by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Chasing pitches outside of the strike zone doesn’t mean that a player is going to struggle. It doesn’t guarantee an elevated strikeout rate or consistently weak contact, but it certainly doesn’t help matters. With that in mind let’s take a look at the ten players who posted the highest O-Swing% from 2017 and try to pinpoint their outlook moving forward:
- There are two truly big names on the list, Adam Jones and Mike Moustakas. A lot of Moustakas’ value is tied to his power outburst (38 HR), and where he lands via free agency is going to determine his value. For now we’ll have to wait and see what happens before diving into him. As for Jones, he’s consistently posted an elevated O-Swing%, with a career mark of 41.5%. He’s managed to continually produce, despite the elevated number, but he’s also now 32-years old and sooner or later it could catch up with him. Be cautious moving forward.
- Javier Baez has long been a highly hyped player, and to an extent he delivered in ’17 with 23 HR and 10 SB. The problem is that he was extremely lucky, with a .345 BABIP despite a 15.4% line drive rate (and it’s easy to tie the low line drive rate to his elevated O-Swing%). Throw in far too many swings and misses (18.6% SwStr%) and it’s hard to imagine him posting a strong average. Sure there’s power and speed, but he needs to become more disciplined or his value will quickly plummet.
- It was an impressive finish for Tim Anderson, who hit .327 with 3 HR and 9 SB in September. Of course his plate discipline was abysmal, with a 47.2% O-Swing% and 16.8% SwStr% over the month. It was good that he was putting the ball on the ground (60.5% groundball rate), but it’s impossible for him to maintain this type of production with the poor approach. He’s got draft day overpay written all over him.
- It’s been a change of approach for Didi Gregorius, who has taken more of a home run approach in recent seasons (43.8% fly ball rate in ’17). Maybe it’s the Yankee Stadium effect, but that has led to an increased popup rate (15.5%) and a severe regression in his plate discipline (11.4% SwStr% in ’17). None of that makes for a promising outlook, and the fact that the fly ball rate continued to rise throughout the season (46.5% in the second half) makes it look that much worse. Sure it’s led to power, but the risk in his average may outweigh the reward.
- Kevin Pillar was a popular breakout candidate heading into ’17 and, when healthy, he delivered with 16 HR and 15 SB. His O-Swing% has always been elevated (39.5% for his career), though it hasn’t impacted his ability to make contact (7.9% SwStr%). This number shouldn’t change our outlook.
- The jump in O-Swing% for Odubel Herrera is definitely a concern, going from 34.6% in ’16 to last year’s 40.0%. He did see slightly more breaking balls and offspeed pitches last season, and with poor Whiff% against them (17.56% and 17.13%, respectively), there’s little reason to think anything will change. That could mean more strikeouts, and without elite power that will hurt his overall outlook. Without an adjustment now is going to be the time to sell high.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections: