast profile to make him the best hitter in Detroit. There is definitely some good fortune to the 7th highest BABIP in the league but he also had an 86th percentile hard hit rate and shifted his hit mix to include more liners and groundballs, lending some credence to his AVG surge.

The key will be if he can hold or improve against righties after a career-best .808 OPS in 162 PA (.693 career). If doesn’t do well against them, it’ll put a massive burden on his AVG and make him a run of the mill .235/17-20 HR type pushing his value to deeper formats. But if the gains are real, he’s more in the .265/22-25 HR realm with upside for more. The market isn’t asking much to take shot as his ADP was a very affordable 267 in the mock drafts.

Anthony Santander, OF BAL | .261/.315/.575, 11 HR, 32 RBI, 24 R, 1 SB in 165 PA

An 18-game hit streak drove his performance, with the 82 PA of a .329/.378/.776 line accounting for half of his season as an oblique injury shelved him on September 5th. The switch-hitting 25-year old quietly smacked 20 HR with a .261 AVG in just 405 PA back in 2019 so the real development to zero in on is the power surge.

He added 98 points to his ISO thanks to an adjusted launch angle that pushed his flyball rate to 50%. Santander also shaved his strikeout rate down 6 points to 15% but saw no AVG gains due to that heavy flyball lean and meager .248 BABIP. Lost in the shuffle of his season ending early are the 32 RBI that had him tied for 5th-most when he got hurt. Overall, he was pacing toward 49 HR and 141 RBI and obviously he wouldn’t have maintained that clip (or maybe he would’ve… YOU don’t know!), but it was impressive to see how well he was doing on the lowly O’s.

I could see him getting a bit overlooked because of what seems like an meh batting average and his poor team context. Or rather, assumed meh AVG and assumed poor context.  A .261 AVG is 16 points better than league average and is a lot more fantasy viable than we give it credit for and the O’s quietly slotted 14th in wRC+ as a team at 102. They were at or damn near average all over the diamond as 10 of their 12 highest plate appearance players ranged from 96 to 160 and the other two were at 87 and 88 which isn’t good, but not completely unplayable, either.

I foresee some Santander shares on my 2021 teams as he legit 30-homer pop and he’s still young enough to possibly develop a bit more and maybe add to the AVG or push the power even higher.

Which of these four – if any – do you expect to buy in 2021? Who are you most skeptical of repeating or near-repeating?





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

newest oldest most voted
Kevbot034
Member
Kevbot034

I’d take Candelario and Santander. Not convinced on the other 2.

kingsofkenmore
Member
kingsofkenmore

Candelario’s improvements to his hit tool can’t be denied. But I think his success may be due to an overinflated BABIP as an RHH (hitting against LHP).

Although it just could be he is a much better hitter from the right side, he had a 1.000 BABIP on those line-drives that raised his RHH BABIP to .467. I ran a simple and rough, definitely not perfect assessment to predict, based on his contact percentages, the expected BABIPs for those events. The expected BABIP for RHH line drives, instead of his1.000, the contact data says he would have averaged closer to 0.679. Adjusting the expect LD BABIP into his regular RHH BABIP, drops it to 0.289 (up from 2019 0.268). The extra LD BABIP accounted for three hits. Taking those away hits drops his batting average to 0.280 from 0.297.

So while this can show a glimpse of regression, it can’t tell us whether the extent of his skill gains. For now, it is important to see the relative gains for what they are and not promises for a 0.300 hitter.

I suspect that he will be closer to a projected 0.260-0.265 hitter with upside. But ultimately as a player who plays a good portion at Comerica Park, he will always struggle to display the fantasy success his stats should predict. A big indicator is his home and away splits.

elkabong
Member
Member
elkabong

As far as Santander, he had a three wall-scraper home runs:

https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/sporty-videos?playId=bff36731-14d5-49fd-a57d-ef6ad316cd1f
https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/sporty-videos?playId=caaaca56-927f-4d8f-b588-328bb6151ecc
https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/sporty-videos?playId=c7643d24-0524-4578-9901-f80567bae8dd

For those three batted balls, his xSLG was 0.646. I’m well aware this is cherry picking, but when your wOBA is 153 points higher than your xwOBA for fly balls, these are the kind of things that HAVE to go right.

Kevbot034
Member
Kevbot034

That’s true; I wouldn’t overpay for Santander for sure. Especially when other counting stats will likely suffer from the Oriole’s lack of offense around him still. But he’ll also likely end up underrated because of all those factors.

Chuck Bigby
Member
Member
Chuck Bigby

Ayyy we gotta guy who likes Tony the Bank over here