By Brent Maguire, AngelsWin.com Staff Writer
The introduction of Statcast has brought a whole new dynamic to the baseball world and how players will be evaluated going forward. Not only do teams and fans have crazy new statistical evidence to judge players by but there is now an extraordinarily unique tracking system. Statcast precisely follows every movement of every player on the field at a given time and tracks the exact movements and velocities of each batted ball. This type of new system allows for a new way to track potentially undervalued or overvalued players or players who may have just been downright unlucky or lucky for a given year. With this in mind, it’s an interesting thought to try to predict what some players will do in the upcoming year.
For the Angels, it seemed like a fun exercise to find some potential sleepers and busts for the 2017 squad. Here are 4 players (2 pitchers and 2 position players) who could either surprise people in 2017 or disappoint.
Sleeper(Pitcher): Jose Alvarez
Without any Statcast data taken into account, Jose Alvarez has already been a bit underrated by Angels fans for the past few seasons. By ERA-(park and league adjusted ERA), Alvarez was 9% better than the league average pitcher in 2015 and 14% better in 2016. By FIP-(park and league adjusted FIP), Alvarez was 8% better than the league average pitcher in 2015 and 25% better in 2016. Just looking at some of the more basic analytics show that Alvarez is already a quality member of what might be a poor Angels bullpen in 2017.
Alvarez looks even more encouraging when you look at the deeper Statcast information. In 2016, Alvarez’s average exit velocity allowed was 86.4 mph, which was the 28th best mark among pitchers with at least 100 batted ball events. In 2015, his 85.4 mph mark was the 10th best mark. In the Statcast era, Alvarez has shown an ability to induce weak contact while also having the good ERA and peripheral stats to back up the performance. After posting a very nice FIP in 2016, it’s very possible Alvarez can continue to be a steady performer or even take a step forward. Alvarez’s clean mechanics and solid 4 pitch mix should allow for his performance to continue to be steady in 2017.
Bust(Pitcher): Andrew Bailey
Andrew Bailey was once a dynamic young reliever with loads of potential who ended up struggling with injuries and performances for what seemed like an eternity. Bailey was plucked up off waivers late in 2016 by the Angels and churned in a nice 11.1 inning sample with a 2.38 ERA. As you may know, that’s a very small sample to read too far into, especially considering what he was doing the years prior to doing this. He also had a less impressive 3.68 FIP in that sample. Regardless of that, Billy Eppler brought Bailey back on a cheap 1 year deal worth 1 million dollars plus some incentives. It’s hardly some potentially bad deal but there isn’t much to love with Bailey going into his age 33 season.
Digging into the Statcast info, it gets even murkier with Bailey. Lets introduce a new Statcast measurement here to evaluate Bailey by: Brrls/BBE. This measures the percentage of well barreled baseballs, which says a well struck barreled baseball has an estimated batting average of .500+ and slugging percentage of 1.500+. In 2016, Bailey had the 4th worst Brrls/BBE among pitchers with 100 batted ball events with a 11.2% mark. He also had a mediocre 89.3 mph average exit velocity allowed on the year, showing he’s allowing way too many hard hit balls to maintain success. One Statcast plus Bailey has going for him is elite spin rate on his fastball with 2,674 RPM, which was tops in all of baseball in 2016. However, that fastball didn’t do too much in terms of success in 2016. Bailey represents an interesting case study for 2017 as he features some very ugly Statcast measurements but also one very good measurement.
Sleeper(Hitter): Danny Espinosa
Acquired during the offseason from the Nationals, Danny Espinosa returns to his hometown Angels a year before he hits free agency. Espinosa is mainly being brought over due to his extremely good defense he can play up the middle but his bat could surprise many people in 2017. In 4 of his 7 big league seasons, Espinosa has been roughly a slightly below league average hitter. In the other 3 seasons, Espinosa has been a very poor hitter, with a wRC+ hovering around 80. 2016 was one of those poor seasons, where he posted a .209/.306/.378 line with a 79 wRC+. This line occurred even with 24 home runs, which shows you that the long ball isn’t everything.
Here’s where there is some optimism: Statcast thinks Espinosa was unlucky in 2016. He posted a 91.1 average exit velocity along with a 10.8% Brrls/BBE. Both of those figures ranked in the upper 3rd of MLB hitters, which shows that Espinosa was squaring up plenty of baseballs. While Espinosa’s strikeouts and fly ball tendencies are a culprit for the poor offensive season, the underlying numbers say he should’ve posted a better line. Espinosa will never be a good hitter and maybe even an average one but if Espinosa carries over this hard contact hitting ways into 2017, he could post a 90-95 wRC+. With the defense he brings, he could very well be a 3-3.5 WAR player in 2017.
Bust(Hitter): Ben Revere
Revere experienced his worst big league season in 2016 with the Nationals, as he posted an atrocious 47 wRC+ that led to an abysmal -1.2 WAR. While it’s easy to look at the 2016 season as a lost one for Revere, you also can’t ignore what happened in the most recent season. He could very well bounce back but he could just be declining a bit earlier than some players do. He posted a career high fly ball% and a career low BABIP, which aren’t good signs for a speedster who needs to hit more ground balls and liners to succeed.
Looking at his Statcast information paints an even more bleak picture. His 83.7 mph average exit velocity was very poor, putting him near some NL pitchers who had to bat and a collection of backup infielders and catchers. He only barreled up 2 baseballs all year per Statcast’s criteria, which shows how poor his contact quality was all season. Revere is still young at 28 years old, still runs well and can handle himself defensively so not all is lost here. However, it doesn’t look likely that we’ll see the .300 hitting 90-95 wRC+ hitter going forward.
Other notable players:
Mike Trout: It shouldn’t be surprising that Trout ranks near the top of leader boards for hard contact. He barreled up 57 baseballs in 2016, good for a 15.5% Brrls/BBE.
Albert Pujols: The Machine may be old but he still makes quality contact, as he posted a 92.5 mph average exit velocity
Carlos Perez: Perez’s overall line in 2016 was that of a backup catcher and the Statcast information backed it up. He had a poor 84.9 mph average exit velocity along with only 3 barreled baseballs all season.