TDG’S TRIPLE PLAY: WASHINGTON NATIONALS!
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! Follow Bob (@BobOsgood15), Paul (@3cardmonte13) and Joe Drake (@JDrake349) on twitter and read their analysis here at the site!
Pitcher: Patrick Corbin, Age: 31, Position: SP
Analysis by: Bob Osgood
World Series Arm-Hangover
As I sit down and work on my rankings over the next month, the number one thing that I will continue to tell myself is “Don’t overreact to 60 games.” Players had to ramp up twice, and in the second time through they had to ramp up far too quickly. Differences in in-season adjustments, in-game video, less pressure playing in front of empty seats, seven-inning games, NL pitchers throwing to designated hitters for the first time, getting tested every day for new viruses, perhaps NOT getting tested every day for old vices, among a hundred other things, are all variables that we can’t begin to guess how they affected the players this season.
And yet, breaking down the first pitcher since this season ended and I’m finding it hard not to overreact. Patrick Corbin has been a workhorse pitcher for years now, making 32-33 starts each of the past three seasons, and now 11 starts in 2020, eclipsing 200 innings on multiple occasions. He also threw a lot in the playoffs in 2019, making eight appearances. Five of these were out of the bullpen, most of which were on short rest including three shutout innings in Game 7 of the World Series, where Corbin was the winning pitcher. Worth it for a title? Of course. Beneficial in the long term for a team that had just signed Corbin to a monster six-year, $140-million contract? Probably not. We have seen the same thing with Nathan Eovaldi the past two seasons after he played the same “throw a little too much on my side day” role for the Red Sox in winning the 2018 World Series.
Contact … Hard-Contact
Corbin has averaged 92 MPH for several years but came out of the gate in 2020 throwing “salad” as Dennis Eckersley would say. Per Statcast, Corbin averaged no better than 90.2 MPH in any of his first seven starts and even dipped to 88.6 MPH in an 8/10 start vs. the Mets. The result of this decreased velocity? The league leader in hits allowed (85), the highest WHIP in MLB for qualified pitchers (1.57), a 2-7 record with a 4.66 ERA, and a Statcast page that looks like this:
Corbin has in many cases outperformed his Statcast metrics, but this is a bit alarming. In fairness, Corbin’s velocity did go up a tick in the final month of the season, close to 91 MPH, but in those four starts he gave up 42 hits! Quite simply, Corbin is giving up a lot of contact, both inside and outside of the zone, percentages that were close to his disastrous 2016 season (5-13, 5.15 ERA, 1.56 WHIP).
The two seasons in green were Corbin’s lowest contact rates and highest swing strike rates, which naturally led to 246 and 238 strikeout seasons, in 2018-2019, respectively. Not only was the ball in play a lot this year, but it was also hit hard. A 44.2% Hard-Hit rate (per Statcast) was way up from 38.7% a year ago, and 35.6% the previous two years. Corbin’s BABIP allowed was .362, which certainly led to some bad luck, but this return to 79% of balls in play will not bode well for Corbin in the long term.
Essentially a two-pitch pitcher, Corbin’s slider, which was reviewed in great detail after last season by Eno Sarris here, has been thrown more than any other slider in baseball in previous seasons. Out of qualified starters, only Dinelson Lamet and Yu Darvish threw a higher percentage of sliders than Corbin in 2020. However, after an incredible 27.0 slider pitch value in 2018 (Fangraphs), and 21.8 in 2019, this dropped to a 2.7 value in 2020.
Don’t Panic (yet)
With all of that being said, back to the original question, how far should we drop or raise players who disappointed this year on our lists? He could be heading the Madison Bumgarner route with a lot of mileage on his arm, but the Nationals have made a huge investment in that arm. Corbin is still owed $106 million over four years and isn’t going anywhere. Corbin was a fringe-SP1 in 2020 drafts, and I believe that the number of innings he threw in 2019 contributed to this poor season. 36 starts and five relief appearances over seven months could easily lead to diminished velocity, and after a short 2020 season, we could see a return to SP2 to SP3 status in 2021. If Corbin is going more in the SP4 range, I’d jump all over him in redrafts. He will be a good pitcher to “pair” with a low-inning/high-upside pitcher (think Jesus Luzardo/Julio Urias entering 2020). Depending on how scared off other owners are, you may have a signing opportunity in Dynasty formats.
Hitter: Victor Robles, Age: 23, Position: OF
Analysis by: Joe Drake
Last week, some of you probably felt that I led you astray as I talked up Alejandro Kirk only to turn my back on him in the closing statements. This week, there will be no such plot twist. I’m just going to come out and tell you that Victor Robles is still one of my favorite young players in the game. Now, let’s talk about why.
You’re Terminated, [Victor]
First and foremost, Victor Robles is an elite, elite defender. His double-plus speed and fielding capabilities give him a legitimate shot to be a Hall of Fame-caliber defender. If he stays healthy and maintains his conditioning, we might be looking at one of the best center fielders of all time and I do not think that is hyperbole. That’s important for fantasy because it means that he’s going to play every day, even when his bat is struggling as we saw in 2020. Despite posting a 65 wRC+ (yuck), the Nats ran Robles out there for nearly 200 plate appearances and as we know, every PA counted this year with just 60 games on the schedule.
Speaking of 2020, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Victor Robles was not a good hitter this year. He hit .220 and slugged a meager .315 with just a dash of home runs (3) and a pinch of steals (4). Robles accrued 35 combined runs and RBIs thanks to making his home at the bottom of what was a very weak lineup. He didn’t even hit the ball hard, averaging a limp 82.6 MPH exit velocity and a 1.7% barrel rate. There just wasn’t much that went well for Victor Robles this year, but, despite all that, I’m not ready to give up on him.
Why? 3 big things: He’s only 23. The 2020 season was two months long. He was excellent for fantasy in 2019.
The Future Has Not Been Written
Watching Robles at the plate, I think he still possesses qualities that can lead to great fantasy production. I went back and watched 15 plate appearances from Robles over the last 2 seasons: 8 from 2020 and 7 from 2019 — 2 good games, 2 bad games — and here’s what I saw:
Despite his struggles, Victor’s got poise and presence in the batter’s box. He never looked overmatched or lost — even against Jacob deGrom. Though we would benefit from chasing fewer breakers away or high fastballs (can’t we all). He can spin on something inside and put it in the seats and has the power to drive the ball to the opposite field for extra bases (not to mention the speed to turn singles into doubles).
Robles takes close pitches with conviction and has the ability to get the bat on just about anything near the plate — something that gets him in trouble when he makes poor swing decisions. I think that may be the driver of his abysmal exit velocities. It’s not that he doesn’t have power, his max exit velo was 110.5 MPH in 2019, I think it’s that sometimes he attacks pitches that he rolls over rather than waiting on something he can drive. Good bat control can be both a blessing and a curse.
Conclusion: “I’ll Be Back”
The talent is absolutely there for Victor Robles and I’m confident that he can return to form in 2021. This season was not encouraging… but even guys like Alex Bregman and Cody Bellinger struggled. Don’t forget that Robles is just 1 year removed from posting a line with 17 HRs, 28 SBs, 86 Rs, and a .255 average at 22 years old.
2020 has been tough on all of us and I’m much more willing to overlook a 2-month stint during a pandemic and grant players a “pass.” More than ever, we’ve all been dealing with extenuating circumstances that made work more difficult this year, and athletes are no exception to that. If you’re only scouting the stat line when it comes to 2020, I think you’re going to leave yourself very, very vulnerable when making decisions for next season.
Prospect: Luis Garcia, Age: 20, Position: 2B, Level: MLB
Analysis by: Paul Monte
What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been
The end of the road for the 2020 Triple Play series at The Dynasty Guru is here. The first team in the series, the Arizona Diamondbacks hit the internet on March 12th, 2020. That was the same day that Major League Baseball canceled the remaining Spring Training games and delayed Opening Day. What followed was a cluster that most would like to forget so I won’t rehash that. We got our shortened season, complete with seven-inning doubleheaders, designated hitters in the National League, and runners on second to start the inning when games reached the 10th. In the end, we got baseball. As you are reading this a 16-team playoff is unfolding and we should probably get used to it, I think it may be here to stay.
You’re Still a Young Man
One of the other surprises that 2020 has given us was the early debut of prospects that had never played above Single-A. Hell, we had our first player to debut without playing a minor league game since Mike Leake did it in 2010. We had the first player born after January 1st, 2020 hit a Major League home run. That player is the top prospect for the Washington Nationals, Luis Garcia. Before we get into Garcia, I must note that there are currently THREE Luis Garcias on prospect lists. You need to make sure that you are drafting or trading for the right guy. There is another shortstop in the Phillies organization and a pitcher in Houston who also made his debut in 2020.
Being the youngest player in the league is nothing new for Garcia. He spent the last half of 2019 as the youngest player in Double-A by a whopping 15 months! He struggled to adjust but there had to be some credit given when evaluating a player who is so much younger than his competition. Had this been a normal season, we would probably have not seen him in the major leagues. An injury to starting second baseman Starlin Castro opened the door and Garcia was ready. He has hit .280/.297/.376 in his first 37 games. His numbers do not jump off the page but the fact that he has been able to hold his own against major league pitching at 20 years old bodes well for his future.
The son of Luis Rafael Garcia, a shortstop who had eight at-bats for the Detroit Tigers in 1999, was born in New York but moved to the Dominican Republic as a toddler. He signed with the Nationals in 2016 as an international free agent and has made his way from rookie ball to the majors in just four years. He’s hit for average every level, but he has not fully realized his power. The hope is that he can mature into 20/10 power as he ages.
The biggest knock on Garcia for me and the reason I sent him away in deals this year is he does not like to walk. Most of my leagues are OBP leagues and he takes a pretty big step down in that league setup. At 20-years-old there is still plenty of room for growth and improvement and it seems as though he will be doing that at the major league level. I am lower on him than most so he is not a target for me and will stay that way as we head into the offseason. There will be someone out there that sees his age and will dream of a 25/25 shortstop and he just might reach that someday.
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