The 2018 season opened my eyes to the risk of young players losing playing time because of massive platoon splits. Usually, it’s the established major league veterans like Matt Adams who get platooned. Manual Margot was such a player who usually led off against lefties but was dropped in the batting order or even to the bench against righties. Those lost plate appearances can add up over the course of a season whittling away a hitter’s value. Today, I’m going focus the most talented hitters who are most like to be platooned.
For Tanner’s and my book, The Process, Steamer projections were kind enough to include every hitter’s projected OPS versus right and left-handed pitchers. From the book’s research, we found teams have historically started platooning hitters when one side of the platoon’s OPS drops below .650 and definitely at .600. Here are some the hitters who may end up in a platoon situation if their team decides to go that route. Besides the risk of sitting out games, some teams move these players up and down the lineup based platoon differences. I’m likely going to give some of these hitters a playing time adjustment.
Note: The projected platoon OPS are league and ballpark neutral and may seem off compared to the current projected OPS.
Projected OPS: .740
Projected OPS vs LHP: .624
Projected OPS vs RHP: .768
When Palka hit 27 homers in 449 at-bats, I wondered why the Twin waived him but then noticed he wasn’t playing against left-handed pitching. The reason quickly showed with a .570 OPS against lefties but .824 against righties in the majors. The struggles against lefties likely existed for years as he trudged through the minors.
Besides the large platoon split, he posted a high strikeout rate (34%) and a below average defensive outfielder (-5 UZR). If a better bat comes around, like say, Bryce Harper, Palka will lose playing time.
Palka may be too much of a hassle in a weekly or bi-weekly league to figure out the best matchups but should be a must-start in daily lineup leagues.
Note: The advantage in daily lineup leagues for all the players profiled should be noted. Owners could cobble together a decent lineup with just these hitters.
Projected OPS: .724
Projected OPS vs LHP: .634
Projected OPS vs RHP: .746
The 26-year-old Delmonico joins Palka as a righty-crushing White Sox outfielder. Crushing might be a bit strong for Delmonico as his overall projected OPS is lacking. He’s in the exact situation as Palka but is less talented. He’s unrosterable at this point.
Projected OPS: .731
Projected OPS vs LHP: .635
Projected OPS vs RHP: .758
O’Hearn has been tagged a first base sleeper pick by many experts after hitting 12 homers in 170 PA last season. He was never considered much of a prospect since his power wasn’t dominating, he was limited defensively, and struck out between 25% and 30% while coming through the minors His 10%+ walk helped set some talent floor but his large split does raise some concern that his upside is Matt Adams. In the majors, he posted a .465 OPS and 39% K% against lefties (37 PA) and a 1.108 OPS and 23% K% against righties (126 PA).
Owners may think the Royals have nothing to play for and may just throw O’Hearn to the wolves, but they’re wrong. He was in a strict platoon with Hunter Dozier for the last 40 games of 2018. The Royals may be forced to do it again. Owners can’t put a projection over 450 PA on him for next season.
Projected OPS: .722
Projected OPS vs LHP: .635
Projected OPS vs RHP: .712
The Orioles didn’t give Stewart a chance to prove he doesn’t have platoon issues. He faced a right-handed pitcher 44 times. Lefties just three times. I like Stewart as a sleeper with 20-20 upside (reach both in AA in 2017).
With a new front office and coaching staff in place, his 2018 usage pattern goes out the window. It’s tough to know for sure how he’ll be used. Even if he does end up struggling against lefties, the untalented Orioles may just run him out every day to see how he’ll perform.
Projected OPS: .723
Projected OPS vs LHP: .637
Projected OPS vs RHP: .744
I loved me some Cordero but damn do lefties eat him up. 44% K%. .200/.226/.367 triple slash. 56 wRC+. With all his StatCast love, he’s still headed to the bench 33% of the time since the Padres are trying to have more outfielders than the Dodgers have starting pitchers.
Projected OPS: .736
Projected OPS vs LHP: .638
Projected OPS vs RHP: .802
The key behind this split is that Bauers is on a contender which needs all the production they can get. Last season, it was just a .595 OPS against lefties. It’s a gamble to see how much of a difference the Indians will tolerate before making a move.
Projected OPS: .750
Projected OPS vs LHP: .651 (I cheated just a bit)
Projected OPS vs RHP: .775
Nimmo has been getting quite a bit of love this offseason, but in every MLB season so far, he’s struggled against lefties compared to righties.
Season: OPS vs LHP, OPS vs RHP
2016: .752, .946
2017: .530, 878
2018: .742, .946
Career: .688, .893
His projection must be weighted down by the horrible 2017 results a decent amount. Last season, he didn’t get platooned much until the last 30 games. He either sat against lefties or went from the top of the order to batting 6th or lower. I think the key for him to not get into a platoon is to stay at or above his career .688 mark and not submarine below it.
Besides the above hitters with one side of a platoon under .650 and an overall OPS over .700, here are a few who almost made the cut.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.