Waiver Worthy: Matt Olson Returns, But What Can We Expect? Is He Worth Owning?


Reports have the A’s Matt Olson returning to the team today, bringing a bevvy of questions from fantasy owners trying to decide how to handle his return.  Prior to the season there was a lot of optimism, and in Rotoprofessor’s 2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide we had this to say:

The numbers were good, not great, for Olson as he hit .247 with 29 HR and 84 RBI though everything points to a full breakout coming.  He showed an ability to hit the ball hard, with a 47.3% Hard%…  He showed a solid approach, with an 11.3% SwStr% and 25.1% O-Swing%…  He wasn’t too pull happy, making him less susceptible to the shift, with a 24.1% Oppo%…  Despite all of that he still managed just a .292 BABIP, though he hit .264 in the second half courtesy of a .321 BABIP.  Even as he “regressed” he posted a 41.4% Hard% in the second half and showed an even better ability to make consistent contact (10.5% SwStr% leading to a 24.0% strikeout rate).  Khris Davis has shown that power hitters can thrive in Oakland, and everything in Olson’s makeup shows signs of flourishing.  There’s risk, but with a 13.44% Whiff% for breaking balls and the other metrics everything points to a full on explosion.

The problem is that the bulk of his breakout hinged on his power production, and there are going to be questions in regards to his upside there after having surgery to remove a fractured hamate bone.  This injury has a history of robbing players of their power, at least initially, and if Olson isn’t going to be able to even maintain last year’s power (let alone improve upon it) just how productive will he be?

Prior to the season this was our projection for Olson:

.275 (158-575)
34 HR
.313 BABIP
23.02% Strikeout Rate

Obviously we have to adjust the AB, as he missed about a month of the season.  So let’s alter that to 475 AB from this point forward.  Based on the preseason projection, that pace over 475 AB would’ve yielded 28 HR.  What if the injury costs him 25% of his power (or 21 HR over 475 AB)? If we leave the BABIP and strikeout rate the same, his average projection would fall to about .265…

Now what if his timing is off, leading to a rise in his strikeout rate to 25%?  Leaving his BABIP the same, that leads to an average of .257…

Of course the injury could also lead to less hard contact, and in turn a lower BABIP.  If the BABIP were also to fall, just to the .300 range, the average suddenly falls to .248 (and if there is a greater drop in his BABIP the impact would be massive)…

There are a lot of ifs involved, and maybe Olson is the exception to the rule, but we know the trend and we know the risk.  That’s not to say that Olson isn’t a must own option, because he is (outside of maybe 10-team formats), but know the risk that is involved.  There’s a good chance that his average falls far short of our expectations, and it’s also possible the power is hurt even more than we discussed here.

At this point consider him more of a player to stash in order to see how he recovers, with the potential that he’s a force later in the season.  Regardless your expectations need to be reduced.

Source – Fangraphs


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