Shortened seasons make for difficult evaluations of players. Especially for Ramón Laureano . His batting average cratered to .213 in 2020 over 222 plate appearances despite improved discipline metrics. He reduced his swinging strike percentage to a career low 8.9 percent, made more contact (77.8 percent) along with improved contact in the strike zone (up to 88.6 percent) while swinging at pitches outside the strike less reaching a career low of 27 percent.
Despite his struggles at the plate, Laureano maintained his on-base gains from 2019 with a .338 on-base percentage. Over 54 games he scored 27 runs with six home runs, 25 RBI, and two stolen bases. His walk rate rose to 10.8 percent with a 26.1 strikeout percentage, .153 isolated power and .315 weighted on-base average.
In order to discern what happened to his low average and power output, using his Statcast data may help. Laureano produced 128 batted ball events last year with 12 barrels (9.4 percent), an 87.7 MPH average exit velocity and 34.4 percent hard hit rate. Although his barrel percentage remained exactly in line with 2019, his exit velocity dipped by two MPH and his hard hit rate fell by over five percent. This manifests in his expected statistics with a .235 expected batting average, .408 expected slugging but a .342 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) sitting 27 points above his actual.
Hope lies in Laureano returning to full health in 2021 along with some positive migration to the mean. He proved less aggressive in 2020 with an 8.6 percent point decline in swing percentage but his whiff rate also decreased by 3.3 percent. Like his numbers above, he improved his zone contact with fewer swings in it. A rise in ground ball percentage to 44.5 in 2020 compared to 36.9 in 2019 cut his power output. His line drive rate rose by two percent providing hope for 2021 though. Here's his swing and take profile which ended up positive despite the low average:
Statcast started measuring home run types in 2019 and of his 32 home runs rated, 14 qualify as no-doubters (out of any MLB park) resulting in a 43.8 no-doubt percentage. Not bad for a player who does not project as a power hitter. If his average exit velocity returns to 2019's level it would fuel a rebound in hard hit percentage and provide a boost in his fly ball rate.
In an effort to expand his sample size, here are his numbers from the second half of 2019 through last year:
- Laureano 2H 2019-through-2020: 86 games, 347 plate appearances, 54 runs, 14 home runs, 45 RBI, five stolen bases; .267/.364/.483, 9.5 BB%, 24.5 K%, .216 ISO, .360 wOBA
This provides a solid baseline when assessing how to project his 2021 season. Before delving into them, here's his spray chart from the 86-game sample cited above:
While he hits most of his home runs to his pull side, there's some power potential to center and the opposite field. Also, do not forget Laureano missed time in the second half of 2019 due to a stress reaction in his lower leg cutting short his breakout campaign.
With all of this in mind, here are his projection sets from five sites:
With some positive regression to the mean, he could hit .265 or better with 25 home runs and double-digit stolen bases. In the present fantasy landscape, he's a bargain at his present price point so target him with confidence for a bounce back season in 2021.
THE BAT and THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty
ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen
ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski