Going Deep: Yan Gomes is Selling Out for Power
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire
Sometimes when I think about what I’m going to write for one of these Going Deep pieces I think, what would the readers want to hear about? If I took a poll of the readers, what would they want to read about? And then sometimes I say “Screw it I’m gonna write about Yan Gomes.”
Why do I want to write about Yan Gomes? Because Gomes has done something that’s kind of crazy to me this year and I haven’t really seen anyone else talk about it.
At one point, Gomes was a pretty useful fantasy asset. Well, really it was just like two years. In 2013, he slashed .294/.345/.481 with 11 home runs over 88 games, and then in 2014 he slashed .278/.313/.472 with 21 home runs. While that might not be a super awesome fantasy asset, it is when that player is a catcher.
After that, though, Gomes dealt with some injuries and started getting a lot worse, slashing .232/.309/.399 with 14 home runs last year. Even at the desolate wasteland that is the catcher position, that’s not exactly rosterable. But this year, Gomes is slashing .255/.333/.451 with five home runs and a .196 ISO.
I want to focus mainly on his power this year because I think the average is pretty easily explained away. Sure, he’s got a .255 average, which is fine, but when you see that it comes with a .220 xAVG, a .368 BABIP, and a 35.1% strikeout rate (a career-high by a longshot), it’s pretty clear that that average is going to come down.
What’s fascinating to me about what Yan Gomes is doing this year is just how much he’s selling out for power. His hard-hit rate has made major strides this year:
That’s a big jump. Just how big? Last year, Gomes had a hard-hit rate of 29.1%, good for the bottom 25 in the league, just between Melky Cabrera and Alex Gordon. This year, that hard-hit rate is 41.9%, good for top-40 in the league, ahead of names like Justin Upton, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado.
And as you can see in that chart, Gomes’ soft-hit rate has changed significantly too, plummeting from 21.7% last year to just 9.7% this year. That is a huge drop.
It’s not just his hard-hit rate either, a lot of his batted ball stats have changed in significant ways. For example, there’s his launch angle (last year is on the left, this year is on the right):
That’s a jump from a 16.2-degree launch angle to a 19.1-degree launch angle. And along with that increase in launch angle has come an increase in exit velocity:
Last year, Gomes’ average exit velocity say at 86.1 MPH, right about where it’s been the past few years. So far this year, it’s at 92.1 MPH. And as you can see in the graph above, that exit velocity has increased across the board.
And finally, the last graph I’ll throw at you (because you can never have enough graphs) is his groundball rate:
Given that he’s significantly increased his hard-hit rate, launch angle, and exit velocity, it should really come as no surprise that Gomes’ groundball rate is at a career-low 30.6%—down from 40.7% last year.
So what’s the point of all of this? Well first, this is just a really huge change that I thought was worth pointing out. And second, I think there could be some fantasy value to be extracted out of this.
Like I said before, Gomes isn’t going to hit for a high average. I would venture to say that part of the reason his strikeout rate has jumped up so much is because he’s decided to totally sell out for power (for what it’s worth, his chase rate and whiff rate are right about where they were last year). But if he’s going to hit for power, that could be useful at the catcher position.
If Gomes ends the season with 25ish home runs, could that be useful in deeper leagues? I think so, especially given how extremely disappointing guys like Evan Gattis have been. Catcher gets ugly fast, and once you start looking at the James McCann’s and Jonathan Lucroy’s of the world, why not look at someone who might provide you some value in the power department? He’s available in 92% of leagues, and I think if you’re in a deeper league, you need a catcher, and there isn’t much on the waiver wire, you could do a lot worse.