By The Numbers: Marcell Ozuna, Jose Berrios, Nicholas Castellanos
No advanced metrics are needed to appreciate the outfielder’s campaign. After a breakout 2017 made way for a disappointing 2018, he has bounced back to bat .270/.347/.519 with 24 homers in 102 games. More shockingly, he has stolen 12 bases after notching 14 combined in the previous five seasons. That elevates him to the 39th hitter on FantasyPros’ player rater despite missing all of July with fractured fingers.
Since returning to St. Louis’ lineup on August 3, Ozuna has looked his finest since a 10-homer April. The 28-year-old is batting .306/.398/.529 with four long balls and steals apiece this month. Now that he’s dispelled any health concerns, managers should expect a mad dash to the final line.
Ozuna’s average only remains a bit below his career .276 clip, but a .292 BABIP represents a career-low clip. That’s despite transforming a significant portion of ground balls into line drives.
Despite the pleasantly surprising steals, the 6’1″, 225-pound Ozuna is not a speedster who can consistently churn out infield hits. His ground-ball-heavy approach always made 2017’s 37 homers seem unsustainable, but he now brings a legitimate power repertoire to the table. His 92.5-mph average exit velocity, 52.0% hard-hit rate, 14.1-degree launch angle, and 13.8% barrel rate all represent personal highs. It’s no wonder Statcast credits him with a .297 xBA and .395 wxOBA, as of Wednesday.
Ozuna is a more refined hitter than the man who batted .312 two years ago. Steamer projects him to hit .289 going forward. Just think about how exceptional his bottom line would look with a higher batting average and recuperated counting numbers from his missing July. It’d probably make him a top-50 pick in 2020 picks.
Jose Berrios: .415 wOBA in August
Berrios is a master at deceiving fantasy gamers into believing he’s finally unlocked his ace upside, only to stumble backward once more. The 25-year-old exited July with a 2.80 ERA after amassing 11 strikeouts in seven shutout frames against Miami. Despite skepticism over his inconsistency, I reluctantly moved him up my rankings after seeing ever other analyst place him considerably higher. After all, he had allowed three or fewer earned runs in 12 straight starts.
That’s a lesson for you kids (and adults) out there: Stick to your convictions. Berrios opened August by relinquishing nine runs to the Braves. Even more alarming is the hapless Tigers, who rank last in wRC+ against righties, tagging him for 10 hits and five runs last Friday. His 8.44 ERA this month could be far worse, as he also permitted four additional unearned runs at Texas on August 17.
Baseball Savant recently introduced rolling window leaderboards, a valuable tool for analyzing the legitimacy of streaks and slumps. Over his last 100 plate appearances (Berrios has faced 104 batters this month), the Minnesota hurler’s xwOBA has catapulted to .373. Although the starkest climb of any AL starter, it’s still not as bad as his actual August wOBA, accompanied by an opposing .340/.404/.596 slash line. To put those recent marks into perspective, his competition has collectively resembled Anthony Rendon over the past four turns.
While his breakout appeared to suffer a brief detour in August, he hadn’t faltered like this all season. There’s at least some semblance of an explanation. Per Brooks Baseball, his average fastball and sinker velocity have each reached a season nadir this month. Batters are slugging .735 and .591 against those offerings, respectively.
Despite his recent doldrums, Berrios still boasts a 3.53 ERA that bests his 3.94 FIP and 4.32 SIERA. His 16.7% K-BB rate ranks 40th among all starting pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched. Those are all solid numbers for a durable pitcher, but it might be time to accept that he isn’t a top-20 fantasy starter just yet. Managers must particularly worry if he doesn’t bounce back Thursday against the White Sox. He’s in line to next face the Red Sox before two games against Cleveland. A few more rough outings can especially derail head-to-head players before he gets the opportunity to close 2019 against the Royals and Tigers.
Nicholas Castellanos: 1.096 OPS for Cubs
Castellanos didn’t tally his ninth homer of 2019 until July 3. He’s needed just 25 games to reach that mark since the Tigers traded him to the Cubs.
The pending free agent has recorded a hit in all but three games with this new club. In light of his searing-hot August, Castellanos has enhanced his overall slash line to .292/.342/.513. He’s regularly batting second in a lineup flanked by Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez, leading to 20 runs scores since moving to Chicago. What once looked like a down year could now mirror his 2018 minus some RBIs.
Castellanos might credit the change in scenery. Days before the trade deadline, per Chris McCosky of the Detroit News, he called a Comerica Park’s deep center-field dimensions “a joke.” The park factors don’t exactly validate this theory; Wrigley Field and Comerica have a nearly identical rate of home runs for right-handed hitters. While he’s slugging .717 at his new park this year, he’s smacked six of those long balls on the road.
Perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy helped Castellanos strive with a clean slate, or maybe it’s just a conveniently timed hot streak. His .362 August average comes with a .403 BABIP and middling contact rate. Regardless of the reason, he holds a .421 xwOBA over his last 100 plate appearances, taken before going yard again Wednesday night. Castellanos once again looks like the high-floor outfielder drafters signed up for despite a lack of fence-clearing upside.