(Photo by Stephen Hopson/Icon Sportswire)
It’s the time of the week for another look at some hot hitters, determing if their success can be trusted moving forward. Let’s get right to it.
Gregory Polanco (39 PA / .448 ISO / .310 AVG)
I must admit that I’ve always had doubts about Polanco and whether he had the ability to make good on his potential. With 3 home runs and an MLB-leading 13 RBI, we are forced to take a closer look. Polanco’s walk rate jumps out to me right away as a change. Never walking even 10% in any season, he’s currently sitting at just over 20%. Pair that with the lowest O-Swing rate of his career (by far) and you don’t have to worry that he’s going with the “grip it and rip it” approach. A lot of times we see players lose their plate discipline in pursuit of power but Polanco has maintained his typical contact rate around 80%. While he has bumped up his fly ball percentage a touch, the big changes in the batted ball profile is an increase to 58% pull percentage and a 42% hard-hit rate. These are both huge changes from his career norms and might indicate something different in his approach. For a lefty hitter, a pull rate this high might lead to getting shifted on and we might see the batting average start to fall closer to the .260 range, if not lower. The profile isn’t all that different from what we see from Rougned Odor. Seeing as we weren’t counting on Polanco for a high batting average anyway, I do like these changes and I proclaim the power boost LEGIT. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got to 30 home runs, to be honest; that is, assuming his foot issue goes away and he can stay healthy all year (probably unlikely).
Matt Davidson (35 PA / 4 HR / 212 wRC+)
Davidson is has shown us enough of a track record to cause a lot of doubt when we see a start like this from him. The trouble with such small sample sizes as we have this early in the season is that one or two big games can really skew the numbers. Davidson sort of looks legit with a swinging strike rate below 10% for the first time in his career (its usually around 15%). His outside swing percentage is WAY down and its actually making him look somewhat disciplined out there. In theory that would be the only thing stopping him from being a very useful fantasy hitter. With a BABIP down at .231, we can dream that he’s actually underperforming right now. Problem is I just can’t buy it. I just need to see more before I fall for it. He’s had two 3 strikeout games so far this season so I don’t believe his strikeout problems are actually improved. I think over the next week or two we will see that 3 home run game end up looking like the anomaly here. NOT LEGIT
Rhys Hoskins (.429 BA / .852 SLG)
Look, I’m not going to insult you by suggesting the .444 batting average is not legit and it’s bound for regression. We know that is going to happen. But can Hoskins hit for a good batting average? My preseason believe was that he was more of a .25o or below hitter. What we have right now is basically comical. He’s showing the great plate discipline we have seen from him in the minors and in his short rookie season last year, that is a big point in his favor. What is comical is that Hoskins is hitting for a 10% ground ball rate and a fly ball rate over 60%. Those are beyond extreme even for a 9 game sample size. He’s riding a nice high BABIP right now but there is simply NO WAY that you can hit for a decent batting average with the type of fly ball rates he puts up. In the last 5 years there was only one hitter with a fly ball rate over 50% to even hit .250 and that was Brandon Moss in 2013 (sorting for 450 plate appearances). Even a similarly disciplined hitter like Matt Carpenter only hit .241 last year having a 51% fly ball rate. If Hoskins can calm down and get back closer to 45% fly balls then MAYBE he can manage to be like Justin Turner or Anthony Rendon. They’ve made seasons work with a high batting average and the high fly ball rates. So even though there is a lot to like, I’m calling a NOT LEGIT on Hoskin’s ability to hit for an above average batting average.
Jonathan Villar (35 PA / .314 BA / 1 XBH)
According to Statcast, Villar’s xBA is .212. I think that’s probably all I need to say. Essentially Villar’s plate discipline is still terrible with lots of strikeouts, no walks, and he’s making less contact than ever. If you have the ability to deal Villar away at a higher price I’d pull the trigger now, if not, you’ll be dropping him in a month anyway. NOT LEGIT
Dansby Swanson (38 PA / .351 BA)
Swanson is still a tough one to figure out. The prospect pedigree was so good and some of the data looks great but then other pasts fo the data look terrible. Swanson is still showing a great contact rate and plate discipline (admittedly he could be walking more). He’s hitting nearly 30% line drives, which is great to see and bodes well for a high batting average. Unfortunately, his hard-hit rate is only 25% at the moment, similar to where the small speed only hitters usually reside. The contact rate and the line drive rate is good enough for me to buy in. I believe we will see hard-hit hit rate creap up closer to 30% within the next few weeks and prove the improve batting average for real. My hope is he sticks around .280 or higher. LEGIT