If you’ve been perusing waiver wire columns over the past month, have been reading our daily Batter’s Box articles, or if you’re a Cubs fan (if so, I’m sorry), then you’re probably aware that this guy Patrick Wisdom has been absolutely raking.
And when I say raking, I mean raking. So far on the season through 21 games, Wisdom owns a .322/.394/.814 slashline with nine home runs, 14 runs, and 13 RBI. Give him a full MLB season and that paces out to roughly 60 home runs with about 87 runs and RBI.
So yea, I think it’s time we figure out what on earth is going on with this 29-year-old rookie, and more importantly, whether he can actually keep this up.
Who is Patrick Wisdom?
I’ll be frank with you, when I first saw a guy named Patrick Wisdom was hitting the ball like nuts, I had no clue who he was. So first, let’s take a look into exactly who he is, and once we do, I think you’ll notice that what he’s doing right now shouldn’t be super surprising.
Wisdom came into the league with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was picked out of Saint Mary’s College of California as the 52nd pick of the 2012 MLB Draft, picked three spots after Jesse Winker, and in the same draft class for the Cardinals as Michael Wacha and Stephen Piscotty.
For the next four years after he was drafted, Wisdom bounced around the minors and wasn’t all that great. Between Low-, High-, and Double-A, Wisdom typically hit .250 or worse (aside from his 65 games in low-A where he hit .282) and at best at 14 home runs.
Then, in 2017, he figured things out in Triple-A, slashing .243/.310/.507 with 31 home runs. The next season wasn’t as great, but Wisdom got to see some time at the Major League level (just 32 games) where he once again showed off his power with a .260 ISO in that time.
Wisdom was then traded to the Rangers in exchange for Drew Robinson, and in 107 games in Triple-A for the Rangers, I think you can guess what Wisdom did. Hit for a mediocre average (.240) with a bunch of home runs (31), totaling a .273 ISO.
Wisdom was ultimately let go by the Rangers, signed a one-year deal with the Mariners who DFA’d him without playing a game, and then signed a minor league deal with the Cubs.
Coming into this season, Wisdom was, at best, a backup, and after Matt Duffy went down with an injury in late May, Wisdom got a chance and hasn’t let go since, making history becoming one of three players to hit at least seven home runs in their first eight starts with a team, joining Trevor Story and Aristides Aquino.
Why Wisdom’s Power Shouldn’t Be Surprising
If there’s been one consistent thing in Wisdom’s career since 2017, it’s been power. He had 31 home runs in 127 games in Triple-A in 2017, 19 between Triple-A and the majors in 2018, and another 31 in 107 games in Triple-A in 2019.
So the fact that he’s hitting the ball hard now isn’t all that shocking. And let me tell you, he’s hitting the ball hard.
He’s got a 94.3 MPH average exit velocity which, if he had enough at-bats, would give him the third-best average exit velocity in baseball (just below Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and just ahead of Ronald Acuña Jr.). And oh yeah, he’s sporting a 68.6% hard-hit rate so far too (which is, you know, absolutely ridiculous).
Just look at this 110 MPH absolute rocket of a home run he hit off of Miguel Diaz:
He’s also barreling the ball well. His launch angle chart is a work of art:
“I got to see [Christian] Yelich at the end of his  MVP season just completely turn it on and surprise everybody. Every single game he was a threat,” Davies said. “That’s the way Wisdom is now. It’s awesome to see.”
So Can Wisdom Keep This Up?
That’s the real question. Before we start comparing him to Christian Yelich and everything, we need to know the age-old fantasy baseball question—is this legit, or is this a hot streak that’s going to come crashing down?
Without a doubt, there’s reason to be concerned about Wisdom. Along with his wonderful power numbers and .322 average, Wisdom is also sporting a .385 BABIP and a 42.9% HR/FB rate, both entirely unsustainable numbers.
That said, take a look at what Statcast thinks of what Wisdom has been doing so far:
Even those expected numbers look pretty enticing, but there’s another aspect of Wisdom’s game that’s concerning to me—his strikeout rate.
Right now, Wisdom owns a pretty awful 36.4% strikeout rate, but he hasn’t always been a big strikeout guy. In his time at Triple-A in 2019, he owned a 27.8% strikeout rate, and the year before that, it sat at 26.6%. Those numbers are worse than average, for sure, but they’re not horribly high.
What’s more interesting to me is how he’s striking out. With a strikeout rate that high, you’d expect him to be swinging and missing at pitches outside the zone a ton, right? (At least, I did). But he’s not:
Those swing rates outside the strike zone aren’t bad at all. Maybe the zone down and away is a little on the bad side at 30%, but overall, he’s not chasing pitches a ton, exemplified by his 28% chase rate on the year.
So why is he striking out? He’s whiffing at pitches in the zone a bunch. His overall whiff rate sits at 41.8%, almost double the MLB-average. So when he does swing at a pitch outside the zone, he swings right through it pretty often—and he does the same on high pitches:
To me, that screams a guy selling out for power. He’s crushing the ball when he does make contact, but that’s his main goal with each pitch—crush the ball—and as a result, he’s whiffing a bunch.
So to answer the question at the top of this subsection—can Patrick Wisdom keep this up? I think parts of it he can.
Clearly he can hit the ball hard, and he has in the past, as we’ve seen, so the power seems pretty legit, and given his BABIP and HR/FB rate numbers, we can definitely expect some regression.
But if he keeps hitting the ball as hard as he has, that average shouldn’t plummet to the .230s or anything—I think it’s pretty likely the real Patrick Wisdom is a guy who, given a full season, is a .250s hitter with 25+ home runs (which is a valuable fantasy player in plenty of leagues).
But playing time is the other concern. Right now, given the injuries the Cubs are dealing with at the third-base side, Wisdom is going to play, and luckily, he’s proven he’s not too bad of a fielder either.
And given that Cubs manager David Ross has referred to Wisdom as “the real offensive force for us now” and saying Wisdom has “been carrying us,” he seems to have some fans on the team.
Obviously if Wisdom keeps hitting like he is, he’s going to be on the field. But like I mentioned, he’s going to regress, it’s going to happen, so the real question is, will the Cubs stick with him once that regression starts, even if Matt Duffy or David Bote or Nico Hoerner are healthy.
I’m hopeful they will, but that’s far from a guarantee. So my advice for fantasy owners right now—grab him wherever he’s available (if he still is) and ride the production for as long as it goes. Expect that he’ll slow down, but know that, as long as he’s out there (and pay attention to that too), he should be a decent power option at the corner spot.
Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Aaron Polcare