It feels like fake advertising to label Stephen Piscotty’s 2018 as a breakout, but his ability to rebound from adversity and outproduce his 2016 season turned out to be a boon to patient fantasy owners. After cratering in 2017, Piscotty’s preseason average draft position plummeted falling to the 19th round in NFBC formats as the 72nd outfielder drafted. His trade to Oakland and declining health of his mother also created questions about potential production fueling his depressed draft stock.
Not only did Piscotty bounce back, but he set career highs in home runs (27) and RBI (88) in two fewer games than his full season debut in 2016. Piscotty’s discipline remained stable while he increased his isolated power by 39 points, his hard hit percentage by over 10 percent and home runs per fly ball percentage by over five points. After his mom passed due to ALS, Piscotty maintained a breakout over a 93 game sample starting on June 13th. During this stretch, he slashed .286/.352/.574 with 27 doubles, 24 home runs and 64 RBI. From this point until the end of they year, he ranked second in the American League in extra-base hits, tied for second in home runs, fourth in slugging percentage, fifth in on-base plus slugging, tied for fifth in doubles and tied for seventh in RBI.
What caused this surge? There’s a human element to the game which cannot be discounted. In his first at-bat following his mother’s death, Piscotty hit an emotional home run on May ninth. During his grieving process, he started to hit more fly balls in May (41.1 percent), his highest monthly rate all season. A spike in hard hit rate also occurred. Although Piscotty only hit two home runs in May, the seeds started to sow for his 93 game finish. And, perhaps, he started to move on focusing on baseball. Even finding solace playing in his home town without the burden of worrying about his mother’s health.
In June, things started to click. Piscotty hit four home runs, his pull percentage climbed to 43.1 percent, the line drives returned and his hard hit rate reached 44.4 percent for the month. He then racked up eight home runs in July with his home run per fly ball percentage spiking to 33.3 percent. Piscotty continued hitting the ball harder and to his pull side of the field. In August, he regressed a bit with only four home runs and a drop in home run per fly ball percentage but the fly ball rate still increased. All the gains reached an apex in September when Piscotty again launched eight home runs with a glorious 49.2 hard hit rate, 34.8 home run per fly ball percentage and 50.8 pull percentage.
As encouraging as all of these underlying statistics can be, one cannot simply extrapolate Piscotty’s last 93 games when trying to project him for next year. But, ignoring this sample would be a mistake as well. Here’s a visual his finish to the season dating back to June 13th courtesy of BaseballSavant.com:
This illustrates the power using the data from all batted balls which were fly balls or line drives in this stretch. During the second half, Piscotty’s fly ball rate of 34.4 percent and home run per fly ball percentage of 22.7 percent become intriguing if he can carry this over to a full season. It will not mean a run to 40 home runs, but Piscotty could reach 30 as a result if sustained throughout a whole season. Piscotty improved upon his pull percentage and hard hit rates without any wild variance within his plate discipline. All positive events when trying to forecast a carry over effect. He did increase his O-swing by just under five percent, but it’s not an alarming figure. Using the Fangraphs end of the season data, Piscotty earned $13, or the same as George Springer, Marcell Ozuna and Nelson Cruz. Not too shabby, especially compared to his 19th round price tag.
Transitioning to Justin Mason’s Too Early To Mock data, Piscotty stills flies below the radar despite his second solid season in the last three. Piscotty went on average at pick 150, a higher cost compared to last season, but not in comparison to the three players listed above. Springer went off the board at pick 57.8, Ozuna at 72.8 and Cruz at pick 80. Given the questions surrounding the health of Ozuna’s shoulder, waiting over 75 spots to select Piscotty makes much more sense. It’s not being trendy or buying high, rather, it’s investing in a stable player with a chance to at least repeat last season, if not improve upon it slightly. Translation, Piscotty could still be under valued heading into 2019 drafts. This will be a pivotal year to see if Piscotty can build on last year’s numbers. It’s should be worth the speculation.