There is no doubt that the blend of power and speed that Javier Baez brings to the table is going to hold value regardless of the fantasy format you play. He’s coming off a year where he hit .281 with 29 HR and 11 SB over 561 PA, his third straight season of at least 23 HR, 10 SB and a .270+ AVG. You would think that would make him a no-brainer, though his approach calls his ability to maintain the production into question. Just look at these key numbers over the past three seasons (among qualified hitters):
- SwStr% – 18.6% (league worst, one of four players with 17.4% or worse)
- O-Swing% – 44.9% (third worst, one of four players with 44.2% or worse)
Despite those numbers he’s managed to post a strikeout rate of 28.3% or better in each of these three seasons, so it hasn’t become a significant issue as of yet. That doesn’t mean that it won’t, as he’s continued to struggle making contact against all types of pitches. Just look at the Whiff% from last year:
- Hard – 15.34%
- Breaking – 25.32%
- Offspeed – 23.32%
While that remains an issue that could plague him, the aggressive approach and lack of discipline (which hurts his value in OBP formats) hasn’t stopped him from making solid contact when he does barrel up the ball. His 37.4% Hard% last season was a career best… Both his Barrel% (12.7% compared to a league average of 6.3%) and Exit Velocity (91.0 mph compared to a league average of 87.5 mph) were well above league average…
Those three things help to support his elevated BABIP (.345 or better each of the past three seasons), as does a willingness to use the entire field (27.9% Oppo%) and ability to hit for power without an extreme flyball approach (31.6% flyball rate). Those are all strong numbers and help to support what he’s been able to do, but it doesn’t make it a given…
We know he brings power, though the 21 SB he posted in ’18 appear to be an aberration. He’s clearly more of a 30/10 type middle infielder over a full season, so the question comes down to the average. The skills support a solid mark, though a potential rise in strikeouts coupled with even a slight reduction in luck will significantly impact his value.
Baez hit .263 in the second half of ’19 and that may be a fair expectation. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that, though it does keep him just outside the Top 5 shortstops given the depth at the position. Considering he’s the seventh shortstop coming off the board, with an average ADP of 37.52, his value is right to make the selection.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball
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