Odor, Villar, and Diaz: What went wrong in 2017 and can they bounceback?

2017 was the year of the home run.  There were 6,104 HR hit in 2017 smashing the previous record of 5,693 set in 2000, during the height of the “Steroid Era”.  It seemed as if value could be found on the waiver wire of the deepest leagues with guys like Logan Morrison and Justin Smoak swatting 38 big flys.

Here is a closer look at HR in 2017 and in 2016.

2017

  • 40 players hit at least 30 HR
  • 117 players hit at least 20 HR
  • 165 players hit at least 15 HR

2016

  • 38 players hit at least 30 HR
  • 111 players hit at least 20 HR
  • 143 players hit at least 15 HR

While the numbers are similar, 22 more players hit at least 15 HR creating more depth and devaluing players that provide little else in the way of the HR.  In 2016, there were 103 players with at least 150 plate appearances that posted an OPS of .800 or better and 122 in 2017.  It seemed as if offensive value was growing on trees.  However, in terms of MI, 19 hitters in 2017  posted an OPS of .800 or higher compared to 27 in 2016.  In terms of value, many MI were unable to replicate their 2016 success.  Players like Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts provided good value in 2017 but were unable to replicate their 2016 slash lines while players like Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez made huge leaps.

Let’s take a look at three 2016 fantasy studs that struggled in 2017 and determine their 2018 value.

Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas

2016:  .271/.296/.502 – 33 HR 14 SB

2017:  .204/.252/.397 – 30 HR 15 SB

It is hard to believe that a player hitting 30 HR and stealing 15 bases would have his season be considered a frustrating mess, but Odor accomplished that feat.  While he provided great value in counting stats, he negatively impacted leagues that use AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS.

So what went right?  Odor increased his walks from 19 to 32.  A modest increase.  He swung at 3% fewer pitches out of the zone.  He still provided 30 HR and 15 SB.

What went wrong?  In short, a lot.  Despite hitting 30 HR, Odor posted a putrid .397 SLG%.  Additionally, he posted the worst 30 HR season in MLB history as John Edwards of Unbalanced points out. This is a great read full of charts and hyperbole.

So can Odor bounce back?  Possibly.  He will never set the world on fire with his OBP and average skills, but a respectable .250 average and .320 OBP is not out of reach.  As Edwards points out, his infield fly ball rate was the 3rd highest in the first half and improved to the 67th best in the second half.  However, Odor managed to hit worse in the 2nd half, to the tune of a .184 average.  His season was so historically bad that Edwards considers it a statistical oddity.

Odor will need to retool his approach.  If he chooses to swing for the fences every at bat, then he will need to drastically improve his walk rate.  If he sacrifices power for contact, he could make great strides.  The good news for Odor owners is that his 2017 was so historically bad that his slash lines cannot get much worse.  However, the smart money would be on Odor remaining a sub .250/.300/.400 hitter with his power numbers diminishing.  Pitchers have no reason to throw him a fastball and he has shown an inability to lay off sliders.

Verdict:  He is worth a flyer for the power/speed combo in late rounds based on his age.  In dynasty leagues, he is worth acquiring for fringe prospects only.  If you are on Odor owner, the 30 HR/15 SB may net a top 100 prospect and a few complimentary pieces.  If so, sell him now.  I would look to move him for a guys with prospect fatigue like Jorge Mateo or Jose De Leon plus quality MLB depth pieces like a back-end of the rotation SP.

Jonathan Villar, 2B/OF, Milwaukee

2016:  .285/.369/.457 – 19 HR 62 SB

2017:  .241/.293/.372 – 11 HR 23 SB

Villar was arguably the best fantasy player in 2016 based on value, draft position, and roster flexibility.  Villar’s offensive game has a lot of swing and miss, but he was able to keep his K rate around 25% and his BB rate at 11%, allowing him to get on base and utlize his speed.  The BB/K rate was similar to his minor league totals.

So what went right?  Villar provided decent production with double-digit HR and SB but based on his pre-season average draft position (ADP) of 30, he was quite disappointing.  He did manage to hit .282 in the 2nd half but he only stole 7 bases to go with 3 HR.  His BB rate in the 2nd half was a dismal 2.9% maintaining a 30% K rate.  His BABIP was 100 points higher, implying that he was a bit unlucky in the first half.

What went wrong?  Villar got off to a cold start and started to press at the plate.  His BABIP was under .300 from May-July and after a 10% BB rate in May, he never displayed the patience that led to his 2016 success.  His batted ball numbers are similar to 2016 in terms of LD, GB, and FB rates as well as his hard contact rate.  Villar saw an increase in soft contact rate which no doubt affected his BABIP.  His soft contact rate was no doubt due to his impatience at the plate.  Villar swung at 29% of the pitches outside of the zone, an uptick of 5% from 2016 with a similar contact rate of 57-58%.  He swung and missed at more pitches in the strike zone and made contact at a lower rate.  Softer contact with an increase in K rate and a decrease in BB rate led to a softer contact.  Because of his lack of on base skills, his SB decreased as did his value.

Villar, only 26, should bounce back in 2018.  His BABIP in the 2nd half is an encouraging sign. If he can exercise the patience at the plate that he displayed in 2016, he can bounce back.  A slash line of .255/.315/.430 is obtainable, and with his speed, he could easily reach 30-40 SB next year.

Verdict:  In re-draft leagues, Villar is worth taking as 10th 2B off the board.  Losing the SS eligibility hurts as 2B is a deeper position.  In 10-12 leagues, I would take him as a bench piece with the hopes that he can find his 2016 success again.  In dynasty leagues, I would try to move him for 2-3 younger prospects unless I had no depth at 2B or lacked SB.  His SB totals alone make him valuable in roto and H2H roto leagues.

Aledmys Diaz, SS, Toronto

2016: .300/.369/.510 – 17 HR  28 2B

2017: ..259/.290/.392 – 7 HR 17 2B

Diaz splashed onto the big league season with an impressive 2016 rookie season for the St. Louis Cardinals.  The .300 average is a bit misleading, though.  Diaz got off to a scorching start in April, hitting .423.  He never hit over .300 in a month the rest of the season, but for the most part he was solid.  In 2017, Diaz got out of gates slow, hitting .217 in April but followed that up with a .294 May and .266 June before ultimately being sent to AAA and losing his job for good with the emergence of Paul De Jong.

So what went right?  In short, not much.  However, Diaz isn’t the only player to suffer from the sophomore slump and he won’t be the last.  Being traded to Toronto should revitalize his career.  It also warrants mentioning that Diaz didn’t really experience an alarming increase in his K rate.  In 2017, he struck out in 14% of his at bats, a very respectable number.

So what went wrong?  While he still made the same amount of contact compared to his 2016 breakout season, he struggled to make hard contact at the same rate.  Diaz saw an 8% drop in his hard contact rate with a 4% increase in soft contact.  His LD/GB/FB rates remained steady but one part of his offensive game sticks out which I think is the sole reason for his struggles.  Diaz swung at 10% more pitches out of the zone.  So while he didn’t experience an increase in K rate like Villar and Odor did, he did experience softer contact and a lower BABIP: .281 compared to .312 in 2016.  Furthermore, his overall swing percentage was 8% higher.  So while Diaz is not necessarily a patient hitter when it comes to drawing walks, he showed a good ability to hit his pitch in 2016 that was simply not present in 2017.  Compare that with his contact rate on balls out of the zone.  In 2016, Diaz made contact on 67.5% of ball out of the zone, swinging at 26.8%.  In 2017, he made contact with 61% of balls out of the zone while swinging at 38% of balls out of the zone.  This is a sure-fire sign of a young hitter that started to press and got himself out.

Verdict:  Barring an injury to Tulo or Devon Travis, Diaz enters camp as backup.  His defense at SS leaves a lot to be desired, part of the reason St. Louis deemed him expendable.  He should go undrafted in re-draft leagues but I think he is worth taking with your final pick in the draft, and here is why.  I absolutely love Toronto’s ability to take cast-offs from other organizations and unleash their full potential.  Guys like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Justin Smoak went to Toronto and re-tooled their entire approaches.  The focus on pulling the ball with authority bodes well for Diaz.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a Comeback POY candidate.  In dynasty leagues, you should be able to acquire him for next to nothing.  If so, do it now and stash him.  He may not take off this year but he will blow up in Toronto.  I called Justin Smoak’s breakout 3 years ago when he went to Toronto and I stashed him for 2 years waiting.  Unfortunately for me, I gave up on him last year in 2 dynasty leagues and reaped none of the rewards.

 

 

 

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