Swing expert and friend of the Daily Grind Dan Farnsworth sent me his thoughts on three players right after the season ended. Typically, I’d post those comments in the Grind, but it’s time recover for next season’s grind. I don’t want Dan’s effort to go to waste. What follows is analysis of three early sleepers for the 2016 season.
Topping the list is Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. It was a tale of three seasons for 25-year-old. Through August 5, he hit .102/.220/.163 in 59 plate appearances. From August 6 through September 7, he batted a ridiculous .424/.480/.880 in 102 plate appearances. Then he finished up with a miserable .138/.247/.263 slash in 94 plate appearances.
All told, he had his best season – .249/.335/.498 line with around 10 defensive runs saved in just 255 plate appearances. Bradley’s elite defense alone should give him a shot at starting next season. If he can hit with any consistency, he’ll be that much more likely to provide fantasy value. For now, I view him as a streaming option against weak pitching. That said, Dan is a big fan:
I’d say the most interesting improved swing this year has been Bradley. I was a big fan of his swing coming out of South Carolina, then not so much last year with the goofy hip turn he was using. In Spring Training they were talking about getting him to hit more balls on the ground, which had me worried because his hands were my favorite quality. Luckily, the only change he made was in simplifying his lower half, taking a true stride instead of his old dramatic coil. Now he looks pretty awesome.
A quality swing isn’t the only indicator for success. Bradley has serious contact issues with a career strikeout rate above 28 percent. There have been times when he’s mastered those punch outs in the minors (Triple-A last season and High-A in 2012). He remains a solid breakout candidate.
Next up is Reds utility man Adam Duvall. Acquired from the Giants in the Mike Leake trade, Duvall probably profiles best as a first baseman. Some guy named Joey Votto isn’t likely to hand over his job. Luckily, Duvall can also survive in the outfield so there is a chance he’ll find a starting role in Cincinnati.
Duvall, 26, was never quite a prospect. He was always a little too old for his level to draw excitement. His calling card is power. Moving from AT&T Park to Great American Ball Park may be the single best thing to happen for his career. In 72 late-season plate appearances, he popped five home runs.
He also had a concerning 36 percent strikeout rate. In the minors, he generally struck out between 19 and 21 percent of the time. To me, he does look like one of those Quad-A types who might struggle to make contact in the majors. The same used to be said of Brandon Moss.
Dan was pleasantly surprised with Duvall’s swing. He had the same thing to say about Duvall and the next guy:
I think there are enough good qualities to show more power than [he is] expected to. Hitters with good swings don’t have to look flashy to have power.
That other guy is Nationals journeyman Clint Robinson. The 30-year-old finally got his first shot at extended playing time in the majors. Nobody can complain about a .272/.358/.424 line in 352 plate appearances.
The overall numbers are a little misleading. His peripherals hint at a platoon split thanks to a seven percent spike in strikeout rate against lefties. However, a .560 BABIP versus southpaws allowed him to buff his season line. While he posted a 115 wRC+ this season, I’d expect something in the 100-110 wRC+ range in future campaigns.
He controls the strike zone well, hits for a decent average, and has some pop. He really does deserve to start for somebody. Undoubtedly, the Nationals will do their best to ensure he’s an option off the bench.
Washington has plenty of players familiar with the disabled list like Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, and Bryce Harper. Robinson should once again get his opportunity to play. It just might not come at the start of the season.