By The Numbers: Michael Conforto, Blake Snell, Matt Chapman
The numbers aren’t always pretty.
Sure, it’s more fun to look on the bright side and examine players flourishing for their fantasy squads. But life is full of letdowns, and that will become painfully apparent for anyone who reviews their preseason draft results.
These three players all appeared to enter 2021 in their prime. They’ve instead fallen flat. One at least has semi-encouraging metrics under the surface, and another looked much better in his last appearance. The third, however, has gone from an unheralded superstar to a fantasy liability pushed down his team’s lineup card.
Note: All stats are updated as of Wednesday.
Michael Conforto (OF – NYM): .360 xwOBA
Conforto has gone from 2020’s mountainous high to a nebulous nadir this year. After batting .322/.412/.515 during the truncated campaign, he’s now hitting a soul-crushing .202/.330/.337 in a season derailed by a hamstring injury.
According to Baseball Savant, only six hitters have seen their slugging percentage drop more this year. He also has the seventh-largest dip in wOBA (.401 to .305). Conforto has logged 16 fewer hits — including two fewer home runs — in 58 more plate appearances.
However, there’s one area where the falloff is surprisingly less steep. Despite the tremendous wOBA decline, his xwOBA has only depreciated from .374 to .360.
Looking at the surface results, Conforto has gone from a stud to an unusable outfielder in most fantasy formats. So why doesn’t this expected metric note such a staggering change? The 28-year-old has actually improved his strikeout and walk rates with a nearly identical average exit velocity. His 39.8% hard-hit rate is also up from last year’s 36.6% clip and right in line with his career norm.
The most glaring gap belongs in BABIP. Last year’s .412 BABIP was not only the highest of any qualified hitter, but a major deviation for a slugger driven by power and plate discipline. Before 2020, he only topped a .300 BABIP in 2017 (.328).
His current .243 BABIP swung to the opposite end of the spectrum as a new career-low. Conforto should ultimately discover a happy medium and regain some fantasy utility. However, it’d be a mistake to end the investigation here.
Last year’s rise wasn’t entirely a fluke. He earned some gains by taking an all-fields approach and spraying more line drives across the diamond. Both of those improvements have evaporated. Worst of all, a renewed pull-happy approach hasn’t translated to Conforto’s typical power, perhaps because of health limitations.
Like most of the Mets’ lineup, the underlying numbers say Conforto should be performing better. Managers who cut bait may eventually regret it, but it’s also tough to keep starting him until some tangible results materialize.
Blake Snell (SP – SD): 14.1% BB Rate
Is Snell back? Sunday signified a return to vintage form for the former AL Cy Young Award winner, who tallied a season-high 13 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings against Arizona. His ERA is all the way down to … 4.86. Yikes. Still not great. But the WHIP is … 1.56.
If making a case in favor of the southpaw, you’ll point to a 3.34 ERA in his last seven starts. This window conveniently begins after he surrendered seven runs at Coors Field, but that’s not the biggest issue. Even during this rejuvenated stretch, he issued at least three walks in every start. He also wasn’t piling up the punchouts before Sunday, posting 39 strikeouts to 24 walks.
With a whopping 61 walks in 96.1 innings this season, Snell has the highest rate of any starter with at least 80 innings pitched. Because of those free passes, the 28-year-old has averaged a woefully inefficient 4.6 innings per start this season. He’s recorded an out past the fifth frame in five of 21 turns, leading to six wins and fewer total strikeouts (124) than Mike Minor (130) despite a much higher 28.6% K rate.
Everyone who has endured months of mediocrity will take any sign of Snell’s last gem amounting to more than a great day against a bad team. It certainly wasn’t the same Snell we’ve seen all year; he more than doubled his slider usage to 49.1%. He’s also pocketed his changeup since the All-Star break, a wise call given the pitch’s .473 wOBA against.
Snell has earned his way back into starting lineups, and he’s certainly capable of carrying patient investors to glory. Yet managers still must stomach a bloated WHIP while hoping another seven-run catastrophe — he’s already done it three times this season — isn’t lurking.
Matt Chapman (3B – OAK): .153 ISO
Chapman had the sixth-highest ISO (.248) among all third basemen from 2017 to 2020. He slugged .535 despite batting a pedestrian .232 last season, giving him a personal-best .303 ISO.
That power measure has sliced nearly in half this season. Chapman, who clubbed 36 home runs in 2019, has 14 in 454 plate appearances. He’s slugging .365, lower than Luis Arraez, David Fletcher, and Hanser Alberto.
Unlike Conforto, the Statcast metrics aren’t kinder. Chapman’s 89.2-mph average exit velocity, though nearly nestled at MLB’s median, is the worst of his career. No player with over 350 plate appearances has a lower expected batting average (xBA) than his .202, and his xSLG is only three points higher than the bleak reality.
If the power plunge wasn’t bad enough, Chapman isn’t making any contact either. Carrying over last season’s troubling trend, he’s batting .212 with an elevated 32.2% strikeout rate. He has struck out in nearly one-third of his plate appearances since 2020 after posting K rates of 23.7 and 21.9% the previous two years.
Chapman is also ice cold. The 28-year-old hasn’t gone deep since July 30, and he only has four hits this month. He’s batting .172 (20-for-116) with 46 strikeouts in his last 30 games. Oakland has seen enough, dropping him as low as eighth in the batting order.
In other words, Chapman currently has no place in anyone’s starting lineup. Rostered in 76% of Yahoo leagues, some managers have given up entirely. It’s perfectly defensible to drop him in one of the site’s shallower mixed leagues with small benches and no corner infield spot.
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