It feels like Mike Yastrzemski was the first San Francisco outfielder to be relevant for fantasy in recent memory! He slashed an excellent .297/.400/.568 with ten home runs and 35 RBI. His batting average was boosted by an eye-opening .370 BABIP, but you can’t fault Yastrzemski for having good luck! He didn’t have any astounding improvements in his Statcast profile, so one can expect some regression with his batting average, but some of his other peripherals indicate substantial improvement in his presence at the dish.
His walk rate nearly doubled, and his strikeout rate even dropped a bit. From the graph below, courtesy of FanGraphs, you’ll see some reasons as to why this likely occurred, beginning with the fact that he was more particular about his swing selection at the dish.
His contact rate increased while his swing rate decreased. Furthermore, striking out less and walking more is easily attributed to the fact that he stayed in the zone a bit more, and whiffed less. If he can continue that, even if he regresses a hair in terms of walks and strikeouts, he’ll still post respectable marks and his value in on-base leagues will elevate slightly.
If one of these marks were to regress more than the other in 2021, my guess is it would be his strikeout rate. When you look at how he was pitched to in 2019 and 2020, there’s a trend and opposing pitchers will likely target Yastrzemski with breaking stuff.
Nearly half of his at bats ending in breaking pitches resulted in a strikeout last season, and if you want to get Yastrzemski out of the zone, that is how you do it. He fared much better against off-speed pitches, while staying nearly identical month-to-month against fastballs. However, breaking pitches saw a steady increase.
Additionally, Yastrzemski’s average launch angle dropped a bit in 2020, so obviously his ground ball rate jumped. However, the jump might be a bit more than you’d expect, despite his launch angle dropping less than one degree.
This certainly boosts some concerns about his power numbers moving forward, especially if his hard contact rate and launch angle drop again, and furthermore, if his ground ball rate jumps again and pushes 45 percent in 2021. That would certainly not be ideal. Now, despite some of this, he did underperform his expected home run total each of the past two seasons, likely due to his unfriendly home confines.
His two professional seasons essentially equate to one full season of work and the results are impressive. In his last 161 games, he’s swatted 31 home runs with 90 RBI and a .281 batting average. Just to give you some context, that was comparable to Javier Báez ’s 2019 season, where Baez hit 29 home runs with 85 RBI and a .281 batting average. Now, Baez ran more, but the offensive results were comparable to the 2019 version of the star infielder in Chicago.
Yastrzemski has outperformed his xBA in recent years, and profiles to be more of a .250-.260 hitter. He has enough pop to leave the yard, but he’s not a 30-homer guy. Steamer projects him to hit .245, but for the sake of this, I’m going to bump it up to the low end of my aforementioned range, so let’s say .250. Per Steamer projections, they have 70 players hitting at least 22 home runs with 72 RBI and a batting average of at least .250. A whopping 15 of those 70 guys can be drafted after the San Fran outfielder, and six of those 15 can be selected over 100 picks after Yastrzemski.
It’s not that I don’t believe in the 30-year-old outfielder, I just personally believe he’s closer to his final 24 games of 2020 compared to his first 30. He’s going to regress a bit in average this year, and 20 HR and 70 RBI with no steals isn’t hard to find in the current fantasy baseball landscape. He will need to slip in drafts to get me to bite, to the point of being closer to his current max pick in NFBC formats (189) than his average draft position (137).
Projections by Steamer