New NL Everyday Starters — Aug 18, 2021

Let’s once again continue reviewing new everyday starters, but flipping over to the National League.

Lars Nootbaar | STL OF

Dylan Carlson just hit the IL, giving Nootbaar an extended look in right field. Despite being just 23 years old, Nootbaar hasn’t been ranked among the Cardinals top prospects since 2018. Back then, he was slapped with an ETA of 2021, so that was good forecasting!

Nootbaar has had an interesting minor league career. He mostly showed very little power in 2018 and 2019, posting sub-.100 ISO marks at three of four stints. However, his plate discipline was always solid and his SwStk% marks never exceeded 8%. Given his lack of power and not much speed to make up for it, he seemed like a better real life player with little chance for a fantasy impact.

Then 2021 happened. This yea, something clearly clicked, because his HR/FB rate skyrocketed to 27.3% and ISO was back up to .188, just below his best previous mark in 2019 at Single-A. He also continued showing good discipline, walking at a double digit clip and striking out less than 20% of the time. He managed to once again post an inflated BABIP, thanks to a line drive and ground ball tendency, despite a high IFFB%, which isn’t as concerning given the low FB%. In the tiniest of samples, he’s so far carried those skills over to the Majors.

Once Carlson returns, there won’t be any room for Nootbaar to start in the outfield, but he could potentially make an impact while Carlson remains out. I wouldn’t expect major contributions, so his value is limited to deep leagues, but he’s a decent stopgap.

Frank Schwindel | CHC 1B

The Cubs housecleaning, including trading away Anthony Rizzo, opened the door for Schwindel to take over at first base. Amazingly, he was DFAd by the Athletics and claimed by the Cubs in mid-July, who knew in mid-August, he would be enjoying an everyday job?!

Schwindel is already 29 years old, so he’s no prospect, but he’s only recorded 89 plate appearances in the Majors, 74 of which have come this year. He has shown excellent power at times in the minors, with ISO marks over .300 at Triple-A in both 2019 and 2021, along with HR/FB rates over 20%. He actually doesn’t strike out very often for a power hitter, though surprisingly, he also doesn’t walk very often.

That combination of low walk and low strikeout rates for a power hitter is rare. Typically you’ll see higher rates of both as pitchers are cautious as to not allow a home run. While the low walk rate may perhaps mean Schwindel is prone to swinging at bad pitches and producing lower quality contact, his low strikeout rate means more balls in play, which should lead to a higher batting average and more home runs. The latter assuming he’s not swinging more at bad pitches and producing lower quality contact.

So far in his 74 PAs this year, he’s already posted a 112.5 maxEV, which is fantastic, so the power appears real. He has also continued his walk and strikeout rates, with lower than average marks in both. While it’s hard to imagine Schwindel being the team’s long-term replacement, or even their starter heading into 2022, he should continue to play often, at least until he hits an extended slump.

Yadiel Hernandez | WAS OF

Kyle Schwarber’s injury, and now trade to the Red Sox, opened the door for Hernandez, who is now starting most games in left field for the Nationals. Hernandez is already 33, but was signed out of Cuba in 2016, so he’s had a typical minor league career, rather than an elongated one, despite his age.

He’s had quite the minor league success. He has shown big power, with ISO marks as high as the .288 he had before his recall this year (only 59 at-bats), a .280 mark at Triple-A back in 2019, and HR/FB rates as high as the 36.7% mark he posted in that 2019 stint as well. Even better is that he hasn’t struck out frequently and has still hit for such power. In 2019, he posted a solid 20.9% mark and even walked at a double digit clip. If he wasn’t over the age of 30 already, he would have garnered far more hype than he has.

The only concern here is his fly ball rate, which oddly has never exceeded 29%, aside from his 59 at-bat stint at Triple-A this season. For such a power hitter, it’s a wonder why he hits so many ground balls. That’s going to cap his home run potential, but all the grounders, combined with a consistently low IFFB%, could result in a strong BABIP. He’s currently sporting a .366 mark, as he’s yet to pop-up during his short MLB career.

With the Nationals in last place, I’m not sure why Hernandez isn’t playing every single day. The team might as well see what he could do in the short time they have before his decline phase.

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

“Before his decline phase” – at 33? He’s in it!