Trevor Larnach is Just Getting Started

Chances are if you picked up Trevor Larnach in a shallower league, you cut him after a couple of weeks due to poor performance. Two weeks in he was running a .186/.314/.326 with just a single homer. A week later he was at .228/.389/.456 so he was still hitting a lot of waiver wires despite some OPS improvement. The walks were great but there was little else in terms of production. Hell, even his .247/.389/.438 to date doesn’t scream “pick up!” And yet, that’s exactly what I’m doing because I see Larnach having a strong summer that will make him relevant across many formats.

First off, a .247 AVG is better than we think. The fantasy community writ large hasn’t made the necessary adjustments on batting averages in terms of what is and isn’t useful for our teams. The league AVG of .237 is lowest since 1968 aka The Year of the Pitcher.

There is even a Wiki entry that highlights both 1968 and 2010 as such. That isn’t to say that a .247 AVG is helping your fantasy team, but it also isn’t hurting you to a degree that the player needs to do a ton elsewhere to counterbalance the AVG drag. Let me just say that those of you in OBP leagues can amplify the Larnach interest substantially as his excellent BB% makes him much better in those formats, even right now while he finds his footing as a big leaguer.

The AVG aside, Larnach’s power is why I am so interested in him. It’s 30-HR pop with the chance to be more. You might see his .167 ISO as a minor leaguer (though he also hit .306 in those 734 PA) and question that, which is fair, but I think it owes to the discrepancy in Game v. Raw power found in his scouting report when he slotted 3rd on the Twins prospect list.

As he gets comfortable in the bigs, we should see him closing the gap on that grade and a half difference in power types. In other words, he is going to bring some of that 5 o’clock pop (batting practice) to game situations. Nicklaus Gaut highlighted how one strong aspect of Larnach’s early game has been the ability to smash fastballs. Hitting the heat is a great foundation to build upon and Larnach’s obvious plate control – his 14% BB rate is driving his early MLB success and he had an 11% mark in the minors – has me confident that he will improve against off-speed stuff. His splits to date are insane:

  • Fastballs: .415/.510/.756, 3 HR, 16% K & BB rates
  • Everything Else: .031/.244/.031, 0 HR, 44% K, 12% BB

His .275 OPS against off-speed stuff slots him 300th out of 308 batters with at least 40 PA ending on an off-speed pitch. His .071 BABIP is 306th. The average BABIP is .281 for the group in question. Obviously his 44% K rate is awful (27% is average) but as he makes more contact, his BABIP should rise and help him at least be in the “not horrendous” tier against off-speed stuff.

He will likely still be platooned a bit with regular sits against lefties – and yes, I know he has a 1.026 OPS against them thanks 2 of his 3 hits being homers, but the 47% K rate tells me he isn’t exactly adept at hitting them consistently – but that doesn’t mean he can’t be fantasy viable, even in 12-team leagues. Strong side platoon bats have definitely carved out fantasy roles over the years and it is even more viable now with how many teams regularly shift guys in and out of their lineups and the rise in injuries limiting the upper reaches of plate appearances.

In 2019, 70 players had 600+ PA which was the lowest total since 2011 and that was a sharp outlier as it dropped by 21 players from 2010. The next non-strike-season lowest was 66 in 1992. I see Larnach logging around 310 more plate appearances if he stays healthy and doesn’t greatly improve against lefties, which puts him in about 75 of the remaining 103 games for the Twins. I am very confident he exceeds his current HR rate (3 in 90 PA meaning he’d get around 10 in 310) and lands somewhere in the 15-20 range.

Steamer has C.J. Cron hitting 15 in 320 PA the rest of season with a .251/.328/.469 line. Cron should exceed those numbers, especially if his walk gains hold, but it is a good base to work from with Larnach. Well, with a higher OBP for sure, but it felt like the right statistical comp to build upon. Maybe fellow rookie Nate Lowe is an even better one at .248/.344/.430 with 15 HR, though it comes in 85 more PA than I suggested for Larnach which means his SLG would close the gap and be closer to the Cron projection.

At best, Larnach is a ground floor pickup if you have room to hold someone who isn’t yet a set it and forget it player. At worst, consider this an extended Watchlist entry for Larnach and be ready to pounce when he fits your team plans. The upcoming schedule should be pretty friendly, too, as only the Mariners have more than one lefty in their rotation among their next six opponents.

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Long Suffering Tribe Fanmember
1 year ago

Paul, thank you! I’m putting the finishing touches on my roster moves for this week and I was thinking about dropping him for a shot at DJ Stewart. Not no more!