(Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)
In what was one of the most endearing trades of all-time, the St. Louis Cardinals sent outfielder Stephen Piscotty to the Oakland A’s last December for Max Schrock and Yairo Munoz. The trade was done primarily to allow Piscotty to live closer to his mother, who passed away from ALS on May 6. It was a touching move, and lead to a very heartwarming moment when Piscotty received a standing ovation in his first game after her passing.
Setting that aside, most have considered Piscotty’s performance this season a disappointment. He’s hitting .249 with a career-low .318 on-base percentage and six home runs. While that’s nothing special, his recent performance has him on the up-swing, and makes him worth a look in 12-team leagues.
June has been a very, very kind month to Piscotty. He is currently sporting a .308/.395/.523 line with three home runs. He has a .392 wOBA and a 155 wRC+. This is coming off a ghastly May that saw the right fielder hit .160 with a 24.1% strikeout rate and just a 5.1% walk rate. It’s certainly plausible that Piscotty’s struggles in May were because his head may not have been completely in the game.
June is the first month that Piscotty has really put together the perfect formula of launch angle and exit velocity. In March/April Piscotty was hitting line drives at a solid 24.1% clip, but only had a 34.2% hard hit rate. In May he posted a 46.4% hard-hit rate – but only hit line drives 14.3% of the time.
Now that June has rolled around, Piscotty is doing his best Goldilocks impression: the formula is juuuuust right. He is sporting a 24% line drive rate and a 42% hard hit rate, a perfect recipe for success.
So Piscotty found his porridge in June, putting together just the right amount of launch angle and exit velocity to have a torrid stretch. The million dollar question, however, is if this type of production is sustainable and if so, what he’s worth in fantasy formats?
Piscotty’s exit velocity sits at 88.3 miles per hour, his highest mark since 2015 but only slightly above the league average of 87.3. In fact, his exit velocity is tied with Ben Gamel and Ben Zobrist, who aren’t exactly lighting the baseball world on fire with the stick this season. He does a better job of barreling the ball up than those two, boasting a 5.3 BRL/PA, which ties him with Trea Turner and Albert Pujols.
While Piscotty has succeeded at barreling the ball up, he is still hitting too many balls on the ground, as seen below.
Another concern for Piscotty is his diminishing walk rate. Piscotty walked at a 13% clip last season, a number that is down to 7.9% this season. That is identical to his walk rate in both 2015 and 2016 however, so it’s looking more and more like 2017 was the abberation. Still, Piscotty has the worst o-swing rate (34.7%) and swinging strike rate (12.7%) of his career this season. Unless he can recover some of his plate discipline skills from last season, his OBP will hover around the .320 range. That makes him a tougher sell in OBP formats.
Overall, there’s enough evidence to suggest that Piscotty is at least worth consideration in 12-teamers. He won’t continue to hit .310 all season like he has in June, but he could easily be a .260 hitter going forward, with plenty of line drives. He should finish the year with around 15-18 home runs, although I don’t think he will match his career high of 22 as long as he’s playing in Oakland.
If only it was as simple as wanting to put together the perfect formula of launch angle and exit velocity… As for barrels, its not about barrelling the ball up – I don’t think most people know what barrels actually represent. Barrels is simply a combination of launch angle and exit velocity. You could hit balls on the barrel all day long but if the launch angle isn’t within a range, it won’t get counted as a barrel. Ironically, most guys probably actually miss it a bit to get into the right launch angle range. If he was in fact barreling it up he would have higher exit velocities. I like to think of barrels as a proxy for XBH, which is basically what it is. Given his power and lack of EV, I would wager that he isn’t hitting a lot of balls well – which is what you would probably think a barrel would be. Sounds like he is getting lucky to me on all accounts. Barrels are a lousy way to measure success IMO. Unsustainable luck often coincides with barrels. Greg Polanco was generating a lot of barrels early this season as an example. I am sure the best hitters generate a lot of barrels (as well as every other measurable), but I haven’t seen evidence that they tell you much other than a guy hit some balls well which is going to happen for everyone. Its not immune to SSS and I don’t know that is is predictive of anything. I think we agree on the value of Piscotty, but I like to take shots at barrels when I get the chance as a PSA. There is a lot of confusion about what it represents – baseball people think it means what it doesn’t – it really should ahve a different name because it has nothing to do with barreling the ball. I would call a barrel a piss-rocket right back at the pitchers head, but that wouldn’t be a barrel because the LA is too low. You could also murder a one hopper through the infield off the barrel and that wouldn’t be a barrel either. In the real world barrel is synonymous with high quality contact, without any regard for LA, which is not what the stat represents.
Do you think the Cardinals will take him back?