How I’m Going To Monitor Nicky Delmonico
Nicky Delmonico has a badass 80-grade name. He’s my guilty pleasure this year for deeper formats, and I’ll also be monitering his progression to see if he’s worth adding in shallower formats. I plan to monitor him in a couple ways: first and foremost, I’m going to watch his various statcast data points through my batted-ball profile visualization available through my Tableau Public profile. I am a stats nerd, after all. I also plan to monitor that juicy small sample size 2017 walk rate, his lineup slot, and his ability to make contact and put a lot of balls into play at favorable launch angles.
The Cleanup King
Would it surprise you to know that Delmonico got a majority of his at-bats in cleanup last year? It’s true! Jose Abreu batted third nearly every day last season, Avisail Garcia split time between cleanup and fifth, and Yoan Moncada primarily hit second. A common lineup scenario for Renteria’s pale-hosers at the end of the 2017 season featured the Moncada/Abreu/AvGarcia/Delmonico combination or Moncada/Abreu/Delmonico/AvGarcia when he wanted to break up the two righties in the middle of the order.
We can see from Spring Training that manager Rick Renteria still enjoys batting Delmonico in the middle of the lineup. This spring (at the time of this writing) he’s appeared most frequently hitting third (5x), sixth (3x) and fourth (2x) (once each for the five, seven, and eight-holes). While the spring lineups should be taken with a grain of salt, there’s a decent chance Delmonico sees most of his at-bats hitting fourth and fifth again this season. Sure, it’s possible that this Matt Davidson spring assault is real and he pushes his way up the lineup, but the lack of left-handed power bats in the White Sox lineup leaves Delmonico in an enviable position to break up the righties in the lineup.
Launch It Up! Pull It! Hit It Hard, Oh Noooooo!
Nicky Delmonico is not J.D. Martinez. That’s not what this is about. But much like when you’re taking a picture and need something to show the scale of an indiscriminate object we also need such a benchmark. Let us also not forget that Delmonico has only had 166 total plate appearances so this thing is fraught with small sample size issues. That being said, we can start getting some directional information from which we can glean important insights about Delmonico’s true talent by comparing him to the (other) Sox Slugger.
What does this data tell us about Delmonico’s profile? Well, let’s work north-to-south through the various data points. The first thing we can see is that Delmonico struck out in a lower percentage of his plate appearances than a power hitter like JDM. Secondly, we can see that he really lit up the three launch angle zones where you can drive favorable outcomes. In the red “liners” region you can see Delmonico did damage similar to JDM. The difference in wOBA (790 v 720) likely lies in the exit velocity advantage JDM has on balls hit at these launch angles (96mph v. 91mph). Diving deeper into his expected outcomes (not shown), we can see that his expected wOBA at these launch angles is in line with the slightly lower actual wOBAs when compared to JDM.
How The Home Runs Fall
In the first HR zone, which is the tweener category of “fliners,” we can assume Delmonico’s lack of exit velocity hurts him. When checking the underlying stats I can see that he hits the ball slower than JDM (six miles-per-hour slower on average) and at a slightly higher average launch angle – perfect for flyball outs. This is mostly driven by the balls he hits in the air to center and left field (at just over 80mph) versus the balls he pulls in the air to right field (which average 95+mph). These are small sample sizes of batted balls in this region, however, and we’ll need to see more batted ball events to determine where his wOBA will stabilize long-term.
In the second HR zone – the full-on “fliers” batted ball type – he again did similar damage to JDM. However, some of this was very fortuitous. 39% of his 18 batted balls went for home runs (HR/FB%), due to his pull-side balls being hit at 95+mph (on average) and were thus very likely to become HRs. JDM, by comparison, homered on 46% of this type of ball, despite an average exit velocity 10 miles-per-hour faster. We can also see that JDM hits roughly 60% of all these fliers at 95+mph, compared to only ~30% for Delmonico. For these reasons we’ll expect his HR/FB% to drop from the 22.5% we saw in a quarter of a season in 2017.
When I’m following up throughout the 2018 season, I’m going to be watching to see if Delmonico can add exit velocity to his balled balls to center or the opposite field. Perhaps he can learn from Avisail Garcia, who added 5mph of exit velocity on balls to centerfield and almost 10mph to the opposite field. Here, there’s a chart for that! While we’re on a tanget, Avi never pulls the ball in the air, and he may have mastered hitting it hard up the middle and the other way with power.
Too Sexy For Groundballs
Lastly, we’ve come to where value goes to die for power hitters – the groundball. We don’t see a ton of good news here for Delmonico. Notably, he pulled 28 groundballs versus hitting only 9 up the middle and 6 the other way and quite honestly he didn’t hit any of them very hard. Being a left-handed hitter, there isn’t going to be much of an opportunity to pull the ball and beat it out so the .107 BABIP on those events isn’t surprising. The other two buckets of grounders seemed to be hit slow enough for Delmonico to beat out an infield hit or they had eyes and made it through to the outfield.
I Wanna Be Your End Game
Here is what we know about the current incarnation of Nicky Delmonico: he’s a pull-side power hitter who rolls over on plenty of ground balls. I mean, he’s not Maikel Franco (crosses fingers), but he does hit a lot of weak grounders right at the first baseman. When he does manage to elevate the ball and pull it, he does damage. I’m hoping he can evolve as a hitter and find other ways to do damage in the air. Even if he were to keep the same batted ball profile while hitting fourth or fifth for Chicago all year, I think there’s a very good chance you’re happy with your investment. He’s likely going undrafted/auctioned in shallow leagues and is still owned in less than 15% of CBS leagues and less than 35% of Fantrax leagues.