Matt Davidson & Whit Merrifield: Deep League Wire

My condolences to myself and all you suffering Mike Trout owners. Since I have only had the chance to complain to one of my best friends, I’ll take this opportunity to whine about how it figures that the first year I ever own Trout he hits the DL for the first time. Cross your fingers that my AL Tout Wars team can hold its top position!

Matt Davidson | 3B CHW | CBS 10% Owned

I’m quite surprised that a guy with 10 homers and a .361 wOBA is owned in just 10% of CBS leagues. Sure, he has struck out a ton, but a .343 BABIP on its own isn’t automatically unsustainable, and with that mark, his average sits at .268. He’s essentially what we expected Miguel Sano to be this year. Davidson opened the year with the potential for DH at-bats, and he has been the last man standing.

The big flaw is obviously the swing and miss, as his SwStk% stands at an inflated 15.7%. And he isn’t exactly taking the free pass enough to offset all those at-bats that end in a strikeout. However, he has displayed immense power, with a 23.8% HR/FB rate driving a .276 ISO. And that’s totally supported by a monstrous 18.2% Brls/BBE, which ranks 10th on the Statcast Leaderboard. Of course, he’s typically been in the low-to-mid teens in HR/FB rate in the minors, so either this is just a hot streak of barreled ball action or his power is truly blossoming at age 26.

In addition to the homers he’s hitting on those fly balls, he’s hitting flies at an extreme rate. His 54.5% fly ball rate ranks fourth among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. That’s fantastic for his future power potential, but it also makes it difficult to believe that he could sustain that .343 BABIP. So the bottom line here is don’t expect even a neutral batting average, but the power is for real. The only question is whether he loses playing time if he goes into an extended batting average slump, which is bound to happen sooner or later.

Whit Merrifield | 2B KC | 10% Owned

Merrifield opened the year in the minors, but when Raul Mondesi proved that he still couldn’t hit, it was Merrifield who was the beneficiary. Last year, he looked to be a fluke performer, mostly delivering an empty batting average, and even that average was propped up by a .361 BABIP. But this year, Merrifield has joined something. What’s that? The fly ball revolution, of course!

Merrifield’s FB% has spiked from 29.8% to 39%, which isn’t what you typically like to see from a limited power hitting middle infielder. But he’s taking full advantage of all those extra flies, as his Brls/BBE has surged from a poor 2.9% to a respectable 7.7%. He has already hit four more homers in about 200 fewer at-bats versus last year! But perhaps most exciting is the fact that along with this power surge, he has been able to cut his strikeout rate significantly. A peak at his plate discipline metrics don’t point to any obvious explanation, as his O-Swing%, Swing%, Contact%, and SwStk% are all nearly identical to last season. So this looks like an example of a batter who was unlucky last year and maybe the truth lies somewhere in the middle of the two strikeout rates.

So even though his BABIP has plummeted, his batting average has actually risen because of the reduced strikeout rate and additional power. He also continues to steal bases and is on base for even more than last year, making him a potential double/double guy. And all this is only owned in 10% of leagues!





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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thwerve
Member
thwerve

I’m trying to find away to get better plate discipline on count splits, so far haven’t found a good a way here or on brooks. But I think Whit has either improved his or developed a better 2-strike approach. Maybe it’s even just confidence but all I have is the results so I can’t figure out the process change. In the full-season stats you can see a slight increase in swing rate and out-of-zone contact rate and I suspect a lot of that may be coming on pitcher’s counts.

Anyhow, last year results-wise, if pitchers got him to 2 strikes, he was basically already finished. This year, he’s not only respectably protecting the plate but even working some counts into a walk:

http://www.fangraphs.com/splitstool.aspx?playerid=11281&position=2B&splitArr=62,65,71,70&strgroup=season&type=2&startDate=all&endDate=all&filter=

davels
Member
Member
davels

Nevermind… you were looking at Merrifield, not Davidson. And it looks like you have the correct Fangraphs splits. The splits for counts are also available on BBref… and I find those easier to peruse. YMMV