Hold/Fold: Breakout Believe It Or Not Edition

“This is the time
This is the place
So we look for the future
But there’s not much love to go round
Tell me why, this is a land of confusion.” ~ Genesis “Land Of Confusion”

I don’t know where your season ended up, though feel free to tell me. What I do know is that at this point, there is very little you can do to improve your team for this season. There are waiver moves to be made, sure, but that’s Mike’s column, and I’m not interested in poaching.

So instead of poaching, we’re going to start looking ahead. If you’ve paid attention in 2019 at all, you know there are a ton of young guys who made their debut and took the league by storm. Alonso, Riley, Tatis, Aquino, Yordan Alvarez, etc. What is equally fascinating is that there are a number of longtime minor league vets who finally got a shot and also delivered the goods. So this week we’re looking at those guys. Which late breakouts do you want to hold onto and or target for next season, and which are mostly smoke and mirrors? It’s a land of confusion.

Hold ‘Em

Mike Yastrzemski

It is a cruel irony for the Orioles that they were so good for so long, and every year that they were good, Mike Yaz was in their minors not getting his shot. Then suddenly, they are terrible, and Mike Yaz is on the Giants, getting his shot and absolutely raking.

Yaz 2.0 is not a fluke. He is hitting the ball on a line or in the air over 60% of the time. He uses all fields. He makes hard contact 42.6% of the time, and soft contact only 14.4% of the time. The walk total is lower than you’d like, and the strikeout totals higher. The home run per flyball % seems a bit inflated too. But these are the times, and this is the ball, and in this environment, Yaz 2.0 is actually quite good. Even in shallow leagues, he looks like a decent bet to hold value next year.

Danny Santana

This is Santana’s second successful season. It is also his second season with an elevated, unsustainable BABIP. Santana is a risk. That said, there are some real reasons to be optimistic here.

In his first successful campaign (2014), he hit the ball on the ground roughly 46% of the time. That’s down to roughly 40% this year. That missing 6% has gone directly to flyballs, raising that from 28.1% to 34.6%. In 2014, he hit the ball hard only 26.5 % of the time. This year, he’s doing it 44.7%. He decreased his soft contact by 10% between the 2 good years. He’s also still running some.

Though it seems he has been around forever, Santana is only 28. He plays multiple positions, which helps keep him on the field, and his age means the wheels shouldn’t fall off just yet. So if he can keep hitting the ball hard, and grab you 10+ steals while playing wherever you need a bat – that could be a real asset.

Fold ‘Em

Jon Berti

Another relatively versatile piece who runs a bit, Berti is fairly similar to Danny Santana. So why is Berti a fold? He walks more and strikes out less than Yaz, he’s hitting the ball hard over 40% of the time, and he runs a bit. Seems good, right?

You can almost always manipulate stats to make them say what you want. What you can’t do, is take proper advantage of all those above stats when you hit the ball on the ground 56% of the time. He only hits the ball in the air 17% of the time. There is absolutely no way to have consistent success with that profile, even if you are as fast as Buxton and Tim Locastro. If you can get something for him this offseason, take it, whatever it may be. If not, just cut him. He’s a near-certain bet to be unable to keep this up.

Austin Nola

Nola is a much harder call than Berti. We’ll start with the positives. There is very little (aside from BABIP) in his profile THIS year that screams fluke. He could potentially continue to be productive and, especially given his versatility, useful.

That said, Nola has two big red flags. First, he has never, at any level, shown any power until the juiced ball showed up. Suddenly, this year, he has power. He’s already 29. Very, very rarely do 29-year-olds sustain breakouts. The lack of power across every level of the minors and his ML career is a major red flag. If MLB tweaks the ball again, his value could evaporate instantly, as his power seems directly tied to the ball rather than mechanical changes. (He has changed his approach a bit at the major league level, but the power started at AAA without the approach change). Also, his BABIP is .350, which is remarkably high for someone without a speed profile.

If he maintains Catcher eligibility, he could still be useful. He’s not a pure cut like Berti, but he seems like a good bet to regress – so let him do that on someone else’s team.


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Written by 

I'm Seth. I love baseball, especially the Braves, and rock n' roll on vinyl. Books, sandals and tacos too, though I find most of my money for those things going to vinyl these days. Once turned Prince Fielder into Justin Verlander and Paul Goldschmidt in a dynasty league. Also ashamed to say I once cut Jose Ramirez. I don't hate your favorite team unless your favorite team is the Nationals or Phillies. May or may not have cried when David Justice hit that home run in game 6 of the 95 World Series - though if you actually ask me, I'll claim I did not.