Sometimes risk enters a name brand profile as time goes by in regard to fantasy production. On a potential Hall of Fame track, Yadier Molina represents one such instance for 2021. Entering his Age-39 season, he played in 42 games last year accruing 156 plate appearances with 12 runs, four home runs, 16 RBI and a .262/.303/.389 slash line. Harmless, right?

Beneath the surface, Molina's isolated power dipped below .100 for the first time since 2015 (.097) and his weighted on-base average (.290) also represented his lowest mark dating back to the same season. Through experience, his discipline metrics remain stable but he proved much more aggressive in the short season. He recorded a career high 12.0 swinging strike percentage and his O-Swing (outside the strike zone) rate reached its highest level ever as well (42.7 percent).

Combine these trends with his Statcast numbers and the foundation starts to show some cracks. In 2020, Molina registered 126 batted ball events with three more barrels than you or me, an average exit velocity of 84.7 MPH (his lowest on record) and a paltry 25.4 percent hard hit rate. Short sample randomness happens but when an aging star playing a physically demanding position shows signs of decline, it matters.

His expected numbers align with his in-season results with a .254 expected batting average, .385 expected slugging and a .298 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA). His discipline metrics also remained stable in terms of contact but his whiff percentage rose by almost five percentage points. Molina produced a 42.9 ground ball percentage while generating a 31 percent line drive rate which keeps his average intact, for now.

In an effort to expand our web of research, here are his numbers from the second half of 2019 through last season:

-    Molina 2H 2019-through-2020: 84 games, 332 plate appearances, 33 runs, ten home runs, 37 RBI, two stolen bases; .274/.329/.406, 6 BB%, 13.2 K%, .132 ISO, .318 wOBA

Now for his spray chart displaying his fly ball and line drive batted ball events within this time frame:















He relies on pulling the ball for power but plays in a park which depresses home runs and 2021 may feature a "deadened” ball restricting flight. This could reduce his home run total in the upcoming season.

Over the last three years, Molina represents a stable commodity who does not hurt fantasy rosters in batting average:

-    Molina Last Three Years: 278 games, 1,111 plate appearances, 112 runs, 34 home runs, 147 RBI, ten stolen bases; .265/.312/.410, 5.2 BB%, 13.1 K%, .145 ISO .310 wOBA

There's safety in a name. Molina provides this. However, it's better to leave a player off the target list one year too soon rather than a season too late. Check out his projection sets:




How many games he plays, how well he produces and the safety of his average being above .260 all come with inherent risk this year. Pay for the stability but beware if his average exit velocity becomes a harbinger of pending production.

Statistical Credits:

THE BAT and THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty

ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen

ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski