Statcast Review: Alex Verdugo, Nelson Cruz, Tyler Mahle (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

Alex Verdugo ranks second among qualified hitters in expected slugging and is an excellent trading target.

This statcast series started last week with us examining the discrepancy between actual and expected wOBA. Conveniently, by the time the article was published, some of the names listed had behaved as described in the column.

Like last week, we’ll revisit the “expected stats” and revisit the caveat contained in the previous article. That means we can’t direct and perfectly prompt players to play to the numbers that we will analyze soon, but we can generally estimate the direction in which players’ numbers will move.

We used wOBA last week because it’s trying to be a one-size-fits-all, and it’s not – because there’s nothing in sports – but it paints a nice picture of overall effectiveness.

This time, we’re going to look at a more basic – but just as crucial to fantasy baseball – statistic: slugging percentage. It’s often associated with power hitters, but remember that the formula is calculated using “total bases.” So if you play in a league that rates either slugging percentage or total bases as their own categories, this article is right for you. Otherwise use it for that potential in strength – most likely via home runs, but indirectly for runs that have taken place.

Actual vs. Expected wOBA – Batters

Below is a table of batsmen sorted by xSLG vs SLG difference to identify the players with the largest gap. Players with at least 50 batted balls were used in the game. For batters, a negative difference is better, indicating a positive correction. For reference, the league averages at the time of writing this table are 0.368 SLG, 0.431 xSLG and a difference of -0.063.

Remarks

  • Except for Alex Verdugo, you can’t start anywhere else. He leads the group in the “differential” but also ranks second among the qualified sluggers in the expected slugging. His actual numbers were okay, but it’s easy to see how much growth he has left. I would attack Verdugo a bit aggressively if another manager is interested in moving the outfielder.
  • Just behind Verdugo is perennial hitter Nelson Cruz, but it’s not his presence as the second-place hitter in “Difference” that has earned him a highlight in this article. It’s the pathetically low slugging percentage for a batsman who’s always been known for his power. Obviously, this is good news as we can see that Cruz’s current underperformance is not being sustained by anything that appears problematic.
  • We can’t say the same of Trea Turner. In terms of ranking, it occupies the 11th worst place for “difference”. That’s not the comparison we should be using for him. Turner currently has a career slugging percentage of .490. Therefore, it would make sense to see it trending higher towards this number. Not so fast. If we trust the expected slugging percentage, then its current rate of 0.403 is real too high. We might just be looking at a small sample size with an anomaly, but there’s a chance that Turner is continuing its current downtrend.
  • As always, I like to close a section with players who don’t have a significant expectation gap but still play at a high level. Enter Ty France. In this group, he currently ranks sixth in terms of expected slugging percentage and fourth in terms of actual slugging percentage. Its numbers align almost perfectly, and it’s inspiring to see no collapse imminent.

Actual vs. Expected wOBA – Pitchers

Below is a table of pitchers sorted by xSLG vs SLG difference to identify the players with the largest gap. Players with at least 50 batted balls were used in the game. For Krüge, a positive difference is better, indicating a positive correction. For reference, the league averages at the time of writing this table are 0.368 SLG, 0.431 xSLG and a difference of -0.063.

Remarks

  • As we saw with hitters, the leader in “difference” has a significant gap for pitchers. Unlike batsmen, this leader stands alone with no one challenging him. Tyler Mahle’s gap between slugging and expected slugging percentages is so large that he goes from well below average to well above average when moving from one number to another. He’s currently experiencing a slugging percentage that’s almost 0.1 higher than he should be, and this sort of fix should do wonders for his Fantasy Score – even if he doesn’t move the full 0.1.
  • Aaron Nola and Luis Severino slot in as the next two notable pitchers because their “differences” are so narrow, although the actual numbers are less consistent. Nola is technically worse in both categories, but that could set him up for an even more significant positive correction. His history suggests he can deliver at starting pitcher as one of the league’s top fantasy options. Severino is inspiring himself as the 19 innings he’s put up so far in 2022 is more than he’s had in the past three years combined.
  • And then there’s the other side of the chart. Cal Quantrill leads the way with an impossible cavernous gap, but some of the other names in its range are worth a second look. Zack Greinke was mentioned in last week’s column as someone who could be on the brink of a downturn, while Chris Flexen appeared right next to him on the chart. Both continue to exhibit worrying trends. Based on this data, we can also add Jose Berrios and even Walker Buehler to the list.
  • When looking for the players who excel at the expected slugging percentage while also matching their actual numbers, Framber Valdez and Sandy Alcantara are the two names worth highlighting. They take first and third place respectively in expected slugging, while their total numbers are impressive on their own. It will be interesting to see if they can continue their current pace.

Do you have something you’d like me to cover in this area, or just want to talk baseball? Feel free to reach out on Twitter @MarioMergola for questions or requests.

Mario Mergola is a featured author at FantasyPros and BettingPros and the creator and content editor of sporfolio. For more information about Mario, see his archive and follow him @MarioMergola.

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