It was touch and go there for a while, but thankfully it looks like major league baseball is going to cross the regular season finish line with all teams playing all (or nearly all) 60 games. Baseball has provided a sense of consistency and excitement in these last two-plus months, and I’ve been truly grateful for it. There are a number of great articles on this site to you push your team over the top in the season’s final days, so I’ll be focusing this edition of “Is It Legit?” on updating player outlooks for 2021.
As today’s big league pitchers are throwing fewer and fewer fastballs, Wil Myers seemed destined to go the way of the dodo after his brutal 2019 in which his strikeout rate spiked to 34.2% and he seemed incapable of hitting off-speed or breaking pitches. This season, Myers has improved significantly against sliders and changeups, and has made much better in-zone contact overall. Myers has upped his contact rate, while also increasing his hard hit rate and barrel rate to career-high levels and ranking among the league leaders in both categories. Check out Myers’ night-and-day performance against sliders over the last two seasons:
Myers chased fewer sliders outside of the zone and improved enormously, not only in making contact on sliders in the zone, but in hitting the ball with authority. In turning one of his greatest weaknesses into his greatest strength this season, Myers has had arguably his best major league season yet, posting a 162 wRC+. In addition to the solid plate discipline, improved contact rate and excellent power he has displayed this year, Myers also runs well, posting a sprint speed of 28 feet per second, which ranks in the 80th percentile in the league. While his stolen base attempts are down this year with only three, Myers has a good stolen base track record in his career, and should still be a good bet for 10-15 steals in a full season.
Verdict: Legit. Myers has once again shown us a different look this year. Improving against off-speed and breaking pitches, Myers has made the adjustments needed to save right the ship after an alarming 2019 season. While his statistics have been inconsistent from year to year in terms of his homer and steal totals, he should give you enough production to like as long as he’s healthy. It will be very interesting to see where he is going in next year’s drafts, but I think he’ll be a valuable player and set a (way-too early) projection of 155 combined runs and RBI, 27 homers, and 12 steals with a .260 batting average and .335 OBP over a full season in 2021.
While some superstars like Freddie Freeman have seen outrageous success since contracting COVID-19, other players have not been so fortunate. Yoán Moncada has struggled in 2020 after having the virus in mid-July. Moncada has spoken about not feeling the same this season, and it has shown in his numbers. In his age-25 season, Moncada has regressed to where he was in 2018, putting up a 98 wRC+ this year compared with a 141 in 2019 and a 97 in 2018. Most concerning may be that his hard hit rate has dropped down to a pedestrian 34.7 after he posted an outstanding 47.9% mark last year. Moncada’s sprint speed is also down slightly, and he hasn’t attempted a stolen base this season. While most of Moncada’s strength-based numbers are down this season, his plate discipline and contact numbers suggest a steadiness that his surface stats don’t reflect.
The chart above shows some encouraging signs for Moncada fans. His struggles this season are likely more due to not being fully healthy than a breakdown of his approach at the plate. Moncada is actually making more contact than he has in any other season of his career, while reducing his chase rate slightly from his breakout 2019. Moncada’s biggest health threat going forward is the recurring hamstring issues, which have caused him to miss some time in each of the past three seasons.
Verdict: Not Legit. While his 2019 was fueled by a bonkers .406 BABIP, Moncada has enough of a track record of hard hit skills that we know he is better than this when fully healthy. Going into his age 26 season in what will be once again a dangerous White Sox lineup, Moncada looks like a prime bounce-back candidate. A near-repeat of his 2019 season, with a .275 BA instead of .315, seems like a good bet.
In honor of his first career 10 strikeout game on Sunday against the Rockies (in Coors, no less!), it seems fitting to feature Tony Gonsolin in today’s article. What an embarrassment of riches the Dodgers have, as Gonsolin’s arsenal is strong enough to rank him number one in Ethan Moore’s Quality of Stuff Plus (QOS+) metric, but it took an opt-out, some injuries, and trade to open up a spot in the LA’s formidable rotation. Gonsolin primarily throws three pitches: a four-seam fastball (47%), a splitter (31%), and a slider (16%), with a curveball thrown in about 6% of the time. Each pitch has good velocity relative to league averages, and he could unlock yet another level of performance if he gained more confidence in his high-spin, 82mph curve. Probably most important has been the effectiveness of his fastball, which has held hitters to a .158 batting average and a .224 slugging percentage. The success of the heater, a pitch batters typically do most of their damage against, has helped the rest of Gonsolin’s repertoire to flourish, and gives him ace upside.
While there is a lot to like about Gonsolin, we have to note his weaknesses as well. While Gonsolin has shown good control this season, throwing 66% strikes and keeping his walk rate at a miserly 4.6%, he appears to have subpar command, with an 88 Command+ through September 10th. Additionally, he has had some good fortune on batted balls this season, seeing a 4.5% homer to fly ball rate, a .225 BABIP, and a 79.5% strand rate, so he’s likely to see some regression there. He’s logged a relatively low IPS of 5.1, although that number is somewhat depressed by 4.0 and 4.2 inning starts in his first two outings of the year, so his wins may be limited somewhat if the Dodgers routinely give him a quick hook. Finally, and most importantly, the Dodgers are a loaded team, and with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and David Price likely locked into the top three spots in the rotation going into 2021, that leaves only two spots for the triumvirate of Julio Urias, Dustin May, and Gonsolin. Gonsolin has done nothing to elicit doubt that he can succeed in a big league rotation, but he may get the “Dodgeritis treatment” in 2021, serving as a long reliever or spot starter until a rotation spot becomes available through injury or otherwise.
Verdict: Legit. It’s unfortunate that we have playing time concerns about a pitcher who would be a No. 2-3 starter in most MLB rotations, but Gonsolin also has the upside to be worth the gamble. It’s worth taking a chance on him around SP50 for 2021, and his dynasty league value is higher than redraft formats at this point.
(Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire)