TDG’s Triple Play: Chicago White Sox!
The Triple Play is back for a third season! This regular feature is broken down by staff writers Bob Osgood and Paul Monte and a rotating panel of third writers. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Aaron Bummer, Age: 26, Position: RP
Analysis by: Bob Osgood
Nice Bum on the North Side of Chicago
With relief pitchers specifically, we focus a lot on Walk and Strikeout rates and how they fluctuate from year to year, knowing simply that the more balls that are put into play, the more balls have a chance to go out of the yard. However, if the balls in play aren’t going into the air and they’re not hit hard, then this can be just as successful, albeit with less room for error. Statcast’s Leaderboards, specifically the Exit Velocity & Barrels page, can bring unexpected light to those batted balls, and Aaron Bummer was a prime example for me this offseason.
Using a minimum of 100 batted ball events for 2019 helps incorporate relievers who were in the league for the majority of the year. Brandon Workman led the league with an impossible ONE barrel given up the entire year, 0.7% Barrels per batted ball event (Brls/BBE%). Mark Melancon was second (4 barrels allowed, 2.0% Brls/BBE%) and Aaron Bummer (4 barrels allowed on 175 balls in play, 2.3% Brls/BBE%) was third in this rate out of 436 pitchers in 2019.
(See here for what qualifies as a “barrel”).
Switching over to Launch Angle allowed, Bummer was second in the league with a negative-3.4 degree launch angle, behind fellow sinker-baller Zach Britton. This category was not the only spot that Bummer followed only Britton. Bummer’s 71.4% Ground Ball percentage trailed only Britton at 76.7% (League Average: 45.4%), a pretty common correlation with a low launch angle. Britton isn’t a bad pitcher to strive for with the pitch mix that Bummer has.
The sinker was the key for Bummer, thanks to a huge spike in velocity and usage on that pitch alone, but his cutter was no slouch either (per Baseball Savant):
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Essentially scrapping his slider, Bummer used the sinker/cutter combo 88% of the time, while increasing the difference in velocity between those two pitches to 7.7 MPH, after being 4.1 MPH apart the season before. Two conclusions here are that 1) 7.7 MPH is a significant velocity difference for a hitter to deal with and 2) Bummer crossed the 94 MPH threshold where, as Eno Sarris has put it, the results are “exponentially better outcomes than ones below that threshold.”
26-year-old Aaron Bummer has struck out 8.31 batters per-9 over his 121 1/3 inning major league career thus far. While not a rate that screams “future closer,” neither does 31-year-old Alex Colome’s 8.27 K/9 career rate, who just happens to be the White Sox closer entering 2020 and also a free-agent to be in 2021. Bummer is a deep league/AL-only league target in saves leagues, but holds far more value in Save + Hold Leagues. His 0.99 WHIP and 2.13 ERA in 2019 over 67 2/3 innings is an asset. While the FIP/xFIP/SIERA metrics all felt Bummer should’ve been closer to a 3.40-3.50 ERA guy due to a low BABIP and high LOB%, I think that his pitch changes last year are sustainable. I’m looking to buy Bummer in dynasty formats of 16+ teams, and even shallower leagues that reward for holds.
Eloy Jimenez, Age: 23, Position: OF
Analysis by: Greg Gibbons
By now re-drafters are very well acquainted with the former top international prospect, but dynasty leaguers have had Eloy on their radars since 2013 when he was just a 16-year-old signing a $2.8 million mega-deal with the Chicago Cubs. Personally, I was enamored with the package even back then. Early scouting reports graded him a potential five-tool player, one who could anchor your lineup for years to come. I was a proud Eloy owner that summer but unfortunately became a victim of my own fortune; too raw, high-risk, long lead time, etc. and regrettably threw him back to the waiver wire. Live and learn, right?
Despite my foolish lapse in judgement, I’ll kick this off with a fun story. Summer of 2017, I was destined for Myrtle Beach, SC for a long weekend, heading there for a bachelor party for one of my dynasty league mates (Hi Gold). As it so happens, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, High-A affiliate of the Cubs, were playing at home that weekend, and to our delight their roster included Eloy Jimenez. We were giddy over the chance to see the 20-year-old live and in color. It was the morning of July 13, and our flight hadn’t even left the ground yet when the news broke: Eloy Jimenez traded to the White Sox.
What a dagger to start the weekend. There normally aren’t a ton of reasons to pop into a Carolina league game, but Eloy certainly was one. Much to our dismay, the morning was then spent discussing the deal that also sent Dylan Cease to the White Sox in return for Jose Quintana, talk about foolish. Anyways, what we didn’t realize at the time was that the Pelicans were playing host to the Winston-Salem Dash, the High-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Sure enough, when we arrived at the ballpark, Eloy had swapped his jersey, his dugout, and was in the lineup, so we still got to see our guy play.
Eloy ended the night going 1 for 4 with a couple RBI, nothing memorable, but I left the ballpark knowing one thing for sure, this kid was special.
ELOYAL TO THE SOUTHSIDE
Let’s fast forward now to March of 2019, in the midst of a tsunami of service time manipulation claims making its way through baseball, the White Sox went against the grain and signed Jimenez to a 6-year $43 million contract and included him on the opening day roster. Jimenez proved up to the challenge, finishing the year with a .267 average, 31 home runs, 79 RBI, and a .828 OPS. While his final line is impressive for any rookie, his season was really a tale of two halves.
Through July, Jimenez was pedestrian. He looked like a rookie, batting .232 over 254 at-bats with a .294 OBP, a nearly 30% strikeout rate, and a league-average xwOBA. Once the calendar flipped to August though, Eloy was a different hitter and largely continued that trend through the end of the season.
Don’t be fooled by Eloy’s slow start. Signing his contract allowed him an extended look in the majors, and in addition to dealing with a hamstring injury, as with any rookie the ups and down should be expected. Box score scouts will tell you that his 26.6% strikeout rate and 6.0% walk rate are cause for concern. Jimenez is an aggressive hitter though, notably a 49.9% overall swing rate and a 33.7% out of zone swing rate during 2019, which are both about the top 40 of qualified hitters and will continue to hinder his OBP upside. But, we expected this, as his minor league walk rate over four seasons was only 6.7%. Conversely, Jimenez struck out at a higher clip than we would have liked to see, but there is room for optimism, as his minor league strikeout rate was only 18.2% and he cut his rate by nearly 5% in the second half. Improvement here will help support his overall profile, but truth be told, I’m not rostering Eloy for his strikeout rate. Let’s talk about the real reason we’re here, his batted ball data.
Eloy ranks extremely high in several batted ball statistics among qualified hitters including a 91.2 mph average exit velocity (24th in MLB), 47.9% hard-hit rate (13th in MLB), and a 12.8% barrel rate (19th in MLB). This is the type of underlying data that I want to see from my middle-of-the-order masher. Take a look at his number of batted balls by exit velocity and note the increases (colored by xwOBA) as you move further through the data. We want Eloy to hit the ball hard, we need Eloy to hit the ball hard.
Further, Eloy’s ability to hit for power while using all fields is exceptional. I expect long term this will support a higher BABIP and help him settle into a batting average in the .280 range, with upside for more. This rare combination of power and average upside is too enticing not to covet in dynasty leagues.
The knock on Eloy’s profile right now is his 9.3 degree average launch angle, which is 126th in MLB, well below average. He generated ground balls at a 47.9% rate and posted a 1.41 ground ball to fly ball ratio, which is far too high for a 70 grade power bat. Keep an eye on whether he makes adjustments here. With his current profile 40 home runs over a full season is well within reach, but even an incremental launch angle increase could put 50+ home run upside in play and propel him into elite status.
FLAVOR OF LAMANTHA
During September, Eloy was a stud. Over 100 at-bats, he managed a .340 average with 9 home runs, 25 RBI, and an OPS of 1.093, which was good enough for a 185 wRC+. Should you expect this type of output going forward, not necessarily, but it offered a glimpse of what his upside may look like. Additionally, this offseason the White Sox bolstered their lineup with a number of additions including Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion, Nomar Mazara, and Luis Robert (signed to an MLB extension, similar to Eloy in 2019), and Lamantha will find himself smack in the middle.
In your dynasty league, will Eloy be cheap to acquire? Absolutely not. However, this may be the last chance to acquire him at a reasonable price, as all signs point to a breakout. If you’re trying to acquire him, you can site his high strikeout rate, low walk rate, and low launch angle. However, a savvy owner will know Eloy has much more going for him, so tread lightly. In new dynasty drafts, I’d expect him to go in the top 30 to 40 picks, (slight bump down in OBP leagues), and within the top 10 outfielders. Once he is yours, sit back and enjoy.
Jonathan Stiever, 22, SP, High-A
Analysis by: Paul Monte
Leave it to Stiever
My first dip into the prospect pool for the 2020 Triple Play season brings me to a starting pitcher with very little name value. The top of the White Sox top 10 list has some very sexy names, the likes of Luis Robert, Andrew Vaughn, Michael Kopech, and 2020 hot debate player Nick Madrigal. Why go with a surefire guy like that when you can talk about a pitcher who may end up a setup man in three years?
A fifth-round pick out of Indiana University, Jonathan Stiever is your typical cold weather late bloomer. The 22-year-old Wisconsin native was not really on the draft radar until after his sophomore season in college. Spending his summer pitching for the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod League, Stiever posted 25 strikeouts in his 28.1 innings while walking just two batters. His Junior season also continued to show his improvement as he inched closer to reaching a 9.0 K/9. Fifth-round picks rarely show up on Top 30 lists the year after being drafted and Stiever was no exception. He did post a 12.5 K/9 in rookie ball, but he was a college arm.
Busy Little Stiever
This is where the buying window will begin to close. Deep League owners, especially those in points leagues have already started to add Stiever to their rosters and he is now inside the top 250 of most industry fantasy prospect lists. He has a good deal of movement on a fastball that sits in the mid to high 90’s and he’s been able to control it enough to keep his walks down at every level. He has a second plus pitch in a curveball and this is where it gets risky. The third pitch, his slider has flashes but needs improvement and his change-up may never be something that he can feature regularly. He debuted in the 5-6 range in most White Six prospect lists this season, which is a huge jump. He finished the year in High-A and did very well, striking out 77 batters in 71 innings and posted a 2.15 ERA and 0.972 WHIP. He was expected to start the season in Double-A and is one of the few pitchers that will benefit from the delayed start to the 2020 season. He showed up at camp with arm pain and was shut down for 2-3 weeks before all of baseball was shut down. Rather than starting behind everyone else, he should be able to stay on track when baseball resumes.
These are the kind of guys I like to roster in dynasty, low cost, high risk. Sure, everyone would love to own the Kopech’s but the cost is so much higher, and the risk remains high. I do not subscribe to the “avoid prospect pitchers” school of thought, but the cost is very important. Cost does not just mean draft capital, but you are also taking up a valuable roster spot while you wait to see what happens. I have yet to draft Stiever, and I have seen him go in deeper points league this year. He is someone that is on my Watch List, with a fast start in Double-A, I will be rostering him. He’s likely looking at a 2022 debut with an SP2 upside if he can get that third pitch to come along.
PREVIOUSLY COVERED TEAMS
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