New Everyday Players — Aug 9, 2022

Let’s keep it going with another pack of new everyday players. This one happens to be a Marlins edition, as nearly half the lineup features new starters this month.

Lewin Díaz | 1B MIA

Díaz first made his MLB debut back in 2020, and has been up and down since. He’s back up again since late July and has started 10 of 12 games since his recall. He has sat against two left-handed starters, so as a lefty himself, one might assume he’s on the strong side of a platoon. But the Marlins actually faced three straight lefties and Díaz started against the third one, so it’s possible he’ll start here and there against southpaws.

The 25-year-old has shown interesting skills in the minors. His walk rate has trended up from below average to about average, while he has posted better than average strikeout rates despite consistent double digit SwStk% marks. That’s likely due to the low walk rates and his aggressiveness at the plate. Sure enough, a peek down into his MLB plate discipline stats confirms that he has swung at pitches outside the zone significantly more frequently than the average batter, resulting in fewer walks and strikeouts. It’s a risky approach, but we’ve seen enough examples of players pulling it off.

Most intriguing here is his power potential. While he has only posted mid-teen HR/FB rates, that has come with high 40% to low 50% fly ball rates. All those fly balls means that even a mid-teen HR/FB rate could lead to a nice home run total. During his Triple-A career over 680 PAs, which is essentially a full, healthy season, he hit 39 dingers. So even though he doesn’t actually own elite power, he gives himself more chances than most to knock balls over the wall with that FB%.

Of course, all those flies have their downside — his BABIP has bounced around and settled well below .300 during both of his Triple-A stints. There, he hit tons of fly balls and pop-ups, and failed to hit enough line drives to offset the easy outs. That’s going to make it extremely difficult for him to hit for batting average, even with an acceptable strikeout rate and the homers. He’s going to need to walk more to make it as an every day player in the Majors, but for now, those in deeper leagues desperate for home runs might as well take a chance.

JJ Bleday | OF MIA

Bleday was the fourth overall pick of the 2019 June Amateur Draft and has started in center or left field the majority of games since his recall in late July. Despite becoming college baseball’s 2018-2019 home run champion, Bleday posted just a 6.7% HR/FB rate at High-A in his professional debut in 2019, and followed that up with an 8.5% mark at Double-A last year. So early on, his college power failed to translate to the minors.

This year, his power finally surged. His HR/FB rate more than doubled to 18.9% at Triple-A, while his ISO hopped over .200 for the first time. He made the most of that HR/FB rate by hitting an insane rate of fly balls. He posted a 53.5% FB%, which resulted in 20 homers over just more than half a season’s worth of PAs. Aside from the power spike, he also walked often, but suffered an increase in strikeout rate, despite a similar SwStk%. That’s likely due to an approach that’s opposite of Díaz’s above, where Bleday’s patience resulted in more called strikeouts and deeper counts.

Just like all the flies had their downside on Díaz’s BABIP, it also has on Bleday’s, who has posted similar below average marks. The low BABIP, combined with increased strikeout rate at Triple-A led to just a .228 average. He could still potentially be an above average hitter given the elite walk rate, especially if he keeps hitting fly balls as often as he has.

With limited speed, you’re buying the home runs here and his batting average potential is even worse than Díaz’s. He gets a nice boost in OBP leagues though, so he’s a definite target there. But his value is limited to deep mixed and NL-Only leagues for power seekers.

Charles Leblanc | 3B MIA

When a comment was made on my post yesterday expecting to see Leblanc’s name, I thought it was a made-up player. Seriously. I guess I don’t read Rotoworld closely enough because I didn’t realize he was recalled, let alone has started eight straight games!

The 26-year-old failed to make the latest Marlins top prospect list and our last article that mentioned his name was published back in 2017. So it’s pretty clear that no one was expected him to become an everyday starter for the Marlins at some point this season. The team has suffered through a ton of injuries, which is usually a big reason why surprise faces like Leblanc find themselves in the starting lineup.

Through 2019, Leblanc showed little power, with mid-single digit HR/FB rates and a peak ISO of just .139. Then something must have clicked in 2021, as his HR/FB rate suddenly shot up to 20% and his ISO jumped above .200. After a half season repeating Triple-A this year, it seems pretty clear that last year’s power breakout was no fluke. His HR/FB rate stood at 17.1% and ISO remained just above .200 before his promotion, so he seems like a new hitter.

However, it looks like he may have been selling out for power as his strikeout rate surged and his SwStk% jumped into double digits for the first time since his 2016 professional debut. Obviously it worked in terms of earning him his first big league promotion. But since he’s not going to maintain a .396 BABIP in the Majors, I’m skeptical this skill set is good enough to hold a starting job. While the power spike is nice, he might not be able to hit for power and maintain an acceptable strikeout rate. And since his power hasn’t been that good, it’s simply not enough to justify the high strikeout rate. Consider him a short-term flyer for now and that’s it.

Peyton Burdick | OF MIA

Man, where are the Marlins finding these players?! Burdick is another clear beneficiary of all the team’s injuries, though he was ranked as the team’s ninth best prospect. So his promotion isn’t nearly as out of nowhere as Leblanc’s. Burdick was graded with a rare 70/70 Raw Power score, but that tool has yet to translate into results. Sure, he posted a 21.7% HR/FB rate at Double-A last year, but that isn’t exactly 70 grade power, and his HR/FB rate fell to just 13.7% at Triple-A this year. That’s basically league average, maybe a touch higher.

Like a lot of Marlins on this list, he has made the most of his power by hitting lots of fly balls. He has posted an amazingly consistent FB% right in the mid-40% range during all three of his minor league stints over a reasonable sample. It still hasn’t been enough though to result in a high home run total because of either the high strikeout rate (2021) or low HR/FB rates (2019 and 2022). He has also struggled to hit line drives, so that combined with his fly ball tendency has yielded a lower than average BABIP, though better than some of the previous names on this list.

Seems like the Marlins might be teaching a certain approach to their young hitters since they all seem pretty similar! Unlike the others, Burdick has shown a bit of speed and willingness to steal bases, even if he hasn’t been particularly good at it. A forecast of five to 10 steals over a full season adds a couple of bucks to his value. That’s much needed, as his batting average is likely to be harmful and he’s not going to make up for it with elite power. He does get a boost in OBP leagues though some previous names as well, so do strongly consider him in those formats.

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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alan fogelmember
1 year ago

Sounds like the Marlins of the 90’s… always moving around and trading plyares. How do they keep any fans!