Imagine Thinking Hitter Splits Matter

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Wait a tick – this can’t be right. We’ve been trucking right along with our positional reviews, taking a twisted path around the horn, going from catcher, to first base, third base, shortstop, and second base, most recently. Clearly, it’s time for the outfielders, yeah?

Afraid not, mon freres. Heading into the positional review for outfielders, I already knew we’d be forced to dip into a ton of platoon talk, as swapping players in and out according to pitcher handedness continues to be a plague across the fantasy baseball landscape.

This pestilence seems most pervasive in the outfield, in regard to our fantasy teams, with the fear that this player, or that one, will suddenly be sitting versus this hand, or that one, leaving us to find another full-time option or scrambling on the wire from week to week to find someone to swap in for your boy because he’s facing a lefty in four of six games. Or, being forced to throw someone else back to the wire because they’re apparently only facing lefties now. Super annoying.

So, before we get the outfielder’s review, let’s give splits and platoons their own spotlight and see how we can best gain an edge while also trying to limit our in-season headaches.

But Nicklaus! Can’t we just assume managers will mostly keep the rotten bats on the bench and/or as fill-in platoon buddies? Sure, maybe if we were playing MLB The Show but in MLB The Reality, some players will garner more playing time than their bats would appear to justify*. And while these playing-time vampires may not themselves become fantasy viable with extra PT, they’re always ready to suck the life out of those who could be.

*For further reading, please refer to the “Jorge Mateo will be benched any day now” discourse that reconvened bi-weekly in 2022

Defense, contracts, manager history, comfortability, or maybe just straight gut feelings – these are all things that might ultimately get baked into the starting time pie. And whether we like it, or not, managers aren’t always going to make decisions like we would, trying only to maximize offense.

We can rent our clothes with tears of anguish, cursing a manager’s name because they just refuse to start who they’re supposed to. Or, we can accept that which we cannot control, anticipate the best we can, and try to gain edges wherever possible.

No more philosophy, let’s see who walked around all lopsided last season. Here are all the hitters inside the top 450 ADP on NFBC, along with their wOBA/xwOBA vs each hand in 2022. Also included are the differences between the two, subtracting LHP from RHP.

2022 L/R Splits for Top 450 ADP (min 100 PA)
NAME POS(s) 2023 ADP PA vL PA vR wOBA vL wOBA vR +/- xwoba vL xwoba vR xwoba +/-
Trea Turner SS 2 182 525 .376 .340 -.036 .389 .317 -.072
José Ramírez 3B 3 171 494 .304 .383 .079 .300 .327 .027
Ronald Acuña Jr. OF 3 124 405 .317 .341 .024 .354 .369 .015
Julio Rodríguez OF 4 134 422 .360 .368 .008 .355 .331 -.024
Aaron Judge OF 5 160 517 .412 .472 .060 .413 .478 .065
Kyle Tucker OF 6 223 382 .317 .366 .049 .332 .366 .034
Bobby Witt Jr. 3B, SS 7 147 483 .303 .313 .010 .293 .319 .026
Juan Soto OF 10 236 422 .320 .407 .087 .361 .424 .063
Mookie Betts OF 11 174 465 .416 .357 -.059 .388 .327 -.061
Shohei Ohtani UT 11 227 425 .340 .386 .046 .343 .408 .065
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 1B 12 119 581 .305 .361 .056 .362 .345 -.017
Yordan Alvarez OF 12 192 360 .424 .428 .004 .447 .470 .023
Freddie Freeman 1B 14 201 495 .360 .406 .046 .357 .421 .064
Bo Bichette SS 14 118 579 .341 .349 .008 .347 .331 -.016
Manny Machado 3B 15 180 454 .361 .390 .029 .371 .325 -.046
Rafael Devers 3B 21 162 441 .322 .392 .070 .308 .381 .073
Pete Alonso 1B 21 169 500 .351 .371 .020 .352 .355 .003
Austin Riley 3B 24 172 520 .455 .351 -.104 .419 .365 -.054
Mike Trout OF 24 134 357 .441 .409 -.032 .432 .381 -.051
J.T. Realmuto C 25 163 398 .350 .356 .006 .362 .347 -.015
Michael Harris II OF 30 135 306 .285 .404 .119 .229 .382 .153
Paul Goldschmidt 1B 30 136 514 .549 .385 -.164 .448 .345 -.103
Francisco Lindor SS 36 208 496 .339 .343 .004 .315 .337 .022
Marcus Semien 2B 36 206 518 .332 .311 -.021 .335 .294 -.041
Daulton Varsho C 40 129 463 .243 .345 .102 .198 .325 .127
Nolan Arenado 3B 40 123 494 .394 .378 -.016 .380 .329 -.051
Randy Arozarena OF 41 127 516 .391 .322 -.069 .332 .294 -.038
Jose Altuve 2B 42 161 441 .458 .374 -.084 .387 .342 -.045
Matt Olson 1B 48 213 480 .330 .350 .020 .319 .359 .040
Jazz Chisholm Jr. 2B 50 39 202 .227 .392 .165 .227 .368 .141
Cedric Mullins OF 50 197 473 .259 .339 .080 .236 .310 .074
Will Smith C 52 135 439 .388 .337 -.051 .379 .343 -.036
Luis Robert Jr. OF 53 86 314 .390 .306 -.084 .384 .312 -.072
Ozzie Albies 2B 57 88 181 .302 .306 .004 .289 .302 .013
Kyle Schwarber OF 58 229 437 .305 .381 .076 .349 .389 .040
Adolis García OF 61 204 451 .317 .328 .011 .307 .329 .022
Adley Rutschman C 62 115 355 .257 .385 .128 .283 .361 .078
Salvador Perez C 66 117 354 .357 .313 -.044 .344 .320 -.024
Corey Seager SS 69 220 436 .327 .334 .007 .324 .396 .072
Corbin Carroll OF 73 30 85 .256 .393 .137 .241 .311 .070
Teoscar Hernández OF 75 97 437 .413 .333 -.080 .372 .346 -.026
Tommy Edman 2B, SS 77 160 468 .334 .312 -.022 .333 .299 -.034
Trevor Story 2B 77 94 298 .354 .304 -.050 .279 .308 .029
Oneil Cruz SS 78 111 249 .235 .358 .123 .211 .346 .135
Eloy Jiménez OF 79 81 246 .364 .372 .008 .349 .370 .021
Alex Bregman 3B 80 226 429 .317 .379 .062 .348 .352 .004
Dansby Swanson SS 80 176 520 .369 .327 -.042 .370 .326 -.044
Starling Marte OF 82 153 352 .380 .344 -.036 .363 .324 -.039
George Springer OF 86 130 452 .341 .355 .014 .358 .338 -.020
Andrés Giménez 2B 87 128 425 .389 .357 -.032 .316 .329 .013
Xander Bogaerts SS 90 144 485 .446 .338 -.108 .350 .315 -.035
Gunnar Henderson 3B 91 26 105 .211 .376 .165 .237 .363 .126
Bryan Reynolds OF 93 169 439 .342 .352 .010 .315 .334 .019
Tim Anderson SS 96 61 289 .418 .303 -.115 .397 .328 -.069
Alejandro Kirk C 96 108 431 .329 .352 .023 .366 .348 -.018
Vinnie Pasquantino 1B 96 65 232 .382 .360 -.022 .366 .377 .011
Willson Contreras C 97 123 364 .367 .354 -.013 .357 .366 .009
Wander Franco SS 97 71 272 .340 .319 -.021 .297 .340 .043
José Abreu 1B 99 137 540 .376 .358 -.018 .396 .368 -.028
Willy Adames SS 104 165 449 .300 .334 .034 .295 .334 .039
Nathaniel Lowe 1B 107 211 432 .398 .354 -.044 .362 .335 -.027
Seiya Suzuki OF 112 117 326 .360 .325 -.035 .374 .310 -.064
Tyler O’Neill OF 112 91 292 .346 .295 -.051 .386 .313 -.073
Jeremy Peña SS 115 153 405 .351 .294 -.057 .319 .293 -.026
Byron Buxton OF 117 114 268 .389 .342 -.047 .403 .339 -.064
Steven Kwan OF 119 140 496 .286 .357 .071 .269 .324 .055
Gleyber Torres 2B 122 145 425 .352 .320 -.032 .341 .312 -.029
William Contreras C 123 116 259 .442 .338 -.104 .389 .328 -.061
Amed Rosario SS 124 159 511 .344 .301 -.043 .329 .304 -.025
Rhys Hoskins 1B 124 174 498 .404 .325 -.079 .375 .325 -.050
Jake McCarthy OF 125 104 250 .335 .338 .003 .309 .293 -.016
Sean Murphy C 125 161 449 .367 .319 -.048 .413 .320 -.093
C.J. Cron 1B 126 193 433 .293 .354 .061 .307 .327 .020
Carlos Correa SS 127 159 429 .402 .348 -.054 .409 .346 -.063
Christian Yelich OF 128 203 463 .311 .335 .024 .293 .359 .066
Nick Castellanos OF 130 130 428 .312 .302 -.010 .297 .303 .006
Tyler Stephenson C 135 61 122 .372 .370 -.002 .341 .307 -.034
Anthony Santander OF 135 178 468 .390 .315 -.075 .366 .346 -.020
Kris Bryant OF 136 72 109 .419 .337 -.082 .382 .319 -.063
Nico Hoerner SS 137 132 381 .328 .317 -.011 .309 .298 -.011
Taylor Ward OF 137 164 400 .334 .374 .040 .361 .361 .000
Christian Walker 1B 139 157 508 .361 .342 -.019 .378 .353 -.025
Andrew Vaughn 1B, OF 147 124 431 .330 .326 -.004 .326 .317 -.009
Eugenio Suárez 3B 148 153 476 .390 .329 -.061 .354 .334 -.020
Hunter Renfroe OF 149 139 382 .361 .341 -.020 .358 .310 -.048
Max Muncy 2B, 3B 153 146 418 .305 .322 .017 .371 .328 -.043
Ian Happ OF 153 137 500 .345 .338 -.007 .255 .320 .065
Cal Raleigh C 153 100 315 .318 .334 .016 .254 .346 .092
Giancarlo Stanton OF 154 118 332 .287 .341 .054 .321 .362 .041
Anthony Rizzo 1B 157 140 402 .383 .342 -.041 .357 .347 -.010
Jose Miranda 1B, 3B 160 139 344 .351 .320 -.031 .343 .307 -.036
Harrison Bader OF 162 58 255 .258 .293 .035 .270 .270 .000
Matt Chapman 3B 163 118 502 .328 .331 .003 .327 .345 .018
Ryan Mountcastle 1B 165 153 455 .302 .321 .019 .373 .358 -.015
Jorge Polanco 2B 167 150 294 .270 .365 .095 .313 .381 .068
Ke’Bryan Hayes 3B 168 169 391 .334 .277 -.057 .343 .286 -.057
Mitch Haniger OF 171 70 176 .330 .315 -.015 .388 .305 -.083
Javier Báez SS 172 143 446 .353 .271 -.082 .328 .271 -.057
Brandon Nimmo OF 172 234 439 .346 .356 .010 .332 .347 .015
Oscar Gonzalez OF 177 113 267 .318 .349 .031 .323 .319 -.004
Ty France 1B 179 171 439 .326 .342 .016 .305 .327 .022
Rowdy Tellez 1B 180 134 456 .292 .337 .045 .326 .356 .030
Brandon Lowe 2B 181 48 218 .332 .300 -.032 .304 .323 .019
Thairo Estrada 2B, SS 182 171 370 .360 .298 -.062 .330 .285 -.045
Cody Bellinger OF 182 160 390 .254 .296 .042 .265 .283 .018
Keibert Ruiz C 185 106 327 .266 .309 .043 .304 .336 .032
Bryce Harper UT 186 134 283 .338 .384 .046 .342 .398 .056
Josh Bell 1B 187 208 435 .350 .340 -.010 .349 .349 .000
Danny Jansen C 189 66 181 .358 .366 .008 .392 .360 -.032
Jonathan India 2B 190 119 311 .321 .311 -.010 .327 .292 -.035
Alec Bohm 3B 190 174 456 .398 .276 -.122 .390 .311 -.079
Lars Nootbaar OF 193 69 277 .367 .336 -.031 .335 .349 .014
Travis d’Arnaud C 193 96 330 .407 .325 -.082 .322 .310 -.012
Riley Greene OF 195 119 299 .329 .292 -.037 .305 .320 .015
Jake Cronenworth 1B, 2B 196 211 470 .317 .319 .002 .301 .303 .002
Alex Verdugo OF 197 170 472 .308 .323 .015 .316 .333 .017
Joey Meneses 1B, OF 198 76 162 .461 .364 -.097 .388 .306 -.082
Vaughn Grissom 2B 198 47 108 .404 .320 -.084 .393 .297 -.096
Jeff McNeil 2B, OF 198 173 415 .339 .376 .037 .286 .338 .052
Whit Merrifield 2B, OF 199 158 392 .306 .290 -.016 .302 .282 -.020
Josh Rojas 2B, 3B 200 129 379 .302 .334 .032 .287 .315 .028
Jorge Mateo SS 203 158 375 .270 .286 .016 .289 .265 -.024
Seth Brown 1B, OF 205 99 453 .243 .341 .098 .258 .355 .097
Brandon Drury 1B, 2B, 3B 211 155 413 .403 .329 -.074 .345 .305 -.040
Ramón Laureano OF 217 96 287 .314 .287 -.027 .335 .298 -.037
Luis Arraez 1B, 2B 219 124 477 .306 .361 .055 .304 .341 .037
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. OF 219 94 398 .297 .334 .037 .313 .323 .010
Ketel Marte 2B 220 148 407 .350 .305 -.045 .331 .310 -.021
Josh Jung 3B 222 38 64 .364 .231 -.133 .371 .238 -.133
Bryson Stott 2B, SS 225 110 356 .330 .276 -.054 .272 .288 .016
Ryan McMahon 3B 226 172 425 .291 .340 .049 .324 .333 .009
Bryan De La Cruz OF 226 96 259 .232 .343 .111 .287 .380 .093
Josh Naylor 1B 227 127 367 .241 .363 .122 .261 .350 .089
Jonah Heim C 229 132 318 .359 .283 -.076 .331 .275 -.056
Andrew Benintendi OF 232 151 370 .306 .356 .050 .312 .343 .031
CJ Abrams SS 233 92 210 .174 .308 .134 .203 .295 .092
J.D. Martinez UT 234 135 459 .419 .320 -.099 .404 .332 -.072
Kolten Wong 2B 238 96 399 .220 .363 .143 .246 .319 .073
Christian Vázquez C 238 108 318 .356 .297 -.059 .338 .289 -.049
Gavin Lux 2B, OF 239 109 362 .305 .335 .030 .282 .323 .041
Joc Pederson OF 240 57 373 .326 .380 .054 .284 .379 .095
Jon Berti 2B, 3B 241 90 314 .304 .297 -.007 .320 .302 -.018
Randal Grichuk OF 246 180 358 .393 .275 -.118 .330 .257 -.073
Jean Segura 2B 250 113 273 .367 .300 -.067 .349 .284 -.065
Christopher Morel 2B, OF 255 119 306 .282 .338 .056 .297 .335 .038
Anthony Rendon 3B 260 59 134 .374 .287 -.087 .449 .278 -.171
Yasmani Grandal C 261 93 282 .355 .233 -.122 .336 .274 -.062
Austin Hays OF 261 160 422 .310 .315 .005 .304 .296 -.008
Jesse Winker OF 265 140 406 .351 .299 -.052 .321 .354 .033
Luis Urías 2B, 3B, SS 265 135 337 .333 .324 -.009 .331 .325 -.006
Ha-Seong Kim 김하성 3B, SS 272 188 394 .340 .300 -.040 .352 .289 -.063
Brendan Rodgers 2B 272 201 380 .391 .284 -.107 .362 .307 -.055
Lane Thomas OF 274 202 346 .321 .300 -.021 .308 .273 -.035
Brandon Marsh OF 275 105 355 .217 .319 .102 .214 .308 .094
DJ LeMahieu 1B, 2B, 3B 279 144 397 .357 .320 -.037 .347 .343 -.004
Charlie Blackmon OF 280 171 402 .330 .311 -.019 .306 .298 -.008
Eric Haase C 282 123 227 .335 .316 -.019 .313 .296 -.017
Trey Mancini 1B, OF 283 187 398 .290 .323 .033 .316 .332 .016
Nick Gordon 2B, OF 284 91 351 .245 .341 .096 .247 .355 .108
Jake Fraley OF 291 31 215 .220 .371 .151 .302 .338 .036
Austin Meadows OF 292 39 108 .262 .323 .061 .364 .385 .021
Yandy Díaz 3B 296 144 412 .387 .359 -.028 .414 .348 -.066
Trent Grisham OF 307 134 389 .279 .281 .002 .262 .305 .043
Luis Rengifo 2B, 3B 307 172 339 .389 .276 -.113 .356 .266 -.090
Manuel Margot OF 309 87 275 .385 .284 -.101 .389 .271 -.118
Yoán Moncada 3B 313 93 338 .339 .257 -.082 .286 .289 .003
Jarred Kelenic OF 313 59 122 .197 .257 .060 .188 .308 .120
Justin Turner 3B 323 147 384 .322 .351 .029 .326 .344 .018
Jorge Soler OF 324 68 237 .343 .294 -.049 .378 .306 -.072
Joey Bart C 324 96 195 .283 .300 .017 .328 .280 -.048
Jose Siri OF 338 85 240 .213 .288 .075 .210 .279 .069
Juan Yepez OF 357 61 213 .299 .325 .026 .247 .297 .050
Spencer Torkelson 1B 358 107 297 .288 .266 -.022 .362 .284 -.078
Elias Díaz C 371 140 241 .326 .260 -.066 .328 .242 -.086
Gary Sanchez C 375 126 345 .254 .303 .049 .313 .324 .011
Jose Trevino C 376 75 278 .381 .269 -.112 .338 .265 -.073
Dylan Carlson OF 382 141 346 .368 .281 -.087 .298 .302 .004
Oswaldo Cabrera OF 408 33 138 .320 .323 .003 .244 .297 .053
Avisaíl García OF 414 68 312 .257 .259 .002 .315 .273 -.042
Chris Taylor 2B, OF 421 133 319 .268 .310 .042 .261 .284 .023
Mark Canha OF 441 190 351 .324 .354 .030 .301 .336 .035
Wilmer Flores 1B, 2B, 3B 445 206 395 .312 .313 .001 .324 .303 -.021
Luis García 2B, SS 445 101 275 .252 .321 .069 .267 .318 .051
Marcell Ozuna OF 446 146 361 .229 .326 .097 .278 .360 .082

It’s the Glove, Silly

When hunting playing-time vampires, it’s best to start with slick gloves:

Harrison Bader, NYY – Don’t worry, given health, Bader is going to play, as his glove is as golden as those resplendent bouncing curls hanging about his head*. But someone is going to need to explain to me, real slow like, how his near-150 ADP makes sense. He’s decent against righties, bad against lefties, never stays healthy, and needs a mostly full-time role to compile enough R+RBI to be worth it.

*Or at least it was until New York’s silly appearance rules Delilah’d them down to a mere mortal’s. Have we not yet learned anything from Samson?

Actually, I take back my explanation request – I think we already have an answer. Bader’s been Frankensteined by his would-be drafters.

Harrison Bader Career
Season G PA HR R RBI SB BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2017 32 92 3 10 10 2 .288 .235 .283 .376 .279 71
2018 138 427 12 61 37 15 .358 .264 .334 .422 .326 107
2019 128 406 12 54 39 11 .268 .205 .314 .366 .293 82
2020 50 125 4 21 11 3 .317 .226 .336 .443 .337 114
2021 103 401 16 45 50 9 .306 .267 .324 .460 .331 110
2022 86 313 5 38 30 17 .300 .250 .294 .356 .286 86

As in, taking his 16 HR in 401 PA from 2021 and 17 SB in 313 PA from 2022 and hopecasting a lightning strike that turns him into a 20 HR/25 SB guy over a full season.

Even in the Yankee Stadium bandbox, Bader’s 3.4 Brl%, 88 mph Air% EV, and 15% Air% (100+ mph) tell me reaching 15 HR again could be a stretch. And not to belabor the point but I expect stolen bases to be devalued under the new rules, so even if Bader’s speed keeps a pile of SBs on the table, they won’t be worth as much.

If Bader was closer to his 235 ADP from last season, sure, totally worth a flier. But being drafted in the same range as guys like Ian Happ and Brandon Nimmo, it’ll be a big pass for me.

But if Bader’s bat and/or health does cost him playing time, Estevan Florial is an interesting name to keep an eye on. Florial is 25 years old, out of options, and in 101 games at Triple-A last season he slashed .283/.368/.481, with 15 HR and 39 SB. Now, that’s a spicy line.

Myles Straw, CLE – Do you know what MLB managers love? An elite centerfielder. Do you know what they love less (some might say not at all)? What fantasy players think about how their elite centerfielders hit.

Straw is a noodle-batted, speed-only play, and one who might not even be worth a shot as a one-trick pony for your roster considering how much the new rules are likely to water down the value of individual stolen base contributions. But he’s also probably going to play a decent chunk of time, clogging up the outfield for the other more fantasy-relevant players you’d rather have out there.

Like Will Brennan, who slashed .316/.367/.471 at Triple-A last season, with 9 HR and 15 SB, and .357/.400/.500 in a 45 PA cup of coffee in the majors. But the left-handed Brennan also posted a .647 OPS vs LHP at Double-A and Triple-A last season and a .718 OPS in 2021 at High-A and Double-A, so let’s not get carried away with assuming a full-time role is in his near-future.

Michael A. Taylor/Nicky Lopez, KC – If you think this light-hitting duo is just going to head to the bench in favor of more exciting Royals prospects, I’d say you’re not truly appreciating the Mike Matheny experience. Yeah, I’d rather have Michael Massey (or even Nate Eaton) in the lineup right away, too, but I’m not holding my breath until we see if Matt Quatraro bucks Matheny’s previously established trend.

Here’s the good news, though – right now, somewhere in the world, Adalberto Mondesi might already be injuring himself. Whether walking the dog, shopping for groceries, or just getting gas, at literally any moment, Mondesi could go down in a snipered heap. And just like that, Quatraro would be forced to make it Massey-time, even if every fiber of his new Royal  mind rebels against it.

Miguel Rojas, LAD – Do you hear that? That’s the sound of the last Gavin Lux stans weeping gently, as I expect Lux’s playing time to bear the brunt of the LA’s recent acquisition. For his career, Lux has a .265 wOBA, .273 xwOBA, and a .587 OPS vs LHP, while Rojas was at least decent against them up until last year’s all-around disaster.

Miguel Rojas vs LHP
Year PA OBP SLG OPS wOBA xwOBA
2017 83 .325 .378 .703 .306 .323
2018 130 .292 .336 .628 .278 .314
2019 148 .338 .406 .744 .319 .311
2020 39 .538 .889 1.427 .590 .427
2021 163 .399 .486 .885 .382 .354
2022 130 .269 .289 .558 .252 .302

Looking at a Dodgers lineup that’s not nearly as good as I expected it to be heading into the offseason, it seems to me that Chris Taylor, James Outman, and Miguel Vargas, along with Lux and Rojas, are going to be doing a merry-go-round of playing time until someone clearly asserts themselves. And I’m just not sure when (or if) any of them will, making them draft poison for me.

Sophomore Split-ssues?

There are eight second-year players going in the first 100 picks but five came with big struggles vs LHP in 2022:

First Cedric, now Michael Harris II; it’s clear that rolling with a II may directly correlate with struggling against left-handed pitchers. It’s science.

And scientifically speaking, Harris number two was buh-buh ba-aad vs LHP, slashing .238/.284/.365 over 135 PA, with a .285 wOBA and .229 xwOBA, 30% K%, and 5% BB%. And while he did rise from a .261 wOBA in the first half (53 PA) to a .300 wOBA in the second half (82 PA), his xwOBA barely budged, posting a .229 xwOBA and .230 xwOBA.

Here’s a big difference, though, between Harris and other players we’ll discuss – Atlanta hasn’t yet shown any signs of actually caring. Called up on May 28th, Harris started 116 of Atlanta’s final 118 games in the regular season, regardless of starting pitcher handedness. Probably because the eventual NL ROY slashed .297/.339/.514 over 441 PA, with 19 HR and 20 SB. Oh, and finished 10th-highest in OAA among qualified centerfielders.

And while his results didn’t improve vs LHP, his eye may have started to, with his Chase% leveling off after peaking in July and his Chase Whiff% dropping more consistently:

Harris also ended his season with increased aggression and contact in the strike zone, rarely a bad thing:

My only worry in regard to Harris is that he might not always be batting in that prime second spot in Atlanta’s lineup, at least against left-handers, with Ozzie Albies waiting in the wings to reclaim his spot. But even in a worst-case scenario where Albies takes back over the two-hole against both hands and Harris again spends the year in the bottom half of the order, he’s still in an elite lineup with a fantasy categorical profile that’s as sweet as anyone.

Do we really need to cover Oneil Cruz vs LHP again? To be fair, the signing of Andrew McCutchen greatly improves the Pittsburgh lineup (though, a fairly low bar) and if no one bites on the king’s ransom that the Pirates want for Bryan Reynolds, the top half could be moderately decent, making me more bullish on Cruz’s R+RBI potential.

But I still think Cruz’s best shot at earning his draft price will be the Pirates implementing Toronto’s “strategy” from last year. Just face the fewest left-handers in baseball! The Blue Jays had the 7th-most PAs overall in 2022 but finished dead last in both total and percent of PAs vs LHP. Easy-peasy, Pirates; just do that.

Corbin Carroll certainly struggled mightily vs LHP but the sample at the majors is minuscule (30 PA). And when adding in the 102 PA vs LHP he got in the minors before getting called up, things aren’t nearly as ugly, with his total slash line across all levels last year coming in at .256/.341/.436.

Unfortunately, between a 2021 injury and a 2020 pandemic, our numbers for Carroll vs LHP pretty much begin and end with 2022. The good news, though, is that the questions about playing time in Arizona’s outfield have greatly cleared up with the trade of Dalton Varsho. I’m still not a big fan of his draft price but a stronger probability of an everyday role has definitely raised his stock.

Jeremy Peña may have moved up to #2 on my personal top-five list of favorite Peña’s (passing Tony but still trailing Michael) but it feels more and more like he’s staring down the pipe of a fantasy sophomore slump.

I mean, that .287 wOBA and 86 wRC+ in the second half was absolutely brutal, made more by his struggles vs RHP. Peña finished with a .294 wOBA (.293 xwOBA) vs RHP in 2023 but dropped from a .319 wOBA (.267 xwOBA) in the first half, to a .322 wOBA (.263 xwOBA). And the last I remember, there are a lot more RHPs than LHPs in MLB.

Counterpoint: Peña absolutely smashed all fools in the Astros World Series run, regardless of hand, including 4 HR in 61 PA:

Jeremy Peña 2023 Playoffs
Pitch % PA HR BA OBP SLG wOBA xwOBA
vs RHP 54 3 .333 .358 .608 .412 .365
vs LHP 7 1 .429 .429 .857 .549 .379

Counter-counter point: Peña ran a .410 BABIP and 31% HR/FB% (.298 BABIP and 17% HR/FB% in the regular season) and two of the home runs were off the ghosts of Frankie Montas and Noah Syndergaard, so they only count half.

Counter counter-counter point: One of the other homers was off Nestor Cortes, which obviously counts triple.

Luckily, Peña is excellent on defense (7 OAA in 2022) and has no real competition for his job, as Mauricio Dubón is currently the backup. But with no other true shortstops on their 40-man, it’ll be interesting to see how the always-in-win-now mode Astros will handle things if Peña continues to struggle vs RHP and starts his first half of 2023 as he ended 2022.

Count me as someone who thinks Adley Rutschman is the real deal and who isn’t going to stress about any spots of rookie struggles, even if he did slash a brutal .173/.287/.265 over 115 PA vs LHP in 2022.

Rutschman is a switch-hitting catcher with a special hit tool and one that never set off split alarms in the minors. In fact, he smashed lefties in his last real MiLB go-round. Between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 (166 PA), he slashed .350/.439/.621, with a 1.060 OPS that was over 200 points higher than against RHP.

Not only will Rutschman’s playing time not be affected by starting pitcher handedness, but the Orioles have also clearly signaled they’re looking to keep him in the lineup as often as possible, supplanting his catching duties with time at DH, or occasionally first base.

With piles of PAs and production, I’m preparing for a Summer of Adley.

Well, I suppose we might as well stay in Baltimore. We’ve also already talked about Gunnar Henderson and his struggles vs LHP both in the majors and minors but unlike fellow struggler, Oneil Cruz, I’m not sure we should automatically just assume he’ll be rolled out as a total full-timer.

But it’s not even necessarily about Henderson; there are just simply a lot of mouths to feed in Charm City, as things were already crowded but the addition of Adam Frazier made it even more so. And while many of them have good gloves, most also have an issue with one hand or the other.

Or both (cough-Jorge Mateo, cough-cough):

And for a quick defensive roundup, here’s how the current Orioles have fared by position in 2021-2022 by OAA (min 20 attempts):

I expect there to be a whole lot of mixing and matching in Baltimore next year, and there’s a real possibility Henderson gets a chunk of playing time vampired away. And even if it doesn’t end up dragging his overall fantasy value way down, it might make rostering him a lot more annoying during left-handed heavy weeks, particularly in H2H formats.

Again, this is nothing against Henderson. But frankly, I’m just becoming less and less keen to invest heavily in Baltimore hitters, besides Rutschman and Anthony Santander. There are just too many questions currently about splits/playing time/etc for me to not wonder how high their fantasy headache factor might go.

The Mullins Question

As in, given his top-50 price and how much he started getting sat against left-handers last summer, will the struggles of Cedric Mullins II turn into a 2023 fantasy liability?

In 2021, 36% of Mullins’s PAs came against left-handers but that dropped to 29% in 2022 but some of that is team context. The Orioles faced fewer LHP than they did in 2021 and Anthony Santander, Ryan Mountcastle, and Jorge Mateo also saw similar decreases. However, unlike them, Mullins also saw the team’s biggest dip from half to half, with his PA% vs LHP dropping from 35% to 21%.

And it wasn’t by accident.

During April and May, Baltimore faced 20 left-handed starters, with Mullins starting all but three. Aa-aand then?

Cedric Mullins Start% vs LHP
Month # LHP Mullins Starts Start% wOBA xwOBA
April 9 8 89 .320 .297
May 11 9 82 .260 .217
June 7 2 29 .235 .261
July 11 8 73 .224 .210
August 4 1 25 .133 .197
Sept/Oct 8 2 25 .313 .209

That’s dicey. But dicier still is that the two players spelling him more as the season went on, can actually hit left-handers. Well, kind of. Ok, fine! Averagely…at best…But still!

Baltimore Center Fielders vs LHP
Platoon Buddies? PA K% BB% wOBA xwOBA
Cedric Mullins II
2021 246 18.7 6.5 .339 .319
2022 197 24.4 5.6 .259 .236
Austin Hays
2021 214 15.4 4.7 .378 .343
2022 160 20.6 6.9 .310 .304
Ryan McKenna
2021 89 34.8 10.1 .220 .266
2022 69 24.6 7.2 .345 .299

Okay, so we have a player losing more and more playing time versus a certain-handed pitcher, with other options on his team hitting said hand much better. Uh-oh, pals – that sounds like a recipe for some fantasy-value wrecking platoonery.

Here’s the good news; Mullins is a really good centerfielder, finishing in the top five in OAA the past two seasons, and was a Gold Glove finalist last year. Hays and McKenna? Not so much.

And not for nothing but when you’re a great fielder like Mullins you’re also going to pinch-hit plenty. That might sound negligible but of the 13 games he didn’t start (11 vs LHP), Mullins pinch-hit in eight of them (picking up multiple plate appearances five times) for a total of 13 PA. Sure, it’s just 13 PA but I’d rather think of them as three games that cancel out three of the times he got benched against a lefty. Always half full, kids!

Also – and hear me out – maybe Mullins improves enough that he won’t get sat as much vs LHP? After all, it wasn’t that long ago that he slashed .277/.337/.451 over 247 PA vs LHP, with a .339 wOBA and 9 HR – all the way back in the year 2021. And even if he can’t turn back the clock that far, Mullins should also be helped out by the new rules against shifting. Last season, he had 56 PA facing a left-hander and a full shift, slashing .164/.179/.273, with a .205 BABIP.

I’m not banking on the ~675 PA he’s racked up in each of the past two seasons; 625-650 PA seems like a safer bet. But Mullins’s fantasy skill set can help him still earn his draft cost even if he’s not an absolute everyday player, as he could still garner over 45 HR+SB. But do be aware of the risks he’ll come packaged with.





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dukebd555member
9 days ago

Nick, what are your thoughts on Tommy edman? He fits both in the elite glove category and also the splits category ( stl sat him a lot vs righties 2nd half). He’s a great SB guy is he plays and hits leadoff but drops a lot of he hits 9th every day