Eminem coined the phrase in his song, will the real Slim Shady please stand up. In 2021, fantasy players may feel the same way about Carson Kelly . After a sterling debut in Arizona in 2019 during which he slashed .245/.348/.478 with 18 home runs in 365 plate appearances, he seemed capable of carrying over his gains.
However, in 2020, things fell apart. Kelly's slash line cratered to .221/.264/.385 with five home runs in 129 plate appearances. More disturbing, his walk rate fell to 4.7 percent (down almost nine percentage points) along with isolated power and weighted on-base average. Hope lies in his contact rate finishing at 77.5 percent with an 82 Z-Contact (in the strike zone) percentage.
According to Statcast, Kelly recorded 93 batted ball events with four barrels (4.3 percent), an average exit velocity of 86.3 MPH and a 34.4 hard hit rate. His expected numbers suffered as his barrel rate would portend evidenced by a .218 expected batting average, .351 expected slugging and .267 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA).
Beneath his surface numbers, Kelly increased his zone swing rate but his contact in the zone fell by almost five percent. Less than optimal. He became more aggressive in 2020 upping his swing percentage by almost four percentage points and his whiff rate rose by over three percent. His batted ball data reveals a slight uptick in ground balls but his line drive percentage remained in line with his 2019 breakout. Better.
Could 2020 represent an outlier of a consolidation of skills season? It's a consideration that the 2021 season holds the answer. Getting back to hitting home runs with a tolerable average would return Kelly to the good graces of the fantasy community. Of his five home runs in the truncated campaign, three rated as no-doubters (out of any MLB park). A positive sign. Dating back to the start of 2019, of his 23 total home runs, he's hit 12 no-doubters (52.1 percent). A key to a bounce back season lies in his exit velocities rising and focus on his maximum exit velocity in the first month of the season.
In effort to expand his sample size, Kelly's last two seasons combined appears as such:
- Kelly Last Two Years: 150 games, 494 plate appearances, 57 runs, 23 home runs, 66 RBI; .239/.326/.452, 10.9 BB%, 21.9 K%, .213 ISO, .323 wOBA
Much more appealing than 2020's results. If Kelly displays patience and power in 2021, he represents a nice target at his present price point. Recency bias often creates angles like this in drafts and auctions. Here's his spray chart of all his hits and a slice chart displaying his approach in batted ball direction:
When pulling the ball, his power ticks up and his approach to the middle of the field should insulate a rebound in batting average.
With this in mind, here's his projection sets for 2021:
There's no guarantees in fantasy, it's part of the allure. But, with power in place, Kelly could reach the ATC projection and even hit for a bit higher of an average if things break right. If he reverts back to the 2020 version, be ready to cut bait. Bet on the bounce back and heed the exit velocities while noting his walk rate the first two months.
THE BAT and THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty
ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen
ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski