Hitter Rookie Review — Jul 11, 2022

Let’s continue reviewing the rookie hitters. Today, let’s discuss the three hitters I initially reviewed in mid-May. Like in my rookie review last week, I won’t be formatting this update as a good news/bad news list, but compare their performance through the time I posted my first review with what they have done since.

Jeremy Peña | SS HOU

Performance Splits
Thru 5/17 1 7.3% 23.4% 0.316 21.9% 0.282 0.341 0.536 0.255 0.374
Since 5 3.1% 25.4% 0.318 16.7% 0.260 0.300 0.415 0.154 0.313

Despite being unsure if he would even open the season in the Majors, Peña not only began the season as the Astros’ starting shortstop, but also enjoyed quite the hot start at the plate. He showed ample power, answering one of the big questions heading into the season — how real was his small sample power surge at Triple-A last year?

With a .255 ISO and HR/FB rate over 20%m it seemed that breakout was real, especially considering his previous HR/FB rates sat in the low-to-mid single digits. Since that blazing start, he has cooled down. While his HR/FB rate has remained healthy in the mid-teen, his ISO has tumbled to just the mid-.100 range.

Furthermore, his walk rate has been more than cut in half, making him a mediocre hitter overall. Naturally, the Astros kept him at the bottom of the order when he was hot, then moved him toward the top of the order to coincide with him cooling off. Sounds just like fantasy owners who pick up las week’s hot player and the end up suffering through a 2-for-25 week.

Peña has also swiped five bases since my first update, so he has a good shot at attaining a 20/10 season. His decent enough strikeout rate, combined with a BABIP above .300 has also kept his average in positive territory. At the risk of sounding boring, I think it’s more of the same for him the rest of the way. His xwOBA is just above his actual wOBA, so there doesn’t seem a whole lot of good or bad luck in his performance.

Seiya Suzuki | OF CHC

Performance Splits
Thru 5/17 1 13.2% 30.2% 0.353 11.1% 0.255 0.357 0.464 0.209 0.352
Since 2 8.9% 19.6% 0.289 11.1% 0.260 0.321 0.460 0.200 0.336

Suzuki started his MLB career strongly, with excellent plate patience, that both led to a double digit walk rate, but also a 30% strikeout rate. His home run power was a bit disappointing, but a .209 ISO was still well above average and it fueled a .352 wOBA.

He has missed time to injury and so his “Since” period represents a far smaller sample than the rest of the group here. His previous excellent plate patience has deteriorated, as his walk rate has dropped into single digits, but his strikeout rate has also improved significantly. This has allowed him to actually hit for a slightly higher batting average, despite a collapse in BABIP.

Given his Barrel% and maxEV, I’m pretty surprised his season HR/FB rate sits at just 11.1%. I think he’s capable of hitting for significantly more home run power than he has so far. In addition, with just an 8.1% SwStk%, he’s deserving of better than a 27% strikeout rate. The problem is he’s simply not being aggressive enough at the plate and not swinging at enough balls inside the strike zone. It’s led to a high called strike rate, but that seems correctable.

Sheldon Neuse | 3B OAK

Performance Splits
Thru 5/17 4 7.5% 27.1% 0.386 13.3% 0.281 0.346 0.388 0.107 0.326
Since 2 7.1% 25.3% 0.254 0.0% 0.185 0.242 0.196 0.011 0.204

With a weak roster of alternatives, Neuse found himself with regular playing time with the Athletics, and kept his job thanks almost entirely to a .386 BABIP. That led to an acceptable .326 wOBA, even though it came wit little power. Fantasy owners didn’t mind though as he was getting playing time and contributing a little here and there.

But since, his BABIP has plummeted to just .254, and he’s posted an impossibly low .011 ISO. That’s over 99 PAs and includes zero home runs. It has all resulted in just a .204 wOBA. Even the game’s worst offense has to decide when to cut a poor performer loose or hope for a rebound and wait out a slump.

Unfortunately for his owners who benefited from the good BABIP luck early on, the A’s looked to have moved on. Neuse now seems to be on the short side of a platoon, so now he isn’t seeing much playing time or an offense that struggles to score any runs. If you’re still holding onto him for some reason, it’s time to cut bait!

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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1 year ago

Do you have a strong preference for Seiya vs Pham rest of season? Seiya higher upside or his is upside Pham?