Statcast’s Player Similarity Tool is one of the lesser-used but more fun tools on Statcast player pages. It’s quite useful for sizing up a player based on comparable batted ball outcomes with other major league hitters. They have it for pitchers too, mind you, but I find it less informative. But it’s most useful when determining which players have top comps that seem far better or far worse than one would expect given the original player’s surface stats.
Prior to the 2022 season, I identified 7 players that this tool identified as potential busts. And (spoiler alert) it was surprisingly accurate for the second straight season. In 2021, I correctly identified 6 of 8 potential busts (including Bregman, Moncada, and Reynolds) and this year had similarly successful results with this exercise. Without further ado, here are the busts and my analysis of their season below.
Of all my bust predictions, this one was the most wrong, and that is a sign that these predictions were pretty spot on if I do say so myself. The fact that an algorithm considered him overrated shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. After all, Xander has outperformed his batted ball data, like every year of his career, with his expected wOBA over the past higher than his actual wOBA every year of his 8-year career. So although I went with the numbers, it did sort of feel like playing the Superman villain who knows deep down that their “foolproof plan” will end up with them getting their butt kicked.
Still, despite his impressively consistent 2022 line of .307 with 15 HR and 8 SB over 631 PA, he was still overall a mild disappointment being taken with the 47th overall pick. Even though he beat his mediocre comps, he ranked as just the 68th best player by the Razzball player rater and enters 2023 as pick #87, so although he was more of a mild disappointment than a bust, he fits the bill nonetheless. The 15 homers are the main culprit, and I had pointed out before (and will do so again) that despite logging high volumes every year, he has only one season in his decade-long career in which he hit more than 23 homers, and it was the rabbit ball 2019 so likely a fluke.
Ironically enough, his comps of Vaughn and Correa were quite similar to him offensively in 2022, but note that those comps were for their less impressive 2021 data. It will be interesting to see if Bogey’s new non-Bosox park impacts his ability to constantly beat the analytics. But I’d much rather have a batting average bat like Gimenez, McNeil, or Arraez several rounds later in the draft.
Verdict: HIT 1 for 1
It’s rather shocking that a second baseman who smacked 39 homers in 2021 fell this far, even with these terrible comps. Of course, it’s not fair to judge his performance without mentioning the fact that it was very much an injury-marred season, and it’s not often you see a player have not one but two 60-Day IL stints. While he was on the field, the production was quite poor any way you slice it and/or dice it, with a .221/.308/.383 line with just 8 HR and 1 SB in 235 AB. At an ADP of #69, a bust like this really screwed fantasy teams sideways. I had said in April that it would be quite possible he hit .225 with 25 HRs, and he managed to make that line look good.
The production for this year really did come quite close to these comps when in the lineup, well of course with the exception of his lowest comp, Austin Riley. The somewhat surprising thing is that, despite his back injury, his max exit velocity and average exit velocity were actually better than 2021, and his strikeout rate was actually lower (though the 18 SwStr% suggests it was likely due to regress). While it’s true his barrel rate and hard hit% were down, they were still above average, and I think he did deserve better than his 11% HR/FB rate. A three-true outcomes guy like Lowe will always be volatile, but given his ADP dropping from 69 to 171, I think he’s a solid gamble for a rebound.
Verdict: HIT 2 for 2
Unlike Lowe, Carlson’s season wasn’t nearly as injury-plagued (well, two 10-day IL stints instead of 60-day), yet he still managed the same single-digit homer total as Lowe. He hit just .236/.316/.380 with just 8 HR and 5 SB in 432 AB. That production reminds me of a few players’ 2021 lines… Jake Bauers and Cavan Biggio. Hm, how about that?
I really was ready to die on the hill that Carlson was overrated, as nothing in his profile gave any real indication that he was going to be even league-average production-wise. Yet he went in the opposite direction, with a career-worst 27% HardHit% and 4% Barrel%, and his .234 xAVG and .355 xSLG suggest he was actually lucky. But I’d be remiss not to mention a few positives, namely that he did cut his K% to below 20% backed by improved plate discipline (increased Z-swing%) and contact%. Also, he did steal a career-high 5 bases.
He’s still just 24, and if he continues improving he could become a Lourdes Gurriel or Melky type, but if not he’ll remain fringy as a regular. That said, given his 2023 ADP of 307, he’s a solid rebound gamble, though I’d likely rather roll with the higher upside of Esteury Ruiz and Masataka Yoshida going behind him.
Verdict: HIT 3 for 3
So this was the one prediction that it’s fair to argue I missed, though it’s worth noting that when this article came out, Chapman was on the A’s and not the Jays, which I think it’s safe to say made an impact on his bottom line production. While Chapman was lousy to start the season, he erased most of it with a big second half, giving him a final line of .229/.324/.433 with 27 HRs and 2 SB in 538 AB. That made him a pretty close match with Suarez, so at least one comp fit. Still, folks are acting like this was a huge bounce back from his lousy 2021, when he hit (wait for it)… .210/.314/.403 with 27 HR and 3 SB. Yay, I guess?
Still, I get it, third base is a tough position, especially now with it becoming one of the more platooned positions, and it remains thin this year, which perhaps explains in part why his ADP has moved up to #160 in early 2023 drafts. I do also think he did reverse some concerning trends by improving his plate discipline and Z-contact%, which should help him continue to make high-quality contact. In Toronto’s stacked lineup, a hitter like him who gets on base should continue to provide reliable even if boring production, but given the low batting average and overrated HR upside (still just one 30+ HR campaign), I’ll be looking elsewhere for my hot corner in 2023.
Verdict: MISS 3 for 4
I’ll be honest, I still don’t know how Happ, a high-barrel hitter, ended up with such hideous comps, and he wasn’t nearly that bad. I mean, if he was, he’d probably have to retire like most of these players have (officially or unofficially). After hitting just .225 with 25 HR and 9 SB last year, he looked like a different player this year, with a final line of .271/.342/.440 with 17 HR and 9 SB, attaining a season-best batting average. Eaton your heart out.
Of course, here’s a good time to remember that player similarity comps only use the batted ball and K/BB data from the previous year, and they can’t predict things like a hitter reinventing their approach. Which is exactly what Happ did. He decided to forgo his usually elite walk rate to be more aggressive, with a 3-year high in swing rate, which counterintuitively came with a career-best 76% contact%.
However, perhaps he took a bit off his power swing to achieve this, as his barrel rate halved from 11% in 2021 to 6.5% in 2022. Although the 12% HR/FB seems quite low still given his career rates, Statcast felt he actually overperformed with a weak xBA of .239 and xSLG of .379. Happ is a tough player to judge entering 2023, and likely falls in between the last two seasons, and given the OF shortage, he’s a fine pick at #160 for 2023.
Verdict: MISS 3 for 5
If only he could have hit like the 2022 versions of Seth Brown or Eugenio Suárez. Perhaps this review can be summed up with one sentence I said in his write-up, “Slow power-only guys with a lack of plate discipline don’t often have long careers, and he’s entering his age 34 season.” It’s worth noting that Duvall also dealt with injuries, including a season-ending torn tendon sheath in his wrist, and now I need to promise I didn’t have a voodoo doll for these guys.
While on the field though, his production was sub-par, hitting just .213/.276/.401 with 12 HR in 287 AB, and 0 SBs (hey, he did nab 5 in 2021). I can’t say I’m surprised, but his power tailed off to non-elite levels, and when you’re a power-only player with a high strikeout rate, bad things happen. He was probably looking to lose playing time before the injury, and he enters 2023 on the outside looking in at a starting role, with a plummet in his ADP from 223 in 2022 to just 533 this year. While I’d expect a retirement announcement fairly soon, kudos to him for beating the odds to have a few surprisingly good years.
Verdict: HIT 4 for 6
One of these comps is not like the others. Arozarena went on to have a great year, but Myers’ 2022 season much more closely resembled the others on this list, with his season nearly carbon copies of Willi Castro and Michael A. Taylor, but with fewer SBs. I had warned that his decent 2021 his season line of .256/.344/.434 with 17 HR and 5 SB was belied by a ghastly .218 xBA and .370 xSLG. Well, he did at least keep the average up, but the power drop was right, as his .261/.315/.398 line with 7 HR and 2 SB marks the first time Myers posted a sub-.400 SLG% since 2014.
I was truly shocked to see Myers is still only 32, as I’m sure his body is a half-decade older by now. In Myers’ case, it was likely more the knee and neck injuries that caused him to fail, as I warned the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze given his history, and speaking of “squeeze”, he can’t pull off the running game he used to, with a career-worst SB total. Yet again, Myers managed to beat Statcast, which said his 2022 numbers were lucky with an xAVG of .225 and xSLG of .373, and given it’s happened twice now, perhaps the crafty vet has a skill of beating the algorithm. Now that his ADP has fallen down to #429 and he just signed in Cincy, it’s probably worth taking a shot with your last pick that he can have a dead cat bounce in their bandbox. After all, when you have a possibly dead cat and box, maybe it will lead to Schro-dingers.
Verdict: HIT 5 for 7
Photo by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Shawn Palmer (@PalmerDesigns_ on twitter)