by Mickey Bell
To recap the articles so far, I buy Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich, and Yordan Alvarez as values, sell Keston Hiura and Alex Bregman (at his price), and fall somewhere in the middle with Gleyber Torres, Javier Baez, Austin Meadows, Yoan Moncada, and Victor Robles. Please check out Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, and Part Six of this series as well.
Kris Bryant – 3B – Chicago Cubs
2020 Yahoo preseason rank: 36
2020 final rank: 793
2021 ADP: 134
Bryant’s ADP has dropped about 100 picks this year. You cannot usually find players with a 0.889 career OPS entering their age 29 season at that point in the draft. But last year was ugly; he finished with a 0.206 average and a 0.644 OPS.
Just a Bit Outside
Despite a decreased walk rate due to more whiffs, Bryant’s eye and approach at the plate remained fairly consistent. His swing results, however, took a hit and none bigger than his O-contact% which dropped by 10%. Although he did not chase more overall, he swung and missed more when he did. Specifically, he had a 75% Whiff rate on pitches low and outside out of the strike zone. His wOBA on these pitches dropped from 0.349 in 2019 to 0.188 last season. His wOBA on breaking balls went from 0.325 to 0.177 from 2019 to 2020.
There is no denying Bryant is on a downward trend, but is he finished? His Hard Hit % (see below) has decreased each year since his rookie 2015 season, but the silver lining is he has shown he can be a consistent 0.900 OPS guy without elite exit velocity. Bryant had wrist, back, elbow, and oblique injuries in 2020. They likely affected his swing, but there is no guarantee injuries will disappear, especially the back injury.
Projection systems are in agreement with Bryant. They expect mid-20’s home runs and a mid-250s average. That seems bullish on power and bearish on average for the career 0.280 hitter. According to my Steamer-based z-scores, he is around the 114th overall player, a 20 pick value over his ADP. Draft Bryant expecting an average contributor in almost every category, just do not expect the slugging of yesteryear.
Ketel Marte – 2B – Arizona Diamondbacks
2020 Yahoo preseason rank: 45
2020 final rank: 448
2021 ADP: 91
From 2019 to 2020, Marte’s OPS dropped 249 points from 0.981 to 0.732. His walk rate went from 8.4% to 3.6%. He hit 2 HR and stole one bag last year. His HR/FB dropped from 19.0% to 3.8%.
However, quite a few aspects of his profile remained strong. Marte still had a respectable 0.287 AVG, his Statcast Hard Hit% stayed solid (40.0% to 40.5%), his strikeout rate was in the 99th best percentile, and his Max Exit Velocity ranked 5th among qualifying batters behind Pete Alonso, Rafael Devers, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Javier Baez. One area due for positive regression is Marte’s triples total (2020: 1). According to BaseballMonster.com’s MLB Park factors, triples are 53% more common than the league average at the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.
In 2020, Marte swung at far fewer pitches in the strike zone (71.6% to 60.8%). Swinging less seemed to be a trend around the league including players I have previously written about this offseason such as Christian Yelich, Gleyber Torres, and Yoan Moncada. Some have attributed this to a no replay room access during games. For most players, this approach resulted in more walks and strikeouts, but not Marte. Although he still rarely struck out, he seemed to focus on more of a small ball approach (0.280 AVG after going down in the count 0-1) which contributed to his drop in extra base hits (XBH). He had nine XBH against lefties in 54 PA and just eight against righties in 141 PA.
In his career, the switch-hitter’s wRC+ is 19 points higher vs LHP in his career than vs RHP. In 2020, he had a 1.098 OPS vs LHP and 0.587 against RHP. While he hit better against righties for the first three years of his career, that trend has flipped in the past three seasons. Marte saw 695 pitches from righties in 2020. According to StatCast, he barreled just three of them and made solid contact just six times.
But that 2019 season proved he could hit righties in the MLB at an elite level. Once a player has done something in the majors, you cannot count out that they could do it again. And despite his struggles against righties, Marte batted either first or second in every game last year. If he does that again, he will accumulate runs and RBI over the course of the season no matter how he fares against RHP.
Marte should be considered less valuable in OBP leagues. He should get a slight boost in daily moves leagues where you can sub him out against the toughest righties when he struggles. My Steamer-based z-scores have Marte as the 80th player overall, a ten pick value on his ADP. His struggles against righties represent a risk, but he can still crush lefties, accumulate stats, provide a great average, and hopefully have a power rebound. His 99th percentile Max Exit Velocity certainly means that is a possibility.