MLB Offseason: McCutchen, Hamilton, Schoop & Eovaldi sign new deals
Greg Jewett takes a look at the latest news in the MLB offseason by highlighting the recent signings of Andrew McCutchen, Billy Hamilton, Jonathan Schoop and Nathan Eovaldi
Although the highest profile free agents remain unsigned and no major trade’s been consummated at the Winter Meetings, some lower profile signings happened including Andrew McCutchen heading to Philadelphia. Also, the Red Sox signed Nathan Eovaldi , Jonathan Schoop accepted a one year deal with the Twins and Billy Hamilton will head to Kansas City. In an effort to prepare for next season, it’s time to explore the fantasy ramifications of each deal.
Andrew McCutchen to Philadelphia
Moving to San Francisco proved less than optimal for Andrew McCutchen last year. He did salvage some value for his owners after joining the Yankees, but one needs to remember McCutchen’s only entering his Age-32 season. In 155 games last year, McCutchen scored 83 runs with 20 home runs, 65 RBI, 14 stolen bases and a .255/.368/.424 slash line.
Over the last three years, he’s accrued 1,737 at-bats with 258 runs, 72 home runs, 232 RBI, 31 stolen bases and a .263/.356/.446 line. In 2018, McCutchen turned in his best hard hit percentage (43.4 percent) and his second half isolated power rose to .198, just below his total from the previous season. Moving to a plus hitter’s ballpark with the Phillies could provide a bounce back in his home run totals if the hard hit rate can be carried over. Here’s his career chart with fly ball, home run per fly ball, hard hit and pull percentages:
Transitioning to McCutchen’s plate discipline, he also recorded his career lowest O-Swing (swings at pitches outside the strike zone) while maintaining his contact percentage. In the second half, McCutchen’s walk percentage rose to 17.6 percent and he struck out 20.5 percent of the time.
Steamer projected McCutchen to play in 130 games with 76 runs, 22 home runs, 70 RBI, 10 stolen bases and a .265/.363/.461 slash line. Using xSTATS, McCutchen’s actual production the last three years could be improved upon as evidenced by Steamer predicting a bounce back in his average. McCutchen’s power could also see a return to past levels:
McCutchen’s one season removed from hitting 28 home runs in 2017. His new lineup and ballpark should provide him the chance to rebound in 2019 to between 25-to-27 home runs with his average at the Steamer projection. Steady veterans rarely move the fantasy needle, but if McCutchen hits second or fifth, he’s in line for a terrific season with the Phillies.
Billy Hamilton to Kansas City
If the Royals are trying to corner the market on speed players with low on-base rates, they’re off to a strong start. Billy Hamilton agreed to a one-year deal with Kansas City and should hit ninth with a chance to run at will when he’s on base. However, his on-base percentage of .305 the last three years will temper enthusiasm.
One of the main reasons for this deal, Hamilton will be a huge upgrade in terms of defense for the Royals. Courtesy of David Adler, here’s a visual of how well Hamilton’s speed will benefit his new team in center field:
In terms of offense, last year Hamilton finished with 74 runs, four home runs, 29 RBI, 34 stolen bases and a .236/.299/.327 slash line. His weighted on-base average and BABIP continue to decline. His last three years yields a .247/.305/.335 line with 151 steals. Here’s where hope lies for fantasy. First, the Royals finished fourth last year in stolen bases attempted per game (0.98) and adding Hamilton to the roster will see this number rise. In terms of expected average, using xSTATS, Hamilton should have hit .245 the last three seasons which aligns with his number above.
So, how can he improve? It’s actually simple. Stop hitting fly balls. Most can recall the scene in Major League with Willie Mays Hayes required to do push-ups when hitting the ball in the air during batting practice. Same goes for Hamilton. Here’s a look at his totals dependent upon his batted ball data:
Fly Balls: .143 batting average, .113 BABIP, .185 wOBA
Line Drives: .594 batting average, .582 BABIP, .573 wOBA
Ground Balls: .290 batting average, .333 BABIP, .276 wOBA
In order for Hamilton to return to a positive fantasy outlook, he needs to hit more ground balls, stay aggressive on the bases and play strong defense. Hamilton’s not going to become a huge on-base player at this point. A few more bunt hits, a stolen base total of 45 or more and an average of .245 makes him much more intriguing. At a discount in drafts at a time when steals continue to disappear from the fantasy landscape, there’s hope for Hamilton.
Nathan Eovaldi stays with Boston
In a shallow free agent pitching pool, the Red Sox re-signed postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi to a four-year contract. Returning from injury, Eovaldi went 6-7 last season with a 101:20 K:BB rate in 111 innings. His 3.81 ERA, 3.61 FIP and 1.13 WHIP coincided with the best strikeouts minus walks percentage (17.8 percent) of his career.
Using data from Brooks Baseball, here’s a look at how Eovaldi made slight tweaks in his pitch arsenal resulting in his success:
Eovaldi increased his cutter usage with success while seeing the effectiveness of his fastball improve while using it less. Being less predictable generated his breakout last season. It’s also supported using his xSTATS with a 3.58 bbFIP, xOBA of .304 and an expected 1.18 WHIP.
Steamer projects Eovaldi to go 11 - 8 in 152 innings with 135 strikeouts, 39 walks, a 3.89 ERA, 3.84 FIP and 1.24 WHIP. Heed his expected WHIP and plan on an ERA between 3.60-to-3.90 ERA over 165 innings in the year ahead. Which can set him up to be a decent third or fourth starter in fantasy dependent on league size.
Jonathan Schoop to Minnesota
One year contracts make perfect sense for a player like Jonathan Schoop . One year removed from a career year, Schoop cratered in 2018. He appeared in 131 games with 61 runs, 21 home runs, 61 RBI, one stolen base and a .233/.266/.416 slash line. Having his BABIP collapse, a regression of his walk percentage to Schoop’s 2016 total along with his home run per fly ball rate contributed to his swoon.
Add in Schoop’s added aggressiveness at the plate and things never got better for him. Can he rebound? Well, for starters, he’s about to enter his Age-27 season. Back in the American League with the twins and deferring his last three year totals, yes, he could. Schoop’s recorded 1,710 at-bats the last three seasons with 235 runs, 78 home runs, 248 RBI, three stolen bases and a .267/.304/.461 slash.
It’s not entirely simplistic though. Using xSTATS, Schoop should have hit .271 the last three years but with only 64.6 expected home runs. He’s never been a high on-base player, so this will not be how he’s measured. Here’s a look at Schoop’s line drives and fly balls the last three years with Minnesota as the backdrop:
Steamer projects Schoop to play in 130 games with 65 runs, 23 home runs, 75 RBI, two stolen bases and a .265/.306/.467 slash. He will need his hard hit rate to bounce back along with some better luck in BABIP, but it’s too early to give up on him. In fact, as a low priced one year gamble, Schoop makes perfect sense for the Twins to gamble on. Same for fantasy owners looking for power late in drafts.
Be sure to stay with Fantasy Alarm to stay ahead of the competition. More transaction details will come as they happen in the month ahead.