What Batted Ball Data Might Be Telling Us About Manny Machado and Adalberto Mondesi

Manny Machado and Adalberto Mondesi, two shortstops drafted inside the top-50 this spring, have had very different seasons to date.

Since signing with the Padres in the offseason, Machado has struggled (.261/.342/.451) to produce at his usual elite level. A level that made him worthy of a 10-year, $300-million contract. Mondesi meanwhile, has picked up where he left off in 2018, hitting for modest power (30 extra base hits) and batting average (.277), to go along with his league-leading 26 stolen bases.

But some of the underlying peripherals suggest that these two shortstops could see their performance trend in opposite directions during the second half of the season.

Adalberto Mondesi

Mondesi’s offensive shortcomings are obvious: he strikes out often and walks too infrequently. Since his callup in June of last season, he’s amassed 591 plate appearances and produced a 106 wRC+ despite just a 0.17 BB/K rate. He has also managed to hit .277 over that same period, despite some underwhelming batted ball data.

Adalberto Mondesi Batted Ball Data
Avg Ext Velocity Avg. Exit Velocity FB xwOBA Hard Contact% Soft Contact%
Mondesi 87.8 91.2 0.299 39.6 19.3
League Avg 88.2 92.9 0.322 37.8 17.2
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Mondesi’s hard hit, exit velocity and expected stats all rank in the bottom 35th percentile of the league. His wOBA-xwOBA differential (0.026) is the fifteenth highest among players with 250 plate appearances this season. According to Statcast, his expected batting average (xBA) is just .243 and his xwOBA is just .299.

Since 2010, only 19 players have posted seasons with a wRC+ over 110 and a BB/K rate at or under 0.2. Only Adam Jones and Javy Baez have done it more than once and only four players (Baez, Paul DeJong, Marlon Byrd and Randal Grichuk) have done it with a strikeout rate above Mondesi’s 26.5 K%.

BB/K Ratios Since 2010
Season Name BB% K% BB/K OPS wRC+
2010 Chris Johnson 4.1% 25.1% 0.165 0.818 119
2010 John Buck 3.7% 25.4% 0.144 0.802 114
2012 Michael Morse 3.7% 22.6% 0.165 0.791 113
2012 Tyler Colvin 4.6% 25.9% 0.179 0.858 113
2012 Will Middlebrooks 4.5% 24.5% 0.186 0.835 122
2013 Adam Jones 3.6% 19.7% 0.184 0.811 119
2013 Starling Marte 4.4% 24.4% 0.181 0.784 122
2014 Juan Uribe 3.7% 19.1% 0.195 0.777 122
2014 Marlon Byrd 5.5% 29.0% 0.189 0.757 110
2014 Adam Jones 2.8% 19.5% 0.143 0.780 117
2014 Yan Gomes 4.6% 23.2% 0.200 0.785 117
2014 Danny Santana 4.4% 22.8% 0.194 0.824 132
2015 Randal Grichuk 6.3% 31.4% 0.200 0.877 138
2015 Jonathan Schoop 2.8% 24.6% 0.114 0.788 113
2016 Ryon Healy 4.2% 21.2% 0.200 0.861 132
2017 Paul DeJong 4.7% 28.0% 0.169 0.857 122
2018 Javier Baez 4.5% 25.9% 0.174 0.881 131
2018 Adalberto Mondesi 3.8% 26.5% 0.143 0.804 114
2019 Javier Baez 5.4% 30.5% 0.178 0.876 123

No doubt Mondesi’s stolen bases (57 since June of 2018) drive fantasy value, but it’s still very possible that he profiles as someone that hits under .250 with an OBP south of .300.  No matter what happens to his batting average, the steals will make him fantasy relevant, but as the above list shows, his high strikeout/low walk plate approach makes it very difficult to be consistently productive. The less often someone reaches base, the less opportunities they have to steal. If a correction comes, Mondesi may look more like a top-75 player than the top-20 player he looks like right now.

Manny Machado

While Mondesi’s underlying numbers make me question if he will be able to sustain his run as an above league average hitter, Manny Machado’s underlying numbers make me wonder why he has struggled so mightily and become so maligned by some.

Most of his batted ball metrics are stable. His exit velocity, hard hit rate, and GB/FB ratios are all in line with his career norms and well above the major league averages.

Manny Machado Batted Ball Data
Avg. Exit Velocity Avg. Exit Velocity FB/LD GB/FB Hard Hit% BB/K
Machado 2019 90.4 95.1 1.04 42.4 0.49
2019 League Avg 88.2 92.9 1.2 37 0.38
Machado Career 90.8 95.2 1.1 44.8 0.45
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

One problem this season: Machado is making less contact. His swinging strike percentage of 11.4 and contact percentage of 75.2 are both career lows, contributing to a career high 20.9% strikeout rate. But this is not the first time Machado has seen his strikeout rate spike in a small sample.

One difference in 2019 is that he hasn’t seen his rolling average drop below 10 percent like it has in the past. But Machado’s increased walk rate means that his BB/K rate is fairly in line with his career norm of .45. While it’s possible Machado has lost some of his bat-to-ball skills, at 26-years-old I would bet against it. Especially given that his quality of contact seems to have remained stable.

The narrative that Machado “can’t hit away from Camden Yards” still seems incomplete. He slashed .279/.360/.514 at pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium last season. It also fails to take into account that some of the parks Machado hit at most frequently in the American League East were also hitter-friendly (Yankee Stadium, the Rogers Centre, and Fenway).

Given his ever-fluctuating desire to run, banking on Machado to steal bases appears to be an unwise proposition at this point in time, but his ability to hit for a solid batting average with thirty-plus home runs should be well within his range of reasonable outcomes for the remainder of the season.

Despite Mondesi’s initial success as a player that can hit for a respectable batting average, his batted ball metrics and the history of players with his contact profile suggests he might not be able to sustain his initial run of production. Machado is struggling, but he still appears to own most of the skills that made him an elite hitter for the past five seasons. While they might appear to be trending in different directions on the surface, there’s a strong chance that Machado sees his production increase and Mondesi sees his fall off as the season moves into the second half.

Nick thinks running a Major League or fantasy baseball team is incredibly easy. Until he is handed one of those coveted GM positions, his writing at RotoGraphs will illustrate how to do it properly. Fantasy baseball trade consultations and anything else can be sent to nick.dika@gmail.com or tweeted to @nickdika.

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4 years ago

Great numbers, great research, great article. I wonder if things will pan out like the numbers say they will. This was an exceptional read.